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MIT staff blogger Ben Jones

Odds & Ends by Ben Jones

522 EA admits, Snively, molecular jewelry, and Evan Broder's holiday card - more random than even the dorm.

Happy New Year!
I hope you guys are having a great 2008 so far. Congrats to all of you who got your applications in on time. :-) And being a second-semester senior really is pretty awesome; I still remember those days… enjoy them!

390 –> 522
I’ve been noticing lots of speculation all over the web about the reasons behind our increasing the number of EA admits from last year’s 390 to this year’s 522. Fear not, we have no plans to increase the class size, nor are we abandoning the principle of enrolling a maximum of one third of our class in EA.

Recent changes in the early application policies of some of our peer institutions have increased the number of outstanding applications to MIT and to many other highly selective schools. Each university’s yield (the percentage of students who accept their offer of admission) is predicted to decrease accordingly, and the increase in the number of students admitted to MIT in Early Action is simply a reflection of this.

I mentioned in this entry that we couldn’t hire Snively as a blogger, despite a significant public outcry of support, because of the “Burton-Conner rule.” After weeks of people picketing around the clock outside of 3-108, we’ve relented. Please go home now, you’re scaring the prospective students.

(Real reason: the other Burton-Conner bloggers collectively publish about as much as two, not three – so there’s room for Snively. At least that’s how we justified it.)

Evan Broder’s Holiday Card
…is perhaps the cutest thing on the planet (thanks Ms. Broder!). If he doesn’t start blogging again soon, I will scan it in and publish it here.

Valentine’s Day
…is coming! My wife wanted me to share this link with you, in case you have a wonderfully nerdy mom or girl that you need to impress. I think this one is particularly awesome, although I can’t afford it. :-(

That’s About It…
We start reading RA applications this weekend. Yay!

69 responses to “Odds & Ends”

  1. Shamarah says:

    Good luck RD folks smile and thank you, admissions folks, for the holiday card. How sweet!

  2. kayla says:

    it’s so scary to think that people are gonna be reading my application…

  3. Sid says:

    Hey Ben! Thanks for the update about the number change.

    So, I presume the number of waitlisted candidates will increase?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Does this mean that there will be more RA admits, too?

  5. Paul says:

    I didn’t send you a holiday card! Lesson learned for next year. wink

    Also, I’m a little surprised to hear the class size isn’t increasing (yet?). But hey, take things one step at a time. ^_^

  6. Omar '10 says:

    Good luck reading apps! I’m pretty sure it will be exciting to read about all this prospective students!

    Class size is something that will not grow for many reasons including… you would need more faculty to keep the student:faculty ratio, would need more dorms/frats/living groups, HASS-D lotteries would be worst unless the whole humanities department also increases in size, and I would think of other reasons that all cost… a lot of money! More students means spending a lot of money and that is good money MIT is using for research and to keep it’s education at a top level.

    It would be good if it eventually happens (the increase in class size) but I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

    Good luck to everyone in RD,

  7. Paul says:

    Omar – I’m absolutely agreed with you, on all points. I believe the GIRs in particular could suffer from having an influx of freshmen, if the transition isn’t handled properly. While you’re right that MIT is currently using its money for great reasons (top-level research and top-level education), spending the money necessary to build new dorms, hire more professors, etc. would ultimately enable MIT to extend that top-level education to even more students.

    The main reason I’m discussing this is that I’ve heard some rumblings about the class size going up eventually…I was just curious as to whether it would start this year or sometime down the road. But universities as a rule take a long time to get things done, so we’ll see.

  8. Anonymous says:

    OMG! Etsy on MIT Blogs! etsy = awesome, quirky, handmade goods!

    Trust me–molecularmuse’s stuff is amazing!

    (check out tinymeat!)

  9. Ben says:

    @ Sid – regarding the waitlist, we haven’t talked about it specifically, but that would definitely be my guess. See below response to Anonymous for more…

    @ Anonymous – regarding an increase of RA admits, think of it this way: we’ve admitted about a third of the students we’re going to admit in total. As for the remaining two thirds, it’s hard to say what percentage will be admitted in RA and what percentage will be admitted via waitlist activity. Because yield is more unpredictable this year (see original post), we’ll have to figure out a balance between the two that doesn’t put us in danger of overenrolling the class. Until we figure that out, I won’t really be able to answer your question properly.

    @ Paul & Omar – it’s been discussed in The Tech that Ashdown is eventually going to be converted into an undergrad dorm, which will pave the way for an increased class size. I’m not sure of the schedule for that, or how big the increase will be. Personally, I’ll be very happy to be able to admit a few more of the most exceptional applicants in the world – our planet *really* needs scientists and engineers at this point in history, and who better to train them than MIT?

  10. Tanmay says:

    Dear fellow RA applicants from all over the world, let’s not worry about the admit rate; we’ve sent our applications, done all that we could have. That ‘quite different’ moment is not too far away, just somewhere about 1850 hours… smile

  11. Anonymous says:

    Well, that’s not so bad. It’s about how long my computer said it would take me to unzip a certain album just this morning, and I’m actually listening to it now. Weird.

  12. Isshak says:

    Hi Ben! I had a question.
    A friend of mine asked me if you had a admission process for students wanting to begin in January. Because I know some other colleges begin school in the fall or in winter. Do you have a selection process for winter for intl students too ?

  13. Ben says:

    Hi Isshak,

    All freshmen begin in the fall; unlike some other schools, we don’t have a spring entrance policy for freshmen.

    The policy is slightly different for transfer applicants, but the spring entry option is only open to domestic transfers, unfortunately:

    Hope this helps!


  14. Piper '11 says:

    Ahh, that explains it. I was wondering if policy had changed or something O.O Anywho, I kind of prefer the class to be on the small side. I wouldn’t want a class of 4000 or anything like that. Though I would like to see more people accepted..

    Though I have a feeling the admissions people will always have hard decisions choosing, even if the class size does increase.

    So, Ashdown. East campusy or west campusy?

  15. Ben says:

    Great question! Technically on west campus, but next to Bexley… I suppose it’s anyone’s guess at this point.

    Looks like you guys have a few years to decide:

  16. Sara says:

    What! That jewelry is awesome! I want all of it! haha I am especially fond of the serotonin earrings.

  17. Christina says:

    OMG. Best jewelry ever. Go T for finding that!

  18. Hyun Jin says:


    Are international students considered along with the other regular domestic students, or are they placed in a separate field altogether? Since we can’t submit EA, I figured it was the latter option, but I’m not so sure now.

    Happy 2008! (though 4 days have already passed)

  19. Sergey says:

    In addition to Hyun Jun’s question:
    In case international applicants are considered separately: are they considered in the context of other ints from the same country, or in the context of all ints?

  20. Sergey says:

    Oops, sorry about the typo in your name Hyun Jin!

  21. In our infinite, i.e. extremely subjective and limited, wisdom (and presumption).. the members of the MIT12 chatroom (or at least 2 of said members) have issued a resolution of advice on people that were deferred that our officially declared cool enough to warrant admission.. it is in the chat thread on the facebook group.

    I’ve no idea why you would listen to us (though you did deem most of us officially cool enough to be admitted). but I doubt it could hurt the relevant people, so I pass it along..

    Thank You for your consideration,
    ~Donald Guy
    MIT12 Member

    In other news: Happy New Year!! Good luck with the RD app readings and good luck to all RA applicants!!

  22. Anonymous says:

    if we were deferred EA, when should we have our updates etc. be mailed by?

  23. MMM says:

    WHAT?! NO increase in class size??what if all 522 accept? oh me as an international will be bent over frontwards and spanked shamelessly!AHHHHHHHH!!!!

  24. MMM says:

    Oh yes…I agree with Kai…snively is pretty cool…

  25. Hyun Jin says:

    @ Karen

    Thanks, that was extremely helpful. Though.. I agree with Sergey, now I’m just positively terrified about my chances. Oh well.

    While I’m at it, good luck to Sergey, all other Int’l applicants, and everyone else who applied!

  26. Angela says:


    What, plutonium earrings too?!


  27. I obviously MUST panic now…right?????

    This is what United States Postal Service’s tracking system said when i tried to find the status of my Application Materials..

    We attempted to deliver your item at 9:42 AM on January 5, 2008 in CAMBRIDGE, MA 02139 and a notice was left. It can be redelivered or picked up at the Post Office. If the item is unclaimed, it will be returned to the sender. Information, if available, is updated every evening. Please check again later. “

    Do give a clarification as soon as possible. I obviously can’t afford the package being resent to me!!!!!

  28. Anonymous says:

    im taking the january sat. is there any chance that the results will be looked at?

  29. Anonymous says:

    As a regular action applicant, can I email the admissions office something that was left out? Specifically, a scholastic award that I didn’t receive until after my application was sent.

  30. MIT Dad says:

    @ Lavya

    The reason the percentage drops this year is simple: Money….Harvard and Princeton are offering substantial cuts in their tuitions to become serious competitors for top students. We’re talking about a 50 percent difference in tuition yearly! As a parent of an accepted MIT ER student, I had to think long and hard as to which school he should go, but his heart definitely belongs to MIT! Who knows, maybe MIT will follow suit next year? (hint) smile

  31. Sid says:


    Thanks for the answer… Just wondering: do you ever give out specific decisions before the March 20 or so date; for instance, say “so and so has been accepted” kind of thing?

  32. Solstice says:

    What happened to Anthony? He is listed as a current blogger, but he hasn’t blogged in 6 months.

  33. Eager says:

    If you’re reading RA apps already, how long does it take to process all the teacher evaluations? In other words, when should I become concerned that my rec that was sent a few weeks ago still isn’t showing up? Other schools don’t even have app status sites until late Jan but MIT’s policy of making it our responsibility to check the materials is making me kinda nervous!

  34. Thank you sir, happy to see Snively as the official blogger.

  35. Paul says:

    International Applicant – Since the 5th is a weekend, it’s not that surprising the package could not be delivered. Try to get the package redelivered on Monday if you can.

    Anonymous – Yes, January SATs are accepted on a case-by-case basis. Contact the admissions office (by phone or email) and they can give you more information.

  36. MMM says:

    @ PAUL!the blogger

    Ok in my application I didn’t specify why I was doing the SATs Reasonings in January- Must I call the admissions office and tell them who I am and why I am writing it in Jan? Because, when I called and spoke to the personnel in the international students department, she was like” We’re accepting plenty January scores, so don’t worry, go ace your exam!” which renders,at least IMHO, the ‘case-by-case’ policy-thing inapplicable for RA applicants.BUT IF I MUST CALL, FOR MY SAKE AND THE SAKE OF EVERY OTHER INT’L APPLICANT WHO HAS TO WRITE THE SATS IN JANUARY, please let me know via this blog…. THANKS A MILLION grin

  37. lavya says:

    “MIT and to many other highly selective schools. Each university’s yield (the percentage of students who accept their offer of admission) is predicted to decrease accordingly”

    why would anyone turn down an offer from MIT???

  38. Piper '11 says:

    I’m a big believer in the student choosing his/her school. A college education is rough – you have to put your heart into it. Being pushed into a school that’s not for you isn’t going to make that better. I got a full ride to WPI. My family isn’t exactly rich, but they still understood that my heart belonged to MIT and let me go my way.

    … though I wouldn’t mind a tuition cut.

  39. Karen says:

    @Hyun Jin, Sergey: In regards to international admissions, Matt posted this entry.

    To the best of my knowledge, international applicants kind of have to be evaluated separately due to the quota that MIT imposes. I remember reading a post about the separate day of application reading for international students that happened, but I can’t remember exactly who posted it or when it was, so I’m afraid that won’t be much help. Anyway, given MIT’s holistic view of the admissions process, I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t evaluate international students in context the same way that they do domestic students, it just seems like it’s a *lot* harder to get in if you’re an international.

    Good luck to both of you! I hope that the link is helpful smile

  40. Kai says:

    Hey Ben!

    Thanks for answering the questions regarding the EA acceptances this year. This blog was really helpful in putting to rest some of the thoughts running through my head, and I’m sure the heads of a lot of the RA applicants.

    Being from Toronto, Canada, I was wondering how many international applicants you usually accept in RA, and if this number would be affected by the EA pool this year.

    Thanks for bloggin’!

    P.S. I’m not really sure who Snively is, but I loved his blog too!

  41. Sergey says:

    Thank you Karen, it definitely is smile
    And yes, I’m very, *very* afraid of seeing in a few months :S

  42. lavya says:

    @ MIT Dad
    Thank You for the insight.
    In retrospect though, an MIT education does equip you with enough skills to pay back the tuition expenses readily!


  43. Muz says:

    Ouch, no increase to class size. I’m kinda wondering how many of those accepted EA will be going RA to those other unis that abolished EA applications. It’s a strangely consistent pattern that so many people who get accepted in my first choice would rather go elsewhere (and even stranger that I’ve delayed entry into unis that were the first choice of others, hoping I’d get in MIT instead, lol).

    Yeah, I’m wondering a bit about the SATs too, as I’m taking mine this month too. It says that they’ll be considered on a case-by-case basis, but it’s implied that all of them will be considered.. which doesn’t sound like a case-by-case basis to me. If we have to call to explain, I’m sure most of us have the same reason: The SATs weren’t available (to us) in earlier months!

    Oh and.. now that applications are over, there are a few things that I’ve been wondering about, just out of curiousity:
    1) Is there like an anti-cheat system on applications, to make sure that the applicants aren’t lying about their achievements or aren’t having their essays written by someone else? Not that I’m cheating or anything, it’s just that some of the true things I’ve mentioned on my application, like learning to program when I was five, are a little hard to believe. If my interview was recorded and analysed, I think my body language would also ring some alarms raspberry
    2) Are comments here traced and matched to the applicants and used as a part of applications? Because.. that sounds like something I would do, lol.

    Just wondering smile. I can understand if that information is classified, so I wouldn’t mind if it was. Hmm.. it sounds a bit paranoid, but I’ve learned to be a little paranoid around people smarter than me raspberry

  44. oh, yes probably. thanx paul!
    although i wonder why USPS tried to give it on saturday..i mean this obviously cudn’t have been the first time they were they should have known…
    “Try to get the package redelivered on Monday if you can.”
    i’d have done that ..but it’s not in my hands.
    btw…i got the same message from Columbia Univ too…and that was on a friday..any idea what cud have gone wrong there?(some other colleges DID recieve the materials properly)

  45. phreaker says:

    @mit dad: I checked the estimated costs for both harvard and mit for this year and seems that harvard estimates $300 more/yr, but the tuition fees are $3k (10%) less. So no need to feel guilty, they’re nearly the same! But imho, mit grads have a better financial track record, so mit is statistically the better financial investment.

  46. MIT Dad says:

    @ Piper’11

    You’re absolutely right. My son had been feeling kind of guilty about choosing the more expensive school (MIT). But education should not about money. I told him it’s like going to the hospital. You don’t think about the cost. You only worry about getting well and worry about paying later. That’s how important your education should be. Worry about getting to the school of your dreams. The “money stuff” is secondary.

  47. Piper '11 says:

    @MIT Dad: I felt really guilty about my choice, more than my parents know, but they/I have the same opinion you do. I think I made the right decision in the end. It’s tough here, but I love it, and I think anywhere else just wouldn’t have felt right.

    I believe in “The Match” =P

  48. Anonymous says:

    So did the admissions officers know that they were going to accept more than 500 early action applicants before they began to read applications? Am I crossing a line by asking this question? I am very curious…

  49. Samantha says:

    On the topic of financial aid, is there any word about starting a similar plan at MIT?

  50. Paul says:

    MMM – So here’s the story. MIT will accept and use January scores, provided they receive them on time. The problem is that January scores don’t always get to MIT soon enough, so it’s a little risky to rely on January scores. That’s why it’s a “case-by-case” basis.

    As for contacting the Admissions Office about January tests, you don’t need to actually call; but you should drop them a quick email. It doesn’t have to be long or overly formal, but you should probably explain what tests your are missing (and why), as well as which ones you are making up in January. Make sure you include your full name and date of birth so MIT can match your email with your application.

    Aavishkar – Yes, you’re free to update MIT on your recent achievements. All you need to do is send MIT a short letter listing or explaining your achievements. Postal mail works best, but email should be okay if you don’t have that option. As above, make sure to include the name under which you applied and your date of birth. Best of luck!

  51. Aavishkar says:

    Hi Ben,
    May I send in the details of my recent achievements in stage 1 Olympiads (which were made available to me only after submission of my regular action application) to the admissions office? If so,how?

  52. Aavishkar says:

    Hi Ben,
    May I send in the details of my recent achievements in stage 1 Olympiads (which were made available to me only after submission of my regular action application) to the admissions office? If so,how?

  53. phreaker says:

    @anonymous: I’m speculating that they picked a lot of the best students, then got 500 b4 they realized it, lol. A lot of the deferred ones were very impressive; the accepted ones must be even more so..

  54. Twilight Bob says:

    Wow, that means they’re reviewing applications right now. That’s really frightening. I submitted mine on December 1st, so I must be near the top of their stack of unread applications. I wish rejection letters told you how far you got through the selection process. Right now, I am predicting that I will be shot-down in the third selection committee.

  55. Shruthi says:

    Awww… Ben, you’re awesome! :D You too Matt! And congrats Snively!!!!! :D

  56. Ben says:

    @Int’l Applicant – I checked with the records staff about your question and they responded: “I’m not sure why this wouldn’t have been delivered. Anything sent through the USPS is delivered to Mail Services here at MIT and they deliver it to us. It’s strange that the USPS wouldn’t be able to deliver something to them, unless they tried to drop it off directly to admissions, which I’ve never heard of. It sounds like USPS will try to deliver it again, but if you hear of any other problems then let us know and we’ll try to get to the bottom of it.” Hopefully it has been delivered!

  57. Paul says:

    Twilight Bob – MIT is full of surprises…you never know.

    This is going to be a bigger deal later on, and I don’t know how many people will even read this, but I want to take a moment to put something out in the open right now. As Matt, Ben, and others have expressed before, MIT doesn’t reject applicants. Rather, because MIT simply doesn’t have the space or the resources to admit all the students they would like to take, the Admissions Office has the very difficult and demanding job of picking the best class for MIT. They accept as many applicants as they can – and as for the rest, they are forced to not offer them admission.

    Maybe it’s cruel. But not being offered admission to MIT is not a rejection, and it’s not a judgment on your abilities as a scholar, engineer, scientist, or human being.

  58. MMM says:

    @ Anyone ( including Paul)
    I have tried sending the admissions office emails but they keep getting blank messages, and I have NO idea how to get a plain text email to the admissions office using a MSN Hotmail account!Please direct me as to how I can get plain text, rather than HTML, using hotmail so that I can send the email!Thanks a million!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  59. MMM says:

    LO SIENTO MUCHO the double post…just wanted to say thanks a mil to Paul for clearing the air on my first concern/question

  60. MMM says:

    Please don’t kill me for the triple post! but i figured out how to get plain text! yay for me* please don’t be like omg he’s a moron…*

  61. Muz says:

    If I get a “not accepted” letter, I would appreciate a small note about why I didn’t get accepted. It’s nice on my ego and lets me improve in whatever the experienced MIT admissions team thinks I need to be better in wink

    @Twilight Bob: Oh no, rejection is a different thing. I have rejections from a few unis and scholarships. Most of them are not very polite, saying something along the lines of “You have failed”. Usually they don’t even give a letter. We’d have to check on the Internet and find the URL from other friends who were accepted. And when calling them about it, they’d say something along the lines of “We are very competitive, only smart people get accepted!”

    MIT is nice. I delayed applying to MIT for 3 years because of fear of rejection, but I guess in the end, I applied to MIT and another nearby university partly because they’re very nice to applicants. And while I’m suddenly wishing that I included a diagram with my optional essay, I’m quite happy with my application, and I’m happy whether I get accepted or not. But certainly much happier if I was accepted wink

  62. Paul says:

    Bob – Well said. I don’t entirely agree with you, but I can tell you have a solid head on your shoulders. Is it semantics? I don’t think so. I think the fact that MIT doesn’t admit some students, as opposed to rejecting students, makes all the difference in the world – because it reflects the way MIT goes about the entire admissions process.

    But you’re right: it is just words, in the end; and I know what I say won’t always make a difference. But I try to call things around here as best I see them. I don’t hide the truth, or bend it. I know college admissions can seem like a shady process sometimes, but I do have faith that the way MIT does it is as fair as it possibly could be.

    Thanks for your critique of my comment. I like people who don’t always agree with me. wink All the best to you.

  63. Ben says:

    If I were in your shoes, I’d think of it as just semantics too. But as an admissions officer, I know there’s a big difference between rejecting someone and not being able to offer them admission. The former implies that they’re somehow unworthy of MIT, which in so many cases just isn’t the truth.

    I wrote more about this in this entry.

  64. Twilight Bob says:


    Well, “not able to offer admission” is effectively the same as “rejected”–that is, the result is the same for Twilight Bob in both cases: no MIT. Although it is to MIT’s credit that they go about the process of choosing the freshman class in a tactful manner, it will still sting if they can’t let me in. I will grieve for a short while, but I will get over it, and I will do what I have to do–wherever I end up.

    I’ve thought about this whole process a lot, lately. I’m applying to around nineteen different schools (three to go), and I don’t know where I will be come fall. I used to think that, if I was not admitted to one of my top choices, I would bite the bullet and–with much grumbling and recalcitrance–just get through my four years with good grades and hope to find myself in greener pastures afterwards. This was my modus operandi in high school. However, the problem with this is that you only get one shot at “the college experience.”

    So, I have realized that it’s stupid to wait for an ideal situation to be happy, and that it’s even more foolish to ruin some of the most interesting years of my life with bitterness and regret. Maybe I’m due for some “humble pie”–I might end up at CU Boulder. I might even enjoy it, too. They have a good engineering program, and they’re a stone’s throw (heh) from the Rockies (I’m an avid snowboarder)–I could really enjoy myself there. I’m preaching to myself just as much as I am to anyone else when I say this, but here it is: we ought to be happy wherever we end up, because we don’t really have time to be fatalistic, morose, or bitter. We’ll just ruin everything for ourselves that way.

  65. Twilight Bob says:


    I read your entry. Words fail me.

    I suppose the only immovable and arbitrary part of the process are the physical and logistical limitations of MIT.

    All I can say is, thanks. Admitted or not, I thank you.

  66. In England, applicants are limited to a maximum of five university choices.
    This restriction forces them to choose carefully and apply only to schools
    that they would be happy to attend.

    For the top students, this is not too difficult, since they have the
    consolation that their safeties are other students’ dream schools.
    MIT is my son’s first choice, but his other offers are excellent.
    If he is not offered admission to MIT in March, naturally he will
    be disappointed, but it will not be the ‘end of the world’.

    MIT is amazing, and so are most of the people applying to it.
    Sadly, they will not all fit into one school!

  67. Twilight Bob says:


    I call semantics on your last statement. “Rejected” and “not admitted” are effectively the same thing. I know that a “not offer-ing” of admission isn’t a judgment of my abilities as an engineer–that would be outrageous, because I’m the best there is! (I kid.) I wouldn’t say the process is cruel, denials of admission are just “the cost of doing business,” as my Dad would say. If I’m not admitted, I will have no one to be annoyed, frustrated, or angry with but myself. When I said I’d get to the third selection committee, I wasn’t making up numbers–there are some opportunities I could have taken more advantage of that I didn’t. It is a “what is faith without deeds” sort of issue–my personal motives and philosophy square with MIT’s mission, but my extracurriculars are kind of bland: Varsity Track and Field, building houses in TJ during the summer, etc. I’ll just take my lumps and learn from it.

    I applied to MIT because I think that that’s where I’d fit, and where I’d be able to do something useful with myself. I’m not looking to MIT to say “Yes, Twilight Bob, you are smart”–I already know that what I’ve got between my ears isn’t rice pudding. I just think that MIT is the place for me, and I hope the funny folks in Cambridge agree. (Unintentional poetry FTW!)

    Paul, thanks for your…words. I don’t know if they were kind, but whatever they were, thank you for them. I guess I’ll just have to see what happens, put lots of time and care into my supplemental stuff (a diagram to accompany one of my optional essays and a summary of my travels in Europe and Asia), and play the hand I’m dealt come March.