“The ultimate lesson I learnt on my first day of international students’ orientation: Nothing at MIT can be done in a single try.” — This was my Facebook status a year ago when I had just arrived on campus. I admit, after running to the basement of the Student Center twice to get a photo taken for my ID and failing to find the right entry to the MacGregor convenience store, I was exasperated. Throughout my freshman year, I often needed help getting work done in a single try. And as it turns out, help will always be given at MIT to those who ask for it. So dear freshmen, here’s my advice to you:
By now you’ve read gazillions of articles about how hard MIT’s academics are. But the harder a class gets, the more help you get.
1. Upperclassmen and peers are good people to talk to about classes, professors, and textbooks. Especially before choosing classes, talk to upperclassmen to find out which professors and TAs are the best, which textbooks are useful, if the assignments are doable, and how much time commitment the class requires. From my experience, those who have taken a class know best about it. Throughout the class, ask your classmates and upperclassmen for help with understanding the material and solving p-sets. Studying together takes out the boredom, too! MIT has many courses evaluated by students here: http://web.mit.edu/subjectevaluation/
2. Professors and TAs are there to help you. Drop in during their office hours and talk to them before and after classes. Whether it’s confusion about the class material or your grades, they will listen and provide effective guidance.
3. Advisors and associate advisors are a great resource. Freshmen advisors are faculty members who have taken the responsibility to guide freshmen into MIT. Associate Advisors and residential associate advisors (for Next House, Maseeh Hall, McCormick Hall, Chocolate City, and Spanish House) are upperclassmen who have already gone through the freshman year experience and can help you get through it too. They’ll either help you themselves or guide you in the right direction.
4. MIT has tutoring services for some classes. For example, the MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering provides tutoring on MATLAB, the Biology Department has some free tutoring by BUSA (Biology Undergraduate Students’ Association), and EECS classes have free tutoring through HKN (Eta Kappa Nu). UAAP has a website full of studying tips; details about class-specific and department-specific tutoring services are available here too. Check it out: http://mit.edu/uaap/learning/index.html
MIT is not all about classes. It prepares you for real life — the life after MIT. If you want, you can have hands-on research experience through Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), work for a company during Independent Activities Period (IAP) in January, or even work abroad.
1. UROP, the group that facilitates undergraduates’ participation in research, is one of the most popular programs at MIT. According to the UROP website (http://web.mit.edu/urop/), 85 percent of undergrads pursue UROPs at some point before graduating. To find a UROP, search through professors’ websites to find out who works in a field that interests you. Or as the UROP website suggests, meet up with Melissa Martin-Greene, the UROP program coordinator, to find a lab of your choice. Get in touch with the lab, make an appointment to meet with the professor, email him or her your resume, re-email him or her if he or she does not get back in a week or two.
Get to know your TAs and what research work they are doing. Many of your upperclassmen and friends are working in labs, so keep tabs on their work too! There are also open UROP postings on the MIT UROP website, so check that regularly.
2. For internships and career development, the MIT Career Development Center (CDC) can help with anything from garnishing a resume to networking with alumni. Career fairs are held at MIT from time to time where you can submit your resume. For more information about career development, go to the MIT CDC website at http://web.mit.edu/career/www/
3. The MIT alumni association’s Infinite Connection is also a good way to get connected with MIT alumni who can arrange internships and jobs for MIT students: http://alum.mit.edu/students/NetworkwithAlumni
The alumni association has the Student/Alumni Externship program during IAP that connects current students with alumni who arrange short-term working opportunities in their workplaces worldwide.
4. If non-profit work is of interest, the Public Service Center is the place for you: http://web.mit.edu/mitpsc/
5. For working abroad, MISTI (MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives) connects students with researchers and entrepreneurs abroad and arranges all-expense paid internships if certain requirements are fulfilled. More information can be found at their website: http://web.mit.edu/MISTI/
Having health troubles? Make an appointment or just walk into MIT Medical. In case of emergencies, call MIT Police: 617-253-1212 or 100 from campus phones, or Urgent Care: 617-253-4481.
In case of non-emergency illness, contact Medlinks. Medlinks is a student group with members in all living groups that are trained to counsel on common sicknesses or stress. Find them here: https://web.mit.edu/medlinks/www/mit/find_us.html
Never ignore health problems, even when you feel you are overwhelmed with stress. At least talk with friends or Medlinks! And remember the MIT Medical slogan: “Want A’s? Get Zzz’s.”
1. In case of problems or questions about financial aid, scholarships or loans get in touch with Student Financial Services: http://web.mit.edu/sfs/. Each student is assigned a counselor. Email him or her with any financial concerns.
2. S^3 — Student Support Services — is a good place to ask for help if you are not happy with any aspect of life at MIT. They are there to “promote the academic success and holistic experience of students, especially undergraduates,” according to their website: http://web.mit.edu/uaap/s3/
3. Student groups are good places to meet people with similar interests, socialize and have a good time. To find a list of student groups at MIT, go to http://web.mit.edu/asa/resources/group-list.html
If writing is your stress-reliever (as it is for me), write for The Tech (or other student publications)!
4. One thing my freshman year taught me is to make good use of my email account. People rarely mind if an unknown person emails asking for “legit” help; so do not keep silent if you need some. You can even make “Voldy go moldy,” if you have the right help at the right time.
That said, welcome MIT Class of 2015!