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MIT staff blogger Chris Peterson SM '13

MIT’s COVID-19 precautions and their impact on admissions by Chris Peterson SM '13

relevant news and next steps (updated 4/14); new blog posts below 👇🏼

April 14th, 2020

Admitted students

Below, on April 3rd and March 23rd, we wrote regarding changes to the AP exams. Since then, we have received questions from adMITs about whether the terms of their admissions offer require them to take all the AP exams they had planned.

The short answer is no, you are not required to take AP exams for classes in which you are enrolled. You may find it useful to do so for your own learning, and if your school, as a condition of your enrollment in an AP course, has a separate policy requiring you to take the exams, we would ask you to please follow your school policy if possible. However, your offer of admission will not be rescinded on the basis of cancelling an AP exam you had otherwise intended to take due to COVID or any other reason, and if you decide not to take the test, you do not need to notify us.

In other, happier news: we are starting to seriously roll out CP✱ activities, so make sure you are checking your email (including your spam folder) for regular updates from us!

April 3rd, 2020

Prospective students

In our last update, I wrote:

Of course, we know that the cancellation of these exams also disrupts the educational plans of many of our applicants and aspirants. Please know that, as always, we plan to work with students to be as accommodating as we can under these conditions.

In recent days, we have received more questions from prospective students worried about disruptions to other aspects of their education, including grading policies, extracurricular activities, and so on. I’m writing to reaffirm that, consistent with our longstanding practice, we will not penalize students for factors outside their control, including changes to grading policies and procedures, cancellations of activities and exams, and more, because of COVID or any other disaster or disruption. We always strive to evaluate applicants fairly in their context, especially in times like these.

Admitted students

We understand that the remainder of your senior year, the transmission of your final transcripts, and such may be impacted by the pandemic, and we will accommodate any related delays or disruptions as much as we can.

We are also working hard with campus partners and current students to bring you the best CP✱ that we can. Keep an eye on your email for more next week!

March 23th, 2020

Admitted and prospective students

The College Board, International Baccalaureate, and Cambridge Assessment International Education have announced modifications to, or cancellations of, their respective final exams. We have received some questions from both admitted and prospective students about the impact of these changes on credit placement at MIT.

The first thing you should know is that MIT has always awarded relatively limited credit for advanced placement exams offered by third party organizations. Instead, most MIT students who wish to accelerate their learning do so via our own Advanced Standing Examinations (ASEs), which allow students to demonstrate competency in several core subjects during their orientation.

Our colleagues at the Office of the First Year (OFY) maintain the comprehensive guide for AP, IB, transfer, and ASE credit, and are updating it as events warrant, so you should check back there as things continue to develop.

Of course, we know that the cancellation of these exams also disrupts the educational plans of many of our applicants and aspirants. Please know that, as always, we plan to work with students to be as accommodating as we can under these conditions.

The March 20th update limited to AP exams was removed, and its content modified and expanded, to better address a larger scope of related questions and concerns. 

March 19th, 2020

Prospective students

Today, MIT’s COVID response team announced that, in light of current public health guidance, the Institute will not host or sponsor any in-person K-12 student programming through the summer of 2020.01 Previously, through May 15. This includes the information sessions and tours conventionally hosted by our office, as well as the many summer programs hosted on campus by other departments and/or external partner programs.

Our day visit team is working to rapidly develop strategies and content to help prospective students and their families learn more about campus through some kind of online delivery system,02 Massive MIT Minecraft server, anyone? and will post more information as we have it.

March 13th, 2020

Prospective students

As you know, we have already cancelled information sessions and tours; as of today, MIT employees have been instructed to work from home if at all possible. As a result, we have closed the physical admissions office (e.g. 10-100, 3-108, etc) indefinitely. We still expect to be answering emails and taking phone calls during normal operating hours (e.g. 9AM-5PM on weekdays). We appreciate your patience as we rapidly transition to this new system.    a sign on the admissions office door announcing our closure

March 11th, 2020

Current students

We know there is a lot going on right now, but in keeping with our statement below, we have created a form to solicit feedback on a virtual CPW from the community. We will be emailing the link out to everyone who submitted an CPW event, the FSILG office, SAO and DormCon exec board to solicit feedback, but will welcome responses from anyone in the MIT community.

If you want to fill out the form but don’t know how to find it, please email [email protected] from your address and we’ll send it along. However, there’s also no need to do this over the next few days while you are busy figuring out your near-term housing and educational transition; take your time, and send us any ideas once you’re in the space to do so.

March 10th, 2020

Admitted students

We have also cancelled all planned admitted student gatherings to be hosted off-campus by our alumni interviewers during the next few weeks. This was implicit in our earlier post, but we got some questions about it, so wanted to make it explicit.

Current students

Today, President Reif announced that “all classes are cancelled for the week of Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 20. Because the following week is spring break, this will allow faculty and instructors two weeks to organize a full transition to online instruction…Undergraduates should not return to campus after spring break.” More at the link. 

March 6th, 2020

Last night, MIT announced new policies and procedures in response to the international spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). As President Reif wrote in an email to the community, “the current risk level [to the campus] associated with COVID-19 is low,” but the Institute has made “prudent choices to protect the health of our own community and the broader communities we belong to” and placed precautionary restrictions on travel, visitors, and events

This situation is developing very rapidly and our office, like the rest of MIT, is following along at the MIT Medical dedicated site to learn more. Our office has received an influx of questions from admitted, current, and prospective students, as well as other partners and programs, about what we will be doing and how we will be implementing these policies. We are still figuring things out as quickly, but also as carefully, as we can, to make alternative arrangements consistent with these constraints and with regard for the health of our community and constituents. 

I’m writing this blog post to address some specific questions and concerns we’ve heard, tell you what we know, what we’re thinking about, and where we collectively go from here. Given how rapidly the situation is developing, this post is a living document and we’ll update it — with timestamps as relevant — as we learn more. 

For admitted students

Each spring we traditionally host a number of campus events — most prominently Campus Preview Weekend (CPW) — to help introduce admitted students to the MIT culture and community. Based on these restrictions, we will not be hosting any programming for K-12 students, including admitted students and their families, between now and May 15th, regardless of the size of the event. In the next few days, we will be emailing admitted students and families with more information. 

In the coming weeks, we will also be connecting with our admitted students, current students, and campus partners to discuss what we do instead of a conventional CPW (and other complementary spring programs). A number of you have already emailed us with great ideas, and even if we haven’t responded yet (as you can imagine, our inboxes are a bit busy right now, and we still have decisions to make!), please know that we are reading them and saving them for later. Indeed, one of the silver linings of this coronaviral cloud is the reminder that our admitted and current students are creative, enthusiastic problem solvers who have never met a challenge they couldn’t conquer. 

We also want to reassure our admits that we will not penalize any student whose education is interrupted by COVID-19 or related precautionary measures. As we have written regarding other disasters and disruptions, your focus right now should be on your health, and the health of your community.

For prospective students

As I wrote above in the section for admitted students, based on these restrictions, we will not be hosting any programming for K-12 students, including prospective students and their families, between now and May 15th, regardless of the size or kind of event. 

As a result, we have cancelled all scheduled information sessions and tours between now and May 15th, and will be emailing all registrants to let them know in addition to this blog post. We will also be cancelling all scheduled admissions officer travel to domestic and international events in that time window as well. 

While our office will not be hosting any programming for K-12 students and their families, the MIT campus currently remains open. However, in keeping with suggested best practices for public health, visitors from countries which the CDC finds have “widespread sustained (ongoing) transmission” of COVID-19 cannot join us on campus until they have successfully completed 14 days of self-quarantine. 

We don’t know yet how we will ‘replace’ our information sessions and tours between now and May 15th. In the short term, the best way to learn about MIT, we humbly submit, is our website, particularly our student blogs. As soon as we can — realistically, probably after Pi Day — we will try to think of other things we can do to help prospective visitors experience MIT from a distance. 

For the subset of prospective students who are current applicants awaiting their Regular Action decisions, we do not currently anticipate that this situation will impact our committee process or timeline. And, as with our admits, we also want to reassure you that applicants whose education is interrupted by COVID-19 or related precautionary measures will not be penalized in our admissions process. As we have written regarding other disasters and disruptions, your focus right now should be on your health, and the health of your community.

For current students

If you’ve gotten this far, you already know we have had to cancel our spring events (including CPW), the tours you might be leading, and other on-campus activities you might be involved with. Look for more information (in this blog post, and elsewhere) in the coming days and weeks as we make our plans and seek your feedback. A number of you have sent emails, stopped by the office, posted on Facebook, and so on, offering your ideas, your energy, and your time. We are grateful and want to work with you, but at this immediate moment, we are honestly too hosed to do anything with your suggestions. Very soon, however, we will be reaching out to engage you on how we should best work together moving forward. 

We also want to acknowledge the emotional pain of not being able to gather on campus for CPW. We recognize that CPW is incredibly important for many of the communities on campus to connect with the next generation of students and bond over their shared interests and perspectives. However, we also appreciate that it is the prudent thing to do from a public health perspective, and that, as sad as we are about its cancellation, we are very excited about working actively with you all to collaboratively design whatever our version of CPW this year will be. Nothing can replace 3.14 days on campus, but by working together, we look forward to helping you show off everything that makes MIT such a special place to be (which, mostly, is all of you). 

As stated earlier, I will update this blog post with more information (likely in reverse chronological order, newest information at top) as it becomes relevant, so please feel free to check back here. 

  1. Previously, through May 15. back to text
  2. Massive MIT Minecraft server, anyone? back to text