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MIT student blogger Paul B. '11

MIT Medical: A Freshman’s Story by Paul B. '11

Worth sharing.
Worth reading.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine approached me with an idea for a blog entry about MIT Medical: an inside look on their experience with MIT’s medical system, and medical facilities around Boston. They thought that their story was particularly relevant because this is the time when the incoming freshmen and their parents are working on their insurance plans for college, and I agreed. For sake of privacy, though, we agreed that the entry should be anonymous.

It’s a long and detailed entry, but I think it’s worth sharing: after all, MIT has one of the best medical systems in the nation, and I believe incoming (and prospective) students deserve to know exactly what sort of healthcare they’ll be getting at MIT. I’ve also added a compilation of links to some of MIT’s many student health resources at the end of this post. And while I’m no expert regarding MIT Medical, I do have quite a bit of experience with Medical due to my training as a Medlink; so if you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them.


Student ’11: Over the past year, I’ve had more than my fair share of encounters with MIT Medical – such as obtaining a prescription at a decent price in September, mononucleosis in October, vaccinations in November and February, and a series of three major throat infections in February and March that culminated in emergency surgery the week before spring break. (All this, and I hadn’t even declared a major yet.) Of course, medical issues mean medical bills mean medical insurance. Oh joy.

I’ve learned a number of things about medical insurance – and specifically, medical insurance at MIT – since arriving here, most of it the hard way. I know that prefrosh and their parents are choosing a medical plan right about now, so I hope that you will benefit from my experience. I particularly learned about the differences between having the MIT Student Medical Plan, in which all MIT students are automatically enrolled, and the MIT Student Extended Insurance Plan, which costs an additional $1570 per academic year for a single student. Last August, my family elected to not put me on the MIT Extended Insurance Plan, instead depending on the MIT Student Medical Plan that every MIT undergrad gets automatically (call it the Basic Plan), plus my Dad’s insurance for covering the big stuff.

Dad of Student ’11: Since medical insurance decisions are complex, and involve a joint student-parent discussion, we added a parent’s voice to this entry. Long ago I spent a year at MIT (my “junior year abroad” in Boston) so I thought I knew how the place worked (not quite, Dad!). Our family has a comprehensive medical plan that I buy through my employer, who negotiates with providers for a wide range of well-priced choices. Now, since I trained up as an economics major (Course 14, for you Tech types), I used those rusty skills to compare all the plan options from our employers. We had all been robustly healthy the past ten years (minor athletic injuries aside), so I opted to bet against long-tail probabilities and took the so-called High Deductible Medical plan. We then saved the difference versus the lower deductibles plans in a special medical savings account. Our medical plan is flexible, with open access, meaning we can go to any participating in-plan provider anywhere without going through a gatekeeper or getting pre-approval, and it offers good coverage if you need to go outside the network. It was been a good bet for four years running, and we had a nice safety cushion building. Emphasis on the had.

Student: A little bit about MIT Medical: It’s basically a miniature hospital. The building contains Urgent Care, staffed 24/7 with at least one doctor on call; a small pharmacy; a lab; offices for general practitioners; OB/GYN specialists; ear/nose/throat specialists; a bunch of other types of specialists; and even a hospital-style ward, complete with nurses taking your blood pressure at all hours of the day and night. (I lived there for a few days while still in recovery from the surgery described below – the food isn’t bad, and the nurses even have some tolerance for the nocturnal habits of MIT students like me). I’m pretty sure there’s other stuff tucked away in that medical building that I’m missing. The building itself is located in E23, just behind the Media Lab on the east side of campus. It’s also only about a hundred yards from the Kendall Square T-stop on the Red Line. If you hop on the train inbound to Boston, the very next stop is Charles/MGH, just across the Longfellow Bridge and right next to the Massachusetts General Hospital, better known as Mass General or MGH.

MIT Medical (E23) at dawn.

Dad: MIT Medical serves the entire Institute population – faculty, staff, post-docs, grad students, undergrads – with a comprehensive medical service delivered primarily through the clinic and hospital-like facilities on campus near Kendall Square. They are a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) which has formal links to a selection of medical specialists and hospitals near Cambridge. For students on the Extended Plan, they also have some coverage if you study abroad (check their web site for details). But as a PPO – and unlike your local doctor – they do not have the capability to bill an outside insurance company (a special exception is noted below). So MIT Medical can do the whole deal with care end-to-end on the Extended Plan. Or, if you are on just the Basic Plan, they need to send your student to someone who can provide the care and send you a bill. So the student gets to see a local doctor, or a local pharmacy, and you or your plan gets the bill. And apart from MIT Medical’s own pharmacy, the nearest pharmacies are in Central Square (rather a walk from campus) since there are no pharmacies or groceries to be found in offices-only Kendall Square near MIT.

Student: As I learned, the MIT Basic Plan is decent coverage as long as you don’t have any major problems. When I showed up in Urgent Care at MIT Medical with rock-hard lymph nodes and generally feeling like crap, they were able to send me to the lab for a blood test without much trouble, and I had a diagnosis for mononucleosis the next morning. Getting my two remaining vaccinations wasn’t a problem either; they just gave me the shots, and sent a bill to my Dad’s insurance. (Dad: Vaccines strongly recommended for students are the one case where MIT Medical has made arrangements to put charge for the services, either on the MIT Student Accounts invoice, or to bill insurance carriers.) If I’d had no more than that all year, things would have been just fine and dandy. The problems began when I needed more care than just shots and sniffles.

Slightly more problematic was getting a prescription for a long-term medication. Not getting the prescription – I had prescriptions from three separate doctors by the time I was done. The issues were cost and location. I had three options: buy it from MIT Medical, through my Dad’s insurance, or a local provider. My Dad’s insurance plan’s pharmacy was expensive and inconvenient. MIT Medical, under the Basic Plan, was also expensive, but at least convenient. The local provider was less expensive and quite inconvenient; I had to haul across the river and down to the BU area in order to have an appointment with a doctor (which we had to pay for separately) in order to get their prescription from them so that I could buy the medicine from them; they wouldn’t take the prescription my doctor at home had already written for me. There’s an afternoon down the drain. Sigh. Not to mention various annoyances related to buying medications from a very small, very local, very idiosyncratic institution. If I had been on the MIT Expanded Plan, I could have gotten the medication both cheaply and conveniently right on campus. MIT Medical heavily discounts many prescription medications, has a low-ish co-pay, and the pharmacy is right on campus.

Dad: Costs so far: $213.50 total billed, of which $0 was covered by our insurance, and $213.50 was our share.

Student: Now the fun part: infections, abscess drainage, and surgery! One Saturday night in early February, I went to MIT Urgent Care with huge swelling in my throat, from with what turned out to be an abscess caused by an infection near my tonsils. The lone doctor on call sent me over to Mass General, just one T-stop away, where (after much waiting punctuated by intermittent poking and prodding) they hooked me up to an IV, gave me some stuff to relieve symptoms, and ran me through a CAT scan, which confirmed the doctor’s diagnosis of a peritonsular abscess. They put me to bed for a few hours, and finally drained the abscess in the morning. This basically consisted of numbing my throat with the most awful-tasting stuff I’ve ever had to endure (like an acrid, chemical imitation of rotting bananas), shoving a syringe into the abscess to extract a sample of pus for analysis, and then prying open the hole from the syringe and pressing onto the swelling to squeeze out the rest of the gunk. I left with narcotic painkillers and antibiotics to clean out the infection.

Dad: This is not the phone call any parent ever wants to get at 10:00 PM on a Saturday night: “Ah, Dad, I’m in the ER at Mass General, my throat is swollen, can’t talk much, they’re gonna give me a CAT scan, my phone is losing power, bye!”. We’re lucky – we live about 3 hours from Boston, so very early the next morning I hopped in my car and drove to Boston. I arrived in time to catch up with my child in the emergency surgery recovery room at Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI), and accompany back to the admitting emergency room at MGH, the eventual point of discharge. We learned that MGH and MEEI are two different institutions, with separate billing and separate parking, connected by a covered passageway, and sharing a prison morphed into a fancy hotel (no really, it used to be a prison). MEEI does eyes, ears, noses, and throats; MGH does everything else.

Going through the bills much later, I had a chance to Google-check the attending ER physician at MGH; she is the holder of an Olympic Bronze medal, awarded as a member of the US Women’s Field Hockey team sometime back in the day. Now she is a specialist in ER and Sports Medicine – how classically overqualified Boston, eh?

We stayed in a Cambridge hotel Sunday night so our Student could recover (in an excess of comfort), and then go back to class Monday morning. Medical costs for this encounter: $11,243 total billed, and $8,233 allowed under our insurance plan’s negotiated rates; of which $3230 was covered by the insurance plan and $5,002 was our share. Ouch. At least we had used up our student’s deductible.

Student: After two weeks of recovery and apparent good health, the peritonsular abscess infection returned, and back I went to MIT Medical. This time, however, it was a Wednesday morning, around 9:30 AM. As it turns out, MIT Medical has the personnel and equipment to drain an abscess like that, no problem. Because I was on the Basic Plan, not the Extended Plan, the procedure to drain an abscess was not covered, and MIT Medical could not bill my family insurance plan. So once more they sent me over to the Mass Eye and Ear (by cab). I spent the day waiting in the MEEI ER, getting the procedure performed, recovering a bit, then coming home and taking a narcotics-induced nap while my peers took the semester’s first 18.03 exam.

Dad: Costs for this set: $1,095 total billed, and $556 allowed under our insurance plan negotiated rates, of which $367 was covered by our insurance plan and $189 was our share. Not as bad as the last one.

Student: It was a Monday morning when I went to MIT Medical 17 days later for the second relapse – the third round with my peritonsular abscess. They spent a long time fussing over me (still not sure why) before sending me over to Mass Eye and Ear again for drainage. Didn’t come back till Friday, though, as the doctor there decided I needed surgery immediately to remove the apparent cause of the recurrent infection. The doctor (named Dr. Song, appropriately enough for a throat specialist) figured that the bacterial infection was hiding in the labyrinth of tissue that comprise my tonsils, as the little bacteria could hole up in there and lie low until the nasty antibiotics went away, and then attack my throat once more. Though a tonsillectomy is a relatively common procedure, my case was a little unusual because they would be performing surgery on an infected area; this made the procedure a quincy tonsillectomy. For kids, a tonsillectomy is not a big deal; for adults (in body if not in mind), it is a distinctly non-trivial case.

I was moved upstairs, from the emergency area on the ground floor to the inpatient unit on the 11th floor, where I lived for the rest of the week. They did a bunch of diagnostics on me Monday afternoon, including a lot of blood samples and another CAT scan. Dr. Song wanted to do the surgery as quickly as possible, but first they ran into some (ultimately groundless) concern about my blood not clotting enough. (I must have looked like a heroin addict by the end of the week: the insides of my elbows were just covered in needle tracks. The IV in the back of my hand also left several blood vessels mushed into weird but harmless misalignments.) There were also some delays with scheduling time in the surgery room, but on Wednesday afternoon, just as my peers were taking their second 18.03 test and/or the 6.01 midterm, the nurses loaded me onto a big fancy surgery bed and took me down to the surgery floor. Interestingly enough, between the 6th and 7th floors (I think) there are 2 floors that are labeled only by letters in the elevator: S and R, presumably for Surgery and Recovery. (Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, anyone?)

Once in surgery, the anesthesiologist put a mask over my face and probably something in my IV, and then I woke up a few hours later in the recovery room feeling thoroughly muzzy. It probably took me a good 15 or 20 minutes to go from aware to engaged, so it was nice that the recovery room was very quiet and the nurse didn’t even approach me until it was clear my brain was functioning enough that I could respond to her. Another nurse wheeled my surgery bed back up to the 11th floor, where I am proud to say I got out and walked to my hospital bed on my own two feet.

I spent Wednesday night and Thursday in my hospital room, sleeping (as much as can be done when a nurse wakes you every other hour to check your vitals), eating really soft foods, reading, occasionally speaking in a very soft voice, and taking lots of narcotics to dull the pain of the worst sore throat you could ever imagine. By Thursday I was itching to get out; hospital stays are the epitome of “hurry up and wait,” and the only reason I wasn’t bored stiff was that a wonderful friend contrived to get into my room, grab some books, and run them over to me at MEEI when I learned Monday that they’d be keeping me all week. And I’d had absolutely no Internet access all week (horror of horrors for an MIT student!). I kept in touch with my friends mostly via text message; a few even came to visit. I was quite happy to be discharged at last on Friday, when the doctors decided I’d gotten through just fine and it was safe for me to leave. My parents loaded me and my dirty laundry into the car and drove home. The following week was MIT spring vacation, so I spent it at home recovering and enjoying some of Mom’s mushier dishes. I even managed to dig up enough energy near the end of the week to start catching up on schoolwork.

Dad: Once again, I was able to hop in the car and head to Boston, to be advocate and companion for my kid during the whole long stay in the hospital, and then provide transport home for initial recovery. One very small side benefit: The view from the 7th floor MEEI cafeteria is a spectacular sweep of Boston, Cambridge, and particularly MIT – perhaps the best views of the MIT campus I have seen from any vantage point in Boston or Cambridge. Lunches were wonderful, and sunsets were stunning. I was going nuts not being able to check e-mail from work – major Internet withdrawal. But in the MEEI cafeteria I spotted an MIT student (the T-shirt and laptop is always a giveaway) – he was doing research on kinesthesiology, something about testing middle ear disturbances for a project funded by NASA. He sent me to the library, which got me wired up in a jiffy. Nights, we stayed at the hotel in Cambridge, leaving our student to the tender ministrations of the night nurses.

Much later came the reality check (literally). Getting billed for a hospital stay with major surgery is like watching an avalanche on one of Saturn’s moons fall down in slow motion on your planetary lander from a control room on earth; it happened a long time ago because of transmission delay, and by now there is not a darn thing you can do about it. Costs for this set: $26,261 total billed, and $6,186 allowed under our insurance plan’s negotiated rates; of that $4,345 was covered by the insurance plan, and $1,840 was our share. Wow.

Student: After my week of convalescence at home, my parents drove me back up to Boston as classes resumed. I spent my first few days back living on the inpatient ward in MIT Medical, where the medical staff could keep an eye on me and provide me with nice soft food. After about two days the doctor declared me thoroughly stable, and I returned to living in my dorm room. About a week later, I went back to MEEI for a follow-up with Dr. Song, who concluded I was healing fantastically and requested an additional follow-up in late May. So, after finals (by which time my stay in MEEI seemed like a lifetime ago) I returned for that last follow-up, which included yet another CAT scan (I think we’re at #3 now?); Dr. Song declared me completely recovered and released me from his care.

Dad: Costs for this set: $2,430 total billed, and $1,612 allowed under our insurance plan negotiated rates, of which $1,137 was covered by the insurance plan, and $475 was our share.

Student: So here’s my take. The Basic Plan is sufficient for:

  • Shots and vaccinations
  • Sniffles and sneezes
  • Common diseases – mono, strep, bronchitis, etc.
  • STD testing
  • Medical documentation and patient advocacy within the Institute
  • BUT you’ll need to understand your insurance plans to do your own math for prescriptions, vaccination co-pays, your other needs and stuff.

The MIT Extended plan is really helpful for:

  • Uncommon or complicated medical problems
  • Chronic problems
  • Anything that requires a specialist
  • Easy access to the local hospitals with which MIT Medical has contracts.
  • Avoiding MIT Medical’s limitations on charging outside insurance agencies for anything beyond vaccinations.

From my experience, MIT Medical will send you to the hospital regardless of your insurance plan if you need something they cannot deliver, such as surgery, or if it is outside business hours (~8-5, Mon-Fri). Ultimately, you will get care, somewhere.

Dad: Well, all is well that ends pretty well. My child was able to finish out the semester successfully, and did anywhere from well to very well in the spring semester courses. And we had quite a lesson in medical billing and insurance reimbursement – and in the sheer time it can take to get medical care, time that should be weighed against the costs involved in the Extended Medical coverage. Total costs across all that happened this year was: $41,123 total billed, and $16,672 allowed under our insurance plan’s negotiated rates; of which $9,147 was covered by the insurance plan, and $7,524 was our share. We would have paid out less – likely quite a lot less – under the lower deductible and smaller co-pays of the MIT Extended plan. We’ll be taking the MIT Extended plan for our student in the new academic year – with hopes that all needed care can be delivered on the campus. Stay well, kid!

Student: One final thought: Whatever happens, if you know you need serious medical help, always go first to MIT Medical. Any Medlink will tell you the same thing. I don’t care what plan you’re on, just go to Urgent Care. Even if all they can do is take a look and then pay your taxi fare to get you to Mass General, GO TO MEDICAL. I can’t stress that enough. Why? Because then Medical has on record that you came in with a medical problem. That means everyone you are accountable to – your professors, your research supervisor, your employer, anyone – can verify that you went to Medical on a given day with a call to the Dean in Student Support Services (better known as S3). That way, you have some footing for negotiating with your professors about things you missed, like the two 18.03 exams I missed while getting treated for those infections. (One I made up after the surgery; the other the professor replaced with the average of the rest of my exams.)

Even better, if you have a case that drags on – such as my week-long visit to the hospital and subsequent three-week recovery – someone in MIT Medical (a “Patient Advocate”) will keep in touch with you, following your case and making sure that you’re getting the care you need, that your professors are giving you sufficient leeway to recover and catch up, and the deans and your advisor are kept in the loop.


Helpful Links from MIT Medical:
MIT Medical Homepage
Student Quick Links
Student Health Plans Overview
Student Health Plans Overview (pdf)
Summary of Student Medical (Basic) Plan (pdf)
Summary of Student Extended Plan (pdf)
Insurance Enrollment Form
Waiving the Extended Plan FAQ

Other Helpful Links:
Student Support Services
MIT Medlinks
MIT Emergency Medical Services (EMTs)
MIT Police Homepage
MIT Nightline: 617-253-8800 (anonymous peer-listening service run by student volunteers)
Boston Area Rape Crisis Center: 1-800-841-8371

MIT Emergency Phone Numbers

  • 24/7 Emergency Hotline: 617-253-1212
  • MIT Medical (24-hour Urgent Care): 617-253-1311

33 responses to “MIT Medical: A Freshman’s Story”

  1. lulu says:

    hey! wow this is a great story. it’s terrifying how things can just turn on you health-wise sometimes. On the other hand, I’ve been on the extended plan for 3 years now and never required any more than a free neck brace for a mild concussion check up. raspberry

    we’re getting off the extended plan this year because yale is covering me fully. I think.

  2. Efolse '11 says:

    I have a class in that building this semester. Should be interesting. smile

  3. Omar says:

    Wow quite an intense ordeal. Yeah, I’m on basic now. I hope that is sufficient smile Glad to hear MIT medical rocks (just like everything else about MIT!).

    lulu – yale is covering you? That’s a nice deal :D.

  4. Karen '12 says:

    Wow. Thanks a lot for posting this, Paul – very informative (and kind of scary, considering that I’m not going home for spring break x.x). I also only got basic coverage, but I’ve already had mono and am generally in good health aside from the sniffles, so hopefully this will be enough…

    About prescriptions: MIT Medical really can’t give you anything if you’re not on the extended plan? So theoretically, if I had a prescription for antibiotics or birth control or something, I’d have to walk down to a different pharmacy? Also, MIT doesn’t have Walgreens or Osco or anything like that nearby?

  5. Mollie says:

    Dude, for those of us in the know, MGH is “The General”, and its partner hospital Brigham and Women’s is “The Brigham”. wink

    I had a lot of run-ins with MIT Medical during my four years, and they were generally positive. I had a minor medical drama my junior year (much more minor than this one, but not a one-visit thing, either), and I was able to get it taken care of quickly and with everything covered by the extended insurance plan.

    One thing that isn’t covered on the extended plan (as far as I know?) is the dental service — plan ahead, because if you have an abcessed tooth and it needs to be out OMG NOW, it’s good to be able to do that without an odyssey-length phone call with your parents about dental insurance. Not that I have any experience with that.

  6. Paul says:

    Regarding pharmacies: as Lulu said, the MIT Pharmacy is fully available to you regardless of what insurance plan you have. It is true, that the basic Student Plan does not have any coverage for prescription drugs. However, keep in mind that you are required to have some sort of insurance anyway under Massachusetts law; MIT’s Extended Plan is more than sufficient to meet the requirements of the law, although many other plans (like Lulu’s coverage with Yale) also meet the requirements. (The Student Plan coverage is like a free bonus if you already have other insurance.)

    My point is, no student at MIT is without medical insurance – so you should be able to get the medicine you need somewhere. I personally get the small amounts of medicine I need back home and take them with me to MIT.

    As for Osco, Walgereen’s, and/or CVS, there are several around MIT if you just look on their respective websites – including a CVS in Central Square, just a few blocks (.6 miles) from campus.

  7. Paul says:

    @Aditya: To the best of my knowledge, country of residence plays only a very minor role in the admissions process – mainly, I believe, to establish a sense of context for each applicant. According to the official list of factors in the admissions process, geographic location is “considered” but clearly not given very high priority. If you have more specific questions, you should try emailing Matt McGann, the director of international admissions (and a blogger).

    Regarding Singapore compared to India, I think cabbage has the right idea: India is simply much bigger than Singapore. I see no reason why moving would noticeably affect your admissions decision in any way.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Just for the record, you can get contraception at MIT Medical as well. It is about as expensive as you would get it anywhere else. You have to make an appointment with a general practitioner first, but this is covered under the Basic Plan. You just have to pay the ~30 bucks and nothing needs to be done elsewhise.

  9. Ehsan ('15?) says:

    Im Canadian!… And were really not that different from Americans. MIT says that geographic location dosent go in their decision on admissions but the stats totally contradict. I really really wanna go to MIT and I would do anything to get accepted. every single post the MIT blogger family uploads makes me more and more jealous. And the only thing I fear is the thought of the day where I get the awful declining email.

    Please help me with more posts on tips of getting in

    By the way, great post!

  10. Anonymous says:

    To clarify Anonymous’ comment about contraception: yes, you can get contraception from the MIT Medical pharmacy whether you have the MIT Extended or Basic plan, but the Basic plan does NOT cover contraception. If you get contraception from MIT’s pharmacy, it’s just like getting it through any other pharmacy – your own insurance covers it, not MIT. The price will vary depending on your insurance; my insurance wanted ~$50/month for it (though I use a prescription that doesn’t yet have a generic equivalent, so the price is higher than others that do.) Planned Parenthood is often cheaper; that’s where I’ve been getting it.

    However, the MIT Extended plan DOES cover contraception – the copay is pretty cheap, something like $12-15/month.

  11. Aditya says:

    @Paul: I’m glad to hear that! I feared I’d have to stay in India forever. =(

    And my final (hopefully) question:
    Since international applicants are considered separately due to their general inability to pay full tuition, if I were to indicate that I wanted no financial aid, could I be judged with domestic applicants?


  12. lulu says:

    the MIT medical pharmacy is a fully functioning pharmacy, regardless of whether or not you are covered by the extended plan or student plan or what. If you are on extended, there is a nice co-pay for most prescriptions. Usually cuts the costs in half, about.

  13. Aditya says:

    This is offtopic, but I’ve really gotta know:
    Does geographical diversity matter to the admissions guys? (Country, not state)

  14. @Aditya

    u can check out this page:
    which shows the total amount of students in the undergraduate body at MIT (all 4 grades)

    im not an admissions officer, but im pretty sure that MIT evaluates all the applicants in one pool, like without seperating them according to their geographic location
    i dont think geographic diversity alone can bring you anywhere, but things that you’ve accomplished that are unique to your country may be seen as diversity

    (what a post, paul!)

  15. elw says:

    Just a note: the MIT pharmacy does NOT accept insurances besides the MIT Extended Plan. That means that if you’re on an outside plan, you will have to pay the full price for a medicine from the MIT Pharmacy. What I usually do is just ask the physician who gives me the prescription to make a printed copy which I then bring to the local CVS or Walgreens, where my insurance is accepted; I get to pay about the $5 copay instead of the $60 of the medicine itself. Since CVS and Walgreens are national networks, once a prescription is in there system it lets you pick it up anywhere – I’ve found this to be really handy while traveling. For females: if you are on the MIT Extended Insurance plan and ever need emergency contraception, it is significantly cheaper from MIT medical than from a pharmacy; otherwise, the prices are comparable. It’s worth knowing that in Massachusetts you DO NOT need a prescription to get emergency contraception from a pharmacy assuming (I think) that you’re above a certain age.

  16. Ryuzaki says:

    Wow, great blog glad everything came out for the better.

    Keep them coming.

  17. Aditya says:

    Thanks Cabbage. That certainly is heartening.
    And now I’ve got another off-topic question. Is there any particular reason why the number of Singapore admits are half the number of Indian admits? Because I’m pretty sure the number of people applying for Singapore must be much more than the number of people applying from India. Are Singaporeans judged more harshly?

  18. Singapore may have a larger percentage of english speaking students than India. But i’m pretty sure there are more applicants from India (it has a a very large population compared to Singapore).
    Aditya, are you international? internationals are compared with eachother i believe, a pool seperate from other applicants.

  19. Aditya says:

    Thanks for your reply. I’m Indian, but I’m considering moving to Singapore for my final 2 years of school.
    I just wondered whether applying from Singapore would increase or decrease my chances of admission.

  20. Karin '11 says:

    Karen ’12-
    They can get you anything… for birth control I had a type they don’t carry, so they got it for me through Inman Pharmacy. They, for whatever reason, think it must be a pain for me to not go through Medical for it, since you have to refill prescriptions through Inman… I dunno what the problem is, since you can do it online…
    You might be charged extra for getting it through Inman, I’m not sure.

  21. Paul says:

    @Aditya: An interesting proposition – but, unfortunately, I’m afraid that would not be possible, for three very important reasons.

    First and foremost, MIT evaluates all applicants – international or domestic – holistically, with proper attention paid to each applicant’s background and the opportunities available to them. Which applicant pool you are part of does not change this in any way. (The same principle, by the way, applies for early action vs. regular action.)

    Second, MIT admissions is need-blind for all applicants, including internationals, so your ability to pay (or not pay) has absolutely no bearing on your admission decision.

    Finally, although international applicants are (I believe) considered separately from domestic applicants, that is not because MIT makes any judgments about international students’ financial status. Rather, the reason is because of MIT’s cap on international admits (somewhere around 8-10%). The cap itself stems from a variety of complex factors – including the fact that most federal sources of college financial aid are not available to international students. But again, that fact has nothing to do with the financial resources of individual applicants.

    I’m sorry if I end up as the bearer of unfortunate news. :( Ultimately, though, let me reassure you that the most important part of your applicant is how you come across as a student and, even more importantly, as a person. What country you reside in is of minor consideration, if any at all;; and the admission committee will never know anything about your financial status.

  22. Paul says:

    @Ehsan: Thanks for your kind words. smile I am a little curious though…what do you mean by contradictory statistics (in regards to international admissions)?

  23. Anon. Troll says:

    You can also get birth control and other contraceptives for (almost) free from Planned Parenthood, a short bike ride or T ride away on the Green Line.

  24. Aditya says:

    Thanks for your reply! It cleared a lot of doubts I had about admissions. I do have another question though, regarding this point:

    “First and foremost, MIT evaluates all applicants – international or domestic – holistically, with proper attention paid to each applicant’s background and the opportunities available to them. Which applicant pool you are part of does not change this in any way. (The same principle, by the way, applies for early action vs. regular action.)”

    Since the international applicant pool is much, much more competitive, wouldn’t you say the bar is raised much higher? The initiatives taken and extracurricular activities pursued(?) by a domestic applicant that would get him admission might not be enough to get an international applicant admission, because of the limit on the international intake?
    (Or maybe I’m missing something here, I don’t know…)

  25. Karen '12 says:

    @Aditya: Yes, you are correct. However, this doesn’t really say anything about MIT’s admissions policies, rather, it speaks to the fact that there are significantly more international applicants per spot than there are domestic applicants per spot. I think that, this year, the admit rate for internationals was 4% – if you compare this to the overall admit rate, which I believe was around 11% or 12%, you can see that there are far, far more international applicants than there are spots for them. As Paul mentioned, this is due to a number of features, and it’s an unfortunate aspect of the system. The bar isn’t really raised because you’re an international student, the bar is raised because of the sheer number of other students that you’re competing against.

    That being said, you can never get in if you don’t apply!

    @Everyone else: Thanks very much for the info about prescriptions – my mom and I were very happy to hear about it!

  26. Ehsan('15?) says:


    As I looked over the admission stats I observed that an average of only twenty Canadian students got accepted into mit each year. This made me think twice about applying to MIT. But then I realized that MIT was perfect for me. Alot of the people that comment on your blog have already made it to MIT. They all seem so happy and cheerful as they should be.
    I started reading the Mit blogs in the midst of my grade nine year at highschool (last year). I have started studying for the sat (something that nobody does around here), I have looked over this year’s application and I have read a lot of MIT related information. If you can help me get in that would truly mean everything to me. My chances are extremely slim but I hope that three years of preperation can make a difference. All I’m asking for are a few but vital tips for vistas like me.
    Thanks a bunch

  27. Paul says:

    @Aditya: Karen said it well. Fundamentally, MIT is looking for people who match MIT’s culture and mission. And many of the students MIT turns away, domestic and international both, would fit in very well here – but at the end of the day, MIT can take only so many students. As a wise man once said, “It’s not pretty, but at least it’s fair. And by fair I mean fair in the context of the applicant pool; of course it’s not fair that there are so few spots for so many qualified applicants.”

    @Ehsan: Ah, I see what you mean now. Yes…I agree that 20 does not seem like a lot – but really, you shouldn’t let numbers like that intimidate you. I knew that MIT was a longshot when I applied, but I gave it by best anyway – and, well, here I am. So best of luck to you as well, and hopefully you will find the application advice and other personal stories I post on this blog helpful!

  28. Paul says:

    @Aditya: Best of luck to you, whichever country you end up in.

  29. Aditya says:

    Thanks Karen and Paul.
    I think I’ll choose Singapore. Less competition.. =/ Flawed argument, but what the heck.

  30. Ehsan says:

    @ Paul

    Hi Paul!
    I was wondering if I could do any sort of activities while I’m still in highschool to raise my chances of getting in? Did you do anything and if yes what? And also how do you think personally the guys at admissions judge. How much weight is one the sat’s, highschool marks and reports and essays?

    P.s. I just want your opinion please dont direct me to something else.

  31. Yejie says:

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Chinese medicine?