MIT Admissions

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Process & Statistics

The Match Between You And MIT

Ask any admissions officer at MIT, and he or she will tell you that while grades and scores are important, it's really the match between applicant and Institute that drives our selection process. Understandably, we're often asked what is meant by "the match." Here are the key components.

  • Alignment with MIT's mission to make the world a better place. Remember that there are many ways to make the world better—we're not looking for applicants to have cured all infectious disease in the world by the time they're fifteen. Tutoring a single kid in math changes the world. Lobbying a senator to change bad policy changes the world. There are thousands of examples.

  • Collaborative & cooperative spirit. The core of the MIT spirit is collaboration and cooperation: you can see it all over the Institute. Many of the problem sets (our affectionate term for homework) at MIT are designed to be worked on in groups; cross-department labs are very common; MIT is known for its interdisciplinary research; the Open Source movement is powerful here; publishing and sharing of results is the center of academic research. Fostering a collaborative environment is an important part of the MIT community. If you enjoy working alone all the time, that's fine! But you're probably not going to be particularly happy here.

  • Initiative. Research projects and seed money and interesting lectures aren't simply handed to students on silver platters here. Opportunities abound at MIT, but they must be seized. For those students who take initiative—who take advantage of what's around them—MIT's resources are unparalleled.

  • Risk-taking. MIT wants to admit people who are not only planning to succeed but who are not afraid to fail. When people take risks in life, they learn resilience as a result—because risk leads to failure as often as it leads to success. The most creative and successful people—and MIT is loaded with them—know that failure is part of life and that if you stay focused and don't give up, goals are ultimately realized.

  • Hands-on creativity. MIT is an active, hands-on place. Innovation is risky and messy! Getting your hands dirty and trying something new is often the best way to achieve success. We apply theoretical knowledge to real-world problems here; our Latin motto means "Mind and Hand." In other words, you shouldn't just enjoy thinking, you should also enjoy doing.

  • Intensity, curiosity, and excitement. (We used to summarize this as simply "passion" before various components of the college admissions machine turned it into a buzz-word and stripped it of its meaning.) In a nutshell: you should be invested in the things that really mean something to you (we're not particularly picky as to what). Explore! Choose quality over quantity—you don't have to do a million things to get into college. Put your heart into a few things that you truly care about and that will be enough.

  • The character of the MIT community. Our community is comprised of good people. People who take care of each other and lift each other up. People who inspire each other to work & dream beyond their potential. We're looking to admit people who by nature will sustain the qualities of this community.

  • The ability to prioritize balance. Work hard, play hard. Despite what you may have heard, this place is NOT all about work. To be successful here, you must prioritize some measure of downtime. Therefore, we like to see that you've prioritized some downtime in high school as well. Question #1 (Tell us about something you do simply for the pleasure of it) is not a trick question. Answer it wisely.

  • Last but not least, remember that no one profile—no matter how impressive—represents "the perfect match." 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.