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


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.


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.


Students usually take about half of the General Institute Requirements — including almost all of the subjects in the science core (mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology), and two subjects in the humanities, arts, and social sciences — during their first year. You will begin your departmental program in your sophomore year.

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


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.


MIT’s first-year program prepares you for any departmental program, with most first-year undergraduates declaring their major during the spring term. You may postpone your 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 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/D/F) scale. In your second term, grades are recorded on an ABC/No Record basis.

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. Read more about first-year grading by term.


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.


Students who have completed 25% of the undergraduate program by the end of their first term, including an appropriate CI subject and a majority of the Science Requirement subjects may be offered early sophomore standing