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MIT student blogger Michael C. '16

How do you know when you’ve chosen the right major? by Michael C. '16

Sometimes I get so engaged by a project that I forget to eat.

Yesterday, I woke up at 7:35am.  Starving, I got a sandwich to-go at the Student Center and then trudged off to the basement of Building 35. Along with my friend Sally M. ’16, I spent the next few hours CNC machining two rectangular aluminum blanks into a pair of finely detailed molds and then finetuning injection molding parameters to create some beautiful clear yoyo bodies.

My sandwich lay forgotten until well past noon.

How do you know if you’ve chosen a major that fits you? Fit is a fuzzy concept, hard to quantify or plot. But this is what it means to me:

Fit is having at least one class per year that I really, really, really look forward to. A class that I wake up thinking about and work late into the night for, not because it’s required but simply because it’s so interesting.

Fit is finding people who share my passion for design – who see it as so much more than just an aesthetic wrapper, but rather as the core of a product that is expressed on many levels.

Fit is seeing the things I love learning about in my spare time appear in class. It’s seeing my favorite manufacturing videos shown in lecture. It’s learning the details of fin theory in thermodynamics and spending two hours after class poring over the Mac Pro’s thermal core design with new eyes.


I declared Course 2 (Mechanical Engineering) a year and a half ago.  The most valuable lesson I’ve learned in these 18 months can’t be described with equations or Greek letters. It’s this:

Failure sucks, but instructs.


I firmly believe that the best way to learn is to push yourself so fast that you faceplant, and then to pick yourself up again.

The numerous MechE project classes I’ve taken have been invaluable for this. They’ve given me the confidence to push my limits and not be afraid of failure. They’ve turned me from a high school student into a fledgling engineer/designer, simultaneously confident about my abilities and also constantly hungry to learn more.

Confident enough, as it happens, to break away from MIT – to take next semester off and accept a 6-month position in Apple’s iPhone Product Design team.

“Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you.

You can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

– steve jobs


I worry sometimes about the freshmen here, especially when I see them struggling early in the semester.  I worry because freshman year was by far my toughest year at MIT – not because the classes were harder, but because I didn’t feel invested in my classes. Finding the right fit can be a circuitous path, full of dead ends and winding forks.

But when you find it, things seem to just fall in line.