How to do everything wrong and still get into MIT, part deux by Mollie B. '06
The case study of someone else you wouldn't expect to have gotten in
According to my hit counter as well as by raw comment count, my entry on how I got here is the most popular thing I’ve ever written. Therefore, even though sequels are often worse than originals (except perhaps in the case of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II — wait, are you all too young for TMNT?), I decided to profile my endlessly put-upon boyfriend, Adam ’07, and his admissions story. (Well, that and I took a thermo test today, and I was planning to write about tests. But Laura beat me to it.)
Adam is what we like to call an airplane nerd. He likes to design them, build them, and fly them (guess who the cameraperson was on that video? Oh, it was me). He’s had a UROP in the Aerospace Controls Laboratory since his freshman year, and has been working at Draper Labs since the beginning of this summer — and he’s been told by one of the professors in the Aero/Astro department that he’s one of the best undergrads to come through the department in the past decade.
That doesn’t mean he was one of those knock-your-socks-off prospectives.
Although Adam was by no means a slouch in the classroom — he was valedictorian of his 248-person high school class, and the first male valedictorian in 10 years — he’s not a standardized test taker. He took the SAT I three times, and even after the third time, his best combined score was a 710 in math and a 690 in verbal, giving him a not-particularly-spectacular combined score of 1400. (Note that he didn’t get those two scores together — the time he got a 710 in math, he actually got a 600 on verbal. But lucky for all of us, the MIT Admissions Office is staffed with wise, kind people who only consider scores that present the applicant in the best light.)
His SAT IIs in math and science were more respectable — he got a 750 in Math IIc and a 750 in physics… and a 450 in writing.
(Note: Adam and I are always warring about who’s a better writer, and I just took the opportunity to razz him about his writing score, since I got a 790 on the writing SAT II. Me: “Does that mean I’m twice as good at writing as you are?” Adam: “Well, you’re definitely not twice as good at math!”)
During his summers, Adam didn’t have any fancy research internships or go to any summer camps; he worked for his dad’s construction business. He built some pretty nice roofs. He also built some nice rockets — he and his dad like to fly R/C airplanes together, and when he was in high school they liked to make rockets, too. (Read: blow things up.)
Adam was involved pretty extensively in his extracurriculars. He was a varsity cross-country and track runner for his high school, and was captain of the cross-country team his senior year. He was also a varsity mathlete, but he assures me that he was definitely a better track star than mathlete. Moreover, Adam has been a competitive freestyle skiier since he was thirteen — at the time he applied, he was nationally ranked, and by the time he was accepted, he had been to Junior Olympics. (Adam: “Tell them I got 21st [at Junior Olympics] my first year, and ask if they’ve seen me on ESPN.”)
Adam discovered MIT during his sophomore year of high school, when he placed at the Massachusetts State Science Fair. The fair is held every year at MIT, and Adam’s award (a trip to a NASA shuttle launch) was presented to him by one of the aero/astro faculty members who has ended up being one of his closest faculty mentors. (Awww.) Adam swears that after the launch, he decided he wanted to come to MIT. (I am not entirely sure I believe this. After all, his childhood room is covered in things that fly — planes hanging from the ceiling, pictures of rockets on the wall — and I can’t imagine he hadn’t dreamed of MIT for a long time, considering he’s from Massachusetts. I guess maybe after the science fair, he decided it was actually possible.)
Once again, I reiterate: the successful MIT application doesn’t require perfect test scores, or research experience, or being a National AP Scholar, or world domination in integration bees. The successful MIT application requires passion, and, luckily, you get to define passion on your own terms.