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MIT staff blogger Ben Jones

Bye Bye Weekends, See You In April by Ben Jones

I have a love-hate relationship with reading season.

It’s that time of year again.

I have a love-hate relationship with reading season. The “love” part is that I love reading apps. I love reading your stories (because they are all so different and awesome). I love seeing the choices people make, the ways in which people grow, the ways in which context affects everything. I love imagining all of you at MIT – what you’ll get involved with, how you’ll contribute to our culture and community. (This last one is a bad idea – with such a low admit rate, it always leads to me being heartbroken in March, but nonetheless I can’t help myself.)

The “hate” part is simply that there aren’t enough hours in the day. So when I’m reading, I’m feeling guilty about the other parts of my job that are getting placed on the back burner (we’re simultaneously rewriting and redesigning the viewbook, the financial aid piece, the minority student brochure, and the admit pack – all due by year’s end). And when I’m giving attention to those things, I’m constantly worried about my read rate. It’s a vicious cycle. Even when I’m hanging out with my kids, I’m thinking of all the work I should be doing instead (which is something I simply need to get over).

Once the EA apps are in, the questions and anxiety seem to really heat up in the applicant pool. So I also try to prioritize some time each day to put the “counselor” in “admissions counselor” – answer email, be attentive to the MIT forum on CC, etc. To me, this is probably the most important part of my job during this time.

Hey, perhaps next year the applicants could try to get all stressed out a few months early, to better fit into our reading and selection schedule. :-) (Kidding, of course.)

It’s a balancing act, certainly. But I do feel prepared – even moreso now that I’ve been through a complete cycle at MIT. I was cocky this year, thinking that my read rate was going to go way up immediately. I was wrong (although I am better than last year, for sure). I’ll get there. In the meantime, I’m determined not to feel guilty if I need to spend an hour on a single app. Sometimes that’s just what it takes.

Anyway, you guys hang in there and try not to worry too much. For those of you who have applied EA, there’s pretty much nothing for you to do but wait it out. And while you wait, have fun! :-)

Answers to the latest round of questions coming later this week.

32 responses to “Bye Bye Weekends, See You In April”

  1. Timur Sahin says:

    It sounds like you need to go out and frolick and release some stress, but the problem is that takes time and lack of time is exactly what’s causing your stress. :/. Ouch.

    I wish you the best of happenings in these coming months, especially considering all you have to do.


  2. bz says:

    haha it’s just like being an mit student tongue laugh

  3. Lipei says:

    Having fun reading and may I suggest listening to music while reading?

  4. Robb Carr says:

    Obligatory comment: IHTFP? :p

    Goodluck with the reading process, I am sure I speak for everyone when I say that the extra time spent is appreciated.

  5. Justine says:

    When you have a minute, read this. I challenge you to not laugh raspberry

    Happy reading!

  6. sounds painful.

    A catch-22?

    I am nervous now.

  7. To add to Robb Carr’s comment above, I believe all applications are read by *two* readers, not just one, and each writes up an “E-3” summary card, both of which go into the selection committee meetings. Matt McGann ( promises an in-depth look at the reading process soon, and I imagine Ben will have more to say about it, too. grin

  8. Oren Hazi says:

    Good luck with the reading, Ben!

    I just got back from the post office where I mailed the final-final-final draft of my Intel STS paper. Boy, that felt good.

    But then there’s my secondary school report/transcript, which _still_ hasn’t been processed yet… I really hope it’s just backlogged and didn’t get lost in the mail.

    Ah well… time for breakfast.

  9. Robb Carr says:

    Well Sam, MIT has a great faith in physics so in simplest terms using brownian motion they force rank the applicants and from there use statistical processes / whims to make decisions.

    Kidding, kidding, sorry. In all seriousness your application is read by a reviewer who will write up a summary, this generally takes 20-40 minutesish. After that your folder along with the summary goes to a commitee of three people, who discuss it, add comments, etc. Some people may be admitted at this point most will be passed onto another commitee and this continues. In general an application will go through three commitees before it gets stamped with a final decision at which point it is read over by Marilee Jones the Dean of Admissions. However at that point decisions are not reversed MUCH…but it could happen theoritically certainlly. Anyways im sure other people can elaborate but thats the basic idea…so obviously one person whos having a bad day cant say “Rejected” if that eases you at all…however I dont think that would happen anyway.

  10. Edward says:


    Good tidings to you.

  11. Sam says:

    How do you guys decide if someone gets admitted? Are there a bunch of cuts or is it a one time yess or do decision?

  12. Robb Carr says:

    Oh, thanks leftcoastmom! was not thinking, you are correct…two readers write a summary.

  13. Oren Hazi says:

    Oh boy… yes. That STS application was annoying. I was so happy when I finished my paper on Friday, and then I actually glanced at my (at that point, still incomplete) application. Five essays!? There went _my_ weekend wink

  14. Dhrubo says:

    Hi Ben: I am an international student (from Bangladesh). I checked out the ISO stat pages and realised that only 1 (or rarely 2) UG students get admitted from Bangladesh each year. I got scores of 2350 (SAT I, 800 Math section), and 800, 790 and 790 in SAT Subject Math L2, Physics and Chemistry respectively. I guess my scores are pretty good, but I am worried about my essays. Aren’t they the most important part of the app?

    I’ve been through some really tough courses (3 science subjects and 2 Maths in A Level) for the past two years, so I had little scope for EC activities, society or friends on which I can write on in my essays. I would be so grateful if you could say a few words of wisdom and guidance (or even a little encouragement)about the essay.

    Thanking you for your time and patience (oh my God its such a long message! smile


  15. Catherine says:

    I hope the reading goes well. Haha, another ISTS applicant. That application took absolutely forever – it was insane. x____x

  16. Justine says:

    Sorry to bother you, but here’s a quick question:

    As of November 1st, none of my grades this year have been calculated. I have, however, in the past 2 weeks received my quarter grades but not my semester grades since the semester does not end until the end of January. Will these quarter grades count as pseudo-semester grades or will you be waiting until the end of January to see my grades?

    Thanks so much!


  17. Saad Zaheer says:

    “Even when I’m hanging out with my kids, I’m thinking of all the work I should be doing instead”

    that’s exactly how my life is these days…

    I dont have kids, hahaha,, but well u know whenever I am doing anything I am thinking of other things I should be doing…..

  18. Merudh says:

    Hey Ben,

    Good luck with reading all those applications…I can definately understand how its fun and tedious at the same time. But yeah speaking of fun, today’s HOUSE episode rocked!

    Yeah sorry, I’m kinda obsesseed with that show…ahha anyway, you hear the latest Paul McCartne album Chaos And Creation In The Backyard

    If you do listen to him and well if you have heard the new album…what is your take on the song English Tea?

    alright well I’m out…can’t wait till you next post. And once again good luck on all that reading.

  19. Dhrubo,

    I’m amazed! How in the world did you do F. Math and Math C together, along with all 3 sciences? Over here in Singapore, we’re only allowed four subjects, not five. Which means if you take triple science, you can only take Math C, and if you take F. Math, you must take Physics and Math C which leaves room only for Chem.

  20. Jess says:

    “Will we get any clarification about the numbers this season?”

    Damon: Carlton might want to punch me for actually going on record and saying this, but I think that that question will never, ever be answered. I couldn’t possibly imagine [how we would answer that question]. We will see more ramifications of the numbers and more usage of the numbers, but it boggles my mind when people ask me, “What do the numbers mean?”


  21. Merudh says:

    true…thanks for the advice. I plan on visiting this winter break anyway…I had a talk with my dad yesterday. If not any other college…MIT is must visit for me.

  22. Merudh, I met a number of students last year whose first visit to campus was in April for CPW (Campus Preview Weekend for admitted students). I wouldn’t worry about not having visited. (Besides, what could you do to change that now? wink

  23. Merudh says:

    hi again

    i had a quick question. i was wondering if the fact that we never came for a visit will be held against us in the admissions process, because i’ve been to an info session for MIT and well asked people attending it about it and what not…but considering my dad has very tight job scedhule he doesn’t get much time off to take me to very many colleges.

    I have talked to him about visiting colleges and he said he’ll take me sometime in winter break, but this will be after decisions are made…so I was wondering if you could give me feedback on this issue thanks.

    PS: I’ve seen MIT from afar when I was in 6 or 7th grade during a trip to a cousin’s house in Boston…but at the time I had no idea about where I wanted to go to college lmao…anyway I’m from NJ by the way.

  24. Zack Yang says:

    “In the meantime, I’m determined not to feel guilty if I need to spend an hour on a single app. Sometimes that’s just what it takes.”

    I think it’s noble to spend an hour on a single app; next time you feel guilty for doing so, remember that it just means you’re dedicated to your work.

  25. zoogies says:

    Hi Ben,

    I’m going to cite a comment that either you or someone else on the admissions staff once made on perfect SAT scores. Don’t know where it is, maybe on Nance’s blog?… but the jist of it was that perfect scores are sometimes seen as signifying a lack in other involvements, i.e, that the student spent all their time studying on SATs.

    Well…I’ve been slacking my poor behind off in the SAT I Prep dept, and somehow managed to get a 2400…so…um…this won’t be seen as, say, scoremongering or anything? I really didn’t think I would get this high and still am waiting for CB to pop around and say “Hey! JK DUDE LOL!!!1”, just retook it to improve my 700 Math from before.

  26. Jessie says:

    Zoogies: Believe me, a perfect score is not going to HURT you! The rest of your app will show that your priorities are straight and you’re not a scoremonger. A perfect score coupled with a bland application would be what makes you look like a scoremonger.

  27. Masha says:

    Ahh… dying from anticipation, as Dec 15th gets closer and closer and I have no idea about whats going on..

    But anyway, I hope everyone has a lovely Thanksgiving!

  28. Dear Matt

    This is admission’s related. I have given my english and maths teacher their respective evaluation sheets, but I also want to send in my Physics teacher’s eval, because I think he can also write a holistic review of me. Can I give him a science teacher evaluation sheet as well, and get the evaluation sent like any other normal evaluation?

    Thanks and happy reading wink

  29. Sorry Ben, I got the name wrong…..apologies!!!


  30. Dear Mr. Jones

    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

  31. Merudh says:

    so ben,

    when’s the next entry coming. did you see harry potter yet like laura and a whole bunch of MIT ’09ers.

    by the way, any idea how I can talk with Akash? <Class of 09

  32. wisteria says:

    I’m sorry to hear that one of my fellow recommendation-writers was so thoughtless, negligent, and careless.

    I put a lot of thought into the recommendations I write for each individual student.

    However, I will confess that I generally write ONE recommendation for each individual student and do not change it much for each of the colleges for that particular student.

    MIT recommendations are somewhat of a special case though. If I know that MIT is the clear “dream school” for the student and if I think there’s a really good fit–based on what I know of the student and of MIT, I will edit the MIT version of the student’s letter to say so.

    I find the MIT admissions blogs really interesting and helpful in giving me a feel for whether a student would be a good fit at MIT, by the way. Most other schools just get the generic letter I send for the student. That’s because I don’t have a clear idea of what the learning community is like at most of those schools.

    But I would NEVER send the same letter for multiple students!

    However, I do think that you admissions officials have the power to make life significantly easier for those of us who write many letters of recommendation each year. There are on-line recommendation services that would eliminate the need to deal with tracking down envelopes and forms and misfilings and deadlines, etc.

    A student applying for a scholarship program at the U of Arizona recently asked me for a recommendation that had to be submitted on the website. I found that interface very easy to use. set up a user account for me that will allow me to see all the student recommendations I need to write, what their deadlines are, which ones I’ve sent and which ones I have yet to send. When I send one off, the system automatically generates an acknowledgement letting the student know it’s been sent.

    If MIT switched to a system like that, I bet it would pay for itself (because you’d have less filing hassles with tracking down student recs) and you would also make life much easier for those of us who deal with recommendation writing. (Enough nattering on here…I have to head to the PO, despite a bad cold, to make sure that a recommendation with a postmark due date of 12/1 goes out on time!)