As an alum and now employer, I have learned that the best MIT experience comes not just from academics but from extracurricular experiences that include leadership, self-directed projects, transgression of boundaries, informal mentoring, and opportunities to organize peers. While some students get these from sports or clubs, I find that in the context of a sometimes overwhelming MIT workload, the most effective way to have these experiences is in your living group. And broadly speaking, I find the “culture of the east side”, talking to graduates from 1970 to 2014, from Wall Street to Silicon Valley, is a highly effective place for students to have these experiences.
By matching your aspirations to your living group, by being in a place where you are not an outlier but a core member of the community, and by starting with people who are a little bit weird, we develop very strong self directed graduates. And for incoming students who are not traditional “leader” types, the environment of the East Side does a far better job of giving them leadership experiences.