Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in by Mollie B. '06
Internet in the bathtub! And a bunch of stuff on choosing a major.
Well, I’m back home in the great state of Ohio, getting ready for Christmas with my fam. I went out last night with two of my high school friends, and went last-minute shopping this afternoon with my little brother (who is suddenly not so little — he can drive! weird). Soon my family will pile in the Family Vehicle and drive past several cow farms (but not over the river and through the woods) to my grandmother’s house for the Traditional Christmas Eve Dinner of beef and noodles. Then we will go to church, following which we will drive around the Columbus area and look at Christmas lights (and point and laugh at blowup Christmas lawn ornaments). It’s good to be home for the first time in six months, and I’m looking forward to a week of wireless internet in the bathtub and reading by the fireplace.
My actual purpose today is to talk a little bit about selecting a major, for any interested parties and maybe for Laura too. ;)
As you may or may not be aware, the major you write down on your MIT application does not have to be what you actually major in — there are no quotas for any major. A list of degree programs is here (I find this list SUPER annoying, because it’s alphabetical by school rather than what is to me the logical order: numerical by course.) All freshmen are considered Undeclared, and do not have to choose a major until the middle of their second term. (Strictly speaking, they don’t even have to declare then; it’s possible to be an undesignated sophomore, although few people choose this option.)
To aid freshmen in their choice, the Academic Resource Center has a great choosing a major section on their website. Additionally, all of the departments hold open house socials in February-March. Most of them have free cookies; all of them have helpful information from professors and current students in the department. There’s also an annual Choice of Major fair with booths for each department and free stuff for freshmen (biology department pencils, mechE stress balls, etc).
My personal story is, as usual, an object lesson in what not to do. As I’ve said before, I had decided to apply to MIT because of the Brain and Cognitive Sciences department. When I visited MIT in the spring of my senior year, I picked up a paper copy of the course catalogue and circled all the classes I was interested in taking. I knew I was also interested in biology, but I thought I’d rather just pick up a minor. At the time, I was only interested in cognitive science.
So I attended the BCS open house and ate some cookies (and talked to a professor who later became one of my favorite mentors and grad school letter of rec writers!), but it was largely a formality. I filled out the choice of major form and turned it in at the Student Services Center and continued on my merry way.
It wasn’t until IAP of my sophomore year, after working at the NIH and getting my UROP in Morgan’s lab, that I realized I could (and wanted to) realistically complete a double-major in biology and BCS. Over the last two years, I’ve gravitated more and more to biology, and I think if I could go back, I probably just would have done one major in biology. I’ve enjoyed my BCS classes, and it’s great to be in such a small department and get personal attention, but I think ultimately I’m interested in cell biology, whether it’s of neurons or not. Ah well, there’s always grad school. (Got my first interview invitation, btw — yay!)
Just as a probably unnecessary warning, I feel I should mention that lots of people come to MIT undecided — as in “I like mechE, but I also like EECS and I think aero/astro is cool, and, hey, management” or “biology! and BCS! and chemistry! and ahhhh”, but not so many people come to MIT having absolutely no idea what they want to study. This is a good thing, because while MIT is a very wonderful place, if you have no idea if want to major in science, engineering, or business, you are probably a little bit SOL. You can always cross-register at Harvard or Wellesley for those esoteric art classes, but you’re going to want a major at MIT that you’re psyched about completing.