How unbalanced is MIT?

<p>Obviously the math and science programs at MIT are fantastic, but what about the other departments? Will I be unhappy if I decide to be a writer? What a about CalTech, is it unbalanced?</p>

<p>I certainly think so. Our HASS departments are quite strong, including top-notch linguistics, economics, management, and poli sci departments. I haven't taken classes in those departments, but I've been quite pleased by the HASS classes I have take (music, anthropology!!, history). I say this as someone who went to a very good humanities high school.</p>

<p>As for CalTech, I've heard rumor about them being very unbalanced. That said, this is the MIT board, there's rivalry between MIT and Caltech, MIT is always better than Caltech, I'm completely unbiased, etc. I'd go ask the Caltech board :)</p>

<p>MIT has one of the hands-down best humanities programs of any sci/tech school of its caliber. We have four Pulitzer Prize winners on our faculty; Literature, Creative Writing, and Comparative Media Studies majors; and a variety of other opportunities for you to let the creative side out. </p>

<p>Plus, we are (AFAIK) the only school to require every sci/tech/engineering/math/etc major to pick up a "distribution requirement" (something akin to a minor) in a humanities arts and social science course. Meaning: even if you major in nuclear engineering, you have to concentrate in something from HASS. </p>

<p>In other words, while you should certainly never come to MIT if you never want to do math and science again, MIT is a wonderful place if you're a math/sci kid who also loves the humanities and social sciences.</p>

<p>I visited Caltech on my way through California, and when asked what my prospective major was, said "linguistics."
"Um, I don't think we offer that..."</p>

<p>Lesson learned: I probably should've done my homework first.</p>

<p>But they also offered an extremely limited selection of languages (unless you decide to take them off-campus, with heavy undertones of "but why would you do that?") I can't talk about other subjects, because those were the ones I asked (multiple) people about. There does appear to be a better selection of English (mostly lit) courses.</p>

<p>Still, the campus was pretty, so I recommended it to my brother with the ulterior motive of having an excuse to go to California when I got sick of winter.</p>

<p>If you're interested in humanities, I'd try comparing MIT against UChicago rather than Caltech. My impression there is that it's the flip side of MIT: better known for the humanities but really good at science as well.</p>

<p>"If you're interested in humanities, I'd try comparing MIT against UChicago rather than Caltech. My impression there is that it's the flip side of MIT: better known for the humanities but really good at science as well." </p>

<p>+100000000000000 YES.</p>

<p>I <em>really</em> wish I'd considered UChicago more seriously pre-application process. I never took it seriously because I was pretty sure I wanted to do engineering and UChic doesn't offer that, but after a year I'm a lot more open to the humanities and pure sciences. Not that I'm not happy about MIT (I love love love MIT) but I'm just saying I think that UChicago would have been a better fit for me than Harvard (which is the only other school I applied to after getting into MIT EA).</p>

<p>I have several friends going to UChicago next year; everything I've read and heard basically says it's the MIT of liberal arts. (I know, I know, oversimplification, but you should check it out and come to your own conclusions.)</p>

<p>Caltech is unbalanced. If you're really set on writing and becoming a serious writer, you might be a little frustrated. You go to Caltech to study and do research in math, science, and/or engineering. </p>

<p>I met someone at Tech who wants to be a serious writer, and she actually spent her sophomore year at Wellesley to take English and writing classes.</p>

<p>Thanks guys!</p>

<p>MIT sounds quite a bit more balanced than I thought. I was pretty sure about CalTech being unbalanced: Their website lists six "academic categories," five of them are math/science, and then one of them is everything else.</p>

<p>I've heard fantastic things about UChicago, my personal favorite being that they probably have a relatively high acceptance rate despite being so high quality. My only concern would be that I've heard it's located in a rough neighborhood.</p>

<p>While, I'm convinced that MIT has great humanities teachers, I would like to hear more about what the students think of the classes. I mean I don't want to be in a humanities class where everyone is only there because they have to be, and thus don't care much about the class.</p>

<p>I'd emphasize "surrounded by" rather than "in"; most (American) colleges do exist in a bubble (to some extent -- I'm not saying there's no theft, but violent crimes tend not to happen there.)</p>

<p>I haven't been to Chicago since I was too young to really notice, but I live in the Twin Cities (smaller by all means, but not incomparable). My high school was on a college campus, and the neighborhoods around were considered iffy. They were fine, I just chose not to walk through them alone late at night. This is as opposed to other areas where shootings aren't uncommon and I wouldn't be outside after dark, period. As far as I can tell, the community around UChicago is of the former sort rather than the latter, though you should visit for yourself if it's a concern. (Actually, you should visit for yourself anyway.)</p>

<p>
[quote]
I mean I don't want to be in a humanities class where everyone is only there because they have to be, and thus don't care much about the class.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>I've loved my HASS classes. There's always been great participation, and I've never gotten the impression that people are taking it because they have to.</p>

<p>I know a handful of people who really dislike HASSes. They tend to stay in, say, economics, which though a HASS is very science-y at MIT. So even they end up happy :P</p>

<p>That said, HASS classes tend to be not as much work as technical classes. You likely won't be up pset-partying with your HASS class. </p>

<p>(I've taken music, history, literature, philosophy and anthropology classes.)</p>

<p>^I have to ask, how were your experiences in music and philosophy? My current philosophy teacher makes me hate the subject. He's the sort of guy who needs to be a wise-cracking center of attention all the time that it's just impossible to enjoy his classes, but in general, I love discussing philosophical topics with my friends. Not all of them enjoy it :D</p>

<p>Also, how's the creativity, in both scientific classes and humanities classes? </p>

<p>Just some questions that I randomly thought of :)</p>

<p>Music has been absolutely wonderful! My music classes were the ones I was excited to attend each day ^.^ My philosophy class was my least favorite HASS class. I, like you, have found that I love discussing topics with my friends rather than learning in a classroom setting. (I will note, though, that this was not run through the philosophy department.)</p>

<p>I've found people to be quite creative. I'm not sure what sort of answer you're looking for there? :) I can tell you - inside and outside of class - if you get people to build things, the things that come up are absolutely spectacular. The composers on campus I've run into are entirely creative, as have the artists (and, uh, I'm not much for drawn/painted art). It's a very good community to be around for fostering your own creativity, too ^.^</p>

<p>yeah dude MIT is pretty imba. It has all the pro-est kids in the US.</p>

<p>Still, though....coming to MIT to become a writer (even a science one for the general public) is...meh. It's odd. Nonetheless, if you're really serious about writing, it'll be much easier for you to be at the top, since MIT students are generally not so great in this area. But still....don't come to MIT for only writing. It's like going to Yale to become a pure mathematician.</p>

<p>^Something occurred to me a day ago. I'm writing a science-fiction book, and in order to have a real grasp on an image of the future world, which is insanely difficult to predict [would you have thought, in the 60's, of the internet and cell phones everywhere?] and probably hasn't been portrayed accurately in any sci-fi movie/book yet, you'd probably need a wide background in relating matters. I'm interested in writing, but more interested in actually progressing technology. If both go hand in hand at some point [perhaps after I graduate I can try both], then great :) I'm sure MIT would enhance my experiences and thus the book.</p>

<p>On that note, does anyone know how easy/ difficult it is to cross-register with Wellesley or Harvard to take the more humanities-style courses?</p>

<p>Not that hard. If you're really motivated, you won't mind the 15-20 minute commute to Harvard everyday, and sometimes, MIT students even get priority over Harvard students in registering for certain classes(weird, huh?). Wellesley is trickier, cuz it's farther away (think other side of Boston, which is ~1 hr of traveling). Anyways, a lot of people cross-register, but most just stay on campus because it's more convenient.</p>

<p>@ Jimmy797: MIT's strength lies in science and technology. The most serious classes involve problem sets, tests, and projects. When you come here, you won't write as much, and some people even feel as though their writing skills deteriorate over time, just from lack of practice. If you want to be a writer, it's going to have to be something that you develop in your spare time or in the few HASS classes that you're required to take. Unless you decide to become a humanities major (and you should at least double that with a hard science/engineering/something MIT is known for, IMO), writing will take a back seat to thinking logically and explaining yourself convincingly. </p>

<p>Good fiction explores humanity. That's something that you find within yourself and/or the people around you. You don't even need to go to college to become a science fiction writer, because a novel isn't the same as a textbook--you don't need all those details to make a story that revolves around the characters, not the technology. If you want a "wide background in relating matters," you should just read some touchy-feely articles on technology and let your imagination do the rest.</p>

<p>
[quote]
MIT's strength lies in science and technology. The most serious classes involve problem sets, tests, and projects. When you come here, you won't write as much, and some people even feel as though their writing skills deteriorate over time, just from lack of practice.

[/quote]

My writing skills have so far stemmed from reading and watching movies [good movies, that is.] I doubt that'd change while I'm at MIT, and at any rate, I practice writing occasionally in my free time. I'm very unlikely to become a humanities major, as I'm a lot more interested in the research fields - but I wouldn't mind taking a couple humanities courses over the years - if I ever manage to publish a book, it'd be a side-thing, not my main job. I'd be doing it for the sake of the story and not the money, as I am now.</p>

<p>
[quote]
thinking logically and explaining yourself convincingly.

[/quote]

I've yet to see a book/film that does this convincingly. I'm actually searching to write a book that makes sense scientifically, and</p>

<p>
[quote]
Good fiction explores humanity.

[/quote]

that explores humanity. The story I'm developing literally stems from humanity's fate, and it's nothing as simple as "we're doomed." The first time I thought of the story was when I was thinking of where we're headed, as a race, and how most views on this in fictional works usually overlap [we're dooming ourselves and our environment, yada yada, if we ever find aliens we're probably going to destroy them or them us, and so many other tired cliche's].</p>

<p>True, I don't need college to be a science fiction writer [thus my starting on the story now while I'm still on my train of thought]. However, I doubt my style is good enough for a full book, and there are a lot of things about story writing I've yet to learn. Humanities courses would help me, and anyway, I need college for the whole research thing in the future. As I mentioned, writing won't be my main profession. I enjoy it as a hobby and that's unlikely to change.</p>

<p>My goal, from my story, is to create a story fully revolving around its characters, with a setting that reflects what I'm trying to convey through the characters. And, due to my unwavering interest in technology, and the obvious revolution it saw in the 20th century, and my train of thought which keeps going to how technology will evolve in the coming decades, it'd be foolish not to have it in the setting.
In short, I'm trying to create something unconventional and original, in terms of both characters, setting, message, and tone. Story too, if I can manage it. </p>

<p>The articles you mention would certainly help, but I'm looking for something more detailed. I've found that my creativity enjoys its widest range when I know details about a subject. Say, for example, you want to create a street. You'd be better off borrowing specific details from things you've seen before [like a streetlamp, gravel, a kind of brick] and melding them in your own way to create something almost completely original [I use almost because I've come to realize that I've literally seen nothing original in this life], and definitely beyond comparison. That would be a better idea than to take something larger, like a piece of a building and so on, and using them to create a street. That would have a feel similar to your original inspiration.
I hope you got what I was saying with the latter paragraph.</p>

<p>So in short, articles about technology, which I've been reading since I was like 10 years old, so I've read a lot, help in terms of ideas, but not the actual creation and completion of these ideas. And I'm also searching to make the book a tad more scientific and detailed than your average sci-fi book, yet still accessible to most people. I hope to see it completed one day. I originally thought I might finish it by the time I start college, but I came to realize that prediction was extremely far off.</p>

<p>Basically, MIT is a dream of mine due to the research opportunities it presents in grad school [note that I didn't elaborate in this post on why I want this a lot] because I'm definitely tech-focused, and writing is a hobby that might evolve into a book someday, and might not. MIT seems to have a suitable mix of the two, and at any rate, I'm perfectly fine at keeping writing as a hobby.</p>

<p>Wow that was a long post. I'm proud of you if you read it all :)</p>

<p>UChicago is a great school, for humanities or science. They have close relationships with lots of big name labs in Chicago. However, keep in mind that UChicago doesn't have engineering at all, except "molecular engineering" which is brand new. So if you want to do engineering, comparing there to MIT might not be such a wise choice.</p>

<p>cdf is right that UChicago is probably a strange choice for an engineer. On the other hand, if you're not completely convinced you'll go for engineering, UChicago's good for a lot of the pure sciences and humanities.</p>