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MIT student blogger Mollie B. '06

Productive, yes. Appropriately productive, no. by Mollie B. '06

You would think that my activities the weekend before finals might include studying.

My weekend
It’s been a somewhat busy two not-school days.

Yesterday I sold several old textbooks back to the Coop, sold a few more on Amazon Marketplace, and got stopped next to the Stata Center to take a survey about perceptions of Goldman Sachs and Microsoft (they gave me $20! how exciting). Adam and I went out to dinner, shopped on Newbury Street (we’re going to the Bahamas this summer, and I needed a new bathing suit), ate dessert at Coldstone, and saw Over the Hedge. We also saw a bunch of people protesting The Da Vinci Code, which I thought was funny. I mean, staging a protest outside the movie theater seems like too little, too late, yeah?

Today I have given a tour of MacGregor to Zi Wen (a member of the class of 2010), packed (with Adam) somewhere between 40 and 60 percent of our stuff (the move date is next Saturday!), and made arrangements to donate our unsellable textbooks to schoolchildren in Africa. (I have to admit that this makes me feel warm and fuzzy and at least sort of socially responsible.) Adam and I watched the latest epidode of Lost, ordered dinner, watched some episodes of Law and Order: SVU (yes, on a Saturday night. Shut up, we’re old and practically married and boring), and researched air conditioners for the new apartment.

Now ask me how much I’ve studied for my three finals next week, including two on Monday. Um, maybe tomorrow?

A good website that I found today
MIT-area shopping guide by Spouses and Partners @ MIT. Very helpful!

A revision
A few entries ago, I said

For what it’s worth, I heartily recommend a debit card over a credit card. Many of my friends from home are graduating college with about a zillion dollars in credit card debt, because they were like ‘Oh man, look how cool that new HDTV is! I may not have the money to buy it, but, hey, I do have this shiny credit card!’ Not good.

Anthony commented,

So here’s my take on that :-) Having a credit history is a really important thing once you graduate and are living on your own. Banks, cell phone carriers, cable TV companies, utilities — they want to make sure you are creditworthy and responsible, and having an established credit history goes a long way for that. I guess the trick is to not go nuts with a credit card — if used wisely and as a financial tool, it can really help to have that 4-year-old account reporting in good standing come … 2010.

That said, MITFCU offers a Visa with a $500 limit to any 18+ MIT freshman who asks. BofA has a far better ATM network (I hate ATM fees!), but when nobody will give you a prime card with a reasonable rate as a brand-new adult, FCU is a good place to start. If nothing else, use it to buy a couple things each year, pay in full, and stick it in the junk drawer for next month/year. Removes the temptation and builds credit history all at the same time! :-)

I totally agree with this, so I will revise my hearty recommendation as follows: Get a credit card, but treat it like a debit card — never buy things for which you can’t immediately pay (if you can help it, of course), and pay off the bills the second they come. My credit card is linked to my bank accounts, so as soon as a charge shows up, I transfer the payment to the credit card. And if you can’t trust yourself to keep a handle on your spending, you should stick to a debit card until you can.


1. Christina ’10 asked

Hmm, what do you have against test reviews?

Well, like I said a few weeks ago, MIT biology tests are usually open-book/open-note and totally based on concepts and experimental techniques. As you can imagine, test reviews tend to be more focused on facts than on the larger questions. They might help some people, but I find it a lot more useful to go through old problem sets and tests and solve problems to study rather than formulating questions to ask the TAs.

Test reviews are useful for some classes. I just don’t find them useful for biology tests.

2. Anonymous asked,

When we register for classes do we only have to talk to the advisor to confirm our choices and that’s all? What happens if a certain subject doesn’t have an expected number of students? Does that classroom closes?

I ask you this because I have some friends who study in my country’s universities and it seems a common practice to close subject classes if there are not enough students, leaving them with the problem to look for free places in other classes and posibly rearrenging their class schedules. I just hope that MIT is serious in this issue and organized.

It has happened before that a certain class won’t have enough students registered and will be cancelled (particularly among advanced humanities classes), but it’s very rare. I mean, I was in a HASS last semester that only had seven students in it, and I was in a seminar the semester before that with only four students. Certainly freshman classes won’t be cancelled for lack of enrollment, since most people select from a small subset of classes for freshman year.

And if a class is cancelled, you will know about it long before you officially register for courses — upperclassmen preregistration from the end of the previous term is used to estimate the number of students who will be in each class. Preregistration happens at the end of the previous term, but official registration doesn’t happen until just before the start of term.

If you go to a class for a week or two and decide it’s not the class for you, you’re able to switch into another class pretty easily — the last date to add a course to your registration is five weeks into the term.

So really, no worries. :) Scheduling at MIT is pretty flexible, and I’ve never had the types of problems that my friends at other schools have had.

3. Anonymous also asked,

Does our advisor complete our registration by computer or do we have to go to different places to register for each subjects according to the department subjects?

As a first-term freshman, you’ll go to your advisor, who will sign a paper which lists all your intended courses and will submit it for you. Second term freshman year and every term thereafter, you’ll go to your advisor, have him or her sign the paper, and you will take it to a designated spot on campus (usually Du Pont Gym or Johnson Athletic Center) and turn it in there. (I’ve turned my registration forms in to Jessie — who works the tables because of APO — two terms in a row!)

4. Faye asked,

Quick question – is it better to have a laptop or a desktop? Any advantages/disadvantages to either, aside from the obvious mobility of the laptop?

Well, generally speaking, desktops are more powerful than laptops. I have a desktop, and Adam has a laptop; I value the blazingly fast processor in the desktop, while Adam likes having the laptop so he can carry it to class and so he can do homework on the couch. We’re both happy with our choices. :)

For some advice from people who actually know stuff about computers, check out the buying advice from MIT IS&T.

11 responses to “Productive, yes. Appropriately productive, no.”

  1. Anthony says:

    The mobility of a laptop is a really important thing if you find yourself at various places on campus wanting to do work. I think it depends how well you work in your room — I tend to concentrate better when I’m in a quiet lounge in some strange building, because when I’m at my desk, there are plenty of things to distract me. smile That said, many people use their laptops like desktops, taking them away when they need to. MIT’s campus is completely wireless and it’s sometimes cool to be able to whip out a laptop in class if you need to check something.

    (Example: It’s not uncommon to see people in discussion-based HASS classes with laptops open on their desk every day… perhaps it’s a crutch when they didn’t do their reading, but… :D )

    That said, if you’re getting a laptop for mobility’s sake, don’t get a 10-pound behemoth with a 17″ screen — you’re not going to want to carry it around very often, and it’ll just turn into a desktop, defeating the purpose.

  2. faye says:

    Thanks for the note =) I appreciate it.

    I’m a junior in high school, and I’ve got my heart set on MIT (surprise!) Do you think you could glance at some of my stats and tell me what my chances might be? Sorry to impose, especially during your finals week (it’s mine, too…I’m slacking off XD)

    SAT 800 W, 760 M, 760 CR

    SAT II scores not back yet -_-“

    PSAT 227, probably Nat’l Merit

    Weighted GPA 4.83, rank 8/740

    Unweighted 3.999999 [only one B my whole high school career…argh stupid Chem…]

    Asian, from Texas

    IB diploma candidate

    AP exams/courses: World History, US History, Biology, Spanish Language, English Language, planning to take Calculus BC, Psychology, English Literature, Government, Macroeconomics, Computer Science

    Pre-AP everything else, assorted IB (like HL math and Theory of Knowledge and stuff)

    A lot of EC’s, but only one office (all elections here are popularity contests…ick), graduated from local Chinese school, used to play piano and dance

    Sorry again, I know you should be studying…good luck on your exams, by the way =)

  3. faye says:

    Forgot to mention: 300+ volunteer hours, work experience as a summer camp counselor, research in a microbiology lab this summer, hoping to write an article to be published based on the research

  4. Sean says:

    Hi Mollie, thanks a bunch for all the info you’ve been providing us incoming freshman (I’m a fan!). I had a quick question about bank accounts that goes along with one of your previous blog entires.

    You mentioned Bank of America being close by, is there a Wells Fargo or convenient Wells Fargo ATM machines?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, I couldn’t help posting a comment after seeing that juniors are already becoming worried on whether or not they will be admitted to MIT next year. I was not admitted to MIT for ’06, and I just wanted to offer a bit of advice from my own experience. Now, you may be asking what I am even doing reading these blogs months after the admissions process for this year was supposed to be over. Sad, right? Well, I actually find some of these blogs have really good insight on college in general, so if you are wondering, that is why I glance at them every now and then… and then there is the fact that Mollie is so awesome, yay!!

    Anyhow, on to my advice from my own meandering experience. At the end of my junior year I became obsessed with college and looking into the future. At first I got caught up in the “hype” of ivy league admissions and such. Last summer I even went on a tour of about 11 colleges out east with my mother. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything, but I allowed myself to become WAY too consumed with the future and how I thought my life was “supposed” to end up. Well, now I am done with senior year, and looking back I see that I spent too many friday nights doing homework and obsessing about college applications and if I my SAT math score was 20 points too low. Now my senior year is gone, and worrying throughout it did nothing for me as I wasn’t accepted to my top two choices (MIT or Princeton). I thankfully was accepted to another university I should not be ashamed of, and all of this admissions hype has really opened my eyes to what is important in life. In 20 yrs. you really aren’t going to look back and wish you spent 5 extra hours studying to get a 99% on your physics final instead of a 91% or a 770 Math instead of 720. Maybe you will be accepted to MIT, maybe you won’t, but there comes to a point when you can only do so much and the rest is just what is meant to be, and you have to be happy with whatever that is. Here’s to having a great life, and being happy no matter what.. and NOT worrying! Best luck to all…. you can still read Mollie’s blog though, of course.

  6. Anonymous says:

    how bad can you do freshman year without getting asked/forced to take a year off?

  7. Zi Wen says:

    Hey Mollie! Thanks again for the tour! I really love MacGregor.

  8. John Lempka says:

    Mollie– I feel sort of silly (also selfish and insensitive) asking this question, myself not being “economically disadavantaged,” but as much as I read about not letting money discourage me from applying anywhere, I am discouraged. Basically, I know that my parents will not pay for “family contribution” portion of my financial aid, and I am pretty sure that will be a significant amount. I know this because my sister (who just graduated from college) is $80,000 in debt with a BFA. So, basically, should I still not be discouraged?

  9. Omar '10 says:

    TO the Question above from John Lempka, I might point out that MIT Financial Aid Office is awesome. It’s one of the best in the country (if not the best) and they do give out AWESOME financial aid offers to the admitted students. If your sister have $80,000 debt with a college it might be one of two, either your EFC was indeed high and your parents didn’t help or your EFC wasn’t high at all but the college she attended didn’t give her the 100% need.

    MIT DOES give you the 100% need. I’m telling you this because for me, it was more expensive to go to other colleges which costs were far less than MIT’s, (around 28k-30k while MIT is around 47k)than going to MIT. Apply to MIT without thinking in financial stuff, talk to your parents about how much money they are willing/capable of giving to you for your education, and then, talk to the financial aid office at MIT once you have your FAFSA and CSS PROFILE ready (about mid Jan or Feb).

    Good luck and take care!!!!!!

  10. Carolina says:

    Hi Mollie.. great post as always. I just had a quick question and maybe you could help me out? It’s about the swimming requirement at MIT.. I know you have to take a Swim Test but that’s about it. Well, what if you can’t swim to save your life (literally)?

  11. Stephanie says:

    You mentioned you sold your books on…I was going to start selling mine, but the process seems daunting (lots of information like credit card numbers and checking accounts….)

    did you just do it anyway, and hope that everything is secure?