This post is for the MIT students about to embark on finals week.
Maybe you still have seventeen lectures to review and the exam is tomorrow morning and you’re feeling overwhelmed. Maybe that problem isn’t making sense no matter how many times you re-read it and you’re really stressed out. Maybe you’re planning on pulling an all-nighter tonight and to power through the final in the morning before crashing (I don’t know anyone that does that). I can’t really tell you how to best learn everything tonight because I don’t know you or how you best study.
But I can tell you that nearly everyone on campus is feeling the same way, even if they act tough and say they aren’t. Aside from those few classifiable geniuses, most of us are struggling just as much you are. And, as much as I love MIT, there are way too many people trying to one up each other with how few hours they slept or how many hours they studied. I want to see more transparency here. Know that your friends are struggling too and it’s okay for you to struggle as well.
Head to gym after your first final and de-stress. Avoid the junky finals food and eat well. Take care of yourself.
It may seem counterintuitive to take a break from studying, especially when there’s so much material you haven’t covered yet and the exam is tomorrow morning. But go for a quick jog. Call up a friend or a family member and talk for a half hour. Watch an inspirational video. Taking a real, genuine, honest, break can recharge you and when you come back you’d probably be able to study more efficiently than before.
Perhaps just my voice isn’t enough to get the message across. So I have here the voices of 45 other MIT’ers from all walks of life. These quotes are brought to you by Sahar H. ’17, founder of the Sleep is for the Strong Documentary & Campaign. She and her team have interviewed 45 MIT students and alumni, collecting their stories and hardships as well as their hopes for how we can improve student life on campus. Let’s all think about these quotes as we go through finals week.
“It’s okay to understand that everyone has their personal struggles, no matter how happy some people look. So, always hugging them, always reminding them how wonderful they are is also very important.” -Aisha Wang
“My PSET or exam was always on the back of my mind, and that really prevented me from really enjoying my free time.” -Alissa Borshchencko
“Emotions come first, relationships come first, friends & family come first, your health comes first.” -Alissa Borshchencko
“[Let’s change] this whole attitude of one-upping each other, playing the game of ‘how many hours did you sleep last night?’ ‘I slept less’ and somehow that’s good. No, that’s terrible.” -Alissa Borshchencko
“I had to convince myself that… at some point, my health [and mental health] is essentially a lot more important than whatever grade I get.” -Anahita Maghami
“I’ve been told that I need to be more compassionate with myself.” -Anthony McHugh
“The idea of wasting time is a construction in my mind that’s probably not helping me in a positive way. There is taking advantage of your opportunities at MIT and there is knowing that the social and taking care of myself are also opportunities that I have! I’m learning that when I go and spend time with my friends, when I take a chance to relax, those are still things that are really beneficial to me. ” -Anthony McHugh
“Associating your self-worth with each little task can be incredibly damaging to your mental and emotional health.” -Anthony McHugh
“What’s dangerous is losing that perspective of my value as a person. That’s something that I wish that I could go back and tell myself and really help myself out in those moments. That’s something that I really want to work hard to make sure is not a part of my life going forward.“ -Anthony McHugh
“I’ve taken up on the philosophy that as long as I’m satisfied with myself that I’ve learned the material well enough, I don’t really care what my grades will be.” -Antonio Moreno
“Let’s get rid of the stigma that you need to toughen up and deal with whatever problems you have on your own” -Antonio Moreno
“When I don’t get enough sleep, I’m useless.” -Ashley Smith
“If in the back of your mind you’re always stressed out and you always have to be working, even if you take a break, it’s not a real break; because a part of you is stressed out and guilt-tripping you for taking that break. That was definitely a very major problem that I experienced at MIT. Whenever I would take a break, there was a part of me that said this is valuable time that I should spend working, and that just really decreased the quality of the break. It meant that I couldn’t actually properly relax. The fact that I couldn’t take a proper break meant that when I did work, it was less efficient.” -Avanti Shrikumar
“I think people should stop glorifying unhealthy amounts of work.” -Avanti Shrikumar
“I’ve made sure not to set unrealistic expectations for myself. I’ve been trying to make my goal to understand the material, and even if I do okay on tests and don’t get an A, I’m still fine with it.” -Azaria Zornberg
“Don’t EXPECT to do well easily. If you are EXPECTING to do well in every single class that you are taking, you are not going to have a good time.” -Azaria Zornberg
“It’s easy to look at someone else and see all the good things. But, you never see all the things that they are hiding.” -Anonymous
“To the students who are sweating it to much, don’t sweat it! Just because you don’t have a 5.0 leaving MIT, doesn’t mean you’re going to get nowhere.”-Brian Alejandro
“I feel like often people push themselves to the point that they never sleep. It’s hard to be productive in a sleep-deprived state. But, then you keep sleep-depriving yourself even more because you are not productive.” -Carolina Kaelin
“Although we are MIT students, we should never forget that there is a world that exists out there too. And sometimes when you’re too absorbed with work at MIT, you kind of get into the MIT bubble too much, and you stop to realize that there is a world out there, and there is so many more things that exists out there in the world that are not within MIT. I feel like it’s important to know that those things are out there, and it’s a really beautiful world we’re living in. And you should try not to get too trapped in the bubble, so that you can really appreciate the whole world around you.” -Carolina Kaelin
“We just got to stop comparing each other. Be it the number of hours we didn’t sleep last night or the grades we got. We just got to stop caring about that. It doesn’t do any good. No one ever benefits from that.” -Chacha Durazo
“I’ve made it a point to get 8 hours of sleep every day. It doesn’t always happen. But, now it’s at the top of my priority list.” -Coyin Oh
“It’s important to remember that you are a person beyond academics. The academics are an important part of your time here, but that’s not all you are. You are so much more than your grades.” -Dagin Faulkner
“Life is not about your GPA.” -Daniel Wang
“There are times that you realize that you are not being productive because you need a break. Even though there is more stuff that you still have to do, you are better off just taking a break at that moment! And doing something for yourself, rather than keep working!” -Fernando Yordan
“Not everyone who is successful went to MIT and got a 5.0 GPA… right?” -Jelimo Baswan
“The truth is that you travel and go out and realize that MIT is just one place, with only 10,000 people in it. It is certainly not the center of the universe.” –Joey Rafidi
“Over time I realized that some things are just more important than performing well in school.” -Joey Rafidi
“Whatever happens today is not the most important thing in your life. If it doesn’t go well, there is probably a million other things that would go better!” -Joey Rafidi
“You start to think that you are really dumb at MIT, and then you go out into the real world, and you realize that you are actually still smart.” -Karen Hart
“Friends are basically what has kept me going.” -Natalia Guerrero
“When people ask me what do you like most about MIT… [I say] the people.” -Natalia Guerrero
“If you find joy in what you do in your academics and what you are learning, do it for the joy rather than the grade.” -Nico Gomez
“Everyone is different. You can’t compare yourself to other people, because everyone has had those different experiences. You can’t do that to other people. You can’t compare people based on numbers and grades.” -Nico Gomez
“We’re here because we have something to bring to this place. And it’s usually not like ‘Oh, I can take tests really well.’ There is something else there. There is something else everyone has wanted to do.” -Staly Chin
“I love you guys, and we’re all human beings.” -Anonymous
Lastly, I want to leave you with a few excerpts from my friend Fred D. ’17 from his blog post, Embracing The Hustle – Being Thankful for MIT.
“I want to thank MIT for giving me the chance to study at a truly world-class research institution.”
“I want to thank MIT for helping me refine my work ethic when it comes to getting mountains of work done in short periods of time.”
“I want to thank MIT for exposing me for so many people from walks of life and backgrounds different than my own”
“Most of all, I want to thank MIT for being hard. Yes, MIT isn’t perfect, and you can definitely make the case that MIT can be hard just for the sake of being hard, but deep down, I fully believe that MIT being an incredibly difficult school is a necessary part of the character of this campus. The reality is that for most of us who are majoring in an engineering discipline, we will be working on systems that will involve human lives.”
So let’s all reflect on what we’re thankful for and not neglect our health for the grade. The best thing we can do for ourselves is relax and take a few good breaks. Take care.