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Current students - Comments on Caltech thread?

GeekMom63GeekMom63 Registered User Posts: 1,957 Senior Member
edited February 2010 in Harvey Mudd College
There's a thread on the Caltech forum about the extreme workload and people's difficulty with having time to assimilate the information. Would current Mudders (or mudders of Mudders) who have time comment on this thread or the information in general as it pertains to Mudd?

The basic concern is that there is just too much information to not only cover but also learn/understand. The OP is a student who wants a good education but also wants time to play with his new knowledge. My son's favorite school is Mudd, and this is our main concern about Mudd as well.


Post edited by GeekMom63 on

Replies to: Current students - Comments on Caltech thread?

  • MuddslingerMuddslinger Registered User Posts: 108 Junior Member
    The difficulty in finding time varies form person to person for a few reasons:

    natural ability: some people just learn faster so it takes less time. For example, people may have an affinity for chemistry but have a lot of difficulty doing proofs. Those who have that innate understanding simply don't have to spend as much time on problem sets, studying, etc to achieve the same grades.

    How much you pay attention: When I'm sleep deprived, I only absorb about half of the material so effectively half of the time I spend in class is wasted. That means when I need to study or do problem sets later I have to review the book and notes - basically I have to teach myself the material later which is pretty inefficient. The best policy is to make sure you're awake and ready to go, because the more you concentrate in class, the less studying you have to do outside of class.

    Prior background: The most obvious example is taking AP Chemistry but not placing out of CHEM 21 and 22. Mudd chemistry is just easier if you have a good AP background, just like every other subject. When they cover new material, your background will help you form connections between previous classes in that field and also across disciplines. I encourage anyone who goes to Mudd to try forming those connections during class and while studying. It helps your retain all of the information.

    Work ethic: this is ultimately the most important step. If you persist, you will win. Through a combination of going to class, getting enough sleep, asking your friends, going to Academic Excellence, seeking help from upperclassmen and attending office hours for professors you will eventually assimilate all of the knowledge required to understand the material. The question is: are you willing to spend hours and hours doing that? If you're dedicated, as long as you plan your schedule a few days out in advance you have enough time to understand everything. The reason this doesn't happen is people don't plan ahead and then run out of time or get demoralized.

    Last but not least: you won't win them all. There will be questions that stump you. You won't ace all of your problem sets and exams. You won't have a perfect grasp of every piece of information that's thrown at you. When that happens, don't get discouraged. Mudd is a continual battle, and as long as you're always on the offense you'll win most of the time. I wouldn't call it *extremely* difficult, but it's certainly a challenge at times.
  • mom22girlsmom22girls Registered User Posts: 377 Member
    Thank you MuddSlinger for your clear and honest assessment of HMC. And thanks to GeekMom too for posing the question. My d's awaiting word on her application and this post paints a clear picture of the workload.
  • fiona_fiona_ Registered User Posts: 1,811 Senior Member
    Doing well in challenging classes requires extra work outside of class, and I think the support services here for that are excellent. I'm in CS 60 now and the tutors are a godsend! Talking over my ideas and getting pointers helps a lot with my understanding.

    I don't always feel like I'm super on-top-of-everything but I've generally felt pretty OK. If I'm having trouble doing it alone, I can always get help from Academic Excellence tutors, professors, friends, etc, and that's really reassuring.
  • sunnyholidaysunnyholiday Registered User Posts: 115 Junior Member
    What is "Academic Excellence" or "Academic Excellence Tutors"?

    Is it available for all classes?
  • geek_momgeek_mom Registered User Posts: 2,106 Senior Member
    ^ It's a student-led peer tutoring program, and it covers the core. Mostly at night, and usually with food.
  • maruhan2maruhan2 Registered User Posts: 859 Member
    how do you become a AE tutor?
  • rocketDArocketDA Registered User Posts: 1,565 Senior Member
    "how do you become a AE tutor?"

    you excel in the field that you wish to tutor by getting good grades. then you solicit yourself to a prof in that field and you may get the gig.
  • esquiaresquiar Registered User Posts: 111 Junior Member
    As a frosh, I feel like the workload has been more than reasonable so far. On days when I concentrate, I usually have some extra hours.

    I spend most my free time hanging out with people around my dorm or wasting time on stupid internet sites (like this one!), but I could conceivably spend it doing something more useful. One of my frosh friends has spent upwards of 50 hours over the last month planning a new 5C party. A junior I know brews beer. If you're passionate enough about something, you can probably find the time to make it happen.

    That being said, things get pretty hectic at the end of the semester with projects and papers coming due. I should mention also that Sophomores I know have much less freetime/sleep, which is mainly a combo of brutal Sophomore core classes and weed-out classes in their respective majors. Juniors and Seniors seem to have a bit more time than Sophmores, though it can really varies with their classes for the semester.
  • maruhan2maruhan2 Registered User Posts: 859 Member
    How much time do club sports consume?
    I'm talking about lacrosse, which I think will be more intense than other club sports.

    What about acapella groups, robotics group, or any other time consuming club activity
  • fiona_fiona_ Registered User Posts: 1,811 Senior Member
    I heard that, in order to become an AE tutor, you must have been a successful grader :O
  • mathboy98mathboy98 Registered User Posts: 3,752 Senior Member
    As someone who commented on the Caltech thread, let me make sure the intent is understood: the idea there was that perhaps the number of classes and workload is too great to allow for quality appreciation of the material presented.

    A major point in favor of the Caltech system was that it exposes people to modes of thought in several directions, and understanding every word is not necessarily the point.

    Then again, some Caltech students did have the concern that a more relaxed schedule might be better in terms of letting students spend more time on what they want to spend time on. Reflection time can help. "Learning through problem solving" is not necessarily for everyone either, and Caltech core assigns plenty of sets to complete.

    My consensus was that it depends on style. If one is past graduate school and doing research, then sure, spending quality time on a single thing or two is important, but it can be more important to have breadth of exposure to lots of challenging things. The main concern is how much students getting overpressured about achieving perfect grades affects their seeing the big picture. It seems Mudders like rocketDA have said that many times, one may have to compromise on acing classes in order to do what's necessary to let the necessary things sink in. Rocket seems to be doing extremely well having graduated, though this isn't to say this mode of doing things is for everyone.
This discussion has been closed.