Prepare for MIT
What To Do In High School
When we admit a class of students to MIT, it's as if we're choosing a 1,100-person team to climb a very interesting, fairly rugged mountain—together. We obviously want people who have the training, stamina and passion for the climb. At the same time, we want each to add something useful or intriguing to the team, from a wonderful temperament or sense of humor to compelling personal experiences, to a wide range of individual gifts, talents, interests and achievements. We are emphatically not looking for a batch of identical perfect climbers; we are looking for a richly varied team of capable people who will support, surprise and inspire each other.
Preparing yourself for MIT, then, means doing two things:
- making sure you're ready to do the work, and
- taking the time to really explore things that interest you, both inside and outside of school.
A strong academic foundation in high school both improves your odds of getting into MIT and will help you make the most of the Institute when you're here. We recommend (please note that these are not "requirements") that your high school years include the following:
- One year of high school physics
- One year of high school chemistry
- One year of high school biology
- Math, through calculus
- Two years of a foreign language
- Four years of English
- Two years of history and/or social sciences
Overall, you should try to take the most stimulating courses available to you. If your high school doesn't offer courses that challenge you, you may want to explore other options, such as local college extension or summer programs.
MIT OpenCourseWare Highlights for High School is also a resource which highlights MIT courses selected specifically to help you prepare for AP exams, learn more about the skills and concepts you learned in school and get a glimpse of what you'll soon study in college.
Public School / Private School
MIT receives diverse and interesting applications from students in every type of school: public, private, religious, charter, and home school. We understand that high schools have different offerings and families have different resources. It is our job as admissions officers to sift through that context and admit those students who are the best matched with MIT.
Some students feel so much pressure to get into the "right" college that they want to make sure they do everything "right"—even do the "right" extracurricular activities. Fortunately, the only right answer is to do what's right for you—not what you think is right for us.
Choose your activities because they delight, intrigue and challenge you, not because you think they'll look impressive on your application. Go out of your way to find projects, activities and experiences that stimulate your creativity and leadership, that connect you with peers and adults who bring out your best, that please you so much you don't mind the work involved. Some students find room for many activities; others prefer to concentrate on just a few. Either way, the test for any extracurricular should be whether it makes you happy—whether it feels right for you.
By the same token, some applicants struggle to turn themselves into clones of the "ideal" MIT student—you know, the one who gets double 800s on the SAT. Fortunately, cloning is still for sheep. What we really want to see on your application is you being you—pursuing the things you love, growing, changing, taking risks, learning from your mistakes, all in your own distinctive way. College is not a costume party; you're not supposed to come dressed as someone else. Instead, college is an intense, irreplaceable four-year opportunity to become more yourself than you've ever been. What you need to show us is that you're ready to try.