Useful information for incoming students
Check out the MIT Student Life website.
Sign up with Sangam
Please visit the Mailing Lists page to find out more about the different mailings lists maintained by Sangam.
Please send an email to sangam-webmaster [at] mit[dot]edu if you have any trouble signing-up for a list.
Travel to MIT, Cambridge
The best way to reach MIT is by taking a flight to Boston Logan International Airport. MIT is about 25 minutes from the Logan Airport. The Graduate Student Council has stopped running the Free Logan Airport Shuttle that it usually used to operate from mid- to late- August every year. But, you can take a look at this page for a fairly new service organized by the Boston Indian Students Association.
Taking a cab from the airport is the most convenient way to reach MIT and works out to about $35 on average. You can also check out other ground transportation options at this site.
Please ensure that your passport will be valid for the period of your stay here. Always carry your passport, VISA and I-20 on your person or in your cabin luggage. When entering the US , you are no longer given the I-94 form (which used to keep your arrival and departure records in the earlier system).
Things to do before coming to MIT
(A) Applying for a visa
Disclaimer: Visa regulations are subject to change. These notes are only meant to serve as guidelines, and are current as of July 2008. Use them at your own risk! For more up-to-date information or further details, speak to a counselor at a US consulate, or consult the US government VISA and Immigration websites.
Get the following things ready:
- I-20 original (signed)- The start date on your I-20 should be some time in August 2013. The earliest you can apply for a visa is 90 days before that date, not before. Count 90 days, not three months.
- Letter from university offering admission and financial aid (original)
- Photographs – Passport sized and US visa sized. Take multiple copies.
- Visa appointment payment receipt.
- GRE & TOEFL originals.
- Latest original grade card.
For financial support:
If your sponsor is in India you will need the following documents:
- Sponsor’s bank account statement showing funds for the 1st year of study covering expenses shown on the I-20.
- Affidavit of support on stamped paper and notarized from your sponsor for the entire duration of stay in the US
- Verification of financial resources by Certified Chartered Accountant
- Salary statement
If the sponsor is in the US the following documents must be provided:
- I-134 (available at INS offices in the US )
- Bank account statement of your sponsor
- Salary statement
If the sponsor is outside India & US the following documents have to be submitted:
- Affidavit of support of your sponsor
- Bank account statement of your sponsor showing funds for the entire period of study
- Salary statement
Note that sometimes, the amount provided for by an RA works out less than the required available funds as listed on the I-20. In that case, you should have a letter from a nationalized bank showing availability of the difference. This is only a formality required for the visa, though. Your RA stipend is comfortably enough for your accommodation and living expenses.
Be relaxed about the interview! The university wants you here, which is why you got admitted in the first place. For more information and latest info about the application process and forms visit the VISA page.
(B) Housing at MIT
Before reaching MIT, you will have to make arrangements for permanent accommodation. For tips and information on how to apply for on-campus housing lottery, check here. In case you are interested in living off-campus, visit this page
Most of the information about course requirements and courses is readily available on individual department websites. A list of all available courses is available here. You should browse through the website of your program and find out information about courses that interest you. Text books are very expensive out here. Graduate students should bring along important text books or reference books they used during their undergraduate studies. For engineering graduate students, knowledge of a programming language and MATLAB is useful (though you can easily pick it up once you get here).
(D) Things to bring along
Presented below is a comprehensive list of things you should bring to MIT from India . Please note that almost all the items mentioned below are readily available near MIT – i.e. this is not a list of must haves. However, the list is prepared with a view of minimizing your initial expenditure upon arriving in the US , and to provide a checklist to help students who might be leaving home for the first time.
- Remember to carry all important documents in a neatly arranged folder.
- Make 3 copies of the documents. Leave 1 copy at home in India and carry 2 copies with you.
- Scan all the documents and keep copies of it stored on the cloud- dropbox, email clients etc so that you can access them in case you lose all your hard copies.
- Preferably carry the originals (especially PASSPORT, I-20 LETTER etc.) on person (or in your cabin baggage) during travel as checked-in luggage is liable to get lost.
- Passport (with stamped VISA)
- Form I-20 (Note: American citizens/Green card holders do not need the I-20 form)
- Correspondence regarding your admission to MIT
- Letter of Financial Aid (if present)
- Graduation diploma (if available)
- Transcripts/Mark-sheets of previously attended schools
- Any other bona-fide certificates / documents
- Light t-shirts
- Thick t-shirts/sweatshirts
- Formal wear (rarely needed, but bring a pair or two)
- Formal leather shoes
- A light jacket
- Thermal wear
- Some traditional wear for occasions
- Snow jackets are usually too bulky to carry over from India, and can be bought easily once you are here. Similarly, you will also need to buy weather-proof shoes, ear-muffs and snow gloves. Note that the temperature in December and January can drop to -10 °C even during the day, so these are necessary buys. The weather in August and September should be much more pleasant. Medium-range forecasts and historical averages available here.
(3) Miscellaneous items
- Scientific calculator
- Pens, glue, tape, scissors
- Towels and napkins
(4) Medical Kit
- You are allowed to carry about a year’s supply of medicine, if you have a precription clearly stating that it is for a chronic illness, and for personal use only. Please check the US Visa site for exact rules and regulations.
- If you use spectacles/lenses, do carry an extra pair (a new pair of glasses here is very costly).
- It is also advisable to have an eye and dental check-up prior to coming to the US.
- In addition to your prescription medicines, you might want to carry general medicines for cough, cold, body ache, etc.
- Please note that if you know who you room-mates will be, it might be a good idea to share/distribute the utensils to be carried. Do carry a few recipe books if you are not familiar with cooking.
- Important: All stoves here are electric. Therefore, you need flat-bottomed vessels for cooking in a reasonable amount of time.
Good things to carry with you are:
- Pressure cooker (with spare gasket and valve)
- Frying pan
- Ladels, spoons, forks
- Bowls and plates (get microwave-safe ones)
- Cups and mugs
- Tea strainer
- Small containers for masala, salt, etc.
- Kitchen knife
(6) Food Items
Warning: The U.S. immigration and agriculture department strictly prohibits carrying food, meat, vegetables, fruits, seeds, etc. into the United States . Your baggage might be subject to a security check and inspection by sniffer-dogs at airport.
However, our experience at the Logan airport is that you are normally allowed to bring in food articles as long as they are carried in adequately sealed packets. At your risk and discretion, you may carry sealed packets of spices (red chilli powder, turmeric, jeera, garam masala, etc.). Please note that all these items (and more) can be easily purchased at nearby Indian grocery stores.
Things to do after coming to MIT
- Meet your department secretary and inform him/her of your arrival.
- Go to the MIT card office and get your MIT-ID. Activate your computer/athena accounts.
- Go to ISO information session and get the things that need to be completed.
- Apply for your Social Security Number.
- Apply for a bank account.
- Register for classes.
- Recognizing the different cultural backgrounds of international students, the ISO and GSC organize many orientations during the first few weeks of Fall (starting in end of August). You should check out their orientation schedule, and attend the events that interest you. This is a good way to learn about life in and make new friends.
- Sangam also organizes a party for incoming students, it is a good platform to meet all Indian student around the campus.
Some Notes on Banking
You have primarily two options for a physical bank – Bank of America and/or MIT Federal Credit Union.
Advantages of Bank of America:
- Dense ATM network across the United States of America.
- They do currency exchange.
- They do money orders and cashiers checks.
Disadvantages of Bank of America:
- Depending on your account type, you may have to pay a monthly fee.
- Higher Minimum balance requirements for the account
- The interest rates on savings and fixed deposits are usually lower than MIT FCU rates.
Advantages of MIT FCU:
- The account is completely free for MIT students with just $5 minimum balance requirement
- You get very good personal customer service. Staff will sit with you in their office and patiently explain all the details of the accounts, and help you with options. You get free notary public service for attesting documents, etc.
- Spouses get free accounts.
- The accounts are for life, even after you leave MIT.
- Good loan rates for almost anything: homes, cars, study, computers, even boats!.
- Decent interest rates (they cannot do much if the economy is bad, but usually better than Bank of America).
- You can get a credit card with a nominal credit line, even if you do not have much of a history (as when you first get to the US). This is a good way to start building your credit history.
Disadvantages of MIT Federal Credit Union:
- Sparse ATM network, mostly in and around MIT. However, ATMs that are part of the SUM network do not charge a fee when you use the MIT FCU card.
- They do not do currency exchanges, but you can go to Bank of America for this if you want. Or go to AAA, Thomas Cook, or some other such service.
- Other physical banking possibilities include Cambridge Trust Bank and Citizens Bank.
- Once you have set up a physical bank account, you may want to consider Internet banking. These Internet banks, such as ING, Met Life Bank etc. are able to offer excellent interest rates since they don’t need to maintain any physical branches.