In true MIT spirit, the Institute typically releases admission decisions on Pi Day (March 14), an annual celebration of the mathematical constant. Frequently, these admissions decisions are released at 6:28 p.m., which is known colloquially as “Tau time” (πx2). An exception was made for the earlier release time of decisions on March 14, 2015—known as Super Pi Day—as the date reflects the full first five digits of Pi (3.1415)—when admissions decisions were released at 9:26 a.m. in order to continue with the next three digits of Pi. MIT Admissions creates a engaging video to accompany the announcements and celebrate the tradition, and posts it to the MIT Admissions Blog.
- 33,767 applicants
- 1,337 (3.96%) admits
Tim the Beaver
Tim the Beaver has represented MIT since 1914, when he was adopted as the mascot at the suggestion of the Technology Club of New York during their annual dinner, at which President Richard Maclaurin was presented with two handsomely mounted real beavers. Other contenders included the kangaroo, who goes forward by leaps and bounds, and the elephant, who is wise, patient, strong, hard-working, and has a good, tough hide. The club chose the beaver—nature’s engineer, or in Lester Gardner’s (Class of 1898) words, “an industrious American animal noted for its mechanical skills who does its best work after dark.”
Cardinal red and silver grey first came to represent MIT in 1876, following the recommendation of the “School Color Committee,” convened in February that year expressly for the purpose of defining its official colors. According to committee chair Alfred T. Waite (Class of 1879), cardinal red was selected because it was reminiscent of the American flag and “has always stirred the heart and mind of man.” Gray, on the other hand, was chosen for its “quiet virtues of modesty and persistency and gentleness.” The committee’s choices were affirmed by the Alumni Association and approved by the faculty that May.
Today, MIT’s colors are displayed in myriad ways, one of the most prominent being through the Cardinal and Gray Society, the alumni group for those who have reached the 50th anniversary of their graduation. The group plays an important role at Commencement, as newly inducted members—wearing the society’s distinctive cardinal red jacket and gray slacks or skirt—head the processional and lead the graduates into Killian Court.
In a ritual long enjoyed by MIT undergraduates, a committee of sophomores gathers each year to design their class ring, which is ceremoniously revealed during the spring term. MIT’s class ring dates back to 1929, when a student committee convened to design what is formally known as the “Standard Technology Ring.” Featuring a beaver (the Institute’s mascot) on top, the Boston and Cambridge skylines on the sides, and the MIT seal and dome on the shank, the ring also incorporates unique design elements related to each graduating class. Made of gold, the ring’s nickname, “the Brass Rat,” derives from its color and the prominence of the beaver mascot. A concrete symbol of an MIT education, the distinctive Brass Rat is recognized worldwide and instantly identifies MIT alumni to one another.
MIT culture distinguishes itself not only for its seriousness of purpose but also for its unique sense of humor, as expressed through “hacking.” Hacks at the Institute are elaborate but benign practical jokes, perpetrated anonymously—on campus, around Cambridge, or even farther afield—that amaze for their creativity, cleverness, and difficulty of execution. A 1958 prank in which the Harvard Bridge was measured in increments of fraternity pledge Oliver Smoot has achieved such fame that “smoot” has been incorporated into the American Heritage Dictionary and is included as a unit of measure in Google Earth. The bridge still displays its quirky unit of measure today.
Though not officially sanctioned, hacks can be appreciated for their technical prowess and humorous digs at rival institutions. Examples include the astonishing emergence of a large black weather balloon with MIT written all over it in the middle of a Harvard-Yale football game in 1982 and the 2006 cross-country theft of Caltech’s Fleming Cannon.
Not content to just produce exceptional graduates in the usual fields of study, the Institute also offers its swashbuckling students the opportunity to become certified pirates. Students who complete four physical education courses—archery, fencing, pistol (or rifle), and sailing—are eligible to receive a Pirate Certificate, officially awarded by the Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation. In addition to receiving a certificate printed on faux parchment, newly minted pirates are rumored to swear a secret oath.
- 33 varsity sports
- 16 men’s, 15 women’s, 2 coed
- 20 intramural sports
- 34 club teams
The Infinite Corridor runs through the center of MIT’s campus, connecting its east and west sides. Twice a year, an astronomical event lights up the length of the hallway that runs through Buildings 7, 3, 10, 4, and 8. In November and again in January, the setting sun aligns with that particular section, flooding its third-floor windows with a stream of direct sunlight that dazzles spectators observing from the west end of Building 8. The assumed azimuth is 245.75 degrees. Now an annual tradition known as “MIThenge,” this phenomenon was originally discovered, calculated, and publicized in 1975–1976 by students from the Department of Architecture.
MIT Mystery Hunt
The MIT Mystery Hunt is a puzzlehunt competition that takes place in January. The hunt challenges participating teams to solve a series of puzzles that lead to a “coin” (physical or virtual) hidden somewhere on campus. Puzzles can be as creative, complex, collaborative, unusual, physical, and solvable as hunt organizers decide to make them. The winning team gets to write the subsequent year’s hunt—and redefine the rules.
Launched in 1981, the MIT Mystery Hunt continues today as strong as ever. It is widely regarded as one of the oldest and most complex puzzlehunts in the world, attracting as many as 2,000 people annually and inspiring similar competitions at universities, companies, and cities around the world.