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MIT staff blogger Dean Stu Schmill '86

Advice On How To Approach Your Interview by Stu Schmill '86

Advice on how to approach your interview.

Please note that, as of August 2018, our process for assigning interviews has changed (though Stu’s advice on how to prepare for it remains accurate). A description of the current interview process is posted here


Today I am going to offer my advice on how to approach the interview.

First, it is your responsibility to arrange the interview. You should check your MyMIT account to see who your interviewer is and give him or her a call or write him or her an email. You should do this, not one of your parents. While we appreciate that your parents want to help, they should limit themselves to nagging you to do it, and not do it for you (this applies to other elements of your application as well).

Note: If we don’t have any alumni in your area and your interview is waived, and you are going to be visiting Cambridge sometime this fall, let the Educational Council office know at [email protected] and we can connect you with an Educational Counselor (EC) when you are here. If your interview was waived and you are not planning on visiting campus, you can check the site periodically as we do sometimes recruit new ECs through the year who might be able to accommodate your interview.

Here are my suggestions on how to prepare for the interview:

  1. Review the ways in which you spend your time. What do you enjoy doing most? Inside or outside of school.
  2. Think about why you like to do these activities. What is it about them? The people, the subject, the process, etc.
  3. Remember that the alums will not have seen any part of your application and are not interested in your grades, test scores, etc. They want to learn about you as a person. This is your chance to tell us things that go beyond the application and what you can tell us in the essays.
  4. Think about why you are applying to MIT. Do a little research on the web, and think of some questions to ask. Remember that the interview is not only a way for us to get to know you better, but also a way for you to get to know us better.
  5. Show up on time.
  6. Relax.
  7. Relax.
  8. Relax. Remember, there is no way to “fail.” The interview is simply a chance to talk about what interests you and the things you like to do. And remember, all our alumni went through the interview when they were in high school and they are very nice people. They are looking to help enhance your application. Last year 19% of interviewed applicants were admitted to MIT while only 7% of those who did not have their interview were admitted. This is not because we penalized students who did not interview; rather it’s because the interview can add a useful, additional dimension to your application. (If your interview was waived, don’t worry; we removed applicants with waived interviews before compiling those statistics.)
  9. Send a short thank you note after the interview. This is not at all expected as part of the admissions process – we will have no knowledge of your having done this, and it will have no bearing on your application or the report that the EC writes. But it is the nice thing to do. (Email is okay, but a short, handwritten note is nicer.)

19 responses to “Advice On How To Approach Your Interview”

  1. Thanks Stu- this is really helpful. I especially like numbers 6, 7, and 8.


  2. Teck Lee says:

    Man, I consider myself a pretty relaxed and laidback person, but even I’m getting a little nervous about the interview. Thanks for the advice!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Mine is in two days and my parents were getting a little naggy about it, so thanks for helping me get my head straight.

  4. Timur Sahin says:

    I have to say though, be prepared to share your grades and test scores. My EC asked what AP classes I was taking and what I got on the SATs. That felt kind of odd, but I figured it gave him some background information he needed to know.

    Come with a curriculum vitae, your EC may want one. Even if s/he doesn’t, you can give it to him before he leaves in case there’s anything else he wants to know.

    I don’t know how good this advice is, as it’s based off my own EC, but it’s what I did and it turned out well.

  5. Cristina says:

    Thanks Stu- your advice is really helpful!

    (especially because in my country, Romania, people are very scared of the interview)

    I’ll try to do what you advised us on items 6 and 7

  6. Lee Gearhart says:

    I’ve been an EC since ’89, and have seen a lot of applicants. I couldn’t care less about grades, or SAT scores, other than to show the applicants what the medians were for recent classes, so they can figure out how they compare. Nor would I give a flying proton about how you’re dressed, or who your parents are. What’s interesting is who YOU are- what interests you, and what you’ve done about it.

    It’s not so much an interview as it is an hour or two long conversation. You tell me about the clubs you founded, and I’ll drone on about MIT, and what Boston was like 30 years ago, and what’s changed for the better. You tell me about the folks who’ve had a great effect on you, and I’ll tell you what were my favorite things to throw off the Green building. Dishwashers make a cool sound just before they hit

  7. zoogies says:

    My EC hasn’t been responding to emails since a family emergency prevented him from making our first scheduled interview early in October. What happens if it doesn’t work out at all? I’ve asked [email protected] but recieved no reply yet.

  8. Stu Schmill says:

    To zoogles: I am sorry to hear that your initial meeting was cancelled and hope all turns out okay with the EC. Writing to [email protected] is the right thing to do. We are a bit backed up on answering those questions, so have a bit of patience. We’ll make sure that you are connected to an EC who can interview you, and you won’t be penalized in anyway by the deadlines. We’ll be aware that you have initiated your contact by the deadline.

  9. Bill Collins says:

    I am an EC since last year. I have met several interesting candidates with a wide range of pursuits. Where I find the most stimulating dialogues between me and the candidate is when we talk about how he/she sees him/herself at, say, age 30 or 50.

    Often the candidate has not thought that far ahead, so the answer tends to be spontaneous.

    When the candidate has in fact thought about the longer term, the ensuing discussion is even richer, as well as rewarding for me!

    For me, this is insight into how current passions might get translated into lifelong avocations. “I enjoy listening to the future”!

  10. sharif says:

    first of all thanks for your advice.i think this advice is really helpful for me.thank you

  11. Momchil says:

    I have a problem – I e-mailed to my appointed EC twice, but he has not answered me since. The first mail I sent was more than a month ago, so I thought it was still too early. But the second was two weeks ago, and there is still no reply. Any advice? Thank you.

  12. Dear Mr. Schmill

    I have an urgent problem. I have just tried to contact my EC here in Oslo, Norway, but recieved an email saying that my email could not be delivered to my EC’s address, as his username was unknown. I then contacted to company in which he is ’employed’, only to find that the receptionist does not even know of my EC.

    Therefore, I would like to ask you what you think my next course of action should be?

    Kind Regards

    Michael B. Berthelsen

  13. Mike Law says:

    Dear Michael B. Berthelsen


  14. Rose says:

    I live in Maine, so I had an interview with Mr. Openshaw. I was very nervous when I got there, and I had arrived twenty minutes early… PLENTY of time for me to think about how scary it was going to be.

    Mr. Openshaw came up to me, and we shook hands. My hand shake wasn’t so great, so I was going over it in my head obsessively.

    Mr. Openshaw and I sat down in his office and just talked. It seemed completely informal other than the questions he asked. We had so much in common, which helped. I have to say that having the interview with him made me want to go to MIT even more. In fact, I was reluctant to leave. I wanted to talk to him about it more, but the time was pretty much up.

    Moral of the story: Don’t be afraid to go to your MIT interview; it’s nowhere near as scary as you think!

  15. Stu Schmill says:

    As a reply to all who are having trouble contacting your EC, you should write to [email protected] to get some help. If you would prefer to call, you can call about the interview at this number: 617-258-5510.

    If you have been having trouble in any way, don’t worry. Our ECs are all very nice and will be as accommodating as they can, even if you contact them after the deadline.

    Glad to hear of this nice story in Maine!

    —Stu Schmill

  16. I want to have informations about this institute of technology and I want to be admitted in it. Thanks

  17. casey says:

    I missed the deadline date due to being out ofthe country for short while. Can I still get the interview with EC. I have not been assigned any EC so far.


  18. Anita says:

    I have been an EC for 8 years. In my experience, I really would prefer that an applicant NOT bring anything to show me. I once had someone insist on showing me a video that he had created. Other times, people want me to have a resume or some kind of CV. The interview is a chance for the applicant to tell me something interesting. What do you like? I really want to know. Don’t tell me things like you have a “passion for science”. Tell me something like I’m always tinkering on something, so I fix everything in the house.

    Also, for the parents, please let your child do all the talking until the EC asks you to be part of the interview. I give the parents a ton of stuff to look at (all the pamphlets, information booklets, and whatnot, that MIT sends to us), so they should not be bored. Or, they could just listen to the interview. This is the chance for your child to shine, give them the spotlight.

    Best wishes, everybody!

  19. Volcanolover says:

    I would love to go to MIT on day. In fact, it’s one of my biggest goals in life. I want to make the most of my high school years as I possibly can. I’m not exactly captain of the Mathletes type, and I’m terrified that that will keep me from being accepted. Does anyone have any tips on what I can do for the next four years to maximize my chances of admission?