Ten Things I Wish I had Known on Day #1

I’m writing for another blog this year! It’s the MechE Peer Advising Blog and the posts are all authored by different members of the MechE Peer Advising staff. Short bios here: http://asme.scripts.mit.edu/home/meche-peer-advising/

This post is entitled”Ten Things I Wish I had Known on Day #1″ – link to original:  http://asme.scripts.mit.edu/home/ten-things-i-wish-i-had-known-on-day-1/



Hi –  I’m Jackie and I’m excited to start sharing my MIT experience through these blog posts. Since this is my first post, I thought very hard about what I wanted to start with – I thought maybe I could write about “Why be a MechE Peer Advisor” or maybe about myself. I thought that this could be a good opportunity to write about the opportunities offered in the Mechanical/Ocean Engineering department. But something else came to mind and I finally settled on the discussion I want to share today … Here are ten things I wish I had known on Day #1 but have learned through 3 years at MIT.


1. Classes are important but not the only way to gain experience, knowledge and skills. (See #4)


2. Study / p-set groups are great – but know your own studying habits and find a group that works for you. College is a great time for self-discovery; but while you’re learning about where you fit into this crazy world, it’s worth the time to try out different study/work styles and find out what works best for you. You might be surprised.


3. Speaking of psets, empty classrooms + Athena clusters + the MechE lounge are great places to get work done. I lived in a quad freshmen year. I learned this quickly.


4. Find a learning environment outside of classes. This could be a personal project, a UROP or LAB, a start-up, an online community, an Edgerton Center student team or club, a start-up, a company’s internship program, a leadership program @ MIT. MIT is more than the sum of the classes offered – MIT is about the classes, the research, the people, the community and the opportunities.


5. Get involved in K-12 outreach, either through MIT or on your own.  It feels great to volunteer and I think its important to remember that we were all once K-12 students who looked to older students for inspiration. If you’re looking for more information on MIT’s K-12 efforts … the Edgerton Center, the MIT Public Service Center and the Women’s Initiative Program are great places to start.



Speaking with local high school competitors about the opportunities in ocean science & ocean engineering at the Blue Lobster Bowl competition.


Discussing science & engineering with a classroom full of middle school girls in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Discussing science & engineering with a classroom full of middle school girls in Salt Lake City, Utah.


6. Ask for help & advice often. Ask your professors, your TA’s, your friends, your neighbors, your librarians, your advisor, your UROP supervisor, even the random upperclassman in the MechE lounge. (Asking the MechE peer advisors wouldn’t be such a bad idea either! We’re here to help and answer your questions.)


7. Take the time to learn a programming language and become proficient in using Matlab. It’s worth it – I promise.


8. Start a blog or a portfolio. This will serve as a more in-depth resume or record of everything relevant to your time at MIT / as part of the MechE department.  You’ll share this with future employees and your peers. You may even get your own online following. I blog here on the MechE peer advisors site but also on my own site (jacquelinesly@wordpress.com)


9. Take the opportunity to talk to your professors and advisors outside of the classroom. I’m pretty chatty and I am talking 100% of the time – even when I’m asleep. Take baby steps if this idea makes you uncomfortable but give it some time. You can find out that you and your professors share interests outside of academia. You could even have some cool conversations.


10. Your four year plan isn’t limited to classes – you can treat it as a general roadmap and include other aspects of your MIT-life on your four year plan. But be flexible in the process. Some suggestions … take the time to outline small and large goals as well as alternate paths. Include goals like “I’d like to get involved with [student group A]” or “I’d like to be involved with [Lab B]” or “I’d like to travel abroad” or even “I’d like to bike more often”. This could be a good way to explore the trade-offs of scheduling a difficult class during a Fall semester that you also hope to complete a 12-unit UROP.


Kayaking in Alaska, as part of a Marine Robotics Team testing trip.

Kayaking in Alaska, as part of a Marine Robotics Team testing trip.


I’d love to hear everyone else’s thoughts – what are the ten things you wish you had known on Day #1?


– Jackie



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s