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Lauren McLean, administrative assistant for Student and Young Alumni Programs, looks at an MIT campus map with Joe Hart, father of prospective freshman Karen Hart.
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Nearly 1,000 prospective freshmen are on campus for this year's Campus Preview Weekend. The weekend, which runs through Sunday, will offer over 600 activities at all hours for prospective freshmen and parents.

Associate Director of Admissions Matthew L. McGann '00 said that this year's CPW is the largest ever, with 974 prospective freshmen scheduled to attend as of Wednesday. Last year, 868 prospective freshmen attended.

McGann also said that roughly 800 parents would be attending CPW and encouraged them to discover MIT on their own. We have "a rich array of activities for parents," McGann said. "We hope that parents can carve their own path through the weekend."

The weather, however, has not been the most welcoming, as rain pelted visitors throughout much of yesterday afternoon. McGann was optimistic that the weather could clear up. "Maybe we will have the CPW weather machine at it again," he said.

Dean of Admissions Marilee Jones started off the weekend last evening at Rockwell Cage, encouraging students to enjoy the weekend and describing the mission of MIT.

"Every school has a different mission on Earth," she told the audience. "Other schools produce presidents … but we solve the problems of the world," Jones said.

Jones was interrupted by the MIT Logarhythms, who were hidden amidst a sea of prospective freshmen. After a performance by the Logarhythms, Jones led a round of "Happy Birthday" for students with birthdays over the weekend and introduced Director of Recruitment Jennifer Rifken, head of this year's CPW and part of the Admissions Office.

Rifken was excited about the "largest CPW ever" and encouraged students to enjoy all the activities on campus. "We're really excited," Rifken said.

After an icebreaker, the prospective freshmen were led to the CPW Festival by the MIT Marching Band. The festival showed off a handful of MIT's living groups and student activities, offering performances and games for prospective students.

Desiree Amadeo, a prospective freshman from New Hampshire, said she was excited to be at CPW and had already turned in her acceptance to MIT.

"I might try to battle someone with swords," said Amadeo, referring to a large boffing area set up by Random Hall.

Amadeo said she chose MIT "because of the impact" and the community's "diversity." MIT's preview weekend "is a lot different than taking tours at other campuses," said Amadeo.

This year's CPW offers more than 600 events, a substantial increase from last year's number, McGann said.

"One of the things that makes this preview weekend special is that it's a student-driven weekend," said McGann. "There are no boring panels run by administrators," he said.

McGann highlighted some "awesomely nerdy" events, including "two make-your-own-Mooninite events, independently conceived," said McGann.

He was also a fan of Firehose, an event offered by MIT's Experimental Study Group that features lectures that last through the night, covering subjects from quantum computing to black holes and do-it-youself audio.

Nabil Abdurehman, a prospective freshman from Memphis, Tenn., said he planned on going to bad science movie night and exploring the dormitories. He was amazed by "the people, the attitude, and the atmosphere here," said Abdurehman.

Admissions bloggers a hit

Before Jones was interrupted by the Logarhythms, she introduced the Admissions bloggers, prompting cheers from the audience.

"I read the blogs," said Ryan Lopopolo, a prospective freshman from West Palm Beach, Fla. They are "a great window to the inside [of MIT]," Lopopolo said.

Emily Pittore, a prospective freshman from Lexington, Mass. who was eating liquid nitrogen ice cream, said she was choosing between MIT and Brown University. "I did not read the blogs," Pittore said. "But I know like a zillion people that go here," she said.

Pittore said she liked the CPW opening but questioned Jones's statement about MIT's mission. "I don't see why MIT couldn't produce a president," Pittore said.

McGann, who himself has a blog, said that Admissions blogging offered a great opportunity to connect with MIT. He also mentioned that fellow blogger and Admissions Office Communications Manager Ben Jones had a new band that would be performing at "Battle of the Bands" on Saturday. "The closing song will be a [Rolling] Stones song [featuring] Marilee Jones," he said.

Gap year encouraged

This year, MIT is running a panel about taking a gap year — a year off before coming to college — to volunteer in the community.

"You shouldn't always have to be on full force," McGann said. "There should be time to reflect, synthesize, and learn."

McGann suggested students could take a year off to learn about parts of the world they may never otherwise visit and experience different cultures.

McGann said that encouraging students to take a year off is not related to increased size of the incoming class or concerns about too many students matriculating to MIT. According to McGann, the idea was "conceived a while back."

McGann said that international involvement was "a big thrust at MIT right now," and part of President Susan Hockfield's goals.

Students should be able to "step back a little bit," McGann said.