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Chris Peterson SM '13

Oct 13, 2011

Diversity or Merit?

Posted in: Best of the Blogs, Process & Statistics

There's something I've been mulling over in my head for a long time. It's an issue at the intersection of other excellent posts that folks have made here on the blogs, such as David's Putting Diversity Into Context and Anna's Being "Qualified" For MIT, as well as conversations (good and bad) that I've had with people on CollegeConfidential and elsewhere.

When I'm on the road, or in an information session, or online in various communities, I often am asked something along the lines of the following question:

What does MIT value more: diversity, or merit?

In its uglier, less delicate version, especially online, the premise underlying the question is not hidden within it at all, but barely-veiled, an unstated principle from which to derive a conclusion:

Oh, [that student] did / did not get in or will / will not be accepted because they are a woman / a minority / from a rural state / an athlete / an artist / a traveling magician, even though they are *unqualified*

Let's cut to the core of the matter. When somebody asks me this question, or proclaims this conclusion, they are assuming this: that MIT, for some students, values something called "diversity" more than something called "merit", and that we admit "underqualified" students who bring "diversity" instead of admitting more "meritorious" students who lack it.

This is simply wrong.

It is also subtly wrong. And here's the subtlety. The unspoken premise which undergirds this way of thinking assumes that there is a dichotomy between diversity and merit. We either select for diversity, OR we select for merit; they are otherwise exclusive characteristics, which cannot be combined in a single applicant.

I would hope that premise, once so plainly stated, is self-evidently absurd.

But in the pursuit of further conceptual clarity, let's talk a little bit more about these two factors - merit, and diversity - what we mean by them, and how they play into our admissions process.

When we talk about merit in the admissions process, what we really mean, for the vast majority of applicants, is closer to the idea of qualified or prepared. Based on a bevy of data in your application - your scores, your grades, your teacher recommendations, your courses, your achievements, and so forth - can we conclude that you are prepared to handle the material at MIT.

Now obviously "preparation" is in some sense a range. You can be more or less prepared for MIT based on the work that you have done and the experiences you have had. A student who has not taken calculus is comparatively much less prepared than a student who has.

But there is one thing that all students admitted to MIT have in common. And that is that we are confident they are prepared to succeed at MIT.

Put another way: while not all students admitted to MIT are equally well prepared - and how could they be, with such different experiences? - all students at MIT are sufficiently prepared to succeed at MIT.

We do not admit students who are not prepared to attend MIT. Period. No one benefits. Not MIT, when the student fails out. Not the student, when they could have succeeded somewhere else. Everybody loses. And I hate to lose.

By the same token, we do not admit students who are unqualified for admission to MIT. I define "qualified", for these purposes, as meaning "prepared" for attending MIT. We are not going to admit anyone, for any reason, who doesn't possess the qualification, the preparation - yes, the merit - to deserve, and to capitalize on, their admission. 

Now, more than half the students who apply to MIT every year are qualified for admittance, by which I mean the majority of applicants are sufficiently prepared to do the work at MIT. The question thus arises: how do we constitute a class from all these qualified students?

This is where the idea of "diversity" comes in.

On our What To Do In High School page, we say this of our application process:

When we admit a class of students to MIT, it's as if we're choosing a 1,000-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.
 

Put another way: we are not looking for the thousand students who aced the math SAT. Or the thousand students who won some biology award. Or - for that matter - the thousand students who come from poor, underrepresented backgrounds that make our hearts bleed. We are looking for the best mix of all these students who will together constitute a terrific class. And in assembling this class we consider many, many, many factors holistically in our process.

This is what we mean when we say we value "diversity." It means we want a lot of different people, from a lot of different backgrounds, to come to MIT and to learn from each other.

One of the most important things about college is its role as a socializing institution. College is a place where you meet all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds and you learn from each other. It is, properly constituted, an environment which fosters intellectual, ideological, and social cross-pollination.

You need diversity - broadly defined - for college to matter. For college to be worth it. If all you want to do is learn stuff, you can go to the library and check out textbooks for free. If, on the other hand, you want to learn stuff, and to also learn from other people, and to become aware of problems which exist in the world which need solving, and learn to interact with people from different beliefs and backgrounds, then you need college. Or at least something so similar to college as to be effectively indistinguishable.

There is no easy way into MIT. There is no backdoor or bootstrap. You are admitted to MIT because you are awesome. You may be awesome and not be admitted. We only have so many beds and so many seats. But for every person we admit, you can be sure that they are sufficient prepared to do the work here, and that they are also going to contribute something to campus.

The point I am trying to make is this: when it comes to each applicant, we are not looking for merit or diversity. We are looking for merit and diversity.

It's not either/or.

It's yes/and.

Comments (Closed after 30 days to reduce spam)

Great post

Posted by: Ramsey Natour on October 13, 2011

love it!

Posted by: Pranjal on October 13, 2011

Chris, you are correct but you are also evading the issue. As we all know, there is diversity and then there is "diversity". People are diverse in many dimensions, some of those dimensions are quite interesting and yet MIT don't pursue diversity in those dimensions. For example, I'm confident that that politically and theologically conservative Evangelical Christians are underrepresented at MIT. Such people certainly have a different perspective, and yet MIT doesn't make any specific efforts to recruit or admit such people.

Of course what "diversity" really means in practice is the preferential admission of members of certain racial/ethnic groups. As you correctly point out, that doesn't mean that the people who receive admissions preference are unqualified. Far from it. It might be justified on the basis of social justice (increasing social mobility, righting historical wrongs). To get to the bottom line, it almost certainly true that members of certain racial/ethnic groups are significantly more likely than others to be admitted to MIT, all other factors being equal and entirely because of group membership. If that's not the case, then MIT should release the full set of admissions data stripped of personally identifying information and let the community analyze it, because in the scientific community we trust data and analysis, not assertions.

I'm not a big supporter of "diversity" as currently practiced, but I can see its merits. What I really dislike is the euphemisms and evasions.

Posted by: MIT EC '85 on October 13, 2011

@Chris P

Do your parents know that you are on the internet?

When you drill down to the essence of MIT admissions policy
you'll find a subjective, inarticulable scheme employed to
obfuscate the discrimination and blatant unfairness which are
an unavoidable and disgusting consequence of MIT admissions'
pursuit of the rich and connected.

With an Asian admissions rate of 23% or ~ 5 times the Asian
representation in the United States, I wonder how you guys sleep
at night.

Chris why won't you publish/post verifiable SES statistics for the
class of 2015?

Chris why won't you identify the US states which are - as you put it -
"not represented" in the MIT class of 2015? They wouldn't, by
any chance, be repeat snubs from prior years?

Posted by: m_quinn on October 13, 2011

Hey m_quinnn, ever stop and think about the reason why the Asian admissions rate is that high?

Nowhere else is the Asian admissions rate that high, for the simple reason that unlike MIT, most other colleges (especially Harvard) will discriminate against Asian American students and set the bar ridiculously high.

Posted by: Silver Leaf on October 14, 2011

@Silver Leaf : You're right. As per the information I've accumulated, Harvard University doesn't like Asians much. And that is the reason that very few Asians are admitted.

@m_quinn : Really! Whenever I see your comment on the website, my mind boggles. What do you want? I wish you to be living somewhere near my home, and then I'd teach you manners.... :x

Posted by: Jayant on October 14, 2011

@MIT EC '85 -

Respectfully, I am not evading or eliding the issue.

You bring up the example of theologically or politically conservative Christians. I myself read a young man from Georgia who was a youth minister last year. He was very involved with his church and community and I advocated for him in part based on his contributions in that sense. He was admitted and ended up coming. We also admitted a young man with a similar, FCA type profile from North Dakota whom I read. He chose not to attend MIT.

Many students view their faith as a private issue, and do not discuss it in their applications. But we are in no way biased against students of faith, and if you read some Tech editorials you may be surprised by how conservative they can be! One of the bloggers is a very observant Catholic student who works tirelessly during CPW to make students of faith feel like they have a community.

In many ways, we don't NEED to take "special efforts" to bring religious or conservative students to MIT, any more than we need to take "special efforts" to bring students who like robots or biology. They are going to come here anyway. Which is to say that there is a mass (no pun intended) of religious and conservative students on campus who, while perhaps not totally representative of the country as a whole (any more than students who like theater are fully represented, or poets are fully represented), can sustain a core culture and experience, vibrant enough that other students can encounter it and engage with it and learn from it.

As for the "preferential admission of certain racial/ethnic groups": it is not as simple as that in our process. We do not simply admit a person because they are qualified *and* black, or hispanic, or so forth. It is a question, as David has posted, as what have you made of your resources. A student who has a certain racial or ethnic group and has made no more use of their resources than a student of another racial or ethnic group is not more likely to be admitted.

I have a post forthcoming about some data.

Again, respectfully, what may be perceived as euphemisms here are actually high level principles that describe how our system operates.

Posted by: Chris Peterson SM '13 on October 14, 2011

Chris, thank you for a thoughtful and insightful response.I do believe that the problem is not so much the policy, which may well be justified, but the lack of transparency. I encourage the MIT admissions office to release as much information as possible, without violating privacy. To be more specific, the MIT application form requests information about race/ethnicity and sex. As a start, MIT should publish the admissions percentages, broken down by those categories.

I do think that it is important to emphasize -- as you have done -- that "merit" as narrowly defined is an insufficient basis to make admissions decisions.

Posted by: MIT EC '85 on October 14, 2011

Just love it.

Posted by: José ('17?) on October 14, 2011

"A student who has a certain racial or ethnic group and has made no more use of their resources than a student of another racial or ethnic group is not more likely to be admitted."

I think this is the crux of the issue, more than anything else, and sums it up well. Maybe I'm a bit of an idealist, but I choose to believe that the "diversity" side of college admissions is less about what you say about your race/ethnicity/gender and more about what those aspects say about you as a person - opportunities, etc. Too often, people skimp on thinking about themselves in context and skip right to resenting the injustice of the process.

@ MIT EC '85: Though I agree that some sort of transparency could help, numbers won't help too much here, simply due to the whole "correlation vs. causation" business. Besides, releasing categorized statistics is opening up an uncomfortably large can of worms. People from non-advantaged groups (e.g, me) would ignore explanations like this post and go straight to venting about the perceived unfairness of the system.

Eh, just my two cents. Great article, at any rate, I would definitely pass it around if my friends had not already heard enough about my MIT obsession this application season. raspberry

Posted by: Ken L. on October 16, 2011

If all of your claims are true the Institute has strange preferences at best and contradictory ones at worst. (This would not shock me.)

You argue that the admissions office wants to pick a diverse class so students can interact and learn from each other. Harvard would make the same claim. To back that up they randomize the placement of students in dorms so that, for instance, you can't have an "Asian," "rich," "black," or "nerd" dorm where people self-segregate. But MIT does have an Asian, black and nerd dorm (Next, Chocolate City/New, and Random). Isn't that strange?

You evaded the presumed follow-up on the question about conservatives. Your response was that yes, being a radical right-winter will help in admissions but that you don't need a representative number of radical right-winters on campus to sustain that community. That raises the question of why MIT needs a class that is representative of Hispanics or women. Why isn't having an MIT with 30% of the class being female going to be enough to sustain the female community? What about 10% Hispanic? How do you determine what percentage (since it isn't the representative percentage) is enough to sustain x, y and z community?

Lastly, a question about the data. Suppose MIT only admits qualified people. In a simple economic model of admissions the admission percentage should be decreasing in GPA and SAT after crossing some threshold for being qualified, as time invested in schoolwork leaves less time for investing in making yourself appealing vis a vis diversity. But MIT's admission rate is increasing in SAT across the board. What gives? It seems obvious to most people: MIT does prefer more prepared candidates to less prepared candidates but will take a less prepared candidate over a more prepared candidate if the less prepared one contributes more to the "diversity" of the class. But if this is true then you're admitting that there is a trade-off between preparation (i.e. "merit" to most people) and diversity?

Posted by: Steve on October 17, 2011

Steve -

Actually, we don't randomize the placement of students in dorms. As you know, students at MIT are allowed to live in dorms where they would like to live, in communities with cultures that they believe they share. I think this is a strength of MIT, not a weakness, because I think that students are generally happier when they self-select into an affinity community.

Now the obvious question - the question to which you allude - is whether or not this self-selection is a problem, or at least an incompatibility with, diversity. I don't think it is, or at least not an insurmountable one. For example: I know students who are from a first-generation to college (FGC) cohort will often try to live with at least some other FGC kids, in part because they often face a common set of issues that other students don't face and might not be able to relate to. You can find a healthy balance between affinity communities and self-segregation. Besides, the idea is that even if you are very much alike someone on your hall or suite, that in the classroom, in extracurriculars, and so forth you can still learn from that experience.

In terms of percentages: there's really two questions that are being somewhat smooshed together here. My point about sustaining a right wing community was really in response to EC '85's point about a perceived disadvantage for students with those political leanings in the admissions process, a disadvantage that I don't believe exists, any more than an advantage exists for LARPers, who are certainly overrepresented as a community here at MIT.

Now that said, I frankly think that too much emphasis is placed on race/ethnicity in these discussions, especially in the "top-line" numbers (i.e. the class is this X% this and Y% that). It somewhat confuses cause with effect. So for example: suppose the percentage of women in the class of 2016 increases by 2%. Is that because we decided we wanted 2% more women, and thus chose to take 2% more women? Or is that because that year we took whom we wanted to take, and it so happened that 2% more of them fit into that particular construct that we categorize and publish data about? I'd argue that it's much more due to the latter than to the former: that the data are the result, not the determinant, of the process.

Posted by: Chris Peterson SM '13 on October 17, 2011

(PART II)

As to your last question - as this blog comment rapidly approaches the length of the post to which it was a response - I'd like to single out this thing you posted:

"In a simple economic model of admissions the admission percentage should be decreasing in GPA and SAT after crossing some threshold for being qualified, as time invested in schoolwork leaves less time for investing in making yourself appealing vis a vis diversity. But MIT's admission rate is increasing in SAT across the board."

And point out that there is actually not a contradiction between the model you present and the evidence which you cite to reveal the alleged contradiction.

It ABSOLUTELY is the case that after a certain threshold higher SAT scores (for example) yield diminishing returns (to adopt your favored frame of economics). The enhancement provided by higher scores to your chances in our pool increase markedly up to a point and then drop off a cliff. Take the math component of the SAT. The jump from a 650 to a 700 is huge; we will admit almost no students with a 650 on the math. The jump from a 750 to an 800 is essentially nonexistent, because scoring a 750 essentially predicts equal success at MIT to scoring an 800, where scoring a 700, while not as a good as a 750-800, is still much much better than a 650.

One reason our admission rate is increasing in SAT scores is simple: there are more students scoring higher on the SATs every year, and more of those students are also applying to MIT every year. In other words, the subset of students who score within the upper range of the set of scores that seem to indicate preparation for MIT is growing.

But I think again here at the end we are talking about this idea of "more" or "less" prepared, and assuming that we are taking "less prepared" students who are more diverse. In some sense that is true: if you have all 800s and a 4.0 but will bring nothing else to MIT you are even more unlikely to be admitted!

However it kind of misses, or at least confuses, the point I was trying to make above, which is that everyone we admit is ***sufficiently prepared***. Put another way, no one is admitted to MIT because they are diverse (in any sense) *even though* they are not prepared. Rather, we look at the subset of our applicants who are sufficiently prepared to do well at MIT and then try to constitute a collective class of students.

The reason I don't like the discussion of "more" prepared vs "less" prepared is because I think it frames the conversation poorly. Obviously a student with a gold medal at the IMO is more prepared for 18.01 than a student with only a 5 on AP/BC. That said, will both of them do fine in 18.01? Yes. At that point, it becomes a question of diversity, really - which students, with which sets of skills, interests, and experiences, to bring in to constitute the class.

Sufficient preparation is the key frame to keep in mind. Then it's on to everything else. So no, I don't think there is a "trade-off", because we're not trading anything away. We are only going to admit a student when we are confident that he or she will succeed academically at MIT. From that point on, the "trading" is all in figuring out which students, from the subset of sufficiently prepared students, to bring to MIT. The tradeoff isn't diversity vs merit, it's really about the composition of a class selected from among a sufficiently prepared pool. We have a finite number of seats and a lot of applicants who are all awesome, and figuring out which awesome ones we should admit and which we must turn away is the most interesting, exciting, heartbreaking part of the job.

And thanks, Steve - I actually spent quite a bit of time on this reply, and it was very useful for me (and hopefully for others!) to have to articulate some of the unspoken elements of my original entry.

Posted by: Chris Peterson SM '13 on October 17, 2011

Hey Chris,

I was pondering your step-by-step process of admission, the first phase appearing to be "consideration of academic potential," or, as I understand it, the determination of whether a student will be able to handle the academic fire hydrant of MIT.

So, I've been considering applying to this school for a long time for various reasons. My grades are a little beneath the average of the people who quack "Chance me! Chance me!" on College Confidential, and I'm starting to get a little intimidated by the (understandably) high standards image that MIT puts forth for grades.

The school I go to is pretty competitive, and the classes are rather difficult when compared with neighboring schools. I was wondering - will a history of about five B's and a C+ kill my chances at consideration if I apply? There's so much more to my application than those short-comings, especially since I've been consistently raising the bar in regards to the difficulty of the curriculum. Is there any way the rest of my application can make up for that? What's a qualitative (a couple, several, many, some ambiguous term if you want) way to say how many students get accepted with that history?

Posted by: orangeuglad0s on October 17, 2011

the mites program is a program for miniority student, so why dont all 80 mites students get accepted into mit if they have already experienced and completed the mit mites experience? How does doing mites help these students in the admissions process at mit? is there an advantage since they were already selected for this selective program? what are some reasons that mites students done get accepted into mit?

Posted by: prospect on October 18, 2011

@prospect -

MITES is a program for disadvantaged students of all backgrounds who have had no prior exposure to science and engineering but who are interested in the fields. Acceptance to, and completion of, MITES, does not assure academic preparation, though it may well help. MITES is not run by the admissions office, nor is its purpose to prepare students for admission to MIT; it is intended to take students who have had no opportunity and no resources to study STEM and provide them with the opportunity and resources to do so.

That said, many students who are MITES alumni are also very good matches for MIT, because they often make quite good use of their resources and because they are interested in STEM fields.

@ orangeuglad0s:

Well, I don't want anyone to be intimidated. But I do want to be honest. It does depend on those classes and a lot of other factors, but you will have to work hard to show us that despite your grades you are academically prepared for MIT. We do take students who have Bs and occasionally Cs on their transcripts, but they do have an extra bar to leap over in order to make us comfortable with their preparation.

Posted by: Chris Peterson SM '13 on October 18, 2011

This pretty much sums it up:

SAT Math
750-800 15%
700-740 10%
650-690 5%

From what you wrote you'd think being in the 700-740 range and being in the 750-800 range doesn't have much impact on your chance of admission, but there's a 50% difference.

People see that as MIT admissions preferring the higher scoring candidates (15% vs 10% is BIG) and people call that "preferring merit" and think that's how it should be and MIT kind of agrees with them, but has to balance that value against the value of diversity (e.g. a trade-off).

I don't think that's how it should be but I think their position makes sense.

Also, I think that when you say people are judged on context, it isn't what most people have in mind. Context to me means people are judged on their innate ability and potential and not on what opportunities they had (the quality of their school, or their parents). That is definitely not the case unless Asians 10x as likely as whites to be born with a lot of innate ability.

Posted by: Steve '11 on October 18, 2011

Steve -

With regards to this scores:

Again, this is a problem with the "topline" numbers. These numbers are the result of a process, not the process themselves. By this I mean that when you look at the actual model that we actually use, there is no effectively no difference between a student with a 740 and a student with an 800. Meaning that if I see a student with a 740 and another student with an 800 I don't think "wow, that 800 student is 50% better" (even though that's what the data say), I say "hey, these two students are effectively equal in this metric."

What happens is that higher SAT scores may coincide with other factors for which we select. So for example a student who gets a gold medal in the IMO is more likely to get an 800 than a 740 on the SAT math. And so in the data you will see that we took a person with an 800 rather than a 740, when in fact what we did was select an IMO medalist who happened to get an 800 as well.

This is the problem with trying to draw conclusions from the data sets: because not all of the information on which we make a decision is, or could ever be, released in data form, it ends up confusing what traits we select for. Again, this is the subject of a forthcoming blog post.

As for context:

I think you misunderstood (or I misrepresented) what I meant by "opportunity." I agree 100% with the idea that what we're talking about is potential.

Here's what I mean by opportunity: suppose you have two students, neither of whom have taken AP Calc. But one student had it offered and available to them, and another student did not. Consider another pair of students who both were on a FIRST Robotics team. But one student started the team up, and the other just kind of joined and went along with the flow.

These are incredibly over-simplistic examples, but I hope they demonstrate the point. What we are looking for is not kids who have had opportunity; what we are looking for is students who have shown the inclination to make the most of the opportunities they have had. In other words, we are selecting for the trait to realize your potential, because at MIT you will have the opportunity to do so, and we need to admit students who know how to utilize their resources.

Posted by: Chris Peterson SM '13 on October 18, 2011

@Chris P

Okay, let me see if I have this straight: judging by your statistics and your statements, YOU find Asian students more likely to "make the most of the opportunities they have had" than African Americans?

Posted by: m_quinn on October 18, 2011

Chris,

I really appreciate your answer - it was really helpful in solidifying my understanding of where I stand.

Here's a hypothetical: I currently am now taking 5 AP level classes in my senior year. If I were to score highly across the board ("straight A's"), how much weight would MIT give to that event when considering the academic viability of an applicant?

Thanks again!

Posted by: orangeuglad0s on October 18, 2011

so is there an advantage to doing mites that will help in acceptance to mit later? how highly is mites regarded when a student is being considered in the admissions process? it seems that most mites students either go to mit or other very prestigious schools. does mit want mites students to attend since they are minority students and also probably prepared for mit?

Posted by: prospect on October 18, 2011

@orangeuglad0s:

This is not a question I can answer. Only when I have everything in front of me can an application make sense as a discrete unit. I wish I could provide more help.

@prospect:

We don't select for MITES. However, MITES and MIT select for similar traits: hardworking, smart students, who have shown a considerable ability to use their resources and demonstrate a desire to be involved with STEM fields. That's why so many students are admitted to both MITES and MIT, and MITES and other prestigious schools: because the same things which make them attractive to MITES make them attractive to other places.

Put another way: we don't care so much about MITES as much as we care about the things that brought a student to MITES.

Posted by: Chris Peterson SM '13 on October 18, 2011

@Chris, thank you for the illuminating responses.

Posted by: MIT EC '85 on October 18, 2011

^this

Don't worry about that last question, I'm plenty satisfied with your answers already!

I look forward to placing my application before you, under a different name.

Posted by: orangeuglad0s on October 18, 2011

@Chris P

A lynching is still a lynching no matter how thoughtfully you select a "lynchee". The final result speaks for itself. MIT likes Asians; African Americans, well, not so much. The results of the MIT admissions process are unfairness, ruined lives, and discrimination.

Chris is there a MITES program available in South Dakota (you know, one of those states on the other side of Chicago )?

m_quinn

Posted by: m_quinn on October 19, 2011

Hey Chris! I got a 560 in SAT Math1 and a 470 in biologyM. Is that really bad for my application?

Posted by: Ivan on October 20, 2011

so because MIT and MITES select for similar traits, do MITES students have an advantage in the admissions process? Those students have already proven capable of completing the rigorous MITES program, so does this help those students in their chances of getting accepted into MIT?

Posted by: prospect on October 20, 2011

@Ivan -

As I've said, there are many factors in an application. However, if you look at this page: http://mitadmissions.org/apply/process/stats you will see that we did not admit any students in that score range. While at the upper levels the scores coincide with the traits for which we select, at the lower ranges the scores have a more direct, causal relationship.

I try to avoid giving these sorts of answers, because a) I hate giving "chance" things b) scores are not so much important c) then I get dragged into all of these things. But I do think it is fair to say that if we didn't admit anyone in that score range, that is the sort of data you can probably interpret unfavorably with regards to your application.

@prospect -

What I am trying to communicate to you is that no, MITES itself does not have an advantage in the admissions process, but that students who attend MITES are disproportionately likely to be admitted because the same things that brought them to and through MITES are attractive in our admissions process.

Posted by: Chris Peterson SM '13 on October 20, 2011

Personally,
I am a white, straight A student, from a good Catholic family and an affluent area in the Midwest. I am currently applying to MIT and know that I'm probably more academically qualified to get into MIT than most people. However, that does not mean that I would enjoy going to college for 4 years with a school full of people just like me. In fact, I don't think I would be applying to MIT if that's what I thought the character of the school would be.
I am under the impression that most people in this forum are simply viewing the admissions process through the perspective of someone trying to get into the school, not through the lens of what it would be like to be a student there. Remember, the lives of the people who are admitted don't simply end once they are admitted and you stop caring about them (as you're cramming for some test at your 2nd choice school), but they still have there entire college experience ahead of them. Even though I realize it "technically" is to my disadvantage to be from my background and despite the clicheness of it, a diverse campus really is far more interesting and inspiring to be at. There really is something to be said for coming to the table with unique perspectives and experiences to share with one another.
So, everybody, I get it: you really want a 4-5% better chance of getting into MIT this year, but if you were admitted because of this you wouldn't be going to MIT in 2012, you'd be going to MIT in 1962. And I think we can all agree on how dreadful that would be. In conclusion everybody, please lay off Chris and, seeing as the comment for this post are fairly extensive, don't let Godwin's rule get the better of you and compare him to Hitler.

Posted by: Jay Fleischman on October 20, 2011

College Confidential also provides a vast collection of applicants' profiles. Applicants, if they are like me, read books such as Steinberg's "The Gatekeepers" in hopes of uncovering admissions officers' reasoning. Most of all, applicants look at experiences of students they know and conclude that an admissions decision is right or wrong. Everyone wants to see through the decisions, and I personally have been jumping to conclusions just to make my head a little clearer. So people--again, I-- absorb data but don't absorb descriptions of "holistic review". I hope I was concrete and relatively clear smile

Posted by: jcy036 on October 20, 2011

Hey jcy036 -

Check back next Thursday for my post about why statistics are deceptive smile

Posted by: Chris Peterson SM '13 on October 20, 2011

I know this is a question that may seem a bit well... vapid? (not the right word, I don't think) but I was wondering about the the level of tangibility you want in a student profile. For instance, starting a club or holding executive/leadership roles in clubs is one way to demonstrate leadership and your willingness to make a difference, but in your opinion is it the only way? (Understandably, we live in a material world, but--) How necessary is tangible/positional/material evidence when it comes to demonstrating character?

Posted by: thelittlerhoboatthatcould on October 21, 2011

@ Chris
Alright. I look forward to it.

Posted by: jcy036 on October 21, 2011

@ Chris P

I just read this post and all of the comments, and I just wanted to say that I'm very impressed with how well-reasoned and articulate everything you say is. You make me think even more highly of MIT.

Posted by: Grumpy Buffalo on October 27, 2011

My teacher forgot to sign his letter when he sent it, should I have him fax it again today signed???

Posted by: Worried!! on November 1, 2011

Great post. thanks

Posted by: Abdin Halal Care on November 1, 2011

Informative post. and I love your stuff on CC too.

Posted by: DJ Alborz on November 1, 2011

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