This column was written by Ko, a freshman, just before arriving at MIT for Orientation.
I had just lost another argument with my mother about whether or not I should pack more socks and underwear in order to survive three thousand miles away from home and was still grumbling when the thud of reality hit me: I would actually be at MIT in less than a week, dodging police floodlights on an Orange Tour and sweating through Advanced Standing Exams. Heck, many of my peers are already there for pre-orientation programs and varsity sports.
Thinking back on my summer, I sometimes feel like I did nothing. However, after a bit of reflection, it is easy to see that that’s not true.
It’s almost surprising to note how Facebook was such a key part of the average incoming MIT freshman’s summer. In the “MIT Class of 2011” group, there are a whopping 5,500 wall posts and 400 discussion topics, as well as a slew of affiliate groups for each Freshman Pre-Orientation Program, temporary dormitory, and MIT ’11 sorted by geographic location. When I was busy pulling an all nighter for the Freshman Essay Evaluation (during which I cranked out more wordage than for all of my second semester of Senior English), I took study breaks by commiserating with classmates worldwide in the group. The day I received my AP scores, I immediately went to the group to both brag about my serendipitous results and denigrate MIT’s lousy AP credit policy (expectedly, there were many others just like me both jumping for joy and whining in the group). A similar melee was repeated recently when the Online Freshman Advising Folder was released with FEE and HASS-D lottery results.
Then, of course, there are the Facebook serial adders. For those unfamiliar with serial adding, it involves befriending every individual who falls under a certain category — in this case, members of the MIT Class of 2011. While the serial adding epidemic technically started back in April when applicants first received their acceptances, it didn’t hit its stride until July, when unsuspecting members of the Class of 2011 began to receive notifications that they had been added by twenty or more future classmates that they still hadn’t ever met in real life. Not long after I realized the adds wouldn’t stop coming, I soon developed a simple holistic approach to deciding whether or not to accept a friend request: if the requester was female, I’d skim through her uploaded photos and decide on a “hot or not” basis (It’s not just me! This is how we all do it … right?); if the requester was male, he’d get waitlisted until I actually met him in real life. Nobody was ever denied, because for all I knew, I might end up in a recitation or seminar with these students.
It wasn’t as if the only thing that occupied my time this summer was an online networking portal started by a dropout from down the road (though it came closer than I like to admit). Glancing through the various materials regarding MIT courses and what to take was no easy task for me, a high school graduate used to only having two choices: regular or Honors. Not only are there infinitely more courses to choose from, there is also the numerical system to deal with — I am slowing learning to get my course numbers straight. Furthermore, I’ll have to convince myself that I can’t sign up for the most rigorous schedule for its own sake; MIT is, after all, a far cry from high school, where registration consisted of checking off every AP course in sight.
In addition, there was the obviously monstrous task of figuring out how to cram everything I need for the school year into a few suitcases and a carry on; the aforementioned FEE, a consequence of a heavy case of senioritis and not taking the AP English exam seriously; the health physical form, which required my first visit to the doctor’s office in over two years; finally finishing the Harry Potter series (hey fellow freshmen: we graduated from high school the same year the Harry Potter saga finished; how cool is that?); and dealing with the cruel truth that for the first time, really, I’ll be leaving my comfort zone.
Despite the struggles, including sentimental reminiscences and tearful good-byes to old friends, I’m still looking forward to drinking from the fire hose. Bring it!
Are you a freshman who would like to share the story of your first week at MIT? If so, please e-mail email@example.com.