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MIT student blogger Chris S. '11

Of MUN and Academia by Chris S. '11

What is Course X in Chinese?

Sometime in the last month, I was forwarded a request to blog about Model United Nations at MIT. I covered this issue somewhat in this entry, when I went to UPMUNC in November.

One of the most common questions the MIT MUN delegation gets from students from other MUN teams is, “Aren’t you guys a tech school? What are you doing here?!” Ahem. Engineers can debate, too!

We attend several conferences in a year – this year, we had 5 conferences, and hosted one conference for high schoolers. These are the different conferences we had:

BarMUN (a new BU conference for collegiate students) – October, Boston, MA
UPMUNC (hosted by UPenn) – November, Philadelphia, PA
McMUN (hosted by McGill) – January (IAP), Montreal, Canada
HNMUN (hosted by Harvard) – February (this past weekend), Cambridge, MA
WorldMUN (international conference) – March (during spring break), Puebla, Mexico

BosMUN (a BU-MIT joint conference hosted for high school students) – February (two weekends ago)

Members of the BU or MIT MUN program are given the chance to staff BosMUN. Chairing aside, positions were primarily needed for crisis staff and logistical stuff. For this conference, I was able to vice-chair for a specialized committee in BosMUN. The conference had around 1200 students from all over the world (including sizable delegations from China), and it was an interesting experience meeting these students and seeing the conference from the other side of the spectrum.

Joining MUN is easy. Generally, you just sign on to the MIT MUN mailing list, and you’ll regularly receive information about the application to other conferences. I personally think that doing MUN is a very welcome break from the torrent of science that is present everyday. =D

In other news, I’m a “sophomore”! Although I prided myself on not caving into the pressure of advanced sophomore standing (it’s something that most freshmen hop onto rather quickly) in the beginning, I decided that it was to my advantage to declare sophomore standing.

So what is “sophomore standing” at MIT?

Basically if you took a sizable amount of AP exams in high school (or courses at a local college) and received decent marks (5s for AP exams), MIT would award you with what is called “General Elective Credits,” and those credits will be appended onto your transcript. Moreover, you need to meet these factors:

* Have taken the majority of science GIRs (there are 6 science/math GIRs – so you need 4).
* Have taken and passed a CI HASS class (basically a humanities class that involves more writing of essays, talking, or any other form of “communication” – CI stands for Communication Intensive). A side note: you’re actually required to take a CI class during your first year at MIT, or you’ll be considered to be in “non-compliance” with the Freshman Communication Requirement. Curious.
* Have more than 96 credits before the beginning of the second semester (one semester at MIT = 48 credits).

If you do the math, 96-54 (max credit limit for froshies, first term, unless you take 12.000) = 42. So if you come in with 42 additional credits, you will qualify for sophomore standing at the end of your first year. Let’s make things easier. Suppose you took the AP Calculus BC exam and received either a 4 or a 5 (this is THE one instance where a 4 would be taken by MIT for credit), you will get 12 units for 18.01 (Calculus I). This means that 42-12 = 30. MIT grants 9 units of General Elective Credit for extra AP exams that are on this list, so you need 4 extra 5’s on AP exams (and have passed all of your first semester classes) to qualify for sophomore standing. Also, if you took the Physics C exam and received 5’s on both parts, you will instead reduce your needed extra credits from 30 to 18, which means you only need 2 extra 5’s on AP exams.

In a word, sophomore standing isn’t very difficult to get, if that’s what you want. But before jumping on the bandwagon, you need to consider these factors:

* You now can take 72 credits (six full classes) in one term and no one will yell at you.
* When someone asks you, “What Course are you?”, you won’t be just another freshman with a “wannabe” course number. Hey – now you have a major on WebSIS! (online advising folder)
* If you totally hate your freshman adviser, you’ll be finally rid of him/her (disclaimer: this is totally not the case with me. I have Matt! Who, for the record, is awesome. =D)

* Black, ugly Ds and Fs will appear on your transcript, if you do poorly.
* 72 credits(x) + overinflated-ego(x) = sadness, depression, and great gnashing of teeth, once x = 5th week.
* You are now allowed to be a constituent of the Class of (y-1), where y = your class year. The horror! The horror!

These aside, my biggest rationale for not declaring sophomore standing during the first semester was because I had no idea what I wanted to major in. Well, okay, perhaps I have “somewhat” of an idea, but I’m sure it’s not a very accurate one since I’ve taken a grand total of ONE (not to mention that it’s a GIR) course in that department. I wanted to wait a little before making the decision.

But then, when spring registration came around, the awkward freshman spring credit limit reared its ugly head. The freshman spring credit limit is 57 credits, which translates to 4 “full courses” of 12-credits and one 9-credit seminar or exploratory class. I signed on to a 9-credit exploratory class, but quickly began disliking the class strongly – which led to me dropping the course within one week. Given the limited number of 9-credit classes and scheduling conflicts, I realized that I might be much better off taking Spanish III, so mi espanol doesn’t just all go down in the drain, despite spending a month in Spain. 21F.703 is 12 credits, which means 12×5 = 60 credits! Oh no! I’m over the freshman credit limit!

What should I do?

Obviously, I went and declared sophomore standing (to the grief of the director of the UAAP (academic and advising office), who maintains that “the reason to take sophomore standing should not be to exceed the freshman credit limit”).

Ah well. =/

So now, I’m a “sophomore” in Course VII, Biology. I’m finding the 60-credit load to be a little bit intimidating, but I’ll see what happens. ;) Que sera, sera.

Extra Information:
MIT MUN – Questions? Just email me.
Sophomore Standing

iHouse just had a retreat! woo amazing food. =D

56 responses to “Of MUN and Academia”

  1. Samujjal says:

    Guys could anyone of you post something on the MIT Techfair and especially the THINK Competition (in which I could not take part bcuz I’m an international..sob..sob..). Though I did check the website, I want one of your perspectives.

  2. Fred says:

    Taking/passing AP exam is NOT the only way to earn course credits @ MIT, you can also take
    ASE (Advanced Standing Exam), like 18.01/18.02/8.01/8.02/7.012/5.111 and even 18.03/18.06, in the beginning or end of semester. You can refer to the following website for details –

  3. :O says:

    Whoa, whoa, whoa….Hold up. So if you get sophomore standing, your “class of ‘x0” number changes?! For example, if you’re an incoming frosh, and you get sophomore standing your second semester, would that magically make you part of the class of 2011? Also, when do you graduate then?

  4. Aditi says:

    my mistake! syllabi it is.

    I’m from Bangalore.

    @Libin : MUNs are rarely as stringent as you’d think they *should* be ! Theres often something called a ‘motion to entertain’ and things tend to get pretty crazy when those happen. I’ve been to a MUN where we made the bench (Chairs/President , Vice Cahirs and Rapporteur ) juggle water bottles and whatnot. We also tried to make the Secretary General salsa but that didnt work out so well =P

    Oh also , i was wondering if its better to do the Advanced standing exams (if and when i make it to a college) instead of the APs because those are course specific and probably help make a better assessment (?)

  5. Shruthi says:

    @Samujjal: Not a lot of schools actually offer AP’s. But like what Aditi said, you can take up AP exams even if you attend a school that doesnt offer APs.

    @Adithi: You a prospective ’12 btw? :D

  6. Anonymous says:

    You forgot to mention the sophomore exploratory option. You only get it for your first two sophomore semesters, but getting it sooner is still awesome.

  7. steph says:

    Good blog, Chris. I always wondered how these “AP” classes worked (My high school didn’t offer them. Come to think of it, they only offered math up to beginning algebra smile.

    What kind of things do you guys debate about at the conferences?

    *Congrats on your Sophomore standing.

  8. Aditi says:

    @shruthi : yes i am smile *fingers crossed*

    and i suppose you are too ?

  9. Samujjal says:

    @ Tanmay
    Have already read that. That was way before the Fair. Thanks for the link though. I wanted a Post-fair account and especially if anyone could give an account of the three finalists of the THINK Comp. and a bit about their ideas (more than what the website says). Thanks for the help though Tanmay!!!

    @ Shruthi

    I do know that one can appear for APs even though they are not in a school offering AP Curriculum. The problem is that there are no AP Counselors in and around Calcutta or any AP exam center. And unfortunately I wont be able to go out of Cal in May due to some personal reasons.

  10. Anonymous says:

    haha that one dude got passed the spam filters. touché.

  11. Libin Daniel says:

    Motion to Entertain: Ahh, that remains the best memories. Our committee wanted the Chairs to Dance at a classical Indian Folk Dance..It never happened.
    By stringent I meant that the discussions had a set rules which became excruciating when the delegates began to double talk…Diplomacy.

  12. Aditi says:

    Libin , what countries have you represented ?

  13. Libin Daniel says:

    Israel. Right at the time of the crisis between US and Israel…and I was in the Environmental Commission. Everyone was behind me and the USA delegate about the pollution and environmental crisis that the war have caused.
    My school later on refuted my plea to be part of IMNUM because I was in 11th Grade and had taken up the science curriculum, meant only for studious bookworms( It’s their perspective..And I stand as a testament against Love the look at the face of a science teacher who derided me for expending time on this and other SUCH activities).

  14. Libin Daniel says:

    *pollution and environmental crisis that the war had caused

  15. Aditi says:

    Aaah…our school stopped fielding delegates for INMUN and DPSMUN last year for some odd reason but we went ahead and organized our own MUN.

    Israel eh?
    My last one was Germany , IAEA. It was good fun.

    Its just plain annoying when people think that MUNs are meant for the humanities people , especially here , you either do science , OR commerce OR arts and not a nice fancy combination.

    I bent the rules a little bit! I took econ with science.

    Where are you from?

  16. Libin Daniel says:

    I study at a school( Modern Vidya Niketan, Faridabad) where if one tries to bent the rules, they are bent and spanked!
    Lol…I was refused to be a part of MUN because I am a science student. Some people have horribly annoying perspective.

  17. Mike says:

    Nice post. As an avid MUNer it’s nice to know that MIT’s program is strong. In the same vein, does anyone know about the strength of the MIT Mock Trial team? A post about them would be really cool.

  18. Samujjal says:

    MUN seems exciting. Though my school never participated in any MUN, we did use to participate in The National Youth Parliament. Though the issues and ‘form factor’ were totally different, I do feel that the essence and excitement were the same. I was a regular since 8th grade up to 11th grade. And I got to travel a hell lot of places, Delhi, Bangalore, Lucknow and Ahmadabad, becuz we reached the nationals every single year, finishing 1st when I was in Grade 10 and in the top 10 on the other 3 occasions. It was amazing,at times in the heat of the moment you tend to forget that it wasn’t a real parliament session. It was fun. I was in the opposition the first three years and became the PM in grade 11. It was really fun, debating on issues that matter to the nation and not the ones which matter to the politicians…makin’ new friends…and of course winning the first prize in grade 9.Sigh!! those were the days (:-D Man!! I sound like a 90 year old).

    It would be wonderful to be a part of the MIT MUN program..(Fingers Xed)

    @ Libin

    I did manage to avoid the spanks…

  19. Libin Daniel says:

    I received those spanks. Lol..

  20. Oasis says:

    @ Samujjal
    If you’re not taking AP exams, you can indeed take ASEs (Advanced Standing Exams) once you get here. They are generally measurable to the final exam of a certain subject, so if you pass it, you will be given 12 units of credit for the course.

    @ Fred
    Yes, I’m aware that AP exams aren’t the only way to earn credit at MIT. It’s just the number of people who take ASEs and earn sophomore standing through that route is generally more limited than the number of people that just qualify through their AP exams, so I didn’t actually bring it up. Thanks for mentioning though.

    There is generally a variety of committees here for MUN. Depending on the particular conference, you might get anything from the regular General Assembly conferences to special crisis committees like Spartan Council (the Greek City States are going to war with each other, what should you do? – this seems to be a popular committee in most recent MUNs). I helped chair for a committee called “Ad Hoc Committee to the Secretaries-General.” Google that and see what comes up =p

    @ :O
    As I understand it, you are given a sheet of paper to sign saying whether you want to be a part of the Class of 2011 or the Class of 2010. According to the paper, you would receive class event notifications (class parties, gatherings…etc.) based on your designation. At the same time, however, you are not “truly” a sophomore because you are still not allowed to move off campus (which is a privilege that only sophomores have). However, once you declare sophomore standing, you are given 2 semesters of sophomore standing, and then you automatically advance to junior standing (given that you complete the credit requirements to be a sophomore). At MIT, I feel like you can always graduate early, if you feel inclined to and is academically able to. I mean, there is no credit limit so if you can maneuver your way through the requirements early, then you can be done early. It’s not something I’m particularly inclined to do, however.

    @ On ASEs and AP exams:
    ASEs are vastly different from AP exams. Certain ASEs (like Chemistry), has a notorious reputation for passing single-digit amounts of students who take it every year. Others (like 8.01), isn’t so bad. However, I feel like MIT established ASEs so the truly advanced (Olympiad winners, for example) can get out of basic classes. I personally feel you can’t even compare the two (and I guess this is why MIT stopped offering credit for the Bio and Chem AP exams). I feel that if you can’t pass an ASE, then it’s not a big deal, but if you can and pass out of the majority of your GIRs, then more power to you.

  21. Oasis says:

    Re: Sophomore Exploratory Option
    So, once you declare sophomore standing, you get to exercise a right sophomores have (introduced quite recently, actually, as an “experiment”). You have the right to designate one of your academic subjects as “Exploratory.” This means that you get to actually see your final course grade before deciding whether you want to keep the grade. If you like your grade, then you can keep the grade and the course will be recorded for credit. However, if you dislike your grade, then you can change the course from credit to Listener (no credit), and your grade won’t affect your GPA. Sophomores can do this for one subject in each of their two terms. This was designed as a supplement to Pass/No Record and also to encourage students to pursue fields that they might not be especially confident of without the pressure of grades.

    @ Steph
    The topics that are discussed at MUN are very diverse, depending on which committee you are. Indeed, often the long-standing committees (like the UN Security Council) often have differing topics from conference to conference. Generally, the host school picks the committee topics and then once the delegates get to the conference, they vote amongst themselves which topic they would want to discuss out of the list of potential topics. For the conference that I helped chair, the topic of our committee was the implications of stem cell research (which was quite novel, I thought).

    @ Mike
    I did Debate at MIT for a little bit before being overrun with other stuff. I’ll try to see what I can do about the topic smile

  22. Alias says:

    Man AP Exams are a hassle. Heh, I have taken 5 AP courses however I am only writing the exams for 3. There is no time… (sigh)… and as well as I love to write the AP’s (snicker)… there is the factor of passing…

    Well anyways, when to we come to know about admission decisions?…(fingers X-ed)
    P.S. I am Indian from Faridabad, and like Libin I have received the spanks…. (lol)

  23. Rahul Jain says:

    Hey is there vegetarian plan at MIT for a religious group like Jain???

  24. Samujjal says:

    Excellent post!! Sort of complements Melis’s last post. Comes to show how diverse MIT and MITians are.

  25. Samujjal says:

    Hey Chris!!

    I am an international applicant for the Class of ’12 from India and am not taking AP Classes or IB or G.C.E. A- Level. Is there any chance of me being able to do enough during the fall term to be eligible for Early Sophomore Standing?? What are the permutations & combinations of ways to achieve that?? Early Sophomore Standing is indeed very intriguing and something to really work hard for.

  26. Samujjal says:

    P.S. That is, if my dream of getting an acceptance letter comes true. Sigh! (Fingers X-ed)

  27. Samujjal says:

    Thanx Chris!!!

    Gettin an acceptance in itself is the work of none less than an Olympic Gold medalist.

    So I guess gettin full credits for ASEs can be compared to getting a “Painite” medal in some “Inter-Galactic Olympics”.

  28. AnonyMITian says:

    In all probabilities decisions are gonna be out on……….Hold UR breadth………………… March 15th…………

  29. Libin Daniel says:

    MUN is really fascinating. It’s really great to discuss matters in such a stringent manner.

  30. Samujjal says:

    Man!! I gotta sleep!! Read “Olympiad” as “Olympics”.

    Two Probabilities…I’m stressed out…or….m 2 excited ’bout the Olympics….Wteva….

  31. Ana says:

    So, in the end, did you make up your mind for your major? What will that be?

  32. Hyun Jin says:

    Chris! You never told the world about just how many conferences you were attending. I thought UPenn’s was the only one you’d gone to.
    Well, good luck to you and your team at Mexico :D International conferences are the best!

  33. Aditi says:


    MUN! =)

    ransdom question : do you tend to ummm get a little bit obsessed with the countries you represent?
    *i do* * looks sheepish*

    which committee did you chair?
    Also how many committees does MITMUN usually have at a conference and which ones?

    I’ve chaired a GA plenary. It was fun!

    Plese tell me you got to use the gavel! =D

    @ Samujjal : I’m from India too and i did a couple of APs last year. You dont have to actually take the course to do the exam because the ISC and CBSE syllabii is pretty similar to he the AP ones. Also there are quite a few schools in most cities that do offer AP courses and are centres for AP exams. They let you register even if you aren’t actually from the school.

  34. Aditi says:

    meh the blog url in the previous comment is screwed up

    my keyboard hates me *sigh*

  35. Binga says:

    it should be…”syylabi are..”

  36. Binga says:


  37. Samujjal says:

    @ Aditi

    Hey!! Thanx for the info, though I am aware of that. But there are no counselors here in Calcutta, nor are there any schools with AP curriculum and I will have to travel quite a bit for appearing for the exams. I did check out AP syllabi which as you rightly said is similar to CBSE and ICSE, so that’s not a problem at all. The main issue is the distance factor. Thanx neway. Where are u frm???

  38. Aditi says:

    @Chris : google gave me the report of the secretary general at the eleventh annul session is Berlin :S

    I was expecting something BosMUN related with you in it! =P

    Implications of stem cell research sounds like a great agenda !

    Also does MIT MUN have conferences all year round or is it an annual thing?
    Sorry , i have wayyy too many questions !

    @ people-who’ve-represented-Israel : Israel was the country that won the best delegation award at the MUN our school organized. That country’s on a roll MUNwise!

  39. Alias says:

    @ Libin Daniel – I was at your school before I had to come abroad… well now I am in an International School that is has some easier aspects and hard. I hope I can meet you in the near future, hopefully in MIT!… that would be cool…

  40. Libin Daniel says:

    You were(and hope the same for your future) lucky! That’s all I have to say…wink. LOL.
    Let the place be MIT where we meet..Fingers Crossed…Hell ya crossed.

  41. Libin Daniel says:

    The first lesson we were given about Israel by our English teacher was:
    ” It’d called ISREL…and not ISRAAYEL ….Understand you crazy nuts! I don’t want ya people to behave us rustic people, who have sent their senses to a long vacation”
    Ohh, those days!! wink

  42. Lauren says:

    Whoa! You say you could have declared sophomore standing your first semester?? Meaning you came into MIT with credit for at least 4 GIRs? Mind sharing how you did that? wink (APs + Advanced Standing Exams, I’m assuming… but which ones?)

  43. Oasis says:

    @ Hyun Jin –
    UPMUNC was indeed the only collegiate conference I went to (otherwise, I would have blogged about it =p). I wasn’t on campus for IAP and I didn’t do the Harvard MUN. I also won’t be going to Mexico because I have other plans for spring break. When I used “we,” I meant MIT MUN in general smile

    @ Lauren –
    Wait wait wait. Where did I say that? It’s not possible to declare sophomore standing during your first term (even if you passed out of 4 GIRs) because you would need to take a CI class during the first semester, which isn’t something that an ASE could give you.

    Sorry for the confusion, if what I said implied that @@”

  44. Hyun Jin says:

    Oh… well, that cleared things up.
    Just out of curiosity, can someone attend all the conferences mentioned above if they had the willpower (and time) to do so?

  45. Libin Daniel says:

    Hey, which school are you from? So much glad to have someone in my city working for the same ideals and aims.
    Cool! Uber Cool!

  46. Libin Daniel says:

    @all decision awaiting pals is linked to….So, no luck

  47. Krypton says:

    Course 7 early sophomores unite!

  48. Anonymous says:

    I’m applying for class of 2012 after getting rejected last year for Class of 2011.Does the admissions comitee have records of all the documents frm my application last year? Would you also take my old teacher’s recommendations from last year or just the new ones .

  49. Lauren says:

    Ah, thanks for answering my question. Phew! I was going to say, WOW, how is that possible, heh. In case you want to make things more clear (not that it reallly matters), the sentence that confused me was: “These aside, my biggest rationale for not declaring sophomore standing during the first semester was because I had no idea what I wanted to major in.”

    Maybe you meant the first week of the semester or something?

  50. Oasis says:

    @ Hyun Jin –
    I don’t think you could, because the Head Delegates of the MUN team would probably want to mix things up and let different people go to different conferences (as in, so one person doesn’t just hog all the conferences). Space is limited for certain conferences as well, so not everyone gets to go to the conference they want (in particular, WorldMUN). And, personally, I wouldn’t want to do EVERY conference. I think that’ll be kind of exhausting wink

    @ Lauren –
    Oops, sorry for the confusion. What I meant was…

    In November, if you are eligible for sophomore standing, you’ll get a letter from the Dean of UAAP (advising office). Basically, it says as long as you pass all of your first semester classes, you will be eligible for advanced standing in the spring. You are highly encouraged to declare it before January 15 (during IAP), so the school can transfer over your records from your freshman adviser to your departmental adviser. Most eligible freshman declared sophomore standing either before IAP began or during IAP . To declare it 2 weeks into the spring semester is out of the norm, because people generally had made up their minds by now (the actual deadline is March 8, I think, but I don’t think people will postpone it that far).

    Yeah, so that was what I meant. =p

  51. Shruthi says:

    @Adithi: Yeah!! (Fingers crossed too)

    @Samujjal: Oh.. Sorry, I dont think I was of much use :(

    @Libin: The last country I represented was Israel too :D

  52. Libin Daniel says:

    Ya, will do that once boards get over.
    Thank You.

  53. Lauren says:

    I see I see. Cool! Thanks again for answering my questions.

  54. Alias says:

    @ Libin,
    Well I would not say lucky… cuz I really miss India… especially my friends there the 15 sector market:) the srs and other fun stuff you guys have… here it is basically nature and slow internet with no cinema and no market with food… see the advantages in India are more…(sigh)… hey if you are planning to take AP you better prepare well, i suggest u buy barron’s AP preparation… they are good…

  55. Aaron says:

    You declared 7?!!! A certain course administrator is doing 7.013 too…So you bounced back from 7.012 then? I decalred 1-C (Civil)