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Speakers Offer Frosh Advice at Convocation

By Jeremy Hylton
Editor in Chief

Giving the Class of 1997 its second dose of welcomes and advice, Provost Mark S. Wrighton and a group of 14 sophomores spoke to the freshmen yesterday at the Provost's Convocation in Kresge Auditorium.

The speakers focused on surviving and succeeding academically at MIT. Three sophomores, Marlon D. Abayan '96, Joel L. Dawson '96, and Wendy K. Silverberg '96, spoke briefly about their experiences during freshman year, and remarks from 11 other students were played over the public address system.

Wrighton focused on the core General Institute Requirements, often taken during freshman year, and what new students can expect from them. "Today you begin the heart of your MIT experience: your academic agenda," he said.

Wrighton also encouraged new students to remember their role in the community. "This is a place which involves human beings, people with emotions, people with real commitment and dedication," he said. "I hope you will recall that we are all human beings and treat each other with respect and civility."[For a transcript of Wrighton's speech, please see page 6.]

Abayan, a native of the Phillipines, began by describing the difficulty he had adjusting to the culture and language in the United States. He also stressed the importance of getting involved in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.

For Abayan, freshman year provided some moments of academic stress because he was taking Physics II (8.022) without enough vector calculus experience. His advice to freshmen was, "Don't take a class you don't have the math for, even if the course description says the math course isn't a prerequisite."

Abayan also had advice for students interested in UROPs. He failed to get a UROP for pay during his first semester. "I failed miserably because I didn't have the lab skills that the professors wanted. I should have looked harder at my resume and tried to sell what was there or just volunteer," he said.

The second speaker, Dawson, emphasized the value of getting involved in activities and talked about his own experiences playing the viola. "The best advice I can give you is to get involved early. Get involved in your first term," he said.

"The overwhelming temptation is just to say, `Well, it's my first term at MIT. I'll just get used to classes, settle in, and then, maybe, think about an activity,' " he continued.

Dawson, who is active in several music groups and in ROTC, cautioned that it is possible to do too much. "I think you will know when that happens and be able to cut back. In my experience and what I've seen from other students, it's a lot easier to cut back than it is to add something," he said.

Both Wrighton and Dawson said that learning to work with groups of classmates is a valuable study skill. Wrighton talked about the TeamWorks program being used in introductory chemistry classes. Dawson said, "When I came here a year ago, the best piece of advice I was given was to work with my classmates. Your classmates are certainly your most valuable resource."

In the third student speech, Silverberg also stressed the importance of getting involved early. Silverberg played field hockey in the fall. "When I look back, that's what I remember most. I remember the hard practices, close games, and team dinners far more vividly than I remember any long problem set, or tough exam, or never-ending lecture."

One of the most important skills freshmen need to develop is time management, Silverberg said. Starting problem sets on time and finishing the week with enough sleep are important to succeeding, she said.

Silverberg warned that finals were much harder than high school finals and worth far more of the final grade. "Don't stress too much about finals. Don't be like me and decide two hours before your exam that you know nothing about what you've been studying for the past three months," she said.

Silverberg ended on a cautionary note. Pass/no record was not designed so that freshmen could blow off all their classes, she said. "I know too many people who took so much advantage of pass/no record that they didn't pass."