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MIT student blogger Mollie B. '06

Two answers on a Saturday night by Mollie B. '06

Because SNL's a rerun and we just finished our movie from Netflix

Question One
Elizabeth asked,

I have one… I was talking to my dad, trying to make decisions about this whole college application thing, and he said if I were planning on going to medical school I should definitely NOT go to MIT. Apparently, MIT graduates are like the worst med students ever. He said they’re totally lost and can’t talk to people and all they know how to do is stick their noses in books and that older doctors dread having to train MIT grads. That seems completely opposite to anything I’ve heard about MIT–I thought, as you say, that it was a really collaborative, people place. I don’t know if I want to go to med school. I actually have no idea what I’m going to do, but medicine is definitely a possibility I don’t want to rule out. I’m thinking things must have changed in the twenty some years since my dad has been in med school… Do you know any MIT grads in med school? Should I worry about that?

And Lori said in response,

My daughter graduated from MIT in June. She is currently in med school. Two of her close friends from MIT and a number of other students that graduated in June also went on to med school. One of the reasons my daughter applied to MIT was at the recommendation of our physician, who was an MIT grad in the 80’s (and he’s an awesome doctor!). Perhaps contact the pre med office for more info.

For my part, I’ll say first that MIT is a dynamic place, and MIT and its students are not the same as they were back in the day. As I hope you can tell from reading the blogs, there’s an extrememly wide variety of people at MIT. Your dad’s stereotype may have been accurate enough a long time ago, but it’s not accurate now.

About 75% of the MIT kids who apply to medical school are accepted each year. Many of them are accepted by absolutely superb medical schools, too — the acceptance rate for MIT kids at the top several medical schools is about twice the overall acceptance rate. If anything, I’ve heard that an MIT education is a strong positive for a medical school applicant, since MIT graduates are taught to think rigorously about challenging problems. And although medicine may not be exactly scientific (PhD student cheap shot!), doctors certainly can benefit from strong analytical skills.

The more fundamental issue is that it’s very hard to say “MIT students are all, without exception, _____.” We are all smart and passionate. We all work collaboratively. But we also all resist being put in boxes — there are lots of MIT students who look and act like MIT students are apparently “supposed” to look and act, and there are lots of students who don’t. And you get to pick to which group you belong. If you don’t want to be someone who can’t talk to people and who only sticks her nose in a book… nobody’s holding a gun to your head. If anything, MIT students are enlightened enough to support any direction you choose to go with your social and professional life. We’re just people. MIT people.

One of my good friends, Jen ’06, lived the premed life at MIT — she majored in biology and minored in chemistry, worked really hard at her research job in a mouse lab, and was an undergraduate TA for the introductory biology lab. She was also a volleyball player, captain of the cheerleading squad, and in a leadership position in her sorority. And she got into every medical school at which she got an interview — clearly her social skills weren’t a liability for her.

Don’t forget that when people start parroting stereotypes (about MIT or in general!), you have a choice whether or not to believe them. ;)

Question Two
Faye asked,

I’m wondering how doable a double major is. As in, is it something only the truly motivated and slightly masochistic undertake, or would you say that it’s totally doable and wouldn’t cause frequent cerebral hemorrhaging?

…On that note, what about triple majoring?

Well, I’ll answer the easy one first. A triple major is impossible. Like, actually impossible, because you’re not allowed to do it — the most you can do is two majors and two minors.

How easy/difficult a double is depends on several factors.
1. How much AP/transfer credit you had when you came to MIT.
2. What the majors are and how much they overlap. Also, how flexible they are scheduling-wise.
3. Your personal threshhold for pain.

I, for instance, had (1) against me — I came in with very little AP credit and didn’t pass out of any of the GIRs, but I had (2) in my favor — bio and BCS have several classes in common and neither is particularly requirement-heavy. I guess I also had (3) in my favor, because I’m stubborn as all hell. :) I only had one REALLY bad term, though, and three busy-but-not-totally-hemorrhagic terms.

About 20% of students leave MIT with two degrees, so it’s clearly not impossible, but it’s also not something the majority of students do. (Of course, it’s probably not something the majority of students want to do.) The best bet is to sit down sometime sophomore year and analyze your academic life: how many credits do you have? What would you need to do to double? Is it worth it to you?

I feel like I should mention that double-majoring doesn’t provide as great a return as people often think it should. You shouldn’t double because you think it will give you an advantage in grad school/job searching/professional school/life — you should double because you genuinely want to major in two departments and you don’t want to give one field up. In the end, a double-major is just two pieces of paper (each in a decorative red leather folder). What matters once you graduate isn’t what’s on your diploma — it’s what’s in your brain. ;)

EDIT, 9/4:
MITalum commented,

This comment is in response to one of your earlier blog entries…

I am an MIT alum have to say that you rubbing your MIT admission in your ex-boyfriend’s face is really pathetic. I don’t know what this guy did to you, but if getting into MIT was his whole life as you say how could you pour salt in the wound like that?

You’ve posted your test scores and your rank in high school, and you certainly have nothing to brag about. For an MIT student, getting less than a 1500 on the SAT and graduating with less than a #1 rank in high school is pretty subpar. Certainly, it doesn’t justify that level of arrogance which you have demonstrated.

Unless admissions have drastically changed since I applied (about 10 years ago,) you shouldn’t be telling prospective applicants that MIT is not looking for near-perfect grades and test scores. They are looking for academic stars, and grades and test scores are an important indicator of this. In fact, they shouldn’t be going for the “A”, they should be going for the “A+”.

Well, first, the ex-boyfriend thing… it was supposed to be a joke? I didn’t actually “rub it in his face” — I had about a 60-second conversation with him once four years ago. We’re still Facebook friends.

I’m completely aware that my high school stats are what some people would consider “subpar” for MIT. (That was the point, after all, of titling the entry “How to do everything wrong and still get into MIT.”) My point was more that it’s not necessary to be perfect to apply to or attend MIT — I may have had a “sub-1500” SAT, but who cares? Certainly none of my friends or professors here. Certainly not my grad program.

Anyway, don’t listen to me when I tell you that you don’t need to be the valedictorian or have perfect SAT scores to be admitted to (or succeed at) MIT. Listen to people like Matt and Ben — they’re the ones making the decisions, after all. Grades and scores are important, but they’re not the only thing, and having perfect test scores and a 4.0 GPA won’t help you if you’re not bringing anything else to the table.

5 responses to “Two answers on a Saturday night”

  1. anonymous says:


    you mentioned AP credit. By the time I graduate from high school, I will probably have enough AP credit to transfer out of most, or even all,freshman classes.I was wondering, though, if this is a great idea. Although it does save time (and lot’s of tuition), is it a good idea to take more advanced classes right away beforing “acclimating yourself” to a school as challenging as MIT? Or would you suggest taking some freshman-level classes to get used to the environment and expectations?

    Second, of the 20 percent of students who do double major, do most still manage to graduate in 4 years?

    Thank you

  2. elizabeth says:

    That was fast smile Thanks! I actually go to a pretty “nerdy” school now, so I can sort of understand the constant fight against stereotypes. You jumped on this one pretty quickly so I can tell you really care about where you are (were?) and that you’re proud to be a part of it, and I know the feeling, and that’s cool smile

  3. HI

    You said that “What matters once you graduate isn’t what’s on your diploma — it’s what’s in your brain. wink

    Do you get a Degree or a Diploma after graduating from MIT undergraduating program??

    Can’t you still blog in Grad school becasue you write really well!

    Ankit Chandra

    Gaborone, Botswana

  4. Mollie says:

    Ankit — yes, you get a Bachelor’s of Science for completing an undergraduate degree program at MIT.