Editor's note


How often do we see these letters at MIT? The acronym is everywhere: on Facebook and Twitter, on laptops and t-shirts, scribbled in bathroom stalls and etched into the desks of 26-100.

What does it mean? It depends on who you ask.

“I hate this fucking place.”

“I have truly found paradise.”

MIT’s unofficial motto encompasses the love-hate relationship many students have with the school. Last week, The Tech surveyed 3,191 undergraduate and graduate students at MIT — about 29 percent of the total student population — on their thoughts about pressure at MIT. 35 percent of undergraduates responded (1,569 students).

The average MIT student sleeps only about 6.5 hours a night, and 52 percent of them have, at one point, felt like they don’t belong at the Institute.

In this special issue of The Tech, we examine the pressures that every MIT student faces. Over the past weeks, we have been touched by the letters students have sent us; stories of their darkest times at MIT, and their most triumphant.

We read story after story of students struggling with psets and tests and quals, arguing with their advisors and professors, and dealing with personal problems between parents, partners, and friends. The pressures we face as students here can often be overwhelming.

All too often, students practice the dangerous habit of setting aside their emotional troubles to bury themselves in their work at the cost of their well-being.

Despite the grind that the Institute can become, one message was clear in all of our survey responses: MIT is a shared experience. The stories were the same. We are in this together. While your ups and downs may feel isolated, they are felt by every student at MIT.

It might be hell, but MIT can also be paradise, and it’s something we must embrace. The Institute is a united place.

In the following pages, you’ll find the statistics from our survey, among a number of other pieces about the firehose that is MIT. We asked students how they feel about pressure at the Institute, chatted with the Chancellor about stress at MIT, interviewed the director of Mental Health, and profiled several student support groups. We have comments from athletes on how they balance sports and academics, advice from a former MedLink, and a suggested playlist for when you’re feeling down. Flip to page 24 for a debate between our opinion writers about what amount of self-reliance is just right, and page 25 for thoughts about being premed at MIT. See the sidebar for a complete table of contents.

We hope that you find the special interesting, and that it starts a conversation about these topics on campus. Please recognize that, like in all surveys, there is a measure of response bias. The intent of this survey was to get a general sense of what students experience during their years here, and bring some of these issues to light. They are important for every student at the Institute.

And remember — no matter how hellish MIT can get, we are a community.

You aren’t alone.

—Jessica J. Pourian ’13

Editor in Chief