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MIT student blogger Ahmed H. '12

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know by Ahmed H. '12

All your wishes have been magically granted.

I’ve done a couple of posts about life at MIT, so I figure it’s time to turn the attention specifically to you, the wide-eyed and apparently confused applicants.

I’m not going to tell you how to get into MIT. That’s not a good question at all, and I don’t think anyone knows the answer. It depends on too many factors. I could give you my high school resume, but that would be a terrible idea for a couple of reasons. First, it would discourage those who have a “weaker” profile, but still have a decent chance of admission, from applying. This would also give confidence to those with a “stronger” profile, which would make the very possible sting of rejection even harsher. Second, even if I applied this year, with the exact same credentials, I’m not confident I would get in. Admissions vary year to year, and to be perfectly honest, 2013’s admit rate could be less than 2012’s.

I can tell you how to maximize the strength of your application profile, the little things you can do that can’t hurt your chances. Proofread. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before, but your word processor probably won’t point out their/they’re/there, who’s/whose, aloud/allowed, loose/lose, or choose/chose issues (these are the mistakes I find most often on, which you should by no means EVER visit if you are trying to do something important with a deadline, like apply to college). If you’re really worried, put your essay into a YouTube comment and take advantage of the new feature they implemented after Randall Munroe lampooned the site’s commenters. I’m not saying you guys are morons, but listen to your essay being read aloud, either by a computer or a friend, to make sure that it flows and that the sentences don’t sound as awkward as the one you are reading now. I guess these tips fall under the general things you should do before turning in any essay, so they’re pretty common sense. It’s also important to show, not tell, which may not be so obvious. Don’t flat out say X event changed me in Y way. Show how it changed you. Describe the manifestations of the impact, not the impact itself. This is a much less tangible piece of advice, so I think it would be good to refer you to someone a bit more qualified to explain the nuance much mo’ better-like. Side note: I googled the advice, thinking there’s no way Wikipedia would have an article on it. Well, there you go. It’s a really good article, too, and it includes examples.

The interview is an important part of your application, and I urge you to read Kim H’s series about it. I got a request for my interview story. There was actually a problem with my EC assignment: I have known the interviewer assigned to my school since I was something like two years old, so he had recuse himself from conducting mine. It was really easy to get a new EC. I just had to make a phone call and the next day the MyMIT page was updated with my new interviewer’s name. I met her at her dental practice, and we spoke right in the reception area while one of the other doctors was working on patients. It was really casual; I brought some photography to show her that I couldn’t fit into the application. There’s really nothing to worry about when you go in for your interview. Maybe the night before come up with a list of your accomplishments or activities, or review the list if you’ve already made one, just so you have something memorized to talk about if you get stage fright. Try not to repeat things that appear in your application, because the point of the interview is to get a sense of your side that doesn’t show through on paper. Most of all, don’t be nervous. My MIT interview was the first I did for my college applications, and there were a few awkward silences where it seemed like I couldn’t remember who I was. That’s a pretty strange feeling. My other interviews went a lot better, though, but I guess it wasn’t all that big a deal.

Wrapping it up, I’m going to answer in a hodgpodge some of the straightforward requests I got in the comments on my last post.

There are many musical groups on campus. There are all sorts of a capella groups, most famously the Logs, but also Resonance, the Muses, the Cross Products, and the Chorallaries. I seriously found these links individually before seeing Matt’s relevant post. As for groups that actually call themselves a choir, all I (and Google) know of is the MIT Concert Choir. The choir can also be taken as a for-credit class.

Regarding tennis, there are plenty of ways to get involved! Almost every dorm has an intramural (IM) team. Some have multiple teams in the different leagues, which are based on the players’ average skill level. It’s super easy to get involved in any IM sport in your freshman year. In fact, I’m captaining Next House’s IM soccer team, so if you want to play tennis, you will definitely be able to. IM is pretty laid back, no tryouts or anything. There are also men’s and women’s varsity teams. I know freshmen on both the varsity teams, so it seems like as long as you pass the tryouts you can play. Just a note, if you play varsity in any sport, you are barred from playing that sport, and only that sport, intramurally.

I’m fairly certain that the admissions department doesn’t keep track of the average number of hours that admits volunteered for charity. I’m pretty sure these statistics simply don’t exist, although I will get confirmation as soon as I can. Your high school transcript is one of the most important pieces of your application, so a million hours of work in a soup kitchen ain’t gonna cover four years of F’s. All I can say is that surely it won’t hurt. Volunteer work is good, especially if you have a leadership role or can speak about how it’s changed your life. Raw numbers of hours probably don’t speak as much as the hours’ effects on you, or your effects on individuals who need help.

As for the optional essay: It will only help if it significantly adds something that you couldn’t elaborate on elsewhere in the application. I’ll leave it at that, and I’ll update the post with statistics if I get them. I realize that applications can seem like a statistics game, but it’s my personal opinion that this point of view isn’t necessarily the correct one to have. When you get down to it, the application process is about people, about you, not about your numbers. Sure, schools will use your grades and test scores to make sure that you can hold your own academically, but it’s so much more than GPAs and SATs. Think of yourself as more than a number or a percentage, and let that show in your application.

MIT does accept select AP test scores for academic credit. These tend to be the humanities and math classes. Most science credit is not accepted, as per this list. To place out of freshman science or math classes, you must take the Advanced Standing Exams which are proctored in the first week of orientation (18.01 is covered by Calc BC, and AB puts you in accelerated 18.01, but 18.02 requires the placement exam). So, I was asked the extremely valid question that goes to the effect of, “If MIT doesn’t accept AP credit, what’s the point?!” Well, taking AP classes shows that you like to challenge yourself, that you’re above average. Admissions officers frequently use the quote “A B in an AP class is better than an A in a normal class.” It shows that you’re willing to take that academic risk and not take the path of least resistance. That being said, don’t take AP classes just for the extra point on your GPA. My school had this GPA-inflating (they’ll call it “adjustment”) system where you’d get a 5.0 instead of a 4.0 for an A in an AP class. At my high school, tied with their lax requirements for getting into the AP classes, this resulted in a lot of people struggling to get by. B’s in advanced classes are not a huge deal, but C’s and D’s could be.

If you do take AP Chemistry, Physics, or Bio, and end up taking their “equivalents” here at MIT, you’ll be nicely surprised. It’s not boring at all, and it serves as a nice cushion in the adjustment to college life. I’m taking 5.111 and 8.01, freshman chem and physics respectively, and in high school we covered most of the material. I took AP Chem in junior year, so I think it’s good that I’m using it as a refresher. I feel like I really should have placed out of 8.01, but it’s not that bad. My semester is not mind-numbingly boring. I mean, come on, it’s MIT.

You don’t need to have done research, or invented something, or won math competitions, or anything like that to get into MIT. I didn’t, and I actually have only met one person so far who has. Don’t feel inferior because you didn’t win the Intel Fair when you were a freshman. Something like that will obviously help boost your application, but the lack of it won’t disqualify you from admissions, not in the least. The only science fair I ever respectably participated in was our dinky city competition. Not sure if I even mentioned that on the app, and lo and behold here I am.

See Matt’s post here for information regarding supplemental materials like extra recommendations, music/art projects, and other work you may have done. This post, also by Matt, just touches on A Levels. The steps for reporting coursework done at community colleges can be found here. I got lazy at the end there and just posted links, but I hope you find your information in these referrals. Let me know if you need clarification on anything.

So, that was more serious and heavy-handed than I’m used to. In continuation of Bloggers’ Show and Tell, here’s my main MIT essay, in response to the prompt “Tell us about an experience which, at the time, really felt like ‘the end of the world’–but had it not happened, you would not be who you are today. Describe the process through which you discovered value in the negative.” I wrote the essay the weekend before the applications were due, and like Cristen, didn’t really revise it (though I didn’t cut it as close). Looking back, I hate how preachy I get at the end. It’s a lot more touchy-feely than I remember. So it goes. Enjoy (I hope).

One hour to midnight, I answered the phone. My grandfather was at a truck stop in Mississippi, using a kind stranger’s mobile after the call box stole his change. They were detoured west to Mississippi and would have to travel across the north of Louisiana and then south to Houston. At two in the morning, I heard them struggle to open our back door. What should have been a six hour drive became a twelve hour ordeal across three states.

That was merely the road to safety.

It would be another two agonizing weeks before Google uploaded the first satellite images of New Orleans’ battered uptown. The carport roof was underwater. We knew the house was putrefying; the rank fluid still had not receded. My grandparents grew quiet, depressed and spiteful. The engineers failed; the levees failed; government failed; and a city was underwater.

Our family has not found even the start of the road home.

Two years later, and I have been back to the city only four times. Each visit to the first home I ever knew is tortuous and disheartening. The city itself is progressing, but amidst the advancement, our home stands exactly as it did in 2005. Still, in Houston, I long for New Orleans. Without the house and the vibrant city, I realize what they meant to me. I miss the warmth I felt as we drove around the curve of Interstate 10 at night and the city opened before us. I miss the regency of the river, the amity of the Audubon, and the chaos of the quarter; the smell of sweet powdered sugar on hot dough and bitter chicory in steaming coffee, my pediatrician Dr. John and his prescription Gris-Gris for the blues.

With the home and the city past repair, optimism is impossible and naïve. Katrina took a little piece of my heart as she dissipated in the Midwest. In her wake, desperation festers like the mold in the basement. Unable to rebuild, unable to repair a city, I must take solace in my newfound appreciation and yearning for a town I once took for granted. The storm amplified my love of the city and created a desire to see the regeneration of its culture. Though I know efforts to repair New Orleans to its former glory are in vain, volunteering to bring the city out of its slump will establish another connection to the town. On a less personal level, I can acknowledge the storm for what it has done to reform the bureaucracy of our country’s emergency response mechanism. Katrina uncovered the corruption of Michael Brown, but this is hardly a victory. He should never have been promoted; FEMA should have had a review committee; the system should have worked and New Orleans should have been saved. The improvement in FEMA certainly helped save people’s lives during the blizzard of 2007 and the recent California wildfires. Never, though, will I be convinced that this small restructuring justified the destruction of America’s most beautiful city.

Use this as an imperfect example of one application, not a model of a perfect essay, as Paul comments on Cristen’s post.

67 responses to “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know”

  1. Laura says:

    The essay prompt has been more or less the same for YEARS. At most it gets reworded slightly. Ahmed answered basically the same question as I did, my “tell us about a time you faced trying circumstances” was just given a facelift to be about something that felt like “the end of the world.” More or less the same thing, especially when you consider the leeway people take with their essays.

  2. erik says:

    very nice post :D lots of helpful advice, thanks ahmed! Plus its very comforting to know that you dont have to cure cancer to get into MIT raspberry

  3. Anonymous says:

    “Admissions officers frequently use the quote “A B in an AP class is better than an A in a normal class.””

    Not MIT admissions officers! They say, “An A in an AP class is better than all others.”

  4. Daniel says:

    Did you really have a hyperlink in your essay, or did you just add that in for the blog post? raspberry

  5. Monorina says:

    @ Ahana: yep,it’s for intls,that was in answer to my question.

  6. Ehsan says:

    First of all, your officially my new favorite blogger (because you actually answer our questions, rather than going on about something unrelated). Secondly, I would like to ask a few questions:

    1. Are you allowed to hyperlink in your essays?

    2. Here in Canada I don’t think we have a GPA system. Is that a problem?

    3. Where did you learn to write an essay? Was it only in school or did you take it a step farther?

    4. Does MIT care if I got first in (scholastic) Nationals for chess (admissions wise). And just for curiosity, does MIT have a chess team or club?

  7. karan says:

    ahmed can u please guide me through the procedure of admission for international students like me.

  8. Snively says:

    “Admissions officers frequently use the quote “A B in an AP class is better than an A in a normal class.””

    lol, at an MIT info session they specifically referenced this. They said “We’re often asked ‘What’s better, an A in a normal class or a B in an AP class?’ Our answer is ‘An A in an AP class'”

    I thought this was really entertaining, and it’s true to a certain extent. You won’t need a perfect GPA to get into MIT, but you better have a pretty darn good one and this includes APs.

  9. Timur says:

    I really liked this — probably one of the most informative posts I’ve read so far. Get the admissions guys to make it a static page!

  10. Monorina says:

    Jeez,that’s the same prompt we got.My essays are done and submitted.I’m going to finish everything by end of Oct.And no, I’m not E.A. Internationals are not allowed E.A.Not complaining,though! I’m doing it early because I have my Board exams in March and Pre-boards in December and I dont want to do everything at the last moment.

    I don’t edit my essays too much, I just read it through twice and then submit it.(English teachers too busy to help me).If I read my essay too many times, I start feeling that it’s crap.:(

  11. Ahana says:

    It’ll be really cool if we’re allowed to submit an HTML-ized essay….like a blog entry! Can we do that?

  12. hp says:

    any ideas on how to write a good essay?

  13. Ahmed says:

    Seriously? Reread the third paragraph of this post.

  14. mohit says:

    Thanks for all the advice. I’m in the same situation as Monorina; Even though I’m not EA, I have to finish the apps. by end of October.

  15. Timur says:

    You can try — maybe the way they display the essays is through a web browser. You do run the risk of having br’s and p’s and img src’s all over your essay, though =D

    In all seriousness, if format is important, then print it out and send it to the admissions office.

  16. Monorina says:

    Thanks for the advice!! Like you,the only science fair I participated in was the one at Chandannagar College. It felt like a big deal at the time, but that was because the people visiting just happened to be the Head of Dept. of Phy. & Chem. at Calcutta University. Apart from the yearly “science exhibition” held at my old school.
    @ Mohit:commiserate with you!

  17. Kiran says:

    In india we don’t have AP classes and unfortunately I haven’t been able to take AP exams yet. We’ve done calculus for enough time and I think the Indian educational board (CBSE) is pretty advanced. Would MIT account for the difficulty of each stream while reading applications?

  18. SERIOUSLY. TAKE HIS ADVICE ON REDDIT.COM… So many wasted hours….

  19. Kasey says:

    Great post, and great essay. Although I never lived in New Orleans, I’ve visited there a lot and have family there, so a lot the emotions in your essay were pretty familiar. I love this part: “I miss the regency of the river, the amity of the Audubon, and the chaos of the quarter; the smell of sweet powdered sugar on hot dough and bitter chicory in steaming coffee…” I feel like I’m there! Mmm, Cafe du Monde smile

    Additionally, for all those searching for essay advice, I think it’s way too difficult to come up with one great solution. Everyone writes differently, and what works for some people will not necessarily work for you. Throughout this whole application process, I’ve realized that the purpose of the essay is to write about a topic that means a lot to you, and show how that topic reflects your personality. I think the best advice anyone can give is to re-read your essay, and make sure that it sounds like you! Make sure it’s true to all your opinions and emotions about the topic. At least that’s what I’ve figured out helps while writing my essays.

  20. Ahana says:


    Thanks for the advice. It’d be really nice to post an essay like that, even at the risk of tags all over it…lol…should I email the office? Or is Matt listening?:P

  21. Oasis '11 says:

    Ya’ll essays are all so short! My MIT essay was over 1,000 words…=/

  22. Ahana says:

    Ahmed, you say that one doesnt need to win high profile competitions to get in. Is it the same for internationals? Oh, and great essay!

  23. There should be a subscription button so you receive an email each time the blogger replies to the blog.
    Seems to be a lot of international commenters here, of which I am one. It’d be nice to know about the admissions of internationals, that is if I’m not really bound to my early decision at another school whose name shall not be said. I Don’t want to reject my early decision (big)if(/big) they accept me and have them blacklist my school.

  24. deng says:

    how hard is it really to get onto the mit varsity tennis team? I’m captain at my high school.. but then again, our team is division IV raspberry
    and… I had… a ‘C-‘ >.> in AP history. I’m pretty sure it’s completely unrelated to my intended major… but how bad is that?

    I agree w/ the email thing. or at least when someone replies to you specifically

    @oasis ’11
    1000+ words? my essay so far is 690… should I cut it down and risk losing parts of it or should I just leave it as is? it’s already so concise…

  25. Becca '12 says:

    I think the entire school is on the chess club mailing lists. I feel just the same way.

  26. Wow.. this will really help, i met with my EC and all went well. I plan on applying EA, i hope i can express myself as best as possible in my essays. Thanks Ahmed =]

  27. Oasis '11 says:

    @ Deng –

    IMO, no one mandated that it has to be under 500 words. =p

  28. Tiffany says:

    Could you pass the word on to the genius who thought of bloggers: thank you. Seriously, you guys are awesome. It’s nice to hear from people who’ve been through this (nightmare) and who are willing to give us some moral support. Anyway, thanks.

  29. Tiffany says:

    Oh I forgot, do you think girls have a better chance of getting in because…well, they’re girls?

  30. ∑ - §|Ñ says:

    @ Tiffany
    What’s that supposed to mean? Just for your info more boys get in than girls!

  31. pkrooky says:

    is early action binding?

  32. Anonymous says:

    what he (∑ – §|Ñ) said

  33. Anonymous says:

    I called the admissions office and the person on the other end was really strongly implying that I should keep it to below 600 since suggested is 500 raspberry

  34. deng says:

    I called the admissions office and the person on the other end was really strongly implying that I should keep it to below 600 since suggested is 500 raspberry

    does anyone know anything about study abroad?

  35. Ahana says:

    Thanks for the answers, Ahmed! I truly hope whatever “high profile competitions” I did do are appreciated.
    Is there any way of knowing if we can submit an essay like that?

  36. Anonymous says:

    @Oasis and deng
    The directions to the essay say to “Please keep to a 500-word limit” but “The 500-word limit is a guideline, not a strict cut-off. Simply use good judgment–your readers won’t mind if your essay is 550 words, but 1,000 words will likely be a different story.”

  37. Ahmed says:

    @JWC: The cheat sheet is a great help for interviews, thanks for expanding on it.

    @Becca: I tried to remove myself from it, but I wasn’t even on it, neither the main list nor the freshman list! It’s like freaking ghost spam.

    @Ahana: You can always submit an essay through the post if you want to preserve a certain formatting. See “Long Essay” title here:

  38. Oasis '11 says:

    @ Ahmed –

    I think the Chess Club just spams the dorm lists.

  39. Ahmed says:

    Terse responses to your questions:

    @Ahana: MIT doesn’t have “requirements” for admission, apart from the transcripts and all. There are no cutoffs for scores. In the same vein, winning high profile competitions will definitely help your chances, but the admissions office isn’t going to say, “Ahana, you didn’t win any competitions. Rejected.”

    @Daniel: I didn’t have a hyperlink in my essay smile Just wanted to unleash some soothing Dr John to the frantic prefrosh.

    @Anonymous: Of course an A in an AP class is better than anything else.

    @Ehsan: Pretty sure you shouldn’t do that. I didn’t; I added the hyperlink for amusement. Didn’t think people would take it seriously. No. My English teacher is the greatest woman alive. Yes, that’s a good item for your resume. Yes, there is a chess club. For some reason I am on their mailing list. I hate chess.

    @Karan: Sorry, I’ve done all I can do. All the information regarding what extra things int’l students need is on the website. Like I said, there is no step by step guide for how to get into MIT.

    @Ahana, again: Sounds cool, but err on the side of caution.

    @obesechicken13: RSS feeds.

    @deng: No idea about how hard it is to get on the tennis team. Not gonna lie, the C- isn’t good. If it’s the only grade that low on the transcript, I’m sure you can make up for it with some great essays or test scores.

    @Tiffany: No.

    @pkrooky: No.

    @Word limit arguers: Why test it? I’m sure they’re not going to disqualify you for 501 words, or 550 for that matter, but why push your luck? Just saying.

    @People who love me: Thanks!

  40. JWC '12 says:

    Here’s a quick and generally very helpful (at least it was for me) tip for interviews:

    Make a “cheat-sheet” about yourself and your interviewer. Don’t fill it with information that belongs on your app (or necessarily a resume), but instead make a list of what you like to do, keeping the actual proof of those interests in the back of your mind. Send this list off to your interviewer a few days before you plan to meet. He or she might look over the sheet beforehand and will have an idea of what to expect. It also provides you with consistent material if you get a little nervous.

    I’m going to be writing a post on my blog (probably by the end of today) about the college interview process. I did 9 interviews last year for schools like (here), Harvard, Tufts, CMU, etc. I enjoyed each one.

  41. JWC '12 says:

    Ugh, make that “about yourself and your interviewer” a “for yourself and your interviewer”. It’s too early for me to be communicating with the outside world.

  42. deng says:

    I don’t understand the cheat sheet. are you saying a resume of everything not on your resume that you send to your interviewer then bring to your interview? isn’t that… cheating…?

  43. Ahmed says:

    I’m not sure about sending it to your interviewer, but definitely make one for yourself so you know what to talk about. It’s not cheating, it’s being resourceful (a phrase that works in all kinds of sticky situations).

  44. @ Becca ’12- you give me hope! If they admitted one Becca, maybe they’ll admit another one!

    Is it okay if your interview totally sucked? I dont think mine went very well…we didn’t “hit it off” like apparently everyone else did, I think I was too nervous to make sense a couple of times, etc. Is that going to be a big problem, seeing as how I dont have an absoulutely amazing out-of-this-world app anyway?

    Also do you know how much being a National Merit Semi-Finalist helps? Does MIT care about that very much? I mean I know all good stuff helps, but some schools are offering me scholarships just because I’m a Semi-Finalist. I know MIT doesnt do that, and that’s cool, but does MIT appreciate it even close to as much as other schools do?

  45. Kevin says:

    I’m not good on interviews. At all…

    I’ve had mine first one today (thankfully, not MIT, waiting until I get a little more practice) and somehow ended up talking about “liberal democrats”.
    Definitely take the time to practice if front of a mirror and make sure to think before you speak.

  46. JWC '12 says:


    > Is that going to be a big problem, seeing as
    > how I dont have an absoulutely amazing out-of-
    > this-world app anyway?

    The interview is kind of like extra-credit, from what I hear. I don’t think it will necessarily drag your application down seriously, unless something really bad happened. Admissions officers probably understand that you might be very nervous, given that MIT interviews are usually earlier than most other schools.

    > Also do you know how much being a National
    > Merit Semi-Finalist helps?

    Pretty much everything “helps” if you’re trying to list recognition that you have recieved. But always remember that awards alone are definitely not enough to get you in, so don’t be overzealous about trying to think of every award you’ve ever received going all the way back to middle school; you could be spending your time on much more important things.

  47. Ahmed says:

    Tennis update:

    So I talked to both freshmen I know on the varsity tennis teams. For girls, ~6 of 12 who tried out were accepted to the team and for guys it was ~12 of 15.

  48. Kevin says:


  49. JWC '12 says:

    @deng: No, it’s not “cheating” at all. Like Ahmed said, that’s just an easy-to-type, easy-to-say phrase.

    Officially, I called it a “list of talking points”. You may or may not be comfortable sending such a thing to your interviewer(s). I did because I thought that my interviewers might appreciate some advance warning about what I’d be talking about.

    If you want to know more about what I did for the “cheat-sheet”, take a look at my entry on Interviews.

  50. Joe Mang says:

    hey ahmed, im not sure if im asking this question in the right blog but…would it be acceptable if my dad wrote me an extra recommendation letter? he offered and im not sure if i should accept…i worked with him in our family’s deli for the past five years…i probably wont take his letter but was just wondering wut you think

  51. David says:

    If I’ve taken classes at a local college, does the admissions office need an official transcript from them, or is a copy of an official transcript sent by my counselor enough?
    The link you listed only talks about getting credit once you’re accepted.

  52. Ahana says:

    @ JWC
    Would MIT care if I submit a letter from Mozilla? I’m a campus rep in school, so that will probably show a side of me.

  53. JWC '12 says:

    It’s hard to say either way. Your best bet would be to talk to an admissions representative by calling the admissions office. My suggestion would be to go for it only if such a letter highlighted interests and abilities that your teachers would be unable to talk about.

    Like I said, though, it’s best to call.

  54. JWC '12 says:

    @Joe Mang:
    I don’t know if MIT appreciates extra recommendation letters. I submitted exactly the three that they had requested: one from my guidance counselor, one from a science/math teacher, and one from a humanities teacher. I know that some schools (for example, Tufts) had explicitly warned applicants not to send in extra recommendation letters (in other words, doing so would get them mad). I’m not sure exactly what MIT’s policy is, but the general rule of thumb is to only include additional rec letters if they show a radically different side of you. 90% of the time, that doesn’t happen, though.

  55. Muz says:

    Heh, so it is true that the MIT bloggers actually read comments wink

    I find it a bit interesting that some people get accepted to multiple Ivy League unis (and have the grueling decision of picking one), some get accepted to Caltech, but rejected to MIT, and a few get accepted to MIT, but rejected to the other top unis.

    Ironically, I got accepted to a top uni (the one I’m in now) a few weeks after applying, my friend got rejected almost immediately, but applied later with a higher GPA and got in. Then I spent a year applying to the top ones in the USA and got rejected for all of them, despite having a much ‘stronger’ resume than a few of the people who got accepted.

    In other words, the world of admissions is crazy. I think “be yourself” is probably the best advice anyone could give, heh, would’ve given me a bigger chance if I did. Oh well, I’m happy anyway, since I’ll be applying for grad school in 2010 instead of ’12 raspberry

  56. Sean ayres says:

    does MIT except transfer student and is it an easier admissions process

  57. My two cents, as a freshman:

    Yeah I basically feel the same way about 8.01. I did get a ton of AP credit for humanities. I did do some research. I did science olympiad and we always performed well. I had almost zero volunteer hours, and my interview went very well. I passed out of 18.01, and 18.02 is definitely hard. 3.091 is easy though, so is my humanities class (How to Stage a Revolution), except when you have to write an essay, in which case IT IS FRICKIN DIFFICULT

  58. Michael M. says:

    I got really excited by the title, but I lost interest once I did a text-search for “42” and nothing came up. GIVE ME THE ULTIMATE QUESTION DANGIT!

    (No matter how much I revise things, text-to-speech systems always make me seem retarded–although ~4am posting might be the reason).

  59. Ahmed says:

    Douglas Adams ftw!

    That’s true, I totally missed a great reference opportunity.


    There, now this blog is complete. .

  60. says:

    In my school grades are given in percentage, and two years ago I had a 60 in math, because of one exam, right now my grade is between 90-95. Wil it hurt me too much?
    And does MIT understand any circumstances that could have influenced my grades, like death of relatives, adaptation, etc? Where could I explain these circumstances?

    Thanks a lot for the post, it is one of the best i’ve ever read!!

  61. Navi says:

    @ ahmed
    thx for that piece of information up there , nd nice article ….
    you see am in india rite noe nd i dreAm of joinin MIT one day …so can u please tel me som more important things which i shud be doin rite noe which wud look gud on my application .. u no stuff like math olympiads , 90-95% in high school …
    right now am doing my first year in high school .

  62. Musee says:

    I love the reference to XKCD. ^_^

    Your post is very helpful. I think the best advice for an application essay you gave is the “show, don’t tell” style, so I’m going to make sure I incorporate such in mine. Thanks.

  63. shy.tack says:

    Well, I started salivating over MIT about a month ago, except, the proverbial drool stream has been drying since I’ve been reading all these stories of the people who got in, like the donkey-cloning-genome-mapping-in-basement-12-year-old patent holders.

    I’ve just decided that neurosurgery is my goal (I’m a HS junior), and I’ve just started doing med-camps and taking interests in health issues; I have no idea on the workings of Java and building robots (though I would wholly love to), and I’m still trying to find out where one picks up the basics of these.

    So basically, does MIT look for a long-time-devotion to scientific passions or are they somehwat forgiving to us ‘late-starters’? Or those of us who’ve never medalled in big science fairs?

    What is MIT like if you’re a freshman stepping in without a clue on the inner workings of computers and such?

    (hopefully I won’t fall into the latter category: I’m poking around for summer courses and whatnot)

  64. shy.tack says:

    Definitely gonna hafta work on wordiness when writing app essays.