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MIT student blogger Ahmed H. '12

My Application Story by Ahmed H. '12

Modified (but mostly plagiarized) from my personal blog. Enjoy the copy pasta.

I have an interesting MIT “story.” It wasn’t my first choice school until very, very late in the game.

I first started researching colleges to build my list in August of my senior year. We had done the campus visits—the Eastern seaboard trip to hit the Ivies, the midwest trip to hit the Chicago and St Louis schools. Nothing really stood out to me until did more research on the University of Chicago. They are weird. Really weird. I liked it a lot because it stood out in its rejection of the stuffiness and pretension of the Ivy culture. Plus, I was confident I could get in, so I decided to apply early action.

My dad went to MIT for undergrad school and was convinced that I should seriously consider applying, and hopefully attending, the institution. To me, at that point, there was nothing wrong with MIT. It was just my dad’s school, and he was pressuring me, so naturally I resisted his influence. I agreed to apply early action here, too, since thankfully both schools have non-binding EA policies.

I put off the MIT application until the very last minute, and I tried to rehash as much of my Chicago essays as possible. But man, did I perfect the UC application. I relished their Uncommon Application, which is now, ruefully, a bit more Common. My essays were perfect. I knew I would get in. I was almost certain that I would get rejected from MIT, and I let my dad know. “You should have more confidence!” “Well, they should accept more than 13% of their applicants then, thank you very much.”

I got accepted into the University of Chicago early action, and life was set for me. Two days later, I was deferred by MIT—no big deal, wasn’t even considering it. I sent my deposit and housing application to Chicago within the month of December.

Except then I got into MIT in March. This complicated matters considerably. It was family meeting time, and I realized how brash my decision was. My dad didn’t force me to go to MIT, don’t get me wrong. He just had me reconsider.

So I did. I compared lots of things, made a checklist. We visited both universities, again. The schools were pretty much tied in terms of campus culture and workload. I want to major in economics on a pre-med track, and the schools’ econ departments are regarded highly enough that there wasn’t a significant difference. So another tie there. In retrospect, I don’t know why I was so gung-ho about Chicago. Every quality of that school is duplicated at MIT, from the sense of humor to the academic rigor and prestige. It may have been the pure oddity of the application. A coinflip would have been a worthy judge. At this point I went to my teachers and counselors to find an unbiased opinion. I learned that MIT has an acceptance rate to medical school one and a half times that of Chicago. Looking over the course requirements, it became clear that Chicago is a liberal arts school with a strong science department, while MIT is a science school with a strong liberal arts department. I liked the MIT approach better. And I guess in the end, it’s pretty cool that I’m going to the same place as my dad. I have the chance to room in the same dorm, as well. In the end, I’m extremely pleased with my decision, and Chicago was very nice about my rescinding the decision. They even gave me a refund on the deposit.

Slightly over a month of classes later, and I’m completely satisfied with my decision. I’ve never felt out of place here, which was my main concern. I’ve found quite a few organizations where I fit in and can talk about my interests with like-minded people. I thought I would be surrounded by geeks and nerds all the time, but I was really surprised by how normal most people are. Of course, there are some wunderkinds, and sometimes I feel woefully average, but that’s a nice ego-deflater coming out of the top rankings of my high school. Nothing to get depressed over, really.

I guess it’s clear that this is not the typical MIT application story. From what I’ve read/heard, everyone has been living and breathing it since freshman year of high school. Is it ironic or fitting that I, a legacy admit, wasn’t enamored until two months before the May response deadline?

Any current students want to weigh in on their stories?

35 responses to “My Application Story”

  1. anonymous says:

    Wow, you’re entirely summed up how I was feeling about a year ago. Upon initial research (before looking into MIT), I really loved U of Chicago’s different culture–and then I discovered that they didn’t have the major that I want. So now MIT is at the top of my list!

  2. Dylan says:

    Nice post. I live in Chicago myself, and am also highly considering both schools (though I have to admit, MIT being farther away from home kind of attracts me, the change would allow me to see a new city and a somewhat different environment. Then again, I know how to get around Chicago).

    Thanks for the information. Hope you have a good time Freshmen year. I’m planning on reading all the Freshman blogs here so next year when I decide (I’m a junior now) it will be easier. smile

  3. Must admit I was hesitant at first also, just because I didn’t want to simply follow in my dad’s footsteps. But I couldn’t be happier with my decision to come here!

    And, at least at MIT you can be proud of your own accomplishments, since MIT doesn’t actually do legacy.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Wow me too! I thought I was going to UChicago for sure until I went to CPW and UChicago’s preview weekend and realized MIT was the place for me. My UChicago essay was my favorite though.

  5. Ehsan says:

    I personally prefer four years of MIT hacks and Boston compared to four years of Chicago, the windiest place, EVER!

  6. Laura says:

    I think I fell in love with MIT sometime during junior year, at a local information session given by none other than Matt. =) It was sort of always my top choice, I think, but never to the level of obsession that some people seem to bring to the table…

  7. Maggie says:

    Wow your story is strikingly similar to mine (which is just starting). I’m applying to UChicago and MIT both EA (hooray non-binding!), for basically the same reasons of their weirdness. I’ve finished my UChicago essays already because they were very fun and easy to do and, like you, am enamored with them. On the other hand, I have yet to write the MIT essay.

    “Looking over the course requirements, it became clear that Chicago is a liberal arts school with a strong science department, while MIT is a science school with a strong liberal arts department.” That is a very interesting point; I never really thought of it that way before.

    A question – it seems that you made your final decision based on information from your counselors and other people. Did the extra visits not make a difference at all? I haven’t visited either yet, so it’d be good to know.

  8. Ahmed says:

    Ah, good point Maggie.

    The follow-up visits were very good at both schools (I couldn’t make it to CPW at MIT, but I came separately a couple weeks after it), but they didn’t do much to help me find material to separate them.

  9. Z says:

    Hi! I had a quick question –

    So I emailed my EC a week before the EA deadline and got a response after waiting for about a week. When I got the reply, it proposed to hold the interview exactly 2 days later. Is 48 hours generally considered short notice for this type of thing?

  10. Ehsan says:

    What’s the link to your personal blog?

  11. Sebastien says:

    hey Ahmed smile

    I’m applying to MIT and (like everyone probably) am worried about not getting in.

    I was looking for alternative schools with perhaps a less selective admission but that still resemble MIT (since it’s basically the dream school). I hadn’t actually considered Chicago.

    Now that you’re at MIT, could you elaborate some on the similarities/differences that you see between these two schools, and what interested you in UC? I’d love to hear more about this school (and other “lesser MIT’s”, if you know of any!)

  12. Ahmed says:

    @Z: 48 hours is pretty slim, but ECs are busy people. If it’s absolutely impossible for you to make the interview, I’m sure it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle to work around it. At least you’re in contact with the EC now. S/he’ll understand if you can’t do it. That being said, if you applied EA, that’s probably the reason why they want to hold it so soon.

    @Sebastien: Definitely check out Chicago. With my limited knowledge, it’s really the only school I would compare MIT to. Look into NYU maybe? WashU? I have no clue. Anyone else got ideas?
    Chicago and MIT are both very quirky in their own ways. It’s hard to put in words, but if you visit both places you’ll get it. For example, I suppose my earlier story about peanut butter could have occurred at Chicago, but I can’t really see it happening anywhere else (and still be relatively normal).

  13. Sandeep says:

    i am an Indian student studying graduation.
    My future aim is to study my M.S. in a very reputed and very good Univ. in America.
    Can any one plz help me to get admission in this MIT. plz send me the procedure too…

  14. Michael M. says:

    I think it’s actually kind of fitting. MIT is definitely unlike the ivy league schools in that legacy means almost nothing. It *is* known for radical thinking, so it’s actually very fitting to want to go against a decision following legacy.

    What, you haven’t been living and breathing MIT since your formative years?! BLASPHEMY. Honestly I shouldn’t say anything about choosing between MIT and other places–I never had to really make much of a choice because after I got into MIT I put so little effort into getting admitted elsewhere that those that did accept me, I didn’t consider, because I didn’t want to go to schools that took crappy applications (whoo runons!). So I let laziness decide, which is *always* the best choice. (And by always I mean rarely).

    What’s this about Peanut Butter?

  15. Czm0 says:

    I’m going to apply … but I doubt I’ll get in with my extracurrics and scores.

    Do you have an idea of what things they really care for?
    Any words of wisdom with the admissions, Ahmed? raspberry

  16. Ahmed says:

    Earlier blog post. Just click my name at the end of this comment smile

  17. Alazar says:

    I will be applying to MIT as well… One Question that everyone seems to ask is…
    Do you have any words of wisdom for us, Ahmed?

    and how do I, personally know that MIT is the school for me…

  18. Banerjee says:

    Wow…that’s really interesting. I think though that most people live on hopes of getting admitted to MIT, and MIT only.

  19. sandy says:

    hi ahmed.. i m frm india and graduated in mechanical engineering… now i want to yake admission into ms programme of MIT. so please can you tell me what are the requirment for an international student to get in.. like GRE,SAT,TOFEL scores and educational qualifications etc.

  20. Reena says:

    Well, I’m still in the process of applying, but I was gung-ho about Florida State for something like 5 years. I was convinced Florida State had the best meteorology program ever, despite growing up around MIT. I don’t think it even registered in my head that MIT was a college. Until two summers ago, when I got into physics as well as meteorology. And then I was like “…omg. Green Building.”
    And then it became my top choice school.
    And now I’m like “…I’m applying to MIT?Seriously, MIT? Whaaat?”

  21. Bugg'12 says:

    My story is pretty similar to yours Ahmed. Although I really wanted to get into MIT, my dad was pushing Columbia, and a teacher/close mentor of mine pushed Stanford. I didn’t make my decision until three days before the deadline. Admit Weekends were pretty helpful, but in the end, I compared Elec. Eng. curricula to make my decision. Break a leg applicants! smile

  22. Benjamin says:

    Cool. I live near Boston and am also considering both schools. Nice to know from someone who has visited both that they have similar cultures.

  23. Ope says:

    Anonymous you have the exact same story as I do! I live 6 blocks away from the U of C, but they do not offer Engineering and besides I’ve always preferred MIT. My dad is hooked on U of C though.

  24. Anonymous says:

    any new essay must be posted, it’ll help.

  25. Kay says:

    Oooh! Even I want to major in Economics on a pre-med track!

  26. Anonymous says:

    My son was accepted to both UChicago and MIT EA last year. Surprisingly, one of the factors in his decision to go to MIT (just got back tonight from visiting him during Family Weekend) was that he had a great interview for MIT – and no interview for Chicago, as they did not have an interviewer at all in our area. In many, many respects, the schools are very similar, but I’d give the edge to MIT in prestige and livability (Cambridge v. Chicago) – though I know one UChicago senior who disagrees vehemently.

  27. charlie says:

    you were considering UoChicago and MIT? Do you realize the number of people here who would love that position? Imsotired

  28. Justin says:

    Hi
    Im in the same position with Chicago and MIT…except I wanna major in the sciences, so is there any particular downside to the whole liberal arts with strong science vs science w/ strong liberal arts?

  29. Shehryar says:

    Hi
    Ahmad I wanted to know if I could get admission in MIT.I am not a resident of USA. I have heard only 100 out of 2000 students get the opportunity to enter MIT. I scored 3 A’s and 5 B’s in my O levels and in my A’s level i have scored 2 A’s and a B.Now after this i dont think i have any chances of entering this university??

  30. Ahmed says:

    @Everyone: No matter how much punctuation you use, there is absolutely NO WAY I can tell you whether or not you’re going to get into MIT. PLEASE understand this. I keep getting this question over and over in different forms, either sent to my email or posted to my blogs.

    @Alazar: This whole post was my sharing of wisdom to you. Hope it helps. Feel free to email me with specific questions.

    @Justin: It’s personal preference, really. What do you want to focus on? What will help you follow the career path you want (if you have decided one–it’s perfectly if you haven’t).

    @Everyone else: Thanks for sharing! I especially love reading parents’ comments.

  31. Good to know it’s possible to get into MIT without going through highschool trying to form the perfect application.

  32. Haha…my dad tells me the same thing about confidence about getting accepted at MIT…Did you have any hooks as an applicant?…Btw ur post are amazing

  33. Monorina says:

    @Abdel-K. M: I don’t think you can get into MIT with a “hook”. It’s not exactly like they will go ga-ga over your sports participation. If there is one “hook”(if you will permit me to term it as such), it’s called ‘passion’;specially for WHAT YOU want to do. That’s why I love this place so much.
    @ Ahmed: I started being passionate about MIT from towards the end of my Junior year( here in India, school begins in March, so that’d be sometime in December).