This is a question directed towards the MIT alumni or current MIT students, but are there any criticisms about MIT? Criticisms can be about anything: life, psets, dorms, city, food, etc. I ask this question because I realize that for everything, there is always a good and bad, and I want to know more about MIT. I have seen many qualities that are favorable to me in MIT, but its kinda scary for me to see an institution that has no faults.
Was it a big shock for a lot of people to go from top of their class to the bottom half?
Oh, absolutely. It's also a big shock for a lot of people that they have to work for their grades for the first time, and that they have to learn how to study. And that there's no longer time to do ten extracurriculars. There are a lot of ways you have to adjust your attitude.
As for the original question, the Dean of Student Life was quoted in the school newspaper when I was at MIT, saying this:
MIT is the kind of place you love to hate, but you really don't hate it. What you hate about it is the enormous pressure that people put on you here and which you also put on yourself. What you love about it is the enormous pressure people put on you and you put on yourself and that you can accomplish and succeed and produce and learn... students are telling me they're having a great experience here however you look at it. They're exhausted, they don't sleep enough, they don't eat enough, they get frustrated and depressed, but at the end of the road, they have a fabulous experience, but, they hate how hard it was to get there.
In a way, the worst things about MIT are the best things about MIT -- that there are unlimited resources available, and unlimited ways to academically challenge yourself, and unlimited activities and opportunities. And MIT admits the kinds of students who can't help but gorge themselves on the buffet available. It just doesn't breed a lot of moderation.
MIT's had some criticisms...I heard that there were like, three suicides last year (or the year before), however that's unusual. Meal plans are expensive (which is partly why I skipped it). 8.012 psets are hard. Overall, MIT is still #1.
@liahfiale, yeah, it was a bit of a transition for me (I'm a '16) but now I've pretty much gotten used to the psets and everything.
I'll second a couple that others have posted. From my sophomore son's perspective, time management (or simply, lack of enough time, ever!) is the biggest negative. I have an older son at a different college and he seems to have WAY less homework, psets, studying, etc. than my son at MIT.
From a parent's perspective, the mandatory number of meal plans for some dorms and not others is frustrating to pay for if you have a kid who wants a certain dorm/location/culture but not to have to pay for 19/14 meals a week when people in other dorms don't have to. Also, the food is very average - decent selection and choice, but my son was sick of it by the end of first semester for sure. We toured other schools with WAY more variety. Again, I was glad he was in a dining dorm and wouldn't starve as a freshman, but now I think he'd rather have the option of not eating (or at least paying for) all the meals on the meal plan.
Yeah, students at Maseeh, Simmons, Baker, McCormick, and Next have to enroll in the meal plan. That's why I listed them towards the bottom in the housing lottery. It's far cheaper to eat out or go to nearby Star Market.
I can't really say if "time management" is a negative aspect of MIT. I think the intensity of psets and classes actually teaches time management. Within the first week or so I found my ideal strategy for doing psets and it seems to work well (with some extra free time).
I'll echo others about the meal plan. I live in a non-dining dorm and elected to not have a meal plan because it was considerably more expensive than the quality and flexibility justified. I think it would be nice to eat some meals at the dining halls though but under the current setup for freshmen you have to get at least 14 per week which is too many.
Another thing I dislike is the large number of computer science (there are almost as many Course 6 which is EECS majors as in the entire school of science) and very small number of humanities majors. This affects not only the culture but the opportunities available which skew heavily to computer science or at least require decent amounts of programming. There are decent opportunities in social science though.
These problems are pretty minor though compared to the good things at MIT.
sbjdorlo (Hi!) brings up a good point I'd forgotten. I was very surprised (maybe shocked) to find out that many freshman classes are in the 500-700 student range for the lectures. Guess for the cost of attending, I was expecting smaller classes. My son also stopped going to lectures last year since most of the material was in OCW or online and he preferred just studying with friends to actually learn the material. According to him, the "MIT experience" doesn't really start until at least sophomore year and freshman year is just "high school on steroids". This year he's in much smaller classes, that he actually attends (as far as I know!).
Also, I wasn't trying to say it was bad that he had too much to do; just that if you asked him what he liked least about MIT it wouldn't be that the classes were too hard or anything but just that there simply wasn't enough time to do everything he wanted (and there are a heck of a lot of cool things to do there in addition to academics!).
8.01/8.02 I thought were more classes of 50-60 students due to TEAL. But I know when my son had 5.111 and 18.02 that those were 500+ last year. 7.012 was the 700+ one. Even his 5.12 class second semester I think was more than 300. They split 18.03 last spring so it was more around classes of 250 (and held in 10-250 instead of Stata) but this semester my younger son is in it and there's only one section.
The problem with the recitation sections is that of course they're taught by TA's, not professors, and vary widely in quality. I know my son last year had recitation sections where he felt he could just go there and not bother with the lecture and others where he felt all they did was do problems on the board but never really explained the material.