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Advice for Those Who Remain

Shang-Lin Chuang

As I contemplated my edition of the traditional senior column, I realized that the best service I could provide to the underclassmen, including the incoming freshmen, would be to offer a bit of what I have learned in my four years at MIT.

I recall a day when a friend in the Class of 2001 complained about the depressing nature of life at the Institute. She feared that her MIT life was purposeless; she had just had a grueling day in class and lab, and she lacked any sense of accomplishment. I told her then what I will tell you now, and what so many soon-to-be-graduates here today already know: Stick it through, and it will all be worth it in the end.

As I repeat those words to myself, I realize that this advice is just as useful to a struggling freshman as it is to my friends and classmates leaving the womb of MIT today and finally entering the real world.

I still remember when I first set foot on Kresge Oval almost four years ago, fresh from the airport and my first tour of campus. Despite the beautiful weather and many helpful people, I was filled with fear that I wouldn't be able to survive the fire hose. That was four years ago, and although a lot has happened since, it seems only yesterday that I got here. At least for myself, that fear is with me again today as we leave a place that has become our comfortable home for the last four years and round another corner in our lives.

But back to my freshman year. I've learned quite a lot about coping with MIT since then, and I hope that those who follow me will learn as I have. To make that learning a little easier, I want to tell the freshmen to remember to take full advantage of pass/no record for the full year. It is definitely the one thing that makes freshman year so cool. Don't be afraid to become involved in extracurricular activities because they are what truly makes your MIT experience special and memorable.

But while you are having fun, there are things you must remember. Don't forget that you are now in a world-class institution where everyone is intelligent and incredible, don't forget that the real reason to be at MIT is to receive a top education, and don't forget what got you through high school probably won't get you through MIT. Learn that it is okay, and actually very beneficial, to go to office hours. Learn that you will no longer receive straight A's. Learn that 30 points out of 100 is actually a B. Learn that although you are tired from the all-nighter you pulled, it is actually more relaxing to hang out with your friends than sleep. Learn that Boston is an amazing city; never underestimate the benefit of walking across the bridge and exploring the city the way you like.

As I look back on my four years, I find that I am generally satisfied with my experience. It is true that there are times when you will wish that you were at an easy school, there are times when it doesn't seem like you can get help from anyone, anywhere, and there are times when you just want to give up. Don't. You will find that your experience will be very rewarding if you stick it through. And believe me, in the end, with a diploma in your hand and a brass rat on your finger, you will appreciate all the hard work.

For the freshmen, remember that you only live once, and for most of us, you only go to college once, so take advantage of it. And for the 1998 graduates with me today, let us be sure to remember the hard work that we put into our MIT careers and apply that same dedication to everything we do in our lives.