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Starting freshman year and aiming for MIT grad school

  1. Jul 25, 2010 #1
    It's a big goal, I know. I'm going to a top-20 in its field undergrad school (for chemical engineering). It's a state school in my state, but a solid school nonetheless.

    I wasn't the best student in high school. I say that after graduating 3rd in my class, but in all honesty, I didn't get what school was all about. I now have motivation to learn and to apply myself. I'm really excited about all of the opportunities that await me. I didn't do all that great on the SATs (2040). Part of that was because I only took them the weekend between my final exams, part of that was because I didn't practice for them at all, and part of that was because I knew I could get into the school I wanted to go to with what I expected to earn (based on 217 PSAT).

    So, I've made up my mind to become a completely different person in college. I'll make friends with people like me (living in an honors dorm should help with that). I'll study for each class every day. I'll do my homework.

    I plan on trying to get a research position (probably in chemistry) in the spring semester of my freshman year.

    I found a blog post- http://www.mitadmissions.org/topics...eers_grad_school/grad_school_admissions.shtml - that encouraged me that perhaps I CAN get to MIT after all. I'm really glad that I have a goal in my undergraduate career unlike in high school.

    Can anyone offer me any strategies or words of encouragement? I'll probably try for a Master's, maybe even a PhD. While I'm going to aim for MIT, I'm definitely going to be open to other universities.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 25, 2010 #2
    I have heard that they take into deep consideration, the passion and existence of your interest in daily life, and how well you did among your peers. They usually expect A's and B's in sciences and maths but don't require it, as far as I understand.
  4. Jul 25, 2010 #3


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    You sound like you have the right idea. Get into research and do quality work and make sure your GPA is 3.5+. Make friends with professors and go to conferences when you can towards your final couple of years. One thing to throw in though is that your high school work is instantly irrelevant once you start your freshman year. You'll never make reference to it when you apply for graduate schools.

    Also keep in mind that as you finish up college, you may end up finding yourself not even wanting to go to MIT. I'm looking at things from a physics perspective and one of the things I've learned over the years, and many people can back this up, is that you may find your dream program is somewhere you've never even heard of! So don't tattoo MIT on your forearm until you're in :).
  5. Jul 25, 2010 #4

    It's good to have aims - aim to be the best you can be at undergraduate level and you'll do just fine. Planning to go to a specific school for grad school can spell disaster, however. The transition from undergraduate to grad school is completely different than from high school to undergraduate. Things just don't work the same way - at grad school the prestige isn't about the school, it's about who you work with. Far more often than you're going to realise for now, the best people in certain fields don't work at any of the 'big' institutions. It depends what you end up interested in - MIT don't research everything that exists, obviously.

    Other than that, keep your grades up and remember to have a good time!
  6. Jul 26, 2010 #5
    Awesome. Thanks!
    What I regret most about high school is not having the passion for anything. I've found that this summer reading philosophers works and just books in general. I've seen where some highly qualified people don't get into MIT, so I'm definitely not going to be crushed...and like you said I may find a better school for my needs. But, I figure if I set out making myself the best I can be and to accomplish the most I can, that I should be able to succeed somewhere.

    The girl in the blog said there was no space on the app for extracurricular activities...is that so? Would you just talk about them in an essay/bring it up in an interview? I plan on being active in a few like Habitat for Humanity.
  7. Jul 26, 2010 #6


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    Extracurricular activities other than research don't count for anything in graduate school admissions, except maybe if they're related to your academic work. For example, if you tutor or work as a lab assistant for lower-level courses. But not general community service activities like Habitat.
  8. Jul 26, 2010 #7


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    Graduate schools want students who can research research research. If they think your priorities might be something other than research, it may not look good. They'd rather see a summer at a national lab than a summer building houses for the poor, despite one cause being far more selfless than the other.
  9. Jul 27, 2010 #8
    All you need to do to guarantee that you can get into the right graduate school for you--which might be MIT or it might be some other place that is great for whatever your interests happen to be--is to push yourself as hard as you can while still making, for the most part, straight A's, to form good friendships with your professors, and to do as much research as you can, starting as early as you can. Try to do an REU or something equivalent every single summer you can!

    Make sure you're taking the most advanced courses you can do well in. Form a good relationship with your advisor, and make sure he/she knows exactly where you're at. I've known a few people who sort of let themselves be "held back" because their advisors don't know them well enough to give them permission to take more appropriate classes.

    Try to adopt the subject into your own personal "culture." I don't know if that makes any sense to anyone but me, but it will make it seem not like work but like simply the natural thing to do.
  10. Jul 27, 2010 #9
    All good advice.

    The other part is find a professor who is collaborating with someone at MIT or who does research similar to what someone at MIT does and try to build a relationship or do research/take classes from them.

    Working the profs connections when it is time for grad school can help (assuming you are a solid applicant.
  11. Jul 27, 2010 #10
    Your main goal in college right now should be to avoid burning out. Engineering, science, and math majors are incredibly tough, and the odds are very good that you'll find that you just *can't* be the A+ student that you want to be. Your goal should be to just survive and get into any graduate school without totally burning out, and you are going to find that to be tough enough.

    For that matter, college is a time for learning. Some people learn in college that they really hate the subject they thought they loved (or vice-versa). Figuring out what you really want to do is important, because you may find out come junior year that you just *can't* get into the big name schools, but because you like chemistry so much that you don't care. Then again you might find that you just hate chemistry.

    Don't try to plan your life out in advance. Get some research experience early. If you figure out that you like it, then it looks good on an application, and if you learn that you hate it, then it's good to find that soon so you can figure out what else that you want to do.
  12. Jul 28, 2010 #11
    Great thread because I can relate! Null I like your perspective because it is mine also. I cared somewhat in high school but not to the extent that I do now. Its a rush of motivation and inclination unlike anything before. I'll start my freshman year this fall at the University of Texas at Austin for a degree in physics. They sends physicists to MIT, Caltech, Princeton, Harvard every year for grad school. This provides me encouragement to be one of those young physicists. However, I wish to be with the right people and right researchers be it a smaller university or whatever.
  13. Jul 29, 2010 #12


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    Iconoclast, Physics is a different ballgame. There is the physics GRE and more emphasis on the Physics GRE than biology grad schools give to the Bio GRE.
  14. Jul 29, 2010 #13
    Listen to this advice. As someone who went to a decent undergrad school and is now attending a very respectable grad school, I would second the opinion that you just can't plan out your career like I'm hearing a lot of in this thread. Just take your time and enjoy the journey. Have fun. Learn. It's good to be ambitious and have goals, but you can't be so attached to them as to lose sight of all the other worthwhile things that you can do.
  15. Jul 29, 2010 #14
    The best advice for moving to Boston is that^.

    However, don't try too hard. MIT doesn't take people who make it their life's ambition to get into MIT.

    Next point, in about three years time, decide what discipline in ChemE you really like. Then check out all good schools. MIT might not have the faculty in the field of your interest.

    Final point, sorry to break your heart, but MIT is great mainly for the undergrad learning experience. Almost all good grad schools provide you with similar experiences. Sure there's good faculty here, but most were well-known before they even accepted tenures at MIT.

    The biggest part of grad school is not the school but your adviser. Make sure, or at least pray very hard, that you get someone nice.
  16. Jul 29, 2010 #15
    Yeah j93 that is what i hear. I've seen pracitce tests and it looks difficult. But of course at the moment I am nowhere near qualified to take that test. haha
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