Campus Life

September problems

Auntie Matter on when it’s okay to break the November rule and what frosh should do at Career Fair

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Emily Levenson

If you have questions for Auntie Matter, please submit them at Questions have been edited for length, clarity, and content.

Dear Auntie Matter,

I'm a freshman and this junior and I have really hit it off. He is an exchange student, and he will only be here through the end of the semester. He doesn't have a girlfriend, and it seems pretty clear that he is interested in me. Does the November Rule count in this situation?  

— Frosh, Fond of Foreigner

Dear Fond,

Auntie is going to contradict all the typical advice here and say that you should break the November rule. Auntie’s loyal fans will know that she is an advocate for seizing opportunities when they arise, especially in dating.

However, there is a caveat. Consider the purpose of the November rule: as many of Auntie’s readers understand, the purpose is for frosh to develop their own social circles without the strong pull of an upperclassman with their already-established social circles. Particularly, the November rule guards against the problem of a frosh wholesale adopting the upperclassman’s friends as their friends. Should the relationship end, they would subsequently lose both their romantic partner and all of their friends in the process.

Therefore, you, dear writer, should not pursue this relationship to the detriment of forming friendships. Consider gossiping about your hot foreign boyfriend with your floormates, your teammates, or your fellow student group members. Seek romantic advice. Make it a team sport. Or, if that’s not your style, cultivate an air of mystery that will fascinate your friends for years to come.

The fact that he is an exchange student is in your favor here, too. You don’t say how long he has been at MIT, but Auntie assumes it is significantly less than two years. This means he has had a similar amount of time to make friends as you have, and so the friendship playing field is more level between the two of you.

The main reason Auntie suggests you pursue this man, however, is that she hopes you will fall passionately in love. To be frank, this scenario just sounds ripe with possibility for longing and risk and novelty. Please have a sizzling hot affair with a foreign man. Auntie begs you. (And feel free to write in with details.)


Dear Auntie Matter,

I'm a freshman. Doing career fair seems really scary and hard. How important is it for me to go?

— Are the T-shirts Worth the Turmoil?

Dear T-shirts,

Auntie will tell you something that is similar to the typical advice freshmen get on this matter (“just go and take free stuff”), but not quite the same. She believes you should go but not for the free things. You should go to see what it is like and practice for future years when there will be more at stake (the fact that you are so unlikely to get a job at this career fair means that the opportunity cost if you totally screw it up is very low). Furthermore, you should go precisely because you are afraid. It’s very likely that going to career fair will do you no harm and, rather, will be useful. It is better for you to get in the habit of doing things that frighten you but that you think you ought to, so in the future you are tougher. Go for the character building, but stay for the practice.

A few things to keep in mind for next Friday:

  1. There is a special time this year at career fair for the freshmen from 9:30–10 a.m. Companies are not encouraged to give you things but instead to talk to you, when the upperclassmen are not around vying for their time. Take advantage of this to really speak to recruiters, practicing speaking in a professional setting and getting a feel for the social norms of networking events.

  2. Some will tell you to go, looking like a slob, and just collect free things. You may be able to infer Auntie’s feelings on this advice. While there is nothing wrong with dressing casually in everyday life, you perform like you rehearse. Do not waste this opportunity to learn how to present yourself professionally.

  3. Furthermore, do not just grab things and go. Again, you should take this opportunity to practice some networking skills that you might not already have. If you take 15 T-shirts but somehow manage to avoid making eye contact with anyone, you have not practiced your networking skills.

  4. Finally, on the matter of taking free things: Auntie suggests you focus on the nice ones. Shop around. See what’s the best on offer. Auntie herself loves a free, high quality water bottle. Or, recently, Akamai, a biotechnology firm, supplied little pots of basil you could grow yourself. One is sprouting at this instant in Auntie’s window. Fresh basil will give your salads and pizza just that little extra kick, so if you have a window with natural sunlight, do take the plunge.