MIT is among the most prestigious colleges in the country. Students attending MIT will need to be driven and focused to tackle the academic requirements in any one of the five schools within this college. There are over 30 departments in the five schools, each with equal parts work and opportunity. MIT operates on a 4-1-4 academic calendar meaning a fall semester, a four week independent activities period in January, and finally a spring semester. The independent activities period is unique to MIT and gives students, staff, faculty, and even alumni the chance to sponsor, organize, and participate in various activities. This includes athletics, lecture series, films, tours, contests, how-to sessions, and forums among other things.
MIT is highly selective and becoming a full-time undergraduate can be difficult. Many may think you have to be an engineering genius to be considered, however, it is well balanced between professional majors and arts and science majors. There are 44 undergraduate degrees to choose from within the five schools, however a bachelor of science degree is the only one given to those who graduate. It is mandatory for each undergraduate student to complete the core curriculum referred to as General Institute Requirements. This is an extensive academic course load with recitations, lectures, weekly tests, and problem sets; additionally, each student must pass a swim test and take four quarters of physical education if a non-varsity athlete.
To ease students into the demanding rigor of this grueling academic course load, freshmen are evaluated on a “pass/no record” grading system. MIT students have the good fortune of participating in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program where they can work directly with researchers and faculty on various projects. As an undergraduate you can initiate or join research projects for pay, academic credit, or as a volunteer. Within these research opportunities many students file patent applications, become published, or launch start-up companies. MIT has a demanding academic program, but it gives its students the tools to thrive and achieve as well as the opportunities that will support greatness.
Campus life at MIT starts with housing where every undergraduate student is guaranteed to be housed all four years in one of the twelve dormitories. Along with these housing dormitories there are 36 sororities, fraternities, and independent living organizations. Greek life is prominent on the MIT campus; for those who do not wish to participate, there are more than 380 student activity groups from which to choose. Along with the various clubs students can enjoy a few different museums on campus such as the List Visual Arts Center, which constantly rotates contemporary art exhibitions.
The campus offers popular weekly movie screenings, various lectures and demonstrations as well as annual events such as the entrepreneurship competition. One of the most notorious aspects to MIT campus life is “hacking,” which is clever practical joke style pranks that are both intellectually challenging and entertaining. Although no one is safe from an MIT prank, their favorite prankster rival is CalTech. MIT campus life offers students the traditional college experience with a flair for the daring and imaginative.
MIT has been big on hacks, or student pranks, since the 1870s. This is probably one of their proudest traditions, because it requires imagination, ingenuity, daring, and skill. One year they stole the CalTech cannon, and when it reappeared on the MIT campus, it was emblazoned with their own mascot on the side. They managed to make a weather balloon filled with powder rise up from the football field during a Yale vs. Harvard game. They made it appear as though the campus police car was on top of the campus dome. It’s a never-ending challenge to pull off the perfect stunt.
MIT competes primarily at the NCAA Division III level in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference. They have a diverse athletic program with 33 varsity sports, some of which are involved in different conferences. For example, the varsity women’s rowing team competes in the NCAA Division I Eastern Association of Women’s Rowing Colleges. Nearly 20% of MIT students compete in varsity athletics, and they have more Academic All-Americans than any other Division III school. MIT boasts 800 participants on 34 teams. There is also a strong intramural program on campus with over 18 sports.
Other MIT traditions include Campus Preview, which by the way CalTech managed to pull off an epic hack at in 2014 (be a part of the payback that is sure to follow), the Brass Rat Ring Premier, Baker House piano drop, steer roast, and Spring Weekend to name a few. If you want to hear more about the student experience, be sure to check out “Why I’m CoMITted to MIT.” If you would appreciate an intellectually stimulating experience peppered by practical jokes and amazing stunts, you will definitely find a home at MIT.
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By Colleen Hill