Final Words of Advice
Gretchen K. Aleks
On the final day of Orientation, it’s appropriate to leave freshmen with some words of advice to make it through their first year at MIT.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. With the exception of a couple pre-meds, I’ve met very few overly competitive people at the Institute. Most of your classmates are willing to answer a question about a problem set, explain a hazy concept from a class, or just to talk when you start wondering why you came to this place and whether you should request a transfer application to your second choice university.
Not only are your classmates and upperclassmen available to help you, but there’s also a wealth of Institute resources at your disposal. Each of you has an adviser who can give you academic guidance, but you also have an associate advisor who is more than happy to help you sort out any problems you encounter during your first year. Finally, if it’s academic help you need, go to your recitation instructor or go to the course tutors. Some of them are fairly intimidating, but in the event that you are afraid of asking for help, it’s time to switch TAs.
Find a good studying library. Don’t confuse this with a good reading library. Quality studying libraries include Rotch, Dewey, and the Humanities library. On the other hand, Barker is the ultimate reading library. A good studying hideout obviously comes in handy for those of you who have found yourselves living in quads this term and have no idea how you’re going to get any work done when there are people coming and going at all hours of the day. It might also come in handy come mid-September when the first 8.01 exam rolls around and certain upperclassmen on your hall have a mind to shower you.
Meet all sorts of new people. By “meet new people” I don’t meet PlayFair-style by any stretch of the imagination. Although I’m sure playing carnival games with your classmates is a nice way to circulate your name in preparation for that upcoming class rep election, and it might even be a means of reverting to the good old days when bicycles had three wheels, the chances of forming a lasting friendship this way are slim to none.
Alternative ways are by getting involved in student activities. As you’ll witness first-hand later this evening, there are hundreds of student groups vying for your time and interest. Try to get involved with several in your first term; just because a student group offers you free food and free road trips does not mean its something you’ll want to stick with. Your “pass/no-record” term is the optimal time to try to find your place at the Institute, and if you don’t use your first term to explore, you’ll miss out on a valuable opportunity.
Try to include a community service activity among your extracurriculars. There are many community service organizations on campus: Arctan, Best Buddies, and Habitat for Humanity, to name a few. Additionally, the political science department can help you find an awesome community service placement ranging from tutoring high school students to working in a battered womens’ shelter to visiting home-bound elderly people. It might not be high on your priority list, but committing an hour a week to a social service project is good for the community, and good for you. It will give you a sense of accomplishment come the end of term when all you have to show for your hard work is a couple Ps on a transcript.