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MIT student blogger Mollie B. '06

Activities, humanities, question-ities by Mollie B. '06

Will you have time to be in an extracurricular at MIT? Yes, you will.

Today I am inspired by Christina (my favorite off-the-waitlistee) ’10, who asked,

How many hours a week did you/do you dedicate to cheerleading and how has it helped/hurt your grades, etc?

[I’m uh, asking for a friend. :-D]

I know it must be kind of confusing to reconcile the fact that we’re all apparently busy out of our heads with schoolwork and the fact that many of us actually do significant extracurricular stuff. Two things to wrap your collective heads around: 1) MIT students really like to complain about how hard they’re working, and 2) MIT students really like being busy.

It’s probably reasonable to limit yourself to one extracurricular activity when you first come to MIT, at least until you figure out if you can handle more than one. That’s harder than it sounds, because you’ll be seduced by things like the First Year Summer Mailing over the summer and the Activities Midway at Orientation, and you’ll get overexcited and sign up for ten groups, because, hey, you did ten things in high school, right?

Okay, wrong. There’s definitely time to do an extracurricular activity or two, plus a UROP, and still graduate on time and happy and fulfilled. Jessie does three, to my knowledge: student government, Assassin’s Guild, and APO, plus a UROP. (This requires a great deal of moxie.) Unless you are a total academic rockstar and/or you do not need sleep, you probably can’t do ten.

I personally do one activity plus a UROP, partially because I live in the boondocks and it annoys me to go back to campus after I’m home for the evening. Cheerleading is a time commitment of about six hours per week (three practices of two hours each), plus cheering at home football and home men’s basketball games.

I’m really happy that I did cheerleading, because I got to have fun with a great group of people while simultaneously avoiding the freshman 15 and getting big and strong. I never felt like it negatively affected my grades or studying — actually, I’ve always thought it helped me become the time management ninja I am. When you have practice to attend, you know you have to sit down and do your work. When you have nothing else to do, you might be more inclined to waste time on the internet.

A blatant plug for cheerleading
An anonymous commenter asked,

I had a question about cheerleading. I haven’t had any cheer expereince in high school, but I was wondering if it is a pre-requisite to have been a cheerleader to try out for the MIT squad.

No, you don’t need to have previous cheer experience to try out for cheerleading. I was in choir and theatre in high school, and I joined the squad and even became captain! About half to three-quarters of our members have never cheered before coming to MIT, and the quarter to half who have cheered are always really happy to help everybody else learn.

We don’t really have “tryouts” per se — we have a weekend where we hold a clinic and teach everyone how to stunt and cheer and dance, but it’s really more for prospective members to try us out and see if the squad is something they’d like to do rather than us picking people. We haven’t cut anyone since I’ve been on the squad.

Join the cheerleading squad! It’s fun! :D

I’ve heard some questions recently about the ridiculous monstrosity that is the HASS requirement. If you do not understand the HASS requirement at this moment, don’t worry about it. I think I figured it out halfway through my sophomore year here.

So yes, you have to take one class from at least three different HASS-D categories. Your concentration is a group of three or four HASS classes in a certain department or thematic area; it can be in any of these fields. You don’t have to concentrate in a subject in which you took a HASS-D, although it can be, if you’re interested in killing multiple birds with minimal stones and all that.

Two classes out of the 8 must be “communication intensive”, or CI-H, and at least one of those classes should be taken during your freshman year.

Unless a class is HASS-D or says “limited enrollment”, you will get it for sure. And even when classes are limited enrollment, you can usually get into them if you really want to. If you don’t get your first choice HASS-D, there are usually open spots by the first day of class, and you can go to the first day of the class and have the professor sign an Add Form for you. (Adam chimes in that he has literally never gotten into a HASS-D via the lottery; he just goes on the first day and gets his add form signed. I wouldn’t advocate Adam-level flakiness, but hey, if it works…)

1. Evan B (can I say that I love it that the Evans are now differentiated?) wondered what in my last entry was so bad that I didn’t want the RIAA to see it. Answer: I used to use Kazaa. But I do not now, partially because I own an iPod and am happy to use iTunes and partially because I do not have three thousand dollars or whatever to pay the RIAA in a settlement.

2. Charlotte asked,

Out of curiosity, what happens when a researcher(postdoc, graduate student or whatever) gets pregnant? Ethidium bromide and UV light are already harmful enough to us typical young adults.

Also, how did you manage to get your experimental procedures done within just three or four hours each afternoon? I know of people in other countries who go to their labs at 5.30 *AM* and leave at 11 *PM* ::faints::

I think female scientists just get very, very careful when they get pregnant. I mean, really, the risk shouldn’t be too bad if you’re careful — the problems come when you’re all “bring it on, EtBr!” and pick up gels with your bare hands and stuff.

I get my experiments done in three or four hours in a few ways. First, I’ve been known to come in before class to get stuff started, go to class while it’s running, and come into lab in the afternoon to finish the procedure. I also have a very helpful postdoc who will often get stuff started so it’s ready for me when I come in. Third… I get stuff done a lot slower than people who work full-time. ;) That’s the reality of being an undergraduate researcher. As a grad student, I realize that the 5:30 – 11 shift is going to be a lot more normal.

3. An anonymous commenter asked,

If I choose (in the next few weeks) to take an advising seminar, but then get to campus and find that my schedule is too full or I don’t have enough time, can I switch to traditional advising? There are so many decisions to make about advising/learning groups/extracurricular activities, but I won’t get most of the information necessary to make the best decision for me until I get to campus.

The word on the street is that yes, you can drop your advising seminar if you choose to do so, although I get the feeling that it’s really not encouraged. The good thing is that advising seminars, though worth 6 units of credit, do not really take up six hours of your week. I don’t think taking an advising seminar should stop you from being able to pick up an extracurricular, or a job, or whatever you choose to throw at yourself. It’s just six units of free credit and a bunch of free food. :)

Ultimately, I think you should choose seminar-based advising if you’re excited about the seminars you’ve chosen, and not just because you think you ought to. But you shouldn’t feel like doing seminar-based advising will keep you from any of the cool things you can do at MIT, either.

4. Alice gets a gold star for making me a sleep statistics celebrity.

5. Another anonymous commenter asked,

Is there any point to getting a debit or credit card in college when we have TechCash?

Oh dear, yes. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I buy a lot of things other than food. Like books on Amazon and sundresses at FCUK. TechCash is wonderful for buying food on campus, but what if you want to order hot dogs or frozen yogurt?

People here mostly have checking accounts with either MIT Federal Credit Union (ATMs in Tech Square, the Student Center, Stata, and the Infinite) or Bank of America. There are always impassioned debates about which cares more about you as a person, et cetera, and you’ll want to check out both before committing to one. (For what it’s worth, I heartily recommend a debit card over a credit card. Many of my friends from home are graduating college with about a zillion dollars in credit card debt, because they were like “Oh man, look how cool that new HDTV is! I may not have the money to buy it, but, hey, I do have this shiny credit card!” Not good.)

I have Bank of America. They keep my money, and sometimes I take it out and spend it. It works out well for me. ;)

4. John asked,

I just saw your entry on MacGregor and I saw all the different rooms. How does one go about lofting a bed? Do they need to buy anything, or do the beds just kind of have the feature?

The beds are automatically loftable in MacGregor — the bedframe has hooks on the end, and the headboard and footboard have ladder-like notches. You can pick where you want your bed to be, although the highest you can get it is about 3.5 or 4 feet. If you want it any higher than that, you’ll have to scrounge around for some cinderblocks. (Hint: They’re in the hall closets!)

4 responses to “Activities, humanities, question-ities”

  1. At East Campus, at least, students often buy wood and build their own lofts, often including fire poles, ladders, and other such things.

  2. Anonymous says:



  3. Christina says:

    I read much of this post, out loud, to my mother, after she cupped my face in her hands and said, “Christina. You are going to MIT. Not [insert name of a college around here that you haven’t heard of].”

    I am seriously considering seriously considering cheerleading! :-D Maybe. I don’t know.

  4. Anthony says:

    “(For what it’s worth, I heartily recommend a debit card over a credit card. Many of my friends from home are graduating college with about a zillion dollars in credit card debt, because they were like ‘Oh man, look how cool that new HDTV is! I may not have the money to buy it, but, hey, I do have this shiny credit card!’ Not good.)”

    So here’s my take on that grin Having a credit history is a really important thing once you graduate and are living on your own. Banks, cell phone carriers, cable TV companies, utilities — they want to make sure you are creditworthy and responsible, and having an established credit history goes a long way for that. I guess the trick is to not go nuts with a credit card — if used wisely and as a financial tool, it can really help to have that 4-year-old account reporting in good standing come … 2010.

    That said, MITFCU offers a Visa with a $500 limit to any 18+ MIT freshman who asks. BofA has a far better ATM network (I hate ATM fees!), but when nobody will give you a prime card with a reasonable rate as a brand-new adult, FCU is a good place to start. If nothing else, use it to buy a couple things each year, pay in full, and stick it in the junk drawer for next month/year. Removes the temptation and builds credit history all at the same time! grin