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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

International Men & Women of Mystery by Matt McGann '00

*Update as of 2015: Early action is available to both domestic and international students.


I’ve been promising a post about international admissions for a long time, and (finally!) here goes.

First, an important definition. For purposes of MIT Admissions, an international student is a student who does not have US citizenship or permanent residency (Green Card). International student status is solely determined by citizenship and not by geography. That is to say, many international students live in the US, and many domestic (non-international) students reside outside the US.

Beyond that definition, there are two very important things to remember about MIT international admissions.

1. MIT is need blind for all students. Need blind means that we do not consider how much financial aid we would need to give a student during the admissions process. What we do is choose the best students we can without regard to how much money they will need to attend MIT. Only after we have chosen the students we wish to admit will we pass them on to Daniel for his office to determine how much money each student needs in financial aid to attend MIT. We will meet every student’s full financial need. MIT is one of only a handful of schools (such as Williams, Yale, Harvard, and Princeton) that meets these two related tenets: need-blind admissions for all, and meeting every student’s full financial need. As a result, MIT’s international student population (and indeed the student population as a whole) is quite socioeconomically diverse.

2. There is a quota on the number of international freshman students we may admit (this is the only quota at MIT). Recently that quota number has been approximately 100 international freshman students admitted each year. In each of the past few years, greater than 2000 international students have applied for freshman admission, making the rate of admission less than 5%. The international pool is extremely competitive.

A few additional notes:

* We have no quotas on individual countries, but we will try to admit students who represent a broad range of experiences and countries. You can get a sense of our current international (and domestic) enrollment (a subset of the students we have admitted) from the Registrar’s Office. These numbers show what students have enrolled in the past, but are not necessarily indicative of who we will admit this year. For example, if you do not see your country listed, do not take it to mean that you will not be admitted or that we don’t admit students from your country.

* Yes, we do consider Canada to be international, since, well, it is a self-governing country and not America’s 51st state (despite what many Americans think).

* We only have one round of admissions for international students, during regular action. Given the small number of international students we are allowed to admit each year, it is better for us to compare all of the applications together than to have an early and regular round.

* All applicants, including international students, must complete either:
(SAT I OR ACT) AND (2 SAT IIs: 1 math and 1 science)
(TOEFL) AND (2 SAT IIs: 1 math and 1 science)
If you are comfortable with your English skills, you do not need to take the TOEFL. If you do take the TOEFL, our absolute minimum scores are 90/233/577 (depending on internet- vs. paper- vs. computer-based test). We recommend scores of at least 100/250/600.

* I get lots of questions along the lines of, “In my country/school, things work like this. [insert explanation of unique circumstance] WIll MIT understand and take that into consideration?”

As professional admissions officers, we have a wide knowledge base and are pretty good at figuring out things we don’t know from your application. Usually, we’ll be aware of your situation and if we’re not, we’ll do some information gathering using the internet or the phone or email. The only way to be 100% sure, though, that we are completely knowledgeable of your situation is to tell us about it in your application.

I cannot stress enough that international admissions at MIT are extremely competitive. Remember, fewer than 1 in 20 students are admitted, and the vast majority of students are quite qualified.

Several of you have pointed out this quote from the MIT Admissions site:

Almost all international students admitted to MIT have earned some form of regional, national or international distinction in areas from leadership, music and art, to scientific research, academic competition and athletics.

This is a true statement. Because we can only admit 5% of the international applicants, students must be extraordinary in some way. In addition to the above listing, I might also add service, academics, entrepreneurship and creativity, among others. International admissions at MIT are very, very competitive. I can tell you from experience that making the decisions on international students is very, very difficult. I can also tell you, however, that we will treat your applications with the attention and consideration that they deserve.

I close with a sincere thank you to all of our international applicants. You really help to make MIT an extraordinary place.

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