Sophomores at MIT face a whole new set of pressures, but unlike first-year students, they cannot blame their stress on inexperience. As Tien Nguyen PhD ’91 put it, sophomore year is “the real thing … no more Pass/Fail.” In order to provide sophomores with inspiring stories from alumni who conquered their second-year second-guessing, we emailed the members of the Institute Career Assistance Network (ICAN). Here are some of the responses we received:
“Choose your major by what excites you most, but explore other areas that intrigue you. You can change your mind later.” – George Pavel ’72
“You still might have no precise idea of what you want to do, but you sure feel the pressure to succeed. Guillaume d’Orange, a European medieval Prince, is supposed to have copied Charles le Téméraire’s saying: Point n’est besoin d’esperer pour entreprendre, ni de reussir pour perseverer [One need not hope in order to undertake, nor succeed in order to persevere]. It’s a great saying about finding the resources into who you are, and not what the peer pressure pushes you to be.” — Jean-Louis L. Roux-Buisson SM ’78
“Forget what you told parents or high school teachers, and future salary. Figure out what really interests you, grabs your imagination, fires you up. Then choose.” – Mark Radka ’81
“In 1986, I was a materials science undergrad at MIT, taking literature courses for fun. I am now the chair of a film and photography department. Do what you love, not what other people told you would make money.” – Dr. Walter C. Metz ’89
“The best thing about MIT is that you can switch fields easily because MIT concentrates on basics. I switched 5 times at MIT (all in EE), and became a theoretical Plasma Physicist! After 25 years, I did computer security and air traffic analysis.” – James A. Rome ’64, EE ’67, ENG ’67, SM ’67, SCD ’71
“No matter how much pressure you feel, put things in perspective. Dedicate time to yourself and your loved ones, they are your most important support. Try and exercise, it’ll help take the pressure away … three or four of us used to run early in the freezing mornings along Memorial Drive, crossing the Charles on Mass Ave, coming back on Storrow Drive, crossing the Salt and Pepper bridge, to end at 60 Wadsworth. We would get inside a small car in the parking lot to see the windows fog with condensation. A stupid thing to do, but a lot of fun back then. Steam would come off our bodies like if we were in fire. I wanna think that steam was a form of stress getting out of our bodies.” – Jose L Antoniano PhD ’83
We also asked our Twitter followers to provide advice via the hashtag #MIT2016. You can read our round-up of tweeted advice here, and continue to participate via that hashtag or here in the comments. What do you remember about your sophomore year? What do you know now that you wish you had heard during undergrad?