Summer’s sunlit streams of serendipitous socializing (or solitude) are sadly shriveling.
My english teacher would be proud of that alliteration.
But I digress, after all I’m not here to wax nostalgic about how happy my former english teacher would be! And how fortunate, because I’m sure the rest of my blogs will have enough run-ons and comma splices to make the Voynich Manuscript look like Shakespeare. No what I’m actually here to talk about, albeit in my characteristically verbose but curiously charming roundabout way, is freshmen advisors.
When you arrive on campus, you don’t know anything. (many scholars and religions will argue that you never will, but again, I digress). It may seem like the wealth of reading materials, videos, and of course priceless blog entries have prepared you to dive headlong into the rigors of MIT, but on the other end of it you’ll realize you were never ready at all. Perhaps there’s a lesson in that.
Thankfully, you do have a wonderful resource available to you in the form of your freshmen advisors. Freshmen advisors are faculty and staff who have agreed to take in a group of wide-eyed new cadets under their wing at the institute and, as their namesake implies, advise them about ways to do things.
Advisors come in many different flavors (but don’t lick them. That’s weird). From extremely hands-on to more-or-less agreeing to let you do whatever it is you want, there’s a style for every student. They’re the people you can talk to about what classes you should take, what to major in if you don’t know what to major in, how to talk to professors and other intimidating academics, as well as just generally be there to ask how you’re doing.
I certainly can’t speak for all of them since I didn’t have all of them, but my freshman advisor (Stephen Pepper), was a particularly important figure in my freshman year. I, at the time, thought I had more or less a game plan, and didn’t need to have a lot of meetings and talking about what it is I wanted to do. I wanted the controls and I wanted to hit the throttle.
In the off-chance that Stephen finds this entry, I’d like to take the opportunity and publicly say thank you for your patience and politeness in pulling in the reigns more than once. I hope you have a small smirk in remembering the occasions we disagreed and no small satisfaction in knowing that you were right.
And if there’s anything I could suggest to incoming students who’ll soon be in their first meetings with their advisors, it’s to listen and engage them.
In fact, that’s good survival skills for MIT in general. The professors and faculty are immensley welcoming and open, but the responsibility is on you to engage them. The moment you don’t understand something in lecture, ask. The moment you start to get behind, ask for help. The instant the rest of your life collapses in on you and you find yourself overwhelmed with it, tell someone. More times than I’d care to count, I found myself in tough spots figuring I’d just duck down and power through, and more often than not that made things worse. I hated to say or do anything though because in my mind I’d rather put in the blood sweat and tears to do it myself. But you’ll quickly learn MIT isn’t meant to be done alone. Psets encourage collaboration. There’s no graduating with honors or valedictorians. Professors encourage questions, and most will bend over backwards to accomodate your curiousity. Of course you might be able to do it yourself, but if you do, frankly, you’re doing it wrong.
So don’t. After all, there’s no “I” in MIT.