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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

July Questions Omnibus 1 by Matt McGann '00

Answers to the many questions left in the comments of McGann's Factors.

Nicole R asked, “What is the policy for supplementary material when applying? Can I send any?”

Yes. We’re happy to accept extra materials if you feel there are things that you did not cover completely in your application. Some common supplements we see would include: recording of your music performance; slides/Powerpoint of your artwork; an additional recommendation from a coach, boss, or community/religious group mentor; a note explaining a special circumstance in your case.

anonymous wrote, “I am a high school senior from India and thereby an international candidate.I am one of those types who grew in an educational atmosphere (in the family). Ever since childhood I have been dreaming to go to MIT fact go only to MIT. The passion that rides my mind when I think of it cannot be explained in an essay. But I have heard that MIT doesn’t like to recieve extra-material like a letter stating why one wants to study there or the optional materials in the application. Is this true.

“Another thing is that my life revolves around computer science and programming.To pursue my talent I have practically done everything my school has to offer and am also the president of the Computer Club.Actually,what I want to know in a very straightforward manner is:Does MIT really consider one’s extra talent and passion for their interests while admitting or is it only the marks on paper and olympiads that get you in.

“Another issue is related to interviewing in India.Here in India we are interviewed by Mr.Ravi Meattle and unlike MIT’s procedure of having a lively discussion he conducts a sort of a questionairre session (as told by my seniors) and doesn’t really come in contact with the applicants.Now this is a matter which needs to be resolved and I hope you act on it.”

Anon, those are three good questions. Your first question in answered above. Your second question can be answered simply: yes, your passion and talents count greatly in the MIT Admissions process. Things like marks and test scores also matter, but are less likely to drive a decision. As for your third question, I assure you we are looking into the interviewing in India. I don’t know what we will discover, but feel free to address an email to Stu Schmill, Director of the Educational Council, at [email protected].

zoogies wrote, “I plan to visit MIT this summer so am looking forward to the next post. I’ve heard that staying overnight is a good idea, and that it’s best to do that during the school year.

“I’m also wondering if it’s practical to conduct the admissions interview over the summer – I asked someone this once and he mentioned how when it gets close to the deadline and everyone signs up for their interview, interview conductors can barely remember people by the end of the day.

“I also talked to a person working in the MIT admissions office at a recent college fair I was at, and asked him about my SAT scores. I had always heard that a 680+ would get you “in the range,” but he said that I should definitely improve my 700 SAT I Math to a 730 or above and that my 800IIC wouldn’t make up for it. I feel like I can definitely do better on the SAT were I to retake it, but it is my strong belief that standarized tests are in league of the devil, so I don’t want to unless it’s necessary. At any rate, would a higher math score help my application? How much?”

Ah, another person with three questions! It’s all good, though… First question: for students who think MIT is among their top choices, an overnight stay can be helpful. We’ll begin overnight visits for the fall in late September, probably. You can sign up for that on the MyMIT website. A summer visit can be helpful, too, and for many students/families can be a more convenient option. See my ongoing series on summer visits.

Second question: No need to worry about the interview now; I think September is usually a good time to start scheduling your interview. It is definitely a good idea to not wait until the last minute to do the scheduling. You will receive your interview assignment on the MyMIT website. And remember, we don’t do on campus interviews, all interviews are conducted by MIT alumni in your home area.

Third question: The short answer is, a higher math score could help your application. Without seeing your entire case, it’s hard to know, because one score by itself doesn’t tell me much, but depending on circumstances a higher score could help. For the admitted Class of 2008, the middle 50% of students scored between 730 and 800 on the SAT I Math. Middle 50% statistics for other tests are available on the MyMIT website. If most of your scores are in or close to those ranges, you’ll probably be okay, and even if they’re not, you might still be okay.

Ej wrote, “I am very excited to apply to MIT EA and was wondering if you could answer a question I had. I am not a fan of standardized testing and got a 32 on my ACT and 740 on my Math IIC. If I apply EA, will people who have 2300+ SAT I, 800 Math II, and 800 Sci, have a better shot than me? I have such great passion for everything that I do. I feel that numbers will hurt me. Do top scores get first picking? Is it okay as long as I am in your range?”

It sounds to me that you’ll be well within our range, and once you’re within the range, scores are not a deciding factor. You’d be on equal footing, statistically speaking, with the other students within the range, including those 2400/4.0s. For the students within our range, it is the qualitative and subjective factors that make the difference in being admitted.

zoogies wrote (in response to my post about Jo-Jo and Miss Massachusetts), “I actually had the opportunity to hear Ms. [Erika] Ebbel [’03] speak in person at the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams showcase June 9th. Not that my school was one of the teams, I was just a spectator…she gave a really good speech, not the sort of thing you would typically expect out a pageant winner…it made me think how strange it was that people expect those sort of people to be self-centered, dim-witted vanity queens in the first place.

“A little unrelated, but I’m curious as to whether being a management consultant in pharmaceutical industries is related at all to electrical engineering…it doesn’t seem like it is. Did she minor in management and then jump to a different field?”

You don’t need any Management courses, actually, to go into popular business fields like management consulting and investment banking. Many of my friends who went into these fields majored in non-business fields, including electrical engineering, physics, aeronautics and astronautics, and more. These companies love to hire very bright people who are good problem solvers, regardless of undergraduate major. They can teach you the business rules, but making good decisions can’t be taught as easily.

Perfect 800s? wrote, “Matt, have you heard of the new show where they get a whole bunch of kids with perfect scores on sections of their SATs and have them compete like in ‘The Scholar’ on TNT? That should be a pretty interesting show too.”

I haven’t heard of it. Can you provide a link?

amrik wrote (in response to my post on the Clark medal), “Is it similar to the Fields Medal? If so, wow! O_O”

They are similar in that they 1) both have an upper bound on age, awarding it to only young scholars, 2) are not awarded annually, but on a less frequent basis, and 3) are among the most prestigious awards in their respective fields.

Sidra wrote, “I was wondering where do you watch hindi films in Boston. Are they shown in movie theatres? I was just curious because I normally rely on tapes from local Indian grocery stores, since they aren’t shown anywhere around here.”

Bombay Cinema brings Bollywood films to Boston. They will usually rent screens at the Somerville Theater in Davis Square, which is just 4 subway stops from MIT. I’m pretty excited for Salaam Namaste, which opens in Boston on August 26. You can also rent DVDs from local Indian grocers. Just north of MIT in Central Square is the Shalimar market, where I have a membership card and rent videos (my last rental: K3G, which I never saw in theaters).

09!!! wrote, “hey did any of you 09s have a problem reading the diagram on question 12 of the math diagnostic (if the tests are all the same) ? it seems the letters are out of place…i just assumed B was the 90 angle below A and C the point on the circle where the extension of OB would meet the perimeter…???”

I emailed the Academic Resource Center about this, and they’re aware of the problem. Your MIT lesson for the day: when there’s a problem, go right to the source, which in this case was the ARC.

Shikhar wrote, “I have a problem regarding my application though,would you be kind enough to answer it. I got a letter from K lowry of RSI. I asked her that I was an international student and that I wanted to take part in RSI but that I was a senior. However, I also told her that I would graduate high school in late june 2006. She said that I would be elligible to apply in her mail. Should I still apply to colleges for fall 2006 or leave it for 2007,assuming I were to apply to RSI. Although i do feel that I’m ready to take on college as I would graduate in june 2006. Just thought I’d get the opinion of adcomm of my top prority school. P.S. I am an Indian student living in India”

Shikhar, I would say that while RSI is a great and amazing program, if you are ready to graduate after this year, I would not rearrange my entire life just for the program. RSI only admits a few Indian applicants each year from a large pool of of potential students. While you would certainly get a lot out of a program like RSI if you were admitted, I think that you could get similar benefits from moving on to a university, whether it is MIT or wherever else.

aaron asked, “how come MIT is ranked [by Princeton Review] among colleges having tiny, unsightly campuses and professors with low marks?”

The thing you need to know here is that the Princeton Review rankings are done by a not-very-scientific survey of students. So when MIT is ranked among “tiny, unsightly campuses,” there are a few things you should consider. One thing to think about is which schools students who chose MIT also considered. Compared to, say, Princeton or CalTech, I think few people would call MIT relatively “beautiful.” Even I admit that most of our so-called “peer institutions” have “prettier” campuses than MIT, and I would be honest as such in a survey.

Does this mean I would rather MIT have Princeton’s campus? No. MIT is awesome in its functionality, in the way its architecture supports the collaborative, interdisciplinary environment we strive for here at MIT. MIT’s buildings are organic, they live along with the institution. Just this weekend a friend who is in graduate school at one of these peer institutions was telling me how while her campus was very pretty, “it is the least functional campus ever.”

Also, MIT does have some truly beautiful places. It’s hard to get much more “collegiate” than Killian Court or Kresge Oval. Garden spaces like the President’s Courtyard are quite nice, and (biased opinion) Baker House is the most architecturally ingenious dormitory ever built.

And while this survey ranks MIT #17 in “Professors Get Low Marks,” I don’t buy it for a second. I thoroughly enjoyed my classes and teachers at MIT. Look at the list: most of the schools are universities with strengths in math/science/engineering — do you really think that these schools have the worst teaching, or do you think that there’s something else going on here? The biggest clue that this ranking is way off base is that Caltech is ranked #2 on this list. I need to stick up for Caltech here — this is simply ridiculous. I seriously doubt there are 355 (out of the 357 this survey ranked) other schools at which I would rather take classes.

These rankings also call MIT the #1 “Toughest To Get Into.” But I don’t even know what that means. MIT doesn’t have the lowest admission rate, nor does it have the highest average SAT score, or anything like that. Even I wouldn’t rank MIT as the “toughest to get into.” And where is MIT on the lists of “School Runs Like Butter,” “Diverse Student Population,” “Everyone play intramural sports”… The bottom line here is that these rankings are completely non-scientific and highly unreliable.

Shikhar wrote, “I needed to know something and real fast. I am an International from India and I’ll be applying to MIT for fall 2006. I need to know whether my school needs to send a predicted report as I would not have given my final exams at the time of applying.”

When schools (usually international schools) can provide predicted grades, we find it incredibly helpful. Most often we get predicted grades from schools with an IB or A-level curriculum, but also from other schools with other curriculums.

nehalita wrote, “i’m trying to e-mail you from here but it’s not working and you don’t have your e-mail up on the new blog, how do we contact you privately?”

I don’t put my email address on my blog, but it’s pretty easy to figure out. The MIT homepage has a people directory, and if you enter my name, my email address should pop right up.

LBizzle wrote (in response to my post introducing Alia Burton), “Ooh, a Civil Engineering major. I’m thinking about that… Any way I can get an email address for her? I’d love hear what she has to say about it.”

She’d love to hear from you. You can address a message to her at [email protected] and they’ll be sure the message gets to her, or you can (as above) look up her email address in the MIT online directory.

Ej wrote (in response to my post introducing Alia Burton), “Wow that is cool. I live right outside of Philadelphia and go there a lot. Did you live near Drexel and 30th street station? What were your favorite things about Philadelphia? Are you going home for LIVE 8?”

Alia replied that she doesn’t live near Drexel, and unfortunately couldn’t make it back for Live 8, though she though about it.

Kiersten wrote (in response to my post introducing Alia Burton), “that’s cool! How does one become an admissions officer?”

When asked that, I often respond that Admissions Officers have to have majored in “Admissions Science” in college, to which the reply is often “Really? What colleges have that major?” Then I tell them that I’m joking. People who are college admissions officers have followed many roads in life. I once worked in e-commerce/e-learning; Ben has also worked in the web industry; Marilee was previously a biology researcher; Bette has a Doctorate in statistics; Stu was once a coach for MIT’s crew team. But, as in freshman admissions, two things are most important: one, you have to apply, and two, you must be a good fit. What would make someone a good fit for a job in college admissions, and at MIT? Believing in the mission of MIT, to create a better future through science & technology; a desire and ability to work with diverse populations of exceptional high school students; strong communication skills; empathy and understanding of the many circumstances, schools and communities from which our applicants come; and a sense of humor, among many other skills and qualities.

You may note that each year we try to hire one or two young MIT alumni to serve as Admissions Officers. This is the position into which Alia and Mike (to be introduced in August), both MIT Class of 2005, were hired. I hope that maybe some of you will apply for this job when you graduate!

The series introducing the Admissions Officers will continue this coming week, including myself (yes, we’re trying to have an entry for everyone) and our new newest Admissions Officer, Bryan N. (not to be confused with Bryan O. ’07, who is still a student).

10 responses to “July Questions Omnibus 1”

  1. Ben says:

    Matt your “Questions Omnibus” posts are always SO AWESOME. You rock.

    And although I didn’t major in Admissions Science in college, I *do* have a degree from the Harvard University College Admissions Institute. Soon it will be framed and available for viewing in 3-107. grin

  2. Nicole R says:

    First! Haha! Thanks so much matt for answering our questions!

  3. Shikhar says:


    whateeever Princeton Review says or writes…MIT is the best thing that can happen to anyone.

    Ooh Matt, I didn’t know you guys there are bollywood fans too.

    I mean day by day MIT is just becoming irresistible.

  4. Shikhar says:


    whateeever Princeton Review says or writes…MIT is the best thing that can happen to anyone.

    Ooh Matt, I didn’t know you guys there are bollywood fans too. I mean day by day MIT is just becoming irresistible.

  5. shikhar says:

    sorry for the double posts.Totally unintended

  6. Saad Zaheer says:

    yay I agree with Ben, Omnibus rocks!

  7. aaron says:

    thanks…that explains a lot!

  8. Mike W says:

    Yes, Omnibus does rock.

    Oh, and I also have some questions of my own.

    1. What role do AP tests play in the admissions process?

    2. What additional boost could you get from an AP test if you independently studied for it?

    3. How does being involved in a dual enrollment program (at a community college) affect your prospects?

    4. I haven’t seen the MIT application yet, but where would you put dual enrollment classes on the application? They’re not part of your high school senior schedule, but a dual enrollment class takes the place of a high school class.

  9. Justin M says:

    Re: Mike’s #4…I’m putting my DE courses in the “self-reported course work” section in part 2.

  10. nehalita says:

    Thx for answering my question. [I have alot of new questions for you!] You mentioned that as long as we are “within range” (as regard to SAT/SAT2 scores) then we are even with the top scorers. What range is this? And what SAT2 subjects do most people submit? Do people who submit science SAT2s have an advantage over someone who submits, say, Spanish? If we were to take more than the required amount of SAT2s and don’t do well on it, do we have to tell MIT about those scores? Is there a way that MIT can find out about an AP score that we don’t write about on the application? What’s the average number of APs that admitted students have taken?