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MIT student blogger Mollie B. '06

The most wonderful time of the year by Mollie B. '06

No, not Christmas... IAP!

(from the MIT campus newspaper, The Tech. This comic was published in January 2002, which was before I was here… but my sophomore year I developed the strange habit of reading all the back issues of the Tech online. It took a lot of time (the web archives go back to the 80’s), but I learned a lot about MIT history and trivia.)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love IAP. Everybody’s here (unlike the summer, which has similar amounts of laziness but fewer of my friends on campus), tons of fun stuff is going on, and all my friends at other schools are going to class and taking tests and hating my guts. I came home from lab early today and took a 2-hour nap, and when I woke up I realized I had no homework to do. And it was good.

I’m working for the month at my UROP, reading scientific papers, transfecting neurons, conducting immunoprecipitation experiments… and earning 12 units of credit for it. (You can do a UROP for pay, credit, or as a volunteer. I usually get paid, because, hey, I like money, but I need 48 units to graduate and I really only want to take three 12-unit classes next semester.)

I’m also taking the Step Aerobics phys ed class to finish up the PE requirement. We are, in case you are unaware, required to take 8 PE points. A PE class, which meets for about a month, is worth 2 points; participating in a varsity sport is worth 4 points. (We’re also required to pass a swim test, which I have heretofore been too lazy and apathetic to complete. But I have to do it by the end of the month, or I won’t go on the June degree list!) And so, in my last IAP, with two PE points left to complete, step aerobics it is.

I’m doing random things too: cheerleading practice, cheering at basketball games, traveling to Maine/NH/VT on the weekends to see my boyfriend do flips on skis (he got 7th place this past weekend out of 61 competitors! Let’s all clap), watching movies in the lounge with my friends… maybe I’ll even do some of the classic IAP things like attending the 6.270 or Maslab robotics competitions and going to Charm School. Some of my friends are doing/running 6.370 too, so I should see about going to that tournament too.

What other people are doing this month:
Adam ’07: Skiing PE class, working at Draper (he got to hire an assistant this month, so he hired our friend — and the person who introduced us to each other — Carl ’07), doing dangerous things on skis
Mark ’07: Skiing PE class, eating at Fire and Ice (yes, all month. I’m not kidding), competing in 6.370
Jomar ’06: Working at his new UROP, dissecting sheep brains in 9.97, working at our dorm’s front desk, and “working out a bunch”
Kjell ’09: 6.370 and the ice skating PE
Sarah ’09: Taking 8.01L (which is physics for people who didn’t take physics in high school; the class goes from the beginning of first semester through the end of IAP to give people more time to learn the material)
Dave ’07: Ropes Adventure PE class (you get to climb lots of sketchy-looking ropes in the gymnastics room), ice skating PE, and 9.97 (Jomar roped him into it — Dave is a mechE major and has no idea what a sheep brain looks like)

Something I should have clarified last time:
MIT grades are not weighted, so even though my GPA appears to be absurdly high, it’s not. For some reason, we’re on a five-point scale where an A is worth 5.0, B = 4.0, C = 3.0, D = 1.0, and F = 0.0. This means that, so long as you don’t have any D’s, you can just subtract one point from an MIT GPA to get the GPA that someone else would understand — on my grad school applications, for instance, I had to write that my cumulative GPA was a 3.5, even though my transcript says 4.5.

Also, plus/minus modifiers are internal only — although my unofficial transcript says that I got an A+ in 7.31 and an A- in 21A.100, my official transcript will just have an A for both classes. This is a great system when you get a B- (because it shows up as a B, and you’re like “ohhhh gotcha!”), but not such a great system when you get a B+ or a C+.

Time management and grades:
I don’t really know how I manage my time, other than that I keep lots of to-do lists and I accept the fact that I sometimes have to do schoolwork on Saturday nights, no matter how much I don’t wanna. It’s gotten easier to manage my time as I’ve been through more MIT classes… freshman year I used to do stupid things like stay up all night studying for tests, and I almost failed two classes. I’ve figured out as a senior what I need to do to get the grades I want, and even though that takes a lot of hard work, I’m happy with the choices I’ve made. Plus, I have a boyfriend who is a course 16 major — and course 16 is notorious for working its students to the bone. So sometimes I do homework because of peer pressure.

I’m not going to say it’s been easy to get a good GPA at MIT (although there are tricks, like taking UROP for credit — for which most professors happily give A’s). But it’s a lot easier for me to get good grades in classes I care about, and I’ve taken a lot more classes I’ve cared about since junior year. (Freshman year I was overtaken by apathy toward physics and got a C in 8.02x (physics E&M). Apathy is bad.)

Of course, I have to admit here that I am a leeeetle bit of a workaholic, and the more classes I take and the more I pile on my plate, the higher my grades are. I don’t know why. It’s kind of masochistic. But it’s a good trait for a bench scientist to have, I suppose.

The bottom line is that I am far more hard-working than I am brilliant, which is just fine with me. Some people are more brilliant than they are hard-working, so they don’t have to work so hard to get good grades. I’m sure you can look at yourself and decide which you are. (If you are neither hard-working nor brilliant… hmm. That could be bad.)

That’s enough for tonight… this masochistic workaholic has to get up at 6 AM to be in lab by 7 tomorrow morning!

3 responses to “The most wonderful time of the year”

  1. Kevin says:

    That’s a curious GPA system at MIT. Is there a particular reason for that? I’m assuming there is some sort of reason for weighing the grades internally.

  2. Dan says:

    Ehhh, you’re both brilliant and hard-working. I get the essence of brilliance in your blogs. That’s awesome that there’s a SKIING PE class! There’s probably a whole lot of ways to get those PE points, eh?

  3. Dally says:

    Woah, skiing classes? That absolutely rocks every sock I own!