MIT Admissions

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Mikey Yang '05

Oct 21, 2011

Our favoirte applicaiton spellnig errers

Posted in: Miscellaneous, Freshman Applicants

Every year, the MIT admissions staff reads tens of thousands of applications. Last year, it was 17,909 to be exact. And we don't just see them once - there is an iterative process in which many applications are seen several times by various committees. In other words, an application is usually read or seen by several people, multiple times throughout the admissions selection process.

During that process, we notice a lot of interesting things - for example, spelling errors. [See also: Matt's blog entry from 2008.] Usually, one or two spelling errors on an application is no big deal; we're not sticklers for that type of stuff (and hey, nobody's perfect). But when there get to be a lot of errors, we start to question how much time and effort the student has put into the application. So be sure to proofread and double-check your spelling - and don't just rely on spell check!

Here are some of our "favorites" (and by "favorites", I mean most often noticed and/or most common pet peeves for our staff):

The correct spelling is chemistry, not chemsitry.

History, not histry or histroy.

Subjects that start with "p" and contain "h", "s", and "y" seem to give a lot of people trouble - it's physics, not pyhsics; physiology, not phisiology, phisyology, or physyology; psychology, not psycology, pyschology, psychlogy, or physcology. We've seen it all...

An applicant might play a varsity sport, but not a varisty or varisity sport; she might even be the captain of the team, but not the captian.

Someone might be on the school's robotics team, but not robotoics. Some have even served as president, vice-presidenttreasurer, or secretary of a club, but not presdient, vice-presdient, tresurer, or secretery/secertary/secratary.

Perhaps one of the funniest misspellings is when students write that they received an A in Engish instead of English.

AND MOST IMPORTANT, it's calculus*, not claculus, calculous, calcoulus, calcoulous, caluculus, caluculs, caluculous, calculs, calclus...

*This goes for pre-calculus, too.

Notice that these are usually found in the activities and self-reported coursework sections of the application - this is because these are usually the most noticeable (in a list rather than a sentence or paragraph), and most people focus on proofreading their essays, but not the forms themselves. Check it!

Comments (Closed after 30 days to reduce spam)

Thnak yuo fehr potsang tash. My speling gets bettar every yer.

Serious note: I remember once being in an information session with an HR person at a company I wanted to intern with; they said the first thing they do when considering applicants is go through the resume submissions and throw out any with spelling or grammar errors - needless to say, I was mortified wink. I am constantly worried that I made some mistake on the application I now cannot correct (not just for MIT, but everywhere I'm applying). Hopefully, most colleges aren't too hung up on simple errors - even with multiple sets of eyes proofreading, it's easy for them to slip through.

Posted by: V on October 21, 2011

After I read this I went back and looked at those parts of Part 2. I noticed that even though I typed macroeconomics twice on the application, one of them was typed "macroeconimcs." Grr, I should have waited until today to submit Part 2 instead of yesterday.

Posted by: TWL on October 21, 2011

V -

No prob! Don't stress out too much about spelling errors - like I said, nobody's perfect, and we're not looking for perfection in the application process. The intention of this post is not to make you worry more, but to just provide some (hopefully helpful) advice! smile

Personally, I think rejecting an applicant on the basis of just one spelling or grammar error is pretty draconian, and I highly doubt there are many (if any) colleges out there that do that...

Posted by: Mikey on October 21, 2011

@ TWL - haha, don't sweat it! it happens to the best of us, those darn typos somehow manage to slip through. I think for admissions officers, since we see such a high volume of applications, the errors we notice are just amplified by the sheer number of times we see them. For your one "macroeconimcs", there are probably another several hundred out there...

Posted by: Mikey on October 21, 2011

Most of you have probably seen this before. But for those, who have not:

Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.

Posted by: DanielG on October 21, 2011

Really people don't spell Massachusetts incorrectly?

Posted by: W^2 on October 21, 2011

I hope that this post does not significantly decrease the spelling errors in MIT applications this year Mikey! If I can't laugh at CHEMSITRY during committee, then what will I be able to laugh at? wink

Posted by: Quinton on October 21, 2011

Looks like getting into collage is going to be harder than I anticipated....

Posted by: Bryan Dierking on October 22, 2011

Just to say this one more time: if you submit your application and later find one typo, don't stress about it! I got in EA with a typo in one of my essays--I meant to say "gave", but wrote "game" instead. Related note: If proofreading twice followed by sleeping and proofreading it again the next morning doesn't find a mistake, you will never find a mistake, but it could still be there. Have someone else proofread!

Posted by: Miriam '14 on October 23, 2011

MIT graduates often go on to do important things such as financial transactions, IT systems implementations, and space missions that have very bad consequences if they go wrong. If you can't get the details correct in a trivial little college application, are you really the kind of person who should be trusted 10 or 20 years in the future with something that is critical?

Posted by: MIT EC '85 on October 23, 2011

@W^2 Some do, but it doesn't usually happen often enough because people usually just write "MIT" instead of the full name. There are some people, though, that feel the need to write "the MIT" every time (I had trouble with this too in high school) because if you technically read the sentence with the abbreviation fully extended, it wouldn't make grammatical sense. Then again, I think "MIT" has become commonly accepted as a standalone name for the Institute, rather than an hardly see people write M.I.T. (something else that also bothers me) anymore, right?

@Miriam '14 - Agreed. Very well said.

Posted by: Mikey on October 24, 2011

@MIT EC '85 -- Of course it would be ideal to turn in a grammatically flawless college application, but realistically, what are the consequences of misplacing two letters in a single word? Essentially none; no one is harmed, and the application as a whole will be assessed almost identically to how it would have been assessed without the error. It seems only natural that people put in the amount of perfectionist care that is appropriate and reasonable for what they're doing. Writing a casual email requires less perfection than writing a cover letter than writing up final calculations for NASA. People are generally pretty good at adapting as necessary. One typo in a college application at age 18 says nothing about someone's ability to be trusted with something critical 10 or 20 years in the future.

~MIT student '15

Posted by: L. '15 on October 28, 2011

While correcting the spelling errors, watch out for your own grammatical errors. It is not correct to say
"...AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, it's calculus...".

You have to say "most important".

Posted by: David K. Bivins on November 16, 2011

Oh snap! Nice catch there, David. smile


Posted by: Mikey Yang '05 on November 16, 2011


Thanks, and btw I think calculus is indeed most important.

David B., '64, Course XVIII

Posted by: David K. Bivins on November 16, 2011

But I am left wondering, how important is calculatus eliminatus? (Cat In The Hat, '71)

Posted by: David K. Bivins on November 16, 2011

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