Massachusetts Institute of Technology
BackgroundInterview Date:September 2018
Gender Identity: Male
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Private Catholic all-boys school in Cleveland, OH with a graduating class of about 370 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Course 6-14, which is Computer Science, Data Science, and Economics
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in the Sloan Business Club, I was an athlete last year but am not this year, I’m part of the Golf Club, I’m in ProMazo, and I’m in a fraternity.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
The Sloan Business Club was important because freshman fall you go through a board education program that teaches you the basics of consulting, finance, and entrepreneurship. That was pretty influential in helping me decide where I think with internships and jobs moving forward. ProMazo has been good because I got a really cool internship through them my freshman spring and then yesterday I got the opportunity to interview the CEO of Scribe Media and the CFO of Adobe. I get to have one-on-one conversations with some big names. [My sport] was important because athletics have always been a big part of my life and it gave me the chance to break away from the culture of studying all the time.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
The classes I’m taking and the classes I will be taking will be mostly problem set based and not too many project-based courses. This semester all of my classes have problem sets, so four problem sets a week with each of them taking between about 7 to 15 hours to do. We then have exams.
How far into your major are you? Have you taken mostly general courses or courses specifically for your major?
You can go either way. Freshman fall there is Pass No Record, so all the classes you take are pass/fail. I took four of my gen-eds freshman fall [so they would not be graded]. I also know some people got into their major classes a lot quicker because you’re not going to need Biology if you want to be a software engineer
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
I knew coming in I wanted to be in the intersection of business and technology and I think 6-14 does a great job of that. I wanted more of a deep tech background and 6-14 allows you to take the technology courses to allow you to say that you came out of MIT with a very technical degree and additionally get some business expertise.
There’s not too much that MIT does poorly. What MIT does is you learn through the lectures, recitations, and also the problem sets so there is a lot of self-teaching you have to do. Sometimes I feel that is taken to a bit of an extreme where you’re struggling to do your problem sets, not because you didn’t understand the material, but because you didn’t learn the material in lecture. It’s a good learning experience because it teaches you to do things yourself, but there are times when it’s a lot.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
MIT is more collaborative. I think MIT is collaborative because you have to be. If you try to do things on your own you’re going to be in trouble because of time and it’s hard to understand the material when you’re looking at it from your own perspective. That comes from doing them with people or doing them with T.A.’s in office hours.
Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice so far?
It’s the intersection of business and technology and I was interested in that. Also, I took economics in high school and I wanted to give it a shot here. It gives me the opportunity to take the classes I want to take in my major. I can avoid the Computer Science courses that are designed for software engineers because I don’t want to write code in my future jobs. Rather than me being forced to take it, I can take more Economics courses.
How was managing both your sport and your coursework?
I’m in a fraternity where dozens of guys do it. It’s definitely a time constraint that you have to take into account. Guys make sacrifices elsewhere to make it happen. I think it depends on the person because the amount of time that you need to put into your coursework is definitely on an individual basis here. There are students who I know who can take seven courses and be fine and I know students who take four and need to take extra time to get a decent grade in those classes. For me personally, I think it was doable. I would just have to sacrifice an extracurricular to make it happen because a sport is a 25-30 hour a week commitment. You just have to make sure your priorities are in order and you stay organized.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Maseeh Hall with two roommates. It was a forced triple so it wasn’t as big as they normally are. They are building a new dorm so that won’t be an issue in the future. We had co-ed bathrooms, which we voted on. At MIT I think you will find a lot more gender-neutral bathrooms.
Sophomore: My fraternity house across the river in Boston.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
Yeah, it’s honestly incredible. MIT is not only incredibly safe, but I’ve left my shoes in the gym for two or three days and they are exactly where I left them. People don’t take stuff here if it’s not theirs.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
I love to golf, and there are some local golf courses I like to go to. All of Boston is cool. You can walk from Fenway to The Wharf and it’s about a three-mile walk. The Esplanade is probably my personal favorite. There is a 30-mile trail that runs the length of the Charles River that I like to bike on. There is also a 5-kilometer path that I can run on.
Pros and Cons of being in Cambridge, MA?
Pros: (1) The food, not just in Cambridge but also in Boston. The North End has great Italian food and we’re known for lobster rolls.
(2) You get the city feel but you also have enough of a campus that you don’t feel like you’re ingrained in the city because we’re on the Cambridge side.
(3) The airport is right by us and it’s an international airport.
Cons: (1) It’s cold. I know a lot of people take that into account.
(2) MIT’s campus isn’t the prettiest. MIT is more so focused on functionality instead of beauty, so they work on updating the learning experience instead of the visual experience, which I appreciate.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at MIT?
We’re not a big bar school. Almost all the parties are at fraternity houses, but the fraternities are not exclusive. If they know you’re an MIT student or if you know someone in the fraternity and are in a different fraternity they will let you in. On the weekends I also like to try to get a golf round in during the weekends, play intramural sports when it’s warm, and sometimes play pick-up basketball.
What nights of the week do you like to go out?
With how much we have to study [it’s tough]. There’s a thing on Wednesday nights at one of the frats that are super fun at the beginning of the year. Friday night you can go out, but you would be going out to watch a movie or something just so you can work pretty late into Friday. Saturday nights are the big nights for going out. If you have the time, you can get a second day in there but it’s pretty unlikely.
Can you describe a typical night going out freshman year? How did it differ before and after you joined your fraternity?
The fraternity’s rush before schools start, so you’re in fraternities early on. A typical night would start with a small party or get together at someone’s house and the parties normally start at 10. Around 10:30 you make your way across the river by SafeRide or just walking over the bridge. Parties will go until 1 but not a lot of people stay that long.
What have been some of your favorite times at MIT?
The trips you make from school because it’s a nice break from the schoolwork. Killington, Vermont, which is the biggest ski resort on the East Coast is about three hours away. We took a car out there and that was one of the most fun things I’ve done. I also went skydiving a couple of weeks ago outside of Boston and that was really cool. I think at MIT we focus more on the people than the exciting activity that you’re doing. That is why I think fraternity life and Greek life is really strong because people value who you’re with because you’re with them socially and you’re studying with them every day. I also love the nights with my friends playing cards and stuff. Those are some of the best moments.
How happy are you with the nightlife options at MIT? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m very happy. The nice thing is there is a bar scene in Boston for when you turn 21. You have the opportunity to do whatever you want, there is probably a party going on but you can also have a relaxed night and play some cards or something.
How did you meet your closest friends?
Where you live freshman year is really important for who your initial friends are because those are the people you will end up living with most likely. I think MIT does a really good job of placing students in houses and if you are not comfortable they make it easy to move houses.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
It really depends on the person. It’s a small school, we’re only about [4,500] undergraduates, so you’re not going to have a thousand friends. It’s small but close, which I think is good.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I think mixing is pretty prevalent here. Being in Cambridge, the campus is open to all sexual orientations and our support systems are very good. I think it’s very inclusive and the mixing varies from person to person. Regardless of race, sexual orientation, or gender identity, people are friends with someone because they mesh with them, so I think it varies from person to person.
What is the impact of Greek life on social life?
It’s almost the entirety of it in my opinion. When you say Greek life, we also have a really tight group of people called the Burton Third Bombers, [they live on the third floor of the Burton Conner House]. They’re their own organization and are very close. Outside of Greek life, there are a lot of tight-knit living groups that you can almost call Greek life, and so they are also a big part of the social scene.
Do you think people are happy with their choice of MIT by the time they graduate? Do you think people leave loving MIT?
I would definitely say so. I think during your four years there are some [tough] times. I think one of the biggest campus mottos is IHTFP, which can be “I have truly found paradise” or “I hate this f****ing place.” That varies during the time because there are weeks when you have lots of problem sets and you can think “what am I putting myself through?” but I don’t doubt the alumni think that it was incredible. I’ve had alumni tell me that the hardest thing they’ve ever done is get through MIT, so you will be very prepared for the professional world. So, I think people look back at it and think that it was time well spent.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Yes. I actually spent last summer in Singapore for an MIT program in collaboration with the Singapore National Government. The alumni network for MIT if you need anything they are there for you. I know people who have gotten internships directly through them, mine was through the school. The program was called SMURF, which stands for the Singapore-MIT Undergraduate Research Fellowship.
What did you use the career office for? How helpful have they been?
They’re helpful. I go to my business club first for resume help and to ask questions first because they are more oriented to the stuff I’m looking in to. My business club has a resume workshop in the fall and the first thing we point people towards if they don’t have a template is the career office’s website, so they’re helpful that way. They’re also good with interview prep.
Have you learned any computer programs or languages that will be helpful to you professionally?
I took a short course in January that touched on R and Excel. The big language here is Python and we use that for almost all of our coding assignments. We also type up our documents on LaTeX. I haven’t done a ton of Excel because I’ve been focusing on more of the Computer Science classes early on and haven’t done that many courses where we’ve used it. That being said, I’m taking a Finance course right now where we’ve used it pretty heavily.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about MIT before entering as a freshman?
When I visited I wasn’t a big fan of what I perceived the campus culture to be, so looking back if I had known what my day to day would look like at MIT would be super helpful. I think learning about the campus culture would have been helpful because it would have quelled a lot of my fears about social fit and stuff like that. I was worried everyone was going to be working all the time because you do have to do that, but there are breaks and there are people here who like to have fun so there is a good balance.
What is something somebody interested in Greek life should know that we haven’t touched on?
I think the people in your fraternity become some of your closest friends. They are my closest friends. The thing is you rush freshman fall so it’s before you get the chance to evaluate the people there, so I think to take heed the word of upperclassmen because they know. Some advice would be to talk to upperclassmen, maybe not in the fraternity you’re considering joining, about their reputation on campus before deciding.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that is worth checking out?
Staying overnight and seeing what a weekend at MIT is really useful because when you visit over the week all the students are working 9AM to midnight. It’s hard to get a feel for what the campus culture is like when everyone is focused on their schoolwork.
Reasons to attend MIT:
1) It’s one of the best schools in the country.
2) You’re going to learn a lot from the coursework and also the people here. You’re surrounded by some of the brightest minds in the country in very different ways. That diversity of thought is really important and MIT stresses that.
3) When I was looking at schools it was the best school on my list but I wasn’t sure about how it would fit me. I would say just take that leap because you’re going to find your social fit.
4) Some of the nicest people in the world here. I can leave my stuff in the gym by accident and nobody will take it. It’s a really friendly culture.
5) If you’re a collaborative learner, you’ll do well there.
Reasons to not attend MIT:
1) If you don’t want to work, it’s not going to work out. If you have any sense of laziness or are disorganized you’re going to struggle here and you might regret your decision.
2) If you don’t handle adversity well. If you’re not a person who can get a bad grade on a test and know to ramp up their studying for the next five weeks before the next test, this won’t be the place for you. MIT teaches you to respond to adversity, but there are a few bumps you have to get over first, like your first bad test grade or bad problem set grade.
3) If you work really well individually, it’s not going to work as well as if you are a collaborative learner. There are some geniuses who can get away with it, but if you don’t work well with people, you might have to adjust your learning style to fit the collaborative studying culture on campus.