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MIT staff blogger Ben Jones

Ben’s First Annual Q&A by Ben Jones

Kidding about the annual part. grin Catching up with my blog comments... finally!

Kidding about the annual part. :-) Catching up with my blog comments… finally!


Shikhar wrote: “I am a bit confused regarding my essay to MIT. Basically I want to tell you how being in a small city (that too in India) I missed out on lots of competitions and science activities that never came to our school and I want to tell how I still managed to get good competitions (all by my own effort) to follow my passions. How (or more appropriately where) should I put all this down in the application? Is it okay if I send this as a reply to question 14?”

Yes, #14 would be a perfect spot, assuming you don’t want to use your main essay (#11) to write about it.


Merudh wrote: “HOW DO YOU NOT LIKE FAST FOOD!!!??? Ahha love to hear your response on that question.”

Actually I love fast food, but eating it for every meal over a two-week period is a bad idea for both mind and body. :-) Have you seen Super Size Me?


Emily wrote: “If I have big feet will you give my application a boost? MIT could really use some foot diversity.”

I have huge feet, as you know. One of my favorite childhood stories is this: when I was 13 years old, I already had size 13 feet. One day, a girl in my neighborhood told me to “act my age, not my shoe size,” to which I responded “SAME THING BABY!!” and laughed at her like a lunatic.

This was the most rewarding thing ever to come from my big feet – I could not use them to benefit my college applications. Unfortuantely, this is likely to be the case for you as well.


Rachel wrote: “You mentioned how a student should be a good “match” when applying for MIT, and then discussed some aspects/adjectives of this match student. Can you tell me what these were? I forgot to write them down.”

Absolutely! Ideal candidates will match:

  1. MIT’s mission to make the world a better place. Remember that there are many ways to make the world better – we’re not looking for folks to have cured all infectious disease in the world by the time they’re fifteen. Tutoring a single kid in math changes the world. Lobbying a senator to change bad policy changes the world. There are thousands of examples.
  2. MIT’s collaborative spirit. If you enjoy working alone all the time, that’s fine! But you’re not going to be happy here.

  3. MIT’s affinity for hands-on approaches to education. Our latin motto means “Mind and Hand.” In other words, we don’t just want to see that you’ve been thinking, we want to see that you’ve been doing.

  4. Passion, passion, passion. Quality over quantity. You don’t have to do a million things to get into college. You just have to do a few things that you truly care about, and express your passion for them appropriately. This is intentionally general; we don’t judge what you’re passionate about – just that you’re passionate about something.

  5. The character of the MIT community. Our community is comprised of good people. People who take care of each other and lift each other up. People who inspire each other to work & dream beyond their potential. We’re looking to admit people who by nature will sustain the qualities of this community.

  6. The ability to prioritize balance. Work hard, play hard. Despite what you may have heard, this place is NOT all about work. To be successful here, you must prioritize some measure of down-time or you will burn out. Therefore we like to see that you’ve prioritized some down-time in high school as well. Question #12a (Tell us about something you do simply for the pleasure of it) is not a trick question. Answer it wisely.


Bernar wrote: “Which kind of teacher recommendation do you normally value more, a really good (meaning the teacher values the students highly) one from a relatively new (1-2 years) teacher, or a less extravagent one from a more senior teacher?”

The first one. Choose the teacher who knows you best as both a student and a person. What good is 20 years of teaching experience if the teacher doesn’t know you?


April wrote: “Is there any advantage to applying early admission over regular? I mean is your admit rate higher for early applicants?”

Last year the admit rate for students who applied EA and were accepted EA was about 14%. The admit rate for students who applied regular and were admitted regular was also 14%. The admit rate for students who applied EA and were accepted either EA or deferred to regular and then accepted – in other words the admit rate for all EA applicants regardless of when they were accepted – was greater than 20%.

So statistically, EA applicants have a better chance of getting in. But based on self-selection and a variety of other factors, the statistics probably don’t hold water.

As far as how we look at it in reading and selection, there is absolutely no advantage to applying early, because we are neither binding nor single-choice – so we can’t assume an added enthusiasm for MIT based on the decision to apply EA.


This is not a question, but worthy of front-page attention.

Saad wrote: Hi everyone, I am sorry for this off topic post but I think its more important to get the message across. On Saturday, October 9, a massive earthquake hit the northern and central areas of Pakistan, the worst in the country’s history and the 4th most devastating in the year 2005, killing above 25,000 (twenty five thousand that’s expected to rise even more) and affecting more than 43,000 people overall. The country is in a state of terrible disaster and trauma and we need a lot of help from the whole world. The Pakistani Students association at MIT, PAKSMIT, is collecting donations and manage any sort of ways to help and trying to organize relief dinners etc. I wish we can all unite at this time of worry, when we have been struck by Tsunamis, Katrina, and now this earthquake!”

Saad, this is not off-topic at all. This should be at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts.

For more on what Saad and Paksmit are doing, click here.


Merudh wrote: “What do you think of Coldplay? If you… like them what is your favorite song?”

I love Coldplay! I’m going to have to go with Shiver or Fix You.


Lily wrote: “I absolutely love Alias. I can see what you mean by it slowly sinking… but it will always have a special place in my heart… Did you see [Jennifer Garner] in Daredevil?”

I couldn’t agree with you more. It will always have a special place in my heart too, and I will watch every last episode until the day they take it off the air, no matter how bad it gets.

I haven’t seen Daredevil – is it worth renting?

28 responses to “Ben’s First Annual Q&A”

  1. Shikhar says:


    So my question was the first to be addressed on Ben Jones first Q&A entry.

    So that qualifies me fo MIT 2006 right….just kidding.

    Nice work Ben thanks for opening this entry. This way we can get more frequent answers and poor Matt will somewhat lesser work. You should just see the number of questions on his blog.

  2. Robb Carr says:

    Thanks Ben! What an interesting story…I like the part on match as well.

  3. Laura says:

    Ahhh I love the shoe story. =)

  4. Arka says:

    Hi Ben!

    Great job!

    Your site is very informative.

    I am applying for MIT 2006. I had a simple question, it might sound weird, but ahh here’s it:

    I attended the Summer Science Program,2005,USA. And was the only student ever to attend the same from India. Will it be wise to include the SSP thing in the application.

    And regarding the foreign language requirement. I did learn some Spanish in a local school. But the course will end by July, 2006. So should I ask my college Advisor to mention the foreign language education I have earned.

    Thank you!

    Arka Prava dhar


  5. MJ Kamalov says:


    u read today;s the tech, right?

    congrats! that’s a nice article about the blogs smile

  6. Edward says:

    Hello Ben.

    Nice day isnt it? (small talk)

    Are the differences in education systems around the world taken into account when cosidering international applicants? How?

    In my country(Kenya) students who sat for the national exams are ranked by province with the best 100 candidates in each province being published in the local newspapers. There is no other way of showing you that I made it onto this list so…can I photocopy the page and send it to you?

    Lastly, are admission interviews available in my country?

    I hope to meet you next year.

    Than you very much.

    Have a nice rest-of-the-day(or night)

  7. Edward says:

    Wasn’t the previous post rather nice? (small talk)

    Sorry about posting twice, I forgot to ask something.

    One of the requirements of MIT is that I should have studied a foreign language. Right? The only languages I studied in High school are swahili and english, neither of which are considered foreign in Kenya-so will you consider swahili as being a foreign language?

  8. Long says:

    Hey Ben,

    I have a quick questions. Is it a plus to complete to “optional” fields? Do admission people take them into consideration when reading one’s application? And is it bad if you complete one “optional” box, but not all?

  9. nehalita says:

    One day, a girl in my neighborhood told me to “act my age, not my shoe size,” to which I responded “SAME THING BABY!!”

    …hopefully that’s not still the case =)

  10. Wendi says:

    Hey Ben!!!

    Oh man…can’t believe it’s been over a year since I first started working on the MIT app…time sure flies!

    I will come visit you and Matt soon, so see you then. =)

  11. Matt says:

    If we figure out the meaning of the numbers in LOST, will that help us get into MIT in the slightist, if of course, we already have a very good application?

  12. David says:

    Regarding the essay, do you cut off after 500 or 100 words (for those who apply online that is), or will you still see and read the full of an essay that is, say, less than 10 words over?

  13. David, Ben said this in August on a college admissions discussion forum (quoting an earlier entry in his blog which I can’t locate now):

    “In my blog I did say ’50 words over the limit isn’t a big deal, don’t worry about it. People who totally ignore the limit and submit 1000 words, however, are telling us something about their ability to write a concise essay…’ In other words, it’s not a strict limit, but don’t abuse that policy – the reader(s) won’t appreciate it if you do.”

  14. Tracy says:

    Is the deadline for supplemental materials (like an extra letter of recommendation) for early action also Nov.1?

  15. David says:

    Thanks a bunch, leftcoast mom smile

  16. Anonymous says:

    hey ben…nice to see you commented on my comments haha anyway yeah I have seen SUPERSIZE me…that was such an eye-opener but hey I guess my working in taco bell for over a year kinda made me lose my craze for fast food.

    As for COLDPLAY…good to see that you are a fan. Btw…I like Yellow and Speed of Sound and of the two you said, I would have to go with Fix You.

    Anyway, i should sleep but before I go…I had to ask you a quick question…I have a 790 math IIC…is that considered as equally competitive as an 800? And also…do you think I should retake my physics SAT II (710) or is anything above 700 on an SAT II considered good?

  17. Merudh says:

    my bad…anonymous above is me. Forgot to enter my name lol

  18. In case Ben is too busy to comment just now, it might be helpful to read this quote from a Sept.9 post Ben made to a college admissions discussion forum:

    “750 on anything (SAT I verbal, SAT I math, SAT II) is fine. We wouldn’t look at that any differently from an 800. Past a certain point, it’s obvious that you’re qualified academically to be here… after that, it’s what you’ll contribute to MIT’s culture and community that gets you in.”

  19. Merudh says:

    yeah I’ve read that…I deff agree with that statement.

  20. Masha says:

    Hehe I love the shoe story… so silly.

    HI ARKA!!! How are you? Go SSP!

    (apologies for this comment to everyone who isnt Arka – we went to the same summer porgram and i randomly came across his comment here. weird, no?)

  21. Laila says:

    You owe me a lunch hmmm

  22. shikhar says:

    my bad…anonymous above is me. Forgot to enter my name lol

    Posted by: Merudh on October 26, 2005 11:29 PM

    Dude you have to type anonymous in the name section. How could you have forgot your name.

  23. Lily says:

    I should really check these blogs more frequently – I was very surprised to see my (somewhat rhetorical) questions as a part of your First Annual Q&A!

    I’ve got a few answers to your question about Daredevil:

    a) If you’re the type of guy who likes heavy, dark, and stuff-of-substance themes in your movies…Daredevil is not for you.

    b) If you’re the type of guy who grew up with comics and would not depart from the original storylines in exchange for any sum of money or a small country…Daredevil is not for you.

    c) If you’re the type of guy who is simply a fan of Jennifer Garner and wants to see her rival Jackie Chan in fight scenes…then Daredevil is for you.

    Thank you VERY much for the contact @ MIT. She replied back to me within a few hours, and was very helpful and thorough in her answers. She was one of the best sources of information I’ve encountered in any college-info-search.

  24. Lily says:

    Oops. I meant “Third Annual Q&A”.

  25. Lily says:

    No, I was right the first time.

  26. Jess says:


    First of all, I loved ALIAS too. Keyword being loved. Then they killed Michael Vartan and I had a Summer Roberts-esque rage blackout and refused to watch it anymore.

    I watch too much TV.

    ANYWAY, I put in my jobs section that I work as a freelance web designer, but I couldn’t find any place to put my URL. So I wrote it on the inside cover of a DVD I sent in with some of my other work. I’m really starting to regret not putting it in a more noticeable place, but it was somewhat large and written in green pen. What’s the chance that it won’t get noticed? Will you look out for it for me? Thanks.

  27. Arka says:

    Hey Masha!

    We find SSP every where. Three cheers for SSP.

    For others: Guys! SSP is the place where smart people from all over the world meet and work together for 6weeks on a brain storming science topic.

    Two of us are happy and proud alumni of SSP, 2005.

    Have fun!


  28. simi says:

    hi SSP’s

    appearing for MIT are u? good for u.

    so u are smart Arka & masha heee…heee