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COLUMN

MIT, PhD, ZZZZZ

Akshay Patil

Sometimes people ask whether MIT is worth the high price of tuition we pay. What do we really get out of the time we spend here? Is there one ability that every student walks away with? A tool that will allow them to achieve great things in life? The answer is obviously yes.

As I embark on my fourth term, here at the Institvte that allows us to spell naughty words with a v instead of a u, I have come to realize that there really is something that we all have when it comes time to walk off into the sunset. There really is a fundamental skill that any MIT student must learn in order to survive their four (or more) years. This is, of course, the ability to sleep anywhere, at any time, and in any position.

As opposed to other, lesser learning disciplines, the skill of sleep is rigorously taught from the very moment as student steps on campus. Freshmen are given what we like to call “weeding out” classes -- classes taught in 26-100. After a semester of hard, wooden, ergonomically-incorrect chairs, most freshmen are ready to pack their bags and run home to their soft, supple beds.

It’s a tough ordeal, but those that are able to slumber through it can look forward to a demanding, but more comforting undergraduate education. After surviving 26-100, most students are promoted to easier seating situations such as those found in 10-250. Sure, legroom is still scant and it’s easier for the lecturer to catch you dozing off, but the seats have cloth on them. Those who have yet to be hardened by their years at MIT can testify to the ecstasy they experienced when they discovered that their butt cheeks would no longer be subjected to bare, unyielding lumber.

As the years progress, the ordeals become easier. I’m sure we all remember the pure titillation that washed over us the first time we entered 6-120. Oh, to be an upperclassman and take classes in that temple of the bottom!

But we must remember that 26-100 and 10-250 are only the General Institute Requirements here at MIT. Some departments require more out of their students. While I can’t speak for other departments, in Course VI, students must learn how to sleep in lab or in Athena clusters (hence the distinction between VI-I and VI-III). This is, of course, why all engineers feel superior to management majors. Stupid Sloanies with their “cushions.”

Graduate students have it the best. They spend most of their sleeping time in reading rooms and libraries. Instead of hard chairs, they lounge on sofas, snoring gently with research papers strewn about them. Sometimes you’ll find undergraduates in a reading rooms too -- seeking refuge in a soft rear receptacle. But these envious undergraduates can partake in this graduate learning only as a “listener;” classes in lecture halls are still mandatory. Only after completing their necessary education can they advance beyond the basics of narcolepsy.

It is in this crucial sleep area of education that I am deeply envious of my roommate. The man is a genius when it comes to falling asleep in the strangest of situations. Often I will find him asleep at his computer, right hand on the mouse, left hand on the keyboard, head tilted to the side, and drool dribbling out of the middle of his mouth -- ha ha, I’m kidding, the drool really comes out of the side of his mouth. I know that I have many intense years ahead of me before I can achieve the level of mastery he exhibits.

But when the time comes for me to walk up on that stage and pick up my diploma, I know I’ll be ready. I will have the skills needed to sleep on the steps of Killian, in the seats of 26-100, even in the halls of the Infinite Corridor. I will sit there, among my peers, and be confident in estimating that at least thirty percent will be snoring by the end of commencement. Interviewers will see my brass rat, and they will know what I have been through. They will know I’ve survived the cricks in my neck, the keyboard imprints on my cheek, the circles under my eyes, and the cracks in my coccyx.

It’s a tough ordeal, that’s for sure, but no one ever said MIT would be easy. And when you emerge from this campus and embark off into the world, know that you are prepared. Whenever adversity should rear its ugly head, you will be able to sleep through it like a pro. No task will ever seem too daunting, no chair too uncomfortable, no bed too lumpy. So keep your chin down, your eyes closed, and your mouth ajar; if MIT has taught us anything, it’s that great things come to those who nap.