Massachusetts Institute of Technology
BackgroundInterview Date:November 2018
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Private school in Wilmington, DE with a graduating class of about 70 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Course 2, Mechanical Engineering
Extracurricular Activities: I’m a camp counselor for Camp Kesem, which is a camp for children whose parents have cancer. I’m a student-athlete. I’m a mentor for Amphibious Achievement, which is a dual athletic and academic mentorship program for high schoolers in the area.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
All three of them have. Obviously, my sport is a huge time commitment but I really love being a part of the team. Camp Kesem is a very big community on campus, so I’ve gotten to know a good portion of campus from all over. Amphibious Achievement is also a big-time commitment and you get to know two high school students pretty well through it.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
So far, I’ve directly taken three classes specifically for Mechanical Engineering and have also taken some of the General Institute Requirements. For Mechanical Engineering, initially it is pretty problem set heavy. After that, there are some really cool project classes you get to do sophomore spring, senior fall, and a few others sprinkled in. You definitely have to do the problem sets first to get the basics first. For the courses I’m in now problem sets are around 30%-40% of your grade and the rest is your midterms and final exam.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
The resources are really nice. They have pretty much everything you need online. For one of my courses, it’s the most organized and beautiful set-up ever. The material is really hard, but the issue’s never that the teaching is bad or you don’t have access to resources. It’s just that the material is really difficult to do.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s very collaborative. I expected it to be super competitive, but if you ask anyone a question they will spend time trying to explain their thinking or what they did. It’s very collaborative, which I appreciate.
What has been your favorite class so far?
This was kind of a surprise, but I really enjoyed a political science data class. We did a lot of coding and, even though it’s not a STEM class, it ended up being pretty STEM-related. We looked at really big sets of data and talked about the impact of them. Like, we looked what the actual effect of incumbency in elections is and stuff like that. I learned so much I was not expecting to learn in that class and I also really loved the lecturer.
What has been your least favorite class so far?
Physics II: Electricity and Magnetism. It was a decent lecturer and a fine class, but I just did not like the material and it was difficult, so that combination made it not fun.
How accessible are your professors?
They’re super busy, but if you make an effort to reach out to them, especially if you’re in their class, they almost always respond in a fairly timely manner. If they can’t respond or offer the assistance that you need, they’ll immediately forward it to all of their TA’s, so help is pretty accessible.
Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice so far?
I chose it because I’ve always liked to build stuff. I was really interested in Course 16, which is Aerospace Engineering, and I’m still a little sad that I’m not in Course 16, but you can still do all that cool rocket science stuff with Course 2. I also like the classes a lot better and the vibe of it really fits me. I’m very happy with it so far.
How was managing both your sport and your coursework?
It’s really hard. You definitely have to consciously think that sleep is a priority, so sometimes you pass up on finishing things or getting a better grade because if you don’t sleep you won’t be able to go to practice or do work. It takes time and a toll, but it is manageable. You see your teammates doing it and they’ll be very helpful to you by telling you stuff like a certain assignment will take a lot longer than you think so you should start this morning.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Baker House in a quad
Sophomore: Baker House in a double.
How was transitioning from Delaware to Cambridge, MA in terms of location?
Location-wise it was not a very big switch. I have family up here so it never felt like too big of a shift. It was a big culture change in general changing from high school to college.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
On campus, it’s always very nice. I haven’t had any issues and I find that people very much look out for each other, which I appreciate. When I’ve been off campus there have been a few times where I pretend I’m on the phone or whatever. In general, I feel relatively safe walking on campus at any hour within reason.
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
I really like Border Café in Harvard Square. It has great Tex-Mex food and it’s really good for groups.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
I should do that more often. I like going to the Boston Public Library to do work or just going to any of the cafés down the street.
Pros and Cons of being in Cambridge, MA?
Pros: (1) It’s a really nice area and there are so many companies here and things happening. There is a lot to do, which is awesome.
(2) In the nearby area, there is a lot of good food.
(3) The airport is pretty close and has a lot of direct flights.
(4) It’s a nice place to be because there’s a lot of Boston pride, which makes it a lot of fun. There is a lot of pride in the sports teams.
Cons: (1) There are no grocery stores in the area. We’re somewhat in a food desert. [Note: MIT recently opened an at-cost grocery store in Walker Memorial to address this problem.]
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at MIT?
I like to go out to frat parties and dorm parties usually once a week. MIT also has what I call, “wholesome activities,” so there is SaveTFP which is every Friday night. They’ll have Waffle Night or Scary Movie Night. Because I have practice on Saturday morning that’s always a really fun thing to do. You go for an hour with your friends and then come back and watch a movie or, unfortunately, sometimes do work. There’s definitely a good going out culture but also a good staying in culture. There are also clubs and bars that older people go to.
Can you tell me about a typical night going out?
A lot of the frats are on the other side of the river and then some of them are on the close side. I’m pretty lazy when it comes to going out, so I usually go to the one on the close side. You go out around 10PM, stay for an hour or two, and then come back and hang out with your friends. It’s never that exciting, but it’s very fun.
What have been some of your favorite times at MIT?
There is one really fun day of the year called tent party. It’s when MIT throws a big party for MIT students, faculty, and alumni. There are tents all over campus and they have free food and different DJs. It’s always a really fun night. The first week of school is always really fun too because nobody has much work and the weather is beautiful. [Note: MIT has recently changed the even dance parties known as “tent parties” to be a cultural festival to bring more inclusivity to the event.]
How happy are you with the nightlife options at MIT? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m pretty happy with it. I was initially pretty anti-frat, but I think I was unaware of the culture of that and only knew things from the news which is all pretty negative. My dorm is known as one of the more social dorms, but we don’t throw real parties we just throw small parties. I’m happy that other dorms will throw big parties that are registered with the school, and those are really fun and not Greek life-oriented. If a dorm throws a registered party, there will be MIT security there to help them throw it safely within the law. Safety is a pretty big concern and I feel it is well-respected.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I did a pre-orientation program (FPOPS) and a good portion of my very close friends came from that. I also met a good portion of my very close friends on my freshman floor. Then obviously the extracurriculars you do really help determine that as well. My team is a very tight-knit group. Even who you sit next to the first few weeks of class can help determine that.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
I think it’s pretty good. There are definitely people who are not that social and are cool hanging out in their rooms by themselves or with one or two friends. They’re super happy with that and that’s awesome. There’s also a pretty big culture of going out, hanging out, and meeting new people. I identify more with that group, but I did not anticipate people being like that but they are. It makes for a pretty good social scene.
How would you describe the student body?
It’s hard to describe because it’s a very diverse community in every sense. It’s diverse in academic interest, any kind of identification, and then what people like to do. In general, it’s very much an inclusive place where everybody is doing their thing and everybody is letting each other do their thing even if it’s very much not what you would do. It’s hard to say the student body likes to do one thing because I don’t think you could get the student body to agree on a single thing, but it works in a cohesive nature.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
It’s pretty good. Obviously, there are always things you can improve upon, but I think MIT does a pretty good job of letting people [feel comfortable]. Like, you could select a dorm with people like you if that is really important to you. There are a few dorms that are known for being very LGBT and there are a few dorms that are more cultural houses, like iHouse and Chocolate City. Those are set up so those people have their own space, but they’re also still part of the overall community.
Do you think people are happy with their choice of MIT by the time they graduate? Do you think people leave loving MIT?
Yes and no. It’s really hard and a lot of work. I don’t think anyone’s 100% happy while they’re here, but I think everyone is very proud of what they did while they’re here and are glad they did it. That’s what I’ve gotten from the vibe.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
It definitely can help you. There are older girls from the team who my teammates have said to email and reach out to. You can get a lot of really good information from them that is personal and helpful.
What did you use the career office for? How helpful have they been?
They have a lot of resources that help you with your resume. The biggest limiting factor of the office is time because there are infinite resources to use for resume reviews, mock interviews, etc. I’ve done a few things, I probably should do more. You get like ten emails a week from them about companies coming to visit. There are a lot of opportunities for that.
Have you learned any computer programs or languages that will be helpful to you professionally?
I’ve learned quite a bit quite quickly. I did not know how to code at all before coming here but now I know like three languages, maybe four if you’re being liberal with one. It’s pretty integral to a lot of different things here and I don’t love coding, so I sometimes get annoyed how there is now coding in my differential equations class and my physics class too. But, you get a pretty good sense of how important it is to everything you do and it’s easier when you’re applying to things you learn. Python is pretty big in intro classes, R and MatLab come up a lot, and I did some C++ over the summer.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about MIT before entering as a freshman?
The only thing I wish I knew was that our first semester is Pass/No Record, and I wish I took better advantage of that and done some more reach classes. People are always giving you advice here, which is very helpful. People who are older are always telling me stuff to do.
What is something a prospective athlete may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
Coaches, in general, are pretty flexible. The coach’s priority is sports but they understand that your priority is school. Same with professors, if you email them that you have a game and won’t be able to get something in on time, they are usually pretty forgiving. I didn’t anticipate that, but it’s been super helpful.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that is worth checking out?
The labs. Go down and check out what kids are doing, because that’s really cool. The first semester you’re just in lecture halls, so it’s nice to see what you’re actually working for.
Reasons to attend MIT:
1) The people are amazing in that everyone’s really passionate about what they do.
2) The resources you have access to are ridiculous and they really want you to use them. The resources, like career development, really want you to succeed.
3) The professors here are super interesting and brilliant people. If you have a question about something, they’ll usually make time to see you and that’s exciting because they’re the best in their field. I had one of the leading experts on the archaeology of the Great Pyramids spend like an hour trying to explain to me how geopolymers work, and he did not need to do that.
4) You learn a lot. So, if you like learning, there’s not a better place.
Reasons to not attend MIT:
1) It’s a ton of work and is really hard.
2) Everyone’s very motivated, which a lot of times is a very good thing, but it also can be overwhelming. People will be asking, “What internship are you doing?” and you’ll not have one, so there is a lot of pressure in that sense.
3) It’s not competitive, but everyone is really good at what they do. Realistically, you’re not going to be the best at anything here. I find that kind of fun and more of a positive, but it can be hard to be around.