College, How To, MIT, Tips

How to prepare for your Masters in Engineering, i.e. MEng? (MIT 27 of 30)

So you’ve decided to MEng (or have you?). Awesome! I wish you the best on your journey. As someone who attempted to MEng too late, I wish someone had told me earlier how to be on track. This post mainly applies to people looking to graduate early with their MEng (as it usually takes an extra two semesters to graduate). Most people don’t graduate early (nor should they compromise their senior year’s social life to graduate).

Keep your GPA somewhat high and ‘apply’ early

The nice thing is that MIT automatically accepts MIT undergrad students with a 4.25 technical GPA and a certain of units above a threshold. It’s fantastic not to have to worry about if you will be accepted. Once you have the required units, you can apply and get accepted early into the MEng program. Note: you don’t have to start your master’s immediately, but it might be helpful to start your MEng early if you can secure funding.

Find your lab and funding

Master’s students still have to pay for their degree, which is expensive. Because of this, many choose not to continue even if their research is fulfilling. You can get funding either through a RAship or a TAship. It helps if your lab’s funding is ample and there are already students with RAships. Some labs do not offer RAships, so it is reasonable to ask to see if you can potentially get funding down the road. It also helps to have UTAd or LA’d specific classes as it improves your chances of getting a TAship in the class you want.

Don’t be afraid to ask early if your lab has RAships or professors about becoming a TA because that $30k tuition adjustment can significantly impact your decision to MEng. It may also impact what classes you’ll want to LA for and what labs to join in junior or senior year.

RAships tend to give you more time to do research. TAs have to work 20 hours on top of the research they are already doing, while RAs get paid simply to research and take classes.

Take your graduate classes ASAP

TAships take a lot of time. Research does too. It can be frustrating to be an MEng student and also have to take 3 graduate-level classes a semester. Balancing research, TAing, and classes can leave very little time for other hobbies and social activities. Most graduate classes have an average hour requirement of 15 hrs a week. Taking it as an undergrad means you can also convince your friends to take them with you! It’s much more complicated after graduation when your friends leave to work full-time, and you have to take the classes by yourself.

Four-year MEngs? Expect a five-year plan

I’ve met many people who graduated in four years with both bachelors and master’s. However, those people are by far the minority. Usually, these people come in with ASE credit, experience in research, or knowledge in advanced-level subjects. Even with that, I know people who had to carefully plan and sacrifice hobbies/clubs to complete a MEng. If you don’t start in a lab early enough, it can be hard to write an interesting thesis. If you decide to take classes not in your major, it can slow down your degree progression.

To recap: Tips for a successful MEng (in no particular order)

  • Find a lab with an exciting project, or potential in MEng funding
  • LA/UTA classes you enjoyed and would want to potentially TA. Get to know the professor! (And also ideally did well in those classes)
  • As soon as you meet the MEng application requirement, apply! (You need to have UROPed, have the min GPA cutoff, and complete a certain amount of units, + whatever else I’m forgetting)
  • Plan what grad classes to take and when (so you can fulfill your grad concentration requirement). Some classes are only offered in the fall and can affect if you can graduate on time.
  • Take grad classes with your friends. They will make the classes more manageable and enjoyable!
  • Don’t be disappointed if you can’t get funding. You can always go full-time!
  • If you are trying to graduate in 4 years with an MEng
    • Make sure you have a UROP by sophomore year and start your thesis by senior fall.
    • Make sure you take grad classes starting junior fall (at least one per semester).
    • Know that your MEng could potentially leak into the summer.
    • Know that a thesis takes more than three weeks to write.

Other random stuff

  • You can be a dual-enrolled student. In this scenario, your graduate status trumps everything. Do this only if you have secured RAship/TAship or are completing your MEng senior spring (and need to be a grad student the last semester before you graduate).
  • If you do not have funding senior spring and already have finished most of your coursework, consider light-loading your senior spring (reduces tuition) and just focus on research and/or LA/UTAing.
  • You can always substitute different classes to meet your graduation requirements.
  • You can do 2 UROPs at a time and get funding for both. However, only do this if you know you can commit the time, especially if you are attempting to acquire funding.

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