Massachusetts Institute of Technology
BackgroundInterview Date:September 2018
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Public school in Newport Beach, CA with a graduating class of about 470 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Majors: I’m double majoring with Computer Science and Economics as one major, and Business Analytics as the other.
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in the Sloan Business Club, I’m part of a sorority, I’m part of the Club Golf team, and I’m part of the Ring Committee, which is a committee of 12 students that are selected to design the class ring and prepare the premier and delivery events.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
Everyone single one has had a huge impact. My sorority has undoubtedly had a huge impact. It’s currently where I live and the majority of my close friends I met through the sorority. A lot of my social circle is because of that. The Ring Committee has because I put the most amount of time into it, about 15 hours a week. It’s amazing to be part of the club that has such an impact and creates something that the rest of the class will wear for probably the rest of their lives.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
It depends on the class I’m taking. This semester specifically I have four problem sets a week and sometimes the fourth problem set will be replaced with a case study. Last semester I had a class that was more lab focused, so that semester I had three problem sets and a lab per week. I put a ton of hours into problem sets.
What are your major graded assignments?
Again, it varies from class to class, but the majority of the grade is made up of the midterm exam and final. Past that, the next biggest grade is the problem sets and behind that are small quizzes, participation, etc. but those make up a very small percentage.
Is there anything you feel either of your majors’ departments do especially well or poorly?
I think both do an exceptionally good job of being present to help students. We have a ton of office hours where we can go and meet up with our TA’s and professors. There’s also an online forum called Piazza where we can post questions and ask for help. Professors and TA’s will be responding to that all the way up to 2 or 3AM. It’s almost like you can get help 24 hours a day, which I think is really awesome.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I would say it’s a mix of both. In terms of working with other students, it’s really collaborative. People are always working in groups and helping each other out with problem sets and labs and whatnot. But, I think the students are really internally competitive, so not necessarily competitive between one another, but driven to do their best and get really good grades.
What has been your favorite class in your majors?
This is going to be kind of limited because freshman year I took a lot of general requirement classes that weren’t focused on my majors. I think my favorite class so far has been Fundamentals of Python. That class was very lab focused and I really liked it because I felt like I was getting real experience coding and problem-solving. By the end of the semester, I was a significantly better programmer than I was in the beginning and I was much more prepared for interviews.
What has been your least favorite class in your majors?
I haven’t taken a class that I particularly hate. One class, Intro to Finance, was probably one of my least favorite because it moved at a slow pace compared to the other ones and I found it boring.
How accessible have your professors been?
It varies on the professor, but, overall, I’d say very accessible. Some of the professors hold open office hours once or twice a week, so those are the very accessible ones. The others, if I email them or reach out on Piazza they respond no problem.
Why did you choose your combination of majors? Are you happy with your choice so far?
I came in knowing I wanted to study Computer Science and being really set on an engineering degree. The more I was here the more I realized I was interested in finance and the interception of computer science and financial markets, so I felt that having an Economics and Business Analytics background would really benefit me when applying to jobs. So, I chose the Computer Science major because I love it and want an engineering degree, and I chose the combination of the others because I felt like it would prepare me most for the future.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Maseeh Hall in a double
Sophomore: Sorority house in a double
How was transitioning from Newport Beach, CA to Cambridge, MA?
Weather-wise it was difficult. I had to get a whole new wardrobe. I had to prepare for the cold and get used to that. I didn’t realize how much I was outside when I was home and how active I was. In Cambridge, I am indoors a lot and have been working really hard so I don’t get to go outside as much. My first year that was a really difficult adjustment. I occasionally felt that I had seasonal depression in a sense, but over time I have adjusted and it feels like home now.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I’ve always felt really, really safe. There’s never been an experience I’ve had on or around campus that has made me feel unsafe. My sorority house is actually in Boston, so I walk between the main campus and Boston every single day, and even doing that I’ve never had a bad experience.
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
Darwin’s, they have good breakfast sandwiches.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
I don’t really get away from campus [laughs]. Probably Starbucks during the day. If I have some free time during the day I’ll go and get some coffee and just chill and sit.
Pros and Cons of being in Cambridge, MA?
Pros: (1) The vicinity to Boston. You’re super close in terms of shopping, restaurants, and exploring the city.
(2) You’re close to Harvard, so there are so many other students around you and the good food in Harvard Square is a plus.
(3) The Charles River and how beautiful it is and there are so many water sports you can do, like you can take a sailboat out there.
Cons: I don’t think the food surrounding MIT’s campus is awesome. You often have to travel pretty far to get good casual food. Other than that, I can’t think of any. There honestly aren’t that many cons of being in Cambridge.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at MIT?
I typically go to frat parties.
What nights of the week do you like to go out?
It changed between freshman and sophomore year. Currently, it’s mostly just Saturday nights, but Freshman year it was Wednesday nights and Saturday nights.
Can you describe a typical night going out freshman year? Did it change when you joined the sorority?
We rush freshman fall, so there weren’t many experiences of going out when I was not in the sorority. Some friends and I would get ready together and frat hop. There are a handful of fraternities on the Cambridge side of the river on campus and an even bigger handful that or in Boston. Because freshman year we lived on campus, you typically get ready, sometimes pregame in the dorms, and start at one of the fraternities on campus if they were having something, and then walk across the bridge, or Uber if it’s really cold, to one of the fraternities on the other side.
What have been some of your favorite times at MIT?
Some of my best memories have been times when I’m hanging out with friends either in a dorm or when we’ve gone out to frat parties or walked around Boston together. The best times have been the people.
What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
I think it depends on the circle that you’re in. If you’re in Greek life, your nightlife tends to be surrounded by Greek life, but if you’re not in Greek life that does not mean you’re out of nightlife at all. A lot of the students in the dorms on East Campus do not typically tend to join Greek life at the same rate, but they’re still super fun and have parties with their floors. It’s different but not socially dead if you’re not in Greek life.
How happy were you with the nightlife options at MIT?
I’m really happy with it. I wish that there was more of a bar culture, but I think that’s just because Boston, in general, is really strict on ID’s [and there are no 18+ bars] so bars [are not an option for many underclassmen]. I think it’s a really awesome balance between work and play.
How did you meet your closest friends?
One of my best friends who is not in my sorority I met during the weekend in April when you go to campus while you’re still in high school and you’re accepted. We met there and we’re still best friends. Past that, most of my other best friends I’ve met through my sorority and I met my boyfriend through my dorm freshman year.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
I think eclectic would be a good word to use [laughs]. It depends a lot on the type of person that you are. I always like to say that you can find your place and you can find your home. No matter if you come in and you’re really into Greek life and partying, there’s that area for you, and if you’re really quirky there’s a scene for you as well. There’s a place for everyone and I think that’s what’s so cool about MIT.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I would say to a large extent. A lot of our sororities are really focused on including minorities, and there is something Affiliated, which is specifically for the intersection of fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups and the LGBT community. Outside of Greek life, the dorms are very, very inclusive.
How would you describe the student body?
The first word that comes to mind is passionate, and it’s not all about the same thing. No matter who you talk to, they got in for a reason. There’s something that makes them tick and there’s something that they’re exceptionally good at and are likely pursuing that further while they’re still here. To be able to talk to them and figure out what they’re great at probably explains every single person at MIT. They’re really passionate about what they’re doing and they do it [at a level that’s] the best in the world.
Do you think people are happy with their choice of MIT by the time they graduate? Do you think people leave loving MIT?
Yes, absolutely. I think it’s kind of a love-hate relationship. Everyone complains about it in the midst of it because the work is so hard and you’re working so much, but deep down people absolutely love it. I think that’s because they end up finding their community, and the opportunities that are presented to you here while you’re a student and then after you graduate are unparalleled.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
I interned last summer and have my internship for next summer, but none of my that came from alumni directly. We have all of January off for Independent Activities Period (IAP), and there is a program called that called Externships, which are 4-week internships during the month of January. That entire program is through alumni. They will post about jobs that their company has available and take on between 1-10 MIT students during that month. I did one of those last January.
What have you used the career office for? How helped have them been?
It’s called Global Education and Career Development. I’ve gone to them for cover letter review and had one or two interviews hosted in their office. I wouldn’t say I’ve utilized them too much, but when I have to them it’s been helpful.
What computer programs have you learned through your coursework that will be helpful to you professionally?
I’ve only learned Python through coursework at MIT. There are not too many classes, even in Computer Science, that teach a specific language. A lot of them are pretty theoretical, so they apply to every single language. The stuff I’m learning in my classes right now doesn’t matter what language you’re coding in. The lower level classes that you code in are in Python. I’ve also used Excel.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about MIT before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew more about how much work it would be in terms of problem sets and how many hours a week those take. Coming in it was very different from my friends at other colleges. I spent eight hours a day seven days a week on homework on homework, and that’s for everyone, not just me.
What is something a person interested in finance should know that we haven’t touched on?
For someone whose goal after college is to go into finance, I think they should know to not major in Finance. Our business school is really amazing because undergrads can take classes there, so don’t major in Finance, but maybe double major with it. Major in whatever you are most passionate about and most interested in because, regardless of what major you are in, MIT teaches you to solve problems. So, at the end of the day, a lot of majors transfer into careers in finance and consulting. You’ll have no problem finding a job because they will want people who are good at problem-solving, and you will get that no matter what.
What is something a person interested in Greek life should know that we haven’t touched on?
Our recruitment is very low-key compared to other schools. It’s a no-frills recruitment. It’s for three days, which is much shorter than other schools. For girls, a lot of the time the girls who are accepted to MIT are not girls who think Greek life would be for them. Greek life at MIT is very different than it is at other schools. It’s another network with a group of girls who are really smart and can help you with your classes. Without them you kind of go through MIT alone, which makes it much harder. So, if you view it as a network it comes into perspective more. You also have the opportunity to be as involved or uninvolved as you want. I think it’s one of the greatest tricks to getting through MIT.
Reasons to attend MIT:
1) You can start doing research freshman fall when you get on campus.
2) It’s a ridiculously diverse, eclectic group of kids who are high achieving and, for the most part, non-judgmental.
3) The name. You come out with people understanding what kind of education you went through and how much work you had to do to get that degree, so, you get an extra level of respect.
Reasons to not attend MIT:
1) Relative to other schools, socially it might be a letdown. I think it’s a wonderful combination of work and play, but for people who are expecting more play, they may be disappointed.
2) [Because of the work], you don’t have any free time. You need to love working to come here. I haven’t really watched TV since the summer. You don’t have time to do a lot of things past school and extracurriculars, which can be frustrating.
3) It can seem like everyone around you is getting everything really quickly. If you are someone who is not really confident in yourself and in your work, it can feel like you’re constantly the dumbest one in the room when in reality everyone else is feeling that as well. People really try to hide if they don’t know something here, which can have a negative impact on mental health.