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Ask me anything about portfolios by Jeremy Weprich

Go ahead—don’t be shy!

tl;dr Today I’ll be answering your questions about MIT portfolios in the comment section below. To tide you over before questions come in, I’ve compiled some of my thoughts on the portfolio process and collected some frequently asked portfolio questions.

A crumb of context

The MIT application is designed to help the admissions committee get to know you as a full person—a person with interests, talents, obsessions, curiosities, etc. We design our application this way to help us deliver on our charge to enroll a vibrant student community made up of some of the world’s most intelligent and creative individuals interested in an education centered on science and technology.

Most applicants feel that they are able to adequately communicate their interests and aptitudes with us on the standard MIT application alone, and we think that is great. You do not need to submit a portfolio in order to build a strong application to MIT, and most students are best served by completing only the standard MIT application.

Others feel compelled to highlight a particular talent or skill that they believe is significant enough to merit a platform of its own. For those students, our supplemental portfolios may feel especially useful. We offer portfolios of the following types:

  • Maker Portfolio
  • Music & Theater Arts Portfolio
  • Visual Arts & Architecture Portfolio
  • Research Portfolio

Since 2013, MIT supplemental portfolios have lived in a system called SlideRoom, which is specifically designed to showcase audiovisual and other digital media in a way that our standard application is not. And while your SlideRoom portfolio and your MIT application live in two separate places as the user, we link them up on our end so that we can see your portfolio within the context of your entire MIT application.

Before I continue, it is worth emphasizing that admissions officers do not expect, require, or secretly hope that students submit portfolios; portfolios are truly, madly, deeply optional. If you are not sure if you should submit a portfolio, try asking yourself these questions:

  1. Is the work featured in your portfolio important to you?
  2. Does the work in your portfolio help us better understand your fit with the MIT community?
  3. Does the work featured in your portfolio make reasonable sense to be reviewed by faculty and staff experts at MIT?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then your work might be a good fit for a portfolio.01 And even if the answers to these questions is yes, remember that submitting a portfolio is—you guessed it—still optional. If you’re still not sure, just ask!

FAQAPs (frequently asked questions about portfolios)

When are portfolios due?

Supplemental portfolios must be submitted in SlideRoom by the deadline of the cycle to which you are applying. If you’re applying through Early Action, your portfolio must also be submitted by the EA deadline (for this cycle: November 1, 2021). If you’re applying through Regular Action, your portfolio must be submitted by the RA deadline (for this cycle: January 5, 2022). If you require a fee waiver, make sure you request a fee waiver by the deadlines below.

Can I request a fee waiver for my portfolio?

Yes! Instructions on how to request a fee waiver are detailed in the Submit section at the end of each portfolio in SlideRoom. To request a fee waiver, send a brief email to [email protected] with the subject line SlideRoom Fee Waiver by the deadlines listed below, including your full name and date of birth in the body of the email.

Please allow 3 days for your request to be processed. You will receive an email once your fee has been waived; you must then submit your portfolio by the submission deadline.

SlideRoom Portfolio Fee Waiver Deadlines:

Early Action applicants: fee waivers must be requested by October 29

Regular Action applicants: fee waivers must be requested by December 29

Can I submit multiple portfolios of different types?

Sure! But, as is true for many things in life, please focus on quality over quantity. Just because you are able to find something that fits the parameters for each portfolio type, I encourage you to focus your efforts on the areas that are most meaningful to you. To borrow the words of a wise colleague, “Don’t throw spaghetti at the wall and hope that something sticks.”

That being said, the answer is yes. You can submit multiple portfolios of different types (i.e. one research portfolio and one visual arts portfolio).

Can I submit multiple portfolios of the same type?

For the Music & Theater Arts category, the answer is yes. For other portfolios, the answer is currently no. Applicants may submit two portfolios in the Music & Theater Arts category if they, for example, play two instruments equally well, or they both compose music and perform music and would like to submit a portfolio for each. Since the SlideRoom only allows one submission per portfolio type, to submit multiple Music & Theater Arts portfolios, applicants must create a separate SlideRoom account using a different email address for each account.

Note: at the time of publishing, this is only an option for the Music & Theater Arts portfolio type. If you’re reading this in the future (beyond the 2021–2022 admissions cycle) please refer to the current policies published on our site.

What if I like to sing stuff/build stuff/draw stuff just for fun? Does that mean I need to submit a music/maker/visual art portfolio?

Submitting a portfolio of any kind is entirely optional. Just because you play an instrument, write music, or perform in an orchestra does not mean you are obligated to submit a music portfolio along with your MIT application. Just because you’re on the robotics team at your school and you like spending time in the shop does not mean you must submit a maker portfolio. But if it feels important to you and meaningful to your application as a whole, then you are absolutely welcome to submit a portfolio.

Remember, there are also other ways to share your interests, talents, hobbies, and passion projects with us on your standard MIT application, without ever needing to complete a portfolio. (That’s one of the main reasons we love reading your responses to the “What do you like to do for fun?” essay question.) For most students, the standard MIT application alone will suffice.

The music portfolio asks for two recordings of solo performances, no more than 10 minutes in total duration. Can I submit three recordings of group performances that are each 20 minutes long?

We’d really like you to follow the guidelines of each portfolio as closely as you can.

The guidelines are there for a several reasons. First, they provide structure and standardization so that our expert reviewers can evaluate portfolios in a consistent way. Second, they help reviewers better manage their time. (As much as we’d love to listen to the entirety of your cello concerto,02 I am partial to Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor! or watch 12 hours of time-lapse footage of your 3D printer, we and our reviewers have limited time to dedicate to each application.) We want to be as fair in our reviews and as equitable with our time as we can, so please do your best to build a portfolio within the stated parameters.

I’ll stop there for now, though I plan to update this post with any particularly common questions that arise in the comments section. To all my makers, musicians, researchers, artists, architects, and beyond—I am rooting for you, and I cannot wait to see (and hear!) what you submit.

  1. And even if the answers to these questions is yes, remember that submitting a portfolio is—you guessed it—still optional. back to text
  2. I am partial to Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor! back to text