Dec 21, 2007
At What Cost
Posted in: Life & Culture
I haven’t blogged much at all this year. I remember how happy I was when I found out I’d been selected. I thought “Wow, I can share my experiences with untold numbers of people. Maybe I can even give them some advice on how to succeed here.” I still feel that way. But I didn’t blog much at all. I didn’t have enough time.
That’s what this post is about, sort of. Every decision you’ll make here carries with it an associated opportunity cost. Everything you decide to do will keep you from doing something else. You want to go to that fraternity party tonight? That’ll keep you from getting an early start on your project. Wanna stay up late doing homework? It’ll keep you from waking up early to work out and make you fall asleep during class. Everything carries an associated cost, and the key to doing well at MIT is figuring out what costs you can bear.
I had a lot of class this semester. Here’s a snapshot of my registration:
69 units is more than most people take here. Especially on top of being the operations officer for Boston NROTC. So what did it cost me?
1. Academic performance: I had too much on my plate. Because I took so many classes, I didn’t do particularly well in any of them. I ended up with a 3.9/5.0 semester GPA and a D in 10.490. I’ve never gotten a D in my life, and I’m sure many of you are in the same boat. It’s quite a humbling feeling; one I hope you are fortunate enough to avoid. But I can’t change it now. When I apply to grad school, there’ll be a glaring “D” in my Fall 2007 semester. The saddest part is the reason why I got a D. It wasn’t because I couldn’t do the work (any of my team members will tell you I could). I just didn’t have time.
2. Relationships: I didn’t get to enjoy the company of my friends. I spent most of my time studying or doing psets and projects. I didn’t get to spend time with my girlfriend either, which of course caused a bit of tension between us. She’s a wonderfully patient and understanding woman, but even she gets tired of being ignored.
3. Hobbies: I was in training for a triathlon before the semester started. That stopped the 2nd week of school. I love writing and didn’t get to take my writing class seriously. I’ve wanted to get back into music for a long time (I played the trumpet in high school and was in marching band), and yet again I’m forced to delay it until next semester.
4. Sleep: I didn’t get much. ‘Nuf said.
And of course there are other things I missed out on, but I won’t mention those here.
Alright Derrick, so you couldn’t do a lot of the stuff you wanted to do or thought about doing. Suck it up. What did you gain?
Enough units and graduation requirements to finish my second degree on time. A pretty good understanding of E&M and cellular dynamics. That’s about it.
Was it worth it? Do I regret it? Both of those are good questions, and the jury is still out. I’m committed to this second degree in physics because I want to get a PhD in physics after I finish my naval service (which I still haven’t told you about. I promise I’ll do that soon.) I’ll never know how much fun I could have had if I dropped the second degree. And when I apply to grad school, I’ll never know how my second degree affects my chances of admission.
Would I do it again? My answer is a cautious yes. I love physics and I don’t want to give it up. And I have to admit, like some other academic masochists, I get a rush out of competing with MIT. What I did this semester will make my victory in the spring even sweeter.
How does any of this affect you? Learn from my example. Sometimes you want to do too much. You can’t do it all. Every day, take a good hard look at what you’re doing and make sure you’re happy with the choices you’ve made. As Lulu said, do what you love and f**k the rest. There isn’t time here for anything else.