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Experience MIT’s freshman year with OCW

Photo of several students seated around a table, working together with papers and laptops.
August 28
Curt Newton

Best wishes for the new school year! And that goes double if you're a new college freshman. MIT's freshman year is known to be rigorous and challenging; but there's also plenty of fun, creativity and collaboration. What courses fill the first two semesters here?

  • A required sequence of six core math and science subjects
  • One course per semester in the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS), since undergrads must take at least eight HASS electives before graduation.

Use OCW to get a detailed view of the complete MIT freshmen year. (One of these courses is also about to begin as a MOOC from MITx on edX, as noted below.) Get inspired, prepare for your own upcoming classes, supplement your current studies…or just relive the memories if it's been a few years.

Core Math and Science Requirements

Each of these requirements can be satisfied by one of several courses. The course options accomodate diverse student backgrounds and interests, with varied ways to learn the key concepts.

Two semesters of calculus

Two semesters of physics

One semester of chemistry

One semester of biology

  • Choose among several versions of Introductory Biology. They all cover the same core concepts, but each has a different emphasis (i.e. genomics, ecosystem biology, cellular and molecular biology, biochemistry). All versions assume a strong chemistry background, so most students take this after satisfying the chemistry requirement. 7.01SC Fundamentals of Biology is OCW's "greatest hits" compilation. OCW also has several versions of the individual Introductory Biology courses:  7.012, 7.013, 7.014, and 7.016.

Freshmen that test out of one or more of these core requirements are free to move ahead to higher-level math or science classes, or explore other disciplines like programming, engineering, and business. In a follow-up post, we'll use OCW to highlight some of these options.

Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) Electives

MIT has great strength in the humanities, arts, and social sciences. Freshmen choose from several hundred introductory HASS courses to round out their schedules. Here's a representative sample from OCW.