The Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Comments and Student Experiences|
While you're here, you'll be able to meet a vast array of incredibly intelligent and accomplished people. You will probably form deeper connections with other MIT students than you ever did with your classmates in high school, with a possible exception if you went to an elite one. (A significant portion of the student body did, public or private, so you'll see a lot of old friends here if this is you -- although you already knew that if you did.) Putting some extra effort into networking will benefit both your happiness and your career, and all it takes is a little bit of practice at starting conversations.
Coming here will also show you how the world works. You will learn as much from talking to other students as you will in your classes, and by the time you graduate, you'll be able to competently discuss almost any subject of importance. You will learn the nuances of politics in an environment in which almost everyone is as smart as you are, and you will have a much more difficult time trying to lead organizations than in high school if that's your thing. But, upon graduation, you will also be miles ahead of someone who had an easier time with this at a less selective school.
Be prepared to pull all-nighters regularly. Expect a workload that can be utterly, shockingly unhealthy, although this doesn't usually start until around sophomore year. Expect to get sick more often from the physical stress. Expect for no one in your academic life to care when you do. Expect to feel like you got hit by a bulldozer every morning you get up after sleeping for two hours, if at all, and hope that it doesn't happen enough times in succession that you end up sleeping through an exam (see "screw up" above). If you try to cheat the system with caffeine or other stimulants, expect to become physically addicted to them. Sleep deprivation is a matter of culture here; it is literally a running joke. But it won't be like this every single day, and afterwards, the rest of your working life will feel a bit like a vacation. You'll be surprised at how much you're able to accomplish.
Be prepared to sometimes have no idea how to solve a given problem, and be prepared when none of the TAs give useful advice and the response from some students who might know is derision. MIT might be the only place in the world at which so many talented people can be made to feel so enduringly insecure, and it might happen to you too if you let it -- don't. If all else fails, remember that most of the top students in any given field are only good at it because they started young. But it's best to just avoid comparing yourself to others. You're probably overestimating them, and regardless, you'll still be ok if you focus on getting your work done. Usually.
Be prepared to occasionally see people crash, sometimes even people you know, and hopefully not you. Roughly 10% of students withdraw at some point, usually for 'medical reasons,' and many never come back. They're not in the official statistics, and I suspect MIT isn't the only top school with this hidden exit door, so don't expect the situation to be much rosier at any of its competitors. Be aware that medical leave can be involuntary and that re-admission is not guaranteed, so be very cautious about trusting the official resources if you're under more pressure than you can take. Which you will be, at some point, if you care about the things in paragraph 1. Learn when to say enough is enough. Learn when to selectively retreat, to drop a class or bail out of an activity or two, so that you're still around for next semester. If you're spending literally all of your available time working or traveling to/from work and still can't handle it, don't be afraid to pull back a little bit. But if you're being distracted by other things, fix that first.
There are interesting people to hang out with if you put some effort into it and try to get into a dorm or FSILG with a culture that works for you. There are classes in almost every area you could possibly be interested in, although some will be too hard to actually take unless you've had a lot of prior experience. There are famous professors to talk to, assuming you can find time in their schedules. There are representatives from the best companies in the world ready to interview you, as long as you know what should be on your resume and haven't screwed up anything that might leave a mark. There are people just like you, who might even be willing to date you... at least if you can stand out from all the other people just like you. No longer being different is both a blessing and a curse.So welcome to reality, I suppose: choose between success and safety. MIT's offer is a Faustian bargain, but you have to go through hell if you want to be the best in the world. As to whether that would make you happy... that depends on what matters to you.
I suppose the issue is that all the pressure is self-inflicted. You don't know how good or bad anyone else is doing and nobody is checking in on you.
A lot of people drink way too much, but that is really the only way to cope with the immense amount of stress. Expect to not be able to do the things you enjoy while there.When everyone around you is struggling, there isn't anyone to go to for help. And that makes it more difficult. It is a very lonely and disenchanting experience.
The education lives up to its name. You WILL learn a lot here so education is not an issue. What's a striking surprise for me was all the research/job opportunities you have here. It's really easy to get a research position even if you're just exploring a major. Other students at other schools would die for these opportunities. Even as a freshman brand new to the school, you can get a research position right in the beginning in the fall.
There are plenty of PE classes and intramural sports for you to play if you're not as hardcore as varsity players. There is a TON of clubs and you'll easily find ones that suite you.
We study hard, but party harder. Weekends are usually filled with one to three frat parties that are hella fun and wild, but not too crazy (because we still care about safety or else we can't throw anymore parties). I enjoyed my first year here, and even though my work load is getting bigger, there is still time for me to enjoy my college years.