A Letter to the Schuler Staff

By 06/04/2013

by David McClelland, WHS Class of 2011, MIT Class of 2015

When I started at MIT, the gap between high school Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology and the MIT equivalent was huge. During my freshman year, it was a struggle to understand the material in much greater depth than what my high school classes taught me. I heard things I had never heard before, was expected to instantly understand material thrown at me a week before the test, and had to go from a high school education to an MIT education in a matter of a few problem sets. Even though the class names and some of the concepts were familiar, it was still a tremendous jump. I was looking forward to finally getting into my major sophomore year and learning things I knew I had an interest in.

Sophomore fall semester, however, was no easier. I declared a major in Biological Engineering. If going from AP Calculus BC to MIT's Calculus was like going from 30 mph to 60 mph in a sedan, then going from no experience whatsoever in Thermodynamics to MIT's Thermodynamics was like going from 0 mph to 60 mph in a semi-truck! It was incredibly hard for me to pick up material that I had never been exposed to in my entire life. Sophomore fall was the lowest confidence I’ve ever felt in myself academically. I was miserable. I had to drop two classes in order to maintain good grades and I felt like a failure.

During winter break, I decided to switch majors to Mechanical Engineering. My decision was not at all related to a difference in difficulty—Mechanical Engineering is well-respected at MIT—but instead for a difference in material and greater hands-on experience and visual understanding. I thought this would make a difference in my performance, and boy was I right!

MIT is on a 5-point GPA scale: A=5, B=4, and so on. While taking Mechanical Engineering courses my sophomore spring semester, I managed to get a 4.9 GPA. While I am only halfway done at MIT, I sincerely believe that last semester was a turning point for my undergraduate career.

Never in a million years could I have envisioned myself as an MIT student, but you all were so confident in me when I applied. Never in a million years could I have imagined myself as a successful MIT student. Yet when I was accepted, each one of you told me not only how hard it would be, but also that I would “meet the challenge.” You knew what I was capable of before I could even imagine it.

This summer, David will be an Engineering Intern in the Nutrition Department of Abbott Laboratories in Columbus, OH.

David McClelland, MIT '15

David McClelland, MIT '15

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