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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

Rocky Mountain Round-Up by Matt McGann '00

The latest from my travels in Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico.

Currently, I’m in the middle of a week-long Admissions trip to Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico to talk about MIT with students, parents, and other interesting folks. This trip follows another recent trip to Northern California and precedes a forthcoming trip to Kansas and Nebraska.

The trip began in Salt Lake City. I decided I’d take in the sights before my meetings, so I headed out to Park City to see the Olympic site, and up to Temple Square to see the Mormon Temple. While in Temple Square, I also ate lunch in Brigham Young’s historic house (where, for the first time, I tied sarsaparilla — interesting!).

My workweek started with a “Math Jam” I conducted online from my hotel in Salt Lake City, hosted by the folks at The Art of Problem Solving. For those of you who don’t know about AoPS, it is the best online math community and learning site on the web, bringing together thousands of students from across the globe who are excited about math and problem solving. The Math Jam was an online chat, with myself and MIT math professor Kiran Kedlaya fielding questions over the course of two hours. You can read the transcript of the chat here.

The Salt Lake City Central Meeting was quite interesting, with people driving from as far away as Idaho and Wyoming to be in attendance. I was lucky to have a great group of alumni volunteers (Educational Counselors, or ECs) there with me at the meeting. I was told an interesting fact: nearly one-quarter of the Mechanical Engineering faculty at the University of Utah are MIT ECs (!).

I then crossed the Wasatch Range and Rocky Mountains to Denver. Again, students from a number of states, including Wyoming and Nebraska, attended the meeting. The only thing that made the trip to Denver less than perfect was the school shooting that happened the same day on the outskirts of Denver. While I was setting up the meeting, a father came up to talk with me. His daughter had been planning to attend the session, but it was her friend that was killed that day. I got a bit choked up, wished the father and, by proxy, his daughter, family and community, all my best, sending the father home to be with his family, while giving him my direct line so I could chat with his daughter, whenever she was ready to think about college again. I began my meeting that evening with a moment of silence. Following that, I think we had a great session.

I next headed down to Colorado Springs, where I had lunch with Rob Kolstad, who heads up the USA Computing Olympiad, or USACO. As far as formal opportunities go, USACO is the best program for high school students interested in pursuing computer science at a high level. USACO provides a training program that picks up where a first programming course (like AP Computer Science) leaves off, offering students the opportunity to do some real, high-level programming and problem solving. Students from around the world are a part of the USACO community, which also offers a bulletin/discussion board and the opportunity for four top US students to represent the country at the International Olympiad in Informatics. This year’s first contest doesn’t begin until October 13, so there’s still plenty of time to register and train, if you’re interested.

After both the Salt Lake City meeting and the Denver meeting, I was asked by students, “I’m interested in computer science. What can I do to show my stuff?” Well, there are a number of things. For formal, self-guided opportunities, the USACO is really terrific. To learn about what people in the field of computer science are researching, head to the library and check out journals like those published by the IEEE. And informally, creating something new and cool on your own is always great — use the web to get inspiration for a project that you can get excited about.

Currently, I’m in a cafe in “Old Town” Las Vegas, New Mexico. All morning, I’ve been perplexed as I watched people camping out on the street, and at 1 o’clock I found out why — they were staking out great seats for the annual West Las Vegas High School Homecoming Parade. Las Vegas is a small city of approximately 15,000 people, slightly larger than my hometown. But my hometown’s homecoming festivities were not nearly as exciting. I’d bet that 14,000 of Las Vegas’s 15,000 residents were out for the parade, many having dyed their hair green, the team color. Coincidentally, I put on a green shirt this morning, which made me feel like a part of the celebration. It is random exciting events like this that make being out on the road so much fun.

Meanwhile, I’ve been missing a lot of fun stuff back at MIT — a talk by Steve Wozniak, an awesome juggling event, a Gospel concert, etc. It will be good to be back on campus Monday. In the mean time, I have one more meeting out this way: tomorrow in Albuquerque at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. If you’re in New Mexico, I look forward to seeing you tomorrow!

12 responses to “Rocky Mountain Round-Up”

  1. Seeing Woz speak was really cool. He apparently couldn’t stay long, so he didn’t speak long, but he’s a very good storyteller.

  2. Adam says:

    Thanks for giving us that AoPS chat! Also, I think it’s really cool that you were able to have lunch with the head of USACO. I bet that was fairly interesting! grin

    Sorry for being so terribly off topic, but I was wondering – I had my interview almost a month and a half ago. I sent the “conducted interview form” perhaps 2-3 weeks ago, and MyMIT says that it still has not been recieved. I was wondering if this is normal, i.e. admissions hasn’t updated the accounts with interview information yet. I’m just a little bit worried beacuse my interview went well. Very interestnig, and lasted over an hour and a half!

    Thank you for your time,

  3. Dan says:

    sry to just jump in as a complete unknown person XD, its just that I am currently a junior studying in an International School in Shanghai China, I really wonder if there is anything I can do right now to help later college application and ofcourse, especially for MIT =D Really hope you can maybe give me some extra tips more than the ones it gives here =p


  4. Zaira says:

    Do we need to submit a “conducted interview form”?

  5. Adam says:


    Nope. The conducted interview form is just to let MIT know that you’ve had your interview. If MyMIT says they haven’t processed your interview, and its been more than 2 weeks after your interview, you’re supposed to fill out that form (Its like 2 questions, online submission) just to let MIT know that you’ve had your interview, and to follow up with your interviewer to make sure he/she sent in the form.

    Hope that answers your question,

  6. Brendan says:

    My athletics coach only sends letters of recommendation directly to the admissions office. In this case, the letter of recommendation might be sent before the actual application. Would this cause any problems since it won’t be sent with the admissions application packet?


  7. P.sri ganesh says:


    my name is P.SRI GANESH Iam from India
    mu dream is to study Engg and Bussiness Adminstration in MIT.Please answer to my questions?
    what r the basic requirements inorder to enter into MIT?


  8. kelly says:

    Hi. I’m sorry for the off-topic question, but I just found out that I’m moving and have already submitted part 1 of my application. How do I change my address? Thanks!

  9. Zain says:

    Hey Matt,

    I am applying to MIT this November and had a question.

    You mentioned that your were asked about certain things individuals could do to demonstrate their interest and/or abilities in the realm of computer science. There are certain things that I have done that don’t really have a designated space on the MIT application. Would it be acceptable then, to submit a Resume? Are resumes disliked by the admissions office?

  10. nghi says:

    It’s Nobel Laureates Week! Yay, Andrew Fire, a professor at Stanford as you already know, FINALLY won for his discovery of RNAi! He got his PhD from MIT. =)

  11. Adam says:

    Zain –

    First, see
    and click on Part 2: Essays, Activities, and Tests Form. It says that submitting a resume “in lieu of filling out your standard activity list can hurt you, (so dont).”

    However, it might not be a terrible idea to include a CD with a few pieces of your best work. In fact, thats exactly what I did. grin

    If you do, though, make sure to test your program on as many computers as you can, to make sure it will work…

    Good luck,

  12. donn says:

    Thanks for coming to visit New Mexico. Your talk was quite informative.

    Could you give me the name and contact info for the gentleman from Santa Fe. Thanks, donn friedman