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MIT student blogger Paul B. '11

One Week by Paul B. '11

MIT: It's so dangerous, you'll have to sign a waiver.

A little bit ago, a prospective student wanted some insight on what a typical day is like for an MIT student. Although that’s a very good question, it’s actually really hard to answer, for two reasons.

First, MIT is filled with so many different kinds of people, with so many different interests, it’s really hard to classify anything as “typical.” Academically, I know kids who are taking four classes, but I also know plenty are taking five, six…even two pretty crazy people who are taking eight (and are feeling the pain appropriately). And even beyond the classroom, MIT students have drastically different ways of spending their precious “spare” time. From bhangra dancing to fighting poverty, from helping improve MIT computing to practicing for the upcoming performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and much more. And let’s not forget the value of simply chilling with friends.

The second reason it’s a hard question to answer is because students at MIT don’t really take things day-by-day. A typical day is usually not all that stressful – but then you look at all the things you have to do in a week, and you sort of want to die inside. :)

For example, this is my week:

  • Studying for my 24.900 (linguistics) midterm tomorrow
  • Studying for my 5.12 (organic chemistry) test on Wednesday
  • Weekly pset for 18.700 (linear algebra), due Thursay
  • Weekly pset for 20.110 (thermodynamics), due Friday
  • Meeting with my new UROP mentor at the Broad Institute
  • Medlinks Exec weekly meeting
  • Organizing the first big editing session for MURJ, the research journal I’m co-editor-in-chief of
  • GM meeting to work on a game I’m helping write for the Assassins’ Guild
  • Starting my summer job search

Yeah, it’s a lot for one week – although really, it’s only slightly more work than usual (other weeks, I would have had psets in 24.900 and 5.12 instead of tests). And all in all, I’m not terribly worried about things, mainly because I only have one big assignment due each day (as opposed to some truly awful weeks where there’s something ridiculously terrifying like two gigantic tests on the same day), and also because I’m not leaving everything for the last minute. :)

Fundamentally, even if the amount of work sometimes feels overwhelming – that’s what MIT is. Everyone understands this, and I think it’s important for prospective applicants to realize that, yes, MIT is an incredibly challenging four years. But one of the nicest things about MIT is that your friends aren’t going to give you funny looks if you say, “Sorry guys, I can’t go apple-picking with you because I need to study for my big midterm.” They’re MIT students too; they probably just happen to have a little more free time this week.

As for me, I’m going to go back to studying x-bar syntactical linguistic theory.

11 responses to “One Week”

  1. Lauren '12 says:

    Sign a waiver? To what waiver are you referring…?

  2. Mickey says:

    Apple picking > studying

  3. Paul says:

    @Lauren: This one. Alternately, your matriculation agreement. wink

  4. Ahmed says:

    Hey Paul, isn’t that Jess’ gig? smile

  5. Enas'12 says:

    I know one taking NINE!!!!

  6. Jess says:

    Gotta see the show cause then you’ll know the vertigo is gonna grow cause it’s so dangerous you’ll have to sign a waiver…

  7. anna says:

    What are you up to in organic chem?

  8. Yan Z. says:

    Nice going, Paul. It’s 11:30, I take a break from studying for the 24.900 midterm to read the blogs, and what do I see? You talking about the 24.900 midterm, with a link to the wikipedia page that I just closed, no less.

    (I went apple-picking again, by the way.)

  9. Paul says:

    @anna: The test is mostly on a ton of basic reactions involving alkenes, alkynes, and all sorts of fun reagents that interact with organic compounds. There’s also a fair bit about nomenclature (the E/Z naming scheme, R/S molecules, chiral vs. achiral molecules).

  10. Tamara says:

    24.900 is not my friend.

  11. hamsi says:

    “x-bar syntactical linguistic theory.”

    omg. that just sounds scary.