Skip to content ↓
MIT student blogger Keri G. '10

I’m still here (and MIT’s still hard) by Keri G. '10

The little comment that wasn't. (This isn't edited. It sounds awkward at times. Deal.)

I started writing a brief response to some of the comments on Chris’ post, but then it stopped being brief, so I decided to post it here.

Anyway, some of those comments are all like, “MIT is hard, yeah, yeah, whatever. Anyway, I want to know – how hard is MIT? Because I keep hearing it’s hard, but I just don’t understand, you know?” or “wait, why does everyone keep saying high school is easy? I don’t think it’s easy. I actually think it’s kind of hard. OH, CHRIST. I HAVE NO CHANCE OF GETTING IN.”

(I exaggerate only because I don’t know any other way to live. Ask my friends.)

In response to all of these comments, I’d like to deliver a poorly elaborated anecdote about my 10th grade PreCalc class. The class was taught by Mr. Antunez, a new teacher who had grown up in Spain and Argentina and was known primarily for two things: 1) being an absolute hardass of a teacher, and 2) completely butchering everyone’s names. I spent the year being called “Karel,” which I stopped correcting after one quarter because it was a portmanteau of my first and last names and could therefore technically be considered correct. Neha ’10 still uses it sometimes. It’s one of those nicknames, like “Klag” and “Squeaky,” that only maybe two people can use without being in danger of my setting them on fire.

Oh. Right. PreCalc.

Over the course of the year, a disturbing cycle emerged. We’d have a few lessons. We’d all feel like we were slowly being dragged deeper into a pit of despair. We’d take a test, which felt like an entirely different and far more painful pit of despair. (It’s early. Metaphors and variety thereof are not my friend right now.) And at the start of the first class after a test date, Mr. Antunez would, without fail, stand at the board for ten minutes and lecture us about how HORRIBLE our test scores were and how he just didn’t UNDERSTAND why we were in this CLASS when we OBVIOUSLY didn’t KNOW what we were DOING.

And every time he delivered one of these lectures (which became increasingly emphatic), Neha and I, as the only sophomores in this section of PreCalc, would sit in the back row passing snarky notes to each other and thinking about what badasses we were, since he couldn’t possibly be talking about us. When we got our tests back, our scores would usually be just as bad as everyone else’s. Oops.

I call this Everyone But Me Syndrome, and every single one of us has some form of it.

It manifests itself in different ways, whether you think that you are supersmart and probably don’t find things difficult when everyone else does, or you’re the opposite and are convinced that everyone is smarter and infinitely more awesome than you are. I’ve slowly shifted from the former to the latter, since I become increasingly aware of how lame I am every day.

This is all a really long way of saying two things:

-Think classes here won’t really be hard for you because you might be smarter or more accomplished than we are? Think again. With respect to specific classes: want to take the more advanced (and sometimes more difficult) version of a class – say, 18.022 instead of 18.02? Go ahead. Sign up and do it. Challenge yourself. You’ll decide what works for you soon enough.

-Think that if you’re working hard in high school, then you definitely won’t be able to handle it here? That’s not necessarily true either. Many, if not most, of us here put a lot of effort into our work in high school too. I remember spending the majority of my sophomore and junior years wondering why I was struggling so much and if I had any career options other than being a professional standardized test-taker. (I did really well on the SATs without much effort, but that’s about it.)

Anyway, that’s my two cents. Take it or leave it. And if you do decide to ignore me, please don’t say as much. I get it. I’m lame. I already know.

21 responses to “I’m still here (and MIT’s still hard)”

  1. Ahana says:

    18.022 :D
    Standardized tests :(
    Meh making zero effort to study for Wednesday’s exam >|

  2. Colton says:

    @Ahana: I agree with the first two lines, but my exam on Wednesday is in AP Physics. One just has to love exams that last for an hour and a half and are first thing in the morning.

  3. sepideh says:

    “Think classes here won’t really be hard for you because you might be smarter or more accomplished than we are?”

    if there exists someone with this thought…well i think he can’t find ANY place to study for college hard enough for him. harder than MIT…hmmm is there such a place.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Yes, Keri, you know I was thinking right the same thing to myself today; you know how hypocritical one can get when pretending they have no academic concerns or problems…

  5. '13 says:

    Okay, but like… say someone got a 5 on BC calc and decided to take 18.01. Would it still be impossibly hard? (*guesses not, because otherwise they wouldn’t give credit for it, because people would still be able to benefit from it a lot*)

    And sometimes MIT students say “(insert so-and-so class here) isn’t really as bad as everyone makes it sound.” I take that with a grain of salt even more than “so-and-so class is the new black plague.” I don’t know whether to assume I’m smarter than the person who said it, or less smart. Maybe I won’t think it’s that bad. Maybe I’ll think it’s worse.
    It’s kinda hard to judge sometimes.

  6. '13 says:

    (And I think I have the reverse of everyone-but-me syndrome, since usually if the teacher said “you all did really well on this test,” I’m the one kid who gets back a C, and if it’s “you all did horribly and I want you to retake it,” I’m the one kid who aced.)

  7. '13 says:

    Then again, that could be a manifestation of everyone-but-me has everyone-but-me syndrome, but for now it’s holding up xD

  8. Dad '11 says:

    Very nice. We need to hear more from your perspective.

  9. Carrie '10 says:

    to ’13: Yes, 18.01 would still be incredibly difficult. You would still agonize over the problem sets and still stay up late studying for the tests. You just might understand the material better. I got a 5 in calc bc and I look at those 18.01 problem sets and thank god that I wasn’t in that class.

    As for judging classes, I often find that no MIT student has the same opinion on the difficulty of any given class. It all really depends on what else the student is doing in addition to said class.

  10. Matt A. says:

    so, how much harder are advanced versions of classes like 18.022?

  11. You’re not lame! You sound (read?) like a really cool person, actually!

    Anyway, I do know that, reagardless of who you are or how smart you are, college is all about self-organization.

    You can’t just skim the material the day before the exam end expect to get a good grade – there’s just too much material for that. Even photographic memory won’t save you, because college often tests you for your work methodology (like, how you solve that question or how you would tackle that experiment) as well as facts.

    To really do good, you need to take (at least some) notes, do the psets, really listen to the teachers (because they may be saying things that are not relevant to the class, but are totally important for the profession) and work together with other students to give/receive live input for your work (the voices in your head don’t count).

    At least, that’s what all my college experienced friends say, and it sounds about right raspberry

  12. '13 says:

    So if 18.01 would be incredibly difficult and so would 18.022, is everything like the same difficulty just because of the trickiness of the problems?

  13. Cam says:

    Keri, You and Neha went to the same high school? (I know Neha) I’d make some remark about it being a small world, but… nah.

    Also, new term: mehfficiency. When you feel rather meh about something and so being “efficient” is much more “meh” than normal efficiency.

  14. Cam says:

    Also, hey, this post title feels reused. (No, not the mailing list… Although I’m sure somebody’d claim a blog post if you posted it)

  15. Parent says:

    Thanks. That helps.

  16. ajay kailas says:

    lol antunez. i had him last year. he called me AHHH jay. shs represent!

  17. 3HNC says:


  18. Keri says:

    Matt A. –

    Well, I’m currently in the process of taking every variation of multivariable calculus just so I can answer that question! I’m not quite done with 18.024 yet, but I’ll be sure to get back to you once I’m done deriving this equation.

    (Honestly, though, it varies from class to class. I’ve heard that 18.023 – Calc II with Applications – is a little easier than 18.02, while 18.022 (Calc II with Theory) is notably harder, but they’re really all just different ways of teaching the same subject. The easiness of a class seems far less important than whether or not you’re into, say, Theoretical or Applied Mathematics.

    ’13 –

    Something like that, only not really. It’s a little difficult to explain, other than what I’ve already tried to say. I agree with Carrie ’10 – there are many other factors that determine how difficult you find a particular class. As I just mentioned, though, I’m always an advocate for taking what you’re more interested in.

    Also, you totally have Everyone But Me Syndrome. Everyone thinks they’re the exception to something – it’s human nature to assume that you are a unique and special snowflake.

    Cam –

    Neha and I have so many mutual Facebook friends I sometimes wonder if we’re the same person.

    Ajay –

    Please tell me someone from SHS is applying this year! We haven’t had anyone since my senior year. It makes me sad.

    Is Mr. Wang still there? He and Ms. Treloar are the only people other than my parents who always call me Keri-Lee, which made me think I was in trouble no matter what they were about to say.

    Also, are you by chance Shilpa’s brother? She graduated my year too.

  19. Vivi '12 says:

    To the ’13 asking about the correlation between Calc BC and 18.01:

    Material-wise, it’s easy. If you breezed through Calc BC you will have no problem understanding what is being taught in 18.01. Problem set, though, are another matter; concepts that you knew from before are combined and twisted in the most disgusting way. At times you’ll stare at the question and wonder what the hell they’re even asking. Other times, it requires asking an 18.02 friend for a quick fix to what could have been an extremely long problem (there was one question on one of the later p-sets that I did with a double integral instead of some other tedious method I guess we were supposed to use..)

    The tests range from incredibly easy (some problems flat-out say, “Solve this integral” or “Differentiate this”). Other times, it’s impossibly hard (hey, passing wasn’t 8/32 on one of the tests for no reason). Either way, you’ll be able to pass, no problem; some people just need to put forth more effort than others, but if you 5’ed on Calc BC you should be able to get through without too much struggle.

  20. David says:

    First of all I think you are quite the opposite of lame. Secondly I agree with you and what you say. I changed high schools after my sophomore year to come to a school where I would actually have to try while not being stuck with classes like Algebra 2 with Seniors (it was common at my first high school). Back there I felt at the top with my grades that were in the middle because I didn’t have to work. Once I came to this school I found myself in mid to near bottom of the class and working hard for my grades. I believe it is nothing compared to the humbling experience of MIT, but I fancy to think that it is comparable.