For freshmen, the MIT experience begins as soon as they are admitted. A record-low 8.9 percent of applicants were admitted to the Class of 2016, and 70 percent of those admitted accepted their offer of admission. Because of the record high yield rate, no one was admitted from the waitlist for the first time in seven years.
The Class of 2016 came in with more underrepresented minorities than any previous class, a higher percentage of women, and the highest admitted SAT score averages. It was also the first class to experience new FPOPs, changes to the housing adjustment system, and edX. Here’s a look at some of the biggest changes the freshman class saw this year.
Before the start of Orientation, freshmen are given the choice to participate in a freshman pre-orientation program (FPOP). FPOPs took place a few days directly before Orientation began. According to the Review Committee on Orientation (RCO)’s report last year, FPOPs “play an important role in connecting first-year students with one another, forming friendships, and putting freshmen in touch with participating faculty, advanced undergraduates, and graduate students.”
Elizabeth Young, the Associate Dean of New Student Programs at the Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming (UAAP) Office, estimated that about half of the freshman class participates in a FPOP each year.
This year, all of the FPOPs began on either Wednesday or Thursday, and ended on Sunday in time for other social activities in the evening, effectively shortening some of the longer FPOPs, such as Freshman Urban Program (FUP) and Freshman Leadership Program (FLP). The Institute started charging FPOP students a housing fee of $30 per night for a maximum of four nights. In previous years, housing was provided for free while students were in their FPOPs.
In addition, at the beginning of their FPOPs, all students were briefed on MIT’s health and safety resources. These changes were all included in the RCO’s recommendations last spring.
Two new FPOPs were introduced this year: Discover Aerospace (DA) and Discover Entrepreneurship and Leadership (DEAL). MIT’s AeroAstro Department sponsored Discover Aerospace, in which students designed and built their own rockets, toured AeroAstro research labs, and dined with student and faculty members of the department.
In contrast, Discover Entrepreneurship and Leadership was sponsored by a group of MIT undergraduates with the goal of introducing freshmen to some of the resources available at MIT for budding entrepreneurs.
Jin Pan ’16, who participated in Discover Entrepreneurship and Leadership, spoke favorably of his experience there.
“DEAL introduced me to some of the most amazing people and resources I’ve found on campus so far,” said Pan. “Listening to presentations from Bill [Aulet] of the Trust Center and other amazing individuals really inspired me to dream big.”
REX and Orientation
Over the summer, freshmen input their top dorm choices into a lottery-based system to receive their housing assignments before arriving on campus. During Residence Exploration (REX), freshmen were given the choice to change their dorm assignments if they were unhappy about their living situations. The RCO recommended de-emphasizing the adjustment lottery during this year’s REX period, and instead focused on welcoming freshmen to campus, “both to their individual dormitory communities and to the campus residential community as a whole.”
In the past, freshmen who wanted to stay where they were had to actively confirm their decision. This year, students remained in their dorm by default. MIT introduced the First Year Residence Exchange (FYRE) for students who wished to move, a rebranded version of the previous Housing Lottery Adjustment.
While roughly the same percentage of this year’s freshmen (14 percent) participated in the adjustment lottery as last year, only 60 percent of this year’s students were granted their requests to move. 80 percent of students were reassigned the year before.
In addition, CityDays was removed from Orientation this year, resulting in a lower overall turnout than in previous years. The report by the RCO recommended that “the service program be offered during the academic term when there is the opportunity for full community engagement.” While around 600 freshmen participated in CityDays last year, fewer than 100 chose to do so this year.
“Removing CityDays from Orientation definitely negatively affected the program,” Dorian A. Burks ’14, an organizer for CityDays, told The Tech in the fall. “Having CityDays later, and with everyone already having their own schedules, there was less of an opportunity for student leaders to step in.”
Academic credit policy
Rather than registering for their fall classes using the old-fashioned method of pen and paper, freshmen joined the upperclassmen in registering their classes online this year.
“The registrar office has been working on updating things. Last year was the first time first-semester freshmen did not use a paper-based system,” said Young. “They were doing what the upperclassmen had been doing for a while.”
This past fall also marked the first time that MIT started exempting students who scored a 7 on the IB English Higher Level exam from having to take the Freshman Essay Evaluation (FEE). Five students submitted scores of 7 on the IB English Higher Level exam, according to Kathleen L. MacArthur, the Assistant Dean for the Communication Requirement.
Additionally, he said that MIT’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences decided to implement a minor change in credit policy. Course 12 now grants 3 units of general elective credit for an “A” grade on the Cambridge A-Level Geography exam. According to Pepper, two members of the Class of 2016 benefited from this policy change.
Last semester, freshmen who took 8.01 (Physics I) in Experimental Study Group (ESG) or Concourse made substantial use of edX, a new online learning platform launched just last year. Concourse Lecturer Saif Rayyan and ESG Lecturer Analia Barrantes helped develop the online content for their classes.
Each week, students completed online reading questions to help introduce basic concepts, freeing up class time to focus on problem-solving. Students in the freshman-heavy 3.091 class (Introduction to Solid-State Chemistry) also made use of edX, but on a much smaller scale. Before each lecture, students needed to answer one multiple-choice reading question.
“One of the main reasons we are using edX is the great potential of being able to collect more data about student performance,” Rayyan told The Tech last semester. “In the future, we would like to enable the teacher to look at performance data on the assignments before class, figure out what concepts were harder for the students, and adjust the presentation during class.”