The Independent Activities Period (IAP) takes place every year during January. This break from the normal academic schedule of the fall and spring semesters allows members of the MIT community to pursue creative projects and utilize skills they may not exercise during the rest of the year. The educational and extracurricular options available during IAP range from research programs to truffle-making classes to internships with alumni.
A number of for-credit classes are offered during IAP or extend from the fall semester into IAP. A number of competitions are staged as for-credit classes, including the 6.270 Autonomous Robot Competition. Also, a number of introductory language courses are offered. Two popular offerings for freshmen that use IAP are 18.01A/18.02A and 8.01L, both of which fulfill General Institute Requirements (GIRs). For-credit classes can be taken at no charge by any fulltime student. There is a strict credit limit of 12 units during IAP; freshman credit limits for the fall and spring terms do not include units taken during IAP. Many classes are taught experimentally, with many guest lecturers and opportunities for students to guide learning.
Non-credit activities are open to members of the MIT community. Many activities are free, but some organizers ask participants to pay a small fee to cover the costs of operating the program. One popular activity is Charm School, a series of 15-minute classes covering topics from dating etiquette to handling awkward moments to making good first impressions. Attendees who complete 12 of these short classes receive their Ch.D., or doctoral degree in charm. For a full list of fun and informative offerings, visit the IAP website.
The MIT Alumni Association coordinates the externship program, which enables MIT students to work with alumni during IAP. Externships may be as short as a few days or last for the duration of IAP, depending on the needs of the alumni sponsors. Externships are available all over the world, but most offerings are concentrated in large metropolitan areas like Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. Some externships are paid or provide financial assistance for housing or transportation. Applications open in late September, and students can apply by creating an Infinite Connection account, which also provides additional resources for students.
Many undergraduate students contact faculty about pursuing research through the [Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program] (UROP). Undergraduates can pursue research for credit, for pay, or as a volunteer. Students at MIT perform meaningful research, and most professors are happy to allow undergraduates in their labs.
Notable For-Credit Classes
- 6.370 Battlecode
- 8.20 Introduction to Special Relativity
- 17.920 Martin Luther King Jr. Design Seminar
- 18.095 Mathematics Lecture Series
- 21F.301 French I
- 21F.401 German I
- 21F.501 Japanese I
- 21F.601 Italian I
- 21F.701 Spanish I
- 21L.994/21L.995 Pleasures of Poetry
Notable Non-Credit Activities
- Mystery Hunt
- Charm School
- Integration Bee
- Science Fiction Marathon