I'll have to ask my son if he has friends who are soph, jr, and senior, or if he only hangs with other freshmen. I do know he had friends already on campus who are sophomores and juniors. Whether he sees them or not, I don't know, but it wouldn't surprise me if he did. Also, he's taking a class with sophomores and probably juniors, but I don't know if he has made friends with any of the students in class.
I actually think it's pretty cool that there are mixed grade/age dorms. He was homeschooled and had friends of every age including many adult friends. I'm kinda glad he's not just around a bunch of other (oftentimes immature) 17-18 year olds in the dorms. (Not that one automatically becomes mature at 19, ha-ha!)
I think Princeton and Penn had freshmen dorms, too. Son didn't apply to Harvard so I don't really know anything about it.
In fact, I'll go one step further and ask, "isn't it preferable to be with all freshmen?" At many colleges, the dorms for freshmen are just that - strictly freshman dorms, which makes the most sense to me personally. Why would a student want to be mixed in from the getgo with people who have (largely) formed their own friendship circles, and may differ from freshmen in a myriad of other ways?
And, at MIT, we feel that all-freshman dorms at other schools have something of a culture of the blind leading the blind. When living groups and groups of friends contain students of all years, freshmen can look to older students for advice on picking classes, or majors, or on graduate school applications, or on getting a UROP, or any number of things. More mundanely, upperclassmen are available to help freshmen with their homework.
From the day I arrived at MIT, my core group of friends contained people in my class and in the classes above me. And every year, I made new friends and acquaintances in the new freshman class. I never felt that I was beyond wanting to establish new friendships.
I can't imagine a situation where a mixed-age group of friends and dorm-mates isn't a good thing.
I was at MIT in the late 80's and lived in a frat. The MIT frats are pretty milk-and-cookies compared to the state university stereotype. In my frat there was extensive peer pressure to study and keep your grades up. We also did our share of drinking but that was a long time ago and the institute has been cracking down on this behavior for years, partly due to alcohol liability issues.
My guess is that the main reason the frats are popular is that many of them are in really nice townhouses in Boston near the other colleges (BU, Simmons, etc) so the, um, dating options are a lot more varied than living on campus.
You get to choose who you live with. The dorms are statistical cross sections of the student population. Each frat is a self-selecting sample, so you get groups with quirky characteristics. Each group's house gives them a certain terroir as well.
molliebatmit wrote "freshmen can look to older students for advice on picking classes, or majors, or on graduate school applications, or on getting a UROP, or any number of things. More mundanely, upperclassmen are available to help freshmen with their homework."
Yes, that can all occur at most any college, but why must this be contingent on being HOUSED together?
Frankly, I recall from my own experience that seniors and freshmen were worlds apart - in everything from their focus (one on finding a job, the other on just finding a friend); sexual behaviors (yes, I am aware that seniors can date freshmen, but I still don't see having, for example, freshmen girls residing in the same dorm as jr/sr guys as necessarily a positive environment for many), etc. Also, I bet freshmen guys would prefer being able to get to know their freshmen female counterparts (both platonicly and otherwise) without the interference of upperclassmen! :-)
Yes, that can all occur at most any college, but why must this be contingent on being HOUSED together?
Because at MIT, the people in your living group are generally the people to whom you are closest. People have friends outside their living groups, of course, but in general, the living groups are extremely close-knit, and one's closest friends will generally be among the people with whom one chooses to live.
I can see this difference as a grad student at Harvard, where freshmen live together in the Yard freshman year, then select a group of seven other students to "block" with for the move to the upperclassman dorms. For most Harvard students, their closest friends are in their block, and those friends are necessarily in the same class as they are. For MIT students, housing is mixed-age from the beginning, and one's closest friends are generally in one's living group, and probably in one's smaller sub-group (entry/floor/wing). Those friends are not necessarily from the same class, though they can be.
At any rate, it's true that seniors and freshmen are not always on the same page. My closest friends from MIT are mostly in my own class, and in the class above me and below me. But those relationships with people in the classes above and below were (and are) incredibly valuable.(Actually, my husband is from the class below mine, and we started dating when he was a freshman living in my dorm. So I can't say I have many objections to cross-class dating.)
And the influence of upperclassmen goes both ways -- it's not uncommon for freshmen to arrive at college and go wild being on their own for the first time. In my experience, juniors and seniors are actually a moderating influence with respect to alcohol/partying, since upperclassmen are generally over the novelty of getting totally wasted. The undergrads in my lab tell me that the freshman dorms at Harvard are pretty wild.
I also wouldn't characterize freshmen at MIT as being more interested in looking for a friend than in looking for a job. I mean, you come to orientation, you meet a lot of people, you choose a living group, classes start, extracurriculars start: you have friends. Then you turn your attention to doing well in class, picking a major, finding an undergraduate research position, etc. Compared to everything else at MIT, finding friends is not all that hard.
I think both all-freshman and mixed-classes dorms/living groups have their advantages.
On another note, I wouldn't make generalizations about MIT undergrads being less independent-minded than their counterparts at the ivies based on the frat issue, except for perhaps the one semester they are pledging. (I guess one can argue whether or not there are effects of this beyond the semester of pledging. Maybe they are less independent-minded than they would have been otherwise.) I was only at a frat during the (ridiculously long) pledge period, which was literally more than 5 times as long as most other schools. I was also in a sport, which is relevant because the frat sending the pledges on trips to different states for the weekend on the spur of the moment really made it hard for me to schedule time to study, moreso than the other people who had no other time commitments beyond school. Fortunately, I had taken all of the 1st semester classes before.
I also should concede that I'm sure that the undergrads today don't have it as hard as we did, since we lived in the frat house as pledges. The level of control over your life is less when you aren't living with the "brothers." However, there is definitely various degrees of hazing in many of the houses both now and before, ranging from the minor of just dominating your time with sometimes unannounced commitments to serious violations like physical abuse and dangerous drinking rituals. I don't know whether physical abuse is still going on, but the brothers in my own frat said they got beat up when they were pledges. I imagine this is on the rarer side. Incidentally, my frat was not one of the frats with a "reputation" either. However, I will say my experience would have been better if I had chosen a different frat (and I did have multiple bids.) Again though, I effectively only had a day to make the decision because MIT cares more about maintaining the prominence of the frat system by rushing freshmen men into decisions than whether their undergrads have the time and space to make good choices.
I also would take other MIT parent's assurances about MIT frats not being stereotypical with a grain of salt. Unless their kid actually leaves the fraternity, which means it was bad enough that they chose to leave the circle of friends, the negatives aren't likely to get back to the parents. Also, the girls who hung out at the frat or even who dated our frat members didn't really get a sense for what it was like either.
I'm trying to be fair here. Obviously, my view of fraternities is profoundly negative, a view which was amplified when a freshmen was killed in a pledge drinking ritual at my fraternity. However, if you talk to MIT AI prof Patrick Winston, one of the big defenders of frats on campus and a former MIT undergrad, he thinks frats are the best thing since sliced bread.
Regarding mixed-classes living together, I would agree with Mollie's point that upper classman can be a "moderating influence." My freshman son already knew a number of MIT upperclassman (from various summer programs and schools), and he tells me that his math study group is all sophomores -- which he says is a plus because they don't have pass/fail and are quite serious about the Psets. Having attended boarding school for high school, he's sort of been through the living away from home thing, and I think feels comfortable with upperclassman who have settled in a bit.
My brother in law was in a frat, as were at least 3 good friends of mine who went to MIT. Seems like the norm rather than the exception. So, yes, I definitely believe tbe statistics. The frats are near BU, at least a lot of them. (My friends are all nice people! They work in tech, biotech, and academia.)
I liked the mixing of the upper classmen and freshmen that takes place in the fraternities and dorms at MIT. It is somewhat calming for a freshman who is probably living away from home for the first time. You also have an instant reference for technical as well as personal questions.
My fraternity would place upperclassmen and freshmen in the same room, with the freshmen rotating rooms each quarter (sounds like a pain to move but I don't recall it being any trouble). We would also incourage the graduate brothers and recent alumni that were around to stop by and they did. One could eat their meals at the house for real cheap (ie. below our actual cost) and enjoy spending some time around the house. One recent alum even used us as his airport chauffeur with him loaning his car to one of the brothers while he was out of town. Worked out well for both parties. You also got a feel of what the "real world" was like talking to those that were out working about their experiences.
One of the best things about my MIT experience was my Fraternity experience. And I did not have any experience of a fraternity at (say) a state college to compare it to, so I do not know whether the MIT independent living group experience is any different. Though I do know that the students who live in MIT ILGs are MIT students, with all that that implies.
A ILG is just a self-governing living group. The members of the ILG elect representatives and manage themselves. If something spills in the public area of a dorm, then a cleaner who is a member of the union will come along and clean it up. If something spills in a public area of an ILG, then the (usually rostered) members of the ILG will have to clean it up. This saves a lot of money on union cleaners. What to do with that money is entirely up to the house. Some houses return that money to their members and ensure that they keep their costs down. The lowest room and board costs on campus is always in an ILG (MIT Student House), many others choose to spend that money on larger social budget than the dorms. When I was on campus, one house increased their house bill, and served gourmet food every night and their members felt superior whenever they heard anyone complaining about the MIT dining halls. The simple fact is that being self-governing, every house is different, and houses change significantly over time.
There are some clear advantages and disadvantages to living in an ILG. As the members have to maintain the house, you will be spending time doing things that friends in dorms are not doing, likely to include many hours of scrubbing toilets and kitchens. And time is the most precious commodity at MIT. That being said, such work does build closeness amongt the group. I am still very friendly with more than 20 of the folks in my fraternity. We see each other several times per year. Often we holiday together with our families. And we live in five continents. This is not atypical of those I know who lived in ILGs. My sibling also went to MIT and lived in a dorm. He has MIT friends but not the same soft of close clan, many years after leaving MIT. And that closeness does often mean that the members of the house look after each other.
I think that the reason that the average GPA of the MIT students living in the ILG system is consistently higher than the average GPA of the students in the dorms, it is because of the closer support that the upperclass residents provide to the the younger members.
I think about living groups in much the same way as I think about university admissions. At the end of the day it is all about the match between the individual student and the environment that they may choose to move into. That match is critical. A particular person may match well for one house, but not for others, or may match best for a particular dorm. Your mileage may vary, but I think that taking any decision about fraternities based on National Lampoon's Animal House and similar movies is about as intelligent as taking decisions on energy policy based on Chain Reaction and similar movies.
I think that the reason that the average GPA of the MIT students living in the ILG system is consistently higher than the average GPA of the students in the dorms
Citation? I've seen this claim many times and have never seen a really good source for it. From searching the internet and piecing together various sources it appears the FSILG average GPA is either the same as the overall GPA or very slightly (.1 or less) higher than the overall GPA but the data is several years old and not directly comparable. ILGs and Sororities have higher GPAs than frats as well. [Sources MIT AILG GPA Data and a CUP report restricted to the MIT community]
MIT16 mom wrote “my son told me, he met a group of guys that he enjoyed being around, and a ready made study groups too. In addition, every week, they provide a living skills session for the incoming pledges”.
I asked, “What type of "living skills" are taught that most of the freshmen aren't already familiar with? Btw, the tone of this question is intended to be "curious" and not "contentious"... "
Unfortunately, MIT16 never posted a follow-up reply.
Can anyone else please elaborate what type of skills beyond her example of “repairing a car" freshmen are taught?