MIT Admissions

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Ben Jones

Jul 19, 2005

Scenes From Admissions Round One

Posted in: Miscellaneous

Occasionally I'll show you a picture and give you some clues to see if you can figure out what's going on in the scene. Often I don't even know what's going on around here, so this will be fun for me as well. :-)

So here goes the first session of this little game... a picture from this morning.

1) Edmund Jones, Administrative Officer (and budget master)
2) Mari McQuaid, Assistant Director of Admissions
3) Martha Edison, writer and master wordsmith
4) Bryan Nance, Director of Minority Recruitment
5) Elizabeth Brinkerhoff, Project Manager
6) Tim Blackburn, Designer Extraordinaire
7) Matt
8) Jenny Rifken, Director of Recruitment
(And I'm taking the picture)

9) Coffee
10) Laptop
11) A book on maps
12) Notes (some of them submitted in blog comments)
13) My bag, which contains many secrets

So - what's going on in this picture? Points will be awarded for creativity, not just for the right answer. :-)

Comments (Closed after 30 days to reduce spam)

option 1:

well if your bag contains many secrets, then you might be discussing the blogs... maybe thinking about myMIT.. anyway, i'm pretty sure you were talking about something that is connected to the net.

option 2:

you're discussing my incredible application raspberry

Posted by: Meder on July 19, 2005

Dude, you HAVE to make these harder!


Obviously, someone stoled Ms. Brinkerhoff's megahurtz, as is evident by her facial expression and her expressive hand motions. She is in an odd state of shock, which could only be caused by the laptop she has so scornfully pushed away from her.

Matt quickly closed his own laptop so that his megahurtz won't be stoled too.

And while everyone wonders what went wrong, Ben runs to get MIT Medical to fix things and restore the stoleded megahurtz.

By the time MIT Medical gets there of course, Ben has time to take this picture.

Either that, or you're discussing Meder's incredible application, and Ms. Brinkerhoff does a surprisingly accurate impersonation of Meder himself. :p j/k Meder. Don't kill me. smile



Posted by: Michael Borohovski on July 19, 2005

well The interesting thing is that the notes (including comments from the blogs) are in front of the directors of minority recruitment.

from the presence of the budget master and writer wordsmith, mmmmm i guess theres something being discussed about some book... well theres also a designer extraordinaire.....

The project manager is describing some design on the display of the laptop as everyone's looking at that! maybe thats a design proposed by Ben and he has been able to convince the manager so she is trying to convince the others.. and Ben is taking the photo of this, (seems its the first time Ben's convinced the manager so he is recording it, hahaha raspberry)

Whats the book on Maps doing there?

What I can make out of this is that you are planning the new MIT picturebook.. (the MIT introductory booklet given to the applicants).. The designer (no. 6) has tried to use the book on maps to create the Look of the front page (as he is looking quite content with the proceedings) and the manager has agreed. The use of the maps shows that the frontpage would depict how diverse the undergrads at MIT are, well im not too sure abt this one.

They are also discussing the comments from the blogs that gave suggestions and ideas about the new picturebook, wow! u r using our suggestions to make the new picturebook, YEAH!

all in all, you are planning what should the PictureBook look like, as far as the bag of Ben is concerned I guess it contains the material that would be printed on the book, gathered from different sources, or the comments from students or feedback from CPW or whatever!


u must be considering Meder's incredible application, raspberry

Posted by: Saad Zaheer on July 19, 2005


well....After image google-ing Ewan McGregor, Ms. Brinkerhoff is reminded of her youth, in which she used to grapple with crazed wolves and kilt wearing under takers. The admissions staff listens in quiet admiration. (All except Mr Blackburn, who is fighting off a sugar induced coma, from all the peeps he ate the previous night).

In the bag are: a pencil drawing done by Jimi Hendrix in the fourth grade, bell bottoms and a t-shirt reading, "Keep on Rockin' in the Free World".

McGann, Jenny Rifken, and Martha Edison are completely mesmerized by Elizabeth Brinkerhoff's screen saver, which gives detailed instructions on the fine art of Peep Jousting. Matt's laptop seems totally obsolete w/o the informative marshmallow screen saver, and he folds it up in shame:)

I'm not sure if you can see it, but on the notes it clearly reads, " note 1 - Oh man, that Kiersten is totally awesome, she's almost as cool as that Meder kid's application, she rocks our socks. note 2 - buy socks. note 3 - blog about the buying of socks."


Posted by: Kiersten on July 19, 2005

This picture is posed. You thought you could fool us.

Posted by: 0 on July 19, 2005

I think the people in the picture were discussing the Central Meetings (CMs).

The presence of a budget master (1), a project manager (5), and a "book on maps" (11) shows that the group was discussing a project that involves traveling. Plus, the fact that two directors of recruitment (8 and 4) were present could only mean that this project is directly related to recruitment. If the project is indeed the Central Meetings, then the master wordsmith (3) and the designer extraordinaire (6) were there because they will write and design the CM promotional publications. And, of course, Matt (7) and Mari (2) were present because they would be doing the traveling.

The biggest clue, however, is that the day that Matt blogged about the Central Meetings coincides with the day that Ben posted this picture. smile

Posted by: Ann on July 19, 2005

I'd like to add that the other objects (coffee, laptop, and notes) are common to every meeting, so they don't provide any clues. As for Ben's bag of secrets, hmm... I really have no idea. smile

Posted by: Ann on July 19, 2005

for an answer to what was happening in the photo above, go to Matt's Blog and see the latest post!

Posted by: Saad Zaheer on July 20, 2005

Okay, it's obvious someone let the cat out of the bag! Mrs. Brinkerhoff, with the map ready in front of her, is outlining the tactics they are going to be adopting to get the cat back. Matt has already sprung into action while the others listen intently.

Edmund Jones, focused on the briefing in hand, fails to realize that his coffee cup is almost empty already; and Mr. Nance, that his notes have been swapped! Ben, the mastermind behind all this, smirks as she takes this picture - "My cat's done it again!"


Posted by: aaron on July 20, 2005

Hahaha. SHE takes this picture. Haha.


Posted by: Michael Borohovski on July 20, 2005

Hmmm well my immediate guess what that you guys were planning an MIT tour...haha you know, visiting different cities for info sessions and stuff. But that works if its a book OF maps, not a book ON maps....??


I've been out in the sun for 6 hours straight, I'm too tired to come up with something creative. Next time. Promise.

Posted by: Laura on July 20, 2005


Posted by: aaron on July 20, 2005

The MIT admissions staff is stunned by news that the entire senior class at Hogwarts is applying for 2006. Ben Jones, onetime valedictorian of Hogwarts, is lurking in the background wearing an invisibility cloak. His backpack is filled with Bertie Bott's Beans, an anesthetized bludger, and several bubotubers. The person identified as Matt is actually Harry Potter.

Posted by: Nanner on July 20, 2005

Kiersten... Close, but I don't think that's quite it... I'm sure they're just trying to find me a math/physics tutor that resembles a certain Quidditch Keeper on the Puddlemere United Team. After all, I did put in a request about a month ago.

Everyone is staring intently at the screen because a picture of Sean Biggerstaff is loading... and Ms. Brinkerhoff is having some difficulty convincing the rest of the committee that she in fact is Mrs. Biggerstaff... she just misspelled it on marriage certificate.

The map is for tracking and traversing the lands of Scotland... that way they know how to get out of sticky situations when they meet the ghost of Heathcliff.

The notes on the table include a description of the type of tutor I'm looking for, personality tests, and various other screening tools to find a perfect tutor. Also Ben's secret bag contains disguises so when they follow random guys for long periods of time, they don't look suspicious and a complete book of Glaswegian Slang... so everyone understands everyone else...

Ben, well, Ben is practicing his serial stalker skills that Anthony decided to teach him...

Posted by: Mrs. O. Wood on July 22, 2005


mmmmm...Oliver Wood, so delicious. =)


Posted by: Kiersten on July 23, 2005

i can't see the picture...

Posted by: nehalita on July 24, 2005

(just kidding...i can see the picture now)

Clearly someone has tipped them off to what has become the greatest adventure of the MIT admissions staff (or any admissions staff for that matter). Someone send an MIT Blog comment (specifically hidden and only seen by Matt and Ben) that the Oregon Trail (displayed ont he laptop) holds clues to find the nose of the Sphinx (supposedly stolen by a group of people who identify themselves as the Colleficators).The problem is, the clues will only be revealed at the end of the oregon trail game and thus, each decision must be thoroughly discussed.

Right now, Mrs. Brinkerhoff is discussing whether to trade with the indians or hunt for fish. The determined MIT Admissions staff refuses to give up and has consumed many cups of coffee in the meantime (not shown: two garbage cans full of empty coffee cups). Everyone has taken careful notes and written statistics on their projected finish date (nerd, i tell you!). Martha Edison has just come back from the store to get maps to Timbuktu (the first clue by the Collectificators implied it might be here). Matt was trying to play on his own but he just died after losing his last character to Dysenteria (he's still a little upset, please don't mention anything to him). Mr. Blackburn is falling asleep while Jenny Rifken is wondering if she's seeing things or not (poor thing forgot eyedrops for her contacts).

The irony of it all is that Ben has already finished the game on his own and contains the secrets in his bag. So, he muses himself by taking a picture of the distraught group. In fact, he is the last person of the group of the Collectificators. You can only imagine the huge smirk on his face when they see that the sphinx's nose is in his backyard.

Posted by: nehalita on July 24, 2005

I'd like to make another point in the discussion about admissions that happened in the comments on the previous post, sparked by my pretty cynical comment in response to the idea that the best applicants are the ones who are truly themselves, who are willing to write "daydreaming" as an extracurricular activity for example.

Let me clarify my position a bit.

I looked back on my application as I was sending it in, and I knew, I just knew, that I wasn't expressing myself right. The "real me" hadn't come out on paper. I sounded stuffy, boring, stilted, and uninteresting, when I know I am none of those things. I just... don't express myself well in situations like that. I can't express what I'm passionate about in 500 words or less without sounding like a stereotypical dry, overeager college applicant. I'd have to show you - take you a class that I taught or a math team practice or just an evening with my friends - in order for me to comfortable with anybody, let alone a college, saying that they understand me and my passions, and that they "know what makes me tick".

And lo and behold, I didn't get in. Had I been able to express myself in my application more genuinely, had I the ability to get the real me out on paper, I'm confident that things could have been different. Hence the source of my frustration that so much of the college application process at MIT is seemingly based on how well your passions "ooze out from the page". I don't mind being accepted or rejected based on my merits or how well I'll fit into a class body - that's just how the college application works. I think it's when MIT makes it really personal and claims to really understand its applicants and their passions, that I become annoyed. You claim to admit the students with the most "MIT-like" personality based on an interview, a couple of recommendations and some essays? That'll work - for the kind of person who has the gift of being able to express themselves within that system. But you can't claim to understand the rest.

Posted by: Daniel on July 27, 2005


I don't think I misunderstood your view in the last post.

Let's take a look, however, at the criteria you just brought up:

1) Recommendations. You state yourself you'd have to "show" MIT the real you. How better to do this on paper than have people who know you well vouch for you? If, in real life, you do have passions (not saying you don't, don't take offense to any of this post), wouldn't you have at least two teachers you know well enough be willing to write great recs for you? Wouldn't that show the real you? Even if _you_ can't express yourself well on paper, surely the teachers (who I'm sure have written other recommendations for other students) that you've gotten to know well, can. And as for why you should have gotten to know teachers well? There's a quite simple answer to that. I find the bell after some classes quite annoying (for others, it's a godsend). For example, I would frequently stay after class with my Psychology teacher (one of the wisest [and most cynical] people I've ever met) to discuss either something he brought up in the lesson that I wanted to debate for a few minutes or to discuss the latest article in Wired about Functional MRI's, or if there was just a particular topic I wanted his opinion on. Psychology was one of the most interesting courses I took, so I took every opportunity to learn about it from my teacher. As for CS, I was always in 301 (the computer science office). I knew all the teachers _very_ well (specifically mine, but not limited to that) because I enjoyed sitting there and either engaging in an active Perl vs Python debate (with other students as well as teachers) or discussing some mathematical proof. My chorus teacher? I knew her incredibly well because she really gave me a voice. I started singing second-term freshman year, and I was forced into it. Now, I love it. I would constantly ask for advice on breating, phrasing, etc. She was psychotic, but in the best way. My acting teacher? Well, you get the idea. Recs are quite possibly the best way to present yourself, because it's out of your hands and you're relying on others to vouch for your passions. Your writing skills need not apply.

2) Interview. Psh, more of a conversation. I didn't like my interview very much. There wasn't very much for us to talk about because we had little in common, but I just took that opportunity to go ahead and keep talking and describing what I do in my free time. I figured if anything struck his fancy, he'd mention it and we'd launch into conversation. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. But it didn't matter. If I asked you what you did for fun, what would you say? I said I read and went to the movies with friends. I said I liked to party. I also said I loved to sit and code or stand in front of the mirror singing or waltz around my room. I was just honest. It was a conversation, not an interrogation. By the end, I felt comfortable. I thought it went terribly because we had nothing to talk about, but apparently me just telling him what I did, and honestly, was enough. That is to say, of course, the interview will not make or break an application regardless (Ben, correct me if I'm wrong on this).

3) Essays. While writing style and/or lack of it may pose a (dis)advantage here, let's keep in mind a few things. My essay was over 700 words (I think, maybe slightly less, but around there). I thought for sure it would get thrown out. But apparently, it was read. Again, I just answered the questions honestly. I read the question, and answered it. I think I included a few anecdotes, and I've been told I'm a good writer, so that helped.

The point is even if you're not the greatest writer on paper, the recommendations and interview should contribute to an accurate depiction of your passions. When I later asked my teachers about the recs they wrote, they apparently wrote about completely different topics, but it didn't matter. They wrote about what they saw, and that was fine.

In terms of the interview, again, I thought it went terribly, but it really was _just_ a conversation. Towards the end we were friendly and I started showing him magic tricks, if I recall correctly. He asked what I meant in terms of magic (because I mentioned it at some point), and so I showed him. I just answered his questions with honesty. If you are interested enough in something, you should be able to just explain what interests you about it. I can go on for hours about why I love CS, why I love singing, why I love performing, etc. Not because I know how to "sell myself," but rather because I know what attracts me to it.

This response is getting way too long, but I think you get the basic idea of what I'm trying to say.

No system is perfect. Great kids slip out of this system (as the admissions officers say, they really could create at least 2-3 qualified classes from one pool of applicants) and some "furniture" slips in to, if you'll pardon the expression. A close friend of mine whom I honestly thought (and still think) was significantly more qualified than I to attend MIT didn't make it. Who knows why? Maybe it just wasn't what MIT was looking for at the time.

It's not a judgment on you or your passions. It's very simply a matter of not being able to accept a class of 5000 students.

The one thing I think I really would like to see added to more colleges are peer evaluations (I know Dartmouth does this, a school to which I did not apply). But if they're added, they have to be confidential and the applicant should never see them. They should be just like teacher recs. Or maybe not, I don't know, I haven't really thought about it.

Overall, MIT is one of the few schools I've seen that will actually follow-up if they see something that even remotely signifies a passion that may be understated. They called a friend of mine regarding a community service post he listed as his most important activity. Psh, it's community service, he picks trash up and stuff, right? But it's important to him. He loves helping people and putting a smile on people's faces. He's changing the world one person at a time. MIT called him to ask him more about why he likes it so much, why he does it. And he didnt give them the miss america answer. He got in.

Seeing as how I'm incredibly tired and it's 2 AM and I have work in the morning, I'm ending this here: MIT does strive to understand the people who want to go there. If you have passion for something, it will be noticeable. You have three ways to get that through. Not to mention you can send optional things. I know an '09 who sent an equation...certainly that's creative, and not writing. I have a friend who sent an origami model of the dome (I think, I could be wrong on that so don't quote me...but there was an origami model of something), and he got in. Certainly neither of these things had to do with expressing yourself on the page. If others know your passions (they should if you can't stop discussing them and debating them), they'll let MIT know via the interview and recs. You yourself can let MIT know by explaining them and explaining why you want to go to MIT. Why MIT is good for you and why you are good for them.

One of the MIT questions is to describe your world. Psh, how much easier can it get? Start with one word, your passion. And elaborate. I couldn't stop writing about CS or singing. I had to cut down tons.

I was supposed to have ended this twice by now, no? Alright, bye.



P.S. I hope that made sense; it's 2 AM and I'm not re-reading it.

Posted by: Michael Borohovski on July 28, 2005

Daniel mannnnn. Schools like MIT and all could make 500 distinct "perfect" classes with all the crazy super applicants. You can't let a rejection get to you. Rejection is part of life and you have to learn to deal with it all. You'll find happiness at whatever school you end up at. A lot of the people here say they can only be happy at MIT, and that kinda bothers me - it's just not true. Yeah MITs an awesome place and fits a lot of us, but if I didn't get in, I wouldn't think that NOWHERE else fit me. There are lots of great schools out there, and in the end...every school is the same considering that all they can do for you is give you a bachelor's degree. It's really about YOU and what YOU do with the school and education - thats what matters. You can go to MIT and get NOTHING out of it the same as you would at a state school if you didn't take advantage of the resources. You could also go to a state school and get yourself a tremendous education the same as you would at MIT if you did. It's all about YOU -- most of the schools will have all the resources and more that you could possibly need. Idk if this makes any sense. It's probably not coherent at all (hehe MIT even knows that .. darn FEE)...butttttt if you need any clarification, let me know.

Posted by: Akash on July 29, 2005

Akash, you're awesome and I completely agree.

Posted by: Michael Borohovski on July 29, 2005

hi buddy! i know for sure they are have a small meeting regarding a new project which is not so important since jones is not very attentive in the picture.well the project's about the institute but not about admission to the institute since mari seems bored...about the coffee it seems they have been

sitting there for more than an hour,and about your has no secret at all,its empty...and your laptop is of no importance

Posted by: sumpi lorence on August 10, 2005

you must be discussing something about my mit portal

Posted by: vivek on September 16, 2005

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