Update: this list is no longer accurate as of 8/18/2015. But the underlying philosophy remains the same.
The Common Application opened today, effectively inaugurating another college admissions cycle.
Now, as readers of this blog likely know, MIT does not use the Common App. Instead, for a variety of reasons, we use our own application, hosted locally at MyMIT.
One of the differences between the Common App and the MIT application is that we don't prompt for a single, longform essay. Instead, we ask our applicants to provide short (100-250 word) answers to five questions.
They are very simple, very straightforward, and this year, they go something like this:
- 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.
- Although you may not yet know what you want to major in, which department or program at MIT appeals to you and why?
- What attribute of your personality are you most proud of, and how has it impacted your life so far? This could be your creativity, effective leadership, sense of humor, integrity, or anything else you’d like to tell us about.
- 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?
- 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?
Now, I'm on record as saying that the college essay is often one of the most overthought components of an application, so please don't spend too much time (over)thinking these questions or your answers to them. However, I also know that many of you will be very busy with your academics and activities this fall, and you may want to start thinking about the answers to these questions with the comparative free time you may have during the summer, so I wanted to share these with you.
When and how you work on these essays is up to you! My only advice is to read Chris S. '11's excellent post Show, Don’t Tell! (the College Essay, Pt. 2) from a few years back before you do so. It's a terrific guide to expressing yourself well in our essays.
Good luck – and happy writing!