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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

The O.C. by Matt McGann '00

My first Central Meeting of the year.

Thursday night was my first Central Meeting of the year. Not only did it conflict with the season premiere of Ben‘s favorite show, The O.C., but my meeting was actually in Orange County (well, Orlando/Winter Park, Orange County, Florida… though I will be holding a meeting in the “real” O.C. on September 28th).

My visit to Orlando, by the numbers:

  • Number of hurricanes dodged: 1
  • Meals eaten at Columbia restaurant: 1
  • Number of intriguing yet controversial New Urbanist communities visited: 1
  • Total Central Meeting attendance: ~230
  • Number of chairs: ~180
  • Number of Educational Counselors (ECs) in attendance: 8
  • Number of questions asked about internship opportunities: 2
  • Number of questions about SAT scores: 0

While driving in the car yesterday, I heard MIT Civil & Environmental Engineering professor Rafael Bras on the radio talking about levees and floodgates. He is doing very interesting work in a city with similar geographic traits to New Orleans, Venice. A quick Google news search produced a recent New York Times article as well:

Bras says sensor technologies for detecting levee failure hold much promise. But he adds that less glamorous approaches, like regular maintenance, may be even more valuable, since prevention is always the best cure. “We have to learn that things have to be reviewed, revised, maintained and repaired as needed,” he said. “To see a city like New Orleans suffer such devastation–some of that was preventable.” He added that no matter how ambitious the coastal engineering, no matter how innovative and well maintained, the systems of levees, seawalls and floodgates were likely to suffer sporadic failures. “Nature will throw big things at us once in a while,” he said. “There’s always the possibility that nature will trump us.”

Also while perusing the news on the Web, I came across an article in today’s Boston Globe about Boston-area colleges, including MIT, admitting students displaced by Katrina. Two students from Tulane University who will be at MIT this semester were quoted:

Natalia Gorgach, 20, an electrical engineering and mathematics major at Tulane University who will attend MIT this fall, said the pressure will be to make sure she takes advantage of her new school’s resources. ”I just want to make the most of it,” she said.

To hear the displaced students tell it, school is school, rarefied or not, and so they expect to compete on equal footing with their peers. ”Just because we got in under special circumstances doesn’t mean we won’t be able to do good things,” said Dorothy Hernandez, 20, a native of New Orleans who studied architecture at Tulane University and will attend MIT for the semester. ”I am a bit intimidated, but it’s real people and real classes and Tulane has prepared me well.”

I’m glad we’ve been able to help out with the Katrina relief efforts.

Today at 4pm is my second Central Meeting of the year, in West Palm Beach, and tomorrow is meeting #3 in South Miami at 11am. A full list of meetings can be found here. And with that, I’m off to West Palm Beach, maybe I’ll see you there!

11 responses to “The O.C.”

  1. Susan says:

    Dear Matt,

    I have a question regarding the application. I understand the importance of showing passion, especially through the essays and extracurricular involvement. However, there are subjects such as psychology and philosophy that I ABSOLUTELY love but it’s rather hard to actively pursue them in a HS setting. How would you recommend that I display these sort of passions?

  2. Today I went to the MIT Information Session offered in Guaynabo – Puerto Rico. There I could meet Jennifer Rifken who was in charge of the conference, and I could definitely learn more from MIT in a couple of hours there, than in a thousand hours of online research. I’m really glad that I could attend the meeting and I could get the most out of it. I’m also happy that I could talk personally with one of the people that are going to be reviewing my application, it’s nice to know how great are the people that are going to be working there, deciding which is going to be the class attending MIT. This Information Session helped me a lot to prove that MIT is a perfect match for me, and at the same time it helped my mother to learn many things about MIT because she was really lost about what was MIT.

    I’m really glad you took Puerto Rico in consideration for an Information Session, and I really think you are fabulous people working there!

    Thanks for Everything,


  3. Diana says:

    I really appreciated your presentation in Winter Park, driving to the other side of Orlando was worth it. Thanks for all the information, your honesty and enthusiasm. I now want to go to MIT more than ever, and even though that is awesome, I am going to be sooo disapointed if I am rejected and it’s all your fault. =o) How certain were you about MIT when you applyed? Any interview tips?

    Thanks again


  4. nehalita says:

    I’m pretty sure I heard someone talking about levees in Venice on NPR (not sure if it was Rafel Bras or not). He had some pretty interesting things to say though and US can learn alot from Italy and Europe in general in rebuilding our lost cities.

    Glad you could visit us in Miami =).

  5. Rachael says:

    When the title said “OC” I thought this would be about my hometwon, in California. I don’t think info. meetings occur there until October, though, so that wouldn’t make sense anyway. Too bad I won’t be able to go to an info. meeting. It sounds like people learn loads from them. Maybe next year.

  6. Praveen says:

    Hi Matt

    I was at the information session in Palm Beach. It was really informative (and entertaining). Anyway, I heard you encountered a rather substantial crowd from Cypress Bay (my school) at the miami session today. I hope you can visit us!


  7. mike says:


    Could you visit us in Southwest Florida someday? I’m going up to the Tampa session on the 16th, but that’s a four hour one way drive for me, which means I won’t be home until about two in the morning. West Palm and Miami aren’t any closer.

    I also have a question about admissions essays. You give us so little space (<250 words) to write an essay, but want to have personality come through. How can we accomplish that? From personal experience, writing these short essays have resulted in “dry”, emotionless essays. Maybe I’m just a poor writer.

  8. Pash says:

    Hi Matt,

    I am a prospective Junior, who is very intent on coming to MIT. I was merely wondering if you could facilitate some advice which would help me with acceptance into MIT. I am aware of the demand for a rigorous course schedule, however, many are, hence I was looking for distinguishing things, I as an individual could do, which would make it more compelling for admissions officers, such as yourself, to accept me. Also, is it integral that I take an English course every year, or should my emphasis be on the sciences and mathematics?


  9. Hey Matt,

    Thanks for all the information and the opportunity to talk to you. I am more interested in going to MIT than ever. I just have one additional question about MIT campus life: How politically involved are MIT students? Thanks for all your insights!

    -Richard Z

  10. dan jang says:

    Quick question: will legacies have a better chance at admissions than others? Will they be “favored” or does it totally not matter?

  11. Shikhar says:


    can you tell me one thing. Does MIT give credit to students who are involved in community service. I am heavily involved in the above or so I think (I have been in service for three years which would make it like 2000+hrs dont really know the exact amount). Is this really a distinguishing work or do quite a number of applicants have such good community service.