Answers to questions received through 5PM on 01/24/06…
Jon wrote: “Alright, so I have to stay that I have tried to stay silent on the SAT writing section debate, if there really is a debate, but with it being brought up again and again, I think I should mention that the optional essays are considered optional in that they are not required, but if they can give more information, they can help you. The optional interview claims to be the part of the admissions step that can help you, but most likely will not harm you. Don’t you find it fishy that all of a sudden a big optional means that an 800 or 790 or whatever is not even looked at? What ever happened to going the extra little bit? I can understand the claim to not trust it and ignore like a 550, but if you have an 800, is it really fair that that is not even given a consideration? To me, and possibly some other students, it would be like testing calculus around the nation. Not every student knows calculus. Not every school has the resources to teach it. Would MIT distrust the score because of that? When I took the AP Calc exam last year, the directions the graders get on these exams is pretty much look for the right answer. Thus, if you weren’t sure what method to use, by writing 2 answers on the paper, you actually leave the grader the decision of choosing the correct one. Standardized tests are not perfect, and should not be used to punish anyone. But, does that mean that by removing punishment we must remove reward, too? Looking back on this, it looks like a rant, and I apologize, because I’m mostly on your side. Then again, I do feel my critical reading score was a factor in my deferral from EA, so yes, I think writing could and should be able to help students. Either way, I want you to know I still accept and understand the policies MIT makes on this, whether or not I agree with them.”
Please remember that no one is ever admitted to MIT based on numbers. The vast majority of our applicants have great grades and scores. If we admitted people based only on numbers, we could build a class many times over. So having a 700 or an 800 on any test doesn’t really help you per se; it just makes you competitive in the pool. Regarding the Writing test itself – MIT is all about data, and there is simply not enough data yet to determine how the test will correlate with future success at MIT (unlike CR and Math). Preliminary data suggests that the test still has some serious flaws. Until we are confident in the test’s ability to evaluate one’s potential/ability/etc., we won’t be using it in our evaluation of applicants.
Brian wrote: “If we were deferred, do our E3 summary cards from the EA round get saved in our folders and considered again, along with new RA summary cards? Would an application then wind up with 4 readers and 4 summaries by then end of the RA round?”
There is no new E3 card – the E3 card that was used in EA will be back on the table for RA (with any additional notes, correspondence, etc). Remember that many folks who are deferred in the EA round are accepted in the RA round. You are not at a disadvantage having been deferred – judging by the statistics, it’s the opposite.
Anonymous wrote: “So how were those New SAT Writing scores in early action? Was there anything shocking about them? Were they a helpful deciding factor? Any correlation between writing and math or writing and CR? What was the middle 50% of acceptees’ scores?”
I don’t have any of these answers – we are not considering the Writing score at this time.
David wrote: “I’m a deferred early action applicant, and I sent in a DVD recently of the special effects and animation work I’ve done. What if it is added to my folder after my application has been read for regular admissions? My application is complete, and all of the pieces are in place, but there may be more parts (like this DVD) that don’t get seen because they will arrive in the admissions office after my application has been read. Will such additional pieces be noticed in committee? (I mailed the DVD and its explanatory letters about a week ago, so it should definitely arrive before February).”
If your application has already been read when new material comes in, the folder is returned to the primary reader to log the new material and, if applicable, add to the summary.
Multiple folks asked how old/young I am.
I am 32. When I was your age, that seemed very old to me. When I’m my grandparents’ age, it will seem very young to me. Right now, I’m too busy to care either way. :-)
Amalchi wrote: “I have a few questions regarding the TOEFL. For some reason, ever since the new version of the TOEFL came out, no center in Puerto Rico has been offering it. I am very worried about this since we (students) are obviosuly foreign language speakers. I tried to see if any other version of the TOEFL was being offered, but I was unsuccesful. Many students and I feel like this will put us in a disadvantage, since our SAT scores went down the drain for the most part. I am very confident and happy about the rest of the application I sent to MIT, but I must say I am not at all happy about my SAT scores and felt a need to take the TOEFL in order for this test to be taken into consideration in conjunction with the rest of my application. The only other test I have taken where my english proficiency has been scored is the PEAU, which is offered by the college board for students who are interested in applying to colleges in Puerto Rico. I took this test last year, in order to gain admission to the residential school where I am presently Studying. I will be graduating this May from high school. I called MIT on one occassion and they told me to send the PEAU results with a letter stating that this was the only test I was able to take besides the SAT. But the score results are in spanish. They are not offered in English. Will the people at MIT be able to find someone that can translate them to the rest of the admission officers? Will this test be able to substitute the TOEFL? If we send the PEAU results, will they be taken into consideration?”
Varuna wrote: “I sat for the TOEFL on January 14th. The test got cancelled due to some problem with the cassette. I sent an e-mail to the MIT admission office explaining what happened. I expected to get a good score for the TOEFL… I will take the SAT I on January 28th, but my SAT I score (critical reading and writing) is likely to be lower than what I expected for TOEFL. How will MIT consider this? Please tell me if there is anything I could do.”
These are indeed unfortunate situations. My primary advice is to make us aware of what happened and explain everything as best you can so we have the proper context when evaluating your application. Any additional materials you can submit to help us evaluate you would be helpful. I would also ask Matt for his thoughts, as he oversees international selection and has more experience than I on the topic.
Lots of people said Happy Birthday and asked what I was doing to celebrate.
Hey, thanks everyone! I really appreciate all of the great birthday wishes. My colleagues got me a cake and some nice gifts and had a little party for me during the day; that night my wife & kids baked me cupcakes and decorated them for me. Then this past Friday my friends took me out to a nice dinner. Oh, and my family chipped in and bought me this to go with my christmas present – WOOT!
Wish wrote: “Hi! I’m an international student and I was just wondering if any of you guys know whether I can send my mid-year report (since it’s good :) even though it says for US students only?”
Yes, you are always welcome to send stuff in. My advice – when in doubt, if it will help your application, just send it.
Thatolchestnut wrote: “Was Miss April tipped off before your son managed to get another cookie?”
Yes. Grrrrrrrr. It’s a good lesson for him to learn though, before he gets married: the woman you love will always see through your flattery. Cleaning the house, shoveling snow, running errands, mowing the lawn, watching the kids while your wife goes shopping – now those things will get you the extra cookie.
Shikhar wrote: “Can you please tell me about any summer programs which are like open to internationals also. I am looking for computer science mainly… also just so u know the thing I once talked about taking a gap year if not MIT is confirmed. I am continuing with my research work and have left other applications so its pretty much MIT for me this year. Which is why I am also looking for good research opportunities to keep myself engaged somewhere.”
Great question – unfortunately this is a bit out of my realm of expertise. I would suggest asking our international guru, Matt.
Jenn wrote: “How would one go about working with admissions as a student? I think it would be a great opportunity and since I already can’t sing your praises enough, it would be one tht comes fairly easy. Maybe write a bit about work/study or students in admissions at some point…”
Hey, thanks. :-) There are many ways to get involved with our office – tour guides, interns, minority ambassadors, bloggers, etc. We post most of the opportunities during Orientation in the fall, so walk by our office and check ’em out!
Dadx4 wrote: “I’d appreciate it if at some point you could describe how the admissions staff know the profiles and rigors of various schools across the country. I have one child applying to colleges now, and three more yet to go through the process, and I’m curious to know to what extent the strength (or weakness) of particular high schools factors into admissions decisions and what information on the the high schools the admissions staff has access to.”
The guidance counselor (or college counselor) reports go a long way in this. First, the counselors will attach the official school profile which gives us a bunch of info (courses offered, range of grades, colleges attended by previous graduating classes, average test scores, a description of the school’s location and local resources, etc.) Then the GC will usually write a long report that puts a given student into context, within his/her school community. The teacher evaluations definitely add to this as well. If after reading all of this we still feel like we need more info, we’ll call the school’s counseling department directly.
Anonymous wrote: “I’m a student from Saudi Arabia, I study in all arabic school and my teachers don’t know english really well. I have a 4.0 average. I just took the SATs and did extremely well on the math section. I know I can make it into MIT. My question is that what should I do about my teacher recommendations? They all speak fluent arabic, I’m going to let me english teacher write me one and I know it will be amazing, but what should I do about my other reccomendations? They won’t be able to express themeselves very well in english. My other question is that my school doesnt offer a lot of recommendations what should I do, I’m taking all that’s offerred and trying my best? Is MIT familiar with the schools in Saudi Arabia? Thanks for your time.”
Usually when applicants submit recommendations in a foreign language, they submit official translations as well. Is this an option for you? If not, I would advise you to contact Matt and get his advice (he oversees international admissions at MIT).
Tom wrote: “I was wondering about MIT’s evaluation of ACT scores. How does MIT look at scores? Like other schools, does MIT convert ACT scores to SAT? If so, it’d be nice to see your conversion chart/ how you guys convert scores.”
We do convert ACT scores to SAT scores. As for the conversion formula, it’s not public (in fact I don’t even know what it is, to tell you the truth). But MIT’s pretty good with formulas, so you can be sure it’s accurate.
George wrote: “This might come in handy to ease the people’s nerves down. Say that you take your advice, Ben, and wait another two weeks before contacting the Admissions Office about mail. Then we found out it never got there, not because we did not send it, but because of some problem with the post office or something. Would our application be harmed by that? Would we be able to send it again (although that might take a whole lot especially for International Students?)
Yes, in that case I’d advise you to resend it, preferably by fax.
Anonymous wrote: “I was just curious, how much does being a Siemens Westinghouse Semifinalist and Intel Semifinalist help in terms of MIT admissions?”
These are obvious displays of passion, which is one of the foremost things we’re looking for. That said, there are thousands of ways to show passion – so while these accomplishments will certainly help you, don’t feel that you need to do something exactly like Siemens or Intel to get into MIT.
Kristin wrote: “If I, say, took a Calculus II class at a community college, would I be able to get credit and/or placement?”
It’s possible! All of the details are here (that’s the ’09 site, but the details on the ’10 site are unlikely to change much).
M wrote: “I had a doubt how a student can be accepted for both mit and caltech in EA. can any one please clarify?”
Mootmom responded: “M, both Caltech and MIT have EA programs: “Early Action”, in which accepted applicants learn their status in Dec. but are not required to decide until the national May 1 decision date. An “EA” program is not exclusive (unlike an “ED” program (Early Decision, where a student is obligated to cancel all other applications and matriculate if accepted) or “SCEA” (Single Choice Early Action, where a student may apply early only to that one school for EA consideration).) The EA programs which both MIT and Caltech offer are not exclusive and do not require a student to accept, so a student *could* be accepted at both, and a number are each year.”
Perfect answer – thanks!
Yasemin wrote: “I am a junior from an international high school and MIT Brain and Cognitive Sciences is my absolute dream. I have several questions to you (“to fit your schedule”, I have started worrying about college some 8 months beforehand… kidding of course =). I would be very thankful if you could address these points in your eight semi-annual FAQ :).
1) As far as I understand RD and RA refer to regular application time, am I right? What exactly do these abbreviations stand for?
Regular Action and Regular Decision. They are essentially the same thing, unlike their early counterparts (EA and ED). See mootmom’s answer a few questions up for details on the latter.
2) I have exhausted almost all AP courses offered at my school now. The last one is AP Java which I will take next year. So next year will not be a very challenging year for me, although not easy either. Will you understand that I had no other AP courses to take?
Yes, we’ll know this from your school profile and transcript. But AP’s are not the only way in which to challenge oneself. (I can’t totally tell from your question how you’re feeling about next year because you describe it as ‘not very challenging’ and also ‘not very easy.’) If you think you’ll be bored, I’d advise you to look into other ways in which you might continue challenging yourself academically. A class at a local community college, an online class, self study, research, etc.
3) I am planning to take AP Calculus BC this year. On the first day of our mid-year break I found myself studying Calculus for hours until my dad came at noon thinking I was still sleeping :)! We do have an AP Calc BC course offered to seniors, but since I am working on their topics at the moment, I’d rather not take the AP Calc BC course next year and waste a slot on a subject I already know. What do you think?
When you say “I am planning to take BC Calc this year” do you mean junior year? If so, then no, you wouldn’t want to take it again next year.
4) Do you value other nation’s science olympics? Are they valued as much as the Intel and Siemens-Westinghouse awards?
Everything is always considered in context – but yes, we value all of these.
5) The subjects I have a great passion for are Biology and Calculus. But my teachers in those subjects happen to be a couple. Will it look odd on the application if I get recommendations from both of them?
No. But remember that one of those will be Eval A and the other will be supplemental. You’ll still need an Eval B (humanities, arts, or social science teacher).
6) I know you don’t answer directly to questions such as “Am I an automatic reject?”. But I am worried a little, because I truly think I have a greater understanding of science than what my grades show. In all sciences I have about A- or A average. In the student blogs and the comments above I can only observe A+ grades. But I was a finalist on the national biology olympics. And I was selected to the olympics teams at our school, too. I am sure I will have very good recommendations. And standardized tests are very good, too. Can these “make up” for the lack of “outstanding” grades I had?
A- is a perfectly respectable grade. :-)
7) MIT Brain and Cognitive Sciences is awesome! Are there any students you know of who are majoring in this field? If they agree, could you please give me the e-mail address of one? I would love to contact one of those students and get their views.
Yes, email me and I will find a student for you to speak with.
 Mollie has volunteered (thanks Mollie!).
Anonymous wrote: “I’m a US citizen educated abroad. I know that I’m not considered international, but won’t u still put me in the international pool? Because its kind of unfair to compare me with domestic applicants who have millions of opportunities, while I have to create my own path in a very poor country!”
You will be considered as a US Citizen who has been educated in the context of another country. :-) No worries.
Old-timer wrote: “To all of you who are – rightly – worried about your chances of getting into MIT (or, for that matter, any top schools you’re considering or applying to), think of your application experience and all the hard work that you (AND your parents, yes many kids get their parents’ help in the form of either nagging / reminders or actual help in filling out the application) have put in as a life adventure. Your application outcome is important but won’t make or break your life or career. At the end of the day, a person’s success is not determined by which school he or she graduates from but by how much a’better’ person he or she has become after four years. In 10 years or 20, when you look back, you’ll wonder why you allowed yourself to lose sleep over your college admission matter. PS: Someone elsewhere suggested that an admissions officer would stop reading your application if he or she spots a grammmatical or typing error. If that’s true, ask yourself: do you want to study at a school where perfection is not a means to an end but the end itself? You should consider yourself lucky not going to a place where they think ‘to err is not human.’
Thanks for these very wise words Old-timer! Regarding the typos – a few here and there won’t matter a bit – we’re human too. Typos only matter when they’re excessive – in other words, when it becomes clear that you spent 5 minutes on your essay and that your MIT application itself was an afterthought. I’ve only seen this one or two times, and the rest of the application was dismal too.
Alexandre wrote: “Does anyone know what a “mutual admit” is?”
Again mootmom rocks the answer: “A ‘mutual admit’ is a student who is admitted to two schools (e.g. Harvard and MIT). In terms of ‘beating us’, this means that of those students who were admitted to both, a higher percentage chose to matriculate at Harvard than chose MIT.”
Tom wrote: “Ben, I’ve read your Q&As and it seems you always say things like ‘don’t worry about your poor SAT score because it’s only part of the application.’ I wonder if MIT can be equally forgiving when it comes to a couple of poor grades. But later the students showed dramatic improvement.”
Mikey gave a great answer: “MIT can be forgiving of grades too, especially if there’s an improvement. We’ll always look at context and circumstance too, so if there was a special reason for the bad grades – illness, family issues, etc., that will also be taken into consideration. While it may be rare for us to take someone with C’s on his/her transcript, it does happen sometimes, especially if the C’s are from freshman year and the grades have steadily improved throughout HS.”
U3 wrote: “If I don’t get through this year and apply next year, will you guys see my application from this year? Will the fact that I couldn’t get through this year be a negative factor?”
I answered a similiar question on College Confidential – I’ll copy & paste it below. It’s a year later than the timeframe in your question…
“If you applied last year and didn’t get in, and have reapplied this year, we will see both applications. I’ve seen a couple of these cases so far this year. I look at last year’s summaries to see how the readers and selection committee arrived at their conclusions / decisions last year. Then I read your new app from scratch to see where you are now in contrast, in particular what you’ve done in the last year. As this year’s applicant pool is shaping up to be equally competitive (if not moreso) than last year’s, folks who reapply without having done anything since HS will likely not be accepted, as they will essentially be submitting the same app into an equally competitive pool. On the other hand, those who have taken the year as an opportunity to pursue some great experiences and grow as students/people may have a good chance of finding success the second time around. It all depends on the individual case. I should note that there is no advantage to having applied to MIT in a previous year.”
Ferdinand wrote: “i plan to apply for aid and wish to know how i would be informed when my financial aid materials would be received coz there is no space for that in the online application and tracking.
The financial aid office is working on a Financial Aid Tracking portlet, which should be released sometime this year. Daniel will have updates as they come.
Usha wrote: “Is it true about international students getting in only if they have a regional, national or international certificate in any field?”
Many international admits do, but not all. International admissions at MIT are very competitive and you will need to stand out from the group, but there are many ways to do this.
Uren wrote: “I was just wondering, how long do you guys read files everyday (and how many)?”
Different readers read at different rates. Most read for 8-10 hours per day, including one weekend day. We work in the office Tuesdays and Thursday and read folders at home M/W/F/Sat. I read less than other readers because I’m not a full-time admissions officer due to my Communications Manager responsibilities.
Henry wrote: “What! My result is still not yet out can you plz mail the exact date for the result of my exams which i did on 22nd of december?”
If these have not appeared in your MyMIT account, you should call our office.
Worried wrote: “I have a question. What exactly is the purpose of the mid-year report? Is it to make sure that students aren’t slacking, or to cut people based on lower grades, or what? I was concerned because, as a senior, pretty much all my classes are APs, and with all of the work that’s gone into applications, and with all my EC’s, my grades are, to some extent, bending under the weight. In addition, I’m exhausted from so much work and winter break was no reprieve. I’m just concerned that after all the work that’s gone into 3+ years of HS and my applications, that a B+ or two on my mid-year report might give MIT cause to reject me, whether I be a border-line applicant or better or worse. Is this true? Would you consider this slacking, because I’m not…”
The purpose of the mid-year grade report is simply to get a sense of your senior year grades. It’s one piece of a large picture. Everything is evaluated in context, so if your EC’s are particularly impressive, I don’t see a B+ keeping you out of MIT.
AVY wrote: “One of my teachers messed up my grade when he submitted grades. I talked to him and he’ll correct it, but it will take a few weeks. Should I send mid-year report now, or wait until this is fixed?”
A few weeks from now might be too late. I would send it now and get your teacher to write us a letter asap.