College review by Beth Cassie

March 2012 – Located in the Kendall Square area of Cambridge, along the shores of the Charles River, MIT has an architecturally interesting and beautiful campus.   Students at MIT are big-time problem solvers – they anticipate and solve the problems of today and tomorrow. Collaboration is the key to innovation at MIT, and the campus is designed to encourage collaborative work.  The academic areas are physically connected along the Infinite Corridor forcing the community to connect and coordinate.
MIT student center

MIT is known for it School of Engineering and about 50% of the undergraduates are students in that school.   There are five schools in total: engineering; architecture and planning; humanities, arts, and social sciences; management; and science.   Undergraduates apply to the university, not to the individual schools or programs.

Rico, our tour guide, is a first year graduate student (he graduated from MIT in 2011) in Urban Studies and Planning.  He came to MIT to study Aerospace Engineering, but like many students he discovered that his passion lay elsewhere.

Urban Studies is in the School of Architecture and interestingly, MIT’s architecture school is the oldest in the country.  Rico rowed varsity crew and was a member of a fraternity.   He recently returned from China where he was working with a developer on a major urban planning project.

The tour was peppered with stories about the crazy pranks, called “hacks,” MIT students pride themselves on pulling off.  In all cases these hacks are the outcome of some super smart students figuring out a way to do something that has never been done before.

I agree whole-heartedly with Lisa’s summary –“MIT provides exceptional opportunities for entrepreneurial-minded, creative, problem solvers, who want to be surrounded by a diverse group of math/science geniuses, can handle an intense workload, and like to blow off steam through practical jokes.”

Lisa Bleich
Our next stop was MIT. When we arrived, my daughter received a personalized handout describing the areas of study she checked off when she registered: Writing, Foreign Language, and Linguistics. In truth, we did not think that MIT would be a good fit, but since I wanted to visit and it did offer Creative Writing as a major, she was game.
MIT Buildings

The first thing that struck us as we approached the imposing visitor center planked with columns was the sheer size of the campus.

As we ascended the staircase, it felt like we were not at a college, but at some important governmental building in Washington, DC. There was a large group of prospective students taking pictures at the entrance and in the dome shaped lobby.

We followed a large crowd of visitors to down a long corridor to building 16-106 (or some such number) and into a lecture hall, which had recently been home to a Biology class.

The Admissions Representative was articulate and in some ways seemed like a stand-up comedian as he regaled the group with how his impressions of MIT as nerdy, anti-social kids with pocket protectors and short pants were largely unfounded.

The student body is highly diverse: 40% White, 30% Asian, 15% Latino, 10% Black, and 10% International. (There must be some crossover between the International and the other groups as the numbers added up to more than 100%!) Regardless of demographic statistics, MIT students share common traits: problem solving abilities, entrepreneurial spirit, creative scientifically or mathematically, think numerically, passionate, like to have fun through “hacks” or practical jokes, and are wicked smart. They have to be to survive the intense workload. MIT students also are musical and over 80% participate in some form of sports.

MIT: The “Hack” guide

MIT offers outstanding opportunities for research through their Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program or (UROP). Students are encouraged to work on their problem sets in groups and tell the professor with whom they worked.

This is partly to promote collaborative learning and partly, as our tour guide said, “because the problems are so hard, it’s nearly impossible to do them all by myself!” For example, AB/BC Calculus is covered in the first 5 weeks of class.

The core curriculum consists of 2 classes in Calculus and Physics, and one class each of Biology and Chemistry. Students must also take 8 Humanities classes. All students are required to take the ACT with writing or SAT plus 2 SAT subject tests in Math and Science. The first semester of class is taken Pass/No Record to help students acclimate to the workload.

Our tour guide was from Kansas. She attended a summer program at MIT for minority students in science and fell in love with the campus. However when asked what most surprised her about the school she said, “ I knew I would work hard, but at times it’s really oppressive. They never seem to let up.” Fortunately she is able to balance the workload with a Senegalese Drumming class that she loves.

MIT Tour Guide

Our tour guide led us through the extensive campus in the pouring rain. Some of the buildings are extremely interesting in architecture and one felt like something out of Universal Studios.

MIT has a fabulous architecture school, which does not require a portfolio for entry. Their Sloan school of management is also top notch, particularly for students who want to integrate business with emerging technology. Many companies start through student-faculty collaboration. Here is a link to Robot Company that was started at MIT.

While there is a school of Arts and Humanities, it is clearly not why someone comes to MIT, however it is good to supplement the STEM fields.MIT provides exceptional opportunities for entrepreneurial-minded, creative, problem solvers, who want to be surrounded by a diverse group of math/science geniuses, can handle an intense workload, and like to blow off steam through practical jokes.

My Daughter’s Impressions:
Logophiles beware!

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