What is the typical MIT weekly schedule?
The answer varies wildly among students. On average, the time spent on work per week is between 23 to 34 hours (source). In this post, I’ll describe my (also wildly oscillating) weekly routine.
First, a bit about general structure. A “whole” MIT class is 12 units. This may mean 4 hours in class and/or recitation and 8 hours at home, a 4-0-8 scheme. Lab/design/field work classes have the middle number greater than 0 (for example, 3-2-7). Other options are 3-0-9, 5-0-7, etc.
There are also classes of a different number of units. Seminars are normally 6 units. Some required degree courses, like the Course 7 (Biology) Experimental Molecular Genetics or Experimental Molecular Biology, are 30. During IAP, students can take 3-unit electives (like the wonderful 18.S097 Special Subject in Mathematics: Introduction to Proofs, the materials for which are available here).
Now, these numbers are, of course, mere approximations. Depending on the professor and students, 12 unit-hours may mean anywhere between 6 to 20 life-hours. For example, in the case of the required Course 16 Unified Engineering series, 12 unit-hours mean 24 to 31 real hours per week. Since Course 16 sophomores must take two concurrent Unified courses per semester, that means 52-56 hours per week on just Unified. 2.009 Product Engineering Processes, the 12-unit Course 2 (Mechanical Engineering) capstone senior class takes an average of 22 hours per week. Quite a variety (acording to Subject Evaluation Reports submitted by class participants).
The “common” semester course load is 48 units, or 4 regular classes. The minimum required for full-time registration is 36. The strong may take on 60, and some have been known to tackle 72+ (and maintain a social existence). Additionally, many devote 6-10 hours per week for UROPs or other jobs/clubs. For example, participation in an a capella group requires about 6 hours per week. UROPs/jobs take up 6-10 (or 20, if you’d like). Clubs and committees can range from 3 to 15+.
My schedule this semester consists of 5 classes and a UROP, for a total of 69 hours of intended work. That’s three 12-unit classes, one of 6 units, and one of 9, as well as a 6-hour UROP in education. Plus optional blogging and an occasional weekend training session at Planned Parenthood. Content-wise, my work is close to the opposite of the general MIT population. I take 5 HASS classes, rather than the “usual” 3-4 technicals and a HASS.
The week begins on a sleepy Monday with an 11 am discussion section at Harvard. 11 am is extremely early by local (and personal) standards. Descending from the loft is an ordeal and a battle against the evil subconscious yearning for sleep. I have, at times, been unable to resist the call, letting my semi-consciousness take over to draw me back into a peaceful slumber.
The resolve is stronger and excuses weaker for mandatory attendance classes (which are, technically, all of mine). For these, participation, timeliness, and presence are required, regardless of the state of mind and sleep.
Later in the groggy Monday afternoon, after a beautiful nap, I have a UROP meeting. Then homework. This involves reading philosophy texts for PHIL 179 Race and Social Justice and 17.006 Introduction to Feminist Thought. Each reading is around 30 pages long and takes about 1 to 2+ hours of careful reading and processing. Some texts are more empirical and narrative. Others are convoluted logic puzzles of words and proofs. Some are exciting and others frustrating. Many require additional research on fancy ideas like “epistemology” or “ontology.”
Most Mondays, there are also assignments for 11.124 Introduction to Education: Looking Forward and Looking Back on Education. These can be quizzes, article responses, readings, or random test runs of math games and other innovative educational activities.
Then Tuesday starts with a 10 am monstrously early Harvard PHIL 179 lecture. Luckily, it’s a lot of fun, a “college classic” of lectures with an excellent professor and engaged students. The instructor distills 30 complicated pages into 5 clear slides. He also adds his own fascinating perspective and welcomes student input. It’s quite an egalitarian environment, which inspires great respect and discussion between professor and students. 10/10 would recommend.
After the class and customary Tuesday nap in my room (napping is essential to student life, as 55% of MIT undergrads agree), I head to the next door Building 66 for 17.006 Introduction to Feminist Thought. The commute is approximately one minute long. I can see the classroom from my window. The instructor can probably track my journey from home.
17.006 is a smaller course, as most MIT HASSes are. There are no large lectures or multiple discussion sections, like for PHIL 179, but rather 20 students, grad and undergrad, discussing texts together. The discussions at MIT are usually more about content than analysis and implications. Chill and informal.
After 17.006, I travel another two minutes to 11.124 Introduction to Education. This is an interactive class about interactive approaches to education. Today we played a math game with connecting blocks. Then most of us messed around and built spaceships/robots. Building blocks never get old.
Once a month on Tuesdays, 17.901 Political Science Internship and Research reconvenes for a discussion on current issues in education, foreign policy, and the refugee crisis. This requires pre-study in the form of readings and reflection essays. Most weeks, however, 17.901 requires solely 6 hours of research.
On Wednesday, my almost well-constructed sleep schedule crashes. The first class is at 3 pm. There is therefore no motivation to leave the bed before 3. The class is 17.S914 Conversations in You Can’t Have on Campus. It’s 2 hours of, well, Conversations.
Wednesday is also my catch-up day. This is when I begin my essays, review occasional incomplete readings, sort through a long column of emails, and make my planner pretty. Sometimes I carve out time for cleaning and organization with the sound of music.
At the end of the day, my friend Mariah S. ‘18 and I host a weekly (Social) Committee event for members of hall. Each week, we take turns to make/purchase delectable treats like scones, crepes, ice cream, or fruit salad. Then hall members gather in the kitchen for a fun study break. I will blog more about this soon (with pictures)!
Thursday mimics Tuesday, but with the added thrill of an upcoming weekend. I write blog posts, catch up with friends, and do UROP research or preferred assignments. Occasionally, there are events to attend or chores to run.
On Friday, I go to High School for my 11.124 observations and come back energized and ready for adventure. With friends, I may go to the Haymarket for fruits and veggies. Or turn towards the North End for cannolis and maneuver through the bustling city night.
New to the Friday schedule are burger runs to Harvard Square. Harvard campus is different enough that it completely removes us from the MIT bubble. We’re in college but not part of it. Harvard makes us adventurous, boisterous, and mischievous.
Weekends are less productive than I hope. After a long week, I concentrate on sleep, sustenance, and chores. These take huge chunks of the day: travel, reboot, seek motivation. I keep trying to improve the latter.
Every weekend, I also resolve to do something enriching. A trip, a walk, an event with friends. This weekend, we’ll go to the Boston Book Festival and the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival. We’ll look for creative Halloween costumes together. We’ll watch a movie or cartoon. We’ll gather in hall clots for lively chats.
Then, restart the week. Filled with work and play. Thrilling events sprinkled throughout the days. Attend talks about ISIS, environmentalism, cancer, or government surveillance. Hear Noam Chomsky discuss “Gaza and the Prospects for Palestine”. Support a friend on stage. Gather for important living group or class meetings. Check in and make plans with friends.
There’s always something to do outside of work. Somewhere to go, someone to join. Boston, Cambridge, and MIT are exciting places. I love to take advantage of that.
So there’s that. A “typical week,” or lack thereof. An incomplete account.
What’s your week like?