I’ve been involved, in some form or fashion, with MIT Admissions for 4 years now. I’ll be honest, I used to know a whole lot more about it, back when I was in the thick of it. Now, my role as a blogger, is to explain what MIT is like, not so much to explain what admissions is like.
However, over the years, I’ve heard a lot of advice and have even given some of my own. A lot of it is standard stuff, stuff that you’ll hear all the time and see printed in a bunch of books, but there are two bits of advice that really resonate with me. They’ve also probably been published in books, but having gone through this whole process and watched thousands of others do it as well, I believe these two bits of advice will do you the most good.
Interpretations of each can be found on a page of MIT’s information guide, as shown below (click to enlarge).
The first is by yours truly,
Advice: “If at the end of the application process you feel relieved instead of enriched, then you missed an excellent opportunity to learn about yourself.”
Students sometimes get so wrapped up in paperwork, forms, essays, and deadlines that applying to college becomes an awful chore that they’re glad to be done with. Unfortunately, this can ruin a large chunk of your senior year of high school. Instead of trying to slam through 15 applications (TOO MANY!), spend a lot of time on one or two, at least at first, and spend a long time just thinking. When you fill out college applications, you’re telling a college who you are, which requires you to know who you are. What do you share? What’s most important about the things you do? Which activities mean the most to you? What character traits do you most value? Not everything fits on the application, and it’ll be up to you to decide what goes on there.
If at the end you feel relieved that you finished all of your applications, and not enriched, knowing you better understand yourself, then you missed out.
My second piece of advice, which I came up with at the info session a few days ago, expands upon Karen’s quote in that same info pamphlet. My quote,
Advice: “MIT has your best interests at heart. If you are completely honest about yourself in your application, you are sure to be happy with the result. If you are accepted to MIT, rest assured that you belong there and will thrive. If you are not accepted, be comfortable knowing that MIT wants you to be happy and knows you won’t be as happy at MIT as you may be at another school.”
MIT Admissions knows which types of students do well and enjoy MIT. Their goal is to admit a class that will be happy, thrive, and enjoy their time at MIT. Some of the most brilliant minds would be miserable at MIT, because it’s not all about intelligence. For somebody who doesn’t live on campus, like you prefrosh, it’s very difficult to understand what MIT is like. That’s why these blogs exist, but until you live here you just can’t know.
Be completely honest in your application, even if you think you can get in if you stretch some things. Why? Let’s suppose . . .
It’s freshmen year. You’ve struggled through first semester, failing a class or two, and are struggling to finish second semester without failing additional classes. You know that you embellished on your application because you really wanted to attend MIT, but now you’re doubting it. What if you can’t handle it? What if MIT let you in, thinking you were capable things you lied about? Maybe you were never meant to be there?
You don’t need to be doubting yourself as you enter finals or a difficult test, you need confidence. If you are completely honest and true in your application, it’s much easier to approach every test, knowing MIT has full faith in you and let you in for the right reasons.
Be completely honest in your application. Not only will you learn a lot about yourself, but no matter the outcome when decisions come out, it will be for the best. If accepted, congratulations, if not, you are going to be happy elsewhere and MIT is saving you from an experience you are not likely to enjoy.