One of the reasons MIT is one of the best universities in the world is because it is hard. The workload is vast, the problems are difficult, the exams can feel impossible, grading is harsh, and it often feels like there just isn’t enough time in the day. But there is an often-overlooked reason the Institute is challenging — for most, the problem isn’t a lack of desire, ambition, or effort, but rather a lack of proper preparation.
Often neglected, preparation can make a major difference in an undergraduate career. On a larger level, some students simply come in with a stronger background. That’s harder to address. My solution is for the micro-level problem: individual preparation for each semester.
Because it is so easy for students get off track, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of preparing for a semester before it begins. My first step is always to look around for information about the class and its contents. OpenCourseWare (OCW) is a good resource as well as class websites for previous years. If I find a syllabus, I familiarize myself with what subjects are covered in the first weeks. If there are lecture notes and problem sets, I learn the material that is covered in the first problem set and then I do that problem set. This might seem a little excessive, but I have found it tremendously helpful. Read more.
Thanks for the shout out, Mat. Glad to hear OCW continues to be a useful resource to you.