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Seasoned freshmen offer Campus Preview advice

With the memories still fresh in their minds, many members of the MIT Class of 2009 had advice for the roughly 875 prefreshmen who will descend upon MIT during Campus Preview Weekend, April 6-9.

Freshman Anthony Rizos of Arizona recommended that "prefrosh" spend some of their Campus Preview Weekend (CPW) time in the Student Center and also that they sit in on classes. "It was really helpful to get a sense of what lectures feel like, particularly in areas and subjects of personal interest," he said.

"I'd never been to MIT before coming for CPW, so it was a good chance to meet people and get a feel for the place where I'd be spending the next four years," Rizos said of his experience.

The annual CPW provides accepted students and their parents with an open pass to MIT for four days. They can attend lectures, concerts and dorm dinners while spending time on the campus that may become their home this fall. The potential students stay in campus housing with a current student whose interests match theirs.

CPW typically confirms the match between MIT and the students, said Jennifer Rifken, who is the director of recruitment in the admissions office. Since 2003, between 75 percent and 80 percent of the students who attend CPW have matriculated at MIT.

This year's CPW is themed "MIT Unplugged" and will have 600 events -- "more events than ever before," Rifken said. Prefreshmen are invited to explore. "I want the students to really be able to try MIT on for size," Rifken said.

Freshman Alexis Dale, who hails from Massachusetts' South Shore, attended CPW last year. She encouraged potential freshman to sit in on as many classes as possible and just to generally observe the campus. "You can really see things as they actually happen," she said.

Dale also encouraged accepted students to take tours of the dormitories. "CPW is the best way to get exposed to what the dorms are really like," Dale said.

For freshman Michael Smith-Bronstein of Seattle, CPW was an opportunity to see MIT in a new light. "I came to meet people," he said. It was the people he met who convinced Smith-Bronstein that the Institute was the right place for him.

"I saw that it was a lot more fun than I expected," Smith-Bronstein said. Though the myriad activities might seem overwhelming, Smith-Bronstein suggested that prefrosh pinpoint what they would like to see, be it social, academic, athletic or something else, and that they seek that out. The weekend provides an opportunity for accepted students to "find people like them," he said.

The single most important piece of advice Rizos gave was about housing. "I'd say that my CPW dorm assignment held a lot of influence. I spent a lot of time chatting with other students and residents, exploring the halls, and connecting with other prefrosh," Rizos said. "While I may have been on the more informed side, it is notable that I'm living in the same building I was temped in for CPW. So, the living group thing really goes a long way."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 5, 2006 (download PDF).

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