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On one of the journals that I occasionally read, I saw that someone was having trouble with freshman "physics for masochists." She decided to drop it and switch to the less challenging version, but after having done so realized that she missed the more challenging class, and is now petitioning to get back into it. I feel badly for her, especially since from what she's written, she really loves physics. I hope she can get back in.

I never did that, but I can relate, because I did something like that in spring semester junior year. I switched from CS (6-3) to EE (6-1), largely because I had convinced myself that I could not learn CS the way it was being taught at MIT. I felt like I needed more structure. The core 6-1 courses had more structure than the core 6-3 courses, and from what I could tell, the upper division courses had more structure as well. That turned out to be a mistake. I took thermo (from the mechanical engineering department) and didn't enjoy it much. (It didn't help that the lectures were at 8am.) I was really missing the other 6-3 classes I might have taken. I was back in 6-3 the following semester.

So is it a bad idea to drop something for something easier? Conventional wisdom would probably say no, that you're better off (in the long run) doing something that you like (even though you might struggle with it for a while). However, there are some people who feel otherwise. Every so often, there are debates on CollegeConfidential where someone will point out that medical schools just look strictly at GPA without taking into account the difficulty of the program, or the school, even. I don't know offhand how common this is, but the fact that some people argue it quite vociferously suggests it might be true in some cases.

Certainly, given the competition for getting into certain schools, I can understand why some people might not want to take risks such as classes where it might be difficult to get a high grade. OTOH, early exposure to a more rigorous treatment of a subject might pay off down the road. For example, I was having trouble with unified math at Stuy during fall semester freshman year, and my parents were thinking of pulling me out of it and putting me in regular algebra. I didn't want to leave, because I liked what I was doing in unified math more than what was being done in regular algebra. I also thought that I would improve, and didn't really consider what effect a low grade might have on my future as far as college acceptances. Fortunately, my parents left me in, and I did much better after a while. I think having early exposure to the concepts that were presented in unified math helped me in future classes and jobs. But would everyone feel that way? Might it hurt some people more to be denied admittance to a school or a job due to a low grade? Hard to say ...



On another journal, someone who started grad school out here is missing the 'tute terribly, especially staying up late with friends, hanging out in the lounge, discussing philosophy of life and such instead of doing problem sets, etc. Now it may be that she might've liked MIT better than where she is now. However, over time, I noticed those aspects of undergraduate life tended to decrease, especially by senior year when most people were doing their theses or UROPs, or preparing for the next step (next degree or job). As for me, I didn't see much of my friends during the week, because when I wasn't in class I was usually either in my UROP lab or the EECS computer facility where I was volunteering. When I did see them, there wasn't much of the staying up late of previous years. During my fifth year, I was living off campus, so I saw my friends even less, unless they lived in the same house or apartment. And during grad school, I was living about six miles from campus, so I saw even less of my friends when I wasn't on campus. When I did see them, there were rarely any gatherings that went past midnight or so.

Of the MIT grad students I knew, almost none of them did a lot of late-night socializing. I can only think of a couple who did. In fact, quite a few of them were quite busy with their research, and had the majority of their contact with other students from their lab. There just wasn't a lot of time for other types of socializing. My general feeling is that grad school is more like a job than undergrad school.


I'm still a bit sore from the hike, but I'll probably be fine in a day or two. Perhaps I should have asked my friend if we could slow down a bit. (We were walking much faster than I usually walk when I exercise, which really works your muscles in hilly terrain.) Or perhaps Julia Pfeiffer Burns shouldn't be the first hike of the year for me.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
agrimony
Mar. 14th, 2005 01:15 pm (UTC)
I actually think that it is a flaw of the collegiate educational system that there is no accounting for 'well, this person is all A's, except for B's in these three much more complex courses.' People keep saying 'eh, don't stress over GPA, no one will look at it.' And it's true... once you're finished with the long path of education torture. No one will look at it except for transfer schools, grad schools, and maybe post-grad stuff? Those are pretty big, important exceptions from the point of view of someone still near the beginning of their path.

I'd say I'm midway through, but in reality, I'm probably only a quarter through.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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