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MIT student blogger Keri G. '10

I will, I will set this schedule on fire by Keri G. '10

This has been a long time coming. Text- and picture-heavy! Link- and acronym-happy! Take it all as a token of my affection.

Last week, I dropped 9.15 from my preregistration schedule for the upcoming term.

It hurt me to do it; 9.15, only offered in alternate fall terms, was the class I was looking forward to the most. The problem, however, was this:

Schedule: doable?

Um, no.

Regardless of how set I am on this illusion that I am working towards a dual degree at MIT, doing 72 units during my first term entirely on grades – especially the 72 units above – isn’t really the best idea. (Neither is doing 60 units including both 5.07 and 5.13, but there’s no avoiding that.) Some of you have already heard the following edict: “Work, friends, sleep – pick two.” This is exactly what I’ll have to do very soon. It’ll be a huge comedown from last term, where by some miracle I managed to get all three.

For those of you who just skipped the beginnings of a rant above, here’s a brief summary:

Classes. Lots of them. Grawr.

That is all. ^_^

Enough about my schedule. Let’s talk about yours. And by “yours,” I mean you. Yes, froshlings. You.

You’ll all be here in two weeks. Your friends at other schools may all know what they’re doing, where their classes are, and at what ungodly hour they’ll have to wake up so they can make it to their 7AM chem lab on time. Meanwhile, you don’t have a definite housing plan yet and you’re sitting around wondering what in the world a Math Diagnostic is and how many Advanced Standing Exams you should take and what 8.012 is and if you should take it in the fall and hey, how come MIT doesn’t give credit for 5s on the AP Bio exam anymore?

Never fear, for answers are here! (Except for the AP Bio thing. I have my theories – maybe the AP Bio curriculum doesn’t match up with 7.012/3/4/5 well enough for you to continue receiving credit for it? – but since I don’t know for sure, my on-the-record answer is “they just don’t.”) I’ll even give you responses comprised of more than just saying that 8.012 is Physics for Physics Majors and Crazy People. (It is.)

But first, a ridiculously simplified picture of what your schedule should look like. It’s on neon yellow paper because everything neon is awesome. You know I’m right.

I know you’re already forming “what if…” questions about AP Credit, college courses, making it through freshman year with no previous experience in physics, and more. That’s why I also created the following list.

(Numbers in place of class names will be prevalent, but don’t worry – I’ve linked to class descriptions for all of these.)

1) Math.

Many of you will take 18.01. If you’ve taken the AP Calculus BC exam and scored a 4 or higher, though, you’ll probably start in some variation of 18.02. Those of you who took Calc AB can opt for 18.01A/18.02A, which covers the whole of 18.01 in the first six weeks of fall term and covers 18.02 straight through to the end of IAP. A few of you will have already finished the equivalents of both 18.01 and 18.02, though, and you’ll probably take 18.something if you take a math class at all. 18.03, 18.06, and 18.700 are popular choices.

2) Bio/Chem.

Most people take Chem in the fall and Bio in the spring. Two of the three freshman chem classes are only offered during fall term (3.091, usually taken by aspiring engineering majors, and 5.112, for the truly masochistic. 5.111 is available in both fall and spring terms.); the opposite is the case for Biology, with both 7.013 and 7.015 being spring classes and 7.012 being fall-only.

Here’s a reason to take biology first term, though: Eric Lander, one of the leaders of the Human Genome Project, teaches 7.012.

3) Physics and the Math Diagnostic.

5s on both parts of the AP Physics C exam gets you out of 8.01. Regardless of whether or not you’ve done that, you’re taking the Math Diagnostic during the week before classes start. Based on your score on this exam – a short, calculus-free, no-calculators-allowed evaluation of your basic math skills up through exponential and logarithmic functions – you’ll be advised to take 8.012 (as stated before, this is Physics for the Truly Insane”), 8.01L (8.01 held through the end of IAP, for people without much calculus or physics experience), or good ol’ 8.01.

Some students take 8.012 because it, unlike 8.01, uses a standard lecture/recitation format. 8.01 uses TEAL; rather than give you a botched explanation of TEAL, I’ll simply give you a link here.

4) Humanities and the FEE.

There isn’t much to say here. Take a HASS class that interests you; otherwise, you will suffer greatly and come to despise all things humanities-related. (The same can be said about most other classes you will take, but this is one of the few places where you’ll really have some leeway in your freshman schedule. Make the most of it, willya?) Take a CI-H to get them out of the way, since you need to take two of them and they should be completed by the end of your sophomore year. If you failed the FEE, you’re required to take a CI-HW (writing-intensive) class first semester. Passing the FEE gets you out of the CI-HW part, leaving you free to take just a CI-H if you so desire. Getting a 5 on either AP English exam gets you the same as the FEE with 9 general elective credits.

Taking a CI-H isn’t necessary both terms, but you need to have completed at least one by the end of your first year. I took a theater class in the fall that wasn’t a CI-H, and it wasn’t a big deal – I missed out on being offered sophomore standing (which I wouldn’t have accepted anyway), but that’s a can of worms I won’t be opening here.

5) Advising Seminars, Mission 2011/Terrascope, F/ASIP, et cetera, blah blah blah.

As a freshman, you have a 54-unit limit your first term, and a 57-unit limit second term. Your four main classes only comprise 48 units. Whatever could those extra units be for?

Tons of things, as you should already know – if the state of my inbox during the summer before freshman year was any indicator of that of yours, then you’ve already received multiple emails from twelve million different programs. If your plans don’t already have you doing things like saving the world via Mission 2011/Terrascope or learning the Super Sekrit Ways to Score Awesome Internships in F/ASIP, you can always take a really cool Advising Seminar. I took Chemistry and Art, which was a great class. (I can give you more details if you want them, but the class is no more – my freshman advisor left MIT in May.) You can also use the extra credits to take an intro class in your planned major, or – get this – you can do absolutely nothing with them. I took 48 units in the spring, and I’m glad I did – it gave me more time to get all of my work done, and I even got to sleep sometimes.

Mmmmm, sleep.

Want more information? (Can you even imagine there being more than this?) If you’re looking for further explanation of anything in particular, the first-year website has all of this and more!

I sound like an infomercial now! Woo!

49 responses to “I will, I will set this schedule on fire”

  1. Mollie says:

    Just please keep in mind that, regardless of what you do bio-wise in the fall semester, you don’t want to take chem in the spring semester. Bio is a class that people take either in the fall or spring, but chem is really preferentially taken in the fall — the 5.111 spring professors and class atmosphere are much more painful than the fall version.

  2. milena '11 says:

    I’ve heard great things about that Bio professor… So I *might* be taking 7.012 this year. I wanted your advice on my classes… one of my friends suggested taking full advantage of pass/no record (as in, taking bio, which I kinda suck at, during fall), so my schedule could look something like 5.112, 7.012, 18.01A (or 18.02) and 8.01. Doable?

  3. milena '11 says:

    I’ve heard great things about that Bio professor… So I *might* be taking 7.012 this year. I wanted your advice on my classes… one of my friends suggested taking full advantage of pass/no record (as in, taking bio, which I kinda suck at, during fall), so my schedule could look something like 5.112, 7.012, 18.01A (or 18.02) and 8.01. Doable?

  4. Evan '10 says:

    My advice about freshman classes:

    Take both 7.012 and 3.091 in the fall (unless you’re Course V or X or one of those other majors where you need 5.111/2). That doesn’t necessarily mean taking both of them your first semester, but take them in the fall, because both Lander and Sadoway are worth it.

    Similarly Mattuck is a great professor if you pay attention to the actual material, so it can definitely be worth waiting to take 18.03 until the spring.

    Milena – 5.112, 7.012, 18.0[1A,2], and 8.01 is a pretty reasonable schedule. You’ll have to make up for not taking a HASS later, but I didn’t take a HASS my first semester, and I ended up relatively sane (well, my sanity is an entirely different matter).

  5. Kari says:

    THANK YOU!!!
    this is exactly what i wanted to see because i am quite confused right now. (well I was, now I am slightly less confused.)
    two questions:
    1) If I take 18.01A/18.02A will I sorely regret having to do real work during IAP while everyone else is doing fun things? pros? cons?

    2)where does PE fit into this? do most people wait until they don’t have a limit on units before taking PE?

  6. Jasmine says:

    Is taking both chemistry and bio together first semester a really bad plan?

  7. Wings '11 says:

    I laugh every time I explain MIT’s housing system to someone who asks if I have a roomate yet, or a dorm, etc.

    Thank you for that, Keri! It cleared a lot up (though now I have a terrible decision to make.. I didn’t have a very good chemistry class, so I was thinking of taking it first term since it’s Pass/No Record as opposed to A/B/C/No Record – but then I can’t take the bio class with Eric Lander. NOOOO!).

    But I’m still confused on what TEAL is. Is it just that they’re all different profs teaching it?

    Six classes sounds evil =P How does scheduling work, as far as making sure your class times don’t interfere with each other?

  8. Wings '11 says:

    @Kari – PE doesn’t count towards your credit limit.

  9. Keri says:

    Evan – Mattuck’s not teaching 18.03 this year! SUCKFEST. At least he’s teaching 18.01A/02A.

    Wings – you can take both chem and 7.012; you’ll just have to put off taking math, physics, or a HASS by a term. Of the three, I suggest waiting to take a HASS – it shouldn’t put you behind at all.

    I’ll post another comment with more answers to questions later, when it’s not 1 AM.

  10. Jasmine says:

    Are we going to be able to talk to a counseler about this and what’s best for us? I mean, since I sort of have no idea how my ability level will work with the classes… also I want to take bio first semester before I forget it all (I took it 12th grade), but on the other hand, I hate chemistry and I sort of want to take that when there is the pass/no pass system. Also, is it a good idea to take an intro to a major class if we have no idea what we’re going to major in and we want to try to get an idea of some majors first?

  11. Stephan says:

    I have not done Bio since the nineth grade and am definitely taking it in the fall under Pass/No Record

  12. Wings '11 says:

    Why is that, Mollie?

    And, in general, how does 3.091 compare to 5.111 on the difficultly scale?

  13. Sauza says:

    I’d like to start another foreign language. Specifically Mandarin. Is this a bad idea? And how does taking foreign language classes fit in with the HASS requirements…there was something about a third-level foreign language class being substitutable for a HASS-D requirement, but I don’t really understand how that works

  14. Wings '11 says:

    I’ve been looking at the different biology classes, and I’ve found that two profs teach 7.012. Do you get to choose which prof, or is that left up to chance…?

  15. Lulu says:

    Ah, thank you SO MUCH for this. It clarified a lot of the questions I had, and answered some that I didn’t even realize I had.

  16. Keri says:

    Kari – you will be fine if you’re doing work over IAP. Plenty of people choose to take a class during IAP, and you’ll still have a lot of time to do fun stuff while finishing up 18.02A. The class may be the only schoolwork-related thing you’ll have to do, so it shouldn’t be too much trouble.

    If nothing else, tons of frosh will be doing 8.01L or 18.02A with you. You won’t be alone in the work, at least. ^_^

    To answer your second question, PE classes don’t count towards your credit limit. There are new classes every six weeks, so however you want to fit those in is up to you. You should be able to take at least one during your first term.

    Wings – TEAL is a largely computer- and group- based class, where all of the students sit at round tables. There are nine people at each table, three people to a computer. Each section has a professor who teaches the material to the class, but you work on experiments and in-class problems with your group. There are two undergrad TAs and a grad TA in class to help you out with those.

    In short, it’s a more interactive approach to physics than the lecture/recitation format. This is really helpful for some people, but others prefer simply taking notes from standard lectures. Other people may want a lecture for mechanics and TEAL for E&M, or vice versa.

    I’ll edit the post later to talk about scheduling.

    Jasmine – you can take both bio and chem first semester. It’s not a bad plan at all – see my comment above for a little more detail on that.

    Also, most people take an intro major class when they know what they want to do, but this isn’t always the case. Just take something that sounds like you’d want to do it – you’ve got at least a year to figure out your major.

    Wings – there’s one lecture for 7.012; the two professors teach different parts of the class. For example, Lander may teach the first half while Weinberg takes over for the second.

    3.091, also known as 3.09fun, is apparently easier than 5.11x.

  17. Karen says:

    Sauza –

    I’m putting off Chemistry and Biology until sophomore year so that I can take a language, and also because three science/math classes sounds unnecessarily overwhelming to me. Then again, I’m not planning on majoring in anything related to chem or bio. If you’re worried about being set back a year, maybe you’re better off starting Chinese your sophomore year.

    I think 3rd year languages count towards the HASS requirements in the way that you take them instead of another HASS class, but I’m not 100% sure.

  18. Paul '11 says:

    @ Kari: I hear you about not wanting to miss IAP! Actually, you can take 18.02A during the spring term if you want – it’s 6 credits so it should fit in the limit with no problems. You can also take 18.03 in the spring at the same time, if you desire.

    @ Keri & others: Thanks a lot for the info. The whole Chem/Bio thing in particular had always confused me.

  19. Rodney says:

    @Sauza: All of the language classes count as HASS classes.

  20. Sauza says:

    Right, but the issue is how they fit in with the HASS-D requirement.

    Hrmm does anyone know someone who took foreign language classes freshman year that I could ask about it?

  21. Mollie says:

    Wings, you don’t want to take 5.111/3.091 spring semester because it’s an “off” semester for the classes. There are different professors who teach in the spring, and the majority of people in the class are people who took a chemistry class in the fall and failed it.

    In the fall, the professors are better, and basically everybody you know will be taking the classes — there will be more people with whom you can do homework and study. That’s not an insignificant advantage to taking the fall versions.

    Everybody who wants to take a language freshman year should be aware that the Committee on Academic Performance will get on you pretty seriously if you don’t take a Communication Intensive (CI) class your freshman year. Upper-level language classes can indeed count as HASS-D (distribution) classes, but they do not count as CI and therefore will not help you meet the CI requirement.

  22. Hank R. says:

    The thing about chem classes in the spring being an “off” semester for the class. Does this hold true for 18.02 as well?

  23. Keri says:

    Hank R. – This does not hold true for 18.02, since a sizable percentage of the freshman class starts in 18.01.

  24. Wings '11 says:

    Kari – Besides 18.01A/18.02A/8.01L, other people stay for UROPs (some for credit) and even some for-credit activities. I’m staying and going to have some fun, but I think 18.01A/18.02A will just make sure it doesn’t go to my head wink

    Keri – Thank you! Please do add the post about scheduling when you get the chance =)

    Another question, though, directed at either Keri or Mollie – does the “off semester” apply for ESG classes?

    Ahh, if only there wasn’t a credit limit, then I could just take bio and chem without messing up my HASS classes…

  25. Sam says:

    Sauza — Here’s my take on taking Mandarin first term, even though I didn’t actually take any languages until my Junior year.

    I was going to suggest that you take Chinese I during IAP, until I looked and saw that Chinese is the only first-level language class not offered during IAP. Also, Chinese II is only offered in the Spring, so taking Chinese I your Freshman spring wouldn’t be terribly helpful. I’m assuming you want to start with Chinese I.

    The issue is that MIT wants you to take a HASS-D during your first semester and a CI-H class during your first year, and Chinese I is neither. The HASS-D thing is kind of negotiable, but the CI-H isn’t. If you don’t take a CI-H during your first semester, you’ll get a “warning” e-mail telling you to take one your second semester, or else.

    So, if you really want to start Chinese your freshman year instead of your sophomore year, here’s what I would do…

    Fall ’07
    Math (18.01, 18.01A, 18.02, whatever)
    Physics (probably 8.01)
    Chemistry (5.11x or 3.091)
    Chinese I

    Spring ’08
    Math (18.02 or 18.03)
    Physics (probably 8.02)
    Chinese II
    any CI-H, HASS-D class

    If you have a nice advisor, or one who doesn’t really understand how MIT requirements work (there are a bunch of these), you should be able to pull this off. The only thing is that you won’t be able to take a major class during your second term. This might be bad depending on what you want to major in. If you want to major in chemistry, for example, it might be a problem because the major is designed such that 5.12 in your second term. But if you major in something like physics or aero/astro, it won’t be any problem at all, because those majors don’t really start until sophomore year.

    This could have been its own entry. By the way, 5.13 is the best class ever.

  26. Wings '11 says:

    Some advisors don’t know what they’re doing? That worries me =/ Once you get an advisor for you major, though, they know what they’re doing, right? That’s all that matters =)

  27. Sam says:

    Wings ’11 — Some advisors are better than others. Some are really hands-on, but the ones I’ve had have always been kind of hands-off. It’s usually much better to talk to upperclassmen who are in the same major as you for the scoop on what classes are best to take, or whether to take a certain class during a certain term. On the other hand, in-major advisors are usually good at finding internships or UROPs for you, or for giving career and grad school advice.

  28. Laura says:

    For 7.012, it’s not quite as simple as one prof taking half the year. They alternate, but not one-for-one. Basically, on any given day you might get one prof or the other, and there’s really no way of knowing which you’ll get.

    Also, as for 18.02A “ruining IAP,” it’s one hour a day. ONE HOUR. My first IAP I took the EMT class, which was like 8 or 9 hours a day. Sophomore year I had to take 2.670 for half of IAP, which was like 6 or 7 hours a day. There are two morals to this story. One is, I suck at IAP. The other is, just finish 18.02A in January. Seriously.

  29. Sam says:

    Rob — When you’re ready to make a language class, you can e-mail any of the instructors in that area and make an appointment (Frau Jaeger, in particular, is really nice) before classes start. You can sit down and have a shot conversation with them, and they’ll tell you which language class you should be taking. If you don’t have time for an appointment, you could also register for both levels of the class and just drop the one that you don’t want to take; most instructors won’t have a problem with this.

  30. Hudson A says:

    Kinda random question…but should I send in the teacher evals together with my other stuff or have the teachers send their evals in themselves?

  31. Wings '11 says:

    @Hudson – You can do either, but just make sure your application gets sent in BEFORE the teachers send their evals if you’re not sending them together.

  32. Paul '11 says:

    @ Hudson: To further clarify Wings’ comment, you should submit Part 1 of the application as soon as possible because that starts your “file” in the Admissions Office. If for some reason you submit your evaluations, etc. before you submit Part 1, you’ll still be fine; it’s just a little harder for the Admissions Office to put everything together.

    @ Laura: EMT training is seriously 8 or 9 hours a day? I planned on doing that, there goes my free time during IAP.

  33. Rob says:

    Thanks, Sam. One (two…) more question(s…): What sort of format and class size are the language classes taught in, and how fast is the material covered? Also, when are you going to add the rest of your MISTI entries – I see from the comments there that I’m not the only one waiting? Argh, I hate it when you ask a question then have a statement, and then have to put a question mark after that.

  34. Rob says:

    What sort of levels are the I, II and III parts of languages? In particular, I studied German to British GCSE standard (two years ago), so would II or III be what I should take to continue with it?

  35. Sam says:

    Rob — The German classes I took were 10-20 people, and they are taught in four one-hour sessions per week. The material was covered very quickly compared to the high school language courses I took, but the classes were basically the same difficulty as any of my other MIT classes. There are a lot of exams, though–basically one per week in German. I think other language classes follow basically the same format. I’m writing up the rest of my MISTI entires, an they should be up by the time I leave for Berkeley, on Thursday!

  36. Mollie says:

    In addition to upperclassmen, who really will be your best resource for picking classes, there’s also an annual event called “Core Blitz” held at orientation where professors of freshman classes will get up and give a short speech about the classes they teach.

  37. Wings '11 says:

    Mollie/Keri – did either of you take chem in the spring, or is this what you heard from others? Also, any idea how spring ESG chem is?


  38. maia '11 says:

    Keri, I bow to your unfathomable knowledge of freshman classes. I am most grateful for your awesome post! AND for all the questions you answered for all the other people, which I will just mooch off of…

  39. Snively says:


    I’m on dial-up and too lazy to let gmail load, so I’ll just tell you here (you seem to be checking). I mailed your package today and it should arrive on Wednesday, I have a tracking number for you and will get it to you in a little bit (although, it’s only going to take 2 days, do you really want to track it?). Enjoy!

  40. Meg says:

    Hi Keri- I saw this article right after reading your blog and thought of you. Its pretty cool, its basically about turning different cells in the brain on and off by remote control. You probably already heard about it, but if not here’s the url: [url=”
    ” rel=”nofollow”]

    Thanks for the great post! Keep writing!

  41. Stephanie says:

    I was wondering with all the 18.02ish calc classes, which one should we take in the fall? which one is the easiest…..

  42. Suniti says:

    I don’t understand the physics portion. So the 5 on AP C does not get you out of 8.01 and place you in 8.02 but instead the math diagnostic shifts you back? See I am more of an E & M person and was hoping I was out of Mech. Please let me know how this works. Thanks!

  43. A 5 on the AP C DOES get you out of 8.01. The description they give you for the math diagnostic ASSUMES that you are not in this situation. Plus, the math Diagnostic does not force you to do anything, your advisor just recommends things based on it. Don’t worry, I was in your boat and it all worked out just fine.

  44. Evan says:

    Oh yeah – and if you have the double 5’s to pass out of 8.01, you should take the advanced standing test for 8.02. You’ve got a pretty good chance of passing the test if you know enough E&M to get the double 5’s.

  45. Suniti says:

    So AP is enough to pass 8.02??? Is it worth passing out? I thought it would be too much to pass out of both terms of physics so was thinking I wouldn’t take the ASE exam but now I am not sure.

  46. Suniti says:

    oh and I sound surprised about the 8.02 ASE because I don’t think we covered Displacement Current, Maxwell’s Equations and Electromagnetic Waves…is that a big part of the exam?

  47. I always feel like I have to answer whenever there’s a GCSE or IB-related question, so to Rob: As Sam said, talk to your professor. However, if you’re looking at working out your schedule right now and it makes a difference, I can tell you that GCSE German would most likely put you in German III.

    Good luck with all the decisions, everyone! And as Mollie said — before everyone gets panicked, remember that your upperclassmen are here to help you and have way more experience with these things than your advisors. In fact, that’s why all the advising seminars include one or more “associate advisors” (upperclassmen who help out the faculty advisor and come to all these scheduling meetings you’ll have with your advisors). By the time you have to pick classes, you’ll know all the intricacies of the system just from hanging out with your new dorm.

  48. Here’s an interesting question – is it worth it to take APs to get out of classes? (Put another way: assuming you got out of at least one class thanks to AP, did you feel in any way at a disadvantage to have not taken the class at MIT?) Thanks in advance for any advice.