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MIT student blogger Rachel D. '16

Sophomore Slump by Rachel D. '16

Last semester was not so great

“I pulled a sophomore stupid” said my friend as we tried to finish up our last problem set of the year. I laughed, and felt my heart sink as I remembered what it really meant and how we all have done it. We all pulled a sophomore stupid.  I reached my limits, and I really think I learned a lot about what I am capable of.

I pre-registered for six classes at the beginning of this semester. There was a CI-H, which I needed to take, but it was the same night as a Writing Science Fiction class that I wanted to take.  I showed up for Writing Science Fiction on the first day extremely excited. Science fiction is my favorite genre, and I would love to take a course from a real science fiction writer. However, the professor only took seniors and juniors, so my sophomore friend and I did not get in.

So I was down to four technical classes. I e-mailed a professor about taking her 9-unit class as a fifth class so that I could get a HASS requirement out of the way, but I got no reply and heard from a friend that the class was full.

The four technical classes were brutal ones. The first was 3.012, which is a 15-unit two-part class consisting of a structure of materials component and thermodynamics component. The professors were incredible, but the material was extremely frightening. I struggled through the semester, constantly feeling behind, especially after I got sick a few times. Once I started to get healthier, I finally accepted that there was no feasible way I could learn the material on my own and catch up with the class. I met with the TA’s and Student Support Services and I finally asked for a tutor in the class. My tutor was awesome and helped me through the material, and she helped me understand that what I am going through in the class is not just happening to me. Sophomore fall is the most difficult part of my major, and after this it gets a lot better.  I really do feel like I learned a ton in the class, and I have accepted that there was no way I could have tried any harder than I did. I now understand all about how materials function, and I feel like I can apply these to real life situations, like we did in my second technical class, 3.014.

My second technical class was 3.014, which is a CI-M.  CI-M stands for Communication Intensive class for your Major.  The class involved writing papers and other writing assignments, which would get graded on a technical and writing scale. I did really well in the class, and even enjoyed it to a point. However, all of the assignments were due at the same times and the amount of work was extreme. The Monday of Thanksgiving break week we had 30% of our final grade due. It was an extremely time consuming class, but it definitely reinforced what I learned in 3.012. I am excited, however, to get away from 4-hour lab blocks for a month or two.

Also, I got an A in the class.

That’s right, I GOT MY FIRST A AT MIT!!!

I am so happy!!  I actually never thought I could do it.  I thought that MIT didn’t give A’s for classes.  Apparenlty professors have the option to put an A on our grade reports, and every once in a while they do it!

My third technical class was 3.016, mathematical methods for materials. This class basically taught us how to solve really difficult problems using Mathematica. I am not a programmer, but I did learn some basic skills that were really helpful.  In the end, I made a really cool visualization modeling the Brownian motion of polymers. I definitely learned a lot in this class, and the instructor was really awesome.

My last technical class was 5.12, organic chemistry.  This class was my sophomore exploratory.  Sophomore exploratory is a beautiful thing where the drop date for the class is extended until the next semester.  The sophomore exploratory option was perfect for me for this class because 5.12 would not actually count towards the requirements for my major, it was just a class that I really wanted to take because I am really passionate about polymer science. 5.12 ended up taking too much time away from my other classes, and I had to switch it to listener at the end of the semester.  Still, I feel like I now have a basic understanding of chemical reactions and definitely got a lot out of my experience in the class.

So those were my classes that I did and did not take, and in the end I really have no regrets. Last semester I was pushed to and past my limits. I learned more than I ever had before about myself and about how to do MIT.  MIT truly is a place where you are forced to drink from the firehose, yet I somehow cannot picture myself anywhere else. And all of my friends are going through the same thing, supporting each other along the way. There are student support services, mental health, our parents, the Medlinks, UAAP, and so many other people around us making sure that we are staying healthy and getting through our sophomore slumps, and that is what gets us through it all in the end.

There were a few others things keeping me busy in my very little free time this past semester.


I have been very involved in Medlinks here on campus. Medlinks is a student organization that helps students with all things health – from scrapes to gastroenteritis outbreaks to eating healthy.  I really enjoy being a Medlink – and I recently got recognition for all my effort as Medlink of the Month!

We even had a Meet the Medlinks event that was a real success last semester in East Campus.

There was a lot of great food…

…and there were a lot of great Medlinks!

We also made goodie bags for all the residents of East Campus to help people get through finals!

Associate Advising

I am having a lot of fun being an associate advisor this year, and I really want to continue to do this during my time here at MIT!  Although I am still trying to figure out things for myself, I really want to offer whatever advice I can to freshmen and try to make their time at MIT the best it can be!

At the end of last semester, the advisor for our group and I took our advisees out to Toscanini’s, the best ice cream business in the Boston area.  Our advisor knows the owner of Tosci’s, and we got to sit around and talk about the ice cream business, creation process, and eat a bunch of really great samples!

Additionally, I made our advisees care packages for finals week!  I hope they liked them!


I have not been nearly as involved in pistol as I would have liked to be this semester, but our team did really well this year! I did get to go to one away match at West Point, and it was so much fun! I love going on away matches because I feel like I get to bond with the team and get to know them.  We also got to hang out with a bunch of the army kids, and we even took them out to get ice cream with us one night!  MIT also beat West Point in the Sport Pistol Event, and Yale in every event!  We have really been kicking butt this season.


MIT has this really cool program called the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program, or UPOP, that helps sophomores practice professionalism and get an internship or other cool opportunity for the summer after their sophomore year.  Through UPOP, I got connected to an awesome company called TMK IPSCO, which is an industry leader in developing piping products for the oil and gas industry.  I went through multiple interview rounds, and finally received and accepted an offer to work at their Houston, Texas-based research and development center this summer!


I AM GOING TO BE AN EMT!  Since I was 16, I have wanted to train to be an EMT.  However, I was too young to begin training, so I became a firefighter instead.  I still got to ride in the ambulance on calls to help with carrying items and patients, but I am so excited to finally be able to help to a greater extent, as well as further help people on hall who get injured and have better judgement of when people need to go to the emergency room.

The training is a lot of work – classes 9am-6pm Monday to Friday plus extra trainings and tests – but it is something that I have wanted to do for a really long time and I am so excited to help people.  I really do miss it, and I hope that I can make a difference.

All in All

Sophomore slump exists.  It is the awful truth that last semester was pretty sucky.  It was emotionally, physically, and mentally draining, but I learned so much and I am really excited for the future.  Next semester will really be awesome.  I am finally going to take some business classes, and I am considering changing my major slightly so that I can take a greater variety and quantity of business classes and take advantage of the incredible opportunities that MIT’s Sloan business school has to offer.

The Future

The future is looking brighter and brighter with each step I take and new thing I learn.  The journey there is really tough, but I am excited to see what comes next.


And of course I will end this blog post with a cat picture!  This is Muffin, a recent visitor to hall!  An animal shelter found him in a bulldozer and now he lives with the sister of Lilika M. ’16.  He is six months old and giant.