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MIT student blogger Jess K. '10

The Great Wifi Outage of 2007 by Jess K. '10

Burton-Conner's wifi went out two days ago; Evan will tell you more by the end of the week. Oh, the intrigue.

(Keep voting, guys! Remember, the poll closes at midnight PST on October 28th. Thanks a lot!)

At around 1:30 AM on Tuesday, October 16th, Burton-Conner’s internet went out. Somewhat analogous to the power outage days of yore, the internet outage hit the dorm like a tsunami – hysterical shrieks of people who were unable to submit HASS papers filled the air, as freshmen were trampled by upperclassmen rioting to reset the router. Someone on Burton 4 declared loudly that it was all due to those worthless Conner 3 residents, and a bloody dormwide revolution ignited when someone whipped their shirt around their head and declared, “YOU CAN TAKE OUR WIFI, BUT YOU CAN’T TAKE OUR FREEDOM!!” Entire monitors from Athena clusters were flung through the air and UROP proposals were set ablaze as the scent of carnage spread over all of dorm row, until all of West Campus caught the fever and engaged in a vicious and terrible battle to the death.

(Well, not really – we all just convened to complain about how we could no longer Facebook in lieu of working. Then the 133 suite made a Claymation video. Caution! Mild condiment violence to follow.

In case you’re wondering, these kinds of things don’t often happen here (the internet outage, not the Claymation videos.) The only similar event I can recall would be the epic e-mail failure of po14 last spring. Look for Evan’s blog about how it occurred later on this week.)

It’s hard to get time to yourself sometimes, but being wifi-less definitely helped. Between problem sets (that sometimes take all day), neuroanatomy exams (shortly followed by a lecture on why squares A and B are the SAME COLOR – I still think it’s all a big lie), dance practice, MedLinking almost everyone on my hall for some lack-of-sleep-related illness that’s going around, Saturday overnight shifts on the ambulance, and long hot showers trying to scrub off that Saturday overnight shift on the ambulance, I’ve barely had any time to breathe – and I’m sure you guys feel the same way between senior year APs, last minute SAT IIs and college applications. If there’s any part of the application process you’d like me to focus on in particular first, let me know! Here’s more of your questions:

Nihar queried: I was wondering how and where do students interact with their professors outside of class?? Are they easily approachable any time of the day?
(cz in my high school, we tail them throughout the school until they’re cornered and then attack them with our queries;),though I think that wont be possible for someone at MIT…will it?)

Melissa similarly queried: I’m coming from a school with a class of 200 each. That worries me – I don’t know what it’ll be like to be in a class where I don’t know everyone’s name, and not everyone knows mine! And the whole finding friends, being without family, all that… I’m worried =( Do teachers even know your name?

Yeah.. it’s kind of a scary thought, right? Throughout high school, it’s not that hard to know your teachers – class sizes generally fall around 30, and there are always seating charts to fall back on. Plus, filling out those attendance sheets every day of the year generally got them to knowing about how Brian Johnson was always cutting class, or how you were always on time (you were always on time, weren’t you?)(That’s okay, I wasn’t).

In college, though, there aren’t any seating charts. And at first, it can be really intimidating because you start out taking General Institute Requirements (GIRs), which everyone takes. So the number of students in lecture blows up to the point that if you skip class, nobody will notice except you, when you’re rudely awakened by the fact that you don’t know what’s going on (so don’t skip class! It’s different for recitation, though; they usually fall around 20 and it’s really easy to be good buddies with your TAs. I friend mine on Facebook.). So the professor doesn’t have to know you – it isn’t that they don’t want to; it’s just that they don’t have time to get to know everyone who falls out of bed and into 10-250. The responsibility is now yours to form a student-teacher relationship. Otherwise they’ll just lecture at you, and you’ll just be another face in a sea of 200+.

If you go to your professor’s office hours, which they’ll post on the class website or announce in class, they’ll eventually get to know you. If you approach them after lecture and ask how they got the number of atomic orbitals in that cycloaddition problem, they’ll remember your face a little better. But if you don’t engage yourself in making it happen, it won’t. Even if they just stand up there and lecture at you, though, you shouldn’t be intimidated not to try – your professors are still human, and most of them are pretty interesting people. Some are pretty interesting characters, like my 7.03 professor:

(Professor Fink is also a widely-renowned geneticist and the former director of the Whitehead Institute, as well as a pioneer in developing new techniques to introduce foreign DNA to yeast. His work set the basis for several new developments i.e. using yeast to manufacture antibiotics and other drugs, as well as studying similar pathways in more complex organisms. Recently he lead research in engineering the yeast genome to more efficiently produce ethanol.)

As you progress at MIT and declare a major, your class sizes will generally fall to around 50 or so, and lab classes are even smaller. It just depends on how big your department is. In all cases, whether you’re intimidated by your class size or not, professors are usually very approachable and willing to help.

Mike has one question: I have one question: How do people normally work meals since MIT doesn’t have a meal plan?

MIT does have a meal plan! It only applies to people who live in dining halls, though, and it’s a slightly controversial because it has its imperfections. MIT has a monetary system called Tech Cash, which is basically like a debit card that works anywhere on campus (and a few places off-campus, i.e. Au Bon Pan and Domino’s), as well as for stuff like vending machines, laundry machines, etc. People who live in dorms with dining halls (Baker, Next, McCormick and Simmons) pay $300 at the beginning of a semester to help keep the dining hall open, and then get half off every time they eat there – that way, there’s no points or whatever people have left over at the semester (it’ll just carry over). An article in The Tech last year actually revealed that in order to break even you’d need to spend at least $10 in the dining hall every night, though, and people rarely do that- often times it’s just easier to grab something from the student center, or go out to eat, or order in from Campus Food.

So like most meal plans, it’s not perfect. But it at least allows some flexibility, which is good for those days you get sick of stir fry all the time.

Anonymous asked: Is it possible to get good grades at MIT if someone enrolls at the institute from a small, rural high school that didn’t prepare a student as well in math/science as gigantic suburban schools? I understand that going to college is not about just getting that GPA but learning new things. But if a student is planning on attending graduate schools, what if he/she can’t get into the schools he/she wants to because that person struggles at MIT to maintain a reasonable GPA?

Yes, it’s absolutely possible. But it’ll take dedication, patience, and a little bit of tolerance for the seemingly endless stream of people who don’t work half as hard as you and end up doing twice as well.

My high school preparation was certainly not perfect. I’ll be honest – I picked up bad study techniques because I could get by, even excel, by coasting for weeks at a time and then cramming two nights before the exam. It doesn’t work at MIT. The way you approach your work is often times much more vital than the background you’ve acquired, as your work ethic is a product of your own doing and your background isn’t. And while a good GPA is an important factor in applying for grad schools (I certainly can’t speak for all schools, since I have little personal experience in this area), I’ll guess that it’s probably similar to applying for undergraduate programs, and your GPA is just a number. It puts you in a category that may qualify you for that school, but won’t necessarily be a deal breaker.

Either way, if you’re thinking about passing up applying to MIT just because you’re worried your GPA won’t be as high as it will be at other schools, you should know that 1) that isn’t what you come to MIT for, and 2) that isn’t the only things grad schools are looking for.

Paul has a couple more things to add. Paul?

Basically, the admissions department is not going to admit a student who, in their opinion, cannot shoulder the workload at MIT. As I now know firsthand, MIT is a hard school – but the kids who get into MIT are also pretty smart…and they know how to ask for help when they need it.

Also, at MIT, first-semester freshmen have the advantage of Pass/No-Record – which basically means that first-semester freshmen do not have to worry about their GPA at all, because they don’t have one yet.

P.S. The Advising & Support page also has some entries that you may find useful.

Constantin (not Istanbul) pondered: How does the application fee waiver work? Do I have to wait until the letter from my school reaches the Admission Office and only then submit my application?
anon also pondered: is it possible to submit the part 1 of the application by choosing the ‘fee waiver’ option yet not having sent the fee waiver request yet?
Ralph continued to ponder: How should we intimate the colleges(not necessarily just MIT) that we’re sending in a application fee waiver request?(email and tell them?what if i don’t get a reply? Should i still go ahead and send in the request?)
Constantin – no! Anon – yes! Ralph – Nance recently addressed this question; Jen ’11 (who lives next door to me and bikes like fourteen miles a day) also articulated this fully:

Collegeboard offers application waivers to students who qualify for the SAT waivers, which can be used at good number of colleges. Otherwise, you can just get a letter written by your school counselor or maybe family accountant saying that paying the application fee puts a financial burden on your family. I recommend you list some numbers if you can (otherwise they might wait until they see your FAFSA/CSS profile?). If you’re smart, you can distribute the collegeboard waivers and school counselor/family accountant letters among the majority of your colleges and only end up paying for a few. You’ll save your family a LOT of money (because as we all know, the whole college applying-to can get pretty freakin expensive).

But don’t send in waivers or requests for them if your family’s relatively well off.

Hope this helps! And good luck with the application process guys – don’t forget to breathe once and a while.

Amen to that. Breathe, guys – you’re almost there.

44 responses to “The Great Wifi Outage of 2007”

  1. Ben says:


  2. Lulu says:

    That outage made me cry. I trekked ALL the way to Next just to get my precious wifi :(.

    Why am I not surprised that Angela’s the “I’m gonna eat you!” face monster? Burton 1 love!

  3. Star says:

    Thanks for the advice Jess. Remembering to breath once in a while would probably serve me well just about now wink

    As to the internet, I see why Snively wasn’t allowed to be the 5 billionth BC blogger – he was way ahead of you on that post on his personal blog, and we can’t have everyone posting identicle blogs now, can we? Although he didn’t have a claymation video, and it was pretty cool smile

  4. Jess says:

    Yo, I was totally going to post it right when the wifi came back, but I had to ask them to edit the Claymation video a little bit. SO IT WASN’T MY FAULT, OKAY?!

    (This is like blogger equivalent fighting over first post. SPEAKING OF WHICH, @BEN: you? really? REALLY??)

  5. Ben says:

    To clarify, when Jess talks about the big classes up there, she’s not talking about every class at MIT – mostly just the GIR’s and assorted intro classes. Most classes at MIT are nowhere near that large…

  6. Star says:

    “ZOMG FIRST” – Nice example you’re setting for us crazy and obsessed applicants there Ben raspberry

  7. Ben says:

    @ Jess – Yes really.

  8. Ben says:

    @ Star – you’re so right… sorry. :-(

  9. Star says:

    Ahhh, delay before posting SUCKS! (my comment would’ve been first if it wasn’t for that, so there! raspberry)

  10. Jess says:

    Re: class sizes; yeah, sorry, I edited that. In your first year of MIT, your lectures are around 200 students. You also have recitations, which are run by a (typically grad student) TA, and have only about 20 students. So if you feel intimidated by your professor, you can go to your TA.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Jess your blog is great ! You actually look like Kristina in Grey’s Anatomy.
    So what’s your major by the way ? And were your SAT scores high ?

  12. Anonymous says:

    By the way when you say A and B, do you mean the letters or the squares ? If you men=an the squares, they totally aren’t the same color ! If I’m wrong, please explain !

  13. Star says:

    @ Ben – Oh, you should be sorry! Just kidding, everyone’s gotta do it sometimes(just don’t let it happen again raspberry )

  14. Anonymous says:

    Wow Ben saif “first post” AND double posted ? with the world going that way I might actually have a chance to get in MIT !

  15. Star says:

    @ Anon – I like you’re thinking – MIT here we come smile

    And yes, my comment count for this post is now up to five million and something. You guessed it; I’m supposed to be writing an essay right now. (No, Ben, you didn’t see that – I’m a very hard worker and never procrastinate. Admit me!!)

  16. Mike says:

    Thanks for answering my question, Jess! That cleared things up a bit.

    I can just imagine the chaos caused by a wifi outage. *shudder*

  17. This is off topic…
    But u guys should check out the science weekly podcasts at (or something like that)
    they are tiiiite!!!!toit like a tiger!!!

    Ankit Chandra
    Gaborone, Botswana

  18. SNIVELY says:

    ZOMGXORz //|-|47 a p05tlolz!

    1s7s nd Sk3//L teh l4m3r!!cos0!

    dat 4||

  19. Kes says:

    I had to make this to prove it to myself:

    A part of me still doesn’t believe it…

  20. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for answering the GPA question, I was just curious. You confirmed what I love about MIT: the school is obsessed with numbers but also emphasizes that there are more important things in the world!

  21. Snively says:

    Jess, I’m absolutely amazed that you managed to avoid talking about how the outage actually happened.

    Poop people, poop. Sewage backed up out of the pipe and flooded into the room where we keep all of our servers. IT’S SO PAINFULLY FUNNY!

  22. Jess says:

    Guhhh. I left that pretty little detail for Evan to blog about later. Calm down!

  23. Biyeun '10 says:

    And it was all because someone flushed a t-shirt down the toilet.


  24. Biyeun '10 says:

    Crap…everyone ignore that previous comment (sorry Evan).

  25. Travis says:

    That video is so sad – why does little Connie have to die??? Is this some sort of Shakespearean drama?

  26. Nihar says:

    Thanks Jess! I thought the approaching the teachers at MIT would’ve been a lot tougher(dont ask me why!)…but I guess those who teach such a competetive applicant pool and are so qualified themselves sound a little intimidating…

    @Star :
    Dont worry about that delay there…’God’ comes first…remember?;)

  27. Nihar says:

    Thanks Jess! I thought approaching the teachers at MIT would’ve been a lot tougher(dont ask me why!)…but I guess those who teach such a competetive applicant pool and are so qualified themselves do sound a little intimidating…

    @Star :
    Dont worry about that delay there…’God’ comes first…remember?;)

  28. Nihar says:

    Oh lord!….sorry.:(

  29. Constantin says:

    It must have taken a dozen tries to get the shot with the ‘rocket’ in the air!

    At first I was *really* confused as to why you put (not Istanbul) next to my name. Thankfully, Wikipedia cleared things up wink
    Thanks for answering!

  30. A parent says:

    Sweet video! Those creators look familiar.

  31. Hunter '11 says:

    Hey, that Melissa was me a year ago!
    (Erm, my name is Melissa by the way – but there are so many Melissas that I’ve decided to go by a modification of my last name. I’ve also gone by Wings.)

  32. Thanks, Jess. Really. That is not how I imagined my MIT-blog-debut going.

  33. Aditi says:

    i love the video !

  34. Anonymous says:

    well i suppose this has been asked before but how important is the interview? and what happens if you make a big mess of it???
    and what would be someones chances of getting into MIT if their scores didnt fall in the 25-75 parcentile range?

    and um one last question! :D

    which scores are given more importance? APs or SAT2s?

  35. Charlie says:

    Nice Video! Did something like this once. A tripod is very helpful for that. But anyway, it’s fun to watch!

    Charlie (who just dropped in accidently from Jena, Germany)

    P.S.: I like the MIT stuff, especially the lecture videos and presentations which are on the web.
    Seems like I have choosen the wrong university wink

  36. Anonymous says:

    @nihar: where are you from?

  37. he he he
    pretty cool.

    omar ’10

  38. silverSurfer says:

    “GIVE ME WIFI OR GIVE ME DEATH.” was the mantra heard round the world – is FREEDOM POSSIBLE WITHOUT wifi –

  39. Anonymous says:

    i got 1900 on my sat…is it good or shud i give it again???

  40. Jen! '11 says:

    Whoo-hoo! I made it into a blog entry!

    Whatever happened to Ben’s video with Anna slipping and falling off the wall? We (or rather, you =P) watched it over and over again at least 10 times….

    (ahahaha, thinking of that video still cracks me up.)

  41. GiggaGillian says:

    i love how ang commented as “the angela monster” HAHAHA p.s. i really loved watching wicked with you tonight. i think you should blog about that, and how we had to wait for stupid praveen and his stupid jacket and the stupid miniature rain drops, and then give me some cool new adjectives to use in my next comment…..that aren’t stupid.