Mini-Guide to the GIRs by Chris S. '11
Now I've been through them - don't make the same mistakes I did.
I feel slightly weird to be typing away on the MIT blogs again, when the farthest thing on my mind right now is MIT. BUT – I feel like if I don’t write this entry now, when I have so much time on my hands, this blog would never get written – so here goes.
I’m also going to stray from the conventional path of telling you what options are available to you (I’m sure you know that already, being the zealous beavers that you are), but rather I’ll base everything on my own personal opinions and observations from freshman year. (Also, this is conveniently before you have to choose your courses for frosh year =p)
Again, this is only my interpretation of the GIRs, so please ignore them if you think I’m just being woozy in the head. 🙂
2. Chem fall, bio spring.
This year, I went for Professor Lander’s 7.012 class in the fall – being the awesome lecturer that he was. I learned a lot; Professor Lander was great, but we didn’t have very many people in the class (it was ~200, at a time when 3.091 had so many people that the lecture was even broadcast into another room). A few inconveniences presented themselves as well – the curve could have been a bit better with more people (intro bio assigns grades almost completely on a bell curve), and 3.091 got the lectures recorded on video (for the overflow room) so a lot of people didn’t have to go to class (humph*) – the same applied for 7.013 in the spring.
Alright – to be honest – it isn’t THAT inconvenient, but I always get this naggy feeling that intro courses are better if you do them with the big crowd, and for me, given a chance to do it again, I would do 5.111 in the fall and 7.013 in the spring. Professor Lander was great; but for me, I felt that it wasn’t completely worth taking bio early (other than
gloating at helping my roommates with their biology queries second semester =p).
Also, I really want to address something about my 5.111 class in the spring.
5.111 in the spring, as you may have predicted from the size of 7.012 in the fall – is small. We had perhaps no more than 70 students in the class. Contrary to what I’ve been reading in the certain thread at College Confidential back in April, the class isn’t notoriously instructed. Really, I don’t know where that came from. Our two instructors had distinctly different teaching styles, but I didn’t feel that anything was wrong with the class. There’s a lot of controversy about our second professor not assigning “reading assignments” – just allow me to say that I feel if you are a student at MIT, you should be capable of divining a chart known as “The Table of Contents” and finding the relevant sections yourself. To take this as a sign of instructional negligence is – in my humble opinion (IMHO) – very excessive.
To be fair – I did feel that 5.111 was a bit too small of an intro class for my liking. I would have preferred a much bigger chem class, and would probably have preferred taking 5.111 in the fall instead. This also frees me up to take 5.12 directly in the spring, and 5.13 sophomore fall. Given the current circumstances, I would have to postpone 5.13 all the way to junior fall.
Oh – and take 5.111 (or 5.112!) if you’re interested in Course 5 or Course 7. I did peruse the 3.091 course content, and no offense to the people who took 3.091, but I feel 5.111 has a more comprehensive and “useful” chemical introduction if you feel like you’re going to take additional chemistry courses in the future. (3.091 is a good course if you don’t plan on seeing chemistry ever again – like the way I am with physics, muahaha).
5.Not knowing calculus at MIT is like a fish not knowing how to swim.
For the math requirement, please refer to This Meticulous Chart.
I’ve highlighted the common courses I see in pinkish magenta.
The three most common paths I see for the Math GIR at MIT is:
-If you’ve seen Calculus in high school and took Calc BC – 18.02
-If you’ve seen Calculus in high school but isn’t entirely comfortable with it (or didn’t take Calc BC or the Calc ASE) – 18.01/2A (the flip side – to finish 18.02A you have to stay at MIT during IAP)
-If you’ve never seen Calculus or isn’t comfortable beyond basic integration/derivation – 18.01.
Either of these three paths have quite a decent number of people doing it, so there’s no shame if you come in doing 18.01 when your friends might be doing 18.02 or (gasp!) 18.03/18.06 immediately. However, it IS important for you to get your Calc GIR out of the way as soon as possible, rather than prolong it till the very last moment (like what some people do with 7.01x or 8.02 – taking it in their senior year). The main reason for this is that there’s almost always some level of calc required in science/engineering courses at MIT (even in “humanities” courses like economics!), and you’ll be doing yourself a favor understanding 18.01/2 before going into those courses (unless you’re planning on majoring on the humanities =p).
Also – Auroux for 18.02 in the fall is AWESOME! Do try to take that class unless you really have some pressing reason not to =p
10. Try to take a HASS class that’s both CI-H and HASS-D in the fall.
You need 2 CI-H classes to graduate, and you must take one during your frosh year, so why not make the best of it and kill two birds with one stone by taking a class that fulfills both requirements? (you need three HASS-D classes for the HASS GIR)
Besides, you’re on pass/no record first semester, so what do you have to lose?
17. On classes with extra decimal places… (like 5.112, 8.012 (the “advanced version”)…NOT 7.01x or 5.111, for example)
The short and simple of it: Take as much “advanced courses” as you are able to handle.
Before I launch into my rationale, I think it is important to note that I didn’t take any advanced classes for my GIRs, and so you may take my treatise with a grain of salt (it’s from my observations of my peers who took advanced classes).
MIT courses, to be simple, would probably be unlike anything you’ve seen in the past, especially if you didn’t come from a very prestigious high school or a magnet science/tech school (at least it was that way for me). Also, college isn’t like high school – you would soon discover that a regular high school courseload of 7 courses isn’t a feasible schedule at MIT unless you’re superhuman (and they also exist at MIT, but in very small quantities =p).
It’s very much the same way with classes like 5.112 and 8.012 (sorry to mention them constantly, I’m just using them as an example – this also applies to courses like 8.022, 18.022). When people suggest that you should have a high level of chemistry coming in to 5.112 or be comfortable with calc coming in to 8.012, they do really mean it – it isn’t like your high school teacher saying “Make sure you know Algebra 2 before taking Physics!”. If you take those advanced courses – be prepared to work – there’s no way that you can breeze through them like what a lot of people do first semester with their GIR courses (since it’s P/NR). Along with work comes, inevitably, some sacrifice with fun and social time.
But on the flip side, as the blogger Paul probably realizes now, there’s great rewards to have weathered a difficult class. Intellectual triumphs aside, there’s the memorable communal-bonding pset sessions, a better grounding of the subject for subsequent courses, and “bragging rights,” to mention a few. =p
Pass/no record exists as a smoother transition for an incoming frosh to the rigors of the MIT curriculum, living away from home, and making new friends. Yes – it can also exist for academic masochism, but I have no doubt that you’ll see more than your share of it in the coming semesters. Personally, I didn’t take any of these advanced courses, and I felt it WAS the best balance for me (even though I still had that naggy voice left over from high school in the back of my mind, “You should be taking the MOST RIGOROUS courseload available!”). Your balance may be taking both 5.112 AND 8.012 – or it may simply be the same as mine. As you will quickly see after you get here, being at MIT is already privilege enough – once you get in, it isn’t like high school where all the brightest and greatest rush to fill up their schedules with AP classes. There’s no shame to be taking 18.01 when others are taking 18.02 – you’ll all get to where you want to be in due time. You will undoubtedly find your own chord here, the same way that I did – the same way that we all do.
Interesting fact (confirmed by Mr. Matt McGann):
Whether you take 8.01 or 8.012, it all shows up on your official transcript as “Physics I”.
(so let the love of physics be the motivation of taking 8.012)
Oh, one last note:
DON’T TAKE 8.012 just because you hate TEAL.
I know, we preach about the evils of the Satan, also known as TEAL, but don’t go for 8.012 just because you don’t like 8.01T. It isn’t worth it. 🙂
28. PE requirement
Take PE courses during your frosh year! The last only one quarter each, and you only need 4 of them for your PE requirement (yes, there’s a PE requirement at MIT!). You also should do it during your frosh year cuz it’s so much more fun taking PE courses with your friends =p. I recommend Sailing and Pistol. 🙂
Also, do your swim test during Orientation and get it out of the way! You’ll get a nice white T-shirt as a souvenir too =p
41. Suggested schedule
Classes you should definitely ASE or AP out of (or take at earliest opportunity):
8.01, 18.01, 18.02.
Suggested Schedule, assuming you have credit for 18.01 (as a lot do from the Calc BC exam):
Note: During the spring semester, there are a number of 9-unit classes that are almost targeted directly at freshman, which conveniently fills the gap of your 9 credits and are very interesting (one such class was Snively’s toy design class). It may be worthwhile to shop around during Christmas/IAP to find those classes.
Also, by MAJOR I meant that if you have 18.01 credit, you probably can begin taking your first class of your major as soon as the spring semester rolls around. If you don’t have 18.01 credit, it only means that you should take 18.02 second semester instead of your major class.
Moreover, the HASS spaces above aren’t completely rigid. You can opt not to take a HASS class second semester and take another class of your interest, but either way, I strongly suggest taking a CI-H+HASS-D HASS class first semester. Use P/NR to your advantage.
Moreover x2, you don’t have to fill up all 54 and 57 credits if you don’t want to. Quite a few people just took 4 classes both semesters – so suit yourself and do whatever is comfortable for you.
Whew, that is a LOT of discourse on the GIRs. Hope you find it useful. =D
And to prove that I’m not completely boring, check out this awesome act from my high school’s talent show (yes, I got to go to school for the last two weeks of my high school’s spring semester and attend the seniors’ graduation! CONGRATS to all ’08’s that graduated!)
Before you ask – yes, this is an American high school in Taiwan. =p