The MIT educational experience is like a series of “ah-ha!” revelations that students build into an arsenal for attacking problems—and it will happen to you no matter what you major in. Everyone—this includes philosophy majors as well as physics majors—must take a year of calculus, a year of physics, a term of chemistry and a term of biology. There are other institute-level requirements (such as eight humanities, arts, or social science classes and a laboratory course) but it’s really the science core that sets a quantitative ability standard for all undergraduates. This standard makes MIT students extremely attractive to graduate schools, professional schools, and potential employers. And it provides for an unusual sense of community—how many other schools can you name where everyone is able to solve a reasonably complex kinematics problem?
This doesn’t mean that the only people who belong at MIT are mathematicians, physicists, and engineers. Quantitative thinkers don’t necessarily manipulate equations for a living, and there’s certainly a need for more of them in policy-making positions. John Deutch, an MIT alumnus and professor, lamented the lack of technical literacy in the higher levels of government during his tenure as Director of the CIA:
…probably two people in the Cabinet could solve quadratic equations. If you include deputies, you might have four. And three of them will have gone to MIT.
If you’re still trying to figure out whether MIT is the place for you, consider the following two questions: Does “fuzzy thinking” bother you? Do you want to learn how to critically assess problems in whatever discipline interests you (whether it’s mechanical engineering or political science)? If you can answer both with an enthusiastic “Yes!” then there’s no better place for you academically than MIT.