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MIT student blogger Mitra L. '07

Pre-MIT prep by Mitra L. '07

How to prepare yourself for life at MIT -- hint: watch Chappelle's Show. Everyone else has

As I sit back and reflect on my four years at MIT, I would like to pass along some advice. Pardon the occasional bitterness.

Learn Roman numerals — On some forms and posters, people refer to their course (major) with these instead of Arabic numerals. If you don’t know them, the party just passes you by.

Watch Chappelle’s Show — Everyone else on my IAP trip to Zambia had seen this show and quoted it nonstop. I had never seen an episode and missed most of their references to it; the most notable exception is the line that goes something like, “Oooeee, chicken!” which I found funny without knowing why.

Learn how to print from a non-Athena computer — Sadly, I must admit that I never learned how to print from my PC to an Athena printer. I was stuck emailing documents to myself and trekking to an Athena cluster in the middle of the snowy night (uphill both ways) to print. Escape this terrible fate!! I imagine IS&T explains it sufficiently. Whether you learn this or not, you most likely will be fine without buying your own personal printer.

Go on the Orientation tour of the MIT Libraries — There are so many resources available through the MIT libraries that nobody (especially undergrads) knows about or takes advantage of. For example, you can borrow a laptop, read MIT Alumni Nobel Prize Winners’ theses, and hold meetings in group study space. If you miss the formal tours, you can request your own!! Seriously, MIT (and by extension, you) is paying a gazillion dollars to have a top-notch library system, so you might as well take advantage of it.

Fulfill your PE requirement early — MIT requires you to take 4 physical education classes (or play 2 seasons of a varsity sport) and pass a swim test (remember?) before you can graduate. I am not advising you to finish your PE classes by sophomore year due to some inherent advantage in scheduling. Courseload varies so much by person and by major that broad generalizations like that won’t apply. However, you will get so many annoying emails from various offices that you will have wished you got them all out of the way freshman year.

Do a UROPUndergraduate research is kind of the thing to do around here. I didn’t particularly enjoy any of my UROP experiences, but I learned from them and used them to confirm that I wasn’t ready for graduate school. Plus, you can get credit or get money, so it’s a pretty good deal.

Go abroad — You can go to study, to work, to do public service, to travel, to research, or to visit classmates. Find a way to go — MIT will often help with funding if you do it through the Institute.

Prepare for the rain — Rainboots are arguably the wisest investment I have made for the semester. As I said before, “I have to admit, it is pretty nifty to watch other people try to tiptoe around and hopscotch over these giant puddles when I just stomp right through them.” In other important news, get a good raincoat.

Take one totally unnecessary class — I took 5.12: Organic Chemistry freshman year basically to hang out with my friend Varsha ’07, who secretly dropped the class right before drop date and didn’t tell me until a week later. Three years later, Varsha is off to Harvard Medical School and I barely can remember if cyclobutene is flat or not (Sam, can you help?). Nevertheless, I’m glad I took the class and learned material that I am likely never to use in my future. For those of you who are going to wah-wah-wah through complaints like, “What if I get a bad grade?” don’t be so lame. For the super risk-averse among you, consider Sophomore exploratory. When you take a class on exploratory, you can see your grade at the end of the semester before deciding if you want the class to go on your transcript or not. My point is, you meet a lot of cool new people and stretch your mind a bit when you take a class purely for the sake of learning (or, in my case, for the sake of hanging out), not for fulfilling a requirement.

Make friends with upperclassmen — They are an invaluable source of guidance regarding classes, professors, TAs, scheduling, UROPs, dorms, extra-curriculars, jobs, grad school, your love life, etc.

Be nice to underclassmen — Pay it forward, yah?

Eat at The Helmand — This restaurant serves delicious and affordable Afghani food within CambridgeSide Galleria shuttle distance of MIT, rated 26/30 by Zagats. Plus OMG Matt McGann dines there!! (P.S. We both recommend the pumpkin (kaddo) dishes.)

Wear sunscreen

More coming later….

(Sorry I can’t put up images)

13 responses to “Pre-MIT prep”

  1. Snively says:

    Good to know, gracias.

  2. Basant'11 says:

    Something I needed to know!

  3. milena '11 says:

    You know what? I never really found the Chapelle’s Show that funny. It’s ok. Everybody here watches it too, though.

  4. Anonymous says:

    About UROP, the panel at CPW, and everyone else for that matter said that it was definitely easy to get a UROP if one does the necessary application steps, but is it really actually that easy? I’m a wee bit worried…I’ve had absolutely no research experience before and afraid that, as a student who is not exceptional compared to other MIT students, my case won’t be compelling enough for professors to consider me for a research position. Thanks!

  5. Larry says:

    Thanks for sharing, this should help!

  6. lulu says:

    Lol, VARSHA (keelara?) is my T.A. for 7.013.

    I’m so sorry Varsha :(

  7. Daniel '12 says:

    Good stuff, thanks Mitra! Chappelle’s Show is hilarious. =)

  8. Hank R. says:

    Good to know. It’s so sad you’re graduating this year. I started reading the blogs 4 years ago, and I remember your first post. Back when they were closer to actual blogs instead of the article format they’re in now.

  9. Amy Perez says:

    Today I met with 2 of my freshmen advisees to fill out paperwork to declare their majors, and we got into a discussion about the biggest lessons they’ve learned after two semesters at MIT. Both of them had great advice. The first is to seek out study groups as early as possible in college, even if you can do the work on your own. In the end, you’ll be amazed at how many social networks you can form through these interactions. My advisee expressed regret about not taking advantage of this opportunity to not only learn more in groups, but to also boost the fun/social factor in her first year. My other advisee took 18.02 and 18.03 this semester and he strongly cautions students against doubling up on math classes unless you like crazy semesters. Keep in mind that this advice comes from second-year freshmen who’ve just been through it all. Thanks for the great post, Mitra!

  10. Mike A. '11 says:

    Thanks Mitra, good advice to know. I’ll remember it.

  11. Aditi says:

    i’ve absolutely fallen in love with MIT and i’d give an arm and a leg to make it to the freahamn class of 2008. smile i’m in 12th grade (ISC) and i’ve taken a science combination with economics, which according to most people here is a very weird thing to do. Is it possible to major in eco and physics at the same time? And do you happen to know people who’ve done this?

    P.s do you happen to know shruti chandrashekar? she graduated from MIT last year and works as an investment analyst with the IFC?

  12. Maia '11 says:

    I’ll say that I wished I had rainboots for CPW. I though about bringing snowboots, but after looking at my duffel bag bulging like it was about to explode, I decided not to. Oops…

  13. toga07 says:

    all rite…this might be really of topic…but I was wondering if you could compare the difficulty of mit with the relative strength of saratoga high? How much harder do you think MIT is…and do you think its possible to do well and have a social life even if the student isn’t uber-intelligent?