A Slew of Novelty

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Seems like I made the correct decision in coming here. To my delight, MIT has hurdled over three spots in US News' nefarious rankings, earning the cozy 4th place spot it rightfully deserves (although not along with Caltech >.<). In this farce of rankings, Harvard has once again attained the number one spot (no surprise there considering how many people were upset about Princeton snagging first last year) and the three main ivy's have yet again remained in the top three. Bravo US News. Without you guys, what else could I vehemently make fun of? Getting to the gritty juice of this post, I have snapped some pictures of my room and want to share with you all how my humble temporary (maybe permanent) habitat looks. Know that everything wooden has been graciously provided by Simmons. There is also a special black "surprise" that comes along with every room. It's hidden behind the desk, but I'll leave it up to you all to discover it once you visit campus.

Snazzy right? Well, it required a great deal of work and six people. When I first opened my door, I almost burst into laughter at the absurdity of how despondent my room appeared. Truthfully, this insufficiency stemmed from the lofting of my bed, which I did not like (climbing up these ladders kills the feet). So I gathered together a group of my closest, intimate friends and we spent some time lowering the bed (keep in mind that the furniture is modular). All this was well worth it though because now it's a breeze to jump onto my bed and I won't kill myself by falling off in the morning (seriously, my friend has already accidentally fallen).

After meeting up with Paul (yes, the blogger) and talking about dipping dot machines, a group of us went around to some REX events.

This is how cool MIT is.

Naturally, I went for the ice cream at Baker devouring many scoops of chocolate chunk ice cream. Afterward I experienced one of the most not so well known traditions of MIT: chairing. It's actually a fairly self-explanatory idea. You take Athena chairs from the clusters and ride them down the long and somewhat steep inclines in the underground tunnels (ever wonder why so many of the seats are missing wheels?). After scrapes, bruises, and many wipeouts, we headed back, only to find ourselves in the grasps of East Campus, the land of all scariness for us West Campus folks. Well, let me tell you that I was freakishly surprised that I enjoyed the atmosphere of EC and the projects they do. The senior who showed us around completely modded out his room, using a water hydraulics system to open and close his door automatically through his iPhone. Not stopping at that, he even added this unlocking mechanism that allows him to use his phone to unlock his door. EC takes the lead even more with their obnoxiously large project in their courtyard. Going until about 4 am in the morning every night for the past week, these ECers have been constructing a 3-foot high roller coaster out of plywood while playing Dragon Force over and over. If that's not awesome, then I don't know what is.

Today, after the competition (more on this later), we headed over to the MIT boathouse and had some scrumptous slices of Bertucci's pizza ( still holding true to my pizza promise). After scarfing down the food, I quickly jumped at the opportunity to go sailing - for my first time. It was a blast. Words cannot even explain how exhilarating it felt to be sailing through the heart of Boston with downtown on one side and MIT on the other. The sun was setting and the breeze was just right. I even learned how to meagerly manage the boat. I'm partially convinced that I should join the boating team. Hours are flexible and it's just plain old fun. If anything, I'll attend the Sunday morning sailing class.

Boston skyline ftw!

The even better Boston skyline!

Nothing like home.

Music is in the air and campus is bustling with newcomers. This can only mean orientation is in full swing and so I must venture forth and explore campus. DME has ended after a week of some heartwarming experiences. I cannot wait for the reunions. In a week and a half, classes start. Now, it's time to enjoy myself.

Epic Night

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Tonight was grand. After a long debate with Kelsey about whether we'd end up blogging with watching 40 Year Old Virgin those never-ending psets and all, we ultimately ended up posting, staying once again faithful to our daily shaky commitments to our blogs. Call us mad for diminishing our precious sleep time even more by blogging, but we amazingly produce our best work at these wee hours in the morning. MIT students rock like that. They really do.

The DMEers (Discover Mechanical Engineering FPOP), being the coolest kids on campus, trekked out into Boston for a night of sheer craziness (aka ice cream and shopping). I pretty much fulfilled my "dream" of drooling over the shiny new Apple Store and fell in love with the best shop Boston has to offer: Newbury Comics. Why do I have this new love (I feel like I'm always saying that I love something new...I swear I'm not this fickle in real life)? Because of the best character known to man that was sitting all lonely on the shelf in this store:

< /jealousy>

Wipe that slobber off your keyboard. I know how ridiculously incredible Domo is, especially when he’s holding his own specialty energy drink. I’ve been showing him off to everyone and being that this is MIT, most people are thoroughly impressed. I don’t think the old couple walking by cared too much though, opting to give me weird looks instead. Go figure.

Well, apart from all the fun, DME has been an extraordinary experience. Look soon for posts about my DME days and nightly excursions (wait until you see my Apple Store pictures ^_^).

I’m liking this school more and more everyday, just like an exponential curve (did I mention this place is rubbing off on me too? ).

First Days at School Have Never Been So Great

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I've finally arrived! Yesterday afternoon I bubbly skipped around campus, picked up my orientation folder, and obtained my room key. Since I'm a little early, there are only international students on campus (internationals must be here early), and I've been meeting folks from all over the world. This is such an amazing way to begin the next four years.

Because the finest part of orientation is the folder that is our lifeline to surviving the next two weeks, I thought I’d highlight the components of what I received.

Seeing as this is the coolest school in the world, I’m sure you all would love a look into what us frosh are given on our first day. I’m ready to give you the inside look, so here we go!

After bursting into the student center second floor check-in room, I was handed the orientation bag fraught with all the goodies a frosh could wish for.

Obviously, I lugged that bag around last night proudly proclaiming to everyone that I’m an MIT frosh now. Inside, of course, was the formidable orientation folder.

This is pretty much our guide to orientation. It sports the times of my swim test (need it to graduate :/) and math diagnostic test, FPOP name, and this weird number. Mine is 44. I’ve come to believe it has something important to do once orientation actually begins next week (right now is preorientation). So let’s dissect this bag even further and get to the good stuff.

The first thing inside was the obligatory welcome letter from MIT including a list of important events to attend.

MIT, no doubt thinking us students are not fit enough to drag around hefty course catalogs, gives us a CD of the listings. Better for me, I’d rather have a search function anyway.

Since this is MIT and all with a nuclear reactor smack dab in the middle of campus and danger everywhere, there’s a nifty what-to-do-in-case-of-any-disaster sheet.

There’s even a towel in the bag with TIM the Beaver on it telling us to wash our hands and stay safe from the flu! It’s quite evident that MIT wants us to graduate and donate loads of money.

Orientation is at its heart a uber-large version of CPW with free food and events all the time. As such, it requires its own thick book of events naturally called “The Hitchhiker’s Guide” (my inner geek squeals at that).

No school can be complete without the handbook. In high school, I read my entire handbook on the first day (I’m rolling my eyes right now at my four-year ago self). Am I going to read it this time? Heck, I’d be lucky if I could find enough time to shower let alone read a book (kidding :p).

As many of you probably know, we lucky students visit all the dorms for a week, pick our dorm preferences again, and move in all over. Here is the guide to Residence Exploration (REX) events.

Because we students hate paying for software (torrents ftw), there’s a nifty little reminder about the consequences behind such “illicit” action. Also, included in the computing at MIT packet is the Athena Pocket References, a convoluted guide to using the Athena network at MIT. I cannot wait to dive into computing here.

No big packet from MIT would be complete without something about the COOP.

Unfortunately, the only mention of DME in my folder was this paragraph of information regarding arrival.

With my definite plans to eat pizza everyday (so far so good as I ate at Bertucci’s yesterday), I’ll be making good use of these athletic forms.

Without further ado, the top 3 items in the orientation bag:

3) The TechTube orientation shirt

2) The famous 101 Things to Do Before You Graduate list (I’ve already accomplished a few!)

1) The most amazing school ID ever with shiny MIT logos and all. I’m ready to do some damage seeing as I have access to all the buildings now.

So far I’ve only received one shirt, but since I’ve been here for less than 24 hours, I’m not disappointed yet. I’m hoping to collect at least 10 or so.

Keep tuned for more pictures and info involving MIT, orientation, and Simmons Hall, my humble abode for the next 13 days.

The Journey

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Now that I’ve finally found access to the internet after 12 long hours of uncertainty whether I would survive, I’ve had a chance to post this little write-up I did while on the road yesterday morning.

Sit back and enjoy the ravings of a man who has just left home for a four-month visit to the land of calculus hell.


For the first time, I truly feel like a college kid, finally being cast for the role I was destined to eventually play. I’m at last past city limits, out on the open stretch of road with nothing but 15 hours of pavement and thrilling experiences ahead. It’s a beautiful day, blue skies and no clouds (the Earth must love me or something :D ).

While I’m slightly disappointed to not be flying, my dissatisfaction is partially overcome by my excitement to see Niagara Falls tonight. So if that doesn’t give away my travel plans (or you cheated and scrolled down :P), I am crashing the night in the city of Buffalo (from what I’ve been told by well-placed sources deep within the government, Buffalo isn’t much fun). Tomorrow, we’ll hit the road again and will finally arrive at Boston in the afternoon (naturally, the first item on my repulsively long to-do list is to all out sprint to the student center attempting to contain my desperate desire for my student ID and room key).

So how am I distracting my perceptive conscience away from thinking about the adventures that await me in Boston? I’m reminiscing about how spectacular this morning was. My friends practically surprised me by all gathering at my house to send me off (sorry guys for having to wake up so early, glad you all reached my abode safely). All six of us sat on a comfy patch of concrete on my driveway and sadly conversed for half an hour about everything, our plans for four years, how we’re going to change, and how in four months I’ll have unequivocally gained at least 25 pounds (pizza everyday ftw =) ). Perhaps, the oddest part about my relationship with this amazing circle of friends is how just four years ago I was an outsider, the newcomer who knew no one. Over the course of months, even years, I became seriously close to these people, forming life-long friends and memories to last me eternity. There’s something ineffable in my bonds to these friends, something I’ll be lucky to ever find again. I love you all. Thanks for making high school unforgettably legit.

This is my last post from Michigan for quite some time. As I sit in my dangerously overcrowded van…

…this tingle is slowly spreading through my body at the prospects of the next two weeks, the frenzy that will inevitably wear me down, the buzz of surrealism that will no doubt keep me afloat. Am I ready? At the risk of sounding cliché, I was born ready.


Because 7 hours is outrageously long for anyone to stay cooped up in a car, I had to find some outlet to keep my sanity intact. While continuously devouring bags of chips seemed like the best option, I opted out for something less taxing on my delicate body (plus, what fun would it be to put on all the pounds now?). So instead I offer you a rundown of my trip.

What follows is the uncut, lewd, and never-before-seen account of my journey to reach MIT. User discretion advised.

8:04 am – I groggily force myself to wake up for I have quite some packing to do still. Naturally, my mom gives me her “disappointed face” and gives me a mini-lecture on “responsibility.” Pssh, clearly she hasn’t learned the true art of packing.

8:20 am – Convincing myself that 20 minutes of TV is perfectly reasonable, I watch a bit of the my favorite new series Flashpoint. Don’t judge me. I may be a TV junkie, but I’m a junkie who can do differential calculus and derive Schrödinger’s equations. I promise I’ll stop at MIT. Can someone hold me to that?

8:30 am – I start fiddling with my iPhone, failing at syncing it with my new laptop. Why Apple must you make the simplest tasks so complex?

9:30 am – My bags are swollen, zippers nearly about to tear apart, and the van is littered with my stuff everywhere. A job well done.

9:33 am – A doorbell sounds. It’s so early. Who could it possible be? MY FRIENDS! Kindly scroll above for the juicy details behind this surprise visit.

10:04 am – My parents cruelly rip me away from my friends screaming and dragging. It was intense.

10:20 am – Staring out at the endless span of trees loses its enticing flare and so I decide to follow a more productive line of action. I pop in the SolidWorks DVD I received for free at the engineering expo I attended a while back.

10:40 am – SolidWorks finishes installing!

11:14 am – Following the tutorial for 3D Modeling newbs like me, I end up with this odd-looking pressure plate model. Seeing how pressure plates are dull and all, I start modeling something more interesting.

11:46 am – After hurdling over the considerable learning curve of this convoluted software (Adobe has got nothing on this), I end up with a Lego piece model sure to impress anyone. I was proud of myself to say the least.

11:30 am – Complaining that my stomach has been annoyingly grumbling, my dad finally pulls over at an Ohio rest stop. These aren’t the usual rundown truck stops you’d expect of highways, but instead impressive mini-malls filled with an eclectic mix of fast food restaurants. I immediately hurled myself toward the Sbarro line and bought a slice of pizza larger than my own head – and my head is humongous.

12:00 pm – Stuffed to the brim with delight (and pizza), I quickly succumb to a slumber for a couple hours. With a severe lack of sleep last night due to a wonderful last get-together with my friends, this opportunity for some shuteye was welcomed with joy.

2:02 pm – I awaken frustratingly to the noise of Arabic music blasting in the car. Thanks Dad.

2:20 pm – A terrible realization comes across my mind. Advanced standing exam are coming up and I’m not ready. With trepidation, I begin frantically reading my chemistry text book (they say barely anyone passes >.<).

4:01 pm – We hit construction and obviously traffic was backed up…for miles…and miles.

5:05 pm – Still caught up in traffic…

5:45 pm - Finally we pass through the one-lane close up and are able to resume cruising speed: 55 mph. Isn’t that sad? Highways in New York have speed limits of 55. You poor sheltered New Yorkers.

6:20 pm – Civilization at last! We survived 7 hours in a van together and made it to Buffalo.

7:30 pm – Being the master debater that I am, I persuade my dad sick from driving to go the extra mile – no pun intended ;-) – and venture out on the 30 minute drive to Niagara Falls.

8:20 pm – I walk up in wonder to the only thing in the world that can rival my power: the Falls. This is a gorgeous sight people, seriously.
An attempted side view picture that somewhat grabs the majesty of this landmark.

I discover this observation deck that essentially stretches out about halfway across the river. Gathering up the courage, we trek out onto it and saw some magnificent views. Nature rules.

So the night quickly descends upon the area, but no one leaves. I wonder to myself how exciting these Falls could possibly be in the darkness apart from listening to the rumbling sounds of water smashing down. To my astonishment though, there were lights that transform the Falls into something altogether more stunning.

Of course, what fun would the Falls be without Fireworks? As the time neared 10 pm, the crowd exponentially grew (I’d derive the function, but I’d figure you readers would enjoy doing that yourselves) and like clockwork fireworks went boom at 10.

These sure aren’t Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks, but what do you expect? They were shot from the Canadian side :p.

And so this brings me to this morning. We’re about to embark on the next 7-hour stretch of the journey that will land us at the heart of Cambridge. Scared? No. Giddy like a 7-year old school girl? Heck yes.

Oh How Time Passes

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It’s times like these you learn to live again
It’s times like these you give and give again
It’s times like these you learn to love again
It’s times like these time and time again

It's official. Only 24 hours remain before I hit the road. Only 24 hours to relive the best of times here, converse with old friends, and savor the tranquil atmosphere of this small Midwestern town (I hear Boston is a whole new world compared to this).

So soon everything I'm familiar with will grow distant and foreign. Friends will form new friends, places I leave behind will age and be replaced, and this city, my home, will be relegated somewhere deep in my mind to be remembered solely as the town I grew up in.

Despite any reservations, fear about the future, or uncertainty about my readiness, I'm up for the challenge. I look forward to taking nerdiness to new heights, living attempting to survive on my own, and most of all, residing in a large bustling city full of things to do. I think it's about time for change.

On a lighter note, I haven't technically packed yet and somehow I'm calm despite this. Luckily, my mom has stripped my closest of its essence, stuffing all sorts of things into our obnoxiously massive luggage bags. Finding more delight in stretching procrastination to its absolute limits, I haven't selected which clothe to accompany me for the next four months or for that matter anything that I will be taking to campus. Should I be worried?

My laptop finally arrived a couple days ago, seductively waiting at my doorstep just begging to be ripped open and played with (I'm blogging this on it if you were wondering). Originating from Shanghai, China (seriously, what is up with that? My laptop has traveled more around the world than I have >.<), the laptop weighs in at 6.8 pounds and is essentially the god of all computers considering it can run OS X, Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Linux (did I mention it also boasts 4 GB of memory O.O!?). Needless to say, I've loaded it with tons of software, including the all famous Adobe Suite CS 3 and Flux (the most amazing web design program I have ever laid my eyes upon). Today I'll finish empowering this beast by installing Solidworks and Matlab, two pieces of code no MIT student could be cool enough without. If we ever meet in real life - and you aren't stalkerish - I'll more than likely end up judging you by the software on your computer (I'm shallow like that, sue me ^_^).

I have to admit that ever since I ripped open my laptop box and heard the characteristic Mac tone as it gracefully powered up, I've been addicted to taking odd photographs of myself in Photo Booth. The picture effects allow for unlimited possibilities! Good times, good times.

Naturally, no self-respecting post about a laptop would be complete without the necessary unboxing photos.






The screen boggles my mind every time I look at its high-res beauty and grandiose nature. It's hard to peel my eyes away from it (sort of like with bugs and light). I'm definitely in g33k heaven somewhere on cloud 1001.

Lying nonchalantly on my laptop are my fourth limb, the smallest portable hard drive ever (can you guess what my third limb is? Hint: it's a phone), and my free iPod Nano. Taking further advantage of whatever is free, I engraved the Nano with none other than "Omar Abudayyeh - MIT 2012." The gorgeous blue thingamabob is my "thumbdrive." Seriously folks, ditch your current flash drives and upgrade to these buggers. This slim device holds 250 GB and is self powered through USB. The kicker? It's less than 100 bucks! Go buy one now, you'll thank me later :)

Funny how the Apple product ships in a box that conforms exactly to the enclosed iPod case while the Microsoft product comes in a unnecessarily large box that's nearly 8 times its size (way to be wasteful :p).

Now I must figure out how to transfer all my music and files to my new lappy. I honestly did postpone everything to the last minute.

Cheers to the future.

Never Forget

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It's a beautiful day
Sky falls, you feel like
It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away

Today was a beautiful and yet terribly sad day.

The time ultimately arrived to part ways with me beloved research lab, the most difficult part saying goodbye to my mentor who I've come to admire and adore over the past two years. I saw him get married, watched his eldest son graduate, stood by his side as he rose through the faculty ranks, listened to him when he needed it the most, and formed this everlasting bond with him - something no one else in the lab can rival. He is more than my mentor. He is a friend, someone who I deeply respect and can approach about anything. He is a fountain of wisdom and a beacon of light in my life. I'll never forget him.

Out of all the lessons I've learned from him, one truly struck a chord with me. It was when I practically burst into his office screaming that MIT accepted me. He obviously rejoiced, perhaps exhibiting more emotion than myself. After all I became like a "son" to him. But after we settled, letting our highs subside, he sat me down and told me one of the most profound statements I've ever heard. Getting caught in all the hub bub of getting into a "US News-acclaimed" school, it's easy to forget about the real essence of college. He opened me eyes, however, allowing me to finally advance past the superficiality of brand-name schools. Sure, I got into a great school. What does that even mean though? Nothing, if you don't work for it. He told me, "College is a tree of opportunities, ripe for the taking. You must take advantage of every possible one you can. You've got in, but that's only the beginning." It's easy to live in the fantasy that the "college name" will mystically guide you in life toward success and endless treasures, but because of my mentor, my friend, I'll never forget that every accomplishment is only another chance for opportunity, another means to achieve.

Being the gracious and kindhearted man that he is, he treated the entire lab to a wonderful lunch at our city's premier Chinese restaurant. We all chatted for hours, discussing the memories, the good times we all had together, and of course they gave me the obligatory reprimand that they'd hunt me down if I did not visit.

We were all a close-knit bunch - my second "family" if you will. Today I bade farewell to all that.

Things are changing. I know that. I even understand that. I may be grasping, practically dangling, onto the last threads of the life I've grown to love, but regardless, in three days I'll be in Cambridge at the start of a new epoch.

Maybe in all the craziness of these last days, it's hard to remember how life without change is boring, dare I say, even pointless. I can't help but smile that the end of this chapter ushers in a new phase of my life full of bountiful opportunities and friends just waiting to be made.

Today was a beautiful day and I loved every moment of it.

Top 10 Reasons I Chose MIT - # 10

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I've decided to begin a series of posts that detail why I elected MIT to be my four-year death sentence. It's been such a long, arduous journey since last summer full of surprises and mind-opening events that I've been taken aback and left almost speechless. I scraped through senior year, traveled the East Coast, and watched this love blossom for a school I never wished to attend. Over days, weeks, maybe even months, this magic spell took over every fiber of my being and sucked me into a whirlpool whose only end was MIT. The blogs no doubt played a major role in my entrancement, serving as this gushing fountain of stories about the lives behind the school. I laughed and cried along with bloggers and even felt their pain during the treacherous finals week. A lifeline between MIT and me was formed and luckily still remains alive today, drawing me closer to the zany campus every day until this sudden moment in time when I'll actually step into my dorm room and realize my life is all genuinely unfolding as I imagined it not too long ago.

That's easy enough to say, but what is it that mysteriously attracts me to this strip of land in Cambridge. To me it seems impossibly difficult to pinpoint, but I'll attempt to illustrate my love for this school through 10 reasons why I committed myself to the "Institute."

*figurative drum roll please*

Reason 10: Independent Activities Period (IAP for short)

IAP is a four-week term in January that exemplifies what MIT students are all about. While MIT students could escape away to the Bahamas or watch cartoons all day for a bona fide break, IAP tempestuously invites students to rebel against the "man" and revel in any pleasures that please their hypothalami. This limbo state in between the fall and spring terms is where MIT students show their true masochistic colors, immersing themselves in anything from fast-paced courses to impossible competitions, from research 24/7 to even a Charm School (I kid you not).

Those particularly keen in all that is MIT know that the most prominent and seductive part of IAP is the Mystery Hunt, a puzzle-fraught chase for a hidden coin on campus. Sounds simple, right? Far from it. To come out victorious in the hunt, one's team must solve over 40 ridiculously tortuous, byzantine puzzles to be finally lead to this eluding coin. One must possess arcane knowledge, think ingeniously, and be willing to sprint across campus frantically searching for clues to even come remotely close to winning. Some of the most esoteric puzzles require live ducks to solve them and will thrust your sanity to the brink of lunacy.

After all the hassle, stress, and inevitable swearing, the winner's only compensation is the right to design the next year's Hunt. Practically, this may seem quite unsatisfactory and frankly lame, but in the end, the Hunt's not just about winning - it's more. It's this tradition, a sense of camaraderie between students, in which everyone's intelligence is pushed to the limit. While to the everyday person this prize may seem paltry and impractical, to the passionately dedicated player there's no greater honor than to be handed down the torch and allowed to carry on this venerated MIT custom.

To me, the Hunt transcends just mere winning, being rather about the journey. It's about every team forming strong bonds, experiencing the high of pushing their bodies to the physical limits of exhaustion, laughing hysterically into the late night about the randomness of every challenge, and collapsing after days of no sleep. The real reward is simply being apart of this wit-testing, nerd-encrusted MIT legacy.

In some respects, the Mystery Hunt symbolizes what is veritably at MIT's heart - this philosophy that students must sweat through enormous pain to triumph, recognizing that education is not a state function, that the odyssey endured to obtain a grade is more meaningful than the grade itself.

But I diverge. It's just that IAP means so much to me. This special term unrivaled by any other school is a major component of why I'm willing to spend four years sleep deprived attempting to overcome insurmountable challenges. Any school that encourages their students to pursue scholarly interests as much on their own as they do in the classroom is a place I can certainly cherish as home.

This may all sound silly, but to me it's a world of possibilities just waiting to be explored =)

Olympics ^_^

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It's 9:05 am and...


Downside for Americans? Well, tonight's broadcast from NBC will NOT be live since the opening ceremonies are happening right now. WAY TO BE CHEAP NBC!

How'd I discover this? Will I woke up and noticed Tong '12 was online so I started talking to him:

"Hey Tong, what's up man?"
"Crap, crap it's on now?!"
"YES, but it's not on tv."

Tong, being the wonderful guy that he is, showed me this nifty trick that apparently most Chinese Americans are using. If you want to get in on this action (I suggest you get it on it quick...the athletes are walking in right now!), direct your favorite web browser over to Sopcast and download the P2P channel client. Then input 15102 into the address bar of the client and enjoy!

So why does NBC suck? Basically broadcasting networks must pay an extra premium to broadcast the opening ceremonies live and NBC refused to pay. The end result? Americans must watch the ceremonies 12 hours late. If it weren't for The Office I'd totally be hating NBC right now.

"The LHC is super duper fly, you know what I'm sayin' Check it."

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CERN Rap from Will Barras on Vimeo.

THIS VIDEO IS AMAZING! How is it that physicists and engineers (at CERN no less) have come up with the most knee-sleeping hilarious rap song ever? I don't think I've ever had so much fun learning - let alone learning about a particle collider. I find the awkward dancing and pretend beatboxing to be the most entertaining parts. If you're wondering, I really do wish I was cool enough to be in this video. Unfortunately (fortunately?), I am not freakishly stalker-obsessed enough with the Higgs Boson to be accepted wholeheartedly amongst the ranks of the good folks over at CERN.

Let's not be quick to dismiss this video as just a funny, yet lame, idea that was construed deep within the confines of some mad scientist's mind. Maybe they are onto something magical here. If we really want American kids to learn something, we should be teaching them in rhyme! Well, maybe that's a little sad to think about (because it would probably work). Anyway, kudos to CERN for producing the next great nerd rap (sorry Weird Al, you've been replaced).

For a couple seconds there, I forgot how soon the world's doom is. To be precise, September 10th will be the day scientists switch on the Large Hadron Collider, the 17-mile long racetrack, and micro black holes engulf the Earth. Woah, I even had myself convinced for a second - not. Seriously (and I'm talking to you Citizens Against The Large Hadron Collider) TAKE A CHILL PILL. The most credible scientists on Earth have concluded that there is no threat so sit back, make some popcorn, and watch a revolution in physics unfold before your eyes. And in the end, if the smartest people in the world are wrong, then at least we won't have to worry about Global Warming or Miley Cyrus anymore :p.

A New Home?

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Has anyone ever noticed the "MIT Syndrome"?

M·I·T Syn·drome - n. The serious, but temporary, infection that causes one to feel the sudden urge to blurt out something MIT related just because someone going to MIT is nearby.

In serious cases of the syndrome, the afflicted will make quips about you becoming a card counter and earning unhealthy sums of cash or will inquire if you've seen Good Will Hunting. You may be asked if you've read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, if you've met Noam Chomsky, or if you even knew this one fellow who graduated 10 years ago from you high school because he went to MIT (I still don't get this last one). Even though this quickly becomes irritating (like after the first time), I've actually become quite cultured in all that is MIT, and truthfully, it's downright amusing to watch people pause in mid-conversation just to think of something MIT-relevant to say.

True stories, fake disease. Welcome to my life =)

Well, this post has gone awry far too quickly. Let me stray toward something more interesting. As I was doing my daily run through the interweb yesterday, I stumbled across this news article on The Wall Street Journal that discusses how in regards to salary that it's not one's career choice that matters as much as where one graduates from. As you would think, MIT cleans up well, snagging second place for having a starting median salary amongst alumni of $72,200.00. Unfortunately, we're beat out by the physics nerds of the West Coast as Caltech graduates have a starting median salary of $75,500.00. As time progresses, however, it seems that MIT alumni start to not fair so well, MIT moving to fourth on the list with a mid-Career median salary of $126,000.00. To say the least, I'm still impressed with MIT's showing no matter how low my career salary would be down the road - well, unless it's 1 dollar a year in which case I'd put my angry face on.

I guess I'm getting ahead of myself. I'll worry about my finances later in life (although I can use this data for bragging rights ^_^ ). With all this chitchatter about MIT during the past six months or so, it's hard to realize that in less than two weeks I'll be in Cambridge building soccer robots at my dream school. It's been so long since I last visited campus that MIT has become this online entity, not something tangible. Although I keep saying that I'll be living at MIT for a good chunk of the next four years, I don't understand how real that actually is. I feel like I'm just walking in someone else's shoes, trying to fulfill this role I don't quite comprehend. It's tough to accept that the place where I'm sitting right now typing this entry will become this distant memory, a vacation spot for my future breaks. This is it. My life's about to drastically change and I just don't have any clue about what to expect. I say all this somewhat calmly, but do I really fathom what I'm saying? I have no idea.

Probably the hardest concept to come to terms with is the permanence of all this. My days are numbered and once the clock winds down, I'll never be at home again for more than two weeks at a time. From now on, visits with my family will be just that. Visits. I'll never see my parents on a daily basis again - apart from video chat - and in a way will become torn between two worlds that are separated by hundreds of miles. Will home still even be home? Perhaps that's the biggest question all of us must answer. When does one home end and another start? Maybe this is it. Maybe as we mature and become adults, our home starts to change and keeps changing and moving, until we're lucky enough to find that special someone and settle down. Maybe from now on, we really are on our own. We must scramble to form our own communities far from our comforts zones. Maybe this is how we finally discover who we are and ultimately gain some insight into the world. Maybe this really is it.

In the end, maybe home is not a place after all, but rather a construct, an intangible placeholder for your memories - the good times and bad. I'm certain by the time I'm finished with MIT come this winter break, after I've suffered through killer psets, nightlong freak-out sessions, and nosebleed-inducing tests, I'll be calling Cambridge my home because of all the memories I would have made.

It's hard to wrap my head around that in just a short while my life will cease to exist the way I know it, the way I'm used to it.

While it'll be a long 9 days until I jump into the rabbit hole, I've already begun packing for this journey. Just yesterday I lugged up the suitcases from the basement and suddenly all of this began to feel real. Although I've been staring for weeks now at the pile of stuff my mom has amassed through her ritualistic trips to Bed, Bath, and Beyond, the imminence of college hadn't felt any surrealer until I peered into the dark, expansive emptiness of my luggage bags and realized that every item I stuff in there will be the only remaining threads of the life I know and love.

Some may cower in the face of such impending change. I look forward to it.

Self: Buckle up for one of the bumpiest adventures of your life.

Poor Plastic Lion

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As I was perusing my 18.02 notes, I was reminded of when I posed you all with the "nerd test," this atrociously difficult math problem that can only be solved with ingenuity and elegance (is it sad that ASEs are the only things in this world that truly frighten me?). Don't let me mislead you. One stare at this problem had me running to the hills when I first encountered it. Now, though, I appreciate the trickery behind it, the way something so complex and seemingly insolvable can become refreshingly simple and, in hindsight, easy. Well, I return now with the solution to this problem. In reality, I don't think you'd be that impressed unless you live in Michigan and find it difficult to have a life. But seriously though, can you blame me when cows here are as common as McDonald's and soccer fields are found within corn fields? Anywho, without further ado, here is the solution straight out of some random multivariable calculus book that I seem to have lying around for some reason.

In actuality, I do live a life outside the blogosphere (*gasp shocker I know). Today my friends and I were doing one of those "I might never see you again so we should keep hanging out" get-togethers. In our attempt to relive the glory days of senior year, we all decided we wanted to gulp down frozen custard so obviously we met up at Culver's, home of the cheese curds and all that is Wisconsin.

To my delight, the flavor of the day was "rockin' raspberry." I approached the counter and asked the lady, "Can I get the raspberry Concrete Mixer?"
"Yea, what toppings do you want?"
"Hmm, let's see. Cookie dough and-"
"You want cookie dough with raspberry?"
"Yea, why not?"
Mumbling to herself, "You don't get cookie dough with raspberry..."
"It sounded good in my head."
"Ok, your call...anything else?"
"Yea bananas too!"
To the side, "Oh god, raspberry and banana really?"
"What was that?"
"Oh nothing..."

Five minutes later another girl comes out, "Raspberry concrete float with oh gosh umm-"
"Yea yea I know. It's mine. Givee here."

Well, you know what? It was positively scrumptious, despite all the attitude I received! It just goes to show that it's always the weirdest combinations, like peanut butter and mustard sandwiches, that turn out great.

Not that I have anything against Culver's, even though I should considering the girl who waited on me, I found their advertising scheme ridiculously corny. Everyone at the table passed around the flip card thingies so we could all take pictures and laugh at the cheesy slogans.

Seriously? We aren't five years old.

*Shakes head

Shamefully reminds me of the somewhat flattering catchphrase "You've been Omerized" from American Dreamz (yes with a z).

There you have it. Culver's, the heroic food chain of the cheeseheads, uses ads that insult our intelligence. I'd like to give their advertising agency a piece of my mind! At least they made for a good laugh.

As the night pressed on and my ice cream degenerated into a puddle of red, chunky mush, three teenagers sneakily approached the fence of the putt-putt place across the parking lot and slid underneath. They then proceeded to climb onto this giant fake mountain that featured this life-size lion at the top. The hooligans slowly made their way to the summit, only their silhouettes showing against the night sky. As my friends watched, the girls giggling, the conversation basically went like this:

"Wow, they're so cool."
"Yea I want to be just like them."
"Uhh, where's that guy's hand going."
"Is he putting his hand...up that...on the lion?"
"Umm, yeah I think so. Oh god-"
"Did he just pretend to give that lion-"
"Ow my god, what are they doing?"
"Yea, I'm pretty sure that lion is scarred for life."

These three teenagers single-handedly managed to gross out the entire customer base of Culver's in a manner of 5 minutes. After these kids finished molesting this plastic lion, they were chased out by the workers who finally noticed what they were up to. Talk about a shocking night >.<

Excuse me while I try to recover my eyesight and erase the events of tonight from memory.

And so the maddness begins...

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While stalking faithfully reading the MIT blogs, a nice nugget of information seemed to have slyly appeared on the left side, just waiting to be discovered, something I think a lot of people have been patiently awaiting.

"Online Application • The freshman online application for entry in Fall 2009 is now live!"

After hours of down time in which monkeys running the giant server rooms scrambled to prepare everything necessary for the 2009 online application, it has finally been made available.

So the 2009 application season for MIT has officially begun (*gunshot). With the release of this year's application, I'm now a true frosh ready to tackle the psets and long nights of MIT. I hand off the mantle to you, class of 2013ers, knowing full well you will take on the role of proud prefroshies by commenting on the blogs, keeping your facebook group active, and invading campus next Spring during CPW 2009 (wow already?)!

I'm pleased that the application hasn't been modified too much since I think MIT's application does it right. It doesn't succumb to the level of uniformity and remains a maverick under the excruciating pressure to adapt to the common app. It has it's own personality, a special, mystical aura about it that no other school can dream of touching. With the MIT blogs, the application forms a deadly combination, poised to draw in unsuspecting prefrosh until MIT is all they can think about. The blogs allow for an atmosphere of openness and comfort. With MIT, you know that down-to-earth people are reading your applications, excited to read about your exploits as a teen, excited to fathom the real you. It leaves room for creativity ("something you have built"), asks the right questions, and even let's you have fun. Plus, who doesn't like superscoring their test scores (yes I'm looking at all you CC folks)?

Other than some adjustments that improve the overall experience, there should have supposedly been an another addition to the application. About a month ago, I along with a few others received the following message from the Ben Jones:

"Hi folks,

I am still working on an application companion piece for MIT that is meant to guide prospective students through the application process and help them to chill out. I've set aside a page for quotes from current students about their own experiences in applying to MIT, and I'm looking for help filling the page

I need quotes from a few different people, perhaps a sentence or two each, that basically convey the fact that simply being yourself is the best strategy. If you feel inspired to contribute, hook me up!

Many thanks, and see y'all in the fall, when I visit. :-)"

We all hit the writing pads and after hours of putting pen to the paper, nose bleeds provoked by deep thought, and hands covered in blisters, we provided him with some quotes and sure enough, as I'm sure you'll eventually see, we mustered up a number of inspirational and supportive quotes. Naturally, I produced the following Pulitzer Prize worthy piece of writing:

In my application, I decided to emphasize my passions and where I came from. I wasn't afraid to write that some of my favorite interests did not involve math or science or that to this day I still spend afternoons playing with Legos. Showing who you are is of the utmost importance because the perfect school for you is where your personality will feel right at home.

Although I don't see any of our quotes present, I just thought I'd share this piece of information with you all. If they are ultimately tossed into the vast interweb for your reading pleasure, I hope that these quotes guide you toward success while forming your applications. I'd be completely distraught and lost if they didn't :p.

So how many of you started? Consider yourselves lucky. Back in my day, we didn't have this online shindig. We had it old school: fountain pens and scrolls. We didn't have email, only snail mail, but we survived.

Yeah, yeah. I'm pulling your leg. You probably called me out on that one.

Well, all this application talk lately has surfaced many memories from the past year. Expect an entry on senior year from me shortly once I pull myself together and get over the fact that I'm leaving my humble Midwestern abode for the scary, cryptic East Coast in precisely 11 days. Yikes >.<

Until then, good luck on the application!

Fire Palooza

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"Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive." ~ Elbert Hubbard

Do you enjoy converting aerosol spray cans into impromptu flamethrowers? Do you spend your spare time playing with bubbles, soft, cuddly methane bubbles? Do you find yourself uncontrollably amused by popping hydrogen/oxygen balloons? If yes to any of these question, then you and I are destined to be friends - best friends forever.

Don't give me that look. I can still be utterly engrossed in pyromania and still be normal. We all burned ants with magnifying glasses as kids, watching them smoke with awe. We all messed around with fancy, high-tech lasers, using them to light matches in mere seconds. Ok, well maybe the latter isn't so common, but that didn't stop me from reveling in the wonders of green lasers! Before you think I'm absolutely obsessed with fire (well, maybe I am at times :p), let me get to the point. I recently learned of this boyscout survival technique that is used to start a fire when abandoned in the middle of nowhere. All it involves is a 9V battery and some steel wool - why someone stranded would have either of these I don't know.

When first hearing of this neat phenomenon, I was fairly skeptical, not believing that you could start a fire with just a common household battery, but as always, physics (and maybe a little bit of chemistry) has the answer. As anyone who has dipped their toe in physics would know, circuits produce heat, a whole lot of it - this being the reason why three obnoxious light bulbs can render my room 81.9 degrees. Well, that means if you have a plain old circuit, doing nothing but circulating electrons, then it's just wasting energy in the form of heat. If one were to use a wire - this is where the sheep wool comes in - that is easily combustible, then like dark, medieval magic, sparks fly and the good times roll. So what fun is a lengthy, boring description of this? Since I wouldn't be any good at this job if I didn't subject myself to horrifying dangers on a daily basis for the sake of blogging, I threw in bundles of steel wool into my handy-dandy fire pit and lit away. Check out my exploits below:

But Wait There's More - College Application Advice Continued

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In response to the guide I spun up for seniors applying to college, I received two questions that I would like to address now. I've opted for a more public discussion of the questions because I feel like it's important for everyone to learn from each other in an open sort of format. So without further ado, question numba one from Alex is as follows:

Could you tell me more about teacher applications and how they work (max to send, which teacher or what people should send them,etc.)

With teacher recommendations, you are definitely walking on thin ice. Recommendations tend to be fairly involved and lengthy, requiring much time and effort on the reader's part. Now, as long as you are fulfilling the number of recommendations required, no problem. The problems arise when sending in optional recs. You send in too many and well, you're guaranteed to aggravate your reader and may earn yourself some negative feedback.

The trick to this is to restrain yourself to only sending in a maximum of two recommendations above the number required. These extra recs, however, should not come from teachers since it goes without saying that good students receive good references - the same good references. Not too many words exist for "hard work" and "amazing intelligence" and consequently recommendations start becoming repetitive. For this reason alone, I encourage you to solicit recommendations from sports coaches, research mentors, dance instructors, and so on. Ask for references from people who know you out of school, people who will talk about your non-academic qualities, the ones that show that you aren't a human-killing robot programmed to study by day and take over the world by night. For my own application, I asked my research mentor who graciously provided me with many kind words about his experiences with me over the past two years.

For submitting the recommendations, basic etiquette dictates one of the following two options: agree on picking up the materials sealed after a designated amount of time or provide stamped envelopes for the teachers to use in sending in the recommendations. Either one is perfectly acceptable.


The second question, coming from Ahana Datta, is:

somehow I'm getting cold feet at the prospect of the application. I mean, there is so much I want to say on the application, but then I feel it's all done before. how do you get around that?!

Don't feel alone! This is a common sentiment. I believe all of us at one point in time during the application process felt as if we were standing at the base of Mount Everest wondering how we could ever climb such a beast. In some respects, everything you might put on the application may have been used before, but in the end, it's the specific combinations that matter. Thousands of prefrosh may play tennis, do research, or help out clinics in third world countries, but how many do all three? Think about filling out your application as playing a game of "Apples to Apples" - if only it were as much fun too! Individually, the words available surely have passed through the hands of many, but once you look at the combinations of words, distinctness arises and your true personality shows - the words revealing your innermost nature (at least that's what some say).

To further individualize what are you writing, use examples. While overall ideas repeat, life examples usually do not. If talking about how tennis leadership shaped your character, discuss the instance when you helped Rob with his family crisis or had to intervene in a serious fight between two players. If telling the reader that your life-long dreams were influenced by your childhood, bring up the middle school science teacher who left a lasting impact on your life or the Gray's Anatomy book your mother got you when you were only in 5th grade. It's the stories, the moments in life, that will eventually distinguish you from the abstract pile of applications. Think hard about your life and build up a bank of examples you can use in your application.

All this is essentially a long about way of saying that you should refrain from hesitating to write something in the fear that it seems too plain and probably overused. Even if people are using similar ideas, the pieces of your application will fit together differently than theirs, giving the reader a completely separate, idiosyncratic image of you.


While digging in my brain - what a dark and scary place - for answers to these questions, I realized that I should mention something about updates.

Updates are a useful tool to stay in contact with the college and remind them that you're still alive and kicking. Every time you send in an update, someone has to dig up your folder and leave a sticky note or something that will end up in your reader having to pull up your application to read again. This is definitely good. Every time this happens, the reader is re-familiarized with you and will begin to notice how devoted you are to the institution. Only use this tactic, however, for serious updates. Any achievements that involve the regional level or above merit such lengths. Anything else does not. In your cover letter, include some sentiments about how deeply interested you are in the school and how much you dream about going there next Fall. It's always a good thing to remind your top school how interested you are.

I hope what I have said comes in handy. Sorry that all you MIT prefrosh have to wait a little bit longer, but like most have been saying, use this time to contemplate what you want to convey to the admission committee. Again, if anyone has questions, feel free to shoot away!

Politics and the Sorts

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Bang Bang, He shot me down
Bang Bang, I hit the ground...

If you're thinking there's no way a true campaign ad could feature pictures of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Obama side by side, think again. The negative ad war has officially started with McCain drawing first blood and initiating the descent of the presidential campaign down a slippery slope. Negative ads have always been a controversy in the political world, but this year's ads just keep turning heads. Did someone put something in the water over at the ad agencies?

Lately, the ad playing field has turned more into a game of chess - kiddy chess where all the characters are from Disney. Candidates use these ads to take stabs at each other back and forth in the hopes that their constituents will follow along in the heated rivalry. Sorry to disappoint McCain, but it's not working, especially when the accusations are completely ludicrous. You'd be surprised to learn that if you googled Obama's issue platform, electricity tax increases - the basis of McCain's attack in the ad - would be no where in sight. In fact, tax increases are barely even mentioned. So where does McCain's team come off publicizing this falsehood? Well, hilariously enough, McCain's people twisted what Obama said in an interview with the San Antonio Express News. This interview from six months ago, which primarily revolved around education, brought up the following question:

Q. Have you considered other funding sources, say taxing emerging energy forms, for example, say a penny per kilowatt hour on wind energy?

A: Well, that's clean energy, and we want to drive down the cost of that, not raise it. We need to give them subsidies so they can start developing that. What we ought to tax is dirty energy, like coal and, to a lesser extent, natural gas. (Washington Post)

So for something Obama clearly uses the word "ought" for and that does not appear anywhere in his political platform, it is now appearing in national TV ads across America. I even believed Obama was planning to increase taxes until I decided to dig deeper, under all the construed truths and misconceptions. I guess what I'm trying to get at is that negative ads distract from the campaigning and the issues at hand. For days, I've been listening to radio talk show hosts and news websites discussing this specific "celebrity ad" because of its audaciousness in comparing Obama to silly superstars. Maybe that was the point: to keep this ad, and thus McCain's name, in the news, in constant discussion. To that effect, bravo he succeeded. Does it help his trailing in the polls? Fortunately not. Does it show us what his plans are for America? Definitely not. With such an unexpected and bold move as this, it makes me wonder, who is really acting like the celebrity? Obama, who has advocated for a presidential campaign free of negative ads, or rather McCain, who has caused uproar in the political community with his obnoxious ad and coincidentally acted in the hit tv show 24. At least Obama has taken the high road and been the better man amidst all this.

Personally, I'm against the whole idea of bashing an opponent. I realize politics is a dirty game, but there's always time for change. These sort of ads should be adjusted in my opinion to be amicably competitive, a "he might not be doing this exactly right" type of criticism. Ads should resemble a debate, something serious and informative - not parodied over and over like the infamous Hillary Clinton ad. Point out what's wrong in a friendly manner, but don't stop there. Rather, show what you are doing to be different. Talk about your policies and how you will make a difference. That way you get the best of both worlds. We all learn from the ads while you get to unleash your testosterone and criticize the other party. Win-win for all.

Applying to College - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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As many of the anxious prefrosh know, MIT has delayed the grand release of this year's application for another week or so, leaving many prefrosh empty-handed. Originally, I intended for this post to be released concurrently with the application, but being the fickle man that I am, I obviously posted it now, hoping to partially satisfy the thirst of prefrosh everywhere by giving them a small taste of what their life will be like for the next few months. Essentially, at the heart of this post is a hodgepodge of advice - and ravings - from an application year veteran. Use the coming week to learn from this and prep for the MIT application.

With all the hype and excitement over this year's applications, I've been having nostalgic flashbacks about my own experience applying. There was that one night in Pittsburgh during my family vacation when I lay sprawled out on the coach until 1 a.m. fervently filling out the activities section in MyMIT. There was the five hour drive back home when I impetuously scrapped two essays and finally hit upon the one for MIT. And then of course there was October 12th, when I finally clicked the submit button and saw 65$ leave my pockets. Oh the good times.

As I sat musing about these memories, I realized there was one important thing I wished I could have had that would have meant the world to me: a simple guide for applying to college! So like any good engineer (soon to be engineer?) I decided to fix this problem for posterity sake by sharing what I have learned from my experiences. What follows is a list of some pointers that will help you prefroshies this year and hopefully for many years to come.

Caution: Use at your own discretion. Tailor to fit your needs.

1) Be Yourself

I'm not a fan of overused, contrite statements like "Be yourself and you'll live a happier life," but in this case you really, really do need to be yourself. Many think that the holy-like MIT admissions committee are looking for a certain type of person, you know the MIT stereotype. These people have 2400s, develop new math theorems for fun, and can secretly program AI robots, but secretly don't because they all belong to a clandestine consortium of programmers protecting the world form robot destruction. Fortunately, this is far from the truth as the admission people desire an eclectic class and thus look for special quirks, the things that make you you. Why? Because otherwise every student at MIT would be clones and life would be dull (aka Communism). Admission to top-tier colleges is not random, even though a thorough examination of the numbers may make you believe otherwise. MIT looks for a "match," a set of general guidelines that indicate how well suited you are for MIT. Does that mean you should present yourself in a different light, stretching the truth to be in accordance to the "match"? No, because you don't want to artificially match to a school and then find you are not enjoying the atmosphere of the place. I know many people, some who have even transferred, because they landed themselves in their dream school, but then discovered it was not for them. So my words of wisdom are, read up on your colleges, show them the qualities that demonstrate why you are a match, and all the while be yourself.

2) Know when to be serious and know when to let loose

Think of the application process as preparing for marriage. You can go wild, unleashing your darkest uncharacteristic behavior at your bachelor party, but for the most part, I'd recommend staying faithful and serious - and maybe even subservient - to your loved one. Despite somewhat of a bad analogy, most parts of the application require thoughtful answers so keep the writing relatively formal. Use profound language here and there to highlight certain parts, and even throw in some humorous anecdotes. Definitely have some fun, just not too much fun. Talk about your deadly fear of shower curtains or how you still play with Legos (umm...yes that's me). Make yourself stick out in the minds of the admissions officers by telling them something that will distinguish you from the rest and earn you some extra points.

As a side note, keep in mind that the "what do you do for pleasure" question for MIT really means "what do you do for fun." Don't talk about how you nurse stray baby kittens back to health just because you want to impress the admissions committee. Unless you truly do that for fun, talk about how you love playing Rock Band, how you only form scientific words in scrabble, or how cricket is an addiction of yours.

3) Answer the Optional Essay

In this game, optional = mandatory. Yes, there are many stories of people being accepted without the optional essay, but statistically you have a better chance of getting in by answering it. Don't you want to do everything in your power to convince the admissions committee of your worthiness? Ok, in most cases I'd recommend doing the least work possible to excel, as my Physics teacher always said, the first tenet of Physics is laziness, but for this, writing an optional essay allows you to express more about your passions and dreams. It gives the admissions people more to chew on. In my case, the optional essay provided an additional outlet to express myself. One essay felt too restricting. The word limit stifled me and relegated my full writing potential to a cage. The optional essay, on the other hand, has no rules. It's the "Joker" essay (The Dark Night ftw), the essay where you can unleash your writing talents for hours on end until you have a literary masterpiece.

4) Edit, Revise, Rethink, Consult, Rinse and Repeat

The essay portion of the application is by farthest the most important part in my opinion because it's MIT's only chance to see inside your head and see what's really rolling around in there. Luckily for you it's the part you also have the most control over.

While I wish writing the essay was as simple as pressing the "Easy Button" and walla, it's not and will require time, patience, and an open mind. I suggest writing whatever comes to you at first, just to get your gears turning. Think long and hard - even spending multiple afternoons pondering - about what you want to convey and take risks. Write about stuff you wouldn't normally write about. Write about stuff you may have never told anyone before. Show MIT how much you are into them and why. Above all, don't be afraid to scrap a well-written piece because you have a better idea. In fact, I suggest you write intending to only use your third or fourth draft. It took me two essays, one about my middle eastern heritage and one about how tennis changed me, before I landed on talking about my childhood and how my biomedical engineering interests developed through various events in my life. When all is said and done, have people read and edit it. You yourself should at least read it 15-20 times, editing, revising, rethinking, until there's nothing left, but a pristine essay ready for submission.

Add an extra touch to your essays by showing, not telling. Don't just tell MIT that you built a social networking website for your school, show them. Describe the long, frustrating nights it took you before your algorithms worked or how Monster cans lay piled up all over the floor. Grabbing the reader's attention through detail is a surefire way to form a lasting impression. Going this extra mile will make all the difference.

5) Activities... which to choose?

One of the many difficulties you'll encounter during the application process is which of your activities you should include. I will first advise you not to attach a laundry list of your activities because in actuality colleges only care about the activities that mean the most to you, not everything you participate in. So, yes, unfortunately you must limit yourself to the top 5 or so activities you love. Remember, order matters here.

I will add that the only exception to my "no laundry list" rule is if you truly spend a respectable amount of time in more than 5 activities. Under these circumstances, you may attach something that describes the activities you couldn't fit on the application, but don't just list them.

For activities, it's crucial for you to convey your passions to colleges. Pick an activity - maybe two for you risk-takers - and just discuss every possible aspect of why you love it. In my optional essay, my feelings about research drowned the page. I told them how research impacted me and why it is I did it in the first place. Show them what drives you to reach such amazing heights.

6) SAT, ACT...no worries!

Try not to worry about your numbers when writing up your application. Just list everything as it is and leave the rest up to the colleges. Don't look back. Don't worry one bit. Colleges, especially MIT, care about the perfect "match" and not numbers based off of long, grueling tests. Being a match for MIT transcends any numbers and even grades (well probably not D's unless there's a good excuse).

7) Emphasize Your Love for the School

Don't be afraid of sucking up. In the classroom, being the teacher's pet may have earned you your classmates' snickers (pssh, I loved all the brownie points I racked up), but in the application, it's the best course of action. Schools hate nothing more than just being applied to for the heck of it. I'd recommend inserting school-specific comments here and there. In my optional essay, I mentioned the infinite corridor, the great dome, the ball pit in Simmons, and other random snippets about MIT. Showing a college that it is your number one choice and emphasizing your undying desire to have a home there is truly to your benefit. Let your gut, your heart, and your dreams guide you in choosing the perfect words to express your emotions.

8) Craft a Story

You're more than just an applicant. You are a person with one amazing story to tell so don't look at each piece of your application as a means to an end separate from the whole. Rather, try to weave your wacky and crazy experiences together into a "quilt". Each thread stands on its own, speaking for itself, but together you have a picture, your whole life story. The essays, short answers, recommendations, and grades are ingredients. Make sure that each has its own special flavor while still fitting into the bigger picture.

9) Arrogance, it's not a virtue

Tell it as it is, but don't show haughtiness in your writing. There's an incredibly fine line between discussing your achievements and bragging about them. Don't cross it. At the same time, however, don't be afraid to talk about yourself, your accomplishments, your goals. We all like to talk about ourselves - me more than most - and essentially that's what an application is for, so as long as you don't boast arrogance, you'll be perfectly fine. Be confident. Readers like that. Overconfidence, however, is frowned upon.

Keep in mind that while it may seem easy to rest your entire case on your crowning moments in high school, you must not rely too much on them as after all, they're still one piece of the pie. Weave them into your story to your advantage. Talk about how excited you are about the opportunities awaiting for you in college. While colleges will want to hear about your victories, they will want to know even more about how you plan to succeed at their school. For example, I raved about how excited I was to jump into the research "world" at MIT and how MIT would propel me forward to achieve lengths I never thought possible.

10) The rest is history

After you've completed the application, you're ready for the hardest part of all. Share with others what you've written. Make use of teachers, friends, and especially your parents. My mom and dad were invaluable throughout the entire process. We had many fights over what works, what doesn't, but after the dust settled, everything turned out perfectly. Double check, triple check. Keep checking! There's no extra points for submitting months early. Ask questions. Go to your counselor if you are unsure of something. Venture forth into the uncharted waters of college confidential and ask for help. The people there are tremendously helpful. Even if you don't have a question, go there and read, soak in the advice, and learn from people's mistakes.

Once you feel that you've represented yourself to the fullest, your essays are in tip-top shape, and all around you've written a story that flows from start to finish, you're ready to submit. Before you seal the envelope or hit the submit button, ensure that you are addressing the correct school. Lastly, I suggest, if it at all can be helped, to not wait until the last minute. Servers may crash, electricity can cut out, or life just happens, so plan to submit at least a week in advance. Trust me, it's not healthy staying up until 3 am three days in a row because of procrastination - or perfectionism for many of you.


Luckily, I survived the application process to live another day - and share my fanatic lessons. This is what I've learned from suffering through the application process. For you, I hope it makes the months of hard work less distressing.

I enjoy sharing my war stories so please don't hesitate one bit to contact me. Let me know if you have any questions. I'll be glad to help.

On one last note, I officially apologize for the length of this guide. I realize many of you skim these posts, but if this advice applies to you at all, I encourage you to carefully breathe it in and follow it. There's no 100% guarantee that you'll be accepted, but there is my guarantee that this advice is the best I can possibly come up with and will aid you tremendously during what is sure to be a tumultuous application season.

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Hello World! (ahh I love the reference to programming). My name is Omar. I'm a senior in high school and will be a freshman at MIT starting next Fall. My interests are science and math and I hope to eventually become a doctor. This is a blog about my journey. Please enjoy it along with me.

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