Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

We always welcome questions – please don’t hesitate to contact us!  We’ll be happy to answer questions related to your specific interests, background, and plans – or, feel free to email us ( or call (617-253-4074) to get a broader sense of Terrascope and our community.

Some questions come up every year, and we’ve compiled answers to them here:

Terrascope Freshmen FAQ:

What classes do Terrascope freshmen take - based on credit limits, GIRs, and other requirements?

Fall semester, Terrascope students only take one class together, 12.000 – Solving Complex Problems, a 9 unit subject that offers an exception to the 54 unit credit limit (12.000 students have a 57 unit limit).  For the other 48 units Terrascope students can take first semester, freshmen choose any subjects that work for their schedules (and interests!). In this way, Terrascope is different from other freshman learning communities at MIT where students take GIRs together.
Many Terrascope students choose to fulfill most of their Science Core General Institute Requirements (GIRs) during freshmen year, while still exploring other interest areas.  Terrascope students can also get credit toward the Communication (CI-H) Requirement with one of the Terrascope spring classes, SP.360 – Terrascope Radio.  Finishing your GIRs, completing a CI-H, and exploring other subjects are all possible while being part of the Terrascope community.

How long does each year's Mission last - one semester? one year? four years? a lifetime!?

The academic part of each Mission lasts a full academic year – beginning with 12.000, Solving Complex Systems, in the fall and continuing through spring semester with SP.360, Terrascope Radio, and 1.016, Design for Complex Environmental Issues.  Although Terrascope students are challenged to look at solving problems that will develop over decades, class projects are completed by the end of freshman year.

Beyond freshman year, it’s common for Terrascope students to continue exploring the Mission topic on their own. Students might take classes or select a major related to the Mission, or their Mission experience might guide them to research opportunities, summer jobs, travel, or extracurricular activities.  Some Terrascope alumni have gone on to graduate school and careers that relate to their freshman Mission at MIT – so, in those cases a Mission might last a lifetime.

No matter how long a student explores a Mission’s topic, the community of Terrascope is meant to last long after freshman year. Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors who were in Terrascope as freshmen are still part of the community.  Upperclassmen join freshmen for weekly lunches, local outings and activities, and impromptu gatherings in the Terrascope room (especially with a P-set is due!). And, some Terrascope alumni help as Associate Advisors or Undergraduate Teaching Fellows during their time at MIT, or as program mentors after they graduate.  In this way, the friendships that start in Mission can also last forever!

Do Terrascope students actually solve each year's problem?

The year starts with a class project that takes a big-picture look at environmental problems and their solutions.  Then, the year transitions to smaller-scale, hands-on projects for spring semester.
Students in the fall class (subject 12.000, Solving Complex Problems) start exploring the problem at a global scale, but may choose to focus on a specific issue or region of the world for the final presentation – which, exactly as you noted, is a presentation of plans and ideas.
Students develop actual solutions in the spring subject 1.016, Design for Complex Environmental Issues.  We know that next year’s 1.016 class will involve MIT professors and researchers whose work is related to the urban environment, but the nature of those projects is largely up to the students.  Typically 1.016 projects are hands-on design and fabrication projects that result in working prototypes – but, students can also choose projects to create models, apps, or other less tangible technologies.


Terrascope offers weekly lunches and study sessions during the semester, other year-round outings and activities, and 24-hour access to the Terrascope lounge (located in the center of campus).