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The Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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BrightMechanical Engineering
It's definitely a lot of work, but the experience is worth it.
1st Year Female -- Class 2016
Education Quality: A+, Social Life: B+
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MIT has a great deal to offer, allQuite BrightComputer Engineering
MIT has a great deal to offer, all of which with strings attached. If you're smart, hard-working, savvy about recruiting, and perhaps a bit lucky, you can get into essentially any field you want. Top tech company, done. I-banking, done. Management consulting, done. Entrepreneurship, finance, top grad/med/law school, you name it, done. (A word to the ambitious: these are the best options, and you should pick one of them.) It won't guarantee you a private island and a multi-national conglomerate if you don't already have a lot of family money -- but to the extent that going to a good college can help you get ahead in life, the world is your oyster. As long as you don't screw up. Even if you're a bit lazier, you'll still be essentially recession-proof with a C.S. degree and a decent GPA, although you'd better be alright with being a normal engineer for the rest of your life if you do choose that path.

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.

2nd Year Male -- Class 2012
Education Quality: A+, Faculty Accessibility: C
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MIT definitely lives by the "work hard partyBrightEconomics
MIT definitely lives by the "work hard party hard mentality". Surprisingly enough, students here like to have a good time. We are usually pretty busy during the week, and the work can be very challenging, especially if you don't come from a scientific background (my high school was very liberal arts/humanities focused). But most students find time to be social on weekends...and in fact, its all of the BU, Simmons, Northeastern, and Harvard kids that are trying to get in to all the MIT parties, and not the other way around.

There are probably a higher number of frustratingly socially awkward people here than you would find at other colleges, but if you look hard enough (which isn't actually very hard) there are plenty of quote unquote normal people here too. Anyway, in summary: if you come to MIT prepare to be very academically challenged, but you'll also make great friendships, and have a lot of fun if you remind yourself to have a life and not stress so much.

2nd Year Female -- Class 2012
Collaboration/Competitive: A, Campus Aesthetics: F
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