Unbeknownst to many, there are student and staff bloggers all over campus. Their mission: to dispel the mystique surrounding the MIT admissions process and convey what life on campus is really like.
Ten students and seven admissions staff members write semiweekly blogs for MyMIT, an admissions Web portal launched in September 2004. The bloggers represent a diverse range of backgrounds, ages, majors, living groups, and interests. At first, there were only three blogs – two by admissions officers Ben Jones and Matt McGann ‘00 and one by a student – and they were a peripheral part of the site.
But they became enormously popular, says Jones, communications manager for the Admissions Office. “You could just watch the traffic on the blogs going through the roof, more than the whole rest of the site itself.” Consequently, he says, he shifted the focus of the site to the blogs.
The blogs have three objectives. First, they demystify the admissions process by allowing prospective students to get to know the admissions officers and read about how the process works from the inside. “They get this sense that it’s a committee of actual humans, which helps them to relate not only to us but to the process. They feel like they have some investment in it, more than just shipping their application off to the grand void of admissions,” Jones explains.
A second goal is to break down negative stereotypes associated with MIT. Jones encourages student bloggers to write about their experiences – good and bad – of classes, living groups, athletics, and extracurricular activities, to show that life at MIT is much like that at any other university.
Finally, the blogs build community. Visitors can post comments or questions, allowing public conversation about everything from how to handle the admissions interview to the latest hack on campus. Jones believes MIT is the first school to institute this kind of two-way communication in the admissions process.
The resulting sense of community was palpable at Campus Preview Weekend last April, when prospective students who had been communicating through the blogs finally met. One of them, Anthony Rizos ‘09, had made about 15 friends online. Now he’s blogging about his freshman year for this year’s applicants.
So far, the feedback has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic, according to Jones. Applicants write about how helpful the blogs are, and even parents chime in, saying they understand better what their children are going through. Jones thinks the blogs contributed to last year’s record-breaking 67 percent “yield” (the percentage of accepted students who enrolled). According to Jones, the blogs are a great way to reach prospective MIT students, a group of teenagers who communicate primarily through the Internet. “It’s fishing where the fish are,” he says.
Blogger Laura Nicholson ‘09 got hooked on MIT after she was accepted in December 2004. She applied to other schools and planned to wait until April to make a decision, but in the meantime she followed the blogs religiously. She loved learning about student-life activities and the inner workings of the admissions office. By the time she got her other acceptances, “I was already so into MIT and talking [online] to everyone…I didn’t even really consider the other schools.”