School Profile: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Today we continue our summer series of school profiles with a closer look at MIT. Scott Shrum, Veritas Prep’s Vice President of Marketing, gives us insider tips for what to see while visiting campus and tells why he chose MIT as the right school for him.

1.     What is one thing you should see on campus?

The view from the top of the Building 10 dome… if you can figure out a way up there! Whenever you see the quintessential shot of MIT, with 10 large columns underneath a massive dome, that’s Building 10, which sits at one end of Killian Court. (Yes, MIT buildings go by their numbers. For the most part, even-numbered buildings are on the east side of campus, and odd-numbered buildings sit on the west side.) The Great Dome, as it’s also called, provides a terrific view of MIT’s campus and of the Boston skyline across the Charles River. The only problem is that you’re not allowed to go up there, but that doesn’t stop MIT students from doing it all the time. How exactly do you do it? I’ll leave that to you to figure out, but there is ample documentation available online.

While this story doesn’t involve me going on the Great Dome, my favorite memory of an MIT “hack” (that’s what pranks are called at MIT) was when someone put an MIT Police patrol car up there in May of 1994. I still remember walking across Killian Court early in the morning that day (before word had really gotten out and news trucks and helicopters started showing up), looking up and thinking, “What the? That looks like a cop… That is so cool!!” I feel lucky that I was able to witness that hack firsthand.

2.     What made you choose this school?

After spending just 15 minutes on campus I knew I wanted to go to MIT. I could tell how smart the students were, but not in a “show off” kind of way at all. Once I enrolled, it turned out to be true. People were impressive yet humble, and that was just the kind of environment I wanted to be in. There were very few people who were ultra-competitive or were out to make their fellow students look bad. There was actually more of an “us against them” feeling, with students banding together to work all night on a problem set, just because we weren’t going to give a professor the satisfaction of knowing that he stumped us. What a great feeling.

Even though MIT is super rigorous academically, the school really does a good job of making the transition into the environment as smooth as possible. For example, as a freshman, your first term is “pass / no record”… If you pass a class, no matter what grade you earn, you get a “P.” If you don’t pass, it’s like it never even happened. (This used to apply to both semesters of the freshman year, but MIT changed this policy after I graduated.) Trust me when I say this helped a lot!

Being in a terrific college town didn’t hurt, either. In or near Boston are MIT, Harvard, Tufts, Boston College, Boston University, Brandeis, and Wellesley, just to name a handful of schools. I decided to live off-campus in a fraternity, and back in those days you pledged a fraternity before your freshman year even started (this has since changed). So, I spent all four of my years at MIT living in the Back Bay in Boston, rather than living on campus in Cambridge. There were many days when I would cross the bridge across the river on foot and curse the winter weather, but spending four years living in a nice part of a great U.S. city was very much worth it!

3.     What is your favorite spot to eat off campus?

For whatever reason, there are a ton of great ice cream places around Boston. There actually used to be a great one right on campus, in the Stratton Student Center, called Toscanini’s (“Tosci’s” for short). That closed down, but fortunately another Tosci’s is only a short walk away from campus, towards Central Square. They always have unusual (but good!) ice cream flavors, such as Earl Grey Tea, Grape-Nut Raisin, and Ginger Snap Molasses. Over on the Boston side, check out J.P. Licks on Boylston Street and Emack & Bolio’s on Newbury Street.

4.     What else should a visiting student know about your school?

MIT has an open campus with very friendly students… If you visit, spend a lot of time just wandering The Infinite Corridor and other buildings up and down the Charles River. If you’re lost, just ask someone for help. MIT’s campus will rarely out-pretty most other top universities’ campuses, but it provides enough interesting nooks and crannies to keep you occupied for a day!

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