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There are a lot of unusual things about MIT that few people know. One of the best, in my opinion, is the amount of freedom the students are allowed to have. It seems like the higher-ups trust us to take care of ourselves. There are many dorms where you are allowed to paint the walls however you want, have cats, and generally you're allowed much more privacy than in many of the other college dorms I've visited. Another unusual aspect of the social scene is that there's a pretty pronounced split between "east campus" and "west campus". The personalities of the living communities are very different, allowing you to make a choice about the type of college experience you want to have - its almost as if they're two different colleges. The east campus culture is very well-developed; it's a great community, and a lot of fun. I don't know much about west campus. MIT is very challenging. While I loved the experience, you're definitely going to learn to manage your time, and you're going to have to learn to relax to some extent. MIT will teach you, above all, that you can't do everything perfect, and you're not the most clever person in the universe. Cambridge is a great place to spend time, and there are so many other college students in the area - Boston is almost like one huge college itself. If you manage to get out much, you can meet so meet a lot of great people; more than you could expect of most college towns.
The best thing about MIT is it's collaborative atmosphere. There are thousands of students who spent all of high school striving to be the best at everything we did, and then we get to MIT and you just can't survive on your own. Even the most antisocial person can be found at a professor's office hours with other students. P-setting (doing homework) until the early hours of the morning is one of the best ways to get to know people. MIT is a good size. It's not so small that you know everyone, but there are definitely ways to meet and get to know lots of people. It's not so huge that it's overwhelming, but there are places you can go where you won't know anyone, and there are lots of things to get involved with. People have different reactions, depending on whether they know what MIT is or not. Some have said "oh, where's that?" which is amusing. Those who do know, usually are pretty impressed. I spend a lot of time in lounges doing work. Or walking. I do a lot of walking because it's a very spread out campus...and I live in the dorm that is furthest from main campus (besides Fraternities and Sororities). Boston is an awesome college town. A lot of people who graduated from my class in high school are close by (7 out of 42) and there are lots of things to do in the city. MIT's administration could do a little better by it's students. They've lately been making big decisions that effect the students without letting the much less the student body president, much less the student body, what was going on. The biggest recent controversy would probably be the renovation of one of the graduate dorms into an undergrad dorm. However, instead of doing small renovations and making it available to undergrads next term, it won't be available for another two years. They're also adding a dining hall and not putting in any kitchens, a decision made without consulting those who would have to live there. Anything unusual about MIT...pretty much everything. Majors are Courses and they're numbered. All the classes, buildings, and rooms are numbered. We have no real dining plan, which can be frustrating. I'm only a freshman, so I haven't had too many super cool experiences yet, but I'd have to say that walking down the Infinite Corridor in the middle of the night singing the Elephant Love Medley from Moulin Rouge at the top of my lungs will definitely be up there. Most frequent student complaints are about not getting enough sleep, or the administration.
MIT is a wild place with intense subcultures. The housing system is somewhat unique and results in strong dorm cultures. Through a prolonged lottery system, new students are given the opportunity to choose one of MIT's many dorms, live there temporarily during resident exploration period, and then opt to either stay or try to lottery into a preferred dorm. Although some students find the process stressful (while others think it's a blast), the opportunity that it gives each student to find a place for him or herself is priceless. On a larger scale, students usually live all four years in their chosen home, resulting in a close-knit community of students who are at least somewhat akin. MIT is generally very hands-off, tends to let students do their own thing. This is an example where it seems to be a good thing. Naturally, there is a flip side. MIT will not take care of you. Where I live, East Campus, we are allowed to do practically whatever we want: paint the walls, do all sorts of crazy electronic projects, etc. However, when it comes to, say, feeding ourselves, we are on our own. There is no communal cafeteria at MIT. Some of the dorms have their own and the meals are subsidized for their residents, but for a resident of my dorm it would not only be inconvenient to eat at Baker Dining, but also financially unsustainable for most. As a result, we are left to scavenge or cook for ourselves. To be fair, it is a point of pride in my dorm to be independent in this way, a love of tough love.
I love that I can say something incredibly nerdy, but which perfectly describes a situation, and people understand me, rather than laughing at me or just looking confused. I feel like I've found my people here. MIT is often a bit of a vacuum--we don't pay a lot of attention to the news or the events in the surroundign areas--but it's a five-minute walk from campus to restaurants and stores in Central Square or the Back Bay. Getting away is always easy: a ten-minute stroll along the river, or a day trip to New York City. I like the variety of living and eating options here, and the huge degree of choice we have in our living situation. Since we're all so busy, the people we live with are the people who become our friends, who take care of us when we are sick, and who share with us the unforgettable experiences that keep life interesting and help us figure out who we are.
The best thing about MIT is probably the academics. The classes here are all tough, and it's a new experience for a lot of students who received all A's in high school to suddenly come home with a 50% on an exam in a subject they used to be good at. We learn to adapt, but the academics push us to reach our higher potentials. The school is large, so we have to work harder as individuals to develop communities, though a lot of that is more dorm-specific. It's easy to get lost in the size of the student body, but if you make the effort it's not a problem. I personally spend most of my time in my dorm with my friends; we work at the kitchen table together and talk and do problem sets all weekend...no, we go out into Boston and go shopping or get coffee, or just walk around as well. My opinion of the administration is that given the size of the institute there must be massive amounts of red tape to get through to do much of anything, but I haven't personally had any difficulties. MIT is a very unusual place, I strongly recommend visiting to get a feel for it; everyone is smart, and the jokes they tell require a high baseline of knowledge, but it's fun. Most frequent student complaints are probably lack of sleep from working all night on problem sets. This is an unnecessary problem if you can somehow work ahead...haha.
The best thing about MIT is the huge diversity of people here. There are students here from all over the world and it's a learning experience to get to know about how other students work and live when they're not from your big city / small town. Also, the professors are pretty a-ma-zing here. They definitely live up to the hype and then some. Also another plus: the most competitive thing about MIT is getting in. Once you're in, everyone is so helpful and willing to help you with whatever problem (homework or real life) may come up. Thing I'd change? I think it'd be great if we had a "reading period" to prep for finals, like Harvard does. It would make it less stressful for sure. But then again, I like getting out earlier, and I would probably blow all of that gained time doing something not related to studying for finals. So I would change the shuttle times. It gets unreliable sometimes and it makes me late for class. Pretty annoying. This school isn't huge. I personally think it's a great size. I know a good amount of people in my class (year), and it never feels overwhelming. But there's enough people to where you can blend in the crowd, if that's your thing too. Great size. When I say I go to MIT, I get the "omG you LIEZ" response. Then I get the "whoa, so that must mean you're a genius" response. I don't lie and I'm no genius, there's still tons left for me to learn. MIT keeps whatever ego I might have in severe check. Just as soon as it starts to creep out, here comes a test grade, or here comes an impossible problem set. So while responses are usually very flattering and all, and it does make me proud, I don't let it get to my head. I've done very well here so far with this mentality, and by the off-chance that you're reading this and you're a valedictorian at your high school, I'll tell you this now to save you tears later. You being valedictorian at your high school means crap here. You pulling straight A's in every class you ever took means even more crap here. You'll be overwhelmed like you've never been before. You'll have to (gasp!) ask for help with your work. No one will care how many AP's you took in high school. You'll more than likely fail a test or two (if you're lucky, only a test or two) before you graduate. Guaranteed. But how do you respond when you do? That's the most telling part of whether or not you belong here. I wasn't a valedictorian at my high school, but my high school was tops in the state and I was above average there. It's translated very well to MIT. My transcript would prove that easily - high school and college. Advice: come in with a clean slate and a humble attitude, and with a killer work ethic, and you'll be amazing. It's not impossible to get A's here. Hard, sure, but not impossible. Most of my time on campus I'm just hanging out in my dorm working there. Or I'm in my department's lounge working with other aero/astro masochis-- erm, students. :) If you looked up "college town" in the dictionary (wouldn't that be something?) you would probably find a miniature Boston map next to it. Boston decreases by a quarter million in population over the summer. I'll leave that explanation up to you. MIT's administration is very good in my opinion. They have to deal with so much crap, and yet they do it pretty seamlessly for the most part. When I came back for my sophomore year, I had changed my mind about my major, and the switch wasn't hard at all. It's all very smooth for the most part, never had a problem. The biggest recent controversy here?... Probably the thing with Marilee Jones last year. There was a lot of disappointment with how that all went down, and a lot of people I knew were sad that MIT had to let her go. But such is life sometimes... School pride, it depends. I think we're all proud to be here, but with sports? Personally I don't think our sports are advertised that well. I never know when there are any games. Makes it hard to "show off" my school pride. But you definitely see a lot of MIT gear being worn all the time. That has to count for something, right? Something unusual about MIT: the architecture. Some of it is just absolutely awesome (the Dome in particular is a terrific sight on a beautiful day, especially across Memorial Drive). Some of it is weird (Simmons, Stata, Kresge). But at least we keep it interesting, and we don't have boring little red brick buildings that are all indistinguishable from each other... cough, Harvard, cough. :) One experience I'll always remember: frat party hopping with my girls freshman year. Great times. Also, nothing spells bonding like working until 5-6 in the morning on a problem set, then taking a stroll at that time to go turn it in (and still seeing some people up doing who knows what). Most frequent student complaints? Having to write essays for humanities classes. Well, what do you expect? We're freaking MIT students. Much love for those majoring in humanities though. You guys have all my respect.
Carolina SophomoreReviews provided by: Unigo