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MIT blogger Cami M. '23

My MIT Essay Revisions by Cami M. '23

college essay things

Note: all of my MIT essays can be found online so if you’re curious as to what the other ones were, you can easily find them!

When applying to MIT, I knew I really, really had to write some damn good essays because I didn’t feel like I had the stats and awards to bolster me up to acceptance level material. I wanted to give a short rundown of what my essay writing process was like for me since I get a lot of questions as to how to start the essay. Of course, it’s different for everyone. But I found that this is what worked best for me. It’s typically better of a supplemental essay approach, which probably explains why my Common Application essay was so shit, but regardless!

I started writing my essays in early August. I started by writing down everything I wanted MIT to know about me — important extracurriculars, mandatory tidbits and facts, quirks and personality points, etc.

1. Create a list of everything you want to include in your applications. 

My list looked a little something like this:

  • bioengineering
  • nonprofit organization
  • equality in STEM and social justice
  • music
  • Filipino identity
  • Boeing internship

I left out a bit more of the personal details, but really, this was the essence of my application. Then, I took each important part and allotted it to a specific essay question, just to ensure that all of me, or at least nearly all of me would be incorporated into my application somehow.

2. Assign each bullet point to an essay. Don’t worry, you can move it around later, but just put in what makes the most sense to you.

I quickly assigned each bit to the 5 MIT essays, resulting in:

  • bioengineering – Essay #2: Although you may not yet know what you want to major in, which department or program at MIT appeals to you and why? (100 words or fewer)
  • nonprofit organization – ???
  • equality in STEM and social justice – Essay #3: At MIT, we bring people together to better the lives of others. MIT students work to improve their communities in different ways, from tackling the world’s biggest challenges to being a good friend. Describe one way in which you have contributed to your community, whether in your family, the classroom, your neighborhood, etc. (200-250 words)
  • music – Essay #1: We know you lead a busy life, full of activities, many of which are required of you. Tell us about something you do simply for the pleasure of it. (100 words or fewer)
  • Filipino identity – Essay #4: Describe the world you come from; for example, your family, clubs, school, community, city, or town. How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations? (200-250 words)
  • Boeing internship – ???

All I was really missing was Essay #5: Tell us about the most significant challenge you’ve faced or something important that didn’t go according to plan. How did you manage the situation? (200-250 words). In fact, I didn’t finalize the final draft of this essay until 20 minutes before the MIT deadline. For some reason, I found this essay the most challenging of all of them (ironically).01 Would've been pretty meta to write an essay on the most significant challenge on that essay being my most significant challenge.  

Regardless, I began to write.

3. Write. Write. Write. Do not pay attention to word limit.

The editing can come later. Write down your full, complete responses to the essay. Write multiple versions of it. Write everything that come to mind. Generate as much information as you possibly can.

Here’s my first draft of Essay #4 from September 14th:

“I am large, I contain multitudes.”

As the only daughter of a single Filipino mother, my experiences growing up seemed to differ from those of other kids.  I remember only thinking that everyone had only one parent, and if you happened to have both, you chose which one you lived with.  I remember looking at the sea of ethnicities of my classmates and feeling a loneliness in being the only Filipino. I remember having to create friends out of inanimate objects–pillowcases, stuffed animals, trees–to combat the solitude of being an only child. 

I come from a world where creativity was my weapon against loneliness, where a family was not composed of a mama and a dada, but a mama and her mama (my grandmother), where being Filipino was a mark of “other” onto my skin.  I was not one of the Big Three. I was no Korea, China, or Japan, but instead, an insignificant splash of islands messily painted onto a globe.  I grew up hating my culture; from feeling a hot shame whenever my grandparents’ accents rang harshly in a conversation to avoiding bringing Filipino food to school because I couldn’t bear the embarrassment of having to explain what it was, I attempted to distance myself from a heritage I wanted no part in.

It wasn’t until I went to high school, where I met my friends (Kellen, Savana, and Lauren) who found incredible pride in their backgrounds and had an intense curiosity for my own background, that I started to open up more.  I told them about Filipino foods, to which they responded with great awe and want to taste it. I told them about our history, a history of being conquered and colonized over and over again to where our identities were a mesh of other cultures, yet amidst that all, we made it our own.  I told them about growing up around Tagalog and taught them words so they could discreetly insult other people in my language and continued to talk and talk and talk until one day, I realized that maybe it wasn’t so bad being who I was. However, it wasn’t until my mother came to me in my sophomore year with a request to help her friend from the Philippines gather books for three schools she sponsored.  I decided to invite Lauren, Savana, and Kellen to help me. We prepared for five months, planning a month long book drive at our middle school to fundraise. In those five months, we designed a logo, wrote out mission statements, made brochures, e-mailed administrators back and forth, and gave our nonprofit organization a name — The Literacy Movement. The drive was a success and soon enough, we found ourselves with plane tickets to visit the Philippines for two weeks to give the books to the schools ourselves. 

Those two weeks in the Philippines changed my outlook on Filipino lifestyle and culture forever.  The students in the Philippines had an incredible passion and dedication to their education, traveling miles upon miles, whether barefoot or in flimsy chinelas (flip-flops), through the jungle-like terrain to go to school.  They combatted the struggles of living in an impoverished neighborhood through camaraderie and positivity. When we assisted in a feeding program at the Philippines, giving out cups of soup to each child that approached the door, I saw kids run back to their homes and return with their family and friends so that they could get a portion of the food, too.  There was an incredible sense of community in the Philippines that I will remember forever and it reminded me that while the Filipino people did not have much physically, we had a lot to give emotionally. Our culture was one of giving back, and I felt it was my duty to give as much as I could to these people. They let us into their own lives and own worlds, showing us bits and pieces of what it was like to live like them, and it was only fair that we gave them all we could, not only in books, but in our returned kindness and appreciation. Being in that environment, surrounded by people who shared my roots yet lived an entirely different life, sparked not only a want to return to the Philippines and visit those same schools again, but a pride in my people and my culture and a confidence in my identity.

4. Read. Critique. Edit. 

This isn’t the part where you cut down just yet. Instead, this step is dedicated to solidifying really good ideas and stories, making sure that you have all the ingredients needed to make a good essay. I was lucky enough to have really talented editors help me identify weaker parts of my essay. The main critique for this first one was my comparison of Asian countries against the Philippines and having too negative of an overall tone for a college essay. Which I get.

Draft 2, October 5th:

“I am large, I contain multitudes.”

As the only daughter of a single Filipino mother, my experiences growing up seemed to differ from those of other kids.  I remember only thinking that everyone had only one parent, and if you happened to have both, you chose which one you lived with.  I remember looking at the sea of ethnicities of my classmates and feeling a loneliness in being the only Filipino. I remember having to create friends out of inanimate objects–pillowcases, stuffed animals, trees–to combat the solitude of being an only child.

I come from a world where creativity was my weapon against loneliness, where a family was not composed of a mama and a dada, but a mama and her mama (my grandmother), where being Filipino was a mark of “other” onto my skin.  I was not one of the Big Three.  I was no Korea, China, or Japan, but instead, an insignificant splash of islands messily painted onto a globe. I grew up hating my culture; from feeling a hot shame whenever my grandparents’ accents rang harshly in a conversation to avoiding bringing Filipino food to school because I couldn’t bear the embarrassment of having to explain what it was, I attempted to distance myself from a heritage I wanted no part in. I grew up hating my culture, my insignificance.

It wasn’t until I went to high school,I started to open up more wheren I met my friends Kellen, Savana, and Lauren in high school(Kellen, Savana, and Lauren) , who found incredible pride in their backgrounds and had an intense curiosity for my own background, that I started to open up moreasked me about mine.  I told them about Filipino foods, to which they responded with great awe and want to taste it.  I told them about our Filipinohistory, a history of being conquered and colonized over and over againcolonization to the point where our identities were a mesh of other culturesstrange amalgamation of a the world, yet amidst that all, we made it our ownuniquely Filipino.  I told them about growing up around Tagalog and taught them words so they could discreetly insult other people in my language andand Filipino foods and our traditions and continued to talk and talk and talk and talk until one day, I realized that maybe it wasn’t so bad being who I wasrealized that my culture was one to be proud of.  However, it wasn’t until

When my mother came to me in my sophomore year with a request to help her friend from the Philippines gather books for three schools she sponsored, Idecided to invited Lauren, Savana, and Kellen to help me.  We prepared a month long book drive at our middle school to fundraisefor five months, planning a month long book drive at our middle school to fundraise.  In those five months, we designed designing a our ownlogo, wrote out mission statements, made brochures creating brochures, e-mailedingschool administrators back and forth, and gave our nonprofit organization a namegiving ourselves a name — The Literacy Movement.  The drive was a success and soon enough, we found ourselves with plane tickets to visit the Philippines for two weeks to give the books to the schools ourselves. 

Those two weeks in the Philippines changed my outlook on Filipino lifestyle and culture forever.  The students in the Philippines had an incredible passion and dedication to their education, traveling miles upon miles, whether barefoot or in flimsy chinelas (flip-flops), through the jungle-like terrain to go to school.  They combatteding the struggles of living in an impoverished neighborhood through camaraderie and positivity. When we assisted in a feeding program at the Philippines, giving out cups of soup to each child that approached the door, I saw kids run back to their homes and return with their family and friends so that they could get a portion of the food, too.  There was an incredible sense of community in the Philippines that I will remember forever and iIt reminded me that while the Filipino people did not have much physically, we had a lot to give emotionally. Our culture was one of giving back, and I felt it was my duty to give as much as I could to these people.They let us into their own lives and own worlds, showing us bits and pieces of what it was like to live like them, and it was only fair that we gave them all we could, not only in books, but in our returned kindness and appreciation. Being in that environment, surrounded by people who shared my roots yet lived an entirely different life, sparked not only a want to return to the Philippines and visit those same schools again, but a pride in my people and my culture and a confidence in my identity.

5. Repeat Step 4 until you are satisfied with your sentences. Then move on to Step 6.

I actually did something weird here, where I really hated my drafts. So I just scrapped most of it and started fresh. Draft #3, October 15:

I come from a world where creativity was my weapon against loneliness, where a family was not composed of a mama and a dada, but a mama and her mama, and where being Filipino was the thing I hated most about myself.

I am the only daughter of a divorced Filipino woman, whose disconnection from her culture imprinted onto myself so that I thought poorly of the Philippines.  In my eyes, we were just tools of service. We were your maids, your nurses, your babysitters. We weren’t at the forefront, but an afterthought. The ones who cleaned up the mess after the party. I lived with this perspective until I reached high school.

I worked with my friends to create a nonprofit organization, The Literacy Movement, where we collected books to donate to three schools in the Philippines.  When I visited the Philippines in the summer before my junior year, I gained a better understanding of the Filipino people. 

We are a people whose long history with colonialism has made it difficult to find our own identity.  Our language is, as described by my mom, a poor man’s Spanish. Despite this, I still find a pride in my culture. I no longer look at my country with a scornful eye, but a critical one.  I’ve worked to incorporate my heritage in my schoolwork, writing a thesis and dissertation on colorism in the Philippines in AP Language and Composition, as well as centering my speech in the same class on my complex relationship with my culture.

6. Cut down/write your essay, but now following word limits.

Funnily enough, my new fresh essay followed word limits. Draft #3, October 15:

I come from a world where creativity was my weapon against loneliness, where a family was not composed of a mama and dada, but a mama and her mama, and where being Filipino was the thing I hated most about myself.

I am the only daughter of a divorced Filipino woman, whose disconnect from her culture influenced my understanding of it.  In my eyes, we were just tools of service. We were your maids, your nurses, your babysitters — an afterthought. The ones who cleaned up the mess after the celebration. I lived with this perspective until I reached high school.

I worked with my friends to create a nonprofit organization, The Literacy Movement, where we collected books to donate to three schools in the Philippines.  When I visited the Philippines in the summer before my junior year, I gained a better understanding of the Filipino people. 

We are a people whose long history with colonialism has made it difficult to find our own identity, but throughout the years, I’ve come to know who I am.  We are an amalgamation of various countries, and we have taken those bits and pieces and made it our own. That uniqueness is seen in our foods, our language, our people.  I no longer look at my country with a scornful eye, but a critical one, even incorporating my heritage in my schoolwork. I wrote a thesis and dissertation on colorism in the Philippines and a speech about my complex relationship with my Filipino culture.

Word Count: 250

7. Edit. Tweak. Perfect.

October 16:

I come from a world where creativity was my weapon against loneliness, where a family was not composed of a mama and dada, but a mama and her mama, and where being Filipino was the thing I hated most about myself.

I am the only daughter of a divorced Filipino woman, whose disconnect from her culture influenced my understanding of it.  In my eyes, we were just tools of service. We were your maids, your nurses, your babysitters — an afterthought. The ones who cleaned up the mess after the celebration. I lived with this perspective until I reached high school.

I worked with my friends to createcreated a nonprofit organization with my friends, called The Literacy Movement, where we collected books to donate to three schools in the Philippines.  When I visited the Philippines in the summer before my junior year, I gained a better understanding of the Filipino people. 

We are a people whose long history with colonialism has made it difficult to find our own identity, but throughout the years, I’ve come to know who I am.  We are an amalgamation of various countries, taking bits and pieces of them and making it our own. That uniqueness is seen in our foods, our language, our people.  I no longer look at my country with a scornful eye, but a critical one. I’ve incorporated my heritage in my schoolwork, writing a thesis and dissertation on colorism in the Philippines and a speech about my complex relationship with my Filipino culture.

Word Count: 2486

October 20:

I come from a world where creativity was my weapon against loneliness, where a family was not composed of a mama and dada, but a mama and her mama, and where being Filipino was the thing I hated most about myself.

I am the only daughter of a divorced Filipino woman, whose disconnect from her culture influenced my understanding of it.  In my eyes, we were just tools of service. We were your maids, your nurses, your babysitters — an afterthought. The ones who cleaned up the mess after the celebration. I lived with this perspective until I reached high school.

I created a nonprofit organization with my friends called The Literacy Movement, where we collected books to donate to three schools in the Philippines.  When I visited the Philippines in the summer before my junior year, I gained a better understanding of the Filipino people. 

We are a people whose long history with colonialism has made it difficult to find our own identity, but throughout the years, I’ve come to know who I am.  We are an amalgamation of various countries, taking bits and pieces of them and making it our own. That uniqueness is seen in our foods, our language, our people.  I no longer look at my country with a scornful eye, but a critical one. I’ve incorporated my heritage in my schoolwork, writing a thesis and dissertation on colorism in the Philippines and a speech about my complex relationship with my Filipino culture.

Word Count: 246

October 23:

I come from a world where a family was not composed of a mama and dada, but a mama and her mama, and where being Filipino was the thing I hated most about myself.

I am the only daughter of a divorced Filipino woman, whose disconnect from her culture influenced my understanding of it.  In my eyes, we were just tools of service. We were your maids, your nurses, your babysitters — an afterthought. The ones who cleaned up the mess after the celebration.I lived with this perspective until I reached high school, where increase of Filipino representation in the media made me feel more comfortable in my identity.

Because of this, I created a nonprofit organization with my friends called The Literacy Movement, where we collected books to donate to threeschools in the Philippines.  When I visited the Philippines in the summer before my junior year, I gained a better understanding of the Filipino people. 

We are a people whose long history with colonialism has made it difficult to find our own identity, but throughout the years, I’ve come to know who I am.  We are an amalgamation of various countries, taking bits and pieces of them and making it our own. That uniqueness is seen in our foods, our language, our people.  I no longer look at my country with a scornful eye, but a critical one. I’ve incorporated my heritage in my schoolwork, writing a thesis and dissertation on colorism in the Philippines and a speech about my complex relationship with my Filipino culture.

We are a people whose long history with colonialism has made it difficult to find out own identity, but throughout the years, I’ve come to know who I am. I no longer look at my country with a scornful eye, but a critical one, now incorporating my heritage into my schoolwork. I’ve written a thesis and dissertation on colorism in the Philippines and presented a speech about my complex relationship with my culture. We are an amalgamation of various countries, whose uniqueness is seen in its foods, language, and people. And through all this, I can now say that I am proud to be Filipino.

Word Count: 2469

October 27:

I come from a world where a family was not composed of a mama and dada, but a mama and her mama, and where being Filipino was the thing I hated most about myselfwas something I was ashamed of.

I am the only daughter of a divorced Filipino woman, whose disconnect from her culture influenced my understanding of it.  In my eyes, we were just tools of service. We were your maids, your nurses, your babysitters — an afterthought. I lived with this perspective until high school, where increase of Filipino representation in the media made me feel more comfortable in my identity.

Because of this, I created a nonprofit organization with my friends called The Literacy Movement, where we collected books to donate to schools in the Philippines.  When I visited the Philippines in the summer before my junior year, I gained a better understanding of the Filipino people. 

We are a people whose long history with colonialism has made it difficult to find out own identity, but throughout the years, I’ve come to know who I am. I no longer look at my country with a scornful eye, but a critical one, now incorporating my heritage into my schoolwork. I’ve written a thesis and dissertation on colorism in the Philippines and presented a speech about my complex relationship with my culture. We are an amalgamation of various countries, whose uniqueness is seen in its foods, language, and people. And through all this, I can now say that I am proud to be Filipino.

Word Count: 2497

8. Finally, it’s done.

October 28, final product:

I come from a world where a family was not composed of a mama and dada, but a mama and her mama, and where being Filipino was something I was ashamed of.

I am the only daughter of a divorced Filipino woman, whose disconnect from her culture influenced my understanding of it.  In my eyes, we were just tools of service. We were your maids, your nurses, your babysitters — an afterthought. I lived with this perspective until high school, where increase of Filipino representation in the media made me feel more comfortable in my identity.

Because of this, I created a nonprofit organization with my friends called The Literacy Movement, where we collected books to donate to schools in the Philippines.  When I visited the Philippines in the summer before my junior year, I gained a better understanding of the Filipino people. 

We are a people whose long history with colonialism has made it difficult to find out own identity, but throughout the years, I’ve come to know who I am. I no longer look at my country with a scornful eye, but a critical one, now incorporating my heritage into my schoolwork. I’ve written a thesis and dissertation on colorism in the Philippines and presented a speech about my complex relationship with my culture. We are an amalgamation of various countries, whose uniqueness is seen in its foods, language, and people. And through all this, I can now say that I am proud to be Filipino.

Word Count: 247

As you can see, this essay has come a very, very long way. I actually would be interested in trying to rewrite it not for a college essay because I definitely did have to censor myself a bit in order to try and ~appeal to those colleges~. I look back at my writing now and am kind of sad at how stiff it is. There’s not a lot of color in my writing aside from maybe the opening bit showing splashes of personality, but if you recall the list from earlier, I shoved my nonprofit organization + Filipino identity into one essay. It is completely okay to incorporate multiple elements of yourself into one essay as long as it’s cohesive and flows well.

Honestly, I didn’t do a lot of very colorful and abstract writing for my college essays, which is something I regret a lot, but I did get my chance to play with it during my blogger application, which can also be another revisions post for the future.

I hope this was kind of helpful and gave some insight into how I approach any application-like essays that ask to show myself off.

  1. Would've been pretty meta to write an essay on the most significant challenge on that essay being my most significant challenge. back to text