How to Choose a Dorm at MIT

This post is a bit of a bait and switch. I wrote two successive posts about going to Ireland, and I’m in Ireland as I write this, but I’m not going to write about Ireland.

Instead, I’m going to write about housing!

MIT has a very unique housing system, which I didn’t really realize when I applied. Not sure how I missed it, but there you go. Basically, the June before their first year starts, incoming freshmen have to rank all of the possible dorms as choices, with the help of some interesting resources. My top choice was Senior House, followed by East Campus and then Mac Gregor. If someone is reading this in 2016 or later, trying to navigate choosing a dorm, I can offer you insight into my process. First, I decided what information I was going to use to make my decision. I don’t think one should factor in every little factor when making a ranked list. Instead, it’s better to prioritize a few factors that really matter to you, and go from there. I mainly thought about proximity to the infinite corridor, availability of single rooms, cat legality, and dorm culture.

However, I haven’t visited every dorm, and all the resources we had to use couldn’t show us the whole picture, especially about dorm culture. That’s why there’s a process called FYRE. After we get to campus in August, we will tour all of the dorms, going to the orientation events they throw. If we decide that we prefer another dorm over the one in which we are placed temporarily, or ‘temped’ in, we can request a different placement. Then, after all that, many dorms go even further and reassign rooms within the dorm according to the culture of each of the separate halls. This is sometimes called ‘floor rush,’ whereas the process of looking at all the dorms is called ‘dorm rush.’

While I like the emphasis on correct placement for everyone, it is kind of annoying that there’s very little certainty as to living location until just before classes start. When I arrive, I will have to unpack as little as possible, because I may end up moving. Even if I like my dorm, I may end up switching floors or rooms. However, I think the upside is that people may be more likely to stay in the same dorm for four years at MIT than at similar institutions, because MIT students put a lot of effort into finding the right dorm up front so they don’t have to worry about it later.

Two days ago, we were assigned to our preliminary dorms. The process was very reminiscent of checking to see if we had been adMITted because the 2019s immediately crashed the website, which is exactly what happened in March with the decisions website. I was assigned to my second choice, East Campus. Luckily, it is a cat dorm relatively close to the infinite, and it has plenty of singles. I think I might like the culture as well. I was temped there during Campus Preview Weekend, and I liked the people I met there. Actually, an East Campus experience was sort of the turning point of wanting to go to MIT for me.

photocreds http://eastcamp.us/media/images/courtyard.jpg
East Campus… photocreds: http://eastcamp.us/media/images/courtyard.jpg

After the dust settled on the college decisions season, I had two top options: MIT and the University of Pennsylvania. Most of the other schools to which I was admitted were not located in cities or were too small, which made narrowing down my options easy. Anyway, when I visited Penn, I loved it. I thought that I would certainly go to Penn. MIT has a reputation for being unnecessarily difficult, and I had very little fun in high school. I wanted to learn things in college, but I also wanted to actually enjoy myself. In high school, the hours I spent alone studying were seemingly endless. It would seem that I was the only one awake for miles; the sense of isolation was crushing. The academics at Penn seemed quite manageable. Most of the work I saw freshmen doing was on content with which I was already familiar to some extent. I didn’t want to go to MIT if it meant another four years of the same old grind.

But then I visited MIT. The kids at MIT reminded me of the kids at CTY, my beloved nerd summer camp. The student body at CTY made me feel at home. I hope the student body at MIT will, too. I didn’t go to all of the scheduled events at MIT’s campus preview weekend. I spent a lot of time wandering around, talking to students. The first night I was there, I wandered into the kitchen on my host’s hall and talked to the East Campus residents inside. Somewhere during that conversation, I became convinced that I could actually survive at MIT.

I guess that got a little far afield from housing. Anyway, I’m glad I got temped in East Campus. I think I could feel at home there. Or somewhere.

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