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Matt McGann '00

Sep 8, 2009

Application question: scholastic and non-scholastic distinctions?

Posted in: Freshman Applicants

One new section of our application this year distinguishes between "scholastic" and "non-scholastic" distinctions. The questions read:

List any scholastic distinctions you have won since entering high school and indicate the level of distinction.


List any non-scholastic distinctions you have won since entering high school and indicate the level of distinction.

It seems that the distinction between "scholastic" and "non-scholastic" has been causing some confusion, based on web comments and phone calls. In an attempt to alleviate confusion, I sat down with my colleague McGreggor Crowley '00, MD, who directs the admissions process here, and together we tried to make the distinction.

One way to think of it would be this: academic and co-curricular awards will usually be "scholastic." Extracurricular awards will usually be "non-scholastic."

However, an important message is this: there is no wrong way to fill out this section. Don't worry about putting an award in the "wrong" section, as there really is no best way to fill this out. Do your best to place things where you think they belong, but don't stress out over it.

McGreggor and I also brainstormed a list of awards and distinctions, and how we might categorize them. (Again, these are not the "right" answers, but rather some insight into how we might do the sorting). Here goes...

Examples of what might be considered scholastic distinctions:

  • Math (e.g. AMC, ARML, Mu Alpha Theta)
  • Science (e.g. Science Olympiad, USABO)
  • Robotics (e.g. FIRST Chairman's Award, firefighting robots)
  • Computer science (e.g. ACSL, USACO)
  • Engineering (e.g. bridge building, rocketry)
  • Research & science fairs (e.g. school/regional science fair, ISEF)
  • Academic summer programs (e.g. Governor's school, SSP, RSI, MITES, WTP)
  • Academic competition (e.g. Academic Decathlon, Quiz Bowl)
  • Exam-based awards (e.g. AP Scholar, National Merit)
  • Grade-based awards (e.g. Honor Roll)
  • Awards linked to a class or department (e.g. History department award, NCTE, National Latin Exam)
  • Honor societies (e.g. National Honor Society)
  • Book awards (e.g. Harvard Book Award, Rensselaer Medal)

Examples of what might be considered non-scholastic distinctions:

  • Leadership (HOBY, Rotary, student government)
  • Music (e.g. competitive orchestras, concerto competitions, All County, Interlochen)
  • Art (e.g. placing in a competition, having a gallery show)
  • Athletics (e.g. All League, varsity letter, Wendy's High School Heisman)
  • Volunteering (e.g. Prudential Spirit of Community Award)
  • Work-related accomplishments (e.g. employee of the month)
  • Politcal (e.g. Model UN, debate, Boys/Girls State)
  • Dance (e.g. arangetram)
  • Scouting (e.g. Gold Award, Order of the Arrow)
  • Random stuff (e.g. Prom King/Queen, "Most Likely to Succeed," "I have read all of Modern Library's Top 100 Novels")

Now, if you happened to list debate as scholastic, or FIRST as non-scholastic, don't worry. As I said above, these are not the "right" answers, rather one attempt at sorting. As long as you've done your best to list those distinctions of which you're most proud and best show your talents, you have done this section correctly.

I hope this is helpful!

Comments (Closed after 30 days to reduce spam)

Thanks a lot for the list! The examples really help.

Posted by: Rishi on September 8, 2009

Um, I have a question, not related to this post though. The short essays have a limit of 200-250 words.

What I happens I exceed the limit a little? Like 20-30 words more? Would that be a problem?

Posted by: outsider on September 8, 2009

In Soviet Russia, limit exceeds YOU!

Posted by: 0 on September 8, 2009

Should we use the acronyms for contests such as ACSL or should we write out everything in full?

Posted by: 0 on September 8, 2009

I hope you're at least somewhat kidding about prom king/queen...

Posted by: Oasis '11 on September 8, 2009

Matt, your writing style is smooth...and flowing..

Posted by: Oci on September 8, 2009

Yeah, so SMOOTH. Textured.

Posted by: Laura on September 8, 2009

Do these questions (or any questions) apply to things you did before High-School? Or are these strictly high-school accomplishments.

And for the summer activities are we only supposed to list the ones from this summer, or from previous summers?

By the way. Thank you very much for your help on this question.

Posted by: Nicholas on September 8, 2009

Thanks for helping out...
By the way...i've written to admissions@mit.edu 48 hours prior and still have not received a response regarding some questions fitting to my courses and curriculum.
Whats up back there?

Posted by: Akeed on September 8, 2009

What does it mean by "competitive orchestras?"

Posted by: 0 on September 8, 2009

Thank you so much! This was very helpful. =)

Posted by: Lydia AK on September 8, 2009

I would just like to say that I love how you guys at the admissions office are so chill about everything. I really appreciate it. It takes some of the stress out of admissions, for sure.

Posted by: VAL '14? on September 8, 2009

@outsider

I'm guessing that you're not going to want to exceed the word limit. Being able to express your ideas in the essay clearly yet briefly is an important skill. According to an untrustworthy source, the average American pays attention for 28 seconds before becoming distracted. Will an extra 30 words cause the essay to exceed that 28 seconds? Probably not. If you can shorten it so that it fits the parameters, though, I would recommend you do so.

Posted by: Tyler on September 8, 2009

I have a question please! -raises hand-

What if you were accepted to a selective summer program but were not able to attend due to unavoidable circumstances? Is it still considered a scholastic distinction won?

Posted by: Anonymous on September 8, 2009

Hello,

I have a question please.

If a prestigious award is received in 8th grade, should I mention it in the non scholistic list.

Posted by: KM on September 9, 2009

How about finishing ("winning") NaNoWriMo? I'm not totally sure if that's an award or not, or an extracurricular, or...

Posted by: Maralinne on September 9, 2009

This was really helpful

Posted by: Baransel '14? on September 9, 2009

The last Anonymous guy had some pertinent doubts: being accepted somewhere or, participating in some competition, but not concluding or succeeding in it, counts as a distinction?

Posted by: 0 on September 9, 2009

I, too, am curious about distinctions from the eighth grade, and about being accepted but unable to go.

Posted by: Anon on September 9, 2009

Not trying to be condescending, but if you do not know the difference between a scholastic and non-scholastic distinction than maybe MIT is not the school for you, no?

Posted by: Jay on September 9, 2009

@Jay-- Maybe you're not trying, but you're succeeding pretty well. It's likely that the people with concerns are just trying to make their application as error-free as possible, and the distinction between scholastic and non-scholastic can be pretty fuzzy with some awards.

Posted by: Susan on September 9, 2009

i have a doubt- i'm an international student, and in my school, we don't really have things like the honor roll, AP etc. So can we include merit certificates from school in the scholastic distinctions?

Posted by: mithila on September 10, 2009

Excellent list! Clarified everything enormously for me.

Posted by: Justin on September 10, 2009

Hey guys!

I'm not a hopeful '14 or anything (I'll be applying in the coming years), but I still want to know. So guys, please don't not take me seriously because of this.

Um, so does this section ask for only "Awards" and "medals" and things, or can it just be something you have done, or accomplished in the feild. Like a project, for example?

Thank you =]

Posted by: Banerjee on September 10, 2009

I've taken the ACT already, and I've sent those scores in, but recently I've found out that I have to take the SAT for consideration for a scholarship. I plan on taking the SAT in November, as I am already taking the SAT Subject Tests in October. If I am applying early decision, I know that the test date is after the deadline, but would I be able to send my November test scores in anyways to help the EA decision? Would you even consider them, or would that be too late?

Posted by: Yadav Gowda on September 10, 2009

@ Yadav

You can absolutely have November SAT/ACT scores included in your EA application, just make sure to have the results sent directly to MIT.

Posted by: Dave on September 10, 2009

hi guys,I'm '14 hopeful applying as an international student.should i take SAT exams?i find many sections that are not relevant in my country-what do i do with those parts?

Posted by: Gilbert on September 11, 2009

Here's another question, Matt:

How many prints should be in a photography portfolio?

Thanks! =)

Posted by: Lydia AK on September 12, 2009

I have maxed out on my scholastic awards but I still have one left, and space left in the non-scholastic section. Should I just put it there?

Posted by: Anjian on September 14, 2009

This is where including a personal statement with your application may be beneficial. Including a personal statement with your college application can help to clarify your accomplishments and paint a picture of who you truly are. It's an exercise that is worth the time and effort you need to put into it. Don't make the mistake of thinking that your GPA and extracurricular activities or even your awards speak for themselves.

Posted by: Michael Gluckstern on September 14, 2009

Several people have asked this already, but if I have received significant non-scholastic awards prior to entering high school, am I allowed to put them on there?

Thanks a lot, this list of examples was very helpful!

Posted by: Anonymous on September 14, 2009

Give it to me straight -

Assuming you have the grades and SAT scores in 'the range'......

I see all these websites where kids post laundry lists of their extra curricular actitivites that include science camps, competitions, and awards.

The question is, what are the chances, if any, of someone getting in if their passion is simply playing a sport. They play 3 seasons and during the off season, train for the next season.

Sure, they belong to the key club and maybe the math team, but that is it. Their key passion is a sport and they may or may not be good enough at that sport to play at MIT.

Posted by: Thinking About Applying on September 14, 2009

Give it to me straight -

Assuming you have the grades and SAT scores in 'the range'......

I see all these websites where kids post laundry lists of their extra curricular actitivites that include science camps, competitions, and awards.

The question is, what are the chances, if any, of someone getting in if their passion is simply playing a sport. They play 3 seasons and during the off season, train for the next season.

Sure, they belong to the key club and maybe the math team, but that is it. Their key passion is a sport and they may or may not be good enough at that sport to play at MIT.

Posted by: Thinking About Applying on September 14, 2009

Respected Matt Sir,
I'm a poor student from India(Jharkhand State)aspiring for MIT.
I've been a bright student throughout my school career,but I've sort of screwed up my std. XII Ist terminal examinations...due to chickenpox.
Will that affect my chances of getting admitted to MIT, as you people take in best of best.
And a stain as such might reduce my chances.
Plz Reply.
I really wantto study from MIT, and discover the truth of life, and benefit humanity as whole..
Plz Reply

Posted by: Vikram on September 15, 2009

A quick question here: what do you do if you want to add any other letters of reference/appraisals to supplement your application? do you send them in with your SSR and teacher evaluations, or do you send them separately?

Thanks!

Posted by: prospective freshman on September 16, 2009

hello respected sir and readers !!! I'M ADITYA KOLARKAR FROM NAGPUR , INDIA ! RECENTLY I BROWSED THROUGH THE MIT WEBSITE AND I FOUND THAT UNLIKE OTHER PREMEIR INSTITUTES IN WORLD , MIT CONCENTRATES ON ONE'S TALENTS , SCIENTIFIC APPROACH TOWARDS TODAYS PROBLEMS AND ADMITS THOSE STUDENTS WHO WANT TO USE THE BEST OF THEIR INTELLECTUAL AND BENIFIT MANKIND WITH THEIR TALENT . MIT SORTS STUDENTS WHO WANT TO INVENT NEW THINGS AND HELP ADVANCE THIS WORLD TO ITS BEST.
I'M A PATENT HOLDER FOR "GENERATING ELECTRICITY WITH THE HELP OF GREEN HOUSE EFFECT." ALSO I'M RESEARCHING TO GIVE MY NEXT INVENTION A FINISHING TOUCH . I AM SURE THAT WITH THE HELP OF MIT , I WILL SOON BE A PROUD INVENTOR OF MANY NEW INVENTION.
MY EXTRA DISTINCTIONS INCLUDE WRITER OF ONE SCIENTIFIC NOVEL ( WHICH HAS RECEIVED A PUBLISHING OFFER FROM DORRANCE PUBLICATION , PITTSBURGH , PENNSYLVANIA )AND AN OUTSTANDING MIMIC ACTOR .
BUT NOWADAYS I'M VERY UPSET AND HAVE LOST MY CONFIDENCE OF GETTING IN MIT BECAUSE THE ONLY ONE OBSTACLE PRESENT BETWEEN ME AND MIT IS "MONEY" MY FATHER IS A CONTRACTOR AND DOES THE WORK OF BUILDING SMALL OUTHOUSES . MY EDUCATION TILL X STANDARD WAS COMPLETED WITH HELP OF SCHOLARSHIP PROVIDED BY SCHOOL WHAT DO I DO NOW.
HOW CAN I LET MY DREAM OF BESTOWING THE WORLD TURN INTO MRUMBLES JUST BECAUSE OF MONEY ?
PLEASE HELP ME WITH MY PROBLEM

Posted by: aditya kolarkar on September 17, 2009

sir
am from indian and now am syudying B-tech 3rd year and for MS in mit how i wanted to enter and what exams i wanted to write can u tell me pleace

Posted by: srinivasulu on September 17, 2009

Hey Matt, this is Dan from Baltimore. I wanted to thank you for the presentation there. I always feel inspired after meeting MIT alumni.

This blog is actually also a big help because I had thought non-scholastic meant activities outside of school. Plus there were a couple of things on the brainstorm list that made me think "oh yeah, I didn't think of putting that!"

Thanks

Posted by: Dan on September 17, 2009

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