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Snively '11

Dec 24, 2008

Parents, Please Read

Posted in: Best of the Blogs, Process & Statistics

I have finally made it home for the holidays. Let me tell you, there's nothing quite like being at home, even if it is just for two weeks, and even if it's so snowy that nobody can leave/come to my house for anything. Home is still wonderful.

Being home is a great time for deep, philosophical talks with parents that simply aren't possible over the phone.

The reason I write for the admissions blogs is because I really like the admissions process, I like helping admitted students learn about MIT before they get here, and I like sharing with everybody the types of things I do here. My dad follows the blogs very closely as well and the two of us often discuss the current "admissions gossip." The one thing he'll do that I normally won't is explore the bowels of College Confidential (if I had my way, College Confidential would be wiped off the face of the planet), but that just makes him all the more interesting when we discuss admissions.

The two of us were sitting down at Rockin' Rogers enjoying breakfast and chatting when the topic turned away from normal father-son stuff and drifted towards MIT. We touched on admissions (How's Matt? Matt's fine. Do you ever see such and such? No not really. I really like Yan's writing, she uses a lot of adjectives . . . etc etc) and got more onto the topic of current student life, mainly my grades. Grades are especially relevant right now because all of this year's freshmen just got their first set of them. Up until now, MIT has been a fun, relatively informal, unofficial learning environment, but the instant grades get written down it becomes serious.

I spend a lot of time at MIT very stressed, this semester especially. Fortunately for me, none of that stress comes from my parents. All of my stress is self-imposed, it's me telling myself to do well, telling myself to study, and telling myself to not give up. My parents act as wonderful outlets for frustration, concern, complaining, and any other angsty 20-year-old emotion I can throw at them. Through all of it they are supportive and tell me to keep doing what I can. They constantly remind me that I'm at the hardest school in the country, the fact that I'm even there is astounding, the fact that I'm passing classes is ridiculous, and the prospect of A's is almost heart-attack-inducing. I don't think it's because they have low standards, that passing is acceptable now, I think it's because they are extremely realistic and understand the grand scheme of things. They understand that passing a class at MIT with a C doesn't mean you're below average or struggling, it means that MIT has deemed you competent enough to proceed and learn more material. It means you passed.

What I've noticed, both from the comments in the admissions blogs and from talking to friends at school, is that many many many parents don't take this approach. Many parents put a lot of additional pressure on their children to succeed and to get A's. While it's wonderful to want your child to succeed and to encourage them to do well, threatening them and adding unnecessary stress to an already super-stressed MIT student does more harm than good.

This is the first year I've gotten to watch freshmen do MIT and I've learned a lot about parents just by watching their children.

1) Parents are CONVINCED that unless they call you every day to remind you, you will forget to eat and subsequently die of malnutrition.
2) Parents are scared to death that you are wasting their money.

Let's talk about number 2 for a little bit, because that's what really motivated this entry. Ultimately, when it comes straight down to it, parents are the ones who decide whether you attend MIT or not. They pay the bill. End of story. Don't kid yourself or come up with excuses, you don't have $50,000 a year to pay for tuition. As such, parents want to see that they are getting their money's worth, which is why parents FREAK OUT (caps totally necessary, I've seen the student end of freak out phone conversations many times) when they hear any of the following:

a) I skipped lecture (more than once (for an entire semester))
b) I decided not to do that problem set
c) I failed that test (and it doesn't bother me)
d) I got a C in physics/chemistry/biology/math

Parents will label these as inexcusable. I label these as completely excusable, and I can back up my claim.

I skipped lecture (more than once (for an entire semester))
I routinely skipped lecture my freshman year. Why? Because it was more beneficial to skip lecture than to attend. Sometimes (more often than people think) lectures are actually detrimental to your learning. Sometimes it's a bad professor, other times it's where the lecture fits into your schedule, and sometimes it's the way that lecture is taught. I skipped almost every single differential equations lecture I had. Why? Before and after lecture I had a one hour break with no classes. One hour is not a lot of time to get work done and oftentimes I found myself just wandering around, surfing the internet, or bored. What I realized is that if I skipped my lecture and went to the library for 3 hours I could read the chapter out of the book that was going to be covered in lecture, go through online lecture notes, and work on the problem set. I got more work done and learned more NOT going to lecture than I would have if I attended. I ended up getting a B in the class.

Another example, I skipped the majority of my freshman chemistry classes. Why? They were early in the morning and videos of the lecture were always posted online. There, honestly, was no need for me to attend lecture in person, so I didn't. I watched the lectures online, took notes, and did fine in the class (I even aced my second test).

I decided not to do that problem set
Freshmen year is all about trying to figure out a system that works for you. Time management is really important at MIT and a lot of students here struggle with it. The only way to learn good time management skills is to try different things. Try skipping these lectures in lieu of this, try skipping this PSET in order to study for this test, this class is harder than this class so I need to focus more here, etc. Prioritizing and figuring these things out can be difficult and can oftentimes result in skipped PSETS, failed tests, and sleepless nights, BUT IT'S NECESSARY. Without experimentation and trying different things, there's no way to find the study method or work schedule that is the most effective. Freshmen year is Pass/No Record (you either get a P or your class never shows up, there are no letter grades) for precisely this reason, to give students a chance to figure out what works for them.

Parents, if your child trusts you enough to talk to you and share everything with you, you're going to hear stories of failed tests, missed PSETS, and sleepless nights. They've trusted you enough to tell you these things, it's up to you not to jump down their throats and scold them for it, otherwise they will simply stop telling you anything. Ask why certain things happened, absolutely, but please don't scold or threaten, you just make our lives more difficult than they need to be.

I failed that test and it doesn't bother me
This happened to me this year. I studied days for a test, took it, felt great about it, and then scored in the bottom 5% of the class. I failed it. I also didn't mind. When looking back at the mistakes I made and the questions I missed, I realized that it was just one or two algebra mistakes here, a misinterpretation there, and then some questions that were just really hard that I didn't know how to answer. I understood the material, I didn't feel like I could have tried harder or studied more, the test just didn't go well. It happens. There was nothing to change for the next test, I was happy with my preparation, I just happened to have failed.

Not letting something get to you is important at MIT. If your child tells you that they failed a test and they're ok with it, don't flip out. They've come to grips with their score and are ready to move on, don't drag them back down into an unhealthy state of sorrow and regret. They're ready to do well on the next test and tackle their next problem set, don't encourage them to brood over a bad test, it's simply not helpful or healthy.

I got a C in physics/chemistry/biology/math
Not all sciences are created equal. To be perfectly frank and honest, I hate math, chemistry, and biology. I used to loathe physics but I'm slowly warming up to it. MIT forces you to take chemistry, biology, math, and physics, whether you like them or not. Whether you understand them or not. Whether you ever plan on using them or not. AND . . . not only do they force you to take them . . . but they force you to take MIT versions of these classes, meaning you're taking "Oh My GOD! This is the hardest thing ever!" versions of classes that you may have found difficult in high school. Anybody will tell you, it's very difficult to force yourself to study material that you find frustrating and uninteresting, which is why it's very important that MIT has Pass/No Record 1st semester. MIT wants you to learn about chemistry, biology, physics, and math, but it doesn't necessarily expect you to excel, it just wants you to understand more about the subject matter.

Parents see a report card full of C's and die a little on the inside. This is premature. Parents, calm down, you're overreacting. Your child just passed some of the hardest intro-level science classes in the country, be proud of them. Show them support. You are getting your money's worth. The more support you give them now, the better they will do later. I'm not a parent so I "don't understand parenting," but I am on the receiving end of "parenting" so I do know what's useful on our end and what's not. The fact of the matter is, when your child gets into their major, their grades will improve greatly. They'll be learning material that they enjoy, the material that they came to MIT to learn, and they'll want to study and go above and beyond. Be patient and watch your child grow into their school, it'll be a process you only get to go through once, and it's not something you want to tarnish with constant lecturing and scolding.

 

I guess, in the end, this is what I'm trying to say. MIT is hard enough without parents constantly berating us and scolding us and pressuring us to do well. We know what's going on at school, we're in the thick of it. We'll call you and tell you what's going on with our lives, tell you of our mistakes and our triumphs, but we really don't want to be lectured to. We want support. If you don't give us support and instead pick apart everything we tell you, we'll simply stop telling you things. It's not that we don't love you, it's that you're making things worse and it's in our best interest to do what we know needs to be done. Sometimes, by trying to make things better, you're making things worse. If we ask for advice, give it. If we ask for support, give it. If we tell you what we've been up to, enjoy our stories, but please don't make our lives more stressful.

Comments (Closed after 30 days to reduce spam)

Ahh, the classic tree-hugging picture, nice.

I really enjoyed this and will definitely show it to the parental unit.

Posted by: Coleen on December 24, 2008

Thank you so much; have fun at home!

Posted by: Claire on December 24, 2008

Hey Snively!

Thanks a lot for this one, i've been following all your blogs and this helped solidify my opinion on MIT. Luckily my parents don't expect A's or anything when I come home and they are very result-oriented aka do whatever works to get the result you want.

Love your writing style! Keep on bloggin!

Posted by: Andras Kiss on December 24, 2008

W00T! You Rock!

Your also lucky! Alot of people are still stranded in the airport!

Posted by: Ehsan on December 24, 2008

How can you hate chemistry, biology, and (at one point) physics and still figure going into any science- or engineering-related field?

Posted by: 0 on December 24, 2008

Great Job Snively!

I love this one, cannot stop reading it until the end. Very motivational and simply from the heart, haha...

Enjoy your rest!

Posted by: Jesse L on December 24, 2008

Snively, thanks a lot for writing this. It had to be said.

Posted by: Yan on December 24, 2008

Really nice entry and I'll have to show it to my dad. Have a nice holiday!

Posted by: Stacy on December 24, 2008

Hey Snively,

Haha omg. This is great. I'm going to forward this to my mom. Not that she would put excess stress on me (she's a lot like your parents in the sense that she knows that MIT is one of the hardest colleges in the country), but so she doesn't freak out. Thanks!

Posted by: Richard '13 on December 24, 2008

Heh, thanks Snively.
My mom's definitely a (1). xD

Posted by: Reena on December 24, 2008

This is excellent. I have seen so many students stressed out due to parents' expectations/misunderstandings.

Thank you.

Posted by: 0 on December 24, 2008

Awesome post.

I go to a math and science academy that is considered one of the best schools in the state, so I've seen that sort of parent freak out before and can totally understand that.

Posted by: Ilyanep on December 24, 2008

I think my parents would be like Snively's if I got to go to MIT, but I'll be showing them this just in case.

Posted by: Matt A. on December 24, 2008

Nice post, Snively. It looks like you two are sharing a very intimate and special moment in that picture...you should rig your facebook profile to say "Michael Snively is now in a relationship with Tree in Oregon"

Posted by: Mikey on December 24, 2008

Preach, Snively! You give very good advice, honestly.

Posted by: 0 on December 24, 2008

@Mikey
I just tried to change my facebook relationship status but it only displays who you are in a relationship with if they're a real person. "A Fir Tree" isn't a real person. Now I'm going to get all sorts of questions about who I'm dating/broke up with.

Posted by: Snively on December 24, 2008

Wow! It's the first time in a long time that you didn't link us to something cool in your description.

Posted by: Ehsan on December 24, 2008

Second*

But still! What's happening!!!

Posted by: Ehsan on December 24, 2008

@Snively: You just unconsciously suggested that people who don't have facebook are consequentially unreal.

That was a loller.

Posted by: Cam on December 24, 2008

Amen!

Posted by: Kevin on December 24, 2008

I think this applies to all situations, regardless of MIT. The more parents criticize and nitpick and make their kids regret things like grades, especially when they're already stressed out trying to hang on to material, kids will stop talking. It's just easier that way.

Posted by: Anonymous on December 24, 2008

Thanks for writing this, Snively. I'm afraid if I get into MIT (I got deferred EA) my family won't understand if I don't get good grades. Far from being college obsessed, my parents are clueless. My mom is convinced that RPI is a harder/better school than MIT and consequently wants me to go there.

Posted by: Kelly on December 24, 2008

Thanks for the holiday gift Snively! My parents definitely don't sound like yours, and even if they know all this on the inside, they certainly won't let this show on the outside. Secretly though, I'd so much rather get a C at MIT than an A at (insert liberal arts school here).

Posted by: :) on December 24, 2008

"Many parents put a lot of additional pressure on their children to succeed and to get A's."

This reminds me of the unspoken assumption that a lot of parents seem to make: that a student's "success" is determined solely by their grades. One of the most important things I have learned over the past year and a half at MIT is that this is absolutely not true. Grades are important, but they are not the end-all be-all of college life.

This is, incidentally, the same reason why I get so frustrated by those College Confidential threads asking "CAN I GET INTO MIT WITHOUT A 4.0!?!?!" MIT doesn't demand perfection, but you you should demand the best of yourself.

Posted by: Paul on December 25, 2008

Very useful post. Thanks, Snively.

Posted by: 0 on December 25, 2008

My dad needs to read this.

Posted by: Oooh. Blog. on December 25, 2008

I'm sure the tree feels the same way.

Posted by: 0 on December 25, 2008

@ Snively:

All you have to do is create a profile named A Fir Tree. They claim to check name changes, but I'm pretty sure the original signup system is automated. (And given some of the names friends of mine have had at various times, I'm not convinced that they regulate changes either.)

Posted by: Niki on December 25, 2008

Finally, a post I can agree with here! You made such great points, and I hope parents loosen up a bit and don't pressure their kids. MIT is hard enough as it is, so back off and only intervene if things get out of control (i.e., if your kid fails more than one class in a term or something). odds are, the person knows they're doing something wrong and they're trying to fix it, so parents don't need to step in.

Also, totally agree with you on the 18.03 thing. I had the infamous Toomre this term, whose class is notoriously hard, and I passed with an A without going to a single lecture (save for the first one of course).

And it is safe to say that once you get into your major, things get more interesting and classes get a bit more enjoyable. This term I took 2 major classes, and I loved what I was learning and paid way more attention in class. This means that I barely ever studied for my exams because I understood things the first time around, and my grades greatly improved. So chill it with the whole grades thing.

Of course, if I do get a C in a class it pisses me off, but I've been there, done that, and it's OK.

Posted by: milena '11 on December 25, 2008

Real nice post, Snively. =)

Posted by: 0 on December 25, 2008

Yeah, I think I went through MIT with a lot of angst partly for the reasons above, and ended up not doing as well as I would have liked. There really shouldn't be any undergrad messed up like I was.

Posted by: MB on December 25, 2008

HEY , HELLOW SNIVELY I HOPE YOURE OK, THE REASON FOR ME, I'd want you help me , im from mexico but im american i'd like study in the MIT how i can get this.... how you see i dont talk all about english, but i considered iam very exellent in mathe maths phisics please give a number contac i could change a lot of things only i nedd an oportunity for demostrate that ...please i wait you letter .. thanks

Posted by: JAMES on December 25, 2008

i just hope they understand what you mean. by understanding i really MEAN it ... understand...

Posted by: sepideh on December 25, 2008

First, to everyone who's going to read this comment:
Yes, my nickname is Tree. It's been that for the past three years. No, it's not because I saw the picture on this post. Although if any of my friends see it, I'm going to be talked about a lot.

@Snively

Nice post. You've gotten into writing pretty darn nice posts which are the "Stuff You Have To Know" kind. Most parents aren't okay with bad grades and everything else you mentioned. Showing them something like this on the MIT Admissions site helps things a bit smile
Happy Christmas!

@Everyone
Happy Christmas!

Posted by: Tree on December 25, 2008

Great Post Snively, though my parents (well dad) is not the type that complains about anything in school. Like if my teacher says to him im a bad student, he'll just say "ah really, ok" , but then later he'll tell me "ah that teachers knows nothing, you just do your best" So I doubt if I get a C at MIT he'll be mad lol

But he does constantly check that I am doing my "best" which basicly means nagging, anyway, love him for it.

I am from the UK and so have applied regular action, not sure if I will get accepted, i'll try though. I even have to take the SAT which we dont have here in the UK, so I gotta study for it from scratch and then take the test, from test centre.

Posted by: Fouad on December 25, 2008

As a parent of a freshman, I can honestly say I've never pressured my son about grades - but it's easy for many MIT parents to say this, I suspect, because their children must be excellent students just to get accepted. More gratifying to me is how my child has blossomed socially - he joined a fraternity, MITSO, and an a cappella group, performed community service, met a girl - all in less than six months.
One thing I did was to "take" a couple of courses on OCW; this gave me a great perspective on the challenges of being a student at MIT. I'd recommend this to any parent who's worried about grades!

Posted by: 0 on December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas, Snively!
Loved the tree-hugging pic.
This was a great post- as a Frosh parent, I am proud to admit that even though both parental units are not guilty of Flaw #2 i.e. we support, console and listen, I am sometimes guilty of Flaw #1. How sad is that? Or is your mom the same way, esp. when she sees the pics of nutritionally incomplete pre-exam diets on your blog?
Have fun in OR, and the best in 2009.

Posted by: Anonymous on December 25, 2008

Yeah, Tree.. or My Tree! :p

@ Snively: You're a good writer/blogger mate, with a good timing to address hot topics!
Luckily, my parents vest their trust on me, won't snarl for bad grades, but yeah.. set some standards, and keep me upbeat! [no equivocation meant]

@ Everyone: Merry Christmas!

Posted by: Suril on December 25, 2008

i just want study in the MIT SOMEBODY HELP ME PLEASE I WANT A CONTACT OF MIT FOR GET INFORMATION ABOUT THIS ... I STUDY IN MEXICO IM IN 12 GRADE .. HOW I CAN APPLY

Posted by: james on December 25, 2008

Great post Snively! Long time since I've been here, but this is your best one, I think, yet!

Posted by: Isshak on December 25, 2008

words 'o wisdom right here smile we should start a facebook group for amazing MIT bloggers like you! you should really think about it...

Posted by: anonymous on December 25, 2008

i like this smile
merry christmas, enjoy your break.

Posted by: polly on December 26, 2008

I just friended you, Snively! Won't you be my friend on Facebook?

Posted by: Fir Tree on December 26, 2008

@Fir Tree
Ok. Creepy. No.

Posted by: Snively on December 26, 2008

@James

Just see this website. You're on it so it shouldn't be a problem.

Posted by: Tree on December 26, 2008

Amen! Well written Michael. And I like that picture of you hugging that evergreen.

Posted by: Michelle '11 on December 26, 2008

First of all, Michael, Great entry. really interesting.
secondly, my comment is gonna be a bit irrelevant with your entry Michael.
i wanna study at MIT. MIT is the school of my dreams(note:i am an international student). but i am not sure, or i belive so, for what kind of students MIT seek. i am taking part in many project, not because i belive that those activities would look good for MIT, but because i am a very energetic person, and i love what i do. I am member of Cogito , an online community for academically talented youth by JHU. i, with other members of cogito are planning to create an e-zine, which will cover, scientific and many other topics, like current events. i am taking part in NASA aeronautic competition. my marks at school are very good. i am taking part in an engineering project. i am in the top ten bloggers in my country. BUT, i am not the type of student, who is a genius. the type of students, who can get an 800 at SAT.(800 is the highest mark in SAT maths, right?) . i would get something like 700 or 750. i don't know if i am accepted in MIT, and no one else knows, but i still have the question. what does it count more for MIT. great scores at SAT exams, or a student, who is very good at Math and physics, but has also general knowledge?? educate me. i didn't send this e-mail to admission office, because i have e-mailed them twice, and i took both times the same reply.

if you thing, that my comment does not belong here, feel free to delete it. thank you,Dimitris.

Posted by: Dimitris(hopefully class of 2015) on December 26, 2008

I can assure you that Parental Concern #1 does not go away after freshman year. That, along with the reminders to "put on a jacket if it's snowing outside" (as if I would suddenly forget that New England winters can be cold after living here for 10 years), will persist forever...

Posted by: Johnny '04 on December 26, 2008

Dear Matt,

YOU’RE BARKING UP THE WRONG PARENT…

This sounded more like a confessional than “helpful” tips for parents, and you knew that you would receive support from students so that you can “feel” better about your visit home. Typical ME generation and Typical avoidance of accountability. Well Matt, you will not get the kudos that you think you will receive from this parent, nor will my son!

YOU WROTE: “Parents want to see that they are getting their money's worth, which is why parents FREAK OUT.” THIS is a complete insult, and may you be blessed with many children!

As a parent let me address your four confessional points (not lecture as YOU did in your blog).
a) I skipped lecture (more than once (for an entire semester), BECAUSE THE TRUTH IS, MATT…You were asleep and/or lazy to attend class. I would think that MIT would also take offense to you saying that the professors are bad or how the lectures are taught. THIS sounds like a lot like YOU do not know how to adapt to others, so instead you chose to teach yourself? Just because you don’t like how a professor is lecturing or teaching the class does not mean MATT that you are more qualified to teach yourself. So, MATT, if you don’t like what your future boss is saying, you are going to just run the company yourself?! (Yes, I am lecturing! You made it too easy). In my world, if you just do not show up for work, you are FIRED!
If what you are saying is true, about bad professors and bad lecturing techniques, than as your parent Matt, I would want to know why my son has to teach himself and why would your parents waste $50k for an education? MIT, this is a serious concern.
b) I decided not to do that problem set, TIME Management! Time management is to know what needs to be done and doing it. HERE is an example and some tips of TRUE time management strategies: I have cut and paste from this website: http://www.studygs.net/timman.htm
Strategies on using time:
• School term/semester overview: develop, or plan for, blocks of study time: About 50 minutes? How long does it take for you to become restless? Some learners need more frequent breaks for a variety of reasons. More difficult material may also require more frequent breaks. Place blocks of time when you are most productive, as morning person or night owl!
• Schedule weekly reviews and updates
Sunday night may be an excellent time to review your calendar
Be mindful that as deadlines and exams approach, your weekly routine must adapt.
• Prioritize assignments: When studying, get in the habit of beginning with the most difficult subject or task. For more difficult courses of study, try to be flexible in your approach to success. Build in “reaction time” when you can get feedback on assignments before they are due.
• Postpone tasks or routines that can be put off until school work is finished: Eliminate, delegate or delay non-essential tasks as part of prioritizing. [AND, I DO NOT BELIEVE MATT THAT THIS IS SAYING TO NOT DO YOUR ASSIGNED PROBLEM SET]. Review for a test may be more important than enjoying a sport and playing the game later will be more enjoyable without the pressure of the test.
• Develop alternative study places
free from distractions to maximize concentration
• Use your “free” time wisely
Think of times when you can study "bits" as when walking, riding the bus, etc.
• Review notes and readings just before class
• Review lecture material immediately after class
(Forgetting is greatest within 24 hours without review)
As for the “reason” that MIT has a pass/no record freshmen year policy, and I paraphrase from recruitment seminars is so that MIT students who have had to be competitive most of their lives, no longer have to have the “competitiveness” feel, as a research based Institution, students are more likely to work more comfortably with each other if the competitiveness is out of the equation.

c) I failed that test (and it doesn't bother me), What does not concern me is the fact that you failed the test…the concern is that it doesn’t bother you.

d) I got a C in physics/chemistry/biology/math, Once more it’s NOT the grade…Its what you wrote, “Not all sciences are created equal. To be perfectly frank and honest, I hate math, chemistry, and biology. I used to loathe physics but I'm slowly warming up to it. MIT forces you to take chemistry, biology, math, and physics, whether you like them or not. Whether you understand them or not. Whether you ever plan on using them or not. AND . . . not only do they force you to take them . . . but they force you to take MIT versions of these classes.”
Matt, I think you really need to re-evaluate whether or not you are a FIT for MIT.

Posted by: 0 on December 26, 2008

Anonymous above -

Some of your points above are valid. Some of them seem like you felt like ranting some more but didn't really have anything more to say, so hey! Personal attacks, ahoy!

That said, you look like an idiot when you get the original poster's name wrong. Repeatedly.

Posted by: Keri on December 26, 2008

Dear Keri,
I am sorry, I was mistaken with the original poster's name...Thanks for your personal attack! Touché!!!

Posted by: 0 on December 26, 2008

I think anonymous parent makes some valid points. Snively's mindset does epitomize generation "me" and western culture.

Posted by: MIT 2013 on December 26, 2008

dear ANONYMOUS parent:
first of all you really need to make your voice of writing a bit down, the poster(which isn't MATT)is not your son.
1. yes, one has not the opportunity to not like his boss in real life. the poster is talking about COLLEGE a place where you are trying to benefit the best way and to get educated, so don't mess up things like that.
2. yes, that time management infos you gave are really good thank you.
3. i think you need to read again what the poster said about the meaning of not getting bothered. he has done his best. well sorry if he isn't hysteric enough to commit suicide for a failed test.
4. i am not a mit student but what i got from reviewing the site and several other infos i completely believe that being a mit student doesn't mean you have to love math, physics and chemistry ALL together. sometimes you may fall in love with one part of a science or completely hate the other part of it. mit students are humans not robots.

Posted by: sepideh on December 26, 2008

Anonymous above-
FLAWS IN your four confessional points:
a)only a person who has interest in the subject matter of the lecture can enjoy an MIT lecture.
(should also have the required knowledge)
b)WHY SHOULD A PERSON WHO HAS NO INTENTION IN CHOOSING THE SUBJECT AS HIS MAJOR GET GOOD GRADES IN IT.
C)What snivelly meant to say is that he had the reqd conceptual knowledge to earn good grades in the tests.I feel self assessment are the most accurate indicators than the grades that you get in any test as there are many external factors which affect the grades.WHAT IS MORE IMP. IS ATTAINING KNOWLEDGE.This has happened to me many times but I dont care AND I REMAIN AS HAPPY AS IF I HAVE DONE THE TEST SPLENDIDLY.
d)All people have their own interests which are a consequence of the diff. events that occurred in their lives.

@Snively
I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU BEING A HAPLESS 12TH STD STUDENT IN INDIA HAVING TYPICAL PARENTS.I have suffered far too much due to the absolute scoring system(where getting less than 90% brings a frown on the faces of many...)prevalent in india.My school exams encourage rote learning.Only about 20% of the questions test conceptual understanding even though my schoolfollows cbse board.

I feel MIT shouldnt ask grades obtained in school
exams as the quality of the paper vary greatly.It would be better if national exams like the CBSE board exams are only taken into consideration.SAT is the best exam that I have written as it only tests conceptual understanding and speed.I got a 790 in math2 and 800in physics without preparation!!!!

Posted by: SURYA on December 26, 2008

I think Snively has a healthy attitude towards MIT and learning, and if this is what works for him I don't think it's valid for someone else to disparage that. (I say this very respectfully, and not to anyone in particular).
On a superficially related level I'm going to mention that I like very much MIT's philosophy on learning (OpenCourseWare for the win!) and also the fact that MIT has an honor code.

Posted by: Liz on December 26, 2008

@Anonymous Parent:
Just a couple of comments on your comment. One, Snively is not saying "Make up for mismanaged time by skipping a PSET" or anything of the like. Quite the opposite, in fact. I quote: "The only way to learn good time management skills is to try different things." Snively is saying that as a student, to learn good management skills you may have to at one point skip a PSET in order to study for a test because sometimes there isn't time for both, not that you should just skip a PSET because it doesn't matter.

Also, your comment on the pass/no record policy is not entirely correct. I quote from the MIT Admissions website page on the Pass/No Record page (http://www.mitadmissions.org/topics/learning/freshman_year_pass_no_record/index.shtml): "Why does MIT launch freshman year with this unusual grading system? Because it eases the transition to college, allows students to adapt to doing MIT-quality work, gives them flexibility to explore academic, research, and social opportunities at the Institute, and deemphasizes grade competitiveness while emphasizing learning for its own sake." So, while your comment is correct in that the purpose of the pass/no record policy is to remove initial grade competetiveness, Snively's remark is also right. The pass/no record policy allows students to try different things and see what works for them.

Also also, your comment really has a very angry tone to it, and I'd hope you would try to be more friendly and empathetic in the future. Snively wasn't trying to attack you or blame you for anything. He was just saying some of the things he observed, and some parents do freak out about things way beyond reason. My parents got my brother a tutor when he got a B in Spanish. It's just the way parents are sometimes. I don't blame them, although I do wish they wouldn't freak out so much. Especially that "calling every day" part. My parents think I'm a social recluse who wouldn't make friends unless they made me. Wait... That's kinda true...

Posted by: Jacob '13 on December 26, 2008

@Anonymous
Since I'm sure you haven't had enough responses to your rant, let me just comment that you did not go to MIT, so you don't have much background for your argument. There are only 24 hours in a day. Considering that an average of 6-8 of these hours are best spent sleeping, 24 hours really isn't a lot. Sacrifices have to be made. So what someone does and does not do depends on how he prioritizes his tasks. If you have to spend a lot of time studying for a test, then it might be in your best interest to study rather than do that pset, especially if you already know the material on that pset well and won't get much out of it. Grades aren't actually all that important.

What matters is how well you understand the material, and grades often are not indicative of this.

Posted by: ShawnOfAwesome '11 on December 26, 2008

I would like to make a comment from a totally different perspective - that of a parent whose MIT child does not share any of this information. I'm surprised some students tell their parents that they skipped a lecture or a pset or failed a test. My child is a sophomore and she's never told me any of her grades. I trust that she is doing well and I understand her reluctance to share less than perfect performance after her stellar high school career. However, I do insist that she at least tell us what classes she is taking as we're paying for her education. So, I agree with Michael. Parents: MIT is tough and your child is clearly capable or s/he wouldn't have gotten in, so lighten up.

Posted by: MIT'11 Parent on December 26, 2008

Well, some parents need to lighten up a bit! Haha I loved how Anonymous parent was getting Snively's name wrong, all the while being a bit of an ass. Nice multitasking skills, I hope your kid got those because they'll do great here!

Seriously. Not going to lecture from time to time, and not turning in a p-set from time to time is perfectly normal. It's not acceptable, but sometimes you have to shift your priorities a bit. For me, sometimes it comes down to sleep or work, and I often choose sleep. No biggie, I still have a pretty decent GPA.

So get a freakin life and stop lecturing college students. Snively's a big boy, and I think he doesn't need someone to lecture him. And if he does need it, he has his very own set of parents who can do it!

Posted by: milena '11 on December 26, 2008

ALSO CAPS ARE ANNOYING AND MAKE YOU LOOK LIKE A TOOL.

It's not that far away from your pinky finger, so do us a favor and turn it off.

Posted by: milena '11 on December 26, 2008

word

Posted by: 0 on December 27, 2008

@ last anon

Im with you

Posted by: Ehsan on December 27, 2008

I have mixed feelings about this post. Yes, it's true, parents overreact very frequently. It's also true that Snively is but a sophomore in college. By that, I mean that until he's a parent, he's not going to see what it's like from the other side until he's sending off those tuition checks.

I like Snively's message that MIT is hard and that trying your best is honestly all that can be asked and expected. However, not all parents are going to read this and nod their heads and just all of a sudden stop asking about their kids' grades. Many parents were raised in a different culture/generation where a lot more emphasis was placed on grades.

If I were a 50-something-year-old parent paying $50k a year for my son or daughter's education, here's what my thought process would be: "I'm not going to let some kid in college tell me how to talk to or what to think about my kids!" That's what it comes down to, really.

Posted by: Ryan '11 on December 27, 2008

You're damn right!

Posted by: Amy on December 27, 2008

@Ryan '11
Which is why all of these responses from students are so valuable. If it were just me saying it, you'd be right, but as you can see, there are many students who agree.

This was an entry meant for response, that's what makes it worthwhile.

Posted by: Snively on December 27, 2008

I found this to be a very valuable post. When our daughter was admitted to MIT and every other university to which she applied, we sat her down and said something like, "Well, you could probably to go Yale and be a top student, or you could go to MIT and quite possibly be an average student. Think of the choice that way." I like to think that we've succeeded at supporting, not pressuring, our daughter, and yet I also can understand the perspective of parents that might be extremely anxious about their children's grades at MIT. This post has caused me to think over my own past and educational history. So much has changed in the higher ed landscape over the past 30 years. It's a vastly different, much harsher world. Let me give an example, just from the experience of our family.

My husband was the first in his family to go to college, and he did so without any help from relatives. He supported himself with a combination of scholarships and work. We met in college, in fact, where I also worked to pay my tuition. For my part, my middle-class parents could have easily afforded the tuition (around $3,000 per year), but I preferred to work. Back then, in the early 1970s, the youth labor market had not yet collapsed, and it was possible to earn almost enough to cover the costs with summer work. Back then, our parents never asked about grades; in fact, they didn't seem to care. Why should they? Our educations did not cost them a dime; we appeared to be progressing well without any sort of financial burden on the family.

Fast forward 30+ years to today. Children today can choose from a public university, where tuition and costs run $20,000-25,000 or a private institution, where the costs can run up to around $50,000. There is no way in hell a student can earn close to that amount with summer employment.

We say we are a meritocratic society, and yet the luck or chance of your birth will still influence what is possible for you in terms of college. If, like my husband, you are born to a family earning less than $40,000 per year, you will probably be offered generous scholarships, and your experience in college will be little different from my husband's experience. But let's say you're an equally talented and wonderful individual, born to a family of two teachers (combined income just over $100,000). Now you're in an entirely different situation. Your parents, should they decide to enroll you in a top private school, may decide that they'll have to dig deep into savings, take out a home equity line of credit, or use of money set aside for retirement. And given that scenario, it doesn't surprise me one bit that such families would have a lot of anxiety about whether that money was well spent, whether the child was diligently working as hard as possible, etc.

I'm not trying to justify the behavior of parents who over-involve themselves in their children's lives. But I do think that to some extent, it's understandable.

Posted by: Another MIT Parent '11 on December 27, 2008

Snively, you said, "When looking back at the mistakes I made and the questions I missed, I realized that it was just one or two algebra mistakes here, a misinterpretation there, and then some questions that were just really hard that I didn't know how to answer. I understood the material, I didn't feel like I could have tried harder or studied more, the test just didn't go well. It happens. There was nothing to change for the next test, I was happy with my preparation, I just happened to have failed."

I am kind of puzzled on how a "misinterpretation" or "some questions that were just really hard" can allow you to say that there is nothing you can change for the next test. Clearly something wasn't right. People don't just "happen to fail" unless they're deathly sick. Could you say that you "happen to succeed"? More often than not, we always attribute success to our hard work, and failure to circumstances outside our own control. And while I understand completely that MIT is the hardest school in the country and students will need to prioritize, I would have to say that this apathy to failure is not an attitude conducive to learning.

In another vein, I would agree that problem set grades may not reflect how well you understand the material, since this depends on your having time to do it in the first place. However, tests (or I would assume, MIT tests) should be able to assess how well you do understand everything. If you got a C and still really think you did understand the material to the same depth as the next person who got an A, then why didn't you get an A as well? (This question is only semi-rhetorical, I'm interested in knowing the answer too.)

Posted by: '13 on December 27, 2008

@'13
All will become crystal clear when you fail your first test here. It will be a humbling and enlightening experience.

Posted by: Snively on December 27, 2008

It's not apathy. It's acceptance, and moving on. There's a difference.

@`13 "people don't just happen to fail". Clearly, you've never studied engineering. Tests will have questions so difficult you will not be able to solve all of them, even knowing all the material very well. This isn't some joke plug and chug AP physics class.

Anyone's responses that is "just study more" or "better time management" is failing to understand the sheer amount and difficulty of the workload. The problem is not "not working hard enough", but being "worked too hard". Breaks and fun are not signs of laziness, they're burnout prevention!

Posted by: Techer on December 27, 2008

"Ultimately, when it comes straight down to it, parents are the ones who decide whether you attend MIT or not. They pay the bill. End of story."

My parents don't have any say where I go, because they won't be able to pay any part of the bill!! But I still have to send in their tax forms, which put me five thousand above the no-tuition clause. :/

Posted by: 0 on December 27, 2008

@ '13
"People don't just 'happen to fail' unless they're deathly sick."

One counterexample: I did poorly enough on my first 2.001 test to merit a "Come talk to us", and it wasn't because I did not understand the material well. My explanation? I had 4 tests that day in a span of 5 hours with only one half-hour break. I wasn't deathly sick. I was burned out. The next time I had a test in 2.001, it was my only test for the day. I took the test in a better state of mind and scored a 94.

(Side note: 4 tests in one day seems excessive, and it usually doesn't happen. I was taking a very eclectic selection of classes that happened to line up badly. Also, I've heard from many people that you can ask for test rescheduling if you have 3 or more tests on the same day. I haven't actually confirmed this though.)

As you can see, there can be much more to taking a test than "I understand the material" and "I don't understand the material," especially when the tests require more thinking than your typical high school "plug and chug" tests.

Posted by: Fangfei '11 on December 27, 2008

@ '13

"People don't just happen to fail"

Yes, they do. For example last year at the provincial chess tournament i lost two games. When I went back to my notation I saw that the mistakes i made were very stupid. It was not because of failing knowledge it was because of "happening to fail". I do agree its not chance, but we are all human. Something can get in the way. Like in my case I was overconfident.

Posted by: Ehsan on December 27, 2008

I find your "All will become crystal clear when you fail your first test here." comment very demeaning. As if failing a test at MIT is a guarantee for all students; not only is that not the case, but the students who have never failed a test (and hope to/can keep it that way) do not comprise some ultra-slim minority, either.

One gains plenty of enlightenment from a test score of 50 that turns out to still be one standard deviation above the average, thank you very much!

Posted by: Sean '10 on December 27, 2008

Honestly, I can see both sides. I've always been of the opinion that MIT goes a little too far in trying to convince parents and incoming frosh about how hard this place is - sure, it's hard, but I had heard horror stories of test scores in the single digits, of multiple all-nighters in a row... and sure, you can do that to yourself if you want to, but it really isn't necessary. I actually think this really backfired on me - as a freshman I was too scared to enroll in any really challenging subjects, and as a result found myself with far too much time on my hands wondering what kind of drugs the people who told me MIT was hard had been on (admittedly, I did wind up with Bs that semester - MIT tests aren't a cakewalk either, but you can only study so much). I didn't really get a taste of the difficulty MIT is famous for until this year - my 3rd year, when I finally signed up for a courseload that was slightly past my personal balance point... and then I understood - for the first time here I was pulling all-nighters (with a few twofers, but not straight through - I did take a 6 hour nap during the day), and I earned Bs in classes where the material really wasn't that difficult, simply because I didn't have the time to put in. And then I came home and my parents, while not upset at all over the fact I got Bs (three years later, they're still scared by the single-digit horror stories and are proud of me just for passing), wanted to know what I thought I could have done better. Which is a valid question, I suppose, when your daughter comes home and says "that class was a joke, but I got a B"... unfortunately, the answer was really either 1) take less classes or 2) have less fun (I don't think sleeping less would've helped, honestly. I like/need my sleep.).

So you have to find your personal balance point - easier said than done sometimes, but I had found one that worked well (2 HASSes and 3 technical subjects) until I tried to step it up a notch and make one of those technical subjects Grad-H... that's when the metaphorical sh*t hit the metaphorical fan. This balance is different for everybody, and also depends somewhat on your major - not all MIT courses are built alike; they can't be, different professors have different standards.

There's also a tradeoff in the grades vs. number of classes thing... is it better to get As in 4 classes or 3 Bs and 2 As in 5? How important are As, really? I love learning and I'd like to say I'm here to learn, not to pad my resume - but I will need a job when I get out of here, and the shiny GPA I used to have until this semester happened seemed to make companies happy. I don't have an answer to this one, really - but I'd love to hear opinions.

Posted by: Anonymous '10 on December 27, 2008

There are many reasons you can "happen" to fail a test. Maybe you didn't get enough sleep the night before, got stricken by test anxiety, were stressed about other things, or just goofed up making silly mistakes (like misreading the question or messing up your algebra). Just because you don't do well on a test, doesn't mean you don't understand the subject. Since grades are based almost entirely off of test performances, I find it hard to take them too seriously, as long as you can still manage to pass the class and know the material as best you can.

Maybe this isn't the best philosophy for getting into grad school, but I'm going to hope it'll do what it can, but I came to college to learn, not to get a good GPA. I chose MIT because I knew it would challenge me. In high school, I took the hardest workload possible for me to take, and still did very well. I chose MIT because I knew this wouldn't happen. If I had gotten straight As this semester, after taking 7 classes, I would have been disappointed, because clearly MIT wouldn't be letting me push my limits. For many students, it is more important to maximize the learning than it is to maximize the GPA.

Maybe I'm crazy for thinking this, but I'm pretty sure other students would agree that if you're getting straight As, you're not doing MIT right or you're not getting your money's worth. You do the best you can do in all of your classes, and take what you can get a move on. Understanding is more important than getting good grades.

Posted by: ShawnOfAwesome '11 on December 27, 2008

Snively makes some good points about prioritizing and letting your child find their own footing. It's all very true. It's easy to hear about the results on one test or one problem set and leap to the wrong conclusion. But on the other hand, for the most part, your final term grade (in my experience at least, with only very few exceptions) is generally very reflective of how well you grasp the class material. While extenuating circumstances may cause you to fail one test, it should not cause you to fail 3 or 4 in a row as well as win the disfavor of the professor. The hard thing for anyone here to admit is that at MIT, at some point it becomes more about how smart you are (at the subject) than how hard you work. But, take some higher level classes and you'll see, it's the truth.

Posted by: lulu on December 27, 2008

also, i have to agree w/ anonymous '10. MIT's difficulty is sometimes exaggerated here.

But how hard you find it will depend on your academic preparation/background/who you are.

Posted by: lulu on December 27, 2008

omg, this post was like a late Christmas gift clinically designed to cheer. me. up :D

you took a big risk in writing this post, and there's lots of people [like meeee :] who appreciate it. Thanks for trying to show the attitude people should approach MIT with.

@People who disagree with Snively's post... "Before you walk in another person's shoes, you must first remove your own". All I'm saying is, try to see things from a different perspective.

Posted by: heywasup on December 27, 2008

. . . at MIT, at some point it becomes more about how smart you are (at the subject) than how hard you work.

*nods*

Posted by: Snively on December 27, 2008

Do companies heavily take into account your GPA when considering you for a job? I'm sure recruiters realize the difficulty of coursework from MIT when looking at your GPA, but how would one differentiate between that and a higher GPA from a different school?

Otherwise, grades will never bother me nor my parents unless they truly reflect that I am not doing my best.

If one cannot handle imperfection, study biology->
http://www.mitadmissions.org/topics/learning/majors_minors/mit_is_hard.shtml

(big fan, Snively)

Posted by: David '13 on December 27, 2008

@David '13
A lot of similar companies recruit from MIT. I've asked around some local places back home and they describe themselves as not lucky enough to recruit at MIT, there are a couple hundred who are. At that point, when applying to companies that accept MIT students, GPA becomes a factor since everybody is coming from the same school.

Also, the biology thing was kinda of a gag in that entry. Bio is legitimately hard, 7.012 is the first B or C a lot of people get at MIT.

Posted by: Snively on December 27, 2008

I do understand about the difficulties of science and engineering. No worries, I'm not using as reference point my high school AP classes that are most likely the worst and most deluding indicator of what "hard" truly is. I have seen abstract (a.k.a. insane) level physics and mathematics, and I have lived through the frustration and constant self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy. It's something that we all aspire to do -- to reach for something higher than we can be.

What Lulu says is right: "for the most part, your final term grade (in my experience at least, with only very few exceptions) is generally very reflective of how well you grasp the class material." So whether you worked hard to get there or you're just naturally smart, in the end it's the same -- those who understand the material better get higher grades. Of course there are stupid mistakes that you kick yourself over after a test, but in general, even stupid mistakes can't make up for the points lost on questions that are too hard to solve. And points lost = lower grade. So why is it ok to skip those questions on a test and still feel completely fine about it? Doesn't that indicate that you don't, in fact, understand the material? (This is aside from the whole prioritizing argument, which I DO realize factors in a huge part to classwork and testing and whatnot.) I'm just confused on how someone can't understand the material very well and then think that it's... ok. To fail a test and then not be bothered. I think there's finer points to this argument then the sweeping generalization that "MIT is hard".

Posted by: '13 on December 27, 2008

First, I'd like to say how awesome this forum is. A lot of great perspectives. Second, I'd like to remind people that using all caps is the internet equivalent of shouting in someone's face. :/

I think failure is good. Failure is how we grow. And when we try and fail, it's frustration, but it's necessary. While some schools are appealing to me because of their residential colleges or geographical locations, MIT appeals to me because I know I will grow here. I think Bryan Nance said once that what MIT does best is pushes you down, it makes you fail--but it always teaches you how to pick yourself up. And I think the ability to do that is invaluable.

Of course, I'm only an accepted student--I haven't gone here. I've yet to cram my face with test material only to receive a resounding "fail" on a test. Nevertheless, I agree with Snively (big fan, Snively!), and those who feel that a report card "D" shouldn't cause parents to freak out. I would like to think that every D has a story.

Also--and I could be very wrong--but isn't the entire concept of engineering that you try and fail and try and fail, and try, try, try again?

Posted by: Ngozi '13 on December 27, 2008

@ '13

You make a valid argument! I agree a lot, in most cases, understanding the material will merit a good grade.

I think we gotta redefine "understanding", however. Before, we were talking about understanding test material. Yet, test are tests, imperfect, standardized measurements of a how well you ingested the knowledge taught in class. But honestly, I'm not sure that remembering facts and formula and how "to do" certain problems is the same as understanding gravity or the brain or an author's motives for portraying a character in a certain way.

Posted by: 0 on December 27, 2008

I was recommended this entry on Facebook by Yan, so I was expecting something pretty light.

Sorry for my expectation, but... I genuinely loved this entry. Thank you for writing for the MIT blogs. (but I'll never be okay with failing a test in anything but HASS courses; I know it's not my place to do at MIT before I attend, but I have great confidence)

Posted by: Narce on December 28, 2008

@ Anon parent

Matt, I think you really need to re-evaluate whether or not you are a FIT for MIT.

The admissions office chose Snively to blog for a reason. He was also accepted to MIT for a reason.

Posted by: 0 on December 28, 2008

Simply because you don't like a subject, or don't think you'll ever use it does not mean getting a C is acceptable. All the students who get into this school are capable of getting all As and Bs, even in classes they don't like. So this is what groups the students, how well they do. There are the kids that are complacent and just accept a C and say "eh, I passed, right?", and then there are the other kids that will succeed and do well in the real world.

Posted by: Matt on December 28, 2008

@Matt
That's simply not true and I'm sure there are plenty of people who would be more than happy to tell you how wrong you are.

There's nothing quite like working as hard as you can and getting a C. It happens, don't think that it doesn't.

Posted by: Snively on December 28, 2008

@ Matt

And then there are the kids who are in a capella groups and playing sports and volunteering and being teachers and helping the world and having lives and learning at the same time and getting C's and not caring because life is actually more than grades.

Seriously, we're talking about MIT students, right? Like, people who actually go to MIT? Do we really think complacency got them there?

Really now.

Posted by: 0 on December 28, 2008

Snively, my point is that no army of '11s, '12s, and '13s will be able to convince many parents that MIT is more than grades.

Honestly, I'm an '11, and I'm trying to keep my GPA up while balancing extracurriculars I enjoy and my social life so I can get a damn job in this market. Some '13 saying "I agree 110% with Snively Snively, my point is that no army of '11s, '12s, and '13s will be able to convince many parents that MIT is more than grades.

Honestly, I'm an '11, and I'm trying to keep my GPA up while balancing extracurriculars I enjoy and my social life so I can get a damn job in this market. Some '13 saying "I agree 110% with Snively <3" isn't going to change my mind.

Snively you make some great points but you get WAY too defensive sometimes.

Remember the time I told you I could order Domino's from your TechCash since you posted your ID number? You didn't believe me until 3 more people commented. Then someone deleted my comment while you simultaneously blacked out your ID number in the pic.

I find it very stifling that you treat dissent on the admissions blogs so harshly.

Posted by: Ryan '11 on December 28, 2008

@Ryan '11

Ok, regarding Dominos . . .

I didn't read your comment until there were three stacked on top of it. I deleted yours because I didn't need people knowing that they could rip me off. You didn't leave an e-mail for me to e-mail you and thank you or tell you why I was deleting it, so I just deleted it.

As far as treating dissent harshly, I tend to get very defensive when people tell me to "do it better." Nobody likes to be talked down to or critiqued by people who haven't experienced MIT yet. You haven't, which is why I really have no hard feelings towards you, and again, thanks for keeping me from getting ripped off.

This entry won't change the way many parents act, but it may help explain what many students are feeling.

Posted by: Snively on December 28, 2008

Reality in words...letting us know 2 things:
1. This 'problem' is common.
2. The reasons are not excuses but truly reasons.
nOt eAsy tO chAnge peopLe's views...(because people cannot accept the fact that they could have been wrong at times)
I appreciate you blogging this.
*BIG TIME THANKYOU*

Posted by: mOni(2013 hopeful) on December 28, 2008

@Snively @Matt

"Simply because you don't like a subject, or don't think you'll ever use it does not mean getting a C is acceptable."

Definitely agree. The sentence following this one is somewhat sketchy, as Snively probably is referring to. But Matt has a valid point. I've heard way too many times conversations like this:

Person1: That test was really hard.
Person2: Yeah, it was, and I did kinda bad, but I didn't really care so I didn't really try.

As if that were an excuse to do poorly.

Posted by: anon on December 28, 2008

Yes Snively, you do make some great points and you probably capture all too well the attitudes that MIT students have when they're faced with so much.

But then we do need to take a step back. If there were no grades, then what would be used as a fair indicator to evaluate students? Professors can't be convinced, after you do poorly in the class, by your own earnest entreaties that you REALLY did understand the material.

@previous Anonymous

Regarding "understanding", of course we all know, especially in things like science and math, that understanding is not merely regurgitating material. I would like to think that MIT's tests, if no other institution's, at least force you to show your understanding of the core concepts and the ability to apply them to different problems.

Posted by: Anonymous on December 28, 2008

@ Ryan:

"I find it very stifling that you treat dissent on the admissions blogs so harshly."

Well, I don't think Snively's deleting any comments here or insulting anyone. He's just saying what he thinks and...defending it.

Posted by: 0 on December 28, 2008

Oh, he definitely deletes comments sometimes. Don't put it past him.

But also, people should cut him some slack and you have to hand it to him, he's right this time. I'll be the first one to point out all the junk he writes sometimes, but if he posts something worth paying attention to, I'll applaud it.

And I honestly don't think any '13 should be coming on here to be condescending and basically tell him he's not working hard enough, because they don't know how it's like yet. Most freshmen walk in here thinking they're the shiz and sign up for harder classes thinking it's going to be a piece of cake, and then MIT turns them on their back and does them real good and they end up switching down to the intro-level classes. So shut up and wait till you get here to see what we are talking about.

And while failing an exam is a definitely humbling experience, you don't need to fail one to get your slice of humble pie. I've never failed anything, yet I've had many, MANY humbling experiences here. There's been many exams I've spent hours studying for, only to get performance anxiety at the exam and mess it up really bad. It is definitely humbling to spend so much time preparing to then not get the grade you expect.

Anyway, that's not even the point. Snively's words have been taken way out of context, because i'm sure what he meant to say is that parents should back off and trust that their kid is working as hard as they can and that their hard-earned money is not going to waste.

Posted by: milena '11 on December 28, 2008

I think that's part of the problem -- I shouldn't have signed as a '13. I'm not trying to attack any techers for not working hard enough in the face of the most challenging four years they've probably ever lived to date. I'm not trying to lecture either. I actually really am interested in knowing if MIT students really do think like Snively in the face of failure, and why that is exactly.

That said, I don't think Snively really meant that MIT students don't care about failing tests. Maybe in my idealistic mind, I still can't conceive of how someone would not care for their own failures. I get the general idea of what Snively is trying to say, and I do agree that he has made some valid points.

Then again Milena '11, I hardly think that your comment ("So shut up and wait till you get here to see what we are talking about") is representative of what Snively, nor a large majority of the students at MIT, thinks. I feel that even Snively, no matter how strong his opinions are, is trying to encourage more people to think and discuss MIT workload and attitudes.

Posted by: '13 on December 28, 2008

I would just like to comment that each individual is different, which means that someone obtaining a C grade may be better than someone else obtaining an A grade. It is indeed true that how well one performs in the real world (and presumably at MIT's tests) reflects how smart that person is, academically and otherwise. However it is not true that consistently doing badly at tests though having studied hard is necessarily due to inability.

From my personal experience, of those whom I know few are really interested in the subjects for which they study. Of course a lack of interest results in lack of motivation to learn more in that subject matter, especially in depth. If however there is a fascination with any subject, it is easy to spend hours at a stretch just to read up on it, experiment and investigate on one's own and sometimes even "re-invent the wheel" just for the sake of actually doing it instead of accepting "known facts".

So I will be disappointed if I get an A grade but without having actually grasped all the underlying concepts and derivations, but I will be satisfied with any (reasonable) grade if I know I can completely reconstruct everything in the "examination requirements" from scratch, without references and formulae sheet.

This is just my take on the issue, but I believe that at least for science (or not pseudo-science), there is for every student always something that intrigues him/her. To fully understand these usually little things often requires a very thorough understanding of the foundations, but to fully comprehend the answer is rewarding. Thus I feel that students, who undertake their learning in this way, (and their parents) need not ever worry about their tests, since they will also know how much it is best for them to study.

Posted by: lwq on December 29, 2008

As I said earlier in this comment section, I will never be happy with a C no matter how hard I worked for it. At least in classes that involve math. And yes, I fully understand that those are the most competitive courses at MIT. I'm not nearly so arrogant to say that I'll never get a C (it IS MIT), but I promise that I will never be okay with it.

Posted by: Narce on December 29, 2008

100th!


also milena is right and so is '13 and so is snively. The only thing that I find hard to believe is this:

"someone obtaining a C grade may be better than someone else obtaining an A grade" -- barring some out of the ordinary circumstances, that is almost never the case. The difference between a B and an A is often muddled, but never a C and an A. I've never seen it - a student who truly excelled at a subject (who "reinvents the wheel" and understands the subject from the ground up) earn a C in a course while less capable students earn A's. I've seen them earn B's, though. I like to think tests at MIT (tend to) measure understanding over knowledge.

Posted by: lulu on December 29, 2008

@lulu
Yeah, I'd say that if two individuals are in the same class, an A is definitely better than a C. BUT . . . for two different classes, it is possible to get a C in one and feel much better about it than an A in another. An example would be any of my high school classes with A's compared to the C's on my 2.005 tests. I feel much better about those C's, like I worked for them, than I do about the A's in high school, which I just kind of got.

Posted by: Snively on December 29, 2008

come chat with the students who aren't in yet?

http://coltonprovias.com/?page_id=426

Posted by: corey on December 29, 2008

If it was not too clear, I was just trying to emphasize that grades are incomparable to understanding, not just at MIT but anywhere else. At the same time, for one who is just beginning to grasp a subject, a C grade can count as an achievement if effort has gone into understanding the subject matter, likewise an A grade is nothing to be proud of if it relied on familiarity with exam styles. I have myself been penalized many times before by (non-MIT) exam systems geared towards "standard exam techniques". And while I am also inclined to think that MIT's tests focus on understanding over knowledge, we know better than to put all hope on an accurate yet objective grading system.. As Snively put it, sometimes grades just do not reflect much at all.

Posted by: lwq on December 30, 2008

I agree with what Snively saying. A "C" in high school and a "C" at MIT are not the same thing. And I didn't like how anonymous parent tried to compare skipping lecture with skipping out on work. That is a terrible comparison. If you want a real-world comparison, try thinking about it this way:

What if the IRS started "grading" how people did their taxes? (Paying other people to do it doesn't count)
An "F" would be if you didn't fill out the work, or lied about your income.
A "D" would be if you were a little late turning it in, or missed a required section.
A "C", a passing grade, would be given if you filled out all your required forms correctly and got all your materials in by April 15th.
A "B" or "A" would be if you did extra research and found a bunch of refunds you were eligible for, as well as sending in all of your material early.

Where do you think most people fall? Do you really think anyone would want to take time away from their job, family, or friends just to get a better "grade" on their taxes? Then they would just end up "failing" at work, parenting...etc. Time has to come from somewhere. That's time management, and that's called "doing your best"

Life doesn't have grades. Life is pass/fail.

Posted by: yes, I'm a '13 so I don't know what I'm talking ab on December 30, 2008

Give us a break snively

Posted by: 0 on December 30, 2008

Life is pass/fail? I wonder how many people are passing and how many people are failing then.

Life, like MIT, isn't binary like that.

Posted by: um on December 30, 2008

Speaking words of wisdom: MIT....

Posted by: 0 on December 30, 2008

There should be a guide to parenting, and this should definitely be a major chapter!

Posted by: Diana on December 30, 2008

Very impressive with your writing skill...

Posted by: Jack on December 31, 2008

After telling my parents about getting a B, it was brought up every single time I talked to them. Therefore, my real GPA is about 0.4 lower than they actually think it is, and they know I didn't get a 5.0.

Posted by: 0 on January 9, 2009

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