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Prospective Students Get Insight On the Fun and Rigor of MIT Life

By Sharmin Ghaznavi

Many prospective students of the Class of 2001 got their first taste of MIT life last week during Campus Preview Weekend.

Over 360 women and minority students participated this year. Campus Preview officially ended with lunch and check-out on Saturday, and now the prefrosh will use their experience to decide whether they will accept or decline their admission offers.

Most prefrosh and hosts called the weekend a success.

Among them was Anna Polsenberg, of Newton Square, Pa. "I've been to four other college preview weekends," she said, "and this one was the best."

Campus Preview Weekend kicked off with prefrosh check-in on Thursday. While most found the process painless, others said that there should definitely be some improvements. Some hosts noted the difficulty in keeping track of prefrosh that had arrived on campus but had either left on tours or gone exploring MIT.

Aparna Polavarapu, of Rosalyn, N.Y., had a suggestion. "They could have told us who our hosts were beforehand so [we] could have arranged something," she said.

Panel, tours introduce MIT

A welcoming panel on Thursday evening let prefrosh share their experiences and ask questions of current students.

Prefrosh called the panel informative and helpful. The students "were very straightforward, and no questions were left unanswered; it was exhaustive," said Rachel Knapp, of Balcksburg, Va.

The panel was followed by a jazz social and dinner. Event sponsors encouraged prospective students to mingle with with their future classmates and enjoy the music of the MITJazz Collective. Prefrosh did both.

Gerald Briton, of Bethesda, Md., agreed. "It was a good way of meeting people," he said.

For some, like Paul Thordarson, of Lexington, said the music made the dinner enjoyable, while others, including Nita Losoponkul, of Rosalyn, N.Y., felt it was good but far too loud, to a point where you couldn't hear yourself thinking.

Friday offered a lot of opportunities for prospective students, including tours of Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program projects, lectures, and a dinner.

Though not mandatory, the UROPtours drew a good number of prefrosh interested in learning more about the program.

UROP "is what interests me most about MIT," Knapp said. She was glad for the opportunity to learn more about it.

Briton said his UROPtour was informal. "It was great because everybody was happy to discuss what they were doing," he said.

Prospective students' first MITlecture was delivered by Professor of Physics Walter H.G. Lewin, who is known for his MIT Cable programs.

Overall, he was a hit. Natalie Chouinard, of Lincoln, Maine, called it "excellent. [Lewin] did a good job of highlighting points and a good job with visuals."

David Rabago, of Ecopas, Texas, said he was especially impressed by the demonstrations. A simulated sunset - a clever combination of chemistry and physics - was particularly popular with prefrosh.

Minority focus questioned

In spite of the success of the weekend events, prefrosh and hosts had concerns over other aspects of Campus Preview.

Many prefrosh thought the weekend, which targets women and minorities, should be extended to all prospective students.

"The weekend should be a Campus Preview Weekend open to all, because if you make the separation of women and minorities, it seems too much like you're targeting them," said Nehdia Mumuni, of Dallas.

"No matter what color you are, you're going to have to go through the same things,'" Mumuni said, recalling a comment made at a minority discussion that took place Thursday night. "The same," she continued, "can be said about being female."

Dana Scott, of Doylestown Pa., concurred. "Since the weekend is geared towards women and minorities, [the view] is kind of skewed," she said.

But Alsiha Thomas, of Chicago, felt differently. "It was a good idea, because other schools pretend like [race] is not an issue, and you can be disillusioned; if you know what to expect, it's a lot easier."

Preview may hide real MIT

Some hosts worried that the prefrosh might not have had a real taste of MIT, including the workload and pressure, a worry that some prefrosh shared.

"I don't know how representative [the weekend] really is [of life at MIT], given that everything is planned," Losoponkul said.

Mumuni echoed those concerns. "My host told me that a lot of people won't be doing work because they have their work done to show you a good time," she said.

"You feel compelled to sell the better side of MIT," said host Cherry Liu '00. "You have to break the stereotypes that people hold about MIT, so [hosts] tend to sell the party and entertainment theme."

Yet other hosts, especially those with a test on Thursday in Introduction to Computers and Engineering Problem Solving (1.00) or on Friday in Differential Equations (18.03), felt that their prefrosh got a real view of the tougher side of MIT. "[My prefrosh] saw everybody studying," said Lucy D. Crespo De Silva '00. "They saw that during the week we have a lot of pressure."

Regardless, most prefrosh said the weekend did successfully dispel a lot of their negative assumptions about MIT.

"Campus Preview Weekend was really different from my preconceptions," said Joyce Wei, of Warren, N.J.

Pearlin Cheung, of San Jose, Calif., also had similar feelings. The weekend "kind of changed my perceptions about MIT," she said.

"I was surprised at how friendly people were," said Yua Zhang, of North Haven, Conn.

"When Ivisited other schools and told people I was considering MIT, people told me not to go to MIT, and they gave me these images about MITbeing a place where people walk around with pocket protectors," Thomas said. "But I found they were wrong."

Prefrosh room at FSILGs again

For the second year, prefrosh were allowed to spend the weekend at FSILGs. In the past, students have expressed concerns that the weekend could turn into a rush tool.

But hosts in FSILGs felt that every consideration was taken to ensure that this would not be the case. "Our house manager told us that we were rushing for MITand not the house," said Student House resident Chun Hua Zheng '00.

"I was more concerned about whether [my prefrosh] was getting a chance to meet MIT," said Ryan S. Chavez '00, a member of Chi Phi fraternity. "He can make a housing decision when he gets here."

Noting the value of allowing FSILGs to host, Pika resident Rosa Viallstrigo '00 said that "there's a real variety of living groups and the prefrosh should have a chance to see them."