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MIT student blogger Ben O. '19

Tips and Tricks to MIT by Ben O. '19

What I have learned in my first semester at MIT

Honestly, I think if you ask anyone at MIT, there is something of a learning curve. By learning curve I don’t mean “oh snap it is going to take me long time to learn all of these new subjects at MIT.” It is more of a general statement that sort of goes under the idea that you are now living alone, if you are not on the meal plan you have to make your own food, you now have the decision to go to class or not go to class, you are more or less completely autonomous. (oh snap almost forgot, quick disclaimer, I am still a freshman and I am not claiming to know everything ^____^ I am just trying to share a little bit of what I have learned, I hope you can enjoy that!). No one can move from living in a house to on their own in one day and have no problems, so hopefully these tips and tricks can help! So without further ado let’s get started!!!!!!

Alright this is something that you will hear 500 billion times, and honestly something I have not yet mastered hahaha. When I was in high school I was like, “College students have like 3 classes a day that start in the middle of the day, instead of getting up at 6:45 like in high school you, college students don’t have to get up until around 9 or 10 and get out at like 3, how do you not get enough sleep?” To little high school Ben I say that is a very good point. Except little high school Ben, you are wrong. One of the things about college is if you do not limit yourself there is no reason you can’t work 24/7 without stopping. There is always technically a pset that could be worked on or a test the next week you could be studying for, or a UROP you could be working on, etc. etc. etc. Now, I am not saying “yes when you get into MIT do nothing but sleep.” I am also not saying “yes when you get into MIT do nothing but work.” However, sleep is important. My friend told me “At MIT time is actually money. You have $24 and in one day you must decide how to spend that money, always save 6-8 dollars for sleep. It will be the best investment you could make.”

2. Go to class
This one may not be for everyone, but it is definitely a rule that I have found to be true for me. The reason being is I convinced myself that I will spend my time that I would be in class to do psets, find the notes on Open Course Ware and review those, or get some sort of work done. LIESSSSSS. There may be people out there that have far more self-control than I do and therefore this is an option. However, if you are not 100% sure that you can make use of your normal class time to do something productive, 9 out of time the only thing that will happen is you will fall behind. Regardless, If you find that you have to miss a class to study for a test or you just really really really need to get some sleep try to find a friend that can take a video of the class or at least get you the notes for that day’s lecture.

3. PNR
I am going to take a leap of faith and say that most of the people applying to MIT are good students. In this regard we are naturally very hard workers. For many of us simply going for the A isn’t good enough, we are going for >98%, and therefore put in a very large amount of work to everything we do. However, that then transfers to our first semester here at MIT. For those of you that don’t know, the first semester at MIT is on something called PNR which stands for Pass No Record. In every class for the first semester there are no real grades. If you pass the class you get a P and if you don’t pass the class then it disappears off of your transcript as if you didn’t take the class. Now, because of that it gives freshman a chance to adjust to MIT, spend some time in extracurriculars, and take off some of the stress that comes with being a student at MIT. Lol, but I have found, me included, that many freshman still aim for that 98% in every class. That is amazing and something I will definitely say is wrong, but I would like to say one of my regrets for my first semester here is working way too hard. I spent a lot of my time studying trying to get that super high grade when there was no difference between a 90 and a 73. I have 3 and a half more years to give everything I have to MIT, there is nothing wrong with relaxing for the first semester. Now, I am not saying lose that hard working spirit, that is an integral part of being a student here, but as hard as it is for people like us, there is nothing wrong with spending some time relaxing and hanging out with friends every once in a while.

4. Try Everything
This one sort of goes in conjunction with #3. Literally try everything, Since we have PNR as freshman you can go and try something new, revisit something you love, or just go to a random place and be like “wassup……. idk what this is but I want to try it ^_^ ” I would say here at MIT it is far better to try too many things, extra curriculars lol I don’t think I can say the same thing about classes, and cut down the things you don’t have time for or don’t like than it is to restrict yourself to one thing and not explore everything that MIT has to offer.

5. Get Some Air
MIT can get a little overwhelming from time to time, and I will give this little tip in the form of a story. I was kind of stressed one night, the 18.02 pset wasn’t making any sense, I had a 8.01 pset and 7.015 test the day after the 18.02 pset was due, and it was only Monday lol and because of this I wasn’t getting any work done I was just stressing. So, I asked a friend if I could borrow their bike. Back at home whenever I got stressed I would go driving, but since I don’t have a car here I felt that a bike would be a good substitute. I rode her bike into Boston and just rode everywhere. I took pictures of the buildings, some awesome cars, looked at the inside of Tom Brady’s house, tried to get into some tall buildings, but it was like 1 in the morning and they were all locked, I met some really cool fire fighters and got dinner with them <- a story for another time, and was just kind of relaxed. I came back maybe an hour or two later and felt awesome. I got everything I needed to get done that week. Went to office hours and figured out 18.02, got through 8.01 pset and did pretty well on my 7.015 test, I just needed to relax a little. There is nothing wrong with that. (I would share with you guys the cool pictures I took, but I recently broke my phone and with it went all my pictures T-T).

These are just a few things I have found while I have been here. As I said before, these are just my experiences and somethings may work better for some and not so well for others. It takes some time to find your rhythm at MIT, but give it some time and you will eventually be able to find how to make the best of this place!