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MIT student blogger Lulu L. '09

Choosing a Major by Lulu L. '09

I hope this is helpful to you at some point

I’ve been reading a lot of comments lately about which majors are harder than others and omg my friend says this class is impossible and don’t be concerned about the difficulty of majors it’s all about what you love!– there’s obviously a lot of strife here, and I just wanted to address the topic in a proper way. First, some questions.

Is Physics major popular at MIT or not?

Yes? No? What do you think of when you think “popular”? There are about 50 physics (full 8) majors each year (judging by junior lab roster), and perhaps 20 more 8-B majors. Add that all up and it makes up ~7% of the class each year. Is that a lot? That’s hard to say, there are 22 majors. it’s not as popular as say, course 6, which is home to maybe 20-25% of the students in each year. But it’s big enough that you’ll need to share resources.

Fun Fact!
There are 92 physics faculty at MIT- and 5 of them are women. Luckily, the ratio of men to women physics majors is slightly more reasonable. I’m thinking, just by looking around, maybe 13 out of 50 for the course 8 folks. I don’t have any idea of 8-B.

I can’t believe you do all of this?!?! How do sleep? Do you sleep at all?

I don’t sleep much: maybe 5-7 hrs on weekdays and 7-9 on weekends (I have been occasionally known to sleep some 14 or 15 hours though)? But keep in mind those classes I listed weren’t like taken all during the same term or something. I’m not on speed. This semester is the only semester that I’ve taken more than 2 8-classes a term. And let me tell you this is too many 8-classes.

Hi Lulu.I have a small question to ask.In Part 2,section 3 of the application,there is a question asking students to list any scholastic distinctions won since entering high school.Can this include,for example,honors won in oratory in the annual English-Day competition when in grade 8 or 9?

I’m unfamiliar with your system, but I probably wouldn’t list that, personally.

How much do you have to study to get really good marks in Physics (Maj.)

Depends on how smart you are. Really.

Which brings me to my main point: You hear it a lot. Do what you love. F*** the rest. (Little miss sunshine?) It’s very good advice for most things but I’d be careful when applying this to choice of major. I know, like, what? Am I crazy? Why am I allowed on here? But there’s a very good reason for this. Reasons, even.

Reason number 1: There are many paths to the same destination. So you love space technology, the natural choice might then be a major in course 16- do what you love, right? Well, maybe. But you should explore your options first, and here, you have quite a few. Sure, course 16 might get you what you want, but so might course 2 (mech e), or 2-A, or 8 (physics), or 8-B, or 6-1 (ee), or even 3 (material sci) or 12 (earth/planetary), depending on the specifics. There are a lot of options. You should look through them all! Take some intro classes, talk to upperclassmen, there’s a lot of valuable information out there. Narrow your field of major choices down to only subjects that really have potential or you have not tried. Never eliminate something because it is unfamiliar. High schools don’t teach Chemical Engineering or Nuclear Engineering as a rule. Find out about them. Ask questions.

Reason number 2: All majors are not created equal. Maybe you’ve already heard from person A that asking about relative difficulty of majors is shallow and there’s no such thing as hard majors and easy majors, it just depends on what you’re into. Well, that’s very interesting and all, person A, but you are very wrong and you are doing freshmen a disservice by preaching that. While there is no value in trying to determine an absolute hardest major, you HAVE to have a sense of what you’re capable of and what you’re getting yourself into. I know quite a few people who have either not graduated or not graduated on time as a result of failing classes within their major and/or changing majors too many times or some combination thereof.

Some majors have a lot of requirements. Take course 16 for example. 198 units of credit are required OUTSIDE of GIRs in order to graduate. Take a look at this page, that’s about 16 classes. On top of the 17 classes everyone has to take. You have 8 semesters here, and the average classload is 4/semester. 33 classes in 8 semesters doesn’t allow for too many electives. That’s hard in its own right.

Bad at memorizing things? Maybe chemistry or brain and cog sci isn’t for you. Impatient? Hate doing grunt work? Maybe cross off some of the engineering majors.

Some majors may be too easy for you and bore you to death. Some majors cover some really difficult material. Some of the abstract math classes here are among the hardest in the world. You should love a challenge, you’re an MIT student, but you should also love yourself. A major that is too difficult for you will only make you miserable and insecure. You won’t enjoy the course material and you won’t enjoy the work, you won’t sleep, and worst of all, you won’t learn. What’s the point of taking classes to get them over with? So what if you’re not smart enough to enjoy that stuff (I’m not smart enough to enjoy that stuff), your talents may lie elsewhere. Pick a field in which you will really be able to participate and positively contribute.

I say this because at MIT there is a real hidden (and sometimes not so hidden) pressure to do things just because they are hard. Or, the inverse, to not pick things just because they are by and large considered easy. Kids here are on the whole pretty smart, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need validation. Some kids try to earn the respect of others by taking on way more than ever reasonable, don’t be like that, because these kids are often the same who will, in a couple of years, feel superior to their classmates just because their major is considered “harder”. And you just don’t want to be like that. Nobody wants to be friends with that.

I said to a freshman tonight, who was trying to find a suitable second major in the sciences to her course 15 (management) intended major, “Why?” Because some people had informed her that “15 was a slacker major” and she wanted to prove she wasn’t. This made me very sad and I told her that if someone picked one major that was right for them and did it well, learned it inside out, was really excited about it, no matter what the major, I would respect him orders of magnitude more than someone else who sacrificed a deeper education in something they were really interested in just for the sake of adding the name of a second subject to their diploma. I’m really bored of the people who gave her this advice. Don’t take it. It’s dumb.


I’ve been through two majors myself, I started off in 16 (while taking classes in 8) and switched to 8. I wrote an entry a year ago about my switch into 8 halfway through sophomore year. Watch out, it’s a little dramatic. But, I ended up not at all behind in the coursework since I’d kept both options open as a “tentative double major” and taken all the usual physics classes up until that point. That’s something you might want to consider, prefrosh/freshmen- taking classes in 2+ subjects first semester sophomore year (and/or spring semester freshman year) so you can really get a feel for the different departments. And they are very different. And yes, this matters.

Reason #3, 4, n: why really it’s not only about what you love:

Departments. Curriculum. Staff. Resources. Career options. Size. Flexibility to do what you want.

What’s more important to you? Having a tried and true certified-damn-good education from MIT in a subject matter (in my case, physics)? Or, having the freedom to design your own curriculum and indulge in your fancies? This isn’t rhetorical- it matters. This is what I’m deciding between now with 8 and 8-B. To be quite honest I was 2 weeks ago leaning toward 8-B for the option of taking General Relativity or Astrophysics next term, however, I had this thought a few days ago that was big enough, at least in Lulu-world, to have actually tipped the scale toward 8. The thought was that I wanted a physics education from MIT, the way that they’ve been training physicists for years, and though I may feel like I know better at times, I probably don’t, and I could do well to finish what I started and trust in their judgment. Anyways, that’s just me.

Teaching styles vary wildly between departments. Yes, let that affect your choice. A clash of learning and teaching styles is one of the most disastrous things that could happen to a student in college. It will make you lose interest, and fast. Higher level math classes don’t have recitations: you are expected to either understand the lecture material or visit the professor privately with questions. Are you comfortable in that kind of a setting for 4 years? Engineering classes have a lot of repetition and hand-holding, this can get annoying if you’re normally independent. Course 6 is impersonally large and they compensate by having 4-5 person mandatory tutoring sections once a week, these are all things that you should know.

To make things easier later on, before you pick a major, reflect a little on what you’d like to do. If you don’t have any idea (don’t worry, I don’t either), an important feature of your degree track should be later flexibility. Will it allow you to attend medical school if you decide? Grad school? Work on wall street? Babysit? There are lots of majors (8, 18, 6, 2, … ) that are really good for branching out later on into all kinds of fields.

Your interests may change, especially as you get deeper into a field, you may find it not at all what you were expecting (this happens all the time, I can’t even stress that enough), you can develop interests in things you never thought possible: sometimes this is out of necessity, sometimes just because every subject in its own right is interesting (or else you wouldn’t have organic chemists) and you just needed some time to really get into it. I see this happen all the time. Your interests may change, but with some thought put into your choice of major, this doesn’t have to mean extra semesters or no diploma.

Alllll this talking aside, undergraduate majors by name are not a big deal. Graduate schools, still a faraway thought for you guys, but looming ever nearer for me, don’t give two hoots about the name of your major, they care about what’s in your head, your coursework, your research… In fact, I’ve been told quite a few times that taking Grad-level courses and having more than one major will actually hurt your chances at grad schools- they like to see that you have built a solid foundation in their subject and view anything else as a distraction.

Anyways, I made up a really crappy but maybe useful timeline for when you should be doing what with regard to your major/choice of major. And it starts NOW! (only if you’re a freshman, NEXTYEAR! if you’re a prefrosh).

    • Fall Semester Freshman Year: Talk to people! Research! Ask Questions.
    • IAP Freshman Year: Decide what major(s) you may be interested in/want to try out. Plan some spring semester classes that explore these options.


    • Spring Freshman Year: Take these classes. Reevaluate.


    • End of Spring Freshman Year: Pick a major. It doesn’t have to be permanent, but you’ll make it easier on yourself to do some exploring before you pick, since, though switching majors is easy, catching up in classes, isn’t.


    • Summer after Freshman Year: You are assigned your department advisor! This is fun, because you’ll come back and meet them probably with food or canoeing involved (the latter may just pertain to my advisor may not be an actual rule).


    • End of Sophomore Year: Deadline for deciding to stick with your major unless you are considering a 5th year or a 9th semester or you have already been taking cohesive classes in the major that you want to switch into. This is because most degree tracks are designed to take 2-3 years. If you haven’t started on that after the end of sophomore year, you may need to only consider “flexible” options for fewer requirements.



For an outdated (but still interesting) overview of some departments published in 2002 by the Tech, take a look at this:

Anyways, I’m doing this because my freshman friend Larisa is having a major crisis (that is, a crisis regarding her major, though it also appears to be quite troubling for her). Please feel free to ask questions about specific majors and I will try my best to answer them or find a satisfactory answer from someone who knows. I like feeling helpful.

Sorry there aren’t any pictures in this one… I took pictures of junior lab, so I’ll put that together soon.


51 responses to “Choosing a Major”

  1. How good is MIT’s course 18 with respect to other major universities (Harvard, etc.)?

  2. Mike says:

    Personally, I’m looking heavily at Course 8 should I go, so it’s always cool to hear from someone in that major.

    Quick question: How late can you change from 8 to 8-B? I’m split between law and physics and I’d like to how late in the game I can make my decision.

  3. Carla '11 says:

    MIT’s math department is among the best ones in the world. Just check out their results in the Putam for the past years!

  4. Jess says:

    “At MIT there is a real hidden (and sometimes not so hidden) pressure to do things just because they are hard.”

    Amen to that.

    Hey “Anonymus”, maybe some of the things you mentioned worked out well for you, but I think that’s kind of tangential to what Lulu just wrote here. A lot of the things you listed that made you “different” sounded a lot like you were perceiving her post to say that people are one-sided computer geeks who are only allowed to love Python and NOTHING ELSE. No no no no no – obviously, Lulu’s a good writer too, and photographer, and she has nice hair, and whatever. YEAH, you can absolutely have other interests and combine them to make what you do something really unique, but in picking a major the process is a little different and your interests, while important, can have a lot of different divergent paths – if you’re into computers, you don’t have to necessarily study comp sci. Which you haven’t, obviously; you get that. But like Lulu said there are a lot of different options out there.

    If you read this post in its entirety and took away “do what you love/do what you’re good at”, I think you should probably go back and read the entry again.

  5. Isshak says:

    Well, like anonymous said, I prefer too to separate my interets from what I would like to do later.
    And do you have informations on major 10B (bio chemical engineering) ? Or the website url maybe ? Thanks ! ^^

  6. Anonymous says:

    How common is it for people to stay on for longer? I feel like if I get into MIT, I’ll stay a student for as many semesters as I can.

  7. Anon says:

    Gosh, I wish I had this advice when I was at MIT. I switched majors spring term junior year (from 16 to 7) and stayed an extra year.

    It’s fun being at MIT, and many people want to stay for as long as they can, but I think it’s better to stay on as a *graduate* student, and not an undergrad.

  8. HKim says:

    “What’s the point of taking classes to get them over with?”

    Well said, Lulu. You rock.

  9. lulu says:

    MIKE: “Quick question: How late can you change from 8 to 8-B? I’m split between law and physics and I’d like to how late in the game I can make my decision.”

    I think the more relevant question is how late you can switch from 8-B to 8. You can always switch from 8 to 8-B since 8-B is simply 8 with a lot of requirements removed. For example, I have an 8-B major already at this point in the game, since I’ve taken some classes in Aero/Astro, but I’m working on my 8.

    8-B to 8, though, is considerably more difficult. Junior lab 8.13 and 8.14 are requirements and you’d do best for your thesis work senior year to take both those labs junior year (like they suggested by giving it that name). Yeah, so, probably the end of sophomore year is when you should start fixing your track for 8 if you are even considering a full 8. On the other hand, if you change your mind and decide to do law, an 8-B is easy to get if you are already on the degree track for physics smile

  10. lulu says:


    This is the page for course 10 major requirements, but I found this not because I have some course 10 secret power, but because I typed in “course 10” in the search bar on the MIT home page. The information is very easy to locate. Searching that way for any major will eventually lead you to what you seek.

  11. lulu says:

    Um, third post in a row, sorry, just spotted another comment I want to reply to:

    “How common is it for people to stay on for longer? I feel like if I get into MIT, I’ll stay a student for as many semesters as I can.”

    Get here first before you plan your major for 5 or 6 years. Although I really love it here, and I’d rather be here than anywhere else, it’s pretty impractical (and sad) to have to be here for many years after your requisite 4.

    First: COST. You’ve paid for 4 years of college education, that’s a pretty hefty sum, your parents may not be able to afford 5. Unless you have not completed ANY major and have no way of doing so, you will not receive financial aid for your 5th year here. Even if you do receive financial aid it is still a cost on top of what you have already shelled out for 4 years and it adds up.

    Second: crappy record. Your advisor, the academic performance board would be ALL up on you for not taking the required classes if you do this for your first 4 years so it’s unlikely that you’re at this point because you really chose to spread out your major over 5 years- this is discouraged. More likely, you are here because you failed some classes or had to change majors too many times. This is all signs of a poor academic record. Big deal for grad school.

    Third: your friends would have graduated and moved on with their lives. You will be very sad that you have not.

    So I read this article a while back about some guy who was in his 8th year of college because he never wanted to graduate and the school finally kicked him out and he was suing them because he didn’t want to go. Do you really want to be like this guy? College is fun but a part of the fun is that it is only a few dense years of your life. A part of the fun is that you experience it, you complete it, you go on with your life.

  12. Anonymous says:

    hey lulu no need to be agressive like that with prefrosh, chill

  13. lulu says:

    haha wtf, when you have your own blog you can be as chill as you want on it, and you won’t ever see me there telling you to liven it up, but when people ask for my opinions I tend to give it.

  14. Anonymus says:

    First! (or not, by now raspberry)

    “Impatient? Hate doing grunt work? Maybe cross off some of the engineering majors.”
    Hey, I’m in engineering! And to be honest, I’m far better at writing than in math. My math skills are only slightly better than average, probably among the worst if you’d compare with other engineering students.

    As for “do what you love”, I’m more into computers than electrical engineering (which I took). But I think it’s my love for the matter that actually got me to master things I don’t like related to the things I like.

    And another thing is that people always say to ‘do what you’re good at’. That means that some people, like me, who are naturally much better with something like languages (or art or music) would are better off in the field they’re talented in rather than the field they like.

    Not true. Even with my relatively poor math skills, I did pretty well (obviously wink. And a person with writing skills could be one of the few who write (good) textbooks on the subject. Someone who did philosophy or psychology would do good when put into a science field (like Aristotle), but sadly, that doesn’t happen much these days.

  15. Anonymous says:

    …I meant more because I know there are a lot of things that I would like to study, and that it’s simply not all possible in four years, not in the event that I had spent the entire time screwing around and not taking classes that I should. When I interviewed, my EC told me that there were what he called “perma-students” – people who just didn’t want to stop learning at the school. There’s a college phase (lifestyle-wise, I think), but I don’t view education that way. I don’t want to learn a lot in four years and then move on to “the next step” because it is such; there’s just a lot that I want to learn, and I don’t think I’ll stop in the way that many people do [that I have encountered], at MIT or elsewhere. I just wanted to confirm that…yes, the opportunity is there.

  16. lulu says:

    I see what you are saying, but on the small scale, the opportunity is not there. An undergraduate education is a finite thing. I have confidence that someone like you would be able to get the best out of the limited time you’re given, because that’s a great attitude to have, but it’s not always financially or practically feasible to overstay your designated time.

    Learning happens everywhere. It’s by no means confined to a bubble around the MIT campus (or any other campus). MIT has unimaginable resources and they’re not limited to the undergraduate population. You will learn far more and understand far deeper about the subjects that interest you as a graduate student than an undergraduate. You say “I don’t want to learn a lot in four years and then move on to “the next step” because it is such”, like you have this idea that the “next step” is some swirling black hole that people march into after they graduate from college like a bunch of robots and they never come out, because now they’re in the “real world”. But, really, the next step is what you make of it, it could be fundamentally the same, but with more freedom, with more of your own passion infused with what you do, that’s what graduate school is, then post doc then research if that’s what makes you happy. I think that’s the mark of a good education. It makes you excited for rather than fearful of the “next step”. It’s not about having ‘gotten your fill’ of knowledge, but rather that you’re ready to take on a more active role in your education, I don’t think you should worry about not feeling like that yet, cause, well, you haven’t even started college, but I think almost every 3rd or 4th year student here would have gone through that and know what I mean.

  17. Carla ’11-
    Departments should be judged by their students, professors and the interactions between students (especially undergrad) with the professors and their research not a competition that anyone could succeed in with reading the right books and solving the “well-known” problems.
    Anyways, in The Tech article I read that “upper-level classes consist of more lectures than recitations.” What does this mean?

  18. A MIT Parent says:

    I fully echo Lulu’s comment and would be very disappointed if my kid intend to stay at MIT longer than 4 year as a undergraduate. 4-year is a long time for anyone to learn. The way I see it is, this “just-don’t-want-to-graduate-student” just wants to hide at colleage but face his/her future and responsibility. This is just not right. You are even moving on yet, but you are already thinking of staying !

  19. LEE says:

    After knowing that you will be glad to answer any question posted regardless the identity of the questioner, I would live to ask you something about the course of aircraft engineering.

    So, please tell me what are the entry requirements for a course of aircraft engineering at MIT and of course the fees.

    Thank you

  20. KUI says:

    Hi, I just have a general question(s) about MIT. Im only a sophomore but already im looking at colleges because I realize which ever university I go to will be a commitment I want to have thought over GREATLY. Anyway, I do pretty well in math and sciences in my school and supposedly MIT is believed to be a geek/nerd or engineering/math/science school. I was wondering how strong the Humanities and Arts are @ MIT. Although this college is renowned for its advances in Mathematics and Sciences I wanted to learn more about departments such as Philosophy, Psychology, and East Asian Studies. I admire MIT because of its programs, the general opinions i get about the student life and stress as a opposed to Harvard,Yale, or Princeton (other options) and its philosophy that closely relfects my own view of the actual reason I would go to college and even bother LEARNING @ all. However, its reputation makes me at odds about whether or not it would be a good fit for me. I would really appreciate any advice/criticism/suggestions/comments…etc..

    ..Arigatou Gozaimasu (Thank you very Much =D)

  21. Hunter '11 says:

    Kui – I went to a very, very humanities-focused high school. VERY. As in, 6 of my 8 APs are humanities (I took all the ones offered by my school).

    And I like MIT’s humanities (or HASS) classes. They’re as in depth as you want them to be (that is, you can work your way up in a subject, just like any other class) and they’re interesting. I want to be a well-rounded person, and I think MIT will help with that.

    MIT has an 8-class humanities requirement, which is more than many schools. It also requires communications-intensive classes, requires you to explore 3 different fields, and to concentrate in a field of your choosing (and often of your own design, as long as there’s a common thing). I think MIT students come out well rounded. Many seek minors or additional majors in humanities.

    And yes, there are even people here who solely major in humanities =)

    And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can easily cross register at Harvard or other schools.

  22. Fred says:

    Looking forward to reading junior lab part2 from Lulu…..

  23. lulu says:

    tha’s the link to the undergraduate degree track for 6-3. I think if you do 6-3 you will be required to take one or two classes in EE (6.002 is intro to EE, for example) however the vast majority of your program will focus on CS.

    Many economic classes are marked as HASS (or humanities requirement fulfilling) classes. This means that since you will need to take at least 8 humanities classes anyways in order to graduate, it’s very easy to take many economics classes without having to commit so much of your electives to them.

    That’s wh a lot of people leave with second degrees in economics.


    “Anyways, in The Tech article I read that “upper-level classes consist of more lectures than recitations.” What does this mean?”

    Are you confused by the terms or do you have an objection to the format? It’s saying that lecture-style teaching becomes more predominant at higher level courses, meaning professor teaches a whole class and you follow along, whereas recitation style teaching happens more often in the intro classes, in which a TA reviews material with less than 20 students at a time and there is much more hand-holding and individual attention.

  24. Krishna says:


    I am interested in double majoring in Course 1 and Course 15 because I want to work as an environmental consultant in a corporate environment. Am I planning on biting off more than I can chew? I enjoy working hard, but I also want to be able to enjoy the student life at MIT. I heard, what you say about doing what you love, but my problem has always been that I love learning about everything. All the subject areas interest me. In high school at least, I’ve also been good at everything. I realize that at MIT, the difficulty and competition would be much greater, but I still wonder, is it too much to try and specialize in more than one field?

  25. lulu says:


    Actually this is one of those rare cases in which I would encourage you to double in those fields. 1 and 15 are considered two of the lighter majors here with few requirements (at least few very time-consuming requirements) so it would be manageable work-wise. But more importantly, I think that you are doing this for the right reasons – it combines two disciplines that you’re interested in, neither is so complicated that you would necessarily not get a great education in both, and given the nature of the two fields, it’s likely that if you were to take a few classes on the side in one or the other, you wouldn’t be far from a major anyways. smile I say go for it

  26. asm says:

    I am still in high school (haven’t been admitted yet…waiting for March!), but I have some questions about the department I am interested in, Course 6 (if I get in, of course, but that’s a different story).

    So, put simply, programming and computer science is what I love in life. Now, I’m curious, how much electrical engineering does one majoring in 6-3 (or whatever the Computer Science focused one is) take? I mean, I’m interested in EE, and I’ll definitely take some classes in it, but I don’t think I would want to commit to it as an integral part of my major. I’d much rather prefer working with software.

    Also, how flexible is EECS in terms of outside electives? Because I would want to take at least one class in Economics if I go to MIT…

    And, in the Tech article mentioned, it says that “the workload is often merciless,” is that in terms of projects or assignments or what?

  27. Jarey says:

    Thank you so much for this post, lulu. You cleared many things up for me, especially about learning style vs. teaching style. And I must say, I am slightly daunted by the idea of majoring in math, which I’m decent at… but, sigh. I should really explore the other things I’m interested in, just so I have a good idea what else is out there in case higher level mathematics boggles me with all that theory. Maybe it’s time for me to step up to the learning curve, haha…

  28. Anthony says:

    This is a really good post. Here’s a second vote for “get the undergrad over with.” smile

  29. lulu says:

    minors are technically about the most useless things you could get in college. But! If you’d taken the classes already anyways you may as well pick one up. I think two majors and two minors is as much as they will let you do. I recommend that you just pick electives and worry about a minor only if you realize that you already have completed one.

    I think it’s a common misconception that there’s any overlap in a physics/math double. Some of the VERY basic math courses you may find useful in physics but are not required (think 18.06), and there is one official overlap since physics requires you to take one higher level abstract math course. But that’s it, pretty much. My lab partner this semester was a physics/math double, but he dropped the physics after taking half the lab. (maybe he’s still physics B?) It’s usually better to just take the classes you enjoy than try to plan out a rigid double major.

    Regards to music, at the very least, just from my experience and my friends’ experiences, it seems that music offerings are better as extra curriculars than classes. A lot of the music classes are intro hass classes and not as serious, but almost everyone who loves music joins musical groups and takes lessons on the side.

  30. Isshak says:

    You think minors are useless ? And I was thinking about doing a minor in finance…
    Why do you think that they are useless ? (I’m just asking about your opinion).

  31. Anonymus says:

    @Jess: Sorry if I sounded a bit offensive, I only had about 2 mins to type up that post, so it came out a little differently than what I intended. I actually agree on what lulu wrote and certainly didn’t mean to imply that ‘people are one-sided computer geeks’.

    But well, her post did touch on a nerve which started me ranting there. Every time I tell someone what I like, people always ask me “Why are you doing that? You’re better at other things, just do what you’re good at.” There are a few cases of my friends who take 3 years of engineering, then drop out because they want to become a writer. I’d say no, you don’t have to drop out.. just finish the last year(s), and you’ll have more knowledge to write about. I know I found it hard to survive in a field I’m not gifted in, but I did, and I’m glad I did.

  32. Lulu,
    I’m probably just being a total idiot about this: is there any limit to minors? (If there are such things?) I mean, I most likely have enough dual credit that I could take only 3 yrs, but I want to take 4 yrs anyway. Or maybe is there no point having minors and I’m really just talking about normal electives. Specifically, I’m looking at phys+math double (there is a lot of overlap, right?), but I want to take several [electives] each in music/phil/arch/comp sci/pol sci. Or maybe I’m just to formal-class oriented, and I should just do some of these outside of class?

  33. Jonathan says:

    Hi, I’m applying this year and still have some time to choose a major if I’ll be admitted.
    But I so much confused, I don’t know if I want course 6 or 14 =/
    I know they don’t have anything to do with each other and that’s the point..
    Could you say somthing about these courses or help me anyway??

  34. Jonathan says:

    sorry, it’s 24, not 14..
    the courses are 6 and 24

  35. Anonymous says:

    if you all love MIT so much after 4 years, why not try grad?

  36. to elaborate on my previous post:
    In the future I want to do freelance music composition on the side, but even though I have a strong background in an instrument (clarinet), I have minimal theory knowledge. Is it really possible to get an adequate amount through groups? I mean, I assume these are all performance groups, unless you specifically know of a club for composition? Because if there is not then I will end up needing classes rather than just extracurriculars.

  37. Erik says:

    I want to major in engineering ( dont know which, but probably course 2) but im considering taking spanish as a minor, is this possible??

  38. Sara says:

    “Do what you love. F*** the rest.”
    Best quote/Best movie/Best blog ever

    Thanks Lulu, this was really helpful! Hopefully I will be able to use your advice at MIT next year!

  39. Cathyu says:

    I really like your pragmatic attitude. Maybe because I was born in China too,I totally understand your logic. Anyway, keep up the good work. I really enjoys your article

  40. Anonymous says:

    “if you all love MIT so much after 4 years, why not try grad?”
    ..or maybe even working there after graduating. Maybe even become part of admissions wink

    One thing I really do like about MIT is that all the admissions people are so nice and really love the place, even the job looks quite tiring. In fact, it’s why I decided to apply to MIT after surfing the website. (No sucking up intended, note that I didn’t write a name. But I like the politeness policy and I hope it always remains that way wink

  41. Frederick says:

    Hi Lulu,
    I am a junior in high school and i am currently starting to get ready to take sat, act and all that jazz…..i was wondering if mit takes strong consideration from sat subject tests?…i was also curious about your personal high school statistics as a mit atudent i strongly admire you….and am cuurious as to whether or not i could have a future at mit…im not wierd nor do i want to know anything extremely personal im just interested to see what you did to make sure i do something similar and maybe if you have time you could shoot me some tips or advice, wiith which, i can more readily prepare my self for applying to the o-so-prestigious M.I.T…..thanx for your time ;]

  42. kim says:

    i am an international , from Kenya, and there is a social element to choosing a major at MIT. To my villagers ,you can choose what you love, even the hardest major you can find, but for God`s sake , make sure it can buy dinner for as many relatives as makes course selection a very interesting affair.

  43. Arathi says:

    I am a pre-frosh and I want to major in either Chemical Engineering or Materials Science. I also would really like to take part in UROPs, I enjoy lab work. Looking at the major descriptions I noticed that the Chemical Engineering program is not considered so easy to get UROPs in nor is it very flexible. Is it possible to double major in these subjects: course 3 and course 10 without spending more than 4 years? Do you know anyone who has done course 10 and UROPs, how do they find that?

  44. phreaker says:

    If you love what you do and others do as well, the money comes naturally wink

  45. Paul says:

    Hey Arathi,

    Hopefully I can shed a little light on your question, as my UROP is in the Langer Lab, which is primarily a chemical engineering lab (although there’s quite a bit of materials engineering and bioengineering going on as well). Personally, I haven’t heard of it actually being “harder” to get UROPs in one department or another. That being said, getting a UROP can be a very hit-or-miss process in general, since it’s highly dependent on whether a given lab simply has space for an extra person.

    One of the best ways to find UROPs is through the UROP website, which has a list of “project openings,” sort of like the classifieds section of a newspaper. This is how I found my UROP, which I’ll be blogging about in more detail in January. Another effective way is to simply talk to or email professors and see what opportunities they might have available. I would highly encourage you to check out the UROP website, if you haven’t already, as it has a lot of valuable information.

  46. lulu says:

    Re: minors,,,,

    Take a look at this… Hopefully you can see it.

    In particular, look under the heading, “Things that Obsess Students which Nobody Really Cares About”. Among these, are minors. I quote:

    “Although people are impressed by broad interests, no one cares about the exact working
    of your diploma (e.g. your ”minor”, ”second major”, ”certificate”, etc). Although people
    are impressed by academic achievement, no one really cares if you’ve taken any graduate

    The fact is, minors mean that you have taken 4-6 classes in a cohesive second subject. Most people take that many classes in a single semester. No one is going to swoon over that alone. Broad interests are impressive, but you show that with the classes on your transcript, your internships, projects, etc. Saying in an interview, “I have an interest in physics that I wish to continue to pursue, I have taken courses in Relativity, Waves, Statistical Mechanics, and Astronomy…” is much more impressive than saying “I’m pursuing a minor in physics.” Because anyone who is serious about their subject, especially in a sciences and maths field, will be kind of affronted by the fact that you believe picking and choosing a few classes here and there in a (really complex) discipline would constitute a mastery of it, inasmuch as it deserves to be quoted next to your name. Since the name “minor” impresses no one, why not just forget about it, and let your interests guide you. There is always a way to highlight your strengths and interests, and just as a 3.5 GPA in one major is more impressive than a 3.0 GPA in two, so would taking complementary classes to your major (to deepen your understanding), be more impressive than taking irrelevant classes to complete a minor.

  47. lulu says:


    actually 6 and 24 are quite complementary. especially if the 6 means cs not ee. Much of the logic you learn in philosophy will be useful in higher level programming courses. I think a pure philosophy major (without any other majors) is very rare at MIT. Most people in your predicament decide to eventually major in 6 and take classes in 24 (perhaps to constitute a double major).

    I seriously recommend that you take classes your freshman year in both disciplines and get a feel before you make any decisions. If you are not at MIT yet you shouldn’t worry yourself about a major. There’s really no way of telling whether you will click with a department before taking some classes and making some acquaintances in it.


    It’s all possible. But be warned that language classes here are not like language classes in high school. They will probably be far more demanding than any other HASS classes you’ve taken. They are generally every day early in the morning and assign homework on a nightly (almost) basis. It’s very possible, of course, I know many students that do it, though no one can know better than you what you’re capable of.


    Course 3 and course 10 I’ve never met, though they sound like they would be related. UROPs are possible in every department. If it is considered harder in 10 than in others, start looking earlier and be more aggressive, you’re sure to find SOMETHING you enjoy if you only try. Keep in mind that after a year or two you will be in the running for industry internships as well as UROPs, and those are just additional options.

  48. lulu says:

    whoa new years

  49. Jonathan says:

    thanks very much lulu!!!
    I wasn’t seeing it this way..
    I shall take both classes if I get admited!!
    thank you, and a happy 2008!!!

  50. Joy says:

    lulu, i really like physics, and i was thinking about majoring in it. what could/would a physics major actually do, as a career?

    thanks, Joy

  51. 小熊 says:

    你很可愛! =)