College, MIT

PNR and Advising — Memories and Advice for first years at MIT (25 of 30)

It seems like every single year that MIT gets softer and softer. Not physically, of course, but rather it has become easier to achieve better grades. It’s good that MIT is stepping in that direction because it is clear that some classes overwork their students. But I wonder if it’s the right solution to the problem of MIT students working too hard. It seems more like the more leeway MIT gives in terms of grades, the more classes students take and eventually leave them in an exhausted resting state with piles of homework.

My class (the class of 2021) only had a fall semester with no grades (either pass or no record), and then two classes on sophomore standing (you can drop the class after you get your grades), and finally, two classes on junior/senior P/DF (non-major courses with pass/fail). Unfortunately, some people take their grade optimization too hard and make some really interesting choices. On the one hand, students took general institute requirements (such as bio and chem) in their first year PNR. This choice allowed them to not worry about doing well on exams on majors not specific to their interests. But on the other hand, taking super hard classes on PNR allows them to fulfill their curriculum without the pressure to get an A.

I’ve viewed PNR not as a way to game the GPA system but rather as a way to adjust to college. I think it turned out well for me! Here is some advice for those who are just entering college. There’s a lot of overlap in advice from other blog posts, but whatever.

Rush and recruitment

Rush is amazing. It’s meant to be. It’s time to meet upperclassmen that will give you the best advice in the world (and referrals).

Whether or not you want to rush a fraternity or you think you’d fit in a frat bro lifestyle, the fraternities at MIT are chill. I’ve enjoyed the formals I went to over the years. I vividly remember the SK skate nights I went to too. Quite fun to see people who’ve never skated before attempt to waddle around the rink. :)

Classes and PNR

I was quite invested in recitations (I thought it was a great way to meet other first years). One TA for 7.016 (Biology) was super cool and essentially made me interested in learning the material! Without him, I’d probably have found the class uninteresting. It’s funny cause I always see him randomly around campus and joke about how random it always is. I even had dinner with him with some other students. Also super funny when I saw him around on campus a few years later, and we’re both like, “you look familiar, but where did we meet again?”

Although that was fun, I think recitations are dependent on the TA teaching them, so it made sense to shop around near the beginning and find the one time that has both a great TA and a great time :)


Do you know why I never joined an acapella? Because I tried to sing Hallelujah during my audition. Not a great song when you don’t have control over your vocal ranges and can’t sing in tune. 


I remember following the exact schedule as one of the upperclassmen took as a freshman. I have to admit it was much easier to follow someone else’s footsteps than to choose classes frantically in the first week of school. I still spent many long hours staring at Firehose, but I’ve found time and time again: it’s hard to gauge the difficulty or interest in classes by its description — but students who’ve taken it can provide so much context and advice on what classes to take. 


I can’t say I was super spontaneous, but I appreciated the random “let’s do something right now” days. I remember when I was whisked away by a few upperclassmen swimmers to go to Gene’s flatbread cafe on a random afternoon. It was nice that someone planned the outing, and I could tag along without the stress of organizing!

I think rush was the epitome of spontaneity. I found myself at the coast of New Hampshire a few hours after waking up. Not really planning to go to the beach, but there I was nonetheless.

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