“Going to MIT never crossed my mind even remotely,” says Mat Peterson, now a freshman.

The son of a truck driver and a secretary from Spring, Texas, Peterson enrolled in an introductory physics class his junior year at Klein Oak High School. “I knew in a hurry that I needed to learn more to be adequately prepared for the next level,” he says.

One day, a friend mentioned MIT’s OpenCourseWare (OCW), which makes available all MIT’s courses online for free to anyone in the world. Peterson never even heard of MIT. But he decided to check out the website, and spotted Physics Prof. Walter Lewin’s videos.

“His teaching was so enthusiastic. The videos were interesting and entertaining and really grabbed my attention,” says Peterson, adding that studying those videos helped him score an A in physics.

Intrigued, he began poking around the site to see what other materials were available. When he enrolled in a calculus class at the University of Houston his senior year, he again used OCW to review for his exams. He earned another A.

“Using the site gave me such confidence. Until then, I had considered only state schools,” he says, adding that he loves problem solving and was delighted to discover that it was key to the MIT curriculum. “Being able to do the work made me think I should actually apply for admission.

“OCW takes ideas that are so coveted and lets people all over the world indulge in them,” he says. “In high school, I wanted only to do my best, but what drives me now is to use my ideas to really make an imprint on the world.”