The other day I was walking back to Next House when a leaf literally hit me in the face. Not a light caress, not a brief reminder of the autumnal equinox, but an actual BAM! Leaf in face. It was new, and weird, and a painful metaphor for my life right now. (Sometimes, a leaf isn’t just a leaf.) It was something out there trying to tell me that I need to wake up, buckle down, and work.
Which means I need to stop fooling around (meaning, spending quality time with my parents, because this last weekend was Freshman Parent Weekend!) and answer your questions. Thanks, leaf!
Christiane asks: What’s the age-limit for prospect students at MIT? (If there is any at all.)
There’s no specific upper-bound, but MIT doesn’t award second bachelor’s degrees. As long as you don’t already have an undergraduate degree, you’re qualified to apply. This does mean that if your mom didn’t have a bachelor’s degree, she could apply, get in, and come to school with you. (But not my mom, because she already has a college degree. Go, Mom, go.)
If you’re a younger student looking to apply to MIT early, you can check out Matt’s earlier post on the subject, or ask him directly. He was a young’un himself when he came here, so he’s got some pretty good pointers on the subject.
Janice wonders: Hi Jess,
I am a Junior in Michigan who is considering applying to MIT next fall. Recently, I heard from my Physics C teacher that being recognized in national math and science competitions is “absolutely essential” to be accepted to MIT. Obviously, I realize that not every single person accepted every year has that qualification, but I could not help wondering on how much of the student body actually does?
ie. Did the majority of students place in the Top 200 in Math/Chem olympiads in high school?
Thanks for your help. :)
Sorry, Janice’s Physics C teacher in Michigan! Being recognized in a national math and science competition is in no way “essential” to be accepted to MIT, and I can tell you for sure that the majority of freshmen did not place in the Top 200 in Math/Chem olympiads in high school. We have a freshman class of about a thousand; even if all the top 200 students were accepted to MIT, they wouldn’t make up the majority. So it’s okay if you’re not a nationally recognized mathlete. If you do end up here, you WILL be among nationally recognized mathletes, and it’ll be both really scary and really cool. But no, there is no specific award you must win to get into MIT, like there is no set course of actions that will get you into MIT – otherwise why would we need a thousand freshmen?
Jeanie queries: Does it matter if we do research things that are kind of irrelevant to our “interested major”? Because I’d like to (maybe) study MechE, but I really enjoy researching things about the environment?
I believe there isn’t too much weight placed on the major you apply under. It’s perfectly acceptable to declare “undecided”, because really, how much CAN you know about yourself when you’re 16-17 years old? (I have no idea, and I’m 18. Okay, it’s one year, but still, no clue.) I know that a lot of my friends at other universities have to stay in the college they applied to and were accepted to, or have to go through a big complicated process of applying and getting into a different major, but MIT is more flexible this way. Moreover, it’s a pretty big understatement to say that MIT has a lot to offer, so you can still research subjects totally unrelated to your major here, AT MIT, through UROP.
So yeah, run wild! Go with what peaks your curiosity.
Sam says: I know this one girl who picked guys to date her Freshman year based solely on their AIME scores.
Yeah, I only go for 13s or above. Sorry, guys.
Ankit inquires: Hi
Is that Prannay to the extreme right in the 3rd photo???
You write really well Jkim!
If you don’t mind me asking, how were your SAT scores and how many times did you take SAT??
That would be my buddy Vijay, who lives on 3rd East in Next House with me. Sorry to say I don’t know Prannay!
I liked my SAT scores. We were friends. I took the SATs enough to be happy with them. I’d say a good rule of thumb for you to be happy with your SAT scores is anything above a 700 in each category (the same goes for SAT IIs), and three times is a pretty safe maximum number of times to take them. Don’t stress too much over your exam scores, though; focus more on portraying you in your application, and why you’re a good fit for MIT.
Rachel enquires: I am a senior at the Illinois Math and Science Academy (IMSA) which is a residential highschool with only four days of school per week (Wednesdays are researved for mentorship and inquiry projects).
Even though my school has math team, sci-oly, AMC/AIME, mentorship, inquiry, etc, I don’t participate in any of those projects (except we’re required to take the AMC) because I am just not interested. For the past three years (there are no freshman at IMSA), I’ve been trying (unsuccessfully) to find a mentor because there is not enough money to fund a technology inquiry in which I’d be interested.
The technology program at IMSA more or less does not exist, so this year I founded a FIRST Robotics Competition team (http://www.usfirst.org). We acquired some funding, and we’re going to be competing in March.
I was just wondering if my lack of participation in the aforementioned programs will hurt me when applying to MIT. I’m taking advantage of every technology-related course and extracurricular IMSA offers, but is that enough? Should I join the generic clubs like Math Team and Science Olympiad?
Wow, this is a tough one. I hope you understand that I can’t tell you what’s “enough”; not only is it not my place, but I can’t really give you a completely accurate answer. The best rule of thumb is to go with what really interests you, because you’re not going to get as much out of something you join strictly to enhance your college application. It sounds like you’re on the right track with starting a FIRST robotics team, though, if that’s what you’re passionate about. Basically, there is no set path that will guarantee you admission to MIT; math team and science olympiad will not get someone into MIT just like participation in those programs won’t keep someone out.
I hope that makes sense. If I wasn’t clear, please feel free to ask me again or send me an email at jesskim [at] mit [dot] edu.
L articulates: Wow. There I was, a HS senior freaking out about getting in, and you come along and start telling us about how magnet schools aren’t everything. I’ve been going to a magnet school (I think that’s what it is) half of every day since junior year. Thank you. I think?
Keri answered this one pretty well. Keri?
“L: I went to magnet schools from fourth grade on. The specialized programs are great, for the most part.
Jess isn’t discounting magnet schools, she’s just saying that you don’t have to go to one to get into MIT and that they aren’t the be-all end-all of your application. I’d say that’s pretty obvious from the part right before the magnet reference, where she says that you’re evaluated on you as a person. The resources available to you at a magnet school will help you so long as you’ve taken advantage of them.”
Thanks, Keri. Keri’ll be starting her own blog here this week or so, so if you have any more questions on magnet schools, being a 9 and 5 double major, or how to stay pretty at Mitty, keep an eye out for her.
Kim komments: Thanks Jess. Your blog alleviated my stress factor a bit about being a science and math wiz to get into MIT. Although I’m good in math, and awfully interested in science, I have to say that my school has one of the worst science programs possible. (And it’s not like the student body did absolutely nothing about it, we tried to get different teachers and change the curriculum, but the school system is just so darn stubborn.)
I go to a magnet school (in a science sense, the “magnet” theory doesn’t really work well. Science cease to exist here!) and it mostly evolves around the humanities. Law, teaching… honestly to say, those topics have nothing to do with me. So hopefully, the admission officers would overlook my science handicap. =P
Glad to know I could make you feel a little better! Last year, looking over my high school career, I realized that almost every higher-level science class offered at my school came with its set of complaints – crazy teachers, lectures taught out of books, tests that could be found online… the challenge is to look past all that and see if you’re really interested by the material, and if you might want to take that further. And it sounds like you are, so good for you.
Love the questions, keep them comin’. Sorry for the delay, last week, though only three days, was absolutely insane, but I’ll try not to let it happen again. Even if it takes a whole tree to hit me in the face.