Students weigh in on pressure at the Institute

Stress. It’s a known constant in the equation of life at MIT, whether it’s due to time-intensive extracurriculars, challenging classes, typical college social drama, problems from outside campus, or a combination of all these things. For The Tech’s pressure issue, our reporters searched campus to find out more about stress and pressure from a student perspective.

Janelle Mansfeld and Jaya Narain

Thomas A. Georgiou ’14,Burton-Conner, Course 6

What stresses you out the most?

Recently it’s been my concussion. I got a concussion a few weeks ago and I’ve been trying to catch up with my work.

How hard is it to recover academically after you’ve had a medical issue?

So I wasn’t able to do work for two or three weeks, but all the professors were really nice. I was able to take my time catching up. I ended up having to drop a class but I figure the rest of the classes I can get done.

Do you think certain majors or years are more stressful than others?

I feel like when you’ve reached the point where you’re trying to figure out what you’re doing in the future, so like junior year or the beginning of senior year, that point is really stressful.

How do you relieve stress?

I like rowing. Athletic activity just takes your mind off of everything; you don’t really think about anything else.

What was your most stressful moment at MIT?

Sometimes, weeks when you put things off and then it’s all due at the same time. It’s really stressful to try to get everything done at the same time. I think it’s also not just academics… a lot of times it’s social relationships. Sometimes if you upset certain people, trying to fix things can be really stressful. That happens everywhere.

Conner M. Fromknecht ’15 Pi Lambda Phi, Course 6-3

What are you involved with on campus?

I’m involved with my fraternity, as well as the FSAE (formula one racing car) team, and I’m taking five classes this semester, so balancing all of that is a challenge.

What has been the most stressful experience?

Terrascope radio. [laughs] That was pretty bad … all of Terrascope in general.

How much time did you spend on Terrascope?

We spent probably close to 10 to 20 hours on the radio piece. I spent more on the website in the fall, though. It’s really three straight days.

Do you think the stressful experiences are worthwhile?

I like that I am kept busy. I like that I always have something to do. And being able to get it all done, like, it makes me believe in myself. So I do feel like the stressful part of MIT is rewarding, and you feel accomplished when you’re able to manage all of those things, because it is a big challenge.

Danielle N. Chow ’15, Sigma Kappa, Course 20

What are you involved with on campus?

So I’m in a sorority; I’m in SK. And that’s really awesome, but it is a time commitment. I also UROP a lot. That’s pretty much the rest of my life. Anytime that I’m not in class or actively doing homework, I’m probably in lab.

How do you relieve stress?

I live across the river, so I actually live in Boston, so just getting off of campus everyday is really helpful. Physically removing MIT is great. Sometimes if I’m really stressed, I’ll just go out to lunch with a friend or get off campus, pretty much.

Do you think certain majors are more stressful than others?

Yes. I know it’s terrible to say, but I know that Course 20 is tied with Course 10 as having the most major requirements, and I was going through all the major requirements the other day, and I was like, oh wow. This course isn’t a requirement, but it’s a pre-req for this course that is a requirement. [laughs] That’s terrible. So it’s like a hidden major requirement that I hadn’t thought of before. And I just know that there’s a lot of courses where it’s easy to add them on as a minor or a double major, and the course that I’ve chosen isn’t like that, so it’s kind of stressful.

What was your most stressful moment at MIT?

My freshman spring. I decided to take five classes and that just wasn’t ideal. I was taking 18.02 and 18.03 at the same time, and it was actually terrible because I was taking five p-set classes, which just ended up not being helpful at all. I took 14.01, which has p-sets, so it’s not just your typical HASS class where you can kind of do some reading, and sit in class, and just not talk about it if you haven’t done the reading. So I was just really stressed out and I ended up dropping 18.03 — it was the best decision ever.

Priyanka Saha ’14, McCormick Hall, Course 7

How do you relieve stress?

I take breaks when I’m working. If I’m just feeling tired, I might lie down for a few minutes or go and hang out with some friends. I call my parents a lot. I treat myself to dessert during dinner — eat ice cream. I just try to vent things out. I don’t like to keep things bottled up.

What was your most stressful experience at MIT?

I think every year the three weeks after Thanksgiving are the most stressful, and especially my sophomore fall. Those three weeks were especially bad. I had a final project and two midterms and a paper and everything was just at the same time. It was really stressful, especially with the final project. That was my first all-nighter, and I wasn’t sure that I would finish in time either. I also had four finals, two of which were on the same day. By the end of it, I think all the stress also took a toll on my immune system, and I was sick. So, everything combined was definitely the worst three weeks of MIT for me.

Nisha S. Dalvie ’16, New House, Course 7

What stresses you out the most?

Just knowing that, no matter how much I study, I’ll probably still be just around the average, and there’s nothing I can really do to change that.

Do you feel like you have to be above average at MIT?


Is that a self-imposed feeling?

I guess, when I was younger, it was my parents, but it’s been with me so long that it changed my expectations of myself, and that’s what it is now.

How do you relieve stress?

Crew is great. Crew is always fun for relieving stress. And I’m on the Mirchi dance team. I’m never stressed about dance practice.

What was your most stressful moment at MIT so far?

Last week, I had several p-sets due, as well as two tests, and the final presentation for Terrascope. So I was getting no sleep, and on top of that I knew I had to study. Monday night of last week was horrible, because I knew everything was ending and I had to get it all done. It was bad. But it’s all over now. All my tests are over until finals, and this is the last week of p-sets.

Darryl M. Williams ’14, New House, Course 3

What stresses you out the most?

Homework. Homework due tomorrow.

How stressed are you in comparison to the average MIT student?

Probably less than average, which doesn’t mean I should be more stressed. Usually, I just let it go.

Do you think certain years are more stressful?

My impression so far is that junior year is the most jaded year. I don’t know if it’s the most stressful. It’s definitely a year where you have less patience for things.

What do you mean by jaded?

Well, there was actually a survey or a poll or something in The Tech last year, and it asked, “if you could go back, would you do MIT again?” And juniors had the highest proportion of no’s, and it was like 24 percent.

Do you think the stress is worth it?

Definitely. This question came up in one of my classes — if you were someone who suddenly became fabulously wealthy, and you didn’t have to go to MIT or work anymore, I’m someone who still would, just because I like to learn things.

What do you do to relieve stress?

Honestly, probably just play League of Legends or something. Be Mordekaiser and stuff.

How often do you get to relax or take alone time?

Not that often. Maybe Friday afternoons. Usually if I’m relaxing, I just end up sleeping.

Preethi Vaidyanathan ’15, Maseeh Hall, Course 16 & Diego A. Giraldez ’15, Phi Delta Theta, Course 10

Do you think most students stress about academics or other things?

PV: Academics.

DG: It’s other stuff that I can’t do because academics takes so much damn time. So, my UROP can get kind of stressful — I like doing it, and I want to continue it, but sometimes I have to cut out, and I have to tell my advisor that I can’t go in because I have a test or something like that. That hurts.

How stressed do you think you are in comparison to the average MIT student?

PV: Not very stressed out.

DG: Yeah, I think we’re pretty chill. We just hang out a lot. Like right now, we’re doing completely unrelated work, but it’s nice to just not be alone in a room.

PV: There are much worse problems than having to take finals at the best school in the world.

DG: Some stuff puts it into perspective.

What do you do to relieve stress?

DG: I drink a lot. There, that’s said, it’s on the record. [laughs] But, actually, I’ll just watch TV while I work. If it’s something that I don’t have to have complete focus for, like if it’s just a normal p-set, I’ll put on some Breaking Bad

PV: Some Fresh Prince.

DG: Yeah, a lot of Fresh Prince. It’s nice to have something to distract you, so it doesn’t seem like work.

PV: I visit him in Boston to get off campus.

Do you think certain majors are more stressful than others?

PV: I think it just depends on how each person can handle stress.

DG: That’s a good observation. I feel like we both really like our majors, so even though they’re supposed to be some of the ones where it’s like the most work and stuff, we really don’t mind it as much. And then someone who really dislikes what they’re doing, like, I have a friend who really should switch his major because he dislikes every class that he’s in. He’s stressing out over stress that he just doesn’t want to do. But the kid’s brilliant, so I believe once he switches majors, he’ll get up and do it. He’ll be happier.

PV: I try to just not let stuff like my awful, awful Fluids grades define me, or really get to me. So it’s easy to not stress out about things.

Daniel L. Mendelsohn ’15, Bexley, Course 6-3

What stresses you out the most?

For me, I definitely think it’s a self-expectation. I grew up in a household where my parents valued academic performance really highly, and now I kind of feel the same.

How stressed are you in comparison to the average MIT student?

I think I’m more stressed in comparison to the average MIT student. Not because of the circumstances imposed on me, but because of my mediocre study habits. I think that the things MIT is giving me are fairly manageable. Stress is a product of me blowing off a p-set and stuff like that. It’s not the institution getting me down.

Are you trying to improve your study habits?

I am, a little bit. There’s a thing called Reddit, and it’s definitely affecting my academic performance.

As a sophomore, do you feel more stressed now than you did freshman year?

Yeah. Pass/No Record was more of a blessing than I knew at the time. Being in real classes with upperclassmen, the curve on tests is noticeably different than it was last year.

What was your most stressful moment at MIT?

So, it was this p-set this semester, that I blew off until six hours before it was due because the previous p-set for that class had been easy. And, so six hours before it was due, and my friends told me that it took them 12 hours. It was for 6.005. So for these six hours, I just sat in my room and went into hyper-coding mode. And I got it done, but afterwards, I just kind of curled up in a little ball on my bed and ate chocolate.

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