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Please note:

MIT and the admissions office will be closed November 24–25 for Thanksgiving break, and will open on November 28.

MIT staff blogger Chris Peterson SM '13

Deep Breath by Chris Peterson SM '13

what's next for all our applicants

Today is Veteran’s Day, a federal holiday honoring military veterans. So I’d like to begin by giving a shoutout to my grandfather, who, in addition to being a WWII vet, was also ordained as a nondenominational minister 50 years ago today. He is responsible for much of whatever good there is in me. I remember when I told him last year that I’d gotten really choked up at CPW when I met some students I’d worked with at MITES. A big tear welled up in his eye, and he said: “you know, that’s what’s great about you Chris. You’re just a bit soft. Just the right amount of soft.”

Love you, Papa.



Many people have today off for school or work in honor of Veteran’s Day, including at MIT. However, I’ll be spending today doing what I’ll be doing for the next several months, which is reading all of your applications. Because I’ll be buried with that, I won’t be posting quite so much. But I did want to take a moment to talk about where we’ve all been, where we all are, and where we are going.

Over the past month I’ve tried to unpack for you some of our operating ideas about holistic admissions and diversity and merit. I’ve discussed data and how to understand its validity. All of these posts have been attempts to shine some light on what is too often a dimly understood process and, to the extent possible, explain how and why we do the work we do.

But now our Early Action applicants have all applied, and our Regular Action applicants are about to. So what do we do next?

Once your applications are complete and all material received, your application goes to a senior admissions officer, someone with extensive experience and knowledge, who will evaluate your application in its proper context. Strong applications will then be sent to additional admissions “readers” (like me) who will really dig deeply into the application and prepare a summary – almost like a legal brief – for the committee.

These briefs, along with your entire application, will then be presented to the selection commitee. Multiple rounds of these committees then whittle the class down into its final shape. By the time an applicant is admitted, easily more than a dozen people will have debated and discussed their application. The effect is that, just like our government has a system of “checks and balances”, so does our admissions committee. The process is long and arduous. It’s lots of nights and weekends of work. But at the end, the final class will be a product of all of these different levels of committee and expertise all agreeing that each admitted student is an indispensable member of the class.

That’s what I’ll be doing from now until April.

But what will you be doing?

Sometimes I get worried calls or emails from students (or their parents) during senior year, asking what they (or their child) should be “doing” as the college application process plays out.

The first answer, of course, is to keep on keeping on. Keep doing well in classes, keep making your teachers love you, keep inventing and creating, keep writing, and doing all the of the things that you love to do. You don’t need to “do” anything beyond that.

But also remember to make – or keep – time for yourself and your friends. Senior year goes by really quickly. In a few short months, you will be graduating, and soon after that you will be leaving your friends and family for the next phase of your life. This is not a reason to be sad. It is a reason to be glad. You have the opportunity to go out and get a college education at a school of your choosing. That’s amazing.

But please, don’t get caught in the rat race of doing things just to do them, or to further burnish your resume, or because you think it “looks good.” This is not the time for that. Maintain, yes. But take the time to make those memories that you will have for the rest of your life. Most of you will have spent most of your lives in your current communities. A lot of people have helped you become as awesome as you are. Thank them. Appreciate them. And enjoy yourself.

Be in touch.

42 responses to “Deep Breath”

  1. Steve says:

    Thanks for the post, Chris!

    Question: If we applied early one of our teacher evaluations still hasn’t been processed, is it time to start worrying/calling the admissions office? Or is it still reasonable to just wait? I’ve already spoken with my teacher who said that he did indeed send it.

  2. IronManThree says:

    Thank you for the awesome post – and great insight, Chris.

    That aside, however, I had a question. If we want to submit a music portfolio, the MIT website says that vocalists have to submit an audio performance in two different genres. However, there is no specific mention of the language being used for the audio performances, like, should it be necessarily English, and/or should it be an original composition?

    Thanks (again!) in advance!
    Happy Veteran’s Day!

  3. Adarsh says:

    “…..someone with extensive experience and knowledge, who will evaluate your application in its proper context. STRONG APPLICATIONS will then be sent to additional admissions “readers” (like me) who will really dig deeply into the application and prepare a summary – almost like a legal brief – for the committee.”

    So, for the applications that aren’t “strong”, no ‘briefs’/summaries are written?

  4. Chris Peterson SM '13 says:

    @Steve –

    I spoke with our records people earlier this week and they have been processing supplemental documents all week. We will not consider an application if we do not have sufficient information to make a decision so don’t worry. If it still isn’t in tracking by the weekend I would have your teacher fax it in.

    @IronManThree –

    It does not need to be English, nor does it need to be original. If you submit a music portfolio it goes to our music faculty who will then provide us feedback that we incorporate into our decision making process.

  5. Annon says:

    Is there any way to confirm you guys received supplemental material without bothering admissions through email?

  6. Chris Peterson SM '13 says:

    I mean…it’s almost certain we received it. It’s just a matter of when we process it, and AFAIK there is no way to know that beyond what is in MyMIT.

  7. Chris, this post made me smile and almost brought me to tears in the end. Needed something like this when I’m staring at the end of an amazing era of my life! :’)

    @Adarsh, you expect them to like write briefs on 17k applications? Wouldn’t that be a bit to demanding and inhumane?

    (I got a(ij) in my captcha. Wonder what matrix algebra is doing in here!)

  8. YASH GUPTA says:


  9. Brent says:

    Hi Chris,
    My counselor sent her recommendation a few weeks ago and in the “application forms” section, my “secondary school report” is processed. However, the “secondary school report and transcript” does not have a checkmark next to it on the main access page. What does this mean? Did my counselor not send my transcript? I’m a little bit worried.
    Thank you for your help

  10. Vivek says:


    My MIT tracking shows me that all my information has been matched to my file except for my Secondary School report/transcript. Should I be worried or is there still a backlog?

    My counselor will not be able to send it in until Monday.


  11. Chris Peterson SM '13 says:

    @Brent and @Vivek –

    I’d wait until Monday. If it is not processed by then, you can call or resend.

    @Anon –

    Nope, because we will have the vast majority of cases read by then and just finish up the remaining few before beginning committee. Everyone gets fair consideration.

  12. Chris Peterson SM '13 says:

    “…all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

    It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

    Armistice Day has become Veterans’ Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ Day is not.

    So I will throw Veterans’ Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sacred things.”

    – Kurt Vonnegut, 1973.

  13. lynn says:

    thank you for the advice about senior year chris, much appreciated.

  14. Cleetsang says:

    How do you evaluate students who did IB program? Do IB students still have to take SAT Math and English? Please kindly advise.Thanks

  15. Bruno says:

    Hey Chris!

    I’m an international student from Brazil and I plan to talk about organizing a TEDx event in my country in one of my essays. Since there is a limited amount of words I can use, I wanted to know if you guys are familiar with TED ( I know there have been a lot of TEDx events around you such as TEDxCambridge and TEDxBoston and that many MIT professors and former students have been speakers in TED talks. Thus,do I need to explain what TED is or can I just elaborate on my experience with TED?

    Great post, by the way!


  16. Chris Peterson SM '13 says:

    Yes, we all know what TED is!

  17. Patricia says:

    Dear Chris, when should I start worrying about my unchecked recommendations? I have faith that my teachers have sent the forms and I understand that since I live on the West Coast, it’ll probably take awhile, but it’s been almost two weeks… :|

  18. Adarsh says:

    @Raj : Well, I never looked at it that way. Guess I was mistaken about it.

  19. Nara says:

    Dear Chris,
    First of all thank you for all your awesome posts. I’m from Mongolia and applying for MIT now. I wanted to take SAT and TOEFL on December but both is full , so I have to take them on January. However the SAT’s date is on 31 January, so is it possible to take the test on that day and send to MIT, is it gonna be available? Can I contact you on Skype or on messenger?
    Sincerely yours,

  20. Erin says:

    Chris, can you clarify this please?
    In your response to, “Does this mean that for the people who took the November SAT, you guys wont read our app until the 22nd? Isn’t that a bit rushed to finish by December then”
    “Nope, because we will have the vast majority of cases read by then and just finish up the remaining few before beginning committee. Everyone gets fair consideration.”
    … Did you mean (1) No, It doesn’t mean we won’t read your app until the 22nd; (2) No, we won’t read your app until the 22nd; or (3) No, that isn’t too rushed to finish by December? Or a combination of those?
    I’m just a bit confused. I sent all of my scores with the Nov. test, so will my application be one of the last ones being read? …Thanks!

  21. Chris Peterson SM '13 says:

    Erin –

    I meant 2 and 3.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Does this mean that for the people who took the November SAT, you guys wont read our app until the 22nd? Isn’t that a bit rushed to finish by December then!

  23. Jared says:

    Hi Chris,
    sorry for another standardized testing question:
    I took some October SAT subject tests, and I listed MIT to receive my scores when I registered for the tests, but I realized tonight that I think I had to go back in after receiving my scores to confirm that SAT should send the scores to you (I guess I should’ve gotten more familiar with “Score Choice”.) I put my updated scores on my EA application, but you have no proof that I did improve my scores, and I’m sure you want/need proof. So basically, if I send my official scores to you this week, would I be able to send them to you with SAT’s regular electronic shipping speed, or would I need to “rush” them in order for them to get there in time for you to make EA decisions?
    Thank you for the help

  24. Sam F says:

    I really like that Kurt Vonnegut quotation. I hadn’t realized until some quick Googling just now that for several years the date of Veterans Day was set as the fourth Monday of October in order to give federal workers more three-day weekends. That must have seemed very callous to the veterans themselves, especially those that remembered the holiday as Armistice Day. Even though the date has gone back to November 11, I’m tempted to agree in saying that the holiday is not as sacred because there are few people living anymore that can still associate it with that gargantuan war.

    Your task of reading so many applications certainly makes my task of filling out a few more look pretty insignificant. I hope you’ll be able to get some rest over the next few months!

  25. Sabir says:

    Dear Sir Peterson

    I have two questions in mind; one regarding school grades and the other regarding the college essay(s).

    1. My school follows the British schooling system; which means that all our school work pertains to the syllabuses of the University of Cambridge International Secondary-level Examinations (O-Levels). So I ask; do our O-Level grades hold precedence over the grades we earn within our school itself in terms of admission to college or is it the converse?

    2. In college essays, what should be our PRIMARY objective:
    (a) excellent usage of vocabulary and language,
    (b) creativity of thought and expression,
    or (c) self portrayal (depth of personality etc.)

    Muhammad Sabir
    An eager learner

  26. Je n’ai pas beaucoup à dire. Le peu que j’ai lu est vrai et formidable. Mon plus grand souhait est d’arriver un jour à intégrer cette prestigieuse université.

  27. Vivek says:

    Hi Chris,

    I mentioned earlier that my application tracking showed that the admissions office had not received my secondary school report and transcript.

    Today, I clicked on the hyperlink to the Secondary School Report and Transcript on the dashboard, and it took me to the “Freshman Application Forms” page. But when I scrolled down I noticed the following line:

    “Secondary School Report (Processed) “

    Unlike my dashboard, this page tells me that the admissions office has indeed processed this document. You can probably understand my confusion. Is this just a glitch in the system? Can you verify for me that my Secondary School Report has indeed been processed?

    Vivek Paramasivam

  28. AK says:

    Hi Mr. Peterson,

    My teacher was very busy and only sent his rec letter on Thursday the week after the deadline. In one of the above posts, you mentioned that if the letter does not show up on the application tracking by the weekend, I should get my teacher to fax it again. Is it reasonable for me to do this in my case, or should I wait?

  29. m_quinn says:

    Wake up sheeple! This MIT Admissions thing is a big scam. Ask about the snub states! RACISM! AFFIRMATIVE ACTION! JSD:FLKSJD:FLSKDJF:SLK

  30. SRB ('16?) says:

    Okay I have a few questions.

    First, I know scores aren’t everything but I can’t help being paranoid. I got a 600 on the Physics Subject test and 620 on Math Level 1. Is that going to badly hurt my chances of getting in?

    Second, as far as Early Action decisions go, are we ALL going to be notified in mid-December? Or is it possible for us to find out well before then?

    Thanks in advance to anyone that answers smile

  31. Brent says:

    That is exactly my situation Vivek. I am confused as well.

  32. CK says:

    Hi, Chris,

    I have a question about supplementary recommendation.
    The person that I asked a supplementary recommendation requested a form so I gave him the “Evaluation Part A” form. Now, I realize that the supplementary recommendation should (1) attach a supplementary material cover sheet, and (2) be sent to a different address.

    Is it going to be a problem? Since there is no tracking system for supplementary material, there is no way I can check the status. Should I ask him to resend it?


  33. Chris Peterson SM '13 says:

    Hi guys –

    So I can’t individually check these things. However, I have confirmed that we will send out emailed reminders to students in a week or so if there are still components we are missing. So don’t worry. If we are missing something then we will contact you.

  34. Brent says:

    Hey Chris,
    Everything got sorted out; my transcript was processed today.
    Thanks for the help.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Will you guys notify us once everything’s been sorted out and processed? Just so we know what if something is still unchecked in our app track that it’s actually missing and not just unprocessed

  36. prospect says:

    i am a questbridge finalist but i did not choose to apply to mit through the national college match. can I/should i send in my Questbridge app as a supplement to MIT if im applying early action? i wouldnt be able to send in the questbridge application as a supplement until december 1st though.

  37. Chris Peterson SM '13 says:

    If you are applying through EA that is fine – we don’t need the QB app from you.

  38. Erin says:

    Hi again. I have another question.
    I submitted my “Conducted Interview” form a few weeks ago, and my processing page still says “Conducted Interview/Processed.”
    Does this mean my EC’s report still hasn’t been processed?
    Just wondering… Thanks!

  39. E Martin says:


    How does this process compare to what transfer applicants go through? Is it an accelerated version of the one listed above, or is it completely separate from the traditional process?

    Also, I haven’t been able to find much on transfers, is there anywhere you can direct me to for more info?


  40. Vivek says:


    My transcript was processed today as well.

  41. Anon says:

    Hey Chris,
    Are all the records from before the Nov 1st deadline processed? My eval A still hasn’t shown up, but I want to know if it’s all been processed before I bother my teacher to send it in.

  42. Chris Peterson SM '13 says:

    No, they are not all processed. We will be emailing out notices to people whose applications are incomplete.