I'm finally back from my New England trip. Boston is a much nicer city than I realized, as is Cambridge, so I'm pleasantly surprised. I have now updated my favorite American cities list to (in order): NYC, San Fran, Chicago, and Boston. I won't comment on the banking debacle just yet, but I will post my thoughts on Sloan from my thursday visit. I'll post Yale SOM and Harvard Business School in the coming days.
My thursday flight was at 7:30 am so I was tired as heck but arrived in Cambridge around 9 am. We took a taxi to the Sloan campus and it was really quiet with few people milling about. I thought things would pick up later in the day (and it did) but not to the extent that I would've expected. It's not as bustling a campus as I would like. Sloan is also on the northern tip of the larger MIT campus so it's pretty isolated. There isn't a lot of interaction with the other parts of the campus community. There's also a lot of construction going on now which isolated the Sloan buildings even more. The admissions office was kind enough to let us drop our bags off there while we walked around and got breakfast. We came back for an 11:15 info session with the adcom. The adcom were very personable and friendly (even moreso than other schools) and talked about the school for an hour and took questions. I thought it was funny that the adcom mentioned how their students were very bright and down-to-earth. She chose her words very carefully and I expect this is to combat the perception that MIT students are nerds.
Unfortunately, anyone who walks around for half an hour can see that the nerd stereotype is definitely befitting. What shocked me was that everyone refers to the buildings as "E50" and "E27" rather than the name of the building. This stands for East Buliding #50 and so forth. The professors also refer to the courses by their course numbers, not course names, though the students don't practice that convention. I guess they like their numbers. The thing is, MIT students aren't embarassed about being nerdy, rather, they embrace it. This can be seen from the current MIT logo which looks like large computer pixels. It's definitely a different culture.
Oh, another funny thing, the entire group of prospetives in my info session were Asian (including me)- all 11 of us! Some were half-asian, some were east asian, and some were international but you get the point. It's funny because MIT's brand name really is HUGE in Asia.
After the info session, we split into groups to eat lunch with current students. We actually ate lunch with a military guy who confirmed the nerd stereotype. The lunch was boxed, pretty good, and free courtesy of the adcom. I was impressed by this. By the way, there was also a bunch of free food lying around everywhere we walked, whether it was pizza or mediterranean. Apparently the clubs are currently trying to attract members at this time.
After lunch, I attended a finance class with Professor Lo who is supposed to be very, very good. Before class I spoke to a current student in the core class and he was very friendly and not nerdy, but he confirmed the nerd culture. Professor Lo started out talking about the subprime mess and I agree, he was very good, very engaging. I started falling into my food coma when he started talking about formulas though. What I saw of the class was impressive, however. Afterwards, we dropped off our bags at our friend's place in Allston and came back to MIT for a 4pm pro-seminar.
The pro-seminar was supposed to explain the current subprime mess (which Professor Lo presented and did a great job with) as well as explain careers in finance. Apparently the pro-seiminars are a series of talks that get you ready for recruiting. Nice stuff. The event had free food (all gone by the time I arrived) and was packed, standing room only with about 250 people in attendance perhaps. Afterwards, we milled about some more in Harvard Square and got dinner at Grafton Street which is a nice bistro across from Harvard College. Harvard Square was definitely the hot spot. After dinner, we met up with some MPA (Master's in Public Administration) students, many of who were dual degree HBS students actually, and attended a cocktail party at one of their apartments. Everyone was really nice and I liked all the Harvard MPAs (and dual MBAs) a lot. They all exuded a healthy self-confidence but not arrogant at all- I was pleasantly surprised and had a great time talking to several of them. Then it was bed time. I'll write more about my actual HBS visit later.
All in all, my Sloan visit confirmed that I'm not interested in the school. The class and the pro-seminar were great and the facilities were definitely nice. However, I just don't see the fit with the student culture. Before we left Cambridge on Saturday morning, we had breakfast with a friend who is studying at the School of Urban Planning. He said that the Sloan students that he's met are definitely the best adjusted of all MIT students. I was shocked to hear this and then he quickly added "which is to say they are not completely socially awkward." I hope I don't sound like I'm bashing the school because the programs were really good, but these stereotypes were confirmed by at least 3 of the students themselves. And besides, the campus bookstore (called the COOP) even sold t-shirts that said "Nerd Pride" on them. Oi!