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What to expect when you’re expecting CPW by Matt McGann '00

Setting some expectations, discussing myths & realities.

Since nearly two-thirds of the admitted students are attending Campus Preview Weekend (CPW), I figured it would be worthwhile to spend a little time helping to set expectations for the weekend. Because CPW is such a big MIT event, there’s a lot of hype, rumor, and mythology surrounding it, and I hope I can give you a better sense of what to really expect, and what not to expect.

  • Your host: There’s no one standard for hosting. Some hosts are very hands-on, being excited to be with you the entire weekend. Others are more like guides: being willing to give lots of advice, showing you around to some extent, but also giving a lot of freedom for you to explore on your own. You may want to talk with your host about your needs for the weekend, the help that you’d like, and to what extent you’re looking to explore on your own.A team of admissions staff and MIT students spent much of last week trying our best to find every one of you a well-matched host for the weekend. Like online dating, sometimes the match is perfect, but more often it’s just pretty good, and occasionally horrible. We’ve done our best to make mitHarmony. If you find that you and your host are not a good match, don’t suffer through it — please let us know, we do have backup hosts.
  • The CPW “Weather Machine”: One part of CPW mythology is the “Weather Machine” — that somehow, the weather during CPW seems to be much nicer than the days around it. It would be nice if it were true, wouldn’t it?You should definitely keep your eye on the weather forecast as you pack for the weekend. Right now, it looks like the CPW Weather Machine may actually work, especially Friday, but there’s a slight chance of rain Saturday and may be a little chilly Sunday (that might just give you more incentive to explore MIT’s extensive tunnel system).
  • “CPW isn’t real”: An oft-cited criticism of CPW is that it isn’t representative of a typical weekend at MIT. It is true that CPW isn’t a typical weekend, but as long as you understand that coming in to the weekend, I think you can learn a lot. That being said, CPW is far from “fake” — actually, it is the true MIT, in a supersaturated form.Think about it this way: there are 400+ student activity groups on campus, 40+ living groups, 30+ academic departments, and more than 3 dozen varsity sports. They know that a substantial portion of the Class of 2013 will be on campus, so it would actually be pretty irresponsible if all of these groups didn’t have events. CPW isn’t jam-packed with events to “fool” you — it’s jam packed events because so many groups at MIT are excited about your presence.
  • What you won’t see: There are a number of aspects of life that you’re less likely to see during CPW. For example, you probably won’t see much in the way of tooling, of students working on problem sets. For sure, it will be happening, but many students will try to organize their week such that their studying is done before you arrive, or while you’re at other events. Again, that’s not to hide this aspect of MIT, but rather it’s part of being a gracious host: making time for your guests.While you’ll have lots of opportunities on Thursday and Friday to see classes, you’ll have fewer opportunities to see labs. In part, this is because labs are not designed for large numbers of visitors, and in part because research is going on all the time. We will offer UROP tours (sign up at CPW headquarters), and your hosts and hosts’ friends will be a great resource in showing off their labs, but your relatively brief visit to the labs greatly underrepresents the importance of undergraduate research at MIT.

    Similarly, you may or may not have the opportunity to have one of those real great conversations with professors. If it doesn’t happen, don’t be too disappointed; you’re only here for two class days. When you’re at MIT, you’ll have many more opportunities to have meaningful interaction with faculty, in the classroom, in the lab, in the dining hall, athletic center, wherever. (A couple neat opportunities to chat with faculty: “Dinner with Professors” at TEP on Friday night [including Gerry Sussman and Scott Hughes], and the “Professor Talent Show” Saturday afternoon [including Hazel Sive and Sarah Brouillette].)

    And, of course, you won’t get to see all of the date-specific events from the rest of the year, like Mystery Hunt, Ring Premiere, International Fair, Steer Roast, IAP, the 2.007 finals, etc.

  • Over-hype: After all this build-up, it’s inevitable that every year, some folks come back from CPW disappointed. And if you don’t have ZOMGthetimeofmylife!!11!1!, that doesn’t necessarily mean MIT isn’t the right place for you. For some people, things don’t click immediately, and that’s okay. Just be sure to keep your eyes peeled for what’s important to you in a college, and do your best to seperate that from other extraneous stuff.
  • Parents: I’ll let Kim’s recent entry cover this…

I know we’ve all been throwing advice at you left and right lately, but above all know this: we’re all really excited to see 1,000+ of you really soon! I’ll see you at the Registration Desk, or Meet the Bloggers on Friday evening, or at the CPW Closing

9 responses to “What to expect when you’re expecting CPW”

  1. Amy '12 says:

    Another bit of advice for prefrosh — if something looks fun, don’t be afraid to go to it alone, even if the people you’re hanging out with don’t want to come with. Conversely, if you find some people you really enjoy hanging out with, feel free to just follow them around and be with them all day.

    The key to enjoying CPW is to do what you want to do, not what “everyone else is doing” or even what’s scheduled.

  2. manis404 says:

    It is interesting to note that this post sounds like MIT is stretching max. to be accepted by the accepted students. Lucky bastards… smile

  3. Tim says:

    It is always refreshing to read your posts, matt. The mit staff is the most humble, transparent, unpretentious bunch of people I’ve ever (virtually) met:D

    Have fun at CPW!

    I look forward to meeting some of you at RSI this summer.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Oh, wait, basic arithmetic fail. 8.5 hours!

  5. Oasis '11 says:

    These are real gems of wisdom; take this entry to heart, prefrosh!

  6. Piper '12 says:

    I’m actually one of those who it didn’t quite click for during CPW – but I can’t imagine being anywhere else now :D

  7. Laura says:

    Yeah, I didn’t really have “zomg the best time ever” at CPW either.

    My advice: do as many different things as you possibly can, especially things you don’t think you’ll like- there’s no harm in stopping by for 5 minutes to confirm that you don’t actually like it.

  8. jeremy yane says:

    I want to enrol at MIT