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MIT student blogger Bryan O. '07

The Open-Ended Question by Bryan

Why I chose MIT ... twice

So it’s hard to imagine I just participated in my FIFTH CPW but yea, I’m getting a little old, but it’s cool. It’s really crazy awesome to meet everyone who got in and hear about their stories about how they saved kids from burning buildings when they were 6 years old, etc. You guys all rock in one way or another.

Sorry to those of you who couldn’t make it, but I’m sure with all the pictures everyone took that there will be mad blog coverage of CPW over the next few days, so fear not.

And finally, a sorry to those of you who thought I would be taller or more buff. My genes didn’t really favor that department. *Gulps protein shake*

So I thought it would be appropriate to talk about why it was I chose MIT…twice. Yes, folks, I’m making it public. I decided that I love MIT so much that I want 5 MORE YEARS. By the time I graduate, I will have spent a third of my life at this place. I LOVE IT.

So why would anyone want to come to MIT?

I think the way that I see it is if you’ve ever read one of those choose your own adventure books and loved it, that would be a great reason to say so. If I think about my daily set of activities at MIT, I’m really choosing from this very long catalog of options of what I want to see, learn, do, taste. Essentially, it’s sensory overload of the amazing kind.

If you believe that the only education you will receive at MIT is in the classroom, that’s not true. I think probably one of the biggest assets MIT has is the people. Coming to MIT I was a pretty shy and reticent guy, but I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned while here is that it is both fun and worthwhile to get to know the people that you share this community with. Apart from the fact that working with others makes the work get done faster and in a more fun environment, the people here come from all different walks of life, and it’s really great to be in a place where to a degree the world comes to you and you can meet a group of people from all over the country and globe. Now that’s a cool feeling.

So is all this “you can change the world” message just lip service or can you actually do it here at 18 years of age? I return to a personal anecdote. When I came to MIT, I wanted to do one thing, I wanted to get my degree and get out. I also wanted to learn how to make cool prosthetic devices. Have I done (or will I do) either of those two things by June 8? Probably not. Am I upset about it? Not at all. One thing that I acknowledge is that when I came to MIT, my exposure to the world of science and engineering was limited. I’d done some fun GFP experiments in high school biology but I didn’t solve protein structures or anything like that. I never did any summer research before coming here either. So was MIT really going to fit with my personal background and experience? I guess it did. Having never touched a pipette, today I work in a lab where we’re trying to reduce the need for organ transplants by understanding the etiology of diseases. At the same time, we’re trying to expedite the drug development process. So is it lip service? Nope.

So why do I think someone should come to MIT?

If you really want to be able to consider your education an open-ended question where the question is “what’s next?” I think that this is the place for you. I think in some respects you have to be a car that drives itself insofar that you have to push yourself and take yourself to the next step, but at the same time, you have to know when it’s time to seek help and help others.

I used to think that everything in life was a linear sequence of events. Then I came to MIT. I realize now that life is a timeless twister that never stops.

The late professor Gian-Carlo Rota had ten maxims about learning of which I will close this entry with three:
1. You learn what you don’t know you are learning.
2. By and large, “knowing how” matters more than “knowing what.”
3. The world and your career are unpredictable, so you are better off learning subjects of permanent value.

Get PUMPED.

Hopefully, I’ll see you all in the fall. Don’t forget about me when I’m a grad student. I might even be your TA. Ha!

24 responses to “The Open-Ended Question”

  1. Hank R. says:

    Haha, it’s okay, Bryan. You’re not that short.

    On a serious note, it’s great that you’re gonna be at MIT another 5 years. Are you still going to blog, or is that just for undergrads?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Why come to MIT?
    “The people”

    This is unanimously the most important reason. My question is, opportunities abound everywhere. My understanding is that importance of MIT is that everyone there takes advantage of opportunities, but that doesnt mean that there arent great people and great chances elsewhere? Is there something special about the MIT experience, or i guess, the MIT people that cant be found elsewhere?

  3. Bryan says:

    Anonymous,

    I can’t say that I’ve been anywhere else. But I think what I enjoy about MIT people is that appreciate high risk – high reward situations. They are willing to take chances with life and their education, and when the going gets tough, they keep going. I find that the people here are really passionate about their work inside and outside of the classroom, and you can’t help but feed off their energy as well. I’ve only visited a few other college campuses in my MIT career, but I just really think MIT is the “city that never sleeps” both literally and figuratively.

  4. Bryan,

    I want to thank you and the rest of the Admissions staff for planning the CPW weekend, I can honestly say I was very impressed with everything, and that “Only at MIT” ran through my mind many many times.

    However, I often had to force myself to enjoy what was around me, as I was deeply saddened by how hard it was for me to make new friends. I was quite friendly and upbeat throughout CPW, and approached many people despite my waning confidence, but none of this seemed to help. I understand that with the numerous events and everything going on across the campus, it might be hard to meet the same person twice, or stay together yet attend everything one wishes to. However, from what I saw around me and what I read in the posts on the Facebook Group, many people made amazing new friends and have the time of their lives.

    I am very sorry to heap this upon you, your schedule is more full than I can imagine and you are not some counselor/therapist, but I was unprepared to experience such loneliness at the university of my dreams and therefore am relatively desperate. Did what I experience sound reasonable, perhaps even slightly common, and can be chalked off as a typical bout of homesickness, or is it an indication that MIT might not be the place for me? With the repeated warning that “If you like it here, it’ll be the best four years of your life, if you don’t, it will be hell”, I am very nervous and unwilling to take any chances.

  5. milena '11 says:

    Hey Bryan, it’s great that you’re staying at MIT for grad school, but will you still be a blogger? I love your blog! hehe

    by the way, I sent you an email about CPW, email me back if you received it.

  6. Bryan says:

    Dear Frightened and Uncertain,

    I honestly can’t say that I am familiar with that situation, but I talked to one of my friends who is class of 2010, and he actually did not enjoy his CPW experience at all. He’s actually really enjoying his MIT experience now, so yes it does happen that if you don’t enjoy CPW that you enjoy MIT, but at the same time, you need to decide what is important for you and decide whether MIT can succeed at accomplishing those goals for you.

    If you have more specific questions or if you want to get in touch with the friend I mentioned, just email me [bryanblogs] at [mit] dot [edu]

  7. Thank you Bryan, I’ll definitely keep that and the offer in mind.

  8. Maia '11 says:

    Dear Frightened and Uncertain/Slightly Reassured,

    I wish we had run into each other at CPW–I felt like I was experiencing something similar (though it hasn’t made me think a hair less of MIT). I didn’t really meet any people whose phone number or email I got, or who I hung out with for more than an hour or so. (I also do not as of this moment have a facebook account, for reasons beyond my control, so I had not heard of anybody that was there at the time.) There were so many events that I felt like I needed to attend just to get more information that I really didn’t take much time just to stick to a group of people and move around with them. Plus, no one person wanted to come with me to all the stuff that I was attending, so I ended up at a lot of events alone.

    But, having been in many situations like this, I have to say the best thing is to just keep looking. Eventually you’ll run into someone at the same activity, and you’ll both be going to the same place next, and you’ll find out that you both read this really good book or enjoy physics or something, and then you’ll just kind of stick. Even if it didn’t happen at CPW, that’s just four days–not nearly enough time to meet everyone. Plus, there are over three thousand other people at MIT that could just be the best friend that you haven’t met yet.

    I know reading long posts is tedious, so I’ll finish up now. I just wanted to say, coming from the same position, that there is nothing to worry about.

  9. *tackles and kidnaps*

    That’s wonderful! (Not that you were also alone but that at least I was not the single unhappy person at the event) Thanks for the support, I hope I run into you when the actual year begins.

  10. Grateful says:

    Dear Maia ’11

    In retrospect my reply was rather poor compared to the time you had invested in yours, and as I have no other way, I must make one final post here to express my thanks.

    Your post was not tedious and long at all, and I appreciated every single word you took the time to set down; I confess that I was more worried of how MIT’s social environment would accept me than how I would function academically. Though I am still a little uncertain, reading solid proof that kind people like you are there is invaluable, I will be tuning my ears for a “Maia” in class.

  11. Miel says:

    Hey Brian,
    I’ve already stalked your facebook (:P) but in case you didn’t see it, I just wanted to thank you again for talking to me at Meet the Bloggers; I’ve been thinking very hard about the decisions I’ll have to make in the next 2 weeks, but you totally just took it to the next level:) (I have to say, you’re very convincing:P)

    Again, thanks for everything:) It was great to meet you in person!

    Hey Brian,
    I’ve already stalked your facebook (:P) but in case you didn’t see it, I just wanted to thank you again for talking to me at Meet the Bloggers; I’ve been thinking very hard about the decisions I’ll have to make in the next 2 weeks, but you totally just took it to the next level:) (I have to say, you’re very convincing:P)

    Again, thanks for everything:) It was great to meet you in person!

    <3, Miel

  12. Bryan says:

    Miel,

    Hopefully I’ll see you next semester!

    Email me/facebook me with any last minute questions that come up!

    – Bryan

  13. Dear Anonymous,

    MIT is without a doubt an amazing place to be, and has many, many things to offer. With its financial aid package and your own self control, the debt you accrue should not be unmanageable, and you would in all likeliness have an wonderful time.

    There is a reason we are warned that you need to know that MIT will be the college for you, as it is very fast paced, perhaps more so than others. But from your concerns, it sounds like your goals in life are already planned out, and you have a clear idea what you want to achieve. Given that, I think no matter where you go, you will succeed, and that you should not let the uplifted name of “MIT” make you feel as if you would be turning down a golden goose. If you go, that’s great, I hope to see you there, if not, I’m sure I’ll see the effects of your work anyway.

    (I’m just as nervous as my decision to go, funny how it’s always easier to give advice than to follow it)

  14. Basant'11 says:

    Wonderful post, Bryan! I’m also a big proponent of the High-Risk-High-Gain idea! smile

  15. Kari says:

    have you read Anthony’s post about a gap year? he was 16 when he graduated and he might be exactly the person you should talk to about your decision.
    good luck.

  16. Kari says:

    Anonymous:
    have you read Anthony’s post about a gap year? he was 16 when he graduated and he might be exactly the person you should talk to about your decision.
    good luck.

  17. Mom says:

    Dear Anonymous,

    I am a parent and my son is admitted. And it will be more than a burden for our family to pay for his education. And I do not hesitate any second about the decision.
    In four years my husband and I will be left with about zero savings and no retirement funds and one more kid to go to college. And still it does worth for my son to go to MIT.
    You know where the idea for my son to apply to MIT come from? We live in Eastern Europe and just few kids apply every year to US colleges. And 3 years ago we did not think about applying at all. And then on airplane I met an american women about 65 years old that watch my son over some time during the flight and said that he is very smart and he should apply to MIT. I talked to her and I remember vividly her words – “my son was admitted to MIT – this is the best thing that ever happened to me!”
    I was really impressed and now I am so happy that my son is also admitted and nothing – even money- are more important than this! Anyone could earn money but not everybody can get to MIT.
    So, I think you need to talk to your parents and see what their priorities are.
    Good luck!

  18. Anonymous says:

    Yay for stalking you for another 5 years.

    “unsigned”

  19. Yuri says:

    Hey Bryan, it was fun chatting with you on that ridiculous Saferide trip… I’ll see you around in the fall smile

  20. Anonymous says:

    Frightened and Uncertain, Maia, Bryan,

    I did not get to go to CPW. I was so worried, going to MIT, that I will impose too much financial burden on my parents or get myself into deep debt like 150-200 k when I graduate from MIT four years later. You know I am only 16. How can I bear the thought I make my folks sacricife everything just for me to be able to go to MIT?

    I tried not to read the blogs about CPW, and I did abstain myself doing that. On the other hand I often feel lost among a lot of exciting activities, events and people. I am not a loner, but I am so afraid I would lost my soberness among multitude “YES”, “GREAT”, and “THAT’S ABSOLUTELY THE RIGHT THING!” LIfe, to me, is just uncurling, and comes to me with such hard a decision to make in 2 weeks. Is MIT really right for me? When most people equivocally say all the positive aspects about MIT, how can I keep my head cool and clear to decide which college to go? Does that really matter so much to go to MIT as to carry a deep debt on my shoulders for the next 10 or so years? Can my state university, compared with MIT, not sounding exciting or excellent at all, serve the same purpose in educating me for me to fulfill my dream and to be able to contribute my portion to the community and society that have nurtured me for all the years in the past?

  21. Jenny A says:

    Miel if you dont come to MIT…i will be very upset….(but understanding??)

    I had an awesome time with you at CPW…

  22. Arkajit says:

    Haha, it would be pretty cool to have you as a TA smile

  23. Anonymous says:

    I grew up learning to know how, unfortunately i focussed my attention to much on that rather than learning what, and it wasnt enough to get me into mit. im not bitter, now i wont be so lazy.