What you need to know

MIT has a number of policies and procedures that are specific to first-year students. Understanding these rules and putting yourself on a well-considered path toward completing your academic requirements will help make your experience — throughout your four years at MIT — a successful one.


Academic requirements

ASE AND TRANSFER CREDIT

Advanced Standing Examinations are offered in math, physics, chemistry, biology, and electrical engineering and computer science. First-year and transfer students can take the exam at specific junctures during the academic year, beginning with orientation, to earn MIT credit. Learn about how to request transfer credit for subjects taken before you arrived at MIT.

CREDIT LIMITS

As a first-year undergraduate, you may register for a maximum of 54 units in the fall term, 12 units in the Independent Activities Period (IAP), and 57 units in the spring term. To exceed these limits, you will need the support of your advisor and you will need to submit a petition to the Committee on Academic Performance (CAP) before the term begins.

GENERAL INSTITUTE REQUIREMENTS

Students usually focus on the General Institute Requirements — including the subjects in the science core (mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology) and subjects in the humanities, arts, and social sciences — during their first year. You may also choose to take classes that help you explore potential majors and minors. You will begin your departmental program in your sophomore year.

Learn more about the General Institute Requirements in the MIT Bulletin.

COMMUNICATION REQUIREMENT

We recommend that you pay close attention to the pace and planning of your Communication Requirement. To stay on track, you must take one Communication Intensive (CI) subject in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences designated as CI-H or CI-HW in your first year. CI-HW subjects are a subset of CI-H subjects focused on writing and revising. The Freshman Essay Evaluation (FEE) determines your first CI subject.

SELECTING A DEPARTMENT

MIT’s first-year program prepares you for any departmental program, with most first-year undergraduates declaring their major during the spring term. Consider taking one of these subjects to explore different fields of knowledge, academic departments, and possible future careers. You may postpone your major choice into your sophomore year, but you must declare a major before beginning your junior year.

Visit the Office of the First Year for information on major exploration and declaring a major.

Once you declare a major, a departmental designation is not binding. However, if you change your major, it is important to note that it may take more than four years to finish your degree. Student Financial Services (SFS) can help you consider the financial implications of taking more than four years to graduate.


Grading policies

FIRST-YEAR GRADING & HIDDEN GRADES

First-year grading is designed to ease your transition to MIT. Subjects taken in your first semester and during the January Independent Activities Period are graded on a Pass or No Record (P/NR) scale. Instructors still submit standard letter grades to the Registrar’s Office each term. These “hidden” grades are sent to your advisor at the end of the term to be shared with you. They are used for advising purposes only. In your second term, grades are recorded on an ABC/No Record basis.

FIRST-YEAR EXPERIMENTAL GRADING

First-year students who enter MIT in fall 2018 may designate up to three science, mathematics, and engineering (SME) General Institute Requirements (GIRs) to be graded on a Pass/No Record (P/NR) basis after their first term. Learn more here.

FIFTH-WEEK FLAGS

By the beginning of the sixth week of the term, your instructor must notify you, and request a meeting, if you are performing at a D or F level and at risk of failing the class. These notices are typically sent by email, with copies to your advisor and the Office of the First Year.

EARLY SOPHOMORE STANDING

Any undergraduate who has successfully completed one semester at MIT and has accrued at least 96 total units, including an appropriate Communication Intensive subject, would be eligible for early sophomore standing