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MIT student blogger Mollie B. '06

Quick and dirty by Mollie B. '06

I freak out a little about graduate school applications, then answer some questions.

I’m going to have to make this quick today, since I have to study for the GRE biology subject test that I’m taking on Saturday… it’s probably not all that terribly different from the SAT II in biology, but I’m having to study quite a bit because I haven’t learned anything about plants or ecology since I got here — the MIT department is focused on cellular, molecular, and developmental biology, so no ecology classes for me! (And frankly, I couldn’t be gladder. I think plants are uninteresting unless they are in my dinner.)

Luckily, I don’t think the test will be of too much consequence in my graduate school application, since I already rocked the GRE general test, will be graduating with two degrees, have a good GPA, and (most importantly) have a lot of research experience, including two publications and three glowing letters of recommendation. Of course, I am still stressing big-time about the GRE subject test. Stupid plants! I hate you!

EDIT: I sent my personal statement to the professor whose lab I work in, who is also my biology academic advisor, and he just emailed back saying that it is “mature and thoughtful… I wouldn’t change a thing.” Feel free to imagine the dance around the room I just did, complete with arm-waving and chanting. It may or may not have looked something like this.

1. Jennifer asked if I’ve ever analyzed my sleep statistics for other variables. Definitely. I tried to look at hours of sleep per night versus GPA, but I didn’t get a sensible plot because I couldn’t figure out how to calculate the standard error of my GPA. Then I tried to plot the hours of sleep vs. number of units taken (because I feel like I sleep more when I take more classes, mostly out of exhaustion), and the line looks nice except for the second semester of my sophomore year, when I was taking a lot of classes but didn’t get much sleep because that was when Adam and I first started dating, and I basically didn’t sleep or eat for like two weeks because I was so infatuated. (Awww.) This also reminds me of the time I tried to track my caffeine intake vs. sleep… that spreadsheet failed because I started consciously adjusting my caffeine intake so I would get a better correlation on my graph. Oops.

2. Mike asked how much time I spend on homework each week, and if it would be possible for me to have four free hours per day.
This is a pretty busy semester for me. I suppose I will usually spend 8-10 hours on my 5.60 problem set each week, plus another 5-6 hours per paper due that week. I spend roughly 3-4 hours reading each week (but some of that can be done during downtime at the lab, so it’s not all at night at home).

Since I am taking five classes, working about 20 hours a week (between my lab job and my blog job), and cheerleading, it is rarely possible for me to have four free hours each weekday — although it can be possible, so long as I’m willing to work sufficiently hard on the weekend prior to that week. Personally, most of the time I prefer to have a carefree weekend rather than a few hours of free time on the weekdays.

I just asked everyone in the lounge how much free time they have in the average weekday.
Mark ’07, course 6-2 (EECS): Twelve hours. Mark doesn’t always go to class, has possibly the most bizarre sleep schedule known to man, and doesn’t do any extracurricular activities.
Jay ’08, course 6-2 (EECS): Depends on the season. Jay is a baseball player, so he has several hours of free time per day during the fall, but almost no free time during baseball season.
Tal ’09, course 4 (architecture)*: Two hours.
Scott ’09, course 5 (chemistry)*: Six hours. Scott compares free time at MIT to the ideal gas law: the things you want to do will expand to fill all the available space you have for them.

*Freshmen at MIT are officially undeclared — that is, the department you’re writing down on your application has absolutely no consequence for what you’ll actually major in. Freshmen declare majors around the middle of their second term (although you’re free to switch later if you want to). These two freshmen just happen to be pretty sure they want to major in course 4 and course 5, respectively.

4 responses to “Quick and dirty”

  1. Victoria says:

    Good luck with the GRE.

  2. Sam says:

    Haha, yeah, plants are dumb. All my Course 7 friends (like, two of them) decided to take the Biochem GRE instead.

  3. Dave says:

    My AP Biology teacher loved molecular biology, and yet the only things I could remember when it came to the Bilogy SAT II were ecologically-based. ugh. You’re lucky, I don’t even like plants when I have to eat them.

    Good luck, it sounds like you have it wrapped up anyway, but it’s always good to be more stellar than necessary.

  4. Robb Carr says:

    Good luck with Grad School applications Mollie!