The Undecideds and the Order of the Phoenix by Matt McGann '00
Answering the important questions of those still making their decision.
The fifth in a series… With less than a week until the May 1st postmark deadline for your college decision, I figure now is as good a time as any to the students who are still undecided: How can we help you make your decision? What more would you like to know about MIT? What are your lingering concerns? Etc.
Anonymous asked, “How do I go about requesting an extension for May 1? I have not received my financial aid information yet and I wanted to know before I decided.”
Anon, and everyone else in this situation, MIT Admissions is willing to give an extension on the May 1 deadline for financial aid-related reasons. If you would like an extension, you can either email our office at admissions at mit dot edu or call us during business hours at (617) 253-4791. We want to ensure that you make the best, most informed choice you can, especially when it comes to something as important as finances.
Caroline asked, “Can professors teach? Call me naive, but I didn’t even *think* about this at a top university, but when I visited Caltech, they said that about 80% of the profs can’t teach well!! They’re brilliant, of course, in research/academics… but… I like being taught for $45,000 a year. Is the situation the same at MIT?”
I was, on the whole, very happy with my teachers at MIT. (Also, for the record, I don’t believe that 80% of Caltech’s professors can’t teach.) Many of MIT’s teachers are truly excellent, some are good, and, yes, some are bad. The benefit of living in a mixed-year (not freshman) dorm is that there are lots of upperclassmen around to help advise you as to which classes and which professors are great, and which you might want to steer clear of. Also, there are online guides (available only to the MIT community) that evaluate MIT’s professors; for example, Eric Lander rated a 6.7 out of 7 for teaching 7.012: Introductory Biology, and Don Sadoway rated a 6.3 for 3.091 : Intro to Solid-State Chemistry. A quick perusal of the evaluations makes me think that the mean/median is in the mid-5s, with the great teachers getting in the 6s and the, well, worse teachers getting 4s and below. So, you want to only have great professors? Ask around, check the course evaluations, and you’ll do just fine.
Yesterday, Anonymous and Jwal asked about food, especially in regard to GMO, healthy/organic food, and gluten-free food. Yesterday afternoon I talked with Ward Ganger, operations Manager for the Office of Campus Dining.
He told me lots of good stuff, stuff that made even me happier about MIT dining. But first, we talked about the politics of GMO: the US, unlike the EU, has no regulations about GMO. This makes it extremely difficult for us to know what is GMO and what is not. He added that many college dining programs struggle with this.
MIT Dining does its best to seek out organic and other wholesomely-raised food in many instances, doing its best in this regulation-free environment. All fish that are served on campus are wild caught, not farm raised. In addition to regular milk (which, though there’s no way to be sure, probably is GMO), there’s organic milk offered, which is much more likely to be untampered with.
The best news is about the relationships between chefs and students, especially in the residential dining halls. Not only will dorm dining chefs tailor individual dishes to your needs, they are also quite open to suggestions for dishes and ingredients. Ward called this “standard” — meaning, it is routine for these great relationships between chef and student to spring up. And the residences also have a student committee to discuss dining issues and suggest improvements.
Ward says he’s happy to discuss dining issues further with anyone would would like; his phone number is (617) 253-2706.
Anonymous wrote, “Matt, you said that admitted students who send their complete forms accepting the offer will receive a reply. What about international students? Is this reply an e-mail, sent through snail mail or DHL?”
I’m told the Records Office puts an Air Mail stamp on the post card.
Anonymous had two questions: “1. I’m committed to studying over extra-curricular activities (personally I believe academics > all, and as long as there’s studying to be done I don’t let anything distract me). Is there then opportunity for endless study at MIT? Because I’ve always taken the hardest path in High School, doing the toughest courses and reading every required material (and sometimes a bit more), and I’m slightly worried if MIT’s academic work is limited only by myself, I may never keep this up.
2. It’s written in the CalTech website how students studying Biology find themselves doing questions which Physics majors do in other universities. Just how tough is MIT? If I score 800s in all my SAT IIs, will it be easy to acclimatize? Is it normal to require hours upon hours of work to understand a concept / finish an assignment?”
1. I do think that, to some extent, there is “opportunity for endless study at MIT,” and that “MIT’s work is only limited by yourself.” Ack! But, don’t fear. The biggest lesson of freshman year at MIT is time management in all senses of the phrase. The upperclassmen in your dorm will be of great help with this. People who come to MIT pretty quickly learn how to balance academics/research, fun, and, well, sleep. I am very confident that you, too, will learn this, and everything will be fine.
2. MIT is meant to be a challenging place. That’s why people come here — to see what they’re really capable of. I for one think college would be pretty boring if people weren’t really pushed academically. As for acclimatization, we only admit students who we honestly believe can not only get by here but also really thrive. Most everyone comes to MIT like you — a bit afraid of the work — but nearly everyone succeeds in their freshman year and goes on to graduate. You can do it. And how many hours does it take to do a problem set or understand a concept? It depends. Sometimes everything clicks, sometimes it takes much more time. But by working collaboratively with your peers, being very attentive in lecture and recitation, and seeking out help when you need it, you’ll be able to succeed and balance all that you hope to do.
Christine wrote, “Hi, I sent in my letter about two weeks ago but have yet to receive my return postcard. I’m getting kinda worried because May 1 is drawing near…should I call and ask Admissions whether they’ve gotten it?”
Hi Christine, I can’t check on it myself since I don’t know which of the several Christines you are, but you can absolutely feel free to call the Admissions Office to check on things.
Mergen ’10 wrote, “Hello! I sent my admission reply form to MIT about ten days ago by EMS (Express Mail Service). I am wondering if it reached MIT.”
Yes! You are officially a part of the Class of 2010.
Daniel P ’10 wrote, “Just wanted to verify that my response form was received.”
Yes! You, too, are officially a part of the Class of 2010.
Elliot wrote, “I have one week to decide between MIT and Stanford. This will be a very hard decision to make since I do not know everything about both schools. I was fortunate enough to visit MIT’s campus and meet its people. All I need to know from MIT is my financial aid award. Could you please look into this? As for Stanford, I unfortunately cannot visit their campus because my state math competition conflicted with their Admit Weekend and I will not have much luck arranging a trip this week. I am afraid of making a premature decision given that I learned much more about MIT than Stanford. As of now, MIT is my personal favorite for a seemingly unfair reason. Do you have any advice for someone who is deciding between a school that he/she has never visited (and cannot visit in the immediate future) and another school he/she got to know very well?”
Elliot, for financial aid, see the email I sent you. And as for Stanford, well, you’ve got two great choices, and probably can’t go wrong either way. To get to know Stanford better, I’d check out their student blogs (both the ones on the Admit site and maybe some on LiveJournal/Xanga); call the Admissions Office and ask them to have a student with similar interests to you contact you; and ask some of the alumni of your school who have chosen Stanford (and MIT) why they made the choice they did, and what their advice is for you. Good luck with your choice!
Serdar wrote, “I haven’t recieved my financial aid package yet. Can you e-mail it to me? Thank you.”
Yes! The Financial Aid Office is on the case.
akgirl asked, “Is it possible to post receipt of acceptances on individual myMIT sites? Financial aid does this and such notification would reduce the stress level given the inconsistencies of mail service in various parts of the world.”
You’re absolutely right. At your suggestion, we have asked to have this implemented next year. (We may even call it “The Official akgirl Enrollment Form Viewer” ;) )
Anonymous wrote, “Matt, seconding what akgirl said, could it be possible for international students to track the progress of theirs I-20. I know there is a similar option in the International Students Office Website but we have to make a formal request of revision and according to the ISO it may take up to two weeks to receive response. It would be nicer if we could just know. After all, we international are not complete sure if we will be able to attend until we have a visa seal on our passports, aren’t we?”
Anon, the visa process is handled completely by the International Students Office and not by Admissions. You should send any suggestions, ideas, or questions to them at iso-help at mit dot edu.
I also get the sense you are very worried about getting your visa. This is completely understandable, especially in the current political climate, but I assure you that our International Students Office is extremely good at what they do. In each of the past two years, the ISO tells me, there have been exactly 0 visa problems for our incoming freshmen. Every one of them got a visa and came to MIT and the US without a problem. So you can relax a little bit. I hope this is helpful!
Courtney wrote, “As someone who’s not firmly a science/math/tech/engineering/econ major (or, for that matter, not firmly anything at all), it’s been reassuring to hear the affirmation of the humanities programs at MIT. I’m deciding between MIT and Princeton right now, and I think a big factor in my decision will be about cross-registering at MIT. I don’t want to say that MIT’s English departments are subpar or anything, but there’s something to be said about liberal arts colleges’ courses. How easy/common/accepted is it to cross-register at Harvard? I hope this question doesn’t come off the wrong way; I’m mostly leaning towards MIT, but just want to ensure I get the full college exploration experience.”
As a MIT alum who cross registered at Harvard, I can tell you that it was extremely easy to cross register, and is very accepted on campus. The trickiest part of cross-registration is arranging your schedule, since 1) you have to allow time to get to the other school, and 2) the other schools have somewhat different schedules. Beyond that, the process is simple and great. While I love MIT with all my heart, I’m glad I took the opportunity to take a course at Harvard, and wish I had also made the time for myself to do one at Wellesley (or invent a time machine so I could have participated in the Cambridge-MIT exchange).
Evelyn wrote, “I have to ask! HOW ARE THE PARTIES AT MIT and WHAT IS THE SOCIAL SCENE LIKE?! I’m a party animal (if you will…) and I have to know. The thought of locking myself in my room for days on end doesn’t exactly appeal to me. I need to go out and have fun.”
Hi Evelyn, this is quite the common question. I’m going to have some folks help me out with this one — expect a phone call soon from an MIT student familiar with the social scene, and I’ve also pasted in a response from one of my favorite students, Monica ’08.
But first, my quick take: the social scene is varied. There’s everything from Friday night blowout parties to Friday night D&D. The structure of the MIT residence system and the MIT social scene is such that everyone from the introvert to the extrovert, the geek to the party animal, can really enjoy themselves here. Looking back at my freshman year, I didn’t have much interest in big parties, more of an interest in just hanging out with my friends, eating, playing games, doing intramural sports, watching X-Files or Buffy the Vampire Slayer… but yes, even I got to a toga party my freshman year =)
Monica ’08 adds, “You can always find a party at MIT — whether it be a few people in a dorm (or a huge dorm party), a group going out to a club in Boston, or hundreds of people in a fraternity. In fact, other “more social” colleges in Boston (BU, for example) are known to rely on MIT fraternity parties for their weekend fun. The parties themselves are quite diverse — from jello wrestling to 80’s parties to salsa/merengue to hip-hop to a battle of the bands… I can go on forever. The extent of MIT’s social scene is definitely a surprise to newcomers on campus — a very pleasant surprise :)”
I’ll answer more questions tomorrow from undecided students; I’m holding the remainder for the forthcoming Questions Omnibus. In the meantime, go enjoy Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day!