Massachusetts Institute of Technology
BackgroundInterview Date:June 2018
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Private school in Andover, MA with a graduating class of 400 students. There was a culture of going to college
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in design
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in the Sloan Business Club and I do a lot of work in the Innovation Initiative, I’m in an improv comedy troupe, I’m in a sorority, I’m part of a fashion magazine called the Infinite, and I was an athlete
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
They all have had a significant impact to different degrees. Through my improv troupe, I met a lot of people I otherwise wouldn’t have met just because of how MIT works socially you often don’t meet a lot of people because of where they live on campus. The improve troupe is an eclectic group of kids, and I’m lucky enough to be good friends with a group of kids from there I would have otherwise probably never met. The same thing goes with the fashion magazine.
What was your favorite class last year?
Toy Product Design. Over the course of the semester, I worked with a team to develop pretty much anything that met the requirements of being a toy that would be played with. It was a great class for me because I love project-based learning and using my hands.
What was your least favorite class last year?
Chemistry, because it was a general requirement and I really didn’t like it.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s definitely collaborative in a lot of senses. You usually can’t do your homework without help from either people in your classes or people who are older than you. You have to get help from others and talk to others and then return the favor.
I think you’d get different responses from different people if you asked them if it’s competitive because there are a lot of different sides of campus. I would personally say my extracurricular life is more competitive than my academic life, but that’s also just how I am. I don’t reveal things like my success in academics because that’s my preference. In extracurriculars, I’m competitive with others to get positions and to have a better network.
Why did you choose your major?
I’ve always had Mechanical Engineering in mind. I think it leaves a lot of doors open for me. I don’t want to end up being a straight mechanical engineer, but I think I’m geared in a hands-on, project learning way. Mechanical Engineering has a bunch of classes at MIT that are known for being like that and for being very excellent in how they incorporate project-based learning.
You can either be a straight Mechanical Engineering major or you can be a Mechanical Engineering major with a focus on something. Having a focus takes the weight off the really technical part of Mechanical Engineering, which is what I want because I don’t want to have to do really technical things for four years, so that’s why I’m doing design.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Baker House with one roommate.
Sophomore: Sorority house with the same roommate.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I would say it’s pretty high. There is one part of Cambridge that is totally sketchy where I go to CVS to pick up prescriptions, but I just handle that wisely. Otherwise, it’s very safe.
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
Lolita is really good.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
Newbury Street, it’s a shopping street in Boston.
Pros and cons of being in Cambridge, MA?
Pros: (1) Proximity to Boston, but also the fact that it doesn’t feel like a bustling city.
(2) We’re close to a lot of things. We’re close to Harvard, the airport, and a bunch of museums.
(3) The Charles River. I think I take for granted how amazing having a river is because it makes everything feel fresh and much cleaner and more nature-oriented.
Cons: The area of Central Square can be sketchy and has a homeless problem. I can’t think of many. It’s a pretty prime location to go to school.
What kind of nightlife do you participate in at MIT?
My answer now is very different from the beginning of the year. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ll occasionally go to frat parties of people that I know very well. I won’t go to frat parties of frats that I don’t have any involvement with. Otherwise, I often will end up going to dinner and doing something I feel is more intimate with my friends or my boyfriend and less going to a party in a place with flashing lights.
What nights of the week do you like to go out?
Friday and Saturday, but as my spring semester progressed it was only Saturday because of work. It was also a conscious choice because I didn’t want to go to a party on a Friday night when I knew I had a lot of work on Saturday.
What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you liked to do?
We don’t do much because my friends and I don’t want to spend a lot of money to do social things. I’ve gone to a few comedy shows in Cambridge and I’ve gone to a ton of restaurants in Cambridge, but again you’re spending money. I’ve been looking for stuff to do and it feels like you don’t have much to do if you’re under 21 except go to a party in a frat.
How happy were you with the nightlife options at MIT?
I wish that certain parties were less dingy and impersonal and gross. I wish there were more options to have more theme parties. I love theme parties, I know this sounds really nerdy. But even if a frat did a masquerade or something that had more care and focus on some sort of cultural thing, I would have liked that. At the same time, I’m the kind of person that can make that for myself, so it’s not like I was unhappy with MIT’s social life, I just think that’s the way it is.
How did you meet your closest friends?
My roommate remains my closest friend, she was also recruited to play on my team and we both ended up quitting. I met her at the campus preview weekend before we actually started school. Some of my closest friends are people I met at parties I had in my room the first or second night of school.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
The overall social scene is very divided. From my perspective, there’s a pocket of 200 to 300 kids who go out to frats. They’re part of Greek life, athletes, or know athletes and appreciate sports to some degree, and this pocket of people all recognize each other. Then there are all these pockets of people that don’t participate in that stereotypical social life and they do a multitude of things and live in different areas. Those two populations don’t really intersect. That’s what I was talking about when I said the improv group let me meet people I wouldn’t have normally met. I don’t know what a lot of kids do for social life if they don’t go out to frats. I’m sure some don’t go out, it’s a huge spectrum.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
The group I talked about that participates in Greek life and is more athletically involved is definitely more so White, straight, and not that diverse. To be completely honest, MIT’s Greek life is pretty White, like my sorority has very few non-White people in it. But, [there are fraternities and living groups for multicultural people]. [In 2018, 33% of undergraduates are White, 26% are Asian, and 14% are Hispanic.]
Have you done any career stuff through the school yet?
Yes, the Sloan Business Club I’m in is very much so geared towards helping you make connections and get a job. We have speakers for consulting, finance, and entrepreneurship type industries. We have a huge career fair and that’s how I got my summer job. I was offered a job once I interviewed with a company I met there, and if that had not happened I wouldn’t have the awesome job I have now. I think MIT is a really great place when you’re thinking about internships and we have this term in the middle of the year called IAP [Independent Activities Period] and you can do externships then.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about MIT before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew how socially divided it is so I would have made a more conscious effort to get to know people when all of that was happening. Now I feel like when school starts I want to get to know people on campus, but it’s kind of awkward because I’ve been there for a year and I have established groups and friends and extracurriculars and now I’m peeking my head in. I wish I peeked my head in during orientation freshman year.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
In an ideal world, a prospective student would walk through Killian Court and there’s this really wonderful moment when the sun is setting and it casts orange on these really big pillars in the Court. If a prospective student could see that, that would be amazing because that’s one of my favorite parts of the physical campus. At this certain hour, the sun will make the pillars look amazing.
Reasons to attend MIT:
1) The location. I can’t imagine a better place than Cambridge right on the river in walking distance of Boston with the frats a good distance away so it doesn’t feel like there’s a party going on all the time.
2) While I did say the social scene is divided, I think it’s divided because it’s really, really diverse, especially in the sense of thought and ideas. That’s the root of MIT.
3) The reason why I love it is everyone is truly passionate about something and is really smart about that something. All these people got here somehow and have that thing that makes them tick.
4) There are really cool classes that you won’t find anywhere else and professors that teach those classes.
Reasons to not attend MIT:
1) If you don’t want to work hard, I wouldn’t go.
2) If you’re judgmental of people who are weird, it’s not the place for you.