Sep 12, 2005
Posted in: Majors & Minors
Did you know that you can't double-major at MIT?
Okay, I'm just being pedantic. A "double-major" generally means that one gets a single diploma with both areas of specialization written on it, and we don't do that at MIT. If you complete the requirements for two majors at MIT, you actually get two diplomas to show off at graduation (and to hang pretentiously on your putative future office wall, for that matter). Somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of MIT students graduate with bachelors degrees in two subjects (stats are here, but I happen to know they're not complete, because I should be listed as a year 3 student with a second major in VII-A. You may notice there are no year 3 VII-A's listed. Yep.)
The MIT website is terribly confusing about the requirements for completing two majors (perhaps thinking that if they make it difficult to understand, only the truly worthy will be able to dance at graduation with a diploma in each hand), so I'm going to try and demystify the process a little.
The first concept to understand is the General Institute Requirements (GIRs). In a nutshell, everybody at MIT has to either take or pass out of the following: 2 semesters of physics (mechanics and E&M), 2 semesters of calculus (differential/integral and multivariable), 1 semester of chemistry, 1 semester of biology, 8 semesters of humanities/arts/social sciences, 1 semester of an appropriate Institute lab, and 2 semesters of appropriate restricted electives. (There are a few other things you have to take, such as PE classes and 2 semesters of "communications intensive" classes in your major, but for the purposes of this discussion they don't count.)
Now for the important part: anything you take which doesn't fall under the umbrella of the GIRs as described above counts for units outside the GIRs.
For a single degree, a student has to accumulate 180 units outside the GIRs. This is easy; you can accumulate 180 units outside the GIRs just by completing the requirements for your major. For two degrees, you have to complete 270 units outside the GIRs, which is substantially harder (unless you come in with a lot of AP or transfer credit). Most people take 48 units (4 classes) per term; if you double without much AP credit, you have to average 60 units (5 classes) per term. This probably does not sound like a big difference to you -- but believe me, 60 units hurts a lot more than 48, especially toward the middle of term.
Personally, I came in with a meager 27 units of credit (and didn't pass out of any intro classes), so double-majoring has been extremely painful. (Check out last semester. Owww.)
Some majors are easier to double with than others. The list of requirements for each major is here; some majors, like 9, are somewhat requirement-light and lend themselves to doubling, while others, like 16, have so many requirements that it's difficult to squeeze in another major. (My friend Woody '08 is trying to double in 16 and 2. Not for the faint of heart.)
Just in case you were wondering, two majors and two minors is the maximum amout of ridiculousness with which you can graduate MIT. Triple-majors used to be allowed, until someone realized that knowing there were people capable of triple-majoring at MIT made them feel sad.
And finally, for Imma:
(who asked "Hi...I'm the parent of a freshman. Her birthday is coming up soon, so I was hoping you could tell me where I might order a (yummy) birthday cake for delivery to her dorm. Thanks!")
So there are basically two deliciously decadent cake-making places I thought off off the top of my head, so I'll give you info for both and let you see what looks best.
1. Mike's Pastry is the classic Boston North End dessert place -- no trip to the North End is complete without completely blowing one's diet at Mike's. There's no direct information about delivery on the website, but I'm sure if you call the phone number, they'd be happy to deliver.
2. Rosie's Bakery. I actually like Rosie's more than I like Mike's Pastry (shh, don't tell anyone), and they would allow you to directly place an order online. (For comparison, Rosie's has more of a personal feel... Mike's, being the "place to go" in Boston, sometimes feels (and tastes) kind of assembly-line.) To be honest, just looking at the website is making me hungry for one of their ridiculously delicious brownies.
3. (In case the other two options don't work) The Cheesecake Factory has a restaurant in the Prudential Center and another in the Cambridgeside Galleria.
I would suggest letting someone (a roommate, perhaps?) in on the plan -- if you ship it to the roommate, the roommate can be on the lookout for it and will make sure the cake gets promptly refrigerated after arriving at the dorm. (A friend of mine sent me Chipotle burritos for my birthday this year as a surprise, and I didn't check my mailbox until three days after they arrived. They weren't in good shape, let's just say that much.)