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 UROP — Undergraduate 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.
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.)
More coming later….
(Sorry I can’t put up images)