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Freshmen Coping Well With First Term on Grades

By Beckett W. Sterner

Freshman are facing the trauma of grades earlier than in years past, but most students seem to be faring just fine thus far.

“The real difference [from last semester] is that I’m a little more worried” about grades, said Alison M. Taylor ’06, who is on sophomore standing.

Despite the added pressure of GPA implications, freshman seem to be just as active as ever. Very few students groups seem to have had difficulty in recruiting freshmen this year.

Lisa R. Messeri ’04, chair of the Shakespeare Ensemble, said that “normally [the time] is a sacrifice members are willing to make.” Freshmen seem “a little more stressed in the spring” she said, but the number who came out for plays has gone up this year.

Julie B. Norman, associate dean of the Office of Academic Services, said that “the freshmen this fall did better than the freshmen from the last few years.” Internal grades were much higher, she said.

“Students seem pretty mellow” about grades, said Professor of Physics Raymond Ashoori. He said that while more freshmen in his 8.022 class have come to him to appeal questions on the first test, the enrollment for the class rose by about 20 students to 90 this spring.

Fifth week flags may not change

This semester, the freshman class seems set to receive as many or more fifth week flags as in the past on a per student basis, although not all classes have yet reported, Norman said.

So far, Norman has counted about 200 fifth week flags, but the number may rise as the other classes send in grades. Because the 121 students who declared sophomore standing do not receive flags, this means that at least approximately 20 percent of the freshman class will receive at least one flag.

Norman said that last year, 26 percent received flags, equivalent to 339 flags for 274 students, although far fewer declared sophomore standing last year.

The Office of Academic Services will be tracking both long term trends in the numbers of flags and the performance of those who declared sophomore standing, Norman said. For the first-year students who declared sophomores, her office will watch their grades, number of units taken, and whether or not they switch majors.

Mixed emotions about grades

“Definitely one of the bad things [about being on grades], is that it reduces your ability to explore” activities, said James C. Culver ’06.

“Part of the good thing about it is that it helps you buckle down,” he said.

Josiah B. Rosmarin ’06 said that being on grades “raised my stress. I found myself spending more time doing work.”

He said, though, that being on grades wouldn’t necessarily stop him from participating in extracurriculars, because being involved means that one must be more focused on work. It “makes you get your act together,” he said.

There was “not really” a change from fall to spring, Taylor said, “because I actually tried to do work” in the fall. She joined the Dance Troupe this spring, but said that with extracurriculars “social time gets cut down.”

Senior Raymond R. Montoya said that if he had been on grades spring semester, he “probably would have taken easier classes.” Pass/ No Record “helped me get assimilated into the MIT lifestyle,” he said, and “I’d like to say I needed the whole freshman year” to get used to the change from high school.

“I think [one semester] is enough” to be on Pass/ No Record, said Samia A. Mahjub ’04. “I treated it the same way” as if she were on grades, she said.

Many groups see numbers go up

Jessica E. Chiafair, organizer of the Campus Crusade for Christ, said that the freshmen “got committed to whatever organization last semester,” and just continued it in the spring. The crusade has more freshmen than last year, she said.

Walter A. Alessi, the men’s varsity lacrosse team coach, said that “several freshmen decided not to play because they were on grades” this spring.

He said that while the men’s varsity soccer team that he coached in the fall saw no change from last year, the percentage of freshman lacrosse players participating went down this year from last.

On the other hand, Halston W. Taylor, coach of the men’s track team, said that of the freshmen who participated in cross country last term, “not a single person” had dropped out for track. He said that they even had more freshmen join this year.

President of the Association of Student Activities Jennifer S. Yoon ’03 said that “freshmen have less room to try activities” this semester, but she hasn’t heard of any specific complaints to the ASA about groups having trouble recruiting new members.