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MIT student blogger Snively '11

MIT is hard by Snively '11

Yes, yes I am.

MIT is hard. BUT . . . since it feels like I’ve only been writing wanky blog entries lately, I’d like to write one that’s not, because everybody likes happy, right?

This weekend is parents weekend, so instead of just seeing the faces of young students and old professors, you start to see this weird in-between age bracket that is usually absent from campus. Parents are usually easy to spot for a couple of reasons. First, they all have name tags, proudly displaying their names. Two, they usually come in pairs, and three, they have this look of excitement that is shared only by all of the freshmen here.

Aw, why isn’t anybody else excited? It’s not that we hate everything or aren’t happy people, it’s just that after freshman year everything just seems much more difficult. Freshman year isn’t easy, by any means, but the difficulty seems to come from the fact that you’ve never done MIT before. Sophomore year the difficulty is no longer because you haven’t done MIT before, it’s because now MIT expects that you know what’s going on and throws a more difficult curriculum at you.

Anyway, back to parents. Parent’s weekend allows parents to wander around campus, visit the dorms, attend classes, and generally see what MIT is like. Last year I thought it was hilarious because each of my classes had a special “Parent’s Weekend Curriculum.” Physics was all demos, chemistry focused on our professor’s research, math was a little easier, etc. This year, however, I didn’t notice any special curriculum. In fact, in 2.005 (thermal fluids) we had our most difficult lecture of the entire year. Alright, sure, they did bust out a container of liquid Nitrogen to please the parents (though they squeezed it into the topic pretty well, kudos) but the second half hour of class was kind of hilarious. We were talking about spacial and time dependent heat transfer from gas through solid when the Biot number is approximately one. Basically, you have a block with a heat-resistance approximately equal to that of the surrounding gas and you want to see how heat travels through the solid. Somehow, through the use of magic that is completely foreign to me, we came up with one equation that related time to distance and could calculate all of this.

I say magic, but we actually had to go through the proof for this and I promise you, it was definitely the scariest and most overwhelming thing anybody in that class had ever seen. Ever. There was some weird partial differential equation separation of variables thing, variable substitutions in integrals, Fourier transforms, and algebra (read, witchcraft) that somehow produced this long, hellish equation containing a bazillion variables. Oh, wait, reviewing my notes, there was also something called a “Similarity transformation,” an “Error Function,” and an “Error Function Complement.”

My favorite part was the variables. We actually ran out of variables and started to have to reuse variables we’d already used, but assign them different values. Yeah. I looked around and saw some students just sitting with their mouths open, others laughing, and still others were trying to learn but failing miserably. Parents just sat there, looking at the board, pretending to know exactly what was going on and looking really interested.

At the end of lecture we all just kind of sat there, dumbfounded, before standing up to leave. There’s a lot of academic rigor at MIT. The classes are hard. They’re totally doable, but hard. My parents, who couldn’t make it to parent’s weekend, have a very holistic view of MIT. They figure that I got in and am doing the work. As long as I try my hardest, work hard, and learn, they’ll be ok with whatever grades that yields. A lot of parents don’t share that opinion, BUT . . . I’d bet most anything that the parents who walked out of that 2.005 lecture now have the same view as my parents. They understand why MIT is hard now, and hopefully they understand that during our test on Thursday we’re going to be tested on the material that they just watched us learn.

Alright, all that said and done, here’s the bottom line. MIT is still a fantastic school, I love it, and FREAKING OUT about the amount of work and how hard it is is part of the fun. How much fun would a roller coaster be if it didn’t scare you? Each and every day at MIT is a new challenge to overcome. Overcoming it elicits a feeling of excitement and accomplishment that propels you on to the next day. There will be few occasions where you will feel as accomplished as when you make it through a hellish week here.

That hellish week for me is this next week. 2 PSETs, 2 tests, a project, and 2 hundred pages of reading. Even then, that’s nothing compared to some of my friends’ schedules. But, we all survive, figure it out, and end up moving forward. I don’t know how it happens, but everything seems to work out in the end. MIT is hard.

Well, unless you study biology.

47 responses to “MIT is hard”

  1. Ehsan says:

    Who sang the song?

  2. Anonymous says:

    And yes, the new macbook is awesome!

  3. Kevin says:

    Sounds frightening.
    I just laughed at the “running out of variables” bit, does that include a-z + all the Greek symbols? (if so, [O_O] )

    ps. I despise biology.

  4. Anonymous says:

    @Amy ’12 and the anonymous you responded to:

    No, the “three” refers to the 3rd way Snively said you could identify parents. (#1 is the name tags, and #2 is the pairs of people.)

  5. Cam says:

    Congrats on the new mackbook! Yes, mackbook. I think I shall get one next year for college, it’s the first mac to appeal to me with a price/hardware ratio and multi-OS compatibility. Any disagreements with it so far? ( PS if you’re not gonna install windows but still want to use SolidWorks or other such, try )

    Yeah, parents weekend = I had a much harder time finding parking today than I usually do. Also, the Head of the Charles regatta meant all the good free spots were taken. Finally caught one on Ames right as somebody left it.

    It’s funny to see all the parents walking around gawking at things… there was a tour group that went by with no prospective students, just parents.

  6. wesh m says:

    I hate [email protected]$#%.
    The mac book rocks.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I like the roller-coaster analogy. Nice post.

    P.S. Biology is no friend of mine.

  8. wesh m says:

    Could you please post that equation,I need to scare somebody.

  9. anonymous says:


    hmmm..thank you

  10. John McClane says:

    I’m hungry like the wolves.

  11. Rick Astley says:

    Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down.

  12. Anonymous says:

    “I’ve only been writing wanky blog entries lately, I’d like to write one that’s not, because everybody likes happy, right?”

    “MIT is hard. Well, unless you study biology.”

    Well, you failed. Utterly.

    In fact, I don’t even feel like bringing up how incredibly relaxing my sophomore year is (compared to freshman year) as a biology major now. wink

  13. Yan Z. says:

    Great post. I give you my compliments. “Error Function Compliments,” in fact.

    (For real, are you sure that isn’t supposed to be “complement”?)

  14. Snively says:

    @Yan Z.
    Yep, fixed. There’s a joke about complimentary peanuts that I really enjoy but I can never seem to remember which spelling is which.

  15. Lauren '12 says:

    Hehe, yup great post.

    Freshman year would be a lot easier if it weren’t for 8.012……….. haha. thank god for p/nr grin

  16. Mom out west says:

    Very enjoyable blog-
    As a parent who did not make it to Parent Weekend, my attitude to MIT is very similar to your parents’ attitude.
    I enjoy your blogs a lot(also Yan Z’s, though they sound more cerebral and the last blog’s logic required SLOW reading).
    Three things-
    Are you sure you did not mean “wonky” or “wacky” in the first sentence? Ref: British meaning of “wanker” or anything starting with “wank”.
    Two- I would have totally been one of the parents who cracked up in your 2.005 class- running out of variables?? I guess my chronological maturity does not match my intellectual/emotional one.
    Three, as a Bio major, I deeply resemble your closing remark.

  17. Rishi ('13?) says:

    If I get in, my dad will be laughing. He went to IIT and apparently it was cake after getting accepted.

    AKA Harvard

  18. Snively says:

    @Mom out west
    HAHA! About the word “wank.” It doesn’t really mean the same thing here as in Britain. You’ll often hear “wank” around campus being used as a replacement for the word complain or argue.

    Example: That meeting last night was so bad! It was just wank wank wank wank wank, we didn’t get ANYTHING done!

    Yuki, what do you do if you get stuck on a physics PSET?
    Yuki: Just wank at it a lot.

  19. José P. says:

    The waiter gave me complementary bread after making a complimentary remark. :D

    @Anonymous #3 — Of what import are brief, nameless lives… to Galactus?

  20. anonymous says:

    MIT is HARD that’s why it is the BEST

  21. Mom out west says:

    Thank you for that double clarification- yet another tiny step in my American pop culture education! At least now if my kid uses it, I can act normal….

  22. Anonymous says:

    “Parents just sat there, looking at the board, pretending to know exactly what was going on and looking really interested.”

    :D YES.

  23. Anonymous says:

    What are you smoking? Biology is not easy. In fact, it was the hardest class I took last year.

  24. freshman says:

    So…when is the fact that MIT is hard going to start being fun again?

  25. Snively says:

    @Latest Anonymous
    It’s a song! It’s not like I wrote it or anything. That sentence before the YouTube video? That’s called a transition sentence, meaning it may or may not be true but it leads the reader into the video and gives them an idea of what to expect.

    I’m not smoking anything.

  26. Anonymous says:

    @Snively ’11

    I’ve heard how hard problem sets are, can you show me how hard it is…. Pics of problem sets

  27. Snively says:

    Here’s the problem set I’m working on now:

    PSET7 PDF (171K)

  28. Nick says:

    I’m sorry Snively. I’m a first-year in Course X, and we actually did similarity transforms and FFT a few weeks ago. So take pride in the fact that your sophomore curriculum in ME is (somewhat) equivalent to the first year graduate curriculum in ChemE. Good luck getting through it!

  29. cristen '10 says:

    aww you’re growing up.

    I really liked this post. smile

  30. Anonymous says:

    bwahahhaha, that was hilarious! and I’m course 7! Who sings that btw?

  31. anonymous says:

    you said in 2nd reason to spot parents easily as they come in pairs and THREE…(please clarify this three in pair of parents..hehehe

  32. Lyddie says:

    Is MIT really that much easier for a Bio major?

  33. Snively says:

    @Generally Concerned
    No, MIT isn’t really that much easier for a bio major, it’s still pretty difficult.

  34. Anonymous says:

    @the many people who’ve asked:

    It’s sung by the MIT Chorallaries.

  35. Amy '12 says:

    @anonymous: I think he means they often have another relative with them, be it uncles/aunts, grandparents, or siblings. Trust me, they still stand out. It’s been weirding me out all weekend.

  36. Black Lily says:

    I guess one has more scope in Molecular Biology, than in Physics and Maths combined, well unless you can solve Riemann’s hypothesis.

  37. LOL, spambots on the MIT blogs. Interesting. You guys got any way of deleting posts?

    About the psets, Snively posted another one in this post:

    I’m beginning to think I’m the only one thinking that being hosed would be awesome… Up until 3:00 doing problems I didn’t dream I could do even a year before… Although I would probably be in for a surprise at MIT if I got in, because about as ‘hosed’ as I’ve ever gotten is having big homework assignments simultaneously for Physics and AP Cal. while worrying about whether Newegg is going to backorder another of the laptop HDDs I’d ordered.

    And about running out of variables: Teach the class Chinese. :p

  38. Reena says:

    @ -1:
    No, I feel the same way. And it’s impossible to be “hosed” in high school. We get a lot of work, but it’s all busy work that doesn’t teach you stuff.

  39. Reena says:

    That is, unless you go to a really great high school. I was just assuming yours is something like mine :p

  40. Reynolds says:

    May I just say Mr. Snively, that you rock. All the bloggers rock, really, and make me wish I was worthy of the awesome that is MIT.

    Also, congratulations, you’ve contributed to the blackhole of the internet. You’ve inspired me to start my own <a >blog.

  41. Oasis '11 says:

    Course 7 is hard! (perhaps not in relation to 2 or 6, but I still can think of a handful of courses that are easier than 7. haha but at the risk of starting another flame war, I’ll keep my opinions to myself. =p)

  42. '13 hopeful says:

    May I ask how hard Course 8 is generally considered to be? I’ve wanted to major in physics pretty much as long as I can remember, but I also want to have fun. Are these mutually exclusive?

  43. '13 hopeful says:

    Oh! I also am somewhat interested in either Course 22 or Course 16. Can you tell me how hard (comparatively speaking, of course – I know MIT is always hard) those are generally considered as well?
    Thanks a lot.

  44. HisaM says:

    uwWw.. biology is not easy.It was the hardest class I took last years.I would prefer chemistry than biology..I hate Biology..
    hehe.. Chemistry..
    Continue my school in MIT..sounds nice..
    hahaha ^_^
    BTW who sang the song??

  45. Darren says:

    “MIT Is Easy When You Study Biology” is a secret track on the Chorallaries album “Pokerface.”

  46. Dei-Ron says:

    Your blog is a lie.
    First off, classes were NOT harder during parent’s week. I’m taking a full load, and my classes were at the same difficulty as they had been before. So basically, you are a liar once.

    Also, bio is easy? Bio is just as difficult as any other major. In fact, if you think bio is so easy, and, as we can tell from the rest of your post (and other posts) you are insanely lazy, why don’t you switch to a bio major? Is it because you can’t hack it? Bottom line, bio is not (even relatively) easy. You are a liar twice.

    Maybe you should take the hint from the admins that have asked you to take down other posts and just stop posting.