MIT Admissions

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Ben Jones

Mar 23, 2006

The Only Answer I Have

Posted in: Process & Statistics

I think you guys set a record for - 353 comments in the last thread, as of this writing. Thanks to everyone who understood that it was a personal entry in my personal blog about my personal experience, and not some MIT-sanctioned, carefully crafted spin. Thank you for being human and for recognizing that I am the same.

I had a long response prepared for the haters, but I let it go. No matter how good and honest one's intentions, there will always be haters. That's life.

I've received hundreds of emails since Saturday and a bunch of blog comments, all asking for "just a couple of sentences" about why a specific applicant was not admitted. I've responded to each email with a slightly different version of the same answer, because it's the only answer I have to offer. And here it is...

What you must understand is that the selection committee votes to admit the applicants who are admitted, not to reject the applicants who are not offered admission. I know that the term "rejected" is common in my field, but it needs clarification. No one is ever rejected by MIT. Almost 10,000 applicants were not offered admission, true - but many of them could have been, had there been additional space in the class. The term "rejection" implies the opposite.

As such, there is always a compelling reason for every admit - and I could reproduce those committee decisions on demand. But often there is not a specific reason that someone is not offered admission, other than the fact that there are too many qualified applicants for too few spots in the class.

Also, as I said in one of my comments in the last thread, I wish people would stop reducing themselves (and other applicants) to a bunch of numbers and a few words of description for the sake of comparison. We have a 25+ page application for a reason. Clearly no one knows the whole story on any applicant except for the applicant him/herself and the committee. That's why all the speculation in my blog comments (and on College Confidential) is so silly.

I want to remind people that I didn't go to MIT, and I happen to like my life very much. MIT is an amazing place, but it won't determine your future success and happiness. How you embrace and dedicate yourself to whatever options life throws your way will.

Comments (Closed after 30 days to reduce spam)

First comment on this wonderful post; woo hoo! Thanks again, Ben.

Posted by: Nirav on March 23, 2006


Thanks for the post. How can I get your email address and send you a private note. From your post, apparently "hundreds" have sent you an email and I hope you wouldn't mind one more.


Posted by: 0 on March 23, 2006

"I'm off to a meeting; more later."

Wow u'r still working...get some rest buddy..

Posted by: Shikhar on March 23, 2006 I haven't been rejected, I've just not been admitted:) that's good:)

Posted by: Mushal on March 23, 2006


You made the right decision to let go of your response to the detractors (I think haters is too strong a word as is rejection).

While some may view it as a play on words, I like your choice of "not offering" rather than "rejecting". While words cannot hurt as the saying goes, they definitely can soothe.

Can't wait to read more of your post, even though I've less and less reason to linger around after my S was not offered a place in MIT.

Posted by: Say-Chong Lee on March 23, 2006

Oops, "hater" is slang, I meant to link to its definition. Fixed!

Posted by: Ben on March 23, 2006

Hey Ben,

Ok, I'm in! But here's a query: when the letter states, "This offer is contingent upon the successful completion of your senior year", what do you define as successful and what do you define as stepping across the line for slacking? Like, in past years, what kind of grade drops have caused people's decisions to be revoked? Not that I plan on slacking, but some slump happens in spite of me...


Posted by: 0 on March 23, 2006

I wish I could prevent myself from kicking this mule but I just find the whole debate so important. The things is, the application is not simply a resume, as has been suggested elsewhere in order to soothe, but is an elaborate attempt to portray ones soul, such a 'rejection' will wound, especially if the applicant has done the job well. Colleges, in order to avoid being accused of seeking mere gifted testers, have offered students this opportunity to reveal more than numbers. Unfortunately and ironically, this self-portrait of the intangible ultimately opens the admissions offices to accusations of abitrariness, leaving people to feel 'unliked' 'unpicked' 'dateless' in this highly consequential reality show. The only solution, as I see it, is for the admissions officers to live within each applicant's household for a few weeks, maybe years, prior to making a decision. It might be a slight logistical challenge but at least it will be fair. Although,.. how then would you be able to turn away someone you've come to know so well?

Posted by: rorosen on March 23, 2006


To my surprise, you didn't go to MIT!!! Are you serious?

Posted by: Cathy on March 23, 2006

Yeah it seems pretty low when ppl start judging by themselves whether or not an applicant "deserved" to get into a college. Esp happens if they were rejected and a seemingly "lower" (by stats) friend got accepted to the same school.

As I did during EA selection, I think it's best to accept the fact, don't try to put it on others, bite the bullet, feel the hurt, and then move on. It definitely worked for me then.

Can't wait to get out and go to cpw!

Thanks Ben!

Posted by: Phillip Kim on March 23, 2006

"As such, there is always a compelling reason for every admit - and I could reproduce those committee decisions on demand."

Really? Would you? Is that allowed? Because i'd really like to know about a couple of people...

Posted by: 0 on March 23, 2006

Wow, 39 definitions for haters. I didn't even go beyond the first page but I got the drift.

Maybe I should add one more: one who exhibits extreme rejection complex.

Posted by: Say-Chong Lee on March 23, 2006

Haha Ben is a better person than me, I couldn't resist responding to the "haters". =/

Anyway, Ben rocks, and if I hear one more person make one long list of SAT scores and ask me or anyone else to judge them based on that...I'll scream or something.

Oops, guess I can never visit collegeconfidential ever again. =)

Posted by: Laura on March 23, 2006

Yes Ben, there will always be haters. I agree that there is a difference between 'rejected' and 'not accepted'. I just hope that everyone sees it and that MIT will be able to increase its class-strength in the future.

I will love to hear about some of the compelling reasons which made the admissions committee accept the um.. lucky guys like me. Please do post some of those reasons.

The respect that I had for you has increased a lot after your previous entry. You are a great person.

Posted by: AcceptedAnonymous on March 24, 2006

Hi Ben,

this is so guys try your best to see how a particular applicant would contribute to MIT. In my case, I realized that I wasn't competent enough...SAT scores aren't the only thing...I know people whose SAT IIs ranged in 600s and yet they were admitted...but offcourse they had some other international distinctions...I am not heart-broken...rather I look towards achieving greater competency. This fall, I would be going to some other US univ, but I do intend to apply as a transfer student and hope I would be selected then...



Posted by: Danish on March 24, 2006

I thought someone has already pointed out in a previous post elsewhere that MIT does not accept transfer students. Getting into grad schools is the only other way. Is that correct?

Posted by: Say-Chong Lee on March 24, 2006

Dear Ben,

You should again consider/ judge on my admission decision and should give First rank among selective students. I also want to ask you , Why do you hate me ? Have you heart or not? Please I kindly request you , agian to take my teacher's evaluations, grade year report, Secondary schooltranscript from office of admission consider/ judge and select me. I hope you will do so as i request. With best wishes. Abhinav kumar

Posted by: abhinav kumar on March 24, 2006

I have absolutely no reason to be reading these blogs, but find them quite interesting and entertaining. Kind of like a "Peyton Place" for the college admission process. There's a lot of psychopathology out there, but fortunately, there are clearly some fine human beings out there as well. Glad you were able to step back and take the high road with the "haters". You don't want to be poisoned by bitterness. Maybe, some day, they will find some perspective in this whole ordeal, and also become better people in the long run.

Posted by: dragonlady on March 24, 2006

In response to some comments up there - I can't actually talk about specific cases publicly - privacy issues and such.

Posted by: Ben on March 24, 2006

Thanks a million, PC, for the grand news.

My boy will live again. Just joking.

Posted by: Say-Chong Lee on March 24, 2006

Oh, no Ben. I know you can't talk about specific cases (though I wouldn't care if you were to discuss my app).

We could have some sort of an anonymous discussion, couldn't we? If you don't name the student or give any personally identifiable information, so that no one else but the applicant knows that his is the case being considered, will it still be a violation of privacy?

Posted by: AcceptedAnonymous on March 24, 2006

Say-Chong -- I do actually know a couple of transfer students from my year, so even though it's hard to get in as a transfer, it does happen!

p.s. are you originally from Malaysia or Singapore? Just noticed based on your name. (I am from the former)

Posted by: PC on March 24, 2006

Hi, PC, apa khabar? I'm from Johor. Email me at [email protected] then we can talk more if you so desire.

Sorry, guys. Back to the discussion. I'm really at a loss at the insistence of some to keep harping on knowing the reasons for their unsuccessful attempts to get accepted to MIT. You're being impossible to Ben. Please, have a heart, leave him alone.

Posted by: Say-Chong Lee on March 24, 2006

I have recently read the last two posts on your blog and you have given me a sense of hope into applying to some Ivy league schools. The thing is my SAT's arn't the best thing in the world. My question is, how do you guys approach a prospective applicant regarding admissions. I feel that I can live up to the standards at any univeristy in this world but the hardest part is getting in. Should I even try? or will my low SAT make me a an automatic reject? I understand there is more to the admissions process but I really would like to get into a really got school such as MIT.

Thanks Ben.

Can you reply to me at [email protected]?

Posted by: Peter on March 24, 2006

Abhinav Kumar, with all due respect, please, please stop. Although I find your posts quite amusing, I think the admissions officers have had enough.

[post edited to be a bit nicer. grin]

Posted by: 0 on March 24, 2006

hmmm General hugs @ Abhinav Kumar.


Posted by: Christina on March 24, 2006

Abhinav Kumar is my idol.

Posted by: Colin on March 25, 2006

Nicely said Ben smile.

10 years ago i didnt even know what MIT was, or even think that I could be at the level that I am at today (I was a HORRIBLE student "trouble case"). But things change, life goes on, whaddya know.

Posted by: thatolchestnut on March 25, 2006

hmmm... I kinda want to see if Abhinav Kumar's strategy works. It could give me something to do over the summer. (jk :D)

Posted by: Sarah on March 25, 2006

I am going to blog this entry. You wouldn't mind, would you?

Posted by: Ziyan on March 25, 2006

Thank you for bringing some of those knuckle-heads back to reality. Just because you were not offered admission to MIT does not mean you're doomed, and will never succeed in life. Please, get a grip and enjoy what life has to offer.

Posted by: kenny on March 25, 2006

abhinav kumar, i think you should read ben's post. it might give you some perspective, and perhaps you'll realize, as ben has been saying, that mit isn't the be-all, end-all.

hope you're happy in college, wherever you go~

Posted by: Anu on March 26, 2006

i was sorting through some of my papers today and i found a letter from MIT...the hurting hasn't diminished at all..oh well

Posted by: April (out) on March 27, 2006

Thanks for the little note on my acceptance letter. It (and your blog) makes me realize how much personal thought and consideration you guys put into making these decisions.

Posted by: Silbersibling on March 27, 2006

To Abhinav Kumar: I think that it is not in the transcripts and the recs that he found things missing.

Quote: "It's over, Shawn. Deal with it. Rock and roll."

Posted by: ananymous on March 28, 2006

i've always wonderred, through the course of waiting for the decision, what would happen to this blog when everything is over. it is not surprising how fast people left this place after a round of bombardment. this blog was not born to service the utilitarians who come here for the sake of the admission. it is for those who care about mit and will keep caring about it regardless of the admission decision. i felt extremely underrated when my results came out and it is likely that i will not get out of that mood for a while. however, it was a nice experience applying to mit and i really miss the warm environment in this blog we had before the decisions came out.

Posted by: Marco - a lost soul after rejection on March 28, 2006

"I really miss the warm environment in this blog we had before the decisions came out."

Me too, Marco.

Posted by: Christina on March 28, 2006

Me too!:-/

Posted by: Jen on March 28, 2006

All good things do come to an end, including this one. But I have enjoyed the interaction when it lasted, "haters" included.

Soon MITians and non-MITians alike will seek out their own paths and until we meet again, so long and stay well.

Posted by: Say-Chong Lee on March 28, 2006

all good things must come to an end...oh well...i miss it too

Posted by: April (out) on March 29, 2006

It's all in the name.

Posted by: God you guys are sappy on March 30, 2006

heehee thank you

Posted by: 0 on April 1, 2006

hehe, MIT ended up being the ONLY place that did not accept me out of 7 places (incl. 2 ivies). guess i'm gonna go to school down the street from you guys. smile to all MIT-ers: have fun at CPW!!!!

Posted by: HarvardChic on April 2, 2006

Hi ben..Thanks for all the support and encouragement..

Well, i did not get into MIT, but I will be attending Georgia Institute of Technology (The Rambling Wrecks) this Fall.

I am extremely excited and happy, and I would like to thank you for your efforts!

Posted by: Akhil on April 5, 2006

Well Said!!

Posted by: Sarab on April 8, 2006

Comments have been closed.