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MIT staff blogger Quinton McArthur

Paper Planes by Quinton McArthur

You ask, I answer

Here are a couple of other good questions that I have been asked by applicants. Maybe they will help you too. If I didn’t address your question in this blog, shoot me an e-mail and I will try to get it answered in a Q&A Part III blog.


Q: I got a question…Referring to the application fee:“Full name of the applicant must be on the money order’. How can I indicate that someone else is providing the fee?

A: Just make sure that YOUR name appears on the money order! Bugs Bunny, Santa Claus, Miley Cirus……, it really doesn’t matter who is writing out the money order. We just need to know which students have paid their fee so we can go ahead and read your application. Get it? Got it? Good.


Q: I have a question about one of the short answer questions. There is one that asks applicants to describe a situation/project/idea in which they used their creativity. If the situation I describe doesn’t relate directly to the field or major I want to apply (i.e. doesn’t convey an obvious love for math or science), will the admissions staff get suspicious about that or question the sincerity of the career choice(s) that I may mention elsewhere in the application?


A: Great question (Unnamed applicant)! I should start by saying that we are NOT trying to trick you or be maliciously deceptive with our question. You can write about ANYTHING that you like. If the project that you want to discuss relates to your major interests; SUPER! Kudos to you. However, if it doesn”t relate to your intended major (or science & math), that is COMPLETELY fine as well.

For instance, what if a student indicated that she was interested in majoring in nuclear engineering and wrote about a high school project that she was working on that involved highly enriched uranium……..that would be problematic for us. In this example, having experience does not work to your advantage.

The question is designed to allow you the maximum flexibility to write about science/engineering OR non-science/engineering related projects. So go ahead and write about whatever you like, just make sure to use your creativity. ;-)


Q: Quinton McArthur. What’s good? I have registered for the November 7th SAT and have subject tests December 5th. I really want to apply early to MIT. Can I take the SAT I during the November date and my SAT II subject tests on the December date and still be considered for Early Action?

A: Well (Unnamed applicant #2), I would start by saying that standardized tests are just one part of our holisitc admissions philosophy. Yes, we do consider test scores in the admissions process, but typically they play less of a role than students sometimes assume. If you are applying for Early Action (November 1) you can take the November test date and still be considered for Early. If you are applying for Regular Action (January 1), the last test date that you can take is in January. Just because I care, here is the link for the College Board so you can check the dates. You’re welcome. You’re all welcome!

In your specific case, you will have to be considered for Regular Action because your SAT II subject tests will not be completed until December.


Q: Hello Quinton. I go to a small private religious school, and my whole senior class has only 35 people. With that said, does my class rank really matter?

A: Great Question “Anonymous Applicant #3’! At MIT, we practice something called holistic admissions. In a nutshell, holistic admissions means that we will take into account a variety of quantitative (Standardized test scores, GPA, & yes, class rank…. if your school ranks, etc.) and qualitative factors (extracurricular activities, interview, letters of recommendation, etc.). To be very honest with you, the quantitative factors are helpful, but only to a degree.

Class Rank means different things at different schools. Some schools are really huge and have 2,000 or more students in their senior class (Shout out to all those TX, CA, FL, & IL high schools). Others, like yours are pretty small. Some of the students at MIT have not even attended formal high school. (We have a wonderful population of home-schooled students here and others with non-traditional academic pathways that sometimes do NOT include gradation from high school.) During the evaluation process, we are looking for students who are the best fit and match for MIT. Sometimes, those students who are the best fit for MIT are also the valedictorian of their high school. Many times, students who are NOT the valedictorian of their high schools are the best fit for MIT. We accept plenty of students who were not the valedictorian of their high school. No need to get bent out of shape because you are not the valedictorian. Just do your best, enjoy your high school courses and if you are a great fit for MIT, I am sure that it will come through loud and clear in your application.


Q: What is the difference between MIT & _____________ (Fill in the blank with your choice of “Prestigious Big Name University with lots of money’)?

A: One of the biggest differences between MIT and a bunch of other very cool schools is that, regardless of major, our educational experience is fundamentally quantitative and analytical. You will take a core curriculum (General Institute Requirements or GIRs….by now you know that we love acronyms) that is designed to give you a platform from which to learn how to solve problems!

And then there are the somewhat more difficult aspects to articulate. For instance, paper airplanes…..

This is how most people (including me) make a paper airplane! See? Yaaayyyyyyy!!!!! Fun, right?

This is how MIT students make a paper airplane (I found this one day laying in Lobby 7)……

When I was in Dallas, I was trying to explain this very phenomenon to a young man by using the paper airplane example. He listened to what I told him, paused for a moment, then asked me for one of the publications on my table. He proceeded to fold the exact same paper airplane that I had just shown him (See it in his left hand?). Needless to say, I was impressed…..

….and so were other people as well….

Nevertheless, the point is that MIT students are just a little bit different from most other students on college campuses. They have cooler paper airplanes.


63 responses to “Paper Planes”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for Q&A!
    I wouldn’t call it a paper plane. I would rather call it super NASA omg origami rocket.

  2. Technomatics says:

    What if you take 4 AP classes in a single school year? Approximately what GPA (or range thereof) would be expected of the applicant?

  3. Alireza'14 says:

    great post! tnx I like paper swans more!

  4. Shraddha says:

    Hey Quinton!!!
    Thanks for the great idea of Q&A. I have a problem with my interview. I am an applicant from India. I have been trying to contact my EC since the last 10 days but i’ve had no response so far. Also, i’ve read that the deadline for scheduling an interview is 20th October. I really want to have this interview, but am not quite sure about the action to be taken. Should I contact the admissions office and tell them about my problem or should I try longer.

    P.S. Its festival time in India (Diwali) and most people are on vacation at this time of the year.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Actually, I don’t know what is absolutely right, but I would contact the admissions office since the deadline is in 2 days!

  6. sepideh says:

    yay paper airplanes…I saw friday one stuck at the woods in the roof at TUd…guess students at tech colleges just are obsessed with them! I like paper boats more!

  7. Alireza'14 says:

    @ Sepideh
    Hi u gonna apply this year?

  8. Liz ('14?) says:

    Epic ending to this post, thanks for that. wink I’m going to go share this with all my nerdy friends now. :]

  9. QA ('14???) says:

    Quinton, thanks a lot for the useful topic ^^ now I know that the cooler paper airplanes I can make, the better chance to get into MIT XD

  10. Ester '13 says:

    We have pretty cool origami too.

  11. Southpaw says:

    Hi Quinton. I have a quick question. I am a US citizen, but I live in Bangladesh. Does that disqualify me from Early Action or not?

    And another not so quick question. I’m sure you’ve heard this a lot of times, but since I am seeing it all over the place (especially college confidential) I just have to ask.

    A lot of people post their stats on chances threads and then when they post their races like this:

    Race – Asian ( I know this is the worst demographic to belong to when I am applying to MIT)

    I know the majority of statements are baseless, but I was wondering of you could clarify the confusion around the issue.

  12. Jie'14?? says:

    Hi Quinton! nice analogy smile your trip around the country sounds fun

    Question about additional information. What if I have 2 incidents of creativity I want to share? Can I send a supplementary essay?

  13. Jie'14?? says:

    Hi Quinton! nice analogy smile your trip around the country sounds fun

    I have a question about the additional information. What if I have 2 incidents of creativity I want to share? Can I send a supplementary essay?

  14. smartdude says:

    if I make a better plane and post it to you with my application, will you admit me?

  15. Val'14? says:

    Haha I love your writing style! The nuclear engineering and uranium…
    Thanks for the info. =)
    I have the same question with Southpaw though.

  16. Aksha says:


    If you’re an applicant from India , you cannot apply EA. In that case , the last date to schedule an interview with you EC is December 10.
    If your EC doesn’t reply to your mails for as long as two weeks , you can contact the admissions office about it.


  17. Anonymous says:

    I have a question about AP scores – do we need to send an official AP score report or do we just self-report our scores on myMIT?

  18. Brian says:

    That’s a pretty awesome paper airplane.

  19. addisoncox says:

    Thanks mang smile

    (Scarface voice)

  20. oasis '11 says:

    I’m not the adcom, but can tell you that I’m 100% certain that you can apply EA as an American citizen overseas.

    There’s always a lot of confusion about who’s an “International Student” and who’s a “Domestic Student.” You are considered as a Domestic Student as long as you possess US citizenship or permanent residency, regardless of where you attended high school (for example, I was born in the States but spent 17 out of my 18 years before MIT in Taiwan). The MIT EA program is not available to International Students, but all US citizens and permanent residents qualify.

    Also, in regards to race – I’m not sure what your question is, but personally I put down my race as Asian to all the schools I applied to and I think I did fine…I mean, even if you don’t put it down, I think it’s pretty easy to guess from the rest of the application that you’re Asian anyways wink

  21. oasis '11 says:

    ^ AP scores are self-reported. They only need your official AP transcript during matriculation so they can give you the appropriate credit for your courses.

  22. Tony Situ says:

    Good questions but none of them I would ask…
    But hey, everyone is different so we all have different questions.
    BY THE WAY, that is one amazing paper plane. However, with the force you apply to the plane, the angle of the wings, the air resistance by the wings and the plane body, I don’t know if it can fly…


  23. QA ('14???) says:

    Hi Quinton, I got a question: I want to submit a music portfolio as a performer but I don’t have a music resume since I never got that kind of job before. One more thing, I’m just an amateur since I have been playing only on my own (with some books) for 4 years. In addition, last year my music teacher in high school for some reasons was unable to do a recommendation for me (he didn’t help me much anyway). So is it ok if I just submit an Mp3 recorder? It’s nothing special but I just want to let MIT know I’m really into it and I’ll pursue it in the future.

  24. Anna says:

    Also, in the section where there is an opportunity to submit a letter from a mentor about a research paper I have done, what fields of study is this limited to? I have done a research paper based on British literature in correlation to the time period the novel was written in. Are there any rules at all that would limit as to what can be submitted as well? Thank you very much for your time.

    Sorry I’m reposting this just in case it wasn’t seen before.

  25. Tony Situ says:

    PS: Can you teach us how to make it =D

  26. Emily says:

    Hey Quinton – thanks for answering these questions! I’m using AcceptEdge to help narrow my college choices based on my profile and they said MIT was similar to Stanford. Did you look at both schools?

  27. Keri says:

    Dude, I keep twelve ounces of enriched uranium in my dorm-quality minifridge. Not seeing the issue here.

  28. Thank you for posting this Q&A. On the self reported coursework, should I list classes that I am currently taking and leave the grade section blank, or should I only list classes that I have already taken?

  29. On the creativity question : At the risk of sounding really really stupid; All this time I thought creativity is only about artsy people doing artsy things… how can me leading a project be something creative… it does show my managing and leadership qualities but whats it gotta do with creativity??

    P.S: Would you(anyone) please shed some light on the what do I do for the pleasure of it question… Well I know eating at good restaurants with good service gives me pleasure but I am pretty sure that its not what MIT is looking for!!!

  30. Anonymous says:

    On the pleasure of it question, NOTHING other than one of my hobbies makes me so excited and ‘activated’. But as I already mention that hobby in the ‘Activites’ section, should I talk about it again in the ‘pleasure of it’ question?

  31. Thomas says:

    Hey, can you guys over at MIT show us, the oragami-acally challanged, how to make that awesome airplane?!?

  32. Anonymous says:

    Confused Kid: Don’t worry, there are plenty of good State schools for you to choose from

  33. C2 says:

    Hey, can you guys over at MIT show us, the oragami-acally challanged, how to make that awesome airplane?!?

    That!~ I really want to make my own but to start, I must learn =D

  34. C2 says:

    to the con?fused kid

    I made a building using straws. That doesnot sound very creative but think of the math in that straw building; the area in each circles, each squares and each pieces created by the squares and circles makes this piece of “art” very interesting. (EX. 2 identical circles overlapping each other with the distance between the 2 central points equal to the radius of the crcles, calculating the part where they overlap is quite difficult and think of 10 circles overlapping, thats interesting!)

    hope my bad writing doesn’t burn your eyes!!!!

  35. Yixing says:

    So where would I send a supplemental recommendation? I have a recommendation from my current employer that I would like to submit. Do I just address it to the MIT admissions office?

  36. Val'14? says:

    @ Oasis,
    Hey, Chris, me too!
    I am a US citizen but spent 16 out of 17 years of my life in Taiwan.
    I would LOVE some brownie points! Plus vanilla ice cream. =)
    I have a question though: I’m taking SAT I the second time in November, but the EA deadline comes before the test. How should I fill out the part where asked to put down my highest test scores? What if (hoping hoping) I do better the second time?
    Thanks in advance to whoever answers this for me. =)

  37. oasis '11 says:

    “Well I know eating at good restaurants with good service gives me pleasure”

    omg i literally LOLed at that for a minute straight at my computer smile i’m SO TOTALLY there with you raspberry

    i dunno, if i’m the adcom i’ll give you brownie points :D

  38. C2 says:

    To Val’14…

    Hello Val the stranger,
    I think you don’t have to put your second SAT I score into the application.
    Reason: I am taking my second SAT I test on Jan 23 and I am applying for Regular Action. The instruction on this page ( says that I must choose MIT as the receiver for my test scores so they can get them in time. So, I think it is the same for Regular action… (Choose MIT as the receiver for your scores), but please e-mail MIT for more info… or wait for Quinton. =]

    Heya Quinton, I am having so trouble on picking which SAT Subject; level 1 or level 2 math tests… I chose both of them but I am kind of “special”. I am grade 13 this year which means I already took Calculus and Functions. The point is, I haven’t touch Calculus for 3 months and I am concerned about my ability on doing the level 2 math.
    My question is: if I do better in level 1 math, will MIT accept that?
    My second question is: I think AP calculus starts at NOV in my school, so I think I can catch up by taking that course… But, AP exams are at the end of May 2010. If I do well at the AP exam, will that score be considered by MIT?

    Phew, that’s a lot of questions!

  39. Valerie says:

    My name is also Val and I have the same question as the other Val. I thought that was worth mentioning.
    I also have other questions:
    For the part of the application on self-reported coursework, there is a section entitled “Social Sciences.” My school does not offer (actual) classes in the social sciences (i.e. psychology,sociology); should I put my regular history classes there instead?
    Also, the section for reporting other classes doesn’t have enough room for all of my other classes. I picked the most important ones. Is that okay?
    Lastly, on the bottom of the self-reported coursework section it asks which year I’ve taken calculus, biology, chemistry, and physics.
    I’ve taken two years of both chemistry and biology. Should I report the most recent year? Does it matter? Am I over thinking this? Did Firefox catch all of my atrocious spelling errors?
    Thank you for reading this novel of a post.

  40. NMK says:

    I just had my interview and I love my EC!! please wish me good luck! smile

  41. Quinton says:

    wow….apparently, you all have lots of questions….these are REALLY GOOD questions that I want to answer….where to begin? At the top I suppose. Stay tuned for Q&A, part III.

  42. Val'14? says:

    @ C2,
    Thanks for answering!
    Oh and I think I can answer your first question.
    I’ve already taken SAT Math II this June. The subjects tested do not include Calculus of any kind or level. So don’t worry just go ahead and take Level II!
    @ Quinton,
    Expecting your part III!

  43. joe says:

    Question: if we’ve taken a class at a local college, do we just send the transcript to the admissions office?

  44. C2 says:

    PS: Not completely breaking your plane but, I kind of found out the way it was put together…

    Oh, is it only 1 piece of paper? no cuts?

  45. C2 says:

    @ VAL’14 (=])

    OH COOL! THANKS YOU SO MUCH (NOT AS STRESS NOW)!!! But I am still taking AP =D

    @ Quiton~

    I think I am about break your plane… I mean make another one that looks like it =] *GIVE ME 1 more day*

  46. Val'14? says:

    @ C2,
    Hey remember to share how after you figured it out. That way we can all be MIT students!!

  47. C2 says:

    @ Val

    It is tough, I know the structure of it but the fold is messy xD (I USED SO MUCH PAPER ALREADY!)

  48. Anna says:


    Math II is more Trig than Calc really. I took the Math II test in my junior year after taking a Trig/Pre-Calc course and I did fine.

    In my school, if they do not place you immediately in Alg II/Geometry in freshman year, you cant take Calc AB until senior year). Plus we have no Calc BC anyway.

  49. Valerie says:

    @ Anna,
    My school is the same way. The only AP courses offered in the maths and sciences are Chemistry, Bio, Calc AB, and Prob Stat. Actually they don’t even offer Chemistry anymore, and probably won’t have anyone certified to teach Bio next year. I’m lucky I took all of them before it went completely down the drain.
    Anyway I don’t think they’ll hold it against us, it’s not our fault.

  50. @Valerie says:

    That’s good. The structure we have is why the guidance office at my school sends out a short mini report summarizing the school’s system with every transcript it sends out. It also mentions the schools previous students have gotten into, the average SATs, ACTs, GPAs, etc.

  51. Anna says:

    ^ is me @Valerie. Haha oops. Sorry for the mixup. I need food (aka dinner).

  52. Anonymous says:

    @ Em’lly

    If you look carefully, there is an “Add more” button on the page. Just click it to add more. How many A levels did you take? (Just curious) I am from UK too and I took only 3.

  53. Anonymous says:

    Can anyone here write in a clear and coherent manner?

  54. Nope. That’s only for clear admits like you.

  55. C2 says:

    @ Anonymous …

    Next time, I will try to use microsoft words fix my sentenses =]

  56. Anonymous says:

    hello,I’m Ranadeep from Indian in 11th Grade now.
    Im Very zealous to join in MIT , im a student with strong will ..
    Kindly answer the following questions :
    Here in India, schools are a formality in Classes 11th and 12th. The IIT-JEE and AIEEE entrance examination syllabi is a lot different from what the CBSE or State syll. prescribes in the school for Classes 11th and 12th. To prepare for the IIT and AIEEE examinations, most of the students go for private tutorials. The attendance in school is a formality. As a result, the Extra- Curricular chart falls down in Classes 11th and 12th as most of the activities are organized by school. Olympiads etc are an exception as even private participation is allowed. How does your selection committee view this scenario ??

    Im very good at sports and other extra curricular activities till my 9th standard but never participated in National competitions because i never knew that those are really useful for this College admissions and now i regret for that . i have my school sports certificates but i dont know if they are of any use to me.

    Do AP exams ensure advantage in the admission process? In India, AP Exams are not part of standard school curriculum,how can a student take these exams in India?

    Im very much interested in Chemistry and i want to take some advanced tests in Chemistry,Physics and Maths which can be taken by indian students and favor my admission for MIT .

    I have more questions and will ask them as soon as i get reply for these : ).. Thanks

  57. hi, my name is nickolas gontijo, I’m Brazilian, I’m sixteen, and my biggest dream is studing in MIT.
    My doubt is about differentials …
    when I was 14 years old, I designed a power plant, was concerned about the lack of freshwater in the world, so I designed the plant to solve this problem, I thought evaporating sea water I would have fresh water, so I created a machine that did this, I have to improvise to make it work as thermal and hydroelectricity, but I was 14 and nothing knowledge of mechanical or electrical, using the little I know, creativity and logic, I did something very interesting,but the plant was producing distilled water and not potable water and factory not can generate energy because its operation demanded a lot of energy and therefore would not be viable.
    after,I designed a modification in autoforno, I wanted to use hydrogen instead of carbon to be more ecological, it works but unfortunately the process is very expensive due to the cost of hydrogen and carbon is a reductor much better than hydrogen.
    after,then I invented a battery superconductor, but it had already been invented and today has applications in many fields is the famous, mister quinton you, what I really want to know is, it serves as a differential for a place at MIT?

  58. Oi, meu nome é nickolas Gontijo, sou brasileira,i am man, tenho dezesseis anos, e meu maior sonho estudar é no MIT.
    ¬† Minha d√∫vida √© sobre as diferen√ßas …
      Quando eu tinha 14 anos, eu projetei uma usina, estava preocupado com a falta de água doce do mundo, de modo que uma planta Concebida para resolver este problema, eu pensei que uma evaporação da água do mar que eu teria de Água Doce, então eu criei uma máquina que fez isso, eu tenho que improvisar para que ele funcione como hidrelétricas e térmicas, mas eu tinha 14 anos e conhecimento nada de mecânica ou elétrica, usando o pouco que sei, lógica e criatividade, eu fiz uma coisa muito interessante , mas a fábrica estava produzindo água destilada e água não potável ea fábrica não pode Gerar energia, porque o seu Funcionamento Exigia uma grande quantidade de energia e, portanto, não seria viável.
      Depois, eu projetei uma modificação autoforno não, eu queria usar hidrogênio em vez de carbono para ser mais ecológico, ele funciona, mas infelizmente o processo é muito caro Devido ao custo de hidrogênio e carbono é um redutor muito melhor do que hidrogênio.
      depois, então eu inventei um supercondutor bateria, mas já tinha inventado Sido Hoje tem e aplicações em muitas áreas é a famosa, Quinton você mister, o que eu realmente quero saber é, servir como um diferencial para um lugar na MIT?

  59. Emily says:

    Hi there. I’m also a bit uncertain about filling in the list of APs, A-levels, O-levels etc on page 4 of part 2.

    I go to a UK school, and so take GCSEs and A-levels. Filling in all of my AS-levels and A-level options takes up most of the boxes and I don’t know whether it’s a good idea to list only 3 out of my 11 GCSEs to fill up the space. Wont MIT be looking at my high school transcript and be able to see all of this information from there?

  60. sepideh says:

    @alireza 14
    no, (as you can see I did’nt see your comment till now) I’m already a freshman at TU delft in the netherlands, but I really enjoy the MIT admission site so I randomly visit the blogs. good luck to you…where are you applying from?

  61. Emily says:


    I took 5 AS-levels and am now taking 4 A-levels. The reason it’s taking up so much space is because I’ve been listing my AS-levels and A2-levels separately as I thought I should include my AS-level grades. Since I had to drop one of my AS-levels and finished my whole maths A-level early I thought I’d make a distinction between AS and A2.

    Doing that takes up 9 spaces out of 12 and it seems silly to start listing 3 of my 11 GCSEs just to fill up the space. But I kind of want MIT to know that I took qualifications in things other then science raspberry

  62. Armin says:

    @the con?fused kid

    I work part time in a traditional hotel-restaurant. Will be glad to give you service smile
    btw, creativity can be anywhere. It’s just making a new way of salad dressing!
    Once, I printed an “F” with dried mint on yogurt for some French backpackers.