Every college you visit is probably telling you why you should attend. Sometimes they’re good reasons, but sometimes people make their college choice for the wrong reasons. And sometimes, people don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. I therefore present the top ten worst reasons to decide to go to MIT.
1. “It’s MIT.”
This is one of the worst arguments I’ve heard for why you should go to MIT, and unfortunately I hear it way too often. For a lot of people (like my grandmother) MIT is the “Louis Vuitton” of universities. The analogy is apt: You have to work really hard to earn it, lots of people try to copy it, and too many people like to make a big deal out of it. Yes, MIT is a fascinating school with top-notch faculty and the most intelligent people on the planet, but it’s much too unique to be simply judged on basic college statistics. The reason you should end up choosing MIT is its very, very distinct culture.
2. The students are “smart.”
There are different kinds of intelligence and much too often people confuse them. At MIT, the undergraduates are insanely intelligent. They’re quick-witted and can learn things in a flash. The undergrads here are also very good at spending lots of time working. That said, the students here aren’t necessarily more motivated, disciplined, worldly, or otherwise well-rounded or well-informed as you might hope. People still procrastinate like none other, half-ass their work, and aren’t necessarily bothered if they don’t understand what’s going on in the Middle East, despite potentially working on the next W.M.D.. You really have to remember that MIT is an Institvte of Technology, not a Bastion of Brilliance. And you also have to remember that everything I just said doesn’t apply to everyone here. There are undoubtedly those who’ll just blow you away by how well-adjusted they are while making time for amazing research and getting a 5.0, but honestly, there are people like this at every university.
3. You want to be happy.
They don’t call this place “Hell” for nothing. And amazingly, it’s really not the academics (although there are infamously difficult courses, like Aero/Astro’s “Unified,” Physics’ “J-Lab,” or Architecture studio). It’s really a pervasive mentality that, at MIT, you’re not supposed to be happy, and if you are, you’re either not working hard enough, not doing anything outside of classes, or you’re just one of the lucky ones I mentioned earlier. Every time you ask someone how he/she is doing and he/she responds with “I’m so busy, I have five psets due this week and two tests next week and a UROP!” There’s no escaping the underlying sadness that a lot of people here are sacrificing a substantial portion of their health and social lives for their work.
4. You like an empty inbox.
Some days you really have to wonder whether there isn’t a leak in the Internet’s “series of tubes” that’s spilling half the world’s e-mails into your inbox. Even with all the discipline and Gmail filters you can muster, the empty e-mail inbox at MIT is a myth. Be ready to either spend a lot of time sorting through messages that resemble IM chats more than e-mails and deleting lots of random flame wars that might erupt on you dorm’s mailing list.
5. You don’t like the idea of bureaucracy.
Well, too bad, because everything at MIT is bureaucratic; and while it’s wonderful that MIT puts so much faith into its students to let them be the ones to allocate money to student groups and kick fraternities off of campus, it gets annoying when the solution to every problem that arises with student life is “let’s make a committee for it.”
6. Dining! (or lack thereof).
If there’s one issue that’s been a persistent dead fish in the room, it’s dining. The dining issue at MIT has taken on symbolic proportions, pitting the “evil administration” against “immature undergrads.” Whether you’re for Dining, against Dining, just plain hungry, or wish they’d stop flooding your inbox with e-mails about Dining, it’s definitely something you’ll be looking forward to the next four years if you choose to come to MIT.
7. You have bad time management skills.
Classes move fast and its easy to fall behind. You’ll need to take responsibility for your own life; unlike some other schools, there won’t be someone to guide you at every step of the way. Planning is important.
8. The bubble.
Remembering that there’s a world outside of MIT is hard to do, not just when it comes to current events but when it comes to remembering what real people are like. There are those at MIT who love it here because everyone is “just like them!” and it’s no surprise that they’re often extremely disappointed when they graduate and realize that, no, very few people are actually like them.
While students at MIT like to make fun of “Hah-vahd” and Yalies and the like, what I realized over the years is that MIT itself reeks of elitist mentality. I’m very thankful to have a family that keeps me well grounded and demands that I don’t talk about classes or majors as numbers. But even something as innocuous as this, when coupled with the MIT “mystique,” intimidates a lot of people in unfavorable ways that a lot of MIT students might not understand.
10. You want an education.
If your number one goal is to attend a university that will serve you the things you need to know, then MIT is not for you. There’s a great deal of personal initiative and not much spoon feeding when it comes to classes. That means that when you do take that difficult class (which will hopefully be most of the classes you take), you’re going to have to spend a lot of time teaching the material to yourself. What MIT will do is trust that you know the material well enough to work on real applications of that material.