Campus Life by the numbers

The top ten things I wish I’d known when I came to MIT

From an alum to new students

  1. Your goal here is not a degree. Your goal is to learn how to think independently. If all you learn at MIT is how to get A’s and please professors, you'll be a drone.

  2. You need kick-ass study skills. If you've ever coasted on your brains, read A Mind for Numbers.

  3. You need sleep. And food. And especially exercise. These pay for themselves in increased productivity.

  4. There is no such thing as too organized. Getting Things Done (the first edition, not the bloated second) is a good system. But more important than which system you use is that you have a system and use it.

  5. Studying in groups is more effective than studying solo.

  6. Shower, brush, and floss daily.

  7. Staff are your allies. Be very nice to them.

  8. Cultivate an interest that has nothing to do with your field. People who only know one thing are boring.

  9. Learn from everyone around you. If you think someone has nothing to teach you, you’re wrong.

  10. You are not your major, your grades, or your research. What do you want? Why do you want it? How — specifically — will MIT help you get to it? Whatever you're studying here, there are easier ways to make a living. You need to love what you’re doing, know why you love it, and know what you want to accomplish with it. Your goals in life will probably change during your time here, which is fine. But if you don’t have goals — and most people don’t — then the first chance you get, sit down alone somewhere. Think out what you want from your career and your life — next year, in five years, in ten. Why do you want it? Will what you’re doing every day help to get you there? Map out your path, with benchmarks and timelines. Think it out again every vacation, because change. Then make sure everything you do helps you toward your goals. Everything. Good luck, and have fun.

Susan Gendreau, PhD (Course V) ’87, has done her best to avoid dronehood. She occasionally writes for The Tech.