Incoming students: Start your digital life at MIT
June 29, 2021
Phil Johnson
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Illustration of three MIT students creating their digital MIT identities.
Image: Runming Dai

Congratulations on being an incoming MIT student! Information Systems and Technology (IS&T), the Institute’s IT department, is here to provide you with advice and support on IT issues. While classes may not start for a while yet, there are several things you should do now to prepare for your computing life at MIT.

Create your Kerberos account

Your Kerberos account (sometimes referred to as an Athena or MIT account) will grant you access to a vast array of technology services and resources at the Institute. Look for an email from with instructions for creating your Kerberos account.

Register for Duo

MIT students are required to register for Duo two-factor authentication, which is an additional security layer to verify your identity via a physical device, such as your smartphone, a tablet, or even a landline.

IS&T strongly recommends that you register at least one backup device for use with Duo in case something happens to your primary device. YubiKeys are hardware authentication tokens that don’t require WiFi or cellular service and make excellent backup devices. Students can request a free YubiKey from IS&T.

You will be prompted to sign up for Duo after creating your Kerberos account. This Knowledge Base (KB) article explains how to register devices for use with Duo.

Set up your MIT email

Once you have your Kerberos account, you’ll be able to login to your MIT email, which the Institute uses to contact you about everything. Your email address will be

You can login to your MIT email account using your Kerberos credentials through a browser or an email app. IS&T recommends Microsoft Outlook, which is part of the free Microsoft Office bundle available to all MIT students.

Grad students may also be assigned a departmental email address, e.g.,,, or This account is separate from your account. Contact your department for more information.

Install MIT certificates

An MIT certificate is a safe way to access secure web services, such as Student Information Systems, without having to type in a username and password. Certificates need to be renewed every year by July 31. This KB article will walk you through installing MIT certificates.

Get discounts on computer hardware

If you’re planning on buying a new computer for the fall, MIT has relationships with several vendors that offer students discounted educational pricing on hardware and accessories. Students can take advantage of these discounts by purchasing through the vendors’ online education stores.

In general, when buying a computer, IS&T recommends that students purchase hardware that supports the latest operating systems and includes as much memory and the fastest processor speed your budget will allow. In addition, we recommend purchasing the extended manufacturer warranty to protect your device.

Other aspects to keep in mind are the size and weight (you’ll want something that isn’t a burden to carry around), battery life, and camera placement (you should be able to work on your computer while participating in remote learning or work).

Bookmark MIT IT resources

For answers to questions about computing at MIT, bookmark these online resources:

  • IS&T’s website: News and information regarding everything IT at MIT, including a Students page with a checklist of things to do as a new student.
  • The Knowledge Base: MIT’s database of IT knowledge. You’ll find how-tos and FAQs on almost any IT topic.

Also, be sure to follow IS&T on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat to get important news and updates about IT at MIT.

Get IT help 24/7

If you have any IT-related questions, IS&T’s Service Desk can provide help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via phone at 617 253-1101, email at, or the web at

Learn how to be digitally secure in our next article for incoming MIT students Secure your devices and data.