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Preparing for MIT: Be yourself!

The most important way to prepare for MIT is to focus on becoming your best self by  pursuing your interests, your aptitudes, and your education. What you shouldn’t do is build your life, your education, and your expectations around the narrow goal of trying to get into MIT.

As our Dean Stu Schmill wrote:

In simple terms, we want students to pursue the things that interest them with energy and enthusiasm. We want students to make decisions that are educationally sound for them to best prepare them to succeed in college and beyond. We want students to challenge themselves appropriately in the areas that are most interesting to them. We want students to engage with their community in their pursuits. And, we want students who demonstrate strong ethical character. In short, we want young people to be students and community members first, and applicants second.

Applying sideways

Look: we admit fewer than 10% of applicants. If you set your goal as being admitted to MIT, you are likely to be disappointed. If, however, you set your goals as learning a lot, developing a better sense of yourself, and being a positive influence on those around you, then you can succeed on your own terms and also be a better applicant to MIT.

You can think about this approach to preparing for college as applying sideways: one that encourages students to focus on becoming their best self, with the knowledge that it will also help them be a better applicant to colleges that are a good fit for them.

Climbing the mountain

We care about community so much because we don’t just admit individuals, we admit a class. It’s as if we’re choosing a 1,100-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.

Preparing yourself for MIT, then, means doing two things:

  1. taking the time to really explore things that interest you, both inside and outside of school
  2. making sure you’re ready to do the work