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Seniors reflect on how they've changed in four years at MIT

In late August 1995, MIT Tech Talk asked a handful of randomly selected incoming freshmen about their hopes and expectations for their years at MIT. Now that they're graduating, we revisited some of them and asked what had changed about their planned course of study, their expected careers and themselves, and how they view MIT today.


1995 -- Planning a career in medicine. "[MIT] will be fun -- a lot of hard work, a big change from high school, more responsibility, more freedom to investigate what you think is interesting, better facilities. All around, a better experience."

1999 -- Double-majoring in biology and political science; will finish SB/SM program next year. "I didn't plan on majoring in political science, but after taking my first class (Introduction to the American Political Process) with Professor Stephen Ansolabehere, I decided it would give me a more balanced education and prepare me for a career in health policy alongside medicine. I'm still planning on pursuing this goal, but I'd like to get some work experience in the real world after I graduate.

"I still hold the same values and beliefs as when I came into MIT. But I do think I've become more open-minded to different lifestyles and belief systems, and that I've become less judgmental from my high school days.

"I think one of the greatest things about MIT is that it gives students so many opportunities to pursue their academic and extracurricular interests in depth. I think there are very few other schools where so many students have the chance to get involved in community events and affairs or in research activities. It's a great environment to be in."


1995 -- Planned a career in electrical engineering. "[MIT] strikes me as so big. I'm going to have all the opportunities that come with having a lot of bright people around. There'll be a period of adjustment, but it should be fun -- I'm looking forward to it."

1999 -- "I came to MIT expecting to major in electrical engineering in part because I liked to disassemble electronic gadgets. I'm still Course VI-I, but during my time at MIT I discovered the field was a lot broader than I thought it was four years ago... When I arrived at MIT, I wasn't looking four years into the future; I was trying to figure out how to settle into a community of thousands of other students. Now that I'm diving into the real world, I'm looking into fields like consulting.

"MIT expects a lot of things from you, and if you don't change yourself to deliver on those expectations, it's very easy to fall flat on your face (in fact, the Institute will be there to give you a shove). After pitching face-first into the ground a few times, I think I did learn to adapt to the environment. I learned how to work in groups, and how to manage my time more effectively.

"What I enjoyed most about MIT was the chance to work and live with a bunch of the brightest people around."


1995 -- Planning to work in mechanical/biomedical engineering. "I think it's going to be challenging but also a great opportunity because where I'm from, people have the same culture and lifestyle. I'll be open to new people and ideas."

1999 -- "I ended up switching to chemical engineering, fulfilling the premed requirements, and am going to pursue a doctorate in chemical engineering with research in the biomedical field at Princeton in the fall.

"I've changed a lot. [As a freshman], I thought MIT was filled with many opportunities and I honestly wanted to participate in so many things. As the years went on, I think I had a reality check of how much I could do. I had to limit myself to only a few activities to make time for schoolwork, friends and sleep. I think I'm more patient, more open-minded, more outgoing... I've seen people work hard and fail. I guess I have more of an appreciation for my abilities because of it.

"I think one great advantage that MIT offers is exposure: to companies, research opportunities, people and activities. I love the fact that MIT has so many opportunities; I'm just disappointed that we never have enough time to enjoy them...

"I think MIT needs to work on diversity. Why does it seem that most top-notch universities are mostly white and Asian? I found the extremely small population of blacks on campus discouraging. It also limited many people in social aspects."


1995 -- Planned a career in electrical engineering. "[MIT] is going to be different, a new experience, the next step of my life. I was a little bit nervous, but the fact that [freshman] classes are pass/fail is a little calming. I'm just hoping to learn, have fun and avoid talking to strange people from newspapers."

1999 -- Will get the SB in finance this year and the SB/MEng in electrical engineering next year; unsure of career plans. "I sat in my first freshman engineering class and it was really scary; I thought, 'can I do it?' I almost walked out... You just have to make yourself have fun and forget about MIT.

"It's almost impossible to come here and not change. High school was a very laid-back, enjoyable experience, and so was freshman year. Once you [begin getting] grades, it's a little different. But I was able to keep my view of things semi-constant while I was here. I think I've matured a bit. That's a bad thing, maybe -- we'll see. I learned how to cook and how to get less sleep...

"The relationships you form here are really good. You always find people you like. I'm very pleased with the personal aspect of MIT. I can't say there's too much I'm displeased with. There are a lot of mistakes I've made, but I learned from them. I learned a lot academically and nonacademically."


1995 -- Planning to major in computer science. "My Dad read a magazine article quoting MIT students as saying 'it's hell, but we like it,' so that's sort of what I'm expecting."

1999 -- Will receive degree in course VI-3 (computer science). "It didn't change in the least; I'd made my mind up by the time I was seven. I've still only gone as far as deciding to finish my MEng and then go start earning money by writing programs somewhere. I've tossed around the idea of grad school and becoming a professor, but that depends on how well TA work goes next year.

"I am older, wiser, far more bitter and cynical, friendlier, beaten to a mental pulp (and with my share of emotional bruises as well), and awfully proud to say that I survived the trip. I'm sorry to say that pockets of horror in the faculty have grievously wounded several of my close friends... I've lost a great deal of respect for MIT through their actions, even though MIT itself treated me pretty well. It makes me less proud to be from here than I otherwise would be."

A version of this article appeared in the June 2, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 32).

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