Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Enthusiastic about NYU Fieldwork!

NYU (New York University) sends out a newspaper sized flyer to parents, and another one to students. This one caught my eye:

.. enrolled at NYU's Silver school of Social Work, hopes her field placement will confirm that she has what it will take to succeed as a social worker. "I am doing a field placement as a student social worker with the Institute for Community Living's SPOT program, which is in the Specialized Outreach Team"... "Our consumers are HIV positive, mentally ill, or substance abusing, and they are noncompliant with with their medication. I want to devote my life to HIV/AIDS education and awareness and to helping those who have already been infected. My field placement with SPOT is a wonderful fit. It has confirmed for me that I've chosen the right career path and that I'll be a compassionate, caring social worker".

Wow. What enthusiasm. And some parents are scared of their kids going into the military???

The gigs with the United Nations, Macy's world class hotels and Saturday Night Live sound a lot more fun, and they do claim a 92 percent employment and professional school placement rate.


Monday, October 26, 2009

MIT Admissions Blog goes to the Obama Speech

Go here for pictures.

Here's the text

"If the Obama were a unit of measure . . . "
Wait, have you heard? I mean, it's only been published all over the MIT homepage, in three or four different blog entries, all over the news, and is the talk of campus. . . President Obama came and visited on Friday(!), giving an address on clean energy. As prestigious as MIT is, and as brilliant as some of the professors are, we still get super excited when something like this happens (kind of equivalent to when famous baseball players ask for autographs from the people they're playing against).

The announcement was on Tuesday, with MIT only finding out about the visit the weekend before. MIT went into scramble mode, which is always fun to watch. It doesn't go into scramble mode very often, the only other times I've seen it are immediately prior to CPW and before the Dalai Lama came and visited. Scramble mode, if you'll let me draw another comparison, is like when you have 10 minutes before your parents come upstairs to check to see if you cleaned your room. MIT was repairing buildings, pressure washing everything in sight, replacing windows, emptying stores of hazardous chemicals, and beautifying MIT just as fast as they possibly could.

All of this was fine and good, and I kind of enjoyed watching how MIT prioritized what was being cleaned where (you could pretty much predict the route Obama was going to take based on how clean the sidewalk was), but I expected that to be the most of my Obama-Visit-Experience. Word on the street was that MIT, as an entire institute, had received 200 tickets to allocate however they saw fit. That means all of the faculty, administration, undergraduates, and graduate students had to share 200 tickets. In the end, 50 of those tickets went to undergraduates, typically those who are doing some kind of work with energy or that deans felt would benefit the most from Obama's address. Needless to say, the MechE student who doesn't have a UROP and would rather build toys than wind farms was not chosen for a ticket.

So that was that, I'd stalk around and try to get some money shots of snipers and motorcades but in terms of actually seeing the president speak, it was a no go. That is, until I realized I worked for the Admissions office. Hmmmmm, I write for a website that prospective students read so that they can see what cool opportunities await them at MIT. This seems like a cool opportunity . . . I smell a PRESS PASS!

Turns out, Jess had a similar idea, and both of us e-mailed the powers at be (Dave) and asked if we could have press passes. 2 days and many strings pulled later, guess who had tickets to the address! WEEEEE!

Seriously. This was cool stuff. Everybody all over campus was abuzz about how only 50 students were going to be chosen and complaining about how more should be invited etc, and now all of a sudden I was going to see the President! On Thursday evening, the evening before Obama arrived, the Secret Service and Security had taken over MIT. All of the garbage cans from around Kresge (the auditorium) were trucked off, all the manholes and steam vents were welded shut (seriously) and tons of other invisible-to-me security measures were enacted.

Friday morning I woke up at 7:00 after having gone to bed at 4:30 (PSETs are brutal). I dressed nicely and headed to lab to get some work done before the big event. I made sure to bring my ticket with me:

On my way to campus I noticed that it was a little more difficult this morning, difficult enough that they provided signs.

and had everything blocked off with cones

I spent some time in lab, built some yoyos (my team is getting REALLY excited about these yoyos, they're actually coming out how we expected, and we're 2 weeks ahead of all the other teams), and then went to get in line. The ticket told me to get in line at 10:30AM. I got there at 10:00AM and what did it look like?

Yeah. I was like, last. Ok, I'm last in every line that I join, but you know what I mean.

Time went fast, luckily enough, because eavesdropping on people attending an Obama address is AWESOME! Let's see, the guy in front of me helped design Fenway park, somebody behind me appeared to know every single congressman ever, and so on and so forth. I was standing next to Julia '13, who also got a ticket (one of the 50, as a freshman!), and we chatted about how we were totally out of our element, about how excited we were, about security, about whether we were going to see Marine 1 or a motorcade, etc.

Oh, speaking of snipers, we spotted this guy chilling on the Z-center.

What's that black dot?

Ah. Sniper. Gotcha.

Eventually we wound our way into the auditorium (after three ticket checks) and towards the metal detector. The metal detector was relatively routine, until they saw my smartpen*. You see, the plan was to make a pencast of the address, taking digital notes and recording Obama's voice on my pen. Guess what the Secret Service had never heard of before. My pen. I had to explain what it did, let them pass it around (almost gave them a demo), and eventually they cleared it. I didn't beep so I didn't get frisked or wanded, and then Julia and I headed inside. We saw a bunch of empty seats up front that we immediately headed for, only to realize that we weren't nearly special enough to sit in those seats.

We ended up about 7 rows back and on the right side of the auditorium. It was 10:30. The speech started at 12:30. We weren't allowed to leave. We didn't know anybody. What's one to do? Take pictures and wander of course. I wanted to hobnob with the important people but I'm pretty sure they didn't want to talk to me. Professor Sadoway was a little less afraid, standing up at the front with the senators and mayors, presumably talking about his research.

I feel like this is the "Ok, which multi-millionaire can I tell about my battery research next?" look.

Then I took some pictures of the scene around me. The first thing I noticed, surprisingly, was the amount of room the news cameras took up.

No wonder they couldn't invite more than 200 people from MIT, 200 more seats were taken up by cameras! Sam Range '13 (my prefrosh for CPW last year) is a photographer for The Tech and was forced to hang out behind all of the video cameras in the roped off area. He got some good pictures though, I'll show you one later.

Next was the stage, all decked out for the occasion.

The flags all looked identical, and the lady next to me told me the trick. They put a coat hanger up inside the flags at the top to give them similar angles, and then tape the back of the flag to the flag pole so they all lay flat. Betcha didn't know that! The shrubberies were a nice touch, but we couldn't figure out what those black screens were for, flanking the podium. The nearest we could figure, Secret Service was just laying behind them, waiting for something bad to happen so they could jump up and go all ninja on everybody. Makes sense, right? Right.

After two hours of waiting, I made my way to my seat. A lady came out onto the stage, was introduced, and sang the National Anthem (very well) and we all cheered, remaining on our feet. We stood there awkwardly for about 2 minutes, completely silent, expecting the President to be announced, but nothing happened. Eventually the sound guys played the same classical music they'd been playing for the last two hours and we all laughed and sat down for another 15-20 minutes. Soon a man came out and put the seal on the front of the podium, and we all got quiet again, expecting something to happen. False alarm.

After some more waiting and more classical music (and talking about MIT Admissions with the woman next to me, who knows somebody applying this year), a side door opened and some bigwigs came in, including the governor and the mayor. Everybody clapped really loudly, this must be it! Then, from the other side of the auditorium, my side (like, 20 feet in front of me), John Kerry walked in.

So, the thing about John Kerry is that, well, he looks EXACTLY like John Kerry. No joke, it's like "Hey! That's the guy from JibJab!"

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!
The gravity of this whole thing kind of clicked in when I saw John Kerry. He's an important guy, and he's just standing right there! Like, RIGHT there, in front of me. I could throw my cell phone at him and hit him (it'd be the last thing I ever did, but I could have!).

Then, all of a sudden, we heard it. A voice, as if from god, saying: "Now, introducing our speaker, the President of -- MIT, Susan Hockfield!" False Alarm AGAIN! No offense Mrs. Hockfield, but you weren't the most important president in the room right then.

Susan Hockfield came up and gave a nice introduction, welcoming us, and then said "It is my great pleasure to introduce -- Professor Moniz!"

GAH! Another False Alarm! I couldn't take much more! Finally, FINALLY, Professor Moniz said "And now, the President of the United States, Barack Obama!" (not an exact quote, but you get the idea). The room roared and leaped professionally to its feet.

There he was. Barack Obama strolled across the stage. Our stage. The stage that we put a moonbounce on just for kicks. The stage that I've stood on dozens of times. The stage that was presently 30 feet away from me. The President. GAH! You can feel it, you know, when he walks on stage. For some reason it becomes immediately obvious just how important this guy is, he's in charge of our country. Country, as in all the people I've ever met.

He began his speech the way most do, and I'll save you the specifics because I took notes and you can listen to it yourself. I will take the opportunity to show you a picture I took of Obama with my very own camera. That's right, the President is in my camera.

and here's the picture Sam Range took.

His is, um, better. But mine looks more amateur (which = real).

So go ahead and listen to his speech, or at least the first several lines when he rags on Harvard and praises MIT hackers (score++).

You'll want to skip ahead to about 27 minutes into this pencast. I paused the pen during recording, which apparently just inserts silence into the recording, which a stupid implementation that Livescribe needs to fix. Anyway, wait for it to buffer about halfway and then either click the word "Introducing" in the top left or drag the slider to the 27:00 mark.

Live from President Obama's Clean Energy Address at MIT
brought to you by Livescribe

And like that, it was all over. Obama left on the left side of the stage and headed down the front row, shaking hands with all of the important people on his way out. This was going to be the chance when I could get closest to him, and I had a mission.

Mission? Allow me to explain. The floor I live on at MIT has this silly little tradition of assigning units of measure to people, units that measure something that person is known for. For example, 1 Snively is equivalent to 1 byte wasted on the Internet. A Tang is a measure of orthogonality to normal conversation (meaning 90 degrees of Tang will sever a conversation clean in two, creating a really uncomfortable silence) and an Itani is the unit of negative tact (meaning if you are tactless, you get 1 Itani). You can read more about the origins of this tradition here. Several years ago, ex-blogger Sam Maurer '07 visited the set of the Colbert Report and decided that he should ask Stephen Colbert what his unit was. The fact that he actually asked Stephen Colbert, in person, is somewhat legendary.

Now, I was about to be in the same room as the President of the United States. There was no WAY I was leaving that room without asking President Obama what his unit would measure. I didn't know how it was going to happen, but it was going to, and it might involve scolding by important members of the audience and the Secret Service, but once in a lifetime opportunities only come once.

So, as I said, Obama was going to walk right in front of me. I pushed my way up to the second row of seats but was way too short for Obama to see me, so in the words of James '11, I went in "guns blazing." I climbed onto the armrests of the chairs and stood about 3 feet above everybody else. Obama was RIGHT there! I struck:


he looked at me.


he smiled and shook somebody's hand. Every around me laughed and told me it was an awesome question and that I should try asking again. Obama was getting closer to the door, I only had one more chance.


he looked at me and said "Hi!"

Totally unfazed by the fact that Barack Obama had just said "Hi" to me, I tried again.


he just smiled again. And then he was gone. And then I got tapped on the leg. I looked down and a member of the MIT event staff looked up at me.

"Secret Service is going to ask you to get down." This I knew, so I got down off the chairs and stopped making a scene. Those people who have met me know that I can be very loud when necessary, so anybody within a 30 foot radius of me had heard me yelling at the President (and seen me because I was standing on chairs). I'm pretty sure I had instantly been flagged by Secret Service and they were on their way over. Sure enough, once I was on the ground, I was met by my favorite humor-less suited friends.

"Next time please stay on the ground."
"Ok." I said. Sure. Next time. Next time I'm that close to the President I'll make sure not to climb on chairs. Roger. is what I thought.

So, the verdict on Obama's unit? Unless he officially rebukes this and offers an alternative unit, the official unit of Obama is equivalent to "Smiling at somebody and subsequently completely ignoring them." If you hear somebody, smile at them, and then ignore one, you've earned 1 Obama.

The end! I mean, after that I grabbed some lunch and went to lab to crank out yoyos.

A once in a lifetime opportunity to be sure. It's not every day that you get to see snipers, the President, and he says hi to you while you make a scene and draw the gazes of all the Secret Service agents in the room. But it was a good day. A gooooooood day.

*According to new revisions to section 255.5 of the FTC Guides Governing Endorsements and Testimonials, I'm obliged to inform you that I'm currently employed as a marketer by Livescribe, manufacturer of the Pulse Smartpen. You are so informed.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Wpi Robotics08

The New Robotics Engineering BS Program at WPI

WPI-sponsored Robotics Team Wins $500,000 at NASA Moondust Excavation Challenge

WPI-sponsored Robotics Team Wins $500,000 at NASA Moondust Excavation Challenge

The Worcester Polytechnic Institute-sponsored team Paul's Robotics took home first place last weekend at NASA's 2009 Regolith (moondust) Excavation Challenge, beating out 22 other teams of professional engineers, and college, university, and high school students from across the country, for the $500,000 top prize. The competition was held Oct. 17-18, 2009 at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., and was part of NASA's Centennial Challenges program, which exists to help inspire innovative solutions to technical challenges in the aerospace industry.

The victorious team – made up of WPI faculty, staff, students, and alumni -- is led by Paul Ventimiglia, a WPI robotics engineering major and head of Worcester-based Paul's Robotics. Ventimiglia and his team designed, built, and programmed the robot, which is known as "Moonraker 2.0."

"We're excited that the machine did what we designed it to do," Ventimiglia told New Scientist magazine.

Ventimiglia's team consists of Mike Ciaraldi, professor of practice in WPI's Computer Science Department; Colleen Shaver BS '04, MS '08, manager of robotics initiatives at WPI; Brian Loveland '07; Jennifer Flynn '04; and Marc DeVidts, a software developer from Miami, Fla., who is the team's only non-WPI-affiliated member. WPI is the team's primary sponsor.

The impetus for the Regolith Excavation Challenge was NASA's quest for new ideas for excavation techniques that do not require excessively heavy machines or large amounts of power. The competition called for teams to design and build robotic machines to excavate simulated lunar soil (regolith), a function that will be an important part of any construction projects or processing of natural resources on the Moon. Specifically, the robots had to navigate around a moon-like surface, collect regolith, and deliver it to a collection bin. To qualify for a prize, a robot had to dig up and dump at least 150 kg of regolith within a 30-minute period. The teams that boasted the largest loads would claim the three cash prizes: $500,000 for first place, $150,000 for second place, and $100,000 for third place. Paul's Robotics won the competition by collecting and dumping 439 kg of regolith.

"This was a landslide victory; it's a wonderful outcome," said Kenneth Stafford, adjunct assistant professor, director of WPI's robotics resource center, and Ventimiglia's faculty advisor. "Moonraker 2.0 is an excellent, excellent engineering project."

Moonraker 2.0 features a large number of scoops that constantly rotate to collect the lunar soil. Once the robot is full, the team navigates it to the collection bin and deposits the regolith by raising the collector arm. Per NASA guidelines, Moonraker 2.0 is a battery-operated robot weighing less than 80 kg that fits fit within a 1.3 meter cylinder; it also employs only technology that could be used on the moon.

"I'm very excited that we have a winner this year," Greg Schmidt, deputy director of NASA's Lunar Science Institute in Moffett Field, told New Scientist. "The fact that it's taken three years shows what a difficult job it is."

To learn more about the team, visit Paul's Robotics website or follow on Twitter.

Read about the win on New Scientist's website.

To learn more about WPI's robotics engineering program, visit the department's website.

Underwater Robot at Santa Clara University

 Found here: http://www.ericmackonline.com/ICA/blogs/emonline.nsf/dx/hanging-out-with-gort-robby-roomba-and-c-3po?opendocument&comments

The theme for this year's FLL Robotics Competition is undersea robotics. Amy and Wendy spent some time examining the underwater robot from Santa Clara University. Jeff Ota, Adjunct Professor and Research Associate was very accommodating in showing us how the robot worked.

Monday, October 12, 2009

College Crunch 20 Best Schools for Engineering Majors in 2009

For the full story, read the article here:

Keep in mind, I'm an MIT computer science graduate with a lot of brothers/sister who went to Stanford.

Here is the list
1. Cooper Union (Cooper who???)
2. Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo (Well known in CA, but no much on east coast)
3. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (Very hard to get into school nobody's heard of)
4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Number 4? You kidding??)
5. United States Military Academy (A good engineering background, but #5? Great place to be a history making general if you like management)
6. Stanford University (Yeesh, should be #2 after MIT)
7. United States Naval Academy (Same as West Point, if you want to be Top Gun or captain a Burke destroyer to shoot down ICBM, this is for you)
8. University of California, Berkeley (Hippie heaven is also top geek school)
9. Georgia Institute of Technology
10. Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (These kids are smarter than MIT, CalTech east)
11. Cornell University (Stanford east, study in a National Park)
12. Bucknell University (what?)
13. California Institute of Technology (These are the original uber geeks that make MIT grads look normal and well balanced, but they're better in pure science and math)
14. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
15. Villanova University - With 42% admission rate you actually have a chance of getting in because being smart is both neccesary and sufficient, where in the Ivy Leage you've also got to be incredibly lucky to beat lottery odds.
16. United States Air Force Academy (great if you want a supersonic office delivering boom a short flight away)
17. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
18. Purdue University, West Lafayette (I still don't know where this place is. The chicken is probably good)
19. Carnegie Mellon University (This is the place we heard about at MIT if you like Pittsburgh)
20. University of Maryland

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Stanford University Visits Seattle

Back in my day, Stanford seemed to what you got if you put MIT, Harvard, and the University of Washington football team all in the same school. Seattle’s late-night show “Almost Live” had a skit where the student went between the U Washington and Washington State table at the college fair and asked “Which college should I go for the best academics” to which both pointed “The Stanford table is THERE”. The Stanford session was at the Seattle Museum of History and Industry. It wasn't a huge turnout, competing with all the other college session out there. Neither of my boys got a mailer, and had to track it down from their admissions website.


One College Prowler complaining about the cost of Santa Clara University said "at least you didn't get into Stanford". Full price is $53,214 with room and board BUT.... if your parents make under $60k, they'll cover full freight. From $60-$100,000 you'll be expected to pay somewhere between 0 and room and board. By comparison, Yale says under $120 you'll pay 10%, and MIT is free if you make under $75k. If you make more than that, you'll pay more, but you can't complain about your income.

Admission rates

Overall admit rate is as low as Yale, about 8%, but even if you have perfect SAT reading it's still a meager 18% even if you ARE Mr/Ms. perfect student. On the other hand, if your math is a "mere" 600-699, you're chances are still about as good/bad as the average Stanford hopeful, so they say go ahead and give it a shot if you're in the range. What goes unstated is when I looked at admissions in the 80s, affirmative action and legacy groups generally get admission rates much higher (2-3X) than the normal rate, but then you have to be in a disadvantaged group to get that “advantage”, but you might keep that in mind if your kid falls under that category. They say what they really look for is something else outstanding or a really good story like teaching kids to play piano in the essay, or somebody from a hardship background since there are so many "perfect" academic kids to choose from. We know one student who was state level athlete, musician, valedictorian and voted most popular in his high school with near-average scores who didn't make it in, so who know what it really takes.

18% Perfect 800 SAT Reading

11% Perfect 800 SAT Math

7% 600-699 SAT Math

9% 30-36 ACT

"Matchless Diversity"

Minorities and African Americans

Now if you're African American, you should pay attention from this Asian writer. There were a few African American students at the session, where I didn't see any for Whitman or Boston University, so they must be doing something different/right in recruiting. They boast under "matchless diversity" 10 percent African American and 12 percent Latino. That's very close to Census parity for the US, while 3 percent American Indian Alaska Native Native Hawaiian. These guys get so many applicants of all kinds they can craft just about any ethnic mix they want, and the US population seems to be what they want (that is if you ignore the lopsided white/Asian mix). What caught my eye under Exchange Programs are, in addition to Darmouth (yawn) they have Howard University, Morehouse College and Spelman College, which if you are at all into Af-Am culture are the 3 powerhouses of historically black colleges. That sounds like they're going to extra trouble to give minority students the opportunity of going to an AfAm college in addition to their own big-name (but majority white/Asian) experience.

I'd keep in mind Thomas Sowell's advice (famous black conservative from Stanford's Hoover institution) that the downside of the top colleges drawing students away from less famous colleges has the effect of mismatching students by ability. so you'll have to weigh the strategy of going to the college with the best name that's trying to fill out their "diversity" requirements vs one that may be better matched with your academic qualifications, since your neighbor's kid would probably struggle even if Stanford offered them a free ride.

Asians & Other

Interesting, they brag that over half of students are of color, but nearly half of them are the Asians. Funny, you include Asians if you want to show how “diverse” your campus is, or leave them out in the case of Berkeley if you want to showcase how badly your diversity needs to be improved. The campus is 23 percent Asian now, which isn't as high as UCLA, Berkeley, Irvine or even the U Washington, but still more than most Seattle high schools, so it's a LOT, even if I haven't heard any clever "too man Asian" joke names. That's good if you want your Asian kid to meet a Nice Asian Boy/Girl (we had a couple of inter-Stanford marriages in my family). I came up with 46 percent anybody else, who would be "White" if they had bothered to print it, so that makes them one of many "minorities" in the population, which isn't so odd for urban California, but might be odd for somebody coming from most other places in the US. Those numbers mean that you're main competition for 70 percent of spots are OTHER Asians and overachieving whites, not whatever affirmative action is doing for the few other groups.

Other Brags

• 98% freshman retention rate (of course, look at who they admit)

• 6.4 to 1 faculty ratio

• 75% of classes fewer than 15 students

• 27 Nobel Prize winners on faculty

• $4M for undergrad research

Some other observations

• I played in the Stanford Symphony and sang in the Catholic folk mass when I was working summers in Silicon Valley as a MIT co-op student visiting my brothers there.

• The chili in the student union was the best.

• I personally ran into Olympic medalist figure skater and African American Debi Thomas at the Stanford Shopping center. She’s doing engineering for a day job I understand. (Kristi Yamaguchi was from Fremont across the bay)

• Connie Rice taught and worked at Stanford before she worked for W.

• I can’t think of any famous musicians (Yo Yo Ma went to Harvard)

• All 7 kids from my generation got into MIT and /or Stanford 1976-1985. Fat chance we’ll be able to repeat that, so far we’re 0 for 1 on the next generation, but who knows.

• Can’t beat the weather or the neighborhood of Palo Alto vs Boston where the MIT half of my family went.

• MIT is still the better engineering school with higher test scores if it’s a contest for ultimate geek school.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

MIT: "Some recommendations about recommendations"

MIT admissions officer Matt McGann offers this advice about teacher evaluations:

Some recommendations about recommendations

Thursday, September 24, 2009, 2:04:23 PM | Matt McGann '00
At MIT, we require all applicants to send in two letters of recommendation -- one from a math or science teacher ("Evaluation A") and one from a humanities teacher ("Evaluation B").

If you are applying this year -- early action (November 1 deadline) or regular action (January 1 deadline) -- I hope that you have already asked your teachers if they can write a letter on your behalf. Please recognize that teachers are very busy -- teachers in this country are seriously overworked and underpaid; I hope you will respect their time. So whether your application deadline is about a month away, or about three months away, please have these conversations now or very soon, if you have not yet done so.

I recommend that you find some face-to-face time alone with each teacher to ask them in person to write your letter, and to have a conversation about it. This is a much better approach than just leaving the recommendation form on their chair and running away. I recommend giving them all of the recommendation forms for every one of the schools you're applying to at once. This is also a good time to tell them about why you're applying to each school, and how you see yourself as a match for each place. Teachers often find these conversations very helpful.

If a teacher asks you to write the recommendation for them -- do not do this (these requests rarely happen in the United States, but do happen with some frequency abroad). Instead, ask another teacher. Teacher recommendations should only be written by the teacher and by no one else.

If you attend school outside the United States, and have teachers who are not English fluent, this is okay -- you can still have them write you a recommendation. They can write in their native language; the letter can then be translated. There are many sources for translation, and one that you may find helpful is an English teacher at your high school. Official translations from agencies are also good. If you send us a translated recommendation, please include both the English translated copy and the original in the native language.

MIT's teacher recommendation forms are available for download from your MyMIT application portal. Please note that there is no online recommendation system for MIT; recommendations will need to be on paper and mailed to the admissions office. We prefer that teachers use our forms, but it's okay if your high school has its own form, or if teachers want to use the Common App's paper recommendation form. It is also okay -- common, in fact -- for teachers to write their own letter and not answer the questions on our form. We just ask that your teacher attach that letter to our form -- with your name and date of birth clearly indicated -- and that the letter address the questions on our form.

Who should you ask? You should certainly ask a teacher who has taught you in an academic class in high school (i.e. no middle school, and no basket weaving class). Ideally, this will also be a teacher who knows you as more than just a student who does well on all the tests. We find that the best recommendations are written by teachers who know an applicant well as both a student and a person. For example: the English teacher who is your newspaper advisor, the math teacher who is your math team coach, the biology teacher who is your field hockey coach, the history teacher that you talk about politics and health care policy with, the physics teacher who you challenge each day for the best time on the New York Times crossword puzzle, the chemistry teacher who is your mentor.

Also -- you do not need to choose the teacher that teaches the subject that you want to major in. You do not need to choose the teacher from whom you received the best grade. You do not need to choose a senior year teacher -- but you should choose someone with whom you have an ongoing relationship.

You can choose a teacher who has retired or moved to a different school, as long as that teacher meets the above criteria. The process is the same in this case.

I get many questions about what subject teachers can write the A or B eval. As a general rule, if the teacher teaches a class that would count towards MIT's math & science requirement, that teacher should fill out the A Evaluation; if the teacher teaches a class that would count towards MIT's humanities, arts, and social sciences requirement, that teacher should fill out the B Evaluation.

Purely as an exercise, I made a list of different kinds of classes that high school students might take, and tried to classify them as an A Evaluation or B Evaluation as best I could. A few are pretty fuzzy (and could be categorized reasonably either way -- no worries), but most seem pretty straight forward:

A Evaluation potential subjects





Earth Science

Environmental Science

Computer Science




B Evaluation potential subjects















Social Studies




After you have chatted with your teacher and given them the recommendation forms, you can track whether or not MIT has received and processed the letter on your MyMIT tracking page. Please allow up to two weeks processing time during peak application season. If the letter has not shown up as processed by the application deadline, do not worry. You may wish to very politely check in with the teacher, but you do not need to constantly hound them. As long as you have given your teachers sufficient time to write on your behalf, they will get your letter in to us. And we are much more flexible with teacher recommendations that come in a little late than we are with late student application materials.

And when MIT does process your teacher's letter -- please thank your teacher. It's the nice thing to do, and they deserve it.

I hope this is helpful!

[Please note: with this entry, I speak for MIT Admissions. While much of this advice is universal, YMMV with other schools for the specific tips, tricks, and rules]

Web Popularity Contest: 4International Colleges and Universities


4International Colleges and Universities

These guys list colleges by a web hit ranking, which has more to do with how famous a college is than how good it is. MIT ranks #1, Caltech is way down the list. It is a measure of how big a "name" your school has. University of Washington gets beat up a lot in reputation for being Seattle's "local" school, but ranks fairly high in national and international rankings. Worcester Polytechnic ranks no higher than University of Massachusetts Boston (where my wife went), even though it's a top tech school in Mass after MIT and Olin. But then she says she got great jobs compared to her friends who went to BU, Amherst and WPI. BU ranks higher than Brown (which is harder to get into). Santa Clara ranks higher than WSU Wash State, though WSU is huge in Wash.

I put in the top schools (they disable cut and paste on the web page!) and a few schools that we're looking at.

International higher education directory and search engine
Colleges ranked by web popularity in 200 countries
2009 University Rankings
(MIT beats Harvard, Berkeley, and Yale)
1. MIT
2. Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico
3. Harvard
4. University of California, Berkeley
5. Cornell University
6. Purdue University
7. Yale University
8. University of Cambridge, UK
9. Indiana University System
10. University of Oxford UK
60. University of Washington
63. University of California, Los Angeles
83. University of Southern California
89. University of California Irvine
101. Boston University
162. Brown University
382. Santa Clara University
757. Washington State University
789. Tufts University
1143. Worcester Polytechnic Institute
1221. University of Massachusetts Boston
1546. Seattle University
Popular college in North America http://www.4icu.org/topNorth-America/#
1. MIT
2. Harvard
3. University of California, Berkeley
4. Cornell University
5. Purdue University
6. Yale University
7. Indiana University System
8. University of California System
9. Stanford University
10. Penn State University
11. University of Texas at Austin
12. University of Michigan
13. University of Washington
14. University of Pennsylvania
32. University of Southern California
39. University of British Columbia
40. University of Chicago
44. Boston University
53. Oregon State University
57. University of Oregon
62. California Institute of Technology
66. Brown University
69. Drexel University
71. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Monday, October 5, 2009

Most of Oregon's 2,400 new teachers unable to find jobs this fall

see article: Most of Oregon's 2,400 new teachers unable to find jobs this fall

By Betsy Hammond, The Oregonian

October 02, 2009, 10:01PM

Benjamin Brink/The OregonianAllison Dworschak earned a master's degree in teaching from the University of Portland and couldn't wait to start work as a high school teacher and journalism adviser. Instead, like most of Oregon's crop of new teachers, she couldn't get an interview, much less a job. So she's a substitute this year, teaching at Fowler Middle School in Tigard three days this week.

Most of the estimated 2,400 newly minted teachers who graduated from Oregon colleges of education this year were unable to get hired anywhere in Oregon, proving that a job often billed as recession-proof is not.

Education deans and others who monitor the job market say this was the state's worst hiring season for new teachers in at least a generation.

With schools offering jobs to only about one-third as many teachers as normal, there was fierce competition for nearly every opening, and brand-new teachers brimming with idealism but lacking professional experience often got shut out.

A survey by The Oregonian suggests fewer than 600 new teacher graduates got hired in Oregon this fall.

Others found teaching posts elsewhere -- Arizona, Alaska, even overseas -- often with a hope of returning to Oregon in a few years once hiring resumes here.