MIT Admissions

MIT Admissions

Independent Activities Period

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If you think MIT is wall-to-wall work, let us take you for a spin in the big, wacky, comfortable chair called IAP.

Sandwiched between the spring and fall semesters, the Independent Activities Period (IAP) is a special four-week term at MIT that fills the month of January.

For more than 35 years, IAP has given MIT students, faculty and staff a unique opportunity to organize, sponsor and participate in a wide variety of personal and intellectual adventures beyond their academic routine. IAP activities may take almost any form, from how-to sessions, forums, lecture series and films, to tours, recitals and contests.

Almost 700 non-credit and 100 for-credit subjects are offered each IAP, and are distinguished by their variety, innovative spirit, and fusion of fun and learning. Past options have ranged from for-credit activities like electron microprobe analysis and the Martin Luther King Jr. design seminar, to non-credit ones like introductory blacksmithing and ballroom dancing. Some of the more famous IAP activities include the Mystery Hunt, Charm School, and the 6.270 Autonomous Robot Design Competition. To learn more about class material of for-credit classes offered during IAP, visit MIT OpenCourseWare.

Think of IAP as a grand dose of intellectual sunshine and fresh air. Students are free to set their own educational agendas, pursue independent projects, meet with faculty, do research full time, or simply turn the preceding two-week winter break into a long six-week vacation. Because IAP is so exciting, very few students choose this last option.



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.

For-credit classes

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

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

Notable Non-Credit Activities

External Links