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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

More About Reading by Matt McGann '00

...based on your questions!

I was planning an another entry on the reading process, and since many pertinent questions were asked in the last entry, I figured I’d base this entry on those questions (a formal Questions Omnibus will follow in a few days).

Sendie asked, “Hrm… how many apps do you usually evaluate per day?”

It depends on the reader. In our process, the more experienced admissions officers generally read an application in 20-25 minutes (remember, we’re professionals); newer readers might take 30-45 minutes to fully evaluate and summarize a folder. We’re expected to read applications at least 4 full days each week (including weekends), in addition to the other non-reading work we’re responsible for.

Sirius asked, “How many early actions are you expecting?”

It’s still unclear exactly how things will shake out, but I expect we’ll be up slightly from last year’s ~2800. I’ll post an official number when I can.

Oren asked, “I’m assuming you start with the applications that have had all the components processed already, right?”

We evaluate the applications on a rolling basis: that is to say, yes, we start with the applications that are complete. As each new application becomes complete, it goes to the staff to be read. For applications that are still missing, say, a teacher evaluation, we’ll wait a bit longer and read the folder when it becomes complete (we know you can’t help this, so it is not held against you). It does not matter on what date your application is read; all applications are read in the same way with the same guidelines. Ultimately, we do not admit anyone until all of the applications have been evaluated. That will happen during Selection in early December; stay tuned.

Mike asked, “Is each admission officer assigned applications from a certain geographical region? Or are they random? I mean, will officer A only read applications from Texas, and officer B only from California?”

Unlike many schools, MIT is not regionalized in its admissions process. Each applicant is evaluated individually, within their own context (which does include geography, among other things). We do not admit by state, or region, or city, or high school. We admit individual students in an individualized process.

Ej wrote, “I love it that iTunes is playing in the background [of the stack of applications].”

I need my music. Some readers need absolute quiet when evaluating folders; I need some good tunes. Let me tell you what I was listening to today… so, this morning, I went with some friends for dim sum at China Pearl in Chinatown, and afterwards I spied a CD store that was having an amazing going-out-of-business sale. On Eric‘s recommendation, I picked up albums by S.H.E and Jay Chou. In total, I picked up 4 of their CDs for only $10! Afterwards, I returned to the office with a full stomach and proceeded to work on applications for most of the rest of the day, listening to my new music. Tomorrow? I don’t know yet…

And Sirius asked, “Would you detail your process and include us into the adventure too? :)”

That’s what the blogs are for! More soon…

30 responses to “More About Reading”

  1. Ajit says:


    I have a question regarding Standardised Testing Dates – i.e I will be appearing the SAT Subject tests in January 28 test date for regular submission of my application. Will you consider my application?Can you please explain me what does CASE BY CASE BASIS for consideration of test scores mean?



  2. sailmaker says:

    Will Alex Doonesbury be accepted to MIT?

  3. saz says:

    last year, i remember reading and RE-reading each and every word. smile

  4. Awesome post, good to hear a little more about the process. Also, I assume that the process for readings and selections are roughly the same as last year, so your audience can always refer back to last year’s round of blog entries for some interesting reading. wink

    (Maybe it’ll keep people appeased for a few days so they’ll get off your back? haha)

    Thanks again,

    Jared Sadoian

  5. Lipei says:

    Matt, how do you like S.H.E. and Jay Chou? I know relatives in China are obsessed and so are some of my friends in America. and as always, enjoy reading!

  6. Shikhar says:

    Good to know that so much time is devoted to ones application. A relief to know that things are not done away with in 5-10 mins.

  7. Faiqah says:

    Shikar, u are totally correct!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Jay Chou… I heard from my cousins and friends that he is extremely popular right now in East Asia, and even a lot of my friends here who do not understand much Chinese love his songs. I listened to only a few of his songs because he has only become so well known in recent years. But in any case, enjoy reading the apps!

  9. Anonymous says:

    OO! I love China Pearl! we tend to go there for any sort of large gathering with friends, and its really fun and pretty cheap for the quality.

  10. AndersoN says:

    Matt, have you ever had these applications that you will always remember, that often come to your mind when you think about the process?

    Do you compare applications(even unvoluntarily) in your mind when you read them?

  11. Mike D says:

    Hey Matt!

    I’m in Shanghai right now and if you’re picking up S.H.E. and Jay Chou, you should also check out F.I.R. Their songs “Lydia” and “Wo men de ai” are extremely popular right now.

  12. Teck Lee says:

    Glad to hear you’re getting into some Asian music! I listen to Jay Chou from time to time. S.H.E., not so much. Some of my friends are big fans of them, though, and used to sing their songs in class all the time, which slightly annoyed me (they’re guys, if that explains anything). Heh.

  13. I was wondering if you postponed reading an application if the supplementary material – be it CD’s, slides, etc. – was not there yet?

    Just wondering.

  14. On my visit to Cambridge (where I visited MIT as well as some other, less important schools…), since my mother is Chinese, she insisted on visiting Chinatown. I think I remember seeing China Pearl. How odd…

  15. MJ Kamalov says:

    Hey, how are you doing Matt!

    early action deadline has passed and you have these excited applicants waiting for their decisions again. I remember myself around this time last year…

    good luck, fellas

    and be well, Matt, u’re an incredible person

  16. Hope you like the songs Matt!

    F.I.R is also a good vocal group; they’re Taiwanese too. They (the Taiwanese) seem to have a nack for this.

    Have fun reading the apps!

  17. Vanessa says:

    Mr. McGann,

    I see that about 20 minutes is spent on reading applications. What if the applicant sends supplemental material that would require 30-45 additional minutes to read? Will you be able to spend more time on it, as much as is needed? As an admissions officer, would someone probably find excess supplemental material frustrating? I mean, are you all relaxed enough while looking through this stuff that you can find extra items interesting?

    Thanks in advance, Vanessa

  18. zoogies says:

    “(where I visited MIT as well as some other, less important schools…)”

    I’m curious, by “other, less important schools,” are you by any chance referring to Harvard? :D

  19. Congratulations, zoogies, you got one of them right. Anyone want to try for the rest?

  20. Nancy says:


    I was checking the status of my application (I applied early action) and it says “not processed” does that just mean that you haven’t reviewed that portion or is it that you don’t have that piece of my app yet? (I thought that they were reviewed as a whole)



    P.S. Marivel wanted me to say hi to you for her while I was up there this weekend but I missed you so.. Hi from her. :D thanks again

  21. David says:

    Hey Matt!

    I applied via early action. All of my sections are processed except for my mid year grade report. Should I send this in after the end of my first semester or should i send it in early because I applied early. If it was due on Nov. 1 will this effect my application negatively if it is late.

    Thanks for all your help. I really appreciate what you guys do.


  22. Valerie Wang says:

    OMG… i totally agree with Mike D.

    i was just about to recommend F.I.R. myself… and the two songs he named, lydia and “wo men de ai” are my absolute favorites… you HAVE to check out this band!

    i’ll even give you my copy if you can’t find one =p

    but you HAVE to HAVE to check them out!

    Good luck with the apps.

  23. Sirius says:

    I read that you had record low acceptance rate last year… but you also had record high yeild rate?

    Since you were trying to fill in a smaller class (but failed with that high yeild rate), would you be aiming for the same parameters as last year? or even less, (smaller class)? … hopefully not smaller smile.

    And a side (almost non sequitur) question… Your application only has 12 spaces for APs; if all 12 are filled up, do you assume that the individual may take more APs? Or do you only consider the taken APs anyways, assuming you consider AP scores at all?

    Have fun reading? :D

  24. Dhrubo says:

    Hi MATT: I am an international student (from Bangladesh). I checked out the ISO stat pages and realised that only 1 (or rarely 2) UG students get admitted from Bangladesh each year. I got scores of 2350 (SAT I, 800 Math section), and 800, 790 and 790 in SAT Subject Math L2, Physics and Chemistry respectively. I guess my scores are pretty good, but I am worried about my essays. Aren’t they the most important part of the app?

    I’ve been through some really tough courses (3 science subjects and 2 Maths in A Levels) for the past two years, so I had little scope for EC activities, society or friends on which I can write on in my essays. I would be so grateful if you could say a few words of wisdom and guidance (or even a little encouragement)about the essay.

    And, is there any other special advice for intl students?

    Thanking you for your time and patience (oh my God its such a long message! smile


  25. Anonymous says:

    Hi,Matt!I handed on the first part of the app last year but was unable to continue working on it for some reasons.Do I still have the chance to activate the app last year to apply (say,re-applying without paying the app fee…..)or do I need to pay again to apply?Thank you.

  26. Florida says:

    Hi Matt, How do I check my application status/interview if I did a paper application?

  27. Jenny says:

    Does only one reader evaluate/summarize each application, or do multiple readers take a look?

  28. Saad Zaheer says:

    Florida, once ur application reaches MIT the MyMIT status check should update right away. You can check ur interview/ application status from ur MyMIT account. (thats what I did last year, I sent in a paper application too)

    I hope it helps,

  29. Anonymous says:

    Ahh!!! Not Jay Chow and S.H.E., though it is pretty funny reading through the comments and wondering how many of the people are Chinese.

    I don’t understand why people enjoy Jay so much: I can rarely understand what he is saying, because it sounds so guttural. I guess that’s my same problem with “mellow” music such as Coldplay. Personally, I go for a bit of Simon & Garfunkel. “Cecilia” is such a lively song.

    Otherwise – awesome blog, Matt. Wow – one of the forever “unknowns” where is my application right now as I type up this comment? perhaps just inches from another computer screen.

  30. Smiles says:

    I sent in an extra packet of stuff. How can I find out if it was received?