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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

Selection-time Questions Omnibus by Matt McGann '00

Another Questions Omnibus… as always, I wish I had more time to write entire entries on many of these topics, and I’ll answer more questions as soon as I can…

“A Probably Not So Important Question That Might…” asked, “Hey Matt, I’m just wondering, after everyone gets their acceptance letters and reje…not-acceptance letters, do you ever get people who come on here and say harsh things?”

Well, as has been noted in the comments, this is our first year blogging, so I don’t quite know what to expect. I hope that these blogs have shown you the care and consideration we give each application, and that people know that we did our best to select a class. As I’ve written before, our overall admit rate this year will probably be under 16%, meaning that, unfortunately, we’ll have to turn away 5 out of every 6 applicants.

In one of the Oscar-nominated short films I watched last night, a cheerleading coach told her cheerleaders at a big competition, “Cry if you win because you’re happy, but don’t cry if you lose because you’re sad.” [paraphrase] I think that has some relevance here. The vast majority of people who apply aren’t admitted. See it as a great opportunity if you’re admitted, but I hope that people will be okay if they’re not. (This can be applied to all of the other crazy schools that also have these unfortunately miniscule admit rates)

MIT Programs & Life

nghi wrote, “can you write about the new management minor offered at Sloan!! It sounds so fantastic!”

You can read more about it here, but here’s a snippet:

…while many universities offer management majors or individual business courses, the Sloan minor in management will serve as a coordinated curriculum aimed at enhancing the effectiveness and leadership potential of students majoring in science, engineering or other MIT concentrations.

For the minor, students will take four required courses–principles of microeconomics, corporate financial accounting, people and organizations, and marketing management–and two elective courses from a range of offerings. To better link this academic component to the real world, students will be encouraged to participate in summer internships and bring their experiences back to Sloan in a follow-up course titled Leadership and Organizational Change.

nghi also wrote, “I’m wondering if you can write about the gay and lesbian community at MIT–the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects (ie homophobia). Which house and frat is gay-friendly? The administration’s view on it? etc.”

I would characterize MIT overall as being a very accepting and friendly place for gay and lesbian students (this is my outsider’s perspective; if I get a chance, I’ll have someone from the community write a bit). MIT in general is very accepting of different personalities and overall diversity, with purple-haired barefoot goths being on “equal” status with the preppy jocks; there’s not a real social stratification here.

Perhaps one of the best things for the LGBT community is our location in Massachusetts, which I’m proud to be able to say was the first state in the Union to legalize gay marriage (as most everyone knows now). Between the very tolerant Boston-area community, and our university administrators being, as at most universities, extremely open-minded and supportive of diverse populations, people here are quite tolerant. Administratively, I know that at least two prominent members of the Academic Council of MIT (the President’s Cabinet: the Deans and Vice Presidents) are gay/lesbian, and MIT has added gender identity to its non-discrimination policy (sexual orientation has been a part of the policy for many years).

You should definitely check out lbgt@MIT if you haven’t. It talks about all of the different events and support and social groups at MIT. Also, the Lavender Guide talks about LGBT life at MIT and in Boston. Several of the most gay-friendly living groups used to put out a paper publication as well, I’ll see if I can get my hands on it.

As for “the ugly” side of life here, I don’t know too much about it, but, as anywhere, there exists homophobia at MIT. I wish it didn’t.

naventus wrote, “Haha glad to see you read slashdot too? Lots of people at MIT read Slashdot too?”

Of course =)

Akash wrote, “How is [Biological Engineering] working with this lottery I’ve been hearing of? Is it possible that by the time I get to choose my major, I wouldn’t be able to choose biological engineering because it’s too new?”

I don’t really know the details of the proposed lottery, but I know all of you (Class of 2009) will be considered equally if/when you want to declare Biological Engineering at the end of your freshman year. BE will be the first and only department with a lottery (which will be phased out); all other majors you can declare without any requirements. Even if the lottery doen’t work out for you, there are other majors (not lotteried) including Chemical-Biological Engineering (“XB”) and Mechanical Engineering’s Bioengineering track (“Biotrack” in “2A”). UROPs in the department will remain open to everyone, regardless of major (as all UROPs at MIT are). In short, yes, you will be able to major in and do research in bioengineering at MIT.

Application additions

Shashank wrote, “I sent a letter explaining some additions to my application (is that called a supplement?) to admissions@MIT almost one and a half week ago. However, i havent got a reply yet. How can i find out if it has been added to my file?”

The folks who staff the email have probably printed out your email and added it to your file without replying. I wouldn’t worry.

Emigna, wrote, “A question about sending in extra information or materials at this late stage: I remember you saying in an earlier post that it is too late for additional materials to go to the selection committee but that an admissions officer will still read it. Clearly and understandably that won’t entail full consideration, but to what extent does that role still play in the admissions process?”

Anything we think might have bearing on an admissions case will be fully considered. For the most part, in my experience, few additional materials at this point have significant weight in the process. If you have something that is a significant update in your mind, please inform us, but minor updates for the sake of updating your file will not carry much weight.

Shashank also wrote, “Also, im from india. Since the application said the Mid year grade report was only for students from US school systems, i didnt bother to send one in. Is that okay?”


neha wrote, “The thing is my main board exams; Singapore-Cambridge GCE A level results are due early march and my school always receommends sending a copy to even US universities as i am not sure how Alevel results are treated in US. BUt will it be too late to send in then as tje earliest day i can fax a copy is the day they are released. Will they still be accepted.”

For many applicants (especially those doing IB or A Levels), we need to rely largely on predicted grades. Your school has probably already given us your predicted marks (most schools in Singapore do), and we’ll use these. If admitted, you’ll submit the actual marks as the “Final Grade Report.”

Sephy wrote, “I called up the office of admissions on the 11th Feb regarding the matter of MIT not having received my SAT score report. I was told to fax over the reports that CollegeBoard had sent me. I faxed them over to MIT on the 11th itself, yet, my profile on the MyMIT portal still states that MIT hasn’t got my scores…wat could be wrong? I have requested CollegeBoard to send the score reports again about two weeks ago..i hope my app will still be valid..thanks!”

You app will certainly still be valid. Your scores won’t show up on the tracking system until we get the official scores from the College Board, but we have, in pencil, written in the scores you faxed us, and will consider them as we would the official scores. At the end of the process we will make sure we have a full, official set of scores from everyone.

Xiaoxuan asked, “National Merit Finalists decisions were announced this week, would this information be significant enough to notify the admission office? If so should it be mailed to you guys?”

Congratulations on your honor. You should be proud, but in general, the National Merit Scholarship competition does not significantly influence admissions decisions at MIT.


Applicant in distress wrote, “Matt, on the application it asked for my “AMC 12″ scores. I wasn’t sure exactly what the test was, and mistook it for a different math competition I participated in late last year (in May of 2004). Now that I’ve actually taken the AMC 12 (just a couple days ago), I’ve realized my mistake! Will admissions look at this score and, realizing that it is out of range (the test I took was graded on a 250 point, and received a 195) and that it was taken much too late in the year to be the AMC 12, simply believe I made a mistake? Or will they think that I’m lying?! Help, please!!!!!”

Don’t worry about it. Change from an Applicant in Distress to an Applicant at Ease. No worries.

Someone asked, “So, how many ties do you have?”

Well, I think it’s only 11 ties, by my latest count. Maybe I’ll try to get a picture of all of them…

Joseph Vissarionvich Djvugashvili wrote, “I ask that you please, through the kindness of your heart, not to describe your ties, but to post a picture of them.”

I’ll post a picture of the lassi-day tie in my previous entry below; that brings the count to three tie pictures to date in the blog. Any more and I’d start to feel like there are too many pictures of me…

nav wrote, “I’m curious- does any other school do blogging?”

Students at just about every school blog. Check out, for example, or to find communities of students at the schools you are interested in. As for Admissions Officer blogs, the only non-MIT one I’m aware of, as I’ve previously written, is Chris over at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. If anyone is aware of any others, please let me know.


nghi asked, “matt what would you say is the most important factor in MIT Admission?”

That’s a nearly impossible question to answer, but I’ll try anyway. The easiest answer would probably be to say that having a strong transcript in school is most important. In our Common Data Set filing, “secondary school record” is the only category we check as “very important.” But as you know from reading this blog, everything is important, and if it wasn’t important, we wouldn’t ask for it on the application. It’s a holistic, subjective process that considers many, many factors.

John asked, “How many international students applied this year?” And Saad asked, “what is the exact number of international and domestic applicants out of the 10,439 applications? ”

I haven’t seen final numbers, but I understand they are comparable to numbers in previous years, that is, between 2000 and 2500 applicants.

John also asked, “Since the international applicant pool will be selected within the next two weeks, will we be notified of our rejection/selection before the general public is informed?” And Sumith wrote, “Has MIT finished reading all the international Applications and when (exact date), would you expect the admissions decisions to be emailed or posted on the website.” And mit_hopefulgirl asked, “when exactly will international selection be conducted – is it done in a day, or over a period of time?”

We are still working on international applications, and expect to do selection in about a week and a half or so. It will be a one or two day process. We will mail all decisions, international and domestic, admit and deny, on the same day in mid-March.

Philly Kid asked, “the national leadership conferences … NSLC, NYLF, etc. … say if the nominee doesn’t go, is still a recognition?”

Please don’t do these programs for the recognition. I see their value as being educational to you — meeting people with the same passions as you, hearing really interesting speakers — and not as something that will help you get into college. Do things that you like. As far as nominations go, you’re probably nominated by one of your teachers, and we look forward to seeing their recommendation of you as a part of your application.

Jen writes, “I’m from NY and NYS makes hs students take statewide exams known as Regents. I’m just wondering, do Regent grades affect admission to MIT in any way?”

Many states now have these state-mandated tests — MCAS in Massachusetts, TAAS in Texas, etc. — and since they appear on transcripts, we will see the test marks. So, they will be seen and considered, but the final mark from your school will be most important to us.

kumar wrote, “do u have any age limit 2 apply to MIT, i was born on 1988,If i donot get into mIt this year can i apply next year”

We have no minimum age, and certainly being born in 1988 is not a problem for the Class of 2009. We do have some younger students at MIT, including a student who was born in 1990. For any student more than a year or two younger than traditional age, we will greatly scrutinize the applicant’s maturity (along with the usual factors) to make sure that the student will be a good fit on a residential campus. In general, I recommend waiting until age 17 or so to apply to college for social reasons, but we will consider non-traditionally aged students, both older and younger. (On this note, Ben informed me today that the DVD of Doogie Howser, M.D, Season One, will be out next month) To answer your second question, students who have not enrolled full time at a college may apply again as a freshman.

Ian T. asked, “How does MIT take into account tougher grading scales?”

A school’s grading scale is part of your context, see my previous entry on the subject. The rigor of your school and its grading standards is one part of your context that we will definitely consider.

A.ramakrishnan, “My 60 year old research carrer has forced me tio believe that a student’s creativity,intuition,and the courage to question , should be given far more importance than “grades and scores” ,I would like to know,If a person like Ramanujan who got low in exams and tests,but still became the leader of 2oth century maths can pass through the admission process.”

Oh, I really have no idea. We do try to follow your beliefs, that creativity and other subjective factors should be given significant weight, and that grades and scores should not be the defining metric. But Ramanujan? I’d like to think we’d have admitted him…

Alexandra asked, “if you guys are in selection committees already, What would be a rough estimate to when you guys will be ready to mail off the letters of acceptance/denial?”

I wrote this above, but maybe I should give it its own answer so that all can see it: we are aiming to mail decision letters in mid-March. Watch my blog for pictures of the postman and Ben’s blog for pictures of his ceremonial shave =)

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