Now that the class of 2025 has arrived, they are, expectedly, chock-full of questions for all of us current MIT students and I find myself repeating similar bits of information that I should compile into one post so I can link it rather than having to figure out how to word it every single time.
Obviously these are still all only under my perspective! And not at all representative of everything MIT has to offer nor is it the only word you should hold as Truth! But this is just some stuff I picked up on and thought I should write down.
Is MIT as hard as everyone says it is?
Yes. I think MIT is incredibly hard. I think it is the most difficult thing I’ve ever encountered in my life and the work and content is extremely hard and this school has pushed me to limits I didn’t even know I had. But simultaneously, MIT is purposefully difficult so that you’re forced to collaborate with others and kind of work through this hardship together. As a result, MIT is a wholly collaborative and kind environment where people are extremely empathetic and caring when regarding others because they know how tough this school can be.
And frankly I think the people and this collaborative nature makes the school all worth it. I say this a lot, but I’d rather go to a hard school with a collaborative and kind student body rather than an easy school with a competitive air.
Is MIT competitive?
As said in my last answer, no. I do not think MIT is competitive whatsoever. I think there’s friendly competition and games, but never a cutthroat environment. People will never ever withhold information from you or not help you with an assignment. I think I really realized this when my 8.01L pset was due in a couple hours and it was 11:30PM at night and I called up my friend who lived 15 minutes away from me on foot for physics help, and he ended up getting out of bed, walking to my dorm, and helping me with my pset.
It became so evident then that people were so willing to help. They are willing to drop whatever they’re doing just to make sure you get through that class a little easier or get to where you need to go and it’s one of my favorite aspects of MIT, truly.
What’s the MIT workload like?
I always say this and anyone who’s talked to me knows, but you are as free as you want to be at MIT. You can take the typical 3-4 class workload and graduate on time without any extracurriculars or major commitments. You can also work yourself and join an acapella group, a sorority, MIT Symphony Orchestra, and join the exec of your dorm while taking 5-6 classes if that floats your boat. There is no ‘average’ workload at MIT since MIT workload is incredibly personal. MIT gives your freshman fall on Pass/No Record so you can explore these limits and personal preferences. If you find yourself in your freshman fall really loving and enjoying a specific extracurricular, then you know you should make sure you have time for it in the future.
There is no one ‘right’ way to do MIT. I personally take 3-4 classes a semester and dedicate the rest of my time to my jobs, like blogging, panels, tours, and more, as well as my extracurriculars.
That being said, I will say that MIT is a very easy place to overload yourself since there’s so many different opportunities here and it can be really overwhelming. You might have a long list of classes you want to take and extracurriculars you want to do and events you want to go to and you find yourself struggling to figure out what you want to do. This is extremely common and really there’s no one correct way to narrow them down, but it’s always super important to remember to let yourself breathe and save time for yourself. You don’t have to do every single thing at MIT and it is okay!
How do I know what dorm is right for me?
I think this is something really important that I want to talk about with regards to anything just MIT, but I think a lot of times I see a lot of students here fall into the pitfalls of relying a bit too much on upperclassmen and letting upperclassmen advice cloud their judgment on what dorms or groups on campus are right for them. While I encourage you seek out upperclassmen advice, I also recommend you don’t solely rely on their opinions as often times it’s full of their own personal biases as well. I think the best approach to MIT is really entering without any biases or expectations or stereotypes of what a certain dorm or group is like and instead, take the time to form your own opinions of the different people and living groups MIT has. This was a pretty large mistake I saw within 2023s where a lot us entered with negative stereotypes of certain communities that harmed a lot of people in the process.
How do I get to know people? How do I find community on campus?
For me what really helped was trying to grow out of the expectations I set for myself in high school and really getting rid of the mentality of this is what I have to be and do in college. In high school, I think you have this very fantastical idea of what your college life is going to be life. In high school, I thought I was going to be a bioengineering major and participate in a lot of different research projects and wet labs and things. Obviously that did not pan out.
Going with my gut feeling, I think, really carried the majority of my MIT experiences and I really recommend that everyone tries to really evaluate what you want to prioritize and get out of your time here at MIT. Do you want to sit in and complete this pset even though you’re on PNR or take a 4am trip to Seven Eleven with you upperclassmen friends and learn about the secrets of MIT? I think the most meaningful and fun experiences at MIT for me were the ones that were completely spontaneous and unplanned, like the midnight IHOP runs or randomly ditching my class to go hang out on the other side of campus with some people I’ve never talked to before. And really, that’s what I recommend is not boxing yourself into a certain expectation or lifestyle you think you’re going to follow at MIT. Instead, allow yourself to be spontaneous and do the unexpected, because I think some of my most meaningful experiences came from those moments of freedom.
Will I get imposter syndrome? How do I overcome it?
I don’t think I can cover all of this in one blogpost but I can give the typical imposter syndrome spiel I give in every panel and livestream I do which is: You’re going to struggle in your transition to MIT, whether that be academically, socially, or even physically with the location switch like moving from a small rural town to a big city like MIT. And you’re going to feel these moments of suspicion where you feel like you don’t belong, especially going to a place like MIT where people are just so, so smart. I think a lot of people coming into me identify themselves by being that “STEM kid” or that “smart kid” in high school and when they come to MIT, they realize they can’t use that identity anymore since everyone else here is just as good or just as smart, if not better in certain subjects. And then they go through this whole identity crisis.
I really think the best way to combat these moments is surrounding yourself in a supportive community where you feel comfortable in opening up about these struggles. I think, really, that’s one of my favorite things about MIT, where we avoid the whole “bottling up” your feelings and instead are really big believers in being open and honest about our struggles and hardships. If you wanna cry in the Stud at 10pm and people are there, you totally can and people will come up to you and give you snacks and help you with your pset that’s making you cry.
To the identity crisis, I think there’s a good thing that comes from having to rebuild your identity from the bottom up again, and it’s really allowing yourself to be whoever you want to be in college. You can shed the skin of your old high school self and find new things to identify with and define yourself by, which I think is really incredible.
MIT is such a wonderful and unique place because it not only allows you to be vulnerable, but encourages you to be vulnerable in times of hardship and difficulty. Which I think is a very, very rare thing. Even though the school is incredibly difficult and you’re going to feel like you don’t belong, you can break down, express these feelings, and have a supportive community right there with you to help build you back up again and take care of you.
TLDR: Find a good community to help you. And really you can find good community anywhere at MIT.
Is MIT diverse? What’s it like being a woman in STEM? Do you face any discrimination?
We are by no means perfect or infallible. You are going to encounter microaggressions or sometimes just full on aggression sometimes, whether that be at MIT or in the workplace or wherever else. That being said, I think what I appreciate a lot about MIT that I rarely see in other places is how vocal the community is here when it comes to seeing things like this.
I’ve run into a lot of instances at MIT where someone says something that’s not as okay or as acceptable and immediately people will pause the conversation, take a moment to point out that would they said was wrong or off or insensitive, educate them, and continue the conversation on. And I think this really goes to show the nature of MIT? A lot of other places sometimes will let these kinds of comments go, but at MIT we’re big believers in holding each other accountable and trying to make MIT an open and welcoming environment.
Which also means that you, too, should uphold this open and vocal nature that we’ve managed to foster here! If someone says something shitty, speak up and tell them that it was shitty! And make sure they don’t say that again!
I really think MIT has influenced me in this regard to being more vocal and confrontational when someone says something off or that I dislike, which I’m really grateful for.
I’m a humanities/arts/music person. Will I still fit in at MIT? What are the humanities like?
Yes. Yes yes yes yes a thousand times yes. I think it’s so so unfortunate that I hear about so many people turning down MIT because they think they won’t fit in because they want to pursue humanities studies or want to still find time to be creative because you totally CAN at MIT!
Granted, at MIT, everyone still has to take the STEM GIR requirements like Calculus, Multivariable Calculus, Physics Mechanics E&M, and more, but once you’re done with those you don’t have to take another STEM class ever at MIT if you don’t want to!
MIT has such a vibrant, vibrant creative community that I adore. You can see this in nearly every aspect of MIT, like the dorms with our incredible murals and art in the dorms or our extracurriculars like our ever talented acapella groups, dance groups, and art
on campus, as well as just our super cool classes like Fans & Fan Culture, How To Stage A Revolution, or MIT Choir. There are so many opportunities and outlets to be creative here and I really wanted to take the time to highlight that.