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MIT staff blogger Ben Jones

Ben’s Ninth Semi-Annual Q&A by Ben Jones

Answers to questions received through 2PM on 02/14/06.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Answers to questions received through 2PM on 02/14/06…


Shikhar wrote: “If i sort of decide to send in a supplementary essay can i do that via email in place of the snail mail?”

Yes, send it to [email protected] Hopefully you’ve sent it by now, but if not, send it immediately. There are only a few days left before we go into selection.


John wrote: “IB appeals to me because of its variety and it’s coursework requirements. But AP seems to be the American standard. Which one is preferable by MIT?”

IB is generally equivalent to AP in terms of academic rigor and challenge, as far as we are concerned.


Raghav wrote: “I have a question similar to John’s. I do IB and my school doesn’t even offer AP courses. Are APs valued higher than IB courses for international students?”

Please see above.


Am wrote: “I was admitted early and definitely plan on going. At what point would you reject me after acceptance because i am not doing very well in two of my classes but well in the rest?”

Slipping a bit will not cause us to take back our offer of admission, but slipping too much could. These decisions are made on a case-by-case basis by the Dean and the senior staff (i.e. not me) so I can’t give you an exact answer, but you should aim to keep your grades at or near the level they were when you were admitted.


Dan wrote: “‘I don’t have any of these answers – we are not considering the Writing score at this time.’ Is this statement as literal as it seems? Simply, not considering it? I’m so much better at writing than reading/verbal skills. I thought it would make up for a lower CR score but I guess not. There is at least a 100 point difference SAT-wise between my writing and CR scores (practice tests – about 710W to 590CR).”

Having a great Writing score certainly won’t hurt you, but unfortunately it will not make up for a lower CR score. That said, remember that test scores in general are only one part of a large application.


Bishanli wrote: “I am entering the AMC 12 Contest and hopefully the AIME this year. I am just wondering if these two scores really help my admission or it wouldn’t unless I get into USAMO? And if it does help, to what extent and how much do I need to score in order for it to help?”

A good AIME score will certainly help you. I can’t give you an exact number because it depends on how it fits into the overall context of your application, but you should report any AIME scores to us – they can never hurt you.


S wrote: “What is your son’s name? He is soooo cute. =) I adore kids. I hope Miles smiles for the camera soon.”

Thanks for thinking he’s cute! :-) Apologies in advance, but I’ve never released the names/details of my kids online – too many scary people out there. If you ever visit MIT, stop by and I’ll tell you. Bryan should have a new entry up later today with pictures of Miles. (He has less to worry about, because Miles eats everything in his path, including scary people.)


KIM wrote: “Do you know the number of kenyans applying to mit this year and their addresses?”

I’m sorry, our privacy policy prevents me from discussing this, but perhaps other Kenyans will leave their email addresses in the comments so that you may contact them (please do not leave postal addresses, as this is a safety risk).


Monique wrote: “Is it possible, maybe next year, to have the blogs in the domain, to make it easier for students to search?”

I would like to do this ultimately, but it will require jumping through a lot of internal hoops. In an effort to get the blogs up and running as quickly as possible with maximum flexibility, we made the decision to locate them outside of MIT’s primary domain. Down the road this will likely change.


J P wrote: “Tests, Activities, and Essay Form – Part 2 of the two-part application for freshman admission should be returned as soon as possible, but postmarked no later than November 1 for Early Action and January 1 for Regular Action. One long and two short essays are required. Huh. Are these the requirements for 2007? The essay requirement for 06 were either essay a or essay b, or did I miss anything?”

I’m a bit confused by your question. Last year, this year, and next year, the requirement is two short answer questions, one longer essay (with 2 choices of topic – a or b) and a variety of optional essays.


Swissinsenegal wrote: “Hi, i plan to apply next year. The thing is that i am in the french system and i don’t know if i am good or not. Everybody says that the american system is much easier than the french one. I’ve got between 16.5/20 and 17/20 of average (18/20 or more for sciences). I’m not as passionate as you can often see in movies but i’m a steady person. I’m not a guy working hours but I’m bright. What are my chances?”

Unfortunately I can’t answer chances questions on an individual basis. All I can say is this: if you don’t apply, your chances are zero! :-) (So you should apply.)


Anonymous wrote: “My EPGY class is to be finished by the end of february, and I was hoping to finish it a couple of weeks before that. Should I just send the transcript now (which will indicate “incomplete” for the EPGY course, which would otherwise have been Pass or Fail b/c it is a transfer course) and send an email to the admissions office telling them that the course will end in a couple of weeks time?”

Yes, that is fine. You can fax it to us if you haven’t already sent it.


Anonymous wrote: “‘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.’ What if my GC did not do any of these? He just sent a brochure about the school?”

I should have been more clear in answering that, and I apologize. Not all GC’s send reports. Sometimes (frequently, actually) we get our context more from the teacher evaluations and/or the interview report. If we ever feel like we need more clarity on an applicant, we will contact the school, don’t worry.


Sam wrote: “Hi Ben, do you know how much it will hurt me if I have a really bad grade (Sorry, I know this has been answered before, but I think I have an extreme case) in which I got 2 D’s from a summer class before freshman year due to family matters? However, I have been consistently getting A’s and only 1 B everafter. So without counting the D’s I probably will have a 3.9+ GPA unweighted. Do you think this will significantly impact the admission process?”

If the D’s were from summer classes before you entered high school, I would think you could have them removed from your transcript, no? In any case, we’re not going to care terribly much about grades received before freshman year, especially if everything after that is strong.


Anonymous wrote: “Does MIT require a certain second semester GPA for acceptances to not be revoked, or is it more of a ‘play it by ear’ situation?”

Please see my answer to a similar question up above.


Merudh wrote: “i was just wondering, is there any chance that you will see my application if mine was deferred?”

As applications circulate through so many subcommittees in selection before a final decision is rendered, it is more likely than not that I will encounter any given application in the pool in committee.


Shaun wrote: “I know you’re probably sick of people ranting on and on about standardized tests, but I can’t seem to put my mind to rest. I took the sat twice and the act once. For the two sat’s i got a dismal 1970 first and a lower score thereafter. On the act, however, I got a 32 (yay!). Now, I know you do sat-act conversions; I was just wondering if the sat scores would still hurt my chances, or if you would convert the 32 over and that’s that (I honestly cannot stand that sat).”

We will only look at your ACT, do not worry. We always use only the information that (a) satisfies the requirements and (b) puts the applicant into the best light. As we ask for only the ACT or the SATI, your lower SATI scores will be ignored.


Jon wrote: “Supposing that the worst happens and you’re pretty much a fringe candidate. you could be admitted based on other applicants, but also you’re not the best in the incoming class. how much does the midyear report count? Considering it IS a math and science school, i got an 80 on an ap physics mid-term (i don’t believe the report mentions it was one of the highest grades in the class, but you can see why that sort of makes me mad). would it open their eyes to an 80, changing any decisions they might make? keep in mind it took our teacher 2 hours to make the key, we had an hour and a half, not that that’s anything to keep in mind, but i guess i just enjoy ranting on your site. thanks for listening, hahaha.”

I do understand why that would make you mad, but in my experience, an 80 on one exam likely wouldn’t make or break an application to MIT.


Christina wrote: “I go to an extremely competitive public school in New Jersey that ranks its students. It is interesting because the students from #1 to #30 are academically all at about the same level. However, they are placed with a number and ranked according to a few decimal points. Does MIT take class rank into huge consideration? Often times these ranks differ because of one two-hour midterm exam.”

When reading a folder, I look at GPA and classes taken before I look at class rank. If I see that you have a stellar GPA in really hard classes and you’re still ranked #30, it’s going to be pretty obvious what’s going on. No worries. :-)


Anonymous wrote: “I sent an update package on Friday 2/3 with some important application updates, such as my Intel Semifinalist notification. Will it reach MIT in time to affect my decision?”



Anonymous wrote: “I just recently found out that my college counselor has yet to send my Mid-Year report. Is it ok if he faxes the Mid-Year this week?”



Nabeel wrote: “I had a couple of questions. Firstly have you started going through international applications, and about how many apply to MIT from Pakistan. Secondly will internationals also receive their acceptances in tubes?”

We have not yet begun reading international applications. The RA tubes question is discussed further down.


Edward wrote: “When will you guys be through with the admission decisions? How many individual applications have you (personally) read so far? How many more do you expect to read? Is it already too late to send anything that MyMIT is saying is missing? (I could not send it earlier.)”

We will be finished making all admissions decisions in mid-March. (Nothing is final until the letters are mailed.) I’m honestly not sure how many apps I’ve read; the numbers come out at the end of the process. (Additional materials question is discussed at the end.)


Many, many students commented or sent me email about online decision notification.

I decided to cover the topic in a previous entry.


Many people have asked if RA admits will receive tubes.

Unfortunately the answer is no. RA admits will receive a huge packet of materials that cannot fit into a tube. This material is not ready in time to send to the EA admits, so we created the Tube Project so that they would have something more celebratory than a simple letter to open.


TC wrote: “I found out today that a couple of teachers and a neighbor, upon finding out that my app had been deferred, had taken it upon themselves to send letters to you about me. And I submitted add’l mat’l. So now you have a pile of extra stuff about me. So sorry! How do you get through it all? Or do you just say, after reading 3 extra pages, “Enough!” and toss the rest?”

Assuming it’s good material that adds additional context or perspective to your case, we won’t be annoyed. :-)


Sly, Eliot, and Edward all had questions about additional materials and related deadlines.

You are always welcome to send in additional materials, but at this point I’m not sure if they will make it to committee in time.

29 responses to “Ben’s Ninth Semi-Annual Q&A”

  1. Sukrit says:

    Another question: I was recently notified that I am a National Merit Finalist. Given that I recently (last 1-2 weeks) sent an update letter to MIT and had a significant amount of supplemental information, would you suggest sending another update letter with this information, or not? IF not, would you suggest sending one if I qualify to other competitions (ex. JSHS, etc).

  2. Alan says:

    I haven’t sent anything about going from National Merit semifinalist to finalist simply because it doesn’t seem like much of a distinction– 15 of 16 semifinalists make the cut, and those applying to MIT probably are all qualified to get finalist. I, too, have already sent an update letter, and I don’t think much else exciting has happened to me, so I’m not taking additional action.

  3. Fadl says:

    Thx Ben your answers help a lot. Happy valentines and don’t forget to take some time off to spend with your love.

    Even though I wouldn’t mind if you decide to work on applications instead…wink

  4. SpeckJr says:

    Does anyone know the date that AMC scores will be emailed out?

    And I think that RA’s should get tubes addition to the packet…just so they feel special..

  5. Phil says:

    Hey Ben,

    While I’m glad that I don’t have any admissions questions for you, I just wanted to thank you for keeping up with the blogging and always answering questions with sincerity. :]

    Although I was deferred early, it’s nice to truly stop worrying too much about my upcoming mit decision (what a feat!). Altho I’m still as excited… if that makes sense. I think I’d love working in admissions in college too (does/will mit allow students to be involved?).

    Thanks again. Hope you guys make it by pi day! (no pressure)

  6. Phil says:

    And oh btw, i loved reading past BenGolub vs. BenJones posts on CC… I wish you guys started another friendly match. :]

  7. Sam says:


    I tried looking for the answer to this question, but I couldn’t really find one:

    When exactly can we expect the RA admissions decision to be out (via snail mail or online, either one)?

    Thank you.

  8. shikhar says:

    thanks for answering Ben…i changed my mind about the extra essay I think i have written enough for the admission commitee to evaluate me so i am not sending any essay now..but nice to know that you people consider things sent via email.

  9. David says:

    I was told by my calculus teacher that AMC scores are usually mailed in ‘about a month.’

    Also, as far as AMC scores go, is it worth my while to send them when they appear? I kept track of my answers while taking the test and I’m pretty sure I qualified for the AIME with a 113.5/150 (cutoff is 100, and I would have had a 119.5 were it not for a stupid error of the kind you’d think MIT applicants are too smart to make, but would be wrong in thinking that).

  10. Edward says:

    Thanks fpr all the answers, Ben.

    You’re great.

    Hi Kim! I’m from Kenya and I would love to hear from you.

    my address is [email protected].

    Have a nice day y’all.

  11. Stephanie says:

    I know a competitive SAT score is above 650, but what is a competitive ACT score?

  12. I wanted to ask is it O.k if we send the school transcript and secondary school report in different packages?? I sent my O and A Level result in late january and my secondary school report in late december.The checklist is showing that my secondary school report and transcript have not been recieved. Am I in trouble?

  13. Vivek says:

    Today I was thinking like a stupid-

    I thought the google search has something to do with popularity. So i searched with the key word”Ben jones “. It did not work and i could not find it from the search results

    But i did not compromise with my search and did not enter mit but ‘ben jones blogs ‘

    and it was the sixth link out of 8,500,000 total.

    I am wondering how the google search actually works.

    I am somewhat confident it has nothing much to do with sponsered link or aything simlar since they are always featured seprately.

    anyway am presently looking the page

    found again through a google search.

    I know people on this page are all wonderful and I would love to hear what all they know about it?

    Yeah I am not much aware about it smile

  14. jessica says:

    Hi Ben,

    I had a question about supplementary material. I did research this summer at a laboratory and wrote a research paper, which I entered into a variety of contests. I was waiting to hear back from a couple of them and now I know what the outcome is — is it too late to submit my research paper along with the awards I have received up to now?

    I really think the research paper would supplement my application well.

    Thank you!

  15. Syed, which country are you from? I studied in S’pore, which also follows the O and A level system.

    When tracking my application, I also noticed that the items were added in progressively. So sometimes, the teacher evaluations would be in, but not the secondary school report. What I did was just to drop MIT an email, and they helped me to check it out when something was way, way overdue.

    Now that I know I won’t be receiving a tube, I’ll be on the lookout for a large rectangular package. And no, I’m not going to call FedEx (or was it UPS?) to see if I’ve got a package from MIT. I’ll wait it out.

    Good luck to everybody!

  16. s says:


    No apologies reqd. I’ve watched enough forensic shows to know about freaky people. Unfortunately, my mom watches them with me which has given her the impression that USA is full of serial killers and psychopaths !!

  17. Anonymous says:

    Hi Ben,

    I would like to ask when the MyMIT Tracking system will display the status of receipt of financial aid documents to meet the financial aid deadline, since I’m not sure whether my finaid docs have reached MIT and mail in my country generally takes 2+ weeks to get to MIT.

  18. Ajit says:

    Hi Ben,

    how are you

    Happy belated Birth Day.(I came to know today.)

  19. Siddharth says:

    lol, vivek!! ur looking at a parody… u probably already know that, but im just making sure.

    google’s original plan was PageRank (hence the “PigeonRank” joke) which included in its calculations the number of links to a particular page. but it didn’t work out exactly as planned just because of the ever-changing nature of the Internet. google, like other search engines, sends out web crawlers (aka spiders) to find pages and update google’s cache. it is faster for google to search its cache than to search the actual web. once it returns the links (from the cache), and u click on them, ur taken to the actual (updated, NOT cached) page.

    however, google’s search is unique and i obviously i dont know everything a/b it. in fact, google is calling its search technology a “trade secret” and using this as a legal basis for holding out against the govt’s requests for random search data. read more about it at

    Read the related story as well. msn, yahoo, and aol have long since caved in to the doj’s subpoenas. google is standing up to the govt’s frivolous requests, which could open the door to further subpoenas that request not only search terms but also ip addresses from which the search requests were made. this would be a massive invasion of privacy and a violation of the users’ trust: when i use an anonymous service, i want it to stay ANONYMOUS.

    at the same time, google has agreed with china’s communist government to censor its search results in china. while this makes good economic sense and google is looking out for its shareholders by putting a foot in the door of the largest national search market, it does kind of undermine google’s position against the dept of justice subpoenas. but, life is full of contradictions. im sticking w/ google, and they should be applauded for resisting the govt’s unwarranted intrusions.

    hope this helps,


    SiddharthKShah+Vivek @ gmail . com if u need it (no spaces, just avoiding spam)

  20. Arka says:

    Thanks a lot Ben!

    Hey vivek! take care of the last line in the post “Note: This page was posted for April Fool’s Day – 2002”

    Because as far as I know a company will not be that stupid to lay out their searching-sorting technology to the public. Although that post is really amusing….ha ha….”using low-cost, off-the-street pigeons for its clusters”…thats funny…

    have fun!

  21. Arka says:

    I think they have a huge database of wordwide links which they keep updating….(but thats weird) millions and millions of websites all over the world). It might work like this…they have tie-ups with the “Web hosts” who hosts our websites and the new websites uploaded are sent to google for inclusion in their database and the rest might be simple database searching-sorting-hashing or something more…just wondering….nothing solid.


  22. Merudh says:

    hey ben,

    I took the SAT in January and my scores are still not up on collegeboard…they said I have to wait till march 4…so will you recieve my scores in time?

  23. Siddharth says:

    hey merudh,

    if u click on ur application part 2 on myMIT, on the first page (under testing req’s) it says, “

  24. Vivek says:

    Thanks Siddharth!

    yeah i read that page and you are correct.I am still interested to know , your information was great help.

    Thanks again


  25. Vivek says:

    And was [email protected]….. your email adress??


  26. Siddharth says:

    yup :D

    yes, april, gmail rocks… im still idling at ~18% of my >2GB storage space :D

    i learned a thing about how to make gmail act like an extra hard drive (albeit a slow one…). b/c as much as i try to delude myself, im just not popular enough to get 2gb worth of email wink

  27. Siddharth says:

    btw, that is NOT permission to spam me until i DO get 2gb worth of email :D