I loved orientation. It was a time of free food, excitement, and lots of new experiences. Since I didn’t go to CPW, all the activities were novel and a bit… strange, but fun regardless. (In later years, I faked being a prefrosh to experience CPW ‘in person’). But I wish I spent less time studying for ASEs and more time meeting more people.
MIT’s fire hose analogy was and still is completely accurate; there were so many activities to do from the moment I set foot on campus. My first day was hectic, even before I was whisked away to kayak in the Boston harbor (FOP – read my day 1).
The first official thing after FPOPs were orientation events. I had a chill mentor who was quick to and to the point. He gave great advice on which events to attend and which were unnecessary. Most events were fun, and I somewhat met new people. But to be honest, I didn’t hang out with my orientation group outside of the events, and none of them became my close friends. Around half of my group stopped showing up altogether. However, we did get meal tickets by going to these events, which gave me access to (free) catered food.
In terms of making friends, a decent amount of cliques formed immediately, one of which was a subgroup of FLP. They would hang out all the time. I, however, used this time to explore campus and people, so I spent most of my time bouncing between activities with other first-year students. I spent minimal time in my room, which was a great idea.
While all this was happening, each dorm had events to showcase the culture of each dorm. These events were mainly for students who were considering switching dorms before the school year began. I don’t recall going to many of those events, but they were fun nonetheless. Many had wacky event names. I spent most of my time with John, who was in my FPOP, and went to events with him. I didn’t know the swim team then, so I didn’t do as many activities together (maybe I should have?). That week, I explored the campus, slept crazy late, tried snake (or some exotic meat?) for the first time, and also… studied for ASEs.
Studying for ASE (Advanced Standing Exams)
AP credits don’t mean much at MIT, especially the science ones. The only way to skip these intro classes is to take ASEs. However, they are a lot harder than you think. Which means most students still have to take the required science classes (GIRs). I initially thought I could ASE most of the intro classes (naive me haha), and signed up for the ASE for 6.0001 (CS), 8.02 (e&m physics), 18.02 (multivariable calculus), and 18.06 (linear algebra). I also thought about signing up for chemistry and biology ASEs. However, after glancing at the sample tests, I realized I was woefully underprepared (I had not taken AP Chemistry or Biology).
I spent a nontrivial amount of time studying for the 18.06 exam, but I failed anyway. I only passed 6.0001 and 18.02, which weren’t much of a surprise given my high school experience. In hindsight, I made many friends taking 8.02 (second semester), so it was a blessing in disguise. I wish I had spent less time studying for 18.06 and more time outside and meeting other first years.
However, if you do have prior experience, it is worth your time to take ASEs. Just don’t try and skip out of things you aren’t proficient in. Also, AP test != passing an ASE.
It is indeed possible to not buy any food during orientation week (and the following rush week), but I ended up having to buy two meals because I was too lazy to go to events. There will be events with food, and so if you have time, you will have food to eat. For free!
And then rush begins.