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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

The Undecideds VI: The Undiscovered Country by Matt McGann '00

Even more undecided students' questions & answers.

The sixth 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.

But first, let me answer some FAQs.

What’s up with my financial aid?

You or someone in your family should call the Financial Aid Office at 617-253-4971. Every time I’ve called during business hours, they’ve picked up and answered all of my questions.

What if I don’t get my financial aid package/appeal before May 1?

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.

Is the reply form supposed to be postmarked by May 1 or received by May 1?

The form is supposed to be postmarked by May 1. Both students who are and are not enrolling should return the form as soon as possible after you have made your final decision.

Has MIT Admissions received my reply form yet?

We have sent out postcards confirming the receipt of your form, but apparently they are not moving very quickly through the mail. If you are worried, you can call Admissions at 617-253-4791 or email at admissions at mit dot edu.

You haven’t answered by question in any of the past few entries!

I’m holding off on all questions except Undecideds until my next Questions Omnibus. This includes questions from Adam, YeSeul, Sarah, Siddharth, Tuan, Om, tokenadult, swissinsenegal, Molly, Robb, mahsa, Question, Dhrubo, Jon, Shammi, Evan, and Justin.

On to the questions…

Tish asked (twice… sorry!), “From what I’ve read on your website bioengineering (the new course 20) was limited to 20 students for the class of 2009. Was it difficult to get into the program, because it seems like every other person I talked to at CPW was interested in this field. I just want to be sure that there will be room for me if I come!” And Sean wrote, “I wanted to second the question by Tish regarding bioengineering. Although I’m likely going to go EECS at MIT, I’m considering bioengineering as an alternative (yay for bio!). Is space really only limited to 20 students for class of ’09?”

The original plan was to limit enrollment in Course 20 (Biological Engineering) to 20. But closing off majors really isn’t part of MIT’s culture, and Course 20 wanted to avoid doing so if at all possible. In the end, every student who wanted to major in Course 20 was able to do so.

I think it’s also important to note that MIT actually has three bioengineering majors:

The first two bioengineering options have never even considered a lottery.

In short, if you want to do bioengineering at MIT, you will be able to, no problem.

Tish also asked, “One more concern… while at CPW (which I loved!) I sort of detected this undercurrent of animosity between the typical MIT superbrains and the partiers/jocks (sorry for the cliches!). What is the relationship between these so-called groups? As someone who falls into the latter category I just want to be sure that I would feel comfortable on campus.”

Honestly, I’ve never really noticed any problems between the “superbrains” and the “partiers.” I think people are happy to leave the clique-ish high school garbage behind. My impression is that MIT actually has one of the healthier social scenes as far as inter-group dynamics go.

Crystal wrote, “Hey Matt, I’ve pretty much decided on MIT already, but wanted to inquire a bit about the pre-law track. From what I learned at the pre-law panel during CPW, only 20 or so seniors decide to apply to law schools straight out of undergrad each year. Is it difficult to major in engineering while also taking enough HASS classes to prepare for the written/reading comprehension skills required for LSATs (or perhaps double major in a HASS subject)? Do MIT students generally succeed in top law schools? Thank you so much…I can’t wait to see everyone on campus again in August!”

My friend Josiah helped me to answer this… he wrote:

Whether or not MIT prepares you to be a lawyer probably depends on the kind of lawyer you want to be. There are many branches of law for which MIT can and does prepare people superbly. In the end, though, how good of a lawyer you are will depend on your grasp of the issues with which you’re dealing. If it’s what you want to do, MIT can give you a fantastic in-depth familiarity with all things technology related, in addition to economics, international security, the environment and countless other topics. Ask yourself what sort of law you envision yourself practicing and go from there.

In terms of the LSAT, though, I would venture to state that MIT actually does a better job of preparing you than would a liberal arts college. For starters the LSAT is based on logic, which is deeply ingrained in the MIT culture. As much as I love the humanities and have had a phenomenal experience with them here at MIT, they are largely speaking irrelevant to the LSAT.

The LSAT consists of Logic Games, Arguments and Reading Comprehension. A familiarity with national and state laws might help you be a good lawyer, but it does nothing for you on the LSAT. The LSAT is specifically written such that no outside knowledge is necessary; it all comes down to your reasoning, which is I’m happy to say is a strength here at MIT.

The writing section is on the LSAT, but it doesn’t count at all toward your LSAT score, which is what people care about in the end. So sure, I’ve been very happy with the drastic improvements in my writing here at MIT, but that’s a topic with no bearing on the LSAT. It’s sad, but it’s a fact of life. The writing section was tacked onto the test to make it seem more well-rounded, but its overall impact on your score is exactly 0.

All this means that studying legal content won’t help you, even for the Reading Comprehension segment, which I teach. The most complex tasks usually come down to making analogies based on an underlying structure, which engineers tend to do well. Even with as little use as I have for that college down the road, I have to admit that my best students are from Harvard and MIT, and that they do more or less equally well in Reading Comprehension.

I hope that covers it! And thanks, Josiah!

Sebastian wrote, “Hi Matt, is the reply for MIT supposed to be postmarked by May 1st or recieved by May 1st? Like many other people listed, I am kinda of still waiting for my financial aid package to come in the mail. Thanks!!” Rosemarie wrote, “Hey Matt. I sent in my financial materials very late, so i want to know around when to expect a package, and will I be given an extention, or will I need to decide prior to recieving it.” Christine wrote, “Just another person chiming in on the financial aid thing. My application is complete, and a call to the finaid office last week said that they were reviewing it. Would it be possible to find out whether it’s in the mail or not / get an e-mail of my award? My parents are getting anxious.” Dominic wrote, “Hi just wondering if the materials for my financial aid package were recieved and if they were currently reviewing it.” Fernando wrote, “Same Fernando wanting to know about Financial Aid. I woudl like to know if it’s been mailed yet or if it was even possible to get an e-mail of it.” Stephanie wrote, “I haven’t recieved my financial aid packet yet. Is it possible to have it e-mailed or snail mailed before I commit to mit? Thank you!” Kun wrote, “I’m also wondering if the Financial Aid Office has recieved all of my materials, and when I can expect to hear from them.”

I’ve emailed you all what I’ve learned; I hope this is somewhat helpful!

Me wrote, “Call me a modernist, but is there anyway that can do the intent to enroll thing online, or do I have to do it the old fasioned way and send it through the good old USPS?”

You have to send it through the mail, old school. We are considering moving the form online for future years.

Kellas ’10 wrote, “Hey. This is probably pointless but I e-mailled international admissions wondering if my acceptance had gotten to MIT yet, as international mail always seems a bit unreliable, and I ain’t heard anything back, and since I can’t afford to make too many international calls, thought I’d just ask on here if it had reached MIT.” Melodie ’10 wrote, “I sent in my enrollment form a few weeks ago, and I haven’t gotten anything back yet, so I was wondering if you could check for me if you’ve gotten my stuff.” Ana ’10 wrote, “Hey! I was just wondering if you received my Admission Reply Form. I sent it a week ago via DHL (I am an international student), but I haven’t received any confirmation postcard yet. Thanks!” Zach wrote, “same question as a lot of others… I havent received a postcard yet confirming delivery of my admit reply. (hopes to see a “’10” next to his name soon)” And Keri ’10 wrote, “As I say the same thing as everyone else… I sent in my admissions reply form two weeks ago, and nary a postcard has graced my mailbox. Anything you can tell me? Do I need to panic and wonder where it could possibly be? Also, once this has been received, when would I get an MIT e-mail address?”

Kellas ’10, Melodie ’10, Ana ’10, Zach ’10, and Keri ’10, welcome to MIT! I look forward to seeing you in the fall! And Keri, you’ll receive everything you need for an email address in the Next Big Mailing, set to go out in a couple weeks.

Melodie wrote, “Hey again, I know this is financial aid stuff, so I should be emailing the financial aid office, but I already emailed Mr. Barkowitz and he hasn’t emailed me back and I’m getting kind of nervous. Essentially, I’ve got both forms that came in the admissions packet filled out, except for this one part in the Outside Awards form that asks for a copy of any instructions from outside scholarship sponsors. I emailed the group that sponsors the scholarship that I won, and they’re sending me the stuff via normal mail, but I don’t know if I’ll receive it in time to make the May 1 deadline. So, I was wondering if it would be ok to send everything that I’ve got right now and then send that one part once I get the scholarship stuff. Thank you!!”

Hmm… well, I don’t know the answer, but I’d recommend calling the office at 617-253-4971. That’s the number I’ve been calling, and they’ve been quite helpful and responsive.

Anonymous wrote, “I mailed my acceptance forms to MIT at the beginning of this week. I was discussing my decision with my GC he raised some serious concerns about finances at MIT. I think I’m quite unique as an international student cos I while others will be struggling to meet the $5500 self-help portion of their finaid, I’ll be struggling to meet the $5500 and the $1500 insurance, alongside an extra $1500 to cover my travel expenses as an int’l student. How realistic is this goal or will I have to take significant amount of loans? If the worst comes to the worst, can I rescind my… decision to enroll?”

Hi Anon, know that you’re not alone — many (most?) of our international students are here on full financial aid and have to fulfill the same expenses as you. It is absolutely realistic to make this work. I’d recommend being in touch with some current students with your same situation; try emailing the International Students Association Executive Committee at isa-exxeccom at mit dot edu. They’ll be happy to help you out, I assure you. And, if for whatever reason you determine that you cannot financially make it work, we would allow you to withdraw your decision. But I honestly don’t believe it will come to that.

Stella wrote, “I am not sure yet what I want to study. I know it will be something in sciences but I am also very interested in social sciences and humanities. Some people say that MIT people are black and white and that MIT is ideal only for people who are sure they want to study engineering, while other universities offer wider opportunities in studies. I am also very interested in dance, classical ballet and modern dance and I have been practising them for many years. I wonder whether there are classes offered on campus or if it is possible to take classes somewhere else.”

Stella, I’ll repeat what I said a few days ago: the humanities are here, and world class. I do think that the science and engineering programs are of such high quality that the general public often dismiss the quality of our humanities and social science programs. But there are some really amazing things happening here in the humanities, the arts, and the social sciences.

As for dance, we’ve got cool stuff going on academically, co-curricularly, and extra-curricularly. For example, check out Professor Tommy DeFrantz in the Theater Arts department, and the student group Kinaesthetics Lab. You should also check out the [email protected] – Dance site as well as MIT DanceTroupe, which is arguably the most popular student group on campus.

Speaking of Dance Troupe, let me leave you today with some photos of one of their recent performances. More photos are available from the DanceTroupe photo gallery.

photos by Wan Yusof Wan Morshidi of The Tech

22 responses to “The Undecideds VI: The Undiscovered Country”

  1. Erin F says:

    Hey Matt! This isn’t an “undecided” question- I’m definitely coming to MIT! So you can save my question for your next questions omnibus. I’m interested in majoring in physics and I was wondering if you would know if there are a lot of UROP opportunities in physics, but particularly in high energy physics? Are there professors at MIT that work in high energy physics labs or something that can use undergrads in any way? Thanks!

  2. Olga says:

    When do we get our MIT-domain emails?

  3. Actually I had another question. As the French system is more difficult than the american one, I suppose that it’s more difficult to get good marks in the French system. Do you consider this ?

  4. MIT hopeful says:

    Yay for Star Trek… yeah, I am a fan!

  5. " " says:

    ^ I had been wondering what you were going to use for part VI, not many series with a part VI

  6. Anon says:

    Hate to be off topic, but I’m wondering… Do you basically just trash references made to you by the “College Plans Reporting Service?” Should I bother?

  7. Sean says:

    Thanks so much for all the answers to our questions!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I have a question regarding the student information form that we filled out along with our enrollment form. How many alumni scholarships are available and rougly how many people receive these extra scholarships a year?

  9. Bashir says:

    Hi Matt, I sent my admission stuff at the beginnig of this week. Can you refer to me in your next mail as Bashir’10 in ur nxt post smile.


  10. Olga,

    In the NBM (Next Big Mailing) which will go out in a few weeks, you’ll recieve an “Athena Coupon” which will allow you to create an account on MIT’s athena network.

  11. Shammi says:

    wow, I feel for you. You are answering everybody’s questions. You are superman.

  12. Hey Matt,

    Did you receive my reply form, Just a bit worried. Please check for me.

  13. George says:

    Hey Matt,

    Just wondering if you guys have received my affirm. reply yet. I sent it through registered mail at the beginning of this week. Thanks.


  14. thekeri says:

    SheeShee – remember the big packet we all got in March, around the same time RA admits got their packets? Inside that, there’s a survey-like thing that’s about four pages long. That’s the Admissions Reply form.

    If you don’t see it, then… yeah, that would be an issue.

    Oh, yeah, and on a personal note – COME TO MIT. OR I KEEL YOU.


  15. thekeri says:

    SheeShee – remember the big packet we all got in March, around the same time RA admits got their packets? Inside that, there’s a survey-like thing that’s about four pages long. That’s the Admissions Reply form.

    If you don’t see it, then… yeah, that would be an issue.

    Oh, yeah, and on a personal note – COME TO MIT. OR I KEEL YOU.


  16. thekeri says:

    And I have no idea why that just got posted twice.

  17. SheeShee Jin says:

    Hmm… it’s a little late for this, eh? But I’ve been searching through every piece of mail that I’ve received from MIT (even those 50 pesky reminders from the Financial Aid Office, who I finally heard back from today), and have no idea how an Admissions Reply form is supposed to look…

    Were we supposed to receive it in the mail? Or request it or something? Heh, hope to hear back soon! At least before May 1. Thanks! Any news would be much appreciated. =D

  18. ok, I’m jumping on the bandwagon… am I a ’10er yet?

    also, will i (finacially) die if one item out of my control (i’m talking the Pell Disbursement Record from COD here) doesn’t get to MIT by May 1? just wondering.

  19. SheeShee Jin says:

    haha, because you fail.

    Eh, anyway, ignore what I said, we recovered it. Somehow (I’m blaming the cat) it was shoved under a piece of furniture, unopened! It was miraculous.


    Now I hope that the May 1 deadline is for being post-marked, not the admissions office receiving it. =D

  20. DeRon Brown says:

    Hey! What up? I just wanted to ask you about my admissions reply form. Has admissions received it yet? Can you check on it for me? Thanks and hope to see ’10 next to my name next time.

  21. Ploy says:

    Hi, I sent off my reply form today. So worried that it’s not going to get there, but it should. Anyway, could you check for me plz? I’m definitely going there.

  22. Fernando says:

    I’ve sent off my reply form today. Hopefully it shall get there.

    I’ve also e-mailed the FA Office about a possible extension as I was just told by my friend that two forms for FA are due May 1st, but my FA is still in the mail(it was mailed thursday, and should be getting to me shortly).