Why the Massachusetts Institute of Technology? – MIT – College Review

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Why the Massachusetts Institute of Technology? – MIT – College Review



Students attending MIT take on a highly challenging environment with an extremely demanding and rigorous academic workload. The academic programs test the very finest students to their limits and demand the very best efforts of all on a daily basis. MIT students tend to be risk takers who are willing to attend a college where there is potential for setbacks or failure and there is little handholding. The reaction to the academic environment generates both strongly positive and negative feelings. Students contribute a huge amount of effort to the studies and are often highly challenged. In return, students are rewarded with a truly uniquely great educational experience that they can't help but treasure over time. MIT students are taught to learn how to think critically and the experience often allows them to develop advanced problem-solving skills. The educational experience has a practical focus that allows students to develop skills directly applicable to their interests. Overall, the life experience learned is the ability to survive and succeed under some extreme conditions. It is not uncommon for MIT students to have a need to stay up all night to complete especially challenging assignments.

It is no surprise that so many MIT graduates become some of the leading entrepreneurs in the world and their work has led to the creation of some of the world’s most successful companies. Some examples of these companies are Boston Properties, Bose Corporation, IDG/Computerworld, Texas Instruments and Qualcomm which was cofounded by a MIT graduate.

MIT students consistently comment about their respect for the talent, creativity and overall ability of their fellow students. For many students, MIT is a humbling experience for they realize that they often are no longer the smartest person in the room. The caliber of fellow students is often cited by many MIT students as the most outstanding aspect of the school experience. Most students are characterized as down-to-earth and practical and possess a diverse set of particular talents and interests. MIT students have joined a like-minded community that places a great deal of value on wanting to learn. 


The model of the academic experience at MIT is based on the practical application of material learned in the classroom or discovered or identified as a result of conducting research. MIT students are taught to be problem solvers and this leads to students who are doers and innovators that take their education to successfully address various problems and challenges. For these reasons, MIT graduates enjoy a uniquely distinguished reputation and are actively sought out by potential employers. These factors combined with the vast networking opportunities available through the school and through alumni open many doors for graduates.

Engineering, science, math and everything that has to do with computers, technology and networking are MIT specialties. In addition, the school has leading programs in economics, political science and business management. The undergraduate programs are offered through five schools including: architecture and planning, engineering, humanities, arts and social sciences, management and science. Each of these schools includes undergraduate and graduate programs. The MIT graduate population of 6,900 is greater than the undergraduate population of 4,500 at the school. MIT is an international leader in research that combines the very best of highly talented students, a world-class faculty and leading undergraduate and graduate programs.

The walkable, relatively compact and architecturally distinctive campus is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts spanning a mile along the northern bank of the Charles River. MIT's location in Cambridge is just a quick walk across a bridge over the Charles River that connects to Boston's fashionable Beacon Hill and is in very close proximity to other central areas of Boston. The Boston and Cambridge area is also home to many other leading colleges and universities including Harvard, Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern, Tufts, University of Massachusetts, Wellesley College and many more. The area is acknowledged to be exceptionally college student friendly and is very easy to get around via walking or public transportation.

Architecturally, the campus is an interesting mix of older and modern buildings. MIT's School of Architecture has influenced an ambitious building program that over the years has featured the construction of architecturally diverse and distinctive buildings from several of the most famous architects in the world. They include buildings by Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei, Frank Gehry, Charles Correa and Fumihiko Maki. Not everyone is in agreement that the buildings and results have always been exceptional.


-           MIT's five schools include 30 departments and programs that offer 46 undergraduate majors and 49 minor programs. Fields of study include architecture, engineering, management, science, humanities, arts and social sciences, as well as interdisciplinary programs. Engineering and computer science are the most popular choices of MIT students with the physical sciences popular as well. The other programs are much smaller in scope and popularity.

-           MIT students are required to take a collection of core subjects in science, mathematics and the humanities, arts and social sciences. In addition, communications and physical education requirements must also be fulfilled. These are called the General Institute Requirements (GIRs). 17 GIR classes across the subjects indicated above and four courses that meet the communication requirements must be completed to earn a Bachelor of Science degree. In addition, each major has their own degree requirements plus there is room on schedules to select electives. MIT's reasoning for mandating the GIR(s) is to produce students who are broadly educated in the physical, natural and social sciences. Communications requirements are present because MIT wants to produce students who have the skills necessary to become better managers and leaders.

-           Additional education options are offered for Freshman that are seeking a more collaborative learning environment. There are four alternative learning communities offered by the school. The communities have their own faculty, meeting places and methods of operation. The degree of attention received by enrolled students from the faculty is much higher than the standard courses offered at MIT. In addition, interaction with fellow students also takes place at a much higher level.

-           To help promote a smoother transition of entering Freshmen to MIT academics, the first semester is taken on a Pass/No Record basis.

-           Research is a key focus of MIT with expenditures ranking with the very best of our nation’s universities. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense are two of the leading sources of funds. The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) offers a wide range of research opportunities. Projects consist of collaborations between MIT faculty and students and offer the student the chance to work on cutting edge research. Students have a choice of joining an already established project or creating one from scratch based on their own idea. UROP participants engage in all phases of standard research activities. The main benefits of UROP for undergraduates include becoming familiar with faculty and becoming better acquainted with their own or other fields of academic interest. Practical skills are developed and gained that can be used later in their careers. UROP engagements are flexible so far as they can be taken any semester including continuing into the summer. A student also has the flexibility to participate in a project sponsored by a department and even across departments. Participation is widespread with 55% of students each academic year included in the program and 87% of all students having worked in the program by graduation time.

-           MIT offers a special and optional four-week term every January between the Fall and Spring semesters. The “Independent Activities Program” offers hundreds of noncredit innovative, informative and fun courses that are meant to complement in a meaningful way the standard MIT courses. It offers a real opportunity for a MIT student to pursue a personal or developing interest in an enjoyable comprehensive fashion without the normal pressures of a standard course for credit.

-           The faculty at MIT is by any measure exceptionally impressive. UROP provides the best opportunity for a student to work very closely with a faculty member and to network with graduate students. MIT is a research driven institution so professors are required to focus on their own individual projects or interests. As is the case with any large University of this caliber, getting to know professors is a case-by-case proposition and is also highly dependent on the initiative of the student. Class-size various from large lecture halls for introductory classes to smaller class sizes for advanced courses. MIT professors over the years are winners of 78 Nobel prizes. Included on the faculty are numerous recipients of other prestigious academic awards such as winning the Pulitzer Prize, being named a Guggenheim Fellow, a Fulbright Scholar, a MacArthur fellow and the list goes on especially regarding recognition for achievement in the sciences.

-           Students tend to be competitive with themselves and their own personal high standards. This type of attitude leads to an atmosphere where friends will help friends academically. Many assignments are intended to be worked on as a group rather than as a purely individual exercise. Overall the intense workload promotes a bonding experience especially during sleepless nights working together on assigned problems. Necessity leads to a collaborative atmosphere.  


Student/ Social Life:

-           A student’s life at MIT is dominated by the demands of a very challenging academic workload, however, MIT students still find time to let loose and party hard. The prevailing attitude on campus is to work hard and play harder and try to find time to catch up on sleep. There is always much to do on campus and with 70 other universities in the area plus college student friendly Boston and Cambridge, there are never a lack of options for activities to participate in. MIT students have access to reduced price tickets for various area performances and sporting events and free admission to many of the most popular local area museums.

-           A popular student opinion is that with a focus on a demanding academic workload and so many opportunities for on-campus social activities, a MIT student is often insulated from events occurring in the outside world. Students comment that a MIT “Bubble” does exist even though the University is right in the middle of a major and dynamic metropolitan area.

-           90% of students live on campus and all freshmen are required to live in the dorms. Living off campus is a very expensive proposition in the Boston- Cambridge area so most MIT students stay committed to dorm life.

-           There are 12 undergraduate dormitories and students have a great deal of input into the type of fellow students they can live with. Options such as highly popular Greek life and independent living groups provide students choice. There are 27 fraternities, six sororities and six “Independent Living Groups” (FSILG) that provide living options outside the traditional residential dorms. Approximately 1,700 of the 4,500 total undergraduates live in these nontraditional living arrangements. While FSILGs do provide a positive living experience because they allow students with much in common to live together, they also tend to separate groups by race, ethnicity, and economic background and lifestyle preferences.

-           Participation in Greek life is popular on campus; however, these organizations at MIT have a slightly different function than at other colleges. At MIT, it is not the traditional Greek system with the emphasis on social life; it is focused as a support structure for academics. This is not to say that they do not have a social function because they do host parties and events, however, the fraternities and sororities at MIT are not of the traditional college variety.

-            While MIT supports more than 30 teams on the Division III level, intercollegiate sports plays a very minor role in a typical student’s life. The sports teams are not often followed by the students. Students are more likely to play intramural sports where there is active participation by many. MIT students tend to use their limited social time to participate in other activities rather than to watch MIT athletics.

-           MIT has a student body with many diverse interests so finding an extracurricular activity to participate in is not a challenge with over 400 activities officially recognized by the school.  There is a type of group and club for everyone and everything.

-           MIT's talented, imaginative and expressive students are serial creators of elaborate and engaging practical jokes and happenings that occur at all hours of the day or night. The occurrences of these types of activities are a regular part of the MIT scene. The creation of these often secretive and ingenious pranks is a way to release stress for many students.


The greater Boston - Cambridge area is rated by many as the best place to attend college in the country. College students and younger people are a large part of the landscape of both cities. Boston's nickname is the Hub and it is an accurate description of a city that includes all the shopping, restaurants, commercial activities plus sports and cultural activities needed to provide a seemingly endless choice of alternative options to on- campus activities. Boston and Cambridge are cities that are not too large to be intimidating and this makes them easy to walk around or to take a short trip on accessible and extensive public transportation options to reach almost any destination of interest.

Building on the academic and research excellence of MIT, Harvard, Tufts, Boston College, Boston University, etc., the area is a major leader in the new economy and financial services providing many opportunities for finding research opportunities, internships and postgraduate jobs. The overall affluence and desirability of the area as a place to live has led to revitalization and gentrification of many neighborhoods with all of the corresponding positive (safer streets, excellent job prospects, an overall more livable urban environment) and some negative (very high housing costs) changes.

Don’t go to MIT if:

Your first priority is not a love of learning and the pursuit of mastering your selected areas of academic interest. MIT is a school academically challenging enough to humble the very best students; however, a student will receive in return among the very best undergraduate college educations available anywhere. It is also a school where a student must have a self-directed and self-reliant attitude because the academic support structure for the individual student is lacking. The student must learn how to handle setbacks and always be ready to move ahead. It is not environment where there is much downtime or relaxation time. MIT students are engaged in their academic or research work day and quite often all night. Social life can be fun at MIT; however, it is not the main focus of a student’s activities.


MIT Interview – College Specific Questions to Ask the Interviewer:

-           What type of students are the best matches for MIT?

-           How do you rate the overall academic experience and the workload at MIT?

-           How did the General Institute Requirements (GIRs) complement or enhance the academic experience?

-           How much interaction is there with the faculty?

-           How would you rate the quality of student and social life compared to other academically elite universities?

-           What part did Greek Life play at MIT?                    


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MIT Undergraduates:  4,500


MIT Famous Alumni:

Amar Bose

IM Pei

Benjamin Netanyahu

Richard Feynman

Lawrence Summers

John H. Sununu

John S. Reed

John Thain

David and Charles Koch


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