Incoming and Prospective Student FAQs

(as compiled by ShiLing)

Disclaimer: Any views or opinion presented are intended for your consideration only, and do not represent the position of the MIT Admissions Office or the MIT student community.

FAQ for Students

- Expensive MIT

- Life at MIT? What life? Aaaaa!!

- You work from early morning till early morning

- All work makes Jack a dull boy…

- Dramatic shift in the bell curve

- MIT is too Techie

IAQ (Infrequently
asked question)
for Students

- Any Malaysian restaurants in Boston?

- Haven’t seen snow?

- Does MIT ever close?

- Numerical MIT and naming conventions

- Is MIT an ivy-league university? What’s an
ivy league university anyway?

Admission FAQ for Graduate Students (SM and

- How do I apply and more importantly, be

- The length of the program

- What are RA, TA and Fellowship?

Admission FAQ for Undergraduate Students

- Extra-curricular activities

- Recommendation letters

- Admissions essay

FAQ for Students

* Notes for potential students, incoming students
and curious onlookers

All you need to know about MIT can probably be found in MIT’s
extensive websites (which, being so extensive that you probably can’t
find what you need). Therefore, we have decided to compile some short
notes about life at MIT from the student point of view. First of all,
we have decided to clear some misconception or justify some facts
about MIT. FAQ is compiled by Eng Sew.

1. Expensive MIT

A full year tuition fees at MIT can quite easily amount to USD$40
000 including expenses. However, most students are under some sort
of financial aid. Most graduate students undoubtedly hold position
either as a research assistant, teaching assistant, or fellowship
which waived the tuition fees and provide monthly stipend enough to
cover your living expenses in Boston. MIT admit students based on
a need blind policy (ie we take you in first, and let’s talk
about money much later, shall we?). (Top)

2. Life at MIT? What life? Aaaaa!!

So are most things in life…career, relationship, ignoring chocolate
cravings. Unrelenting professors and occasional over enthusiastic
TA (Teaching Assistants) meant that problem sets and labs required
lots of critically critical thinking. Nevertheless, one might see
this as an opportunity, energy permitting, to learn and interact with
highly motivated and like-minded group. While the workload isn’t
exactly a stroll in the park, one should take time off and explore
the various active sports and societies peppered around MIT (see point
). (Top)

3. You work from early morning till early morning

Possible during crunch time. For undergraduates, being at the mercy
of trigger happy professors and Teaching Assistants, you will generally
have a rather fix schedule of class notes and problem sets to finish.
Expect to work anywhere from 6 to 10 (or possibly 12 hours) a day
during term time. As for postgraduate students, your life generally
starts after passing the dreaded qualifying exams (difficulty varies
from department to department, from non-existence to slaughterhouse).

4. All work makes Jack a dull boy…

…until he discovers MITMASA, of course! MIT has wide range of social
groups and sports affiliation, ranging from Malaysian Student Association
to Outing club to Ballroom Dancing to Malaysian Student Association.
Most of the clubs offer activities at both recreational and competitive
level. One big plus of being at MIT is its proximity to the lively
Boston, home to lively Bostonian Broadway, world class Boston Symphony
Orchestra, buzzing restaurants and pub scene, ever underperformed
Red Sox (baseball team) and etc. It is very nearly impossible to get
bored or dull at all. On a side note, Boston has been recently voted
as on of the top five best city to live, in terms of safety, education
etc. (Top)

5. Dramatic shift in the bell curve

Think you are the top in your school? The good thing about that is,
it is a positive and constructive thought. The bad thing about it
is, the professors think so too, and it is well reflected in problem
sets and exams. (Top)

6. MIT is too Techie

You do have a choice here. There are many opportunities to be involved
in the arts, be it music, literature, political science etc. The MIT
Choir, performing arts, symphony orchestra are very active, having
performances a few times a term. If you would rather enjoy the performance
rather than performing, Boston is home to the world class Boston Symphony,
Boston Ballet etc. (Top)

Less important IAQ (Infrequently asked questions)

(click at your own time loss)

1. Any Malaysian restaurants in Boston?

Penang (in Harvard Square and Chinatown) and Aneka Rasa (Brookline)
serves rather good Malaysian food, and is easily accessible from MIT.
Try the crispy Roti Canai and it really calms your craving, as long
as you can suppress the urge to peep at the price. Pinang at Quincy
Market is an upscale Malaysian restaurant, and draws its name from
a tree that gives Penang state in Malaysia its name. Northern Malaysian
rule supremacy here. There’s also Island Hopper along Mass Ave
in Boston but it actually serves South East Asian food – close
enough to Malaysian food though.(Top)

2. Haven’t seen snow?

Or a frozen river? Never fear. After a year a MIT, you would have
seen snowmen and snow angels, snow and ice packed up to 6 feet high
along the sidewalk. Once we had a rather fertile season, and a few
cross country skiers took the opportunity ski all over Boston. And
you don’t have to pray for a white Christmas…. And speaking
of ski, Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire boost some rather good
ski places (one to two hours drive away) at reasonable prices. It’s
true that sun-ladden places like San Francisco has all year warm weather,
but it is really a heck of experience surviving the Bostonian winter.(Top)

3. Does MIT ever close?

On a typical busy semester day, the thought may pop up once or twice
over lunch. MIT is practically open all year round, 24 hours a day
(a quivering silhouette casting shadows down the hall at 3am may be
an overworked and staggering graduate student). The only time which
MIT probably close in living memory was during the record breaking
blizzard of 2003. Of course there was that other time but that was
6 years ago…(Top)

4. Numerical MIT and naming conventions

Ever been to MIT? You will soon taste MIT’s affection with anything
that’s numerical. All buildings (from Student Centre to halls)
are given numerical names (thankfully at least it is a base of ten),
starting with Building 1 (Civil Engineering building claims this honour).

There are, however, buildings where normal names are more popular
then their numeric names, such as the Stata Building, Zesiger Sports
Centre (Z-Center). Few ways you can immortalise your name. 1) Donate
millions to MIT buildings (and do consider about giving away fellowships
to poor graduate students while you are at it), 2) become the president
of MIT and soar her to new heights, or 3) become a legendary housemaster
and you will have the hall to your name.(Top)

5. Is MIT an ivy-league university? What’s an ivy league
university anyway?

Well, no. Ivy league, coined by Stanley Woodward, New York Herald
Tribune sports writer in the early thirties, usually refers to 8 universities
(Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton,
and Yale). Apart from maintaining ivy-cladded buildings, the phrase
refers to the agreement between the 8 universities in upholding and
continuing intercollegiate American Football. In the mid 50s, the
sports have expanded to basketball, soccer and etc.(Top)

If you are still with us, now, here’s the
relatively more serious stuff which you might be mildly interested

Disclaimer: The FAQ is compiled using the experience
of the author, and should be kept as a rough guideline. We are also
not responsible if you follow them and gain admission to MIT.

Admission FAQ for Graduate Students (SM and

See the MIT
Admissions Office
website for complete information.

1. How do I apply and more importantly, be

The graduate admissions are very much departmental based, and it is
best that you check with your individual department. Roughly speaking,
you may need the following:

Letters of recommendation: Up to three letters
of recommendation from your academic advisors and employer (if you
are working at the moment). These, alongside with the statement of
purpose, are probably the most important part of your application,
so choose your pawns carefully.

Statement of purpose: Here’s your
chance nail in your research passion (preferably in the department’s
interest too). If you haven’t got a slightest clue on research
topic, don’t worry; 80% of the admitted graduate students don’t
either. Nevertheless, you still need to have a field of interest (eg
Geotechnical Engineering, or Structural Engineering).

GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and subject
test (for certain departments). While not really a critical admission
factor, good GRE results may swing glamorous fellowships in your way.
Also, if you come from non English speaking countries (alas, Malaysia
is included as the first language isn’t English), you need to
take for TOEFFL. However, if you have lived or studied in an English
speaking country, it’s worth applying for a TOEFL waiver from
your department.

Good undergraduate results

Another good practice is to correspond with the professor whose field
of research interest you. This gives you better insight into the research
environment, availability of funding, and if MIT is really where you
want to spend the next 2 to 6 years of your life. (Top)

2. The length of the program

A rather frequent (and often emotional) question. If you pursue a
Masters of Engineering (MEng), it is one year. Master of Science (SM)
takes about 2 years on

average. PhD, well, expect anything between four to seven years (the
average being five).(Top)

3. What are RA, TA and Fellowship?

These are the common funding opportunities for graduate students,
providing you with comfortable monthly stipend to cover your living
in Boston and waived the tuition fees (phew!). Teaching Assistant
(TA) is expected to spend 20 to 30 hours a week residing on tutorials
(informal lectures with students), create problems sets, and perhaps
mark them. Research Assistant (RA) works on research projects (which
may or may not be your PhD thesis). These projects may be long term
(better make it your PhD!) or short term contract research work with
companies. If you can incorporate the research into your thesis, then
you may actually find extra time to pursue other interests. The best
of all is, of course, a fellowship (scholarship). You have no teaching
or research obligations when holding a fellowship and can pretty much
pursue your research interest.(Top)

Admission FAQ for Undergraduates

It’s a pretty straightforward process. Just
refer to the admissions
for complete information. Compiled by Shi Ling.

Every year, MIT alumni in Malaysia will organize
an admissions info session. It is probably a good idea to try to attend
this event to ask questions about MIT, see if it MIT is the right
school for you and find out from people who have been through and
survived MIT life first hand how to improve your chances of getting

The usual standardized tests and application whatnots aside, here
are a few points that might help in your application.

1. Extra-curricular activities

MIT prides on its diversity so it is probably a good idea to cash
in on your extra-curricular activities as well as your academic achievements.
If you are an Olympiad medalist or a virtuoso violinist, then excellent
but average Joes need not despair. You just need to show that you
can keep a healthy balance between your studies and other activities.
Show that you are interested in other things too and are willing to
commit yourself to doing it say volunteering frequently for social
work, learning music, or simply by being an active member of your
favourite club or sports.(Top)

2. Recommendation letters

A good recommendation letter helps a lot too. Try to get teachers
and people who know you well and can vouch for your achievements as
well as your personality (like your sports coach, volunteer center
coordinator etc) to recommend you. But don’t swamp the admissions
office with these letters just yet. A few would be effective enough.(Top)

3. Admissions essay

Admissions essays play an important role too although most essays
probably only get a few minutes of the admissions officers’
time. Which is why, you need to keep this in mind when you write so
that your essay should catch the reader’s attention from the
first few lines. Also, don’t ramble on your academic prowess
as those are probably already listed out somewhere in your application
form. Make use of your essay to show the officers who you are, how
you think and your dreams. In short, you need to show them your personal
side and your essay is the channel for you to do so. Finally (but
not to be neglected), it’s best to type out your essay to make
it easier for the reader and remember to check for spelling and grammatical

Best of luck with your applications!