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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

September Questions Omnibus 2 by Matt McGann '00

Questions Omnibus is the place to come for "official" answers!

Questions Omnibus is the place to come for “official” answers!

Melissa wrote, “Should I call you Mr. Matt, or just Matt? Anyways, I’m in my hotel room at the Doubletree, having just gotten back from the Info Session. Mad props! It was definetly something I’d attend again, even though I’d be hearing the same information over again. Anyways, it was definetly worth flying down here from Tallahassee. ( I was the girl with the dad who asked about MIT statistics, the astro-physics girl. ^^;; )”

Call me Matt! Thanks for coming to the session. For those of you who have driven/flown a long way to come to a meeting, I hope it was worth the long journey. We do our best to make it worth your while, including staying after to answer any questions.

Anyway, Melissa, here’s some more great information about Astrophysics at MIT:

Hope that’s helpful!

Tracy wrote, “Does MIT accept supplemental material with the freshman application? Like, say I wanted to get an extra letter of recommendation from my boss at work…could I send that in along with my teacher and guidance counselor recs? Or is that like, overdoing it and being pushy and generally not recommended? Grazi!”

We will accept supplemental material (within reason!). An extra recommendation from your boss would be great. That’s exactly the kind of supplemental material that is very useful. I look forward to seeing your application!

Rushil wrote, “I am an international applicant from India. I have been selected under the National Science Fellowship (KVPY) conducted by the Government of India, IIT Bobaby and IISc, Bangalore. I don’t know if you already know about it but if you have the time, i’ll request you to visit to get more info about the above scholarship. I would just like to ask your views on how the KVPY scholarship and summer camp compares with the RSI conducted at MIT by CEE regrading importance in the international admission process. How do the 2 programs (RSI and KVPY) compare in terms of chances for admission. I’ne heard that RSI almost assures admission at MIT. Is this true?”

As I’ve written before: Those who are admitted to RSI have many of the same qualities we look for in MIT applicants, but there is no ‘magic ticket’ for MIT admissions.

With regard to KVPY, it certainly has a lower admit rate than RSI or MIT, and I’d imagine the students are top-notch. To be funded for research at some of India’s top institutions is quite an opportunity. I’d imagine that KVPY students would be very competitive in the international admissions pool.

Rushil wrote, “If I wsih to give more details of my academic achievements (NOT AN ESSAY) and other exams I am planning to take(excluding those in the MIT list), I include them in the part 2 of the Completely optional section. Right?? Also, could you plz answer my original question regarding the comparison between KVPY(please follow given link and RSI in terms of MIT International Freshman Admission. Are the posts in comments by Timur SAhin oficial? When will MAtt answer these?”

I’m answering these questions now =) I appreciate the help of some readers like Timur and leftcoastmom, but unless they’re quoting one of the admissions officers or one of our publications, you should consider their answers unofficial (though usually very helpful!). See above for the answer to your KVPY question. Also, if you want to submit further details of achievements and exams, submit those as you see fit; on the online application, the “anything else?” question is a great place.

Anonymous [Shikhar?] wrote, “Anyways, regarding the community service, does teaching poor students and getting a 4-year poor child into school and teaching him everyday etc. fit into the MIT Admission Picture? ALso, do you accept optional references and some projects I have made? I had read in an earlier post by you that international students attach resumes, certificates etc. Can we send these or are they seen with even a tiny bit of ‘anger’ by the admission comittee. Also, what exactly do you mean by an extra resume?”

With regard to the community service, we’ll want to hear more about it in the application and we’ll evaluate it at that point. In general, service is a good thing.

Lipei wrote, “I recently was asked to speak with my teacher about US History to 5 AOL Time Warner interns selected by the National Committee on US-China Relations. I assume I should put this in the optional essay part but can you verify where I should include this in my application?”

I’m not sure I quite understand what you mean — is it this? — but your teacher should mention it in his/her recommendation for you, and you can note it among your awards & honors. You can also, like you say, attach an additional note about your honor.

Ben wrote, “Thanks for putting out these question omnibuses out, Matt. They really help answer the questions I have. However, I have one of my own: My mom currently attends community college part time to earn a degree in nursing (she works part-time as a nursing assistant at a hospital). How do I report this in my application?”

For occupation, write “Part-time nursing assistant and nursing [or RN] student;” for education level, choose “Some college.” How’s that sound?

Leon wrote, “Hi, Matt. I have another question. I have come to the United States for roughly four years ,and I do not speak English at home. While trying to complete Part 2 of the MIT application, the directions “strongly suggests” me to take the TOEFL. I’ve neither seen nor taken the TOEFL. On the other hand, I had fulfilled all the requirements for “Native English Speakers” by taking both the old and the new SAT as well as more than 3 SAT IIs, and my scores are high. So in my case, would you rather advise me to fill in my SAT scores like a native english speaker instead of taking the TOEFL like the directions suggest for students of my background?”

If you have “high” scores on the SAT already, there is no need for you to take the TOEFL. We “strongly suggest” the TOEFL because we find that it often benefits the student. We honestly have no preference between the two testing options (SAT 1 or ACT, and 3 SAT IIs; or TOEFL and 2 SAT IIs), so you should do whatever you believe makes you look best. If you submit both the SAT I and the TOEFL, we will use whichever option makes you look best, regardless of what option you formally chose on the application.

Carla wrote, “I am a international applicant, but I am going to go to Belgium to study for a year so I would like to know if I should send my application this year or next. Thanks a lot for answering all our questions it is really helpful”

If your study in Belgium is part of your formal schooling, I might recommend you apply next year. However, you may want to settle some application pieces, such as your recommendations and transcript, from your current school before you leave. Without knowing more about your situation, it’s hard to give excellent advice, but from what you’ve said so far my instinct is that you should apply next year.

Dan wrote, “I’m a senior taking EPGY Multivariable Calculus this year. Will I have to take multivariable again in MIT if I get accepted?”

I’m a big fan of EPGY; I hope you’re enjoying multivariable calculus. Assuming what you learn is equivalent to MIT’s multivariable calculus, and you receive transfer credit or show your knowledge through an Advanced Standing Exam during your Orientation, then you won’t need to take the class here, and will advance to the next level.

Kishor wrote, “i’m an applicant from nepal. being an international applicant,i had made my mind to take the toefl and the two sat subject tests,one in physics and one in maths(iic).but the toefl representive of my country admits that the resistration for toefl has been closed for now and test date for december is already packed,which happens to be the last month for the standard tests to be taken. due to these circumstancs i switched to the another option ie: sat 1 and three sat subject tests. so can i take physics,chemistry and math(iic)as my three sat subject tests or am i restricted to take only one subject test from science?, which in turn forces me to take either the langauge test or the history test. but these subjects are completely alien to what should i do?
secondly, does mit consider the toefl test given in janaury test date if i have a different situation here? and what does it really mean by :”case by case” in the context of the test given in janaury test date? do i fall in that catagory? to whom shall i admit my situation about the toefl test formally and if there’s any deadline for admitting the unforseen situations please do mention it.”

Yes, you can submit physics, chemistry and math as your three SAT IIs, that is not a problem. You do not need to take a language or history test. We evaluate each situation to determine if we can accept January test scores. I don’t know what the determination will be in your case, but you should submit your request to [email protected]

Shikhar wrote, “I am a bit confused regarding my essay to MIT. Basically I want to tell you how being in a small city (that too in India) I missed out on lots of competitions and science activities that never came to our school and I want to tell how I still managed to get good competitions (all by my own effort) to follow my passions. How(or more appropriately where) should I put all this down in the application. Is it okay if I send this as a reply to question 14. P.S. Do you people have info sessions here in India. If not you should seriously look into it as there are many MIT fanatics here.”

That sounds like a very appropriate answer to Essay choice B, the one where you talk about your community. You could also talk about this as a reply to question 14. Also, we have not had any information sessions in India (in fact, we haven’t done any international information sessions in several years). This is a topic, though, that I hope to discuss further in a future blog entry.

Anonymous asked, “can i send the informations of the part 1 of the application on the computer printout of the part 1”

Yes, we are happy to accept the application as a printout, from the paper application, or online. We do encourage you to use the online application, but we will treat applications in the same way regardless of how they are submitted.

Angie wrote, “Hi, I’m a junior and I’m interested in applying for the MITE’S Program. Can you give me an idea of what does the curriculum consists of? Any advice on what to concentrate on my application for next summer?”

From the MITES website: “MITES participants spend a rigorous 30-35 hours in classes and lab each week and receive daily assignments.” If you explore further at the MITEs site, you can see a list of course options — including Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, Humanities, Internet Programming, MEchanical Engineering Design, and Genomics — as well as the schedule the students followed this past summer. As for how to be admitted to MITES< my best advice to you is to start the application well in advance of the deadline in early February. Do well in your classes this term. Think about which teachers you will ask for your recommendations. Also, I do encourage you to look into similar summer programs (such as Caltech's YESS Program), as admission to these excellent (and free!) programs is quite competitive. I’ll talk a little more about MITES, RSI, WTP and other summer programs in December.

Victor wrote, “Are pictures allowed in the essays? (e.g. the one that shows what you like to do in your spare time and the build something one)”

Yes. In fact, pictures are often very helpful, especially for the “completely optional” (and yes, it really is completely optional) extra question about something you’ve created. I look forward to seeing your creation!

28 responses to “September Questions Omnibus 2”

  1. Robb Carr says:

    The reference to EPGY prompted me to look up the same, VERY intresting and considering I already take the rest of my classes online, it would not be a huge adjustment. Looking at applying now, I am thinking about taking M152 number theory, and once I finish Calc AB (With my normal school) later this fall starting calc B. I am also teaching myself linear algebra, and looking at taking something at a community college this fall (Another math course that is). But I have been looking for a decent number theory course for a while, its what I am hoping to study (Major in mathematics, and go on to graduate school for number theory) and while I have alot of self taught ideas on the subject I have really been looking for something a bit more formal. Also we discussed on the phone my lack of a “mentor” in mathematics, so this could also be a possible solution for that. Having a teacher familiar with number theory that can look over some of my cryptology ideas, attempted proofs, etc. Thanks again (and sorry if im rambling here, im really excited about this)

    -Robb Carr

  2. Lipei says:

    Yea! That’s exactly it, Matt. Thanks a bunch.

  3. Tracy says:

    Thanks, Matt! It’s great how you take the time to answer everyone’s questions. It makes the application process much less intimidating and impersonal. *falls deeper in love with MIT*

  4. Ben says:


    I realized that I forgot some details in the question i asked you last time. My mom already earned a degree in Elementary Education in 1980. She is currently working towards another degree in nursing at a local community college to become a RN. How do I put this in my application?

  5. Nela says:

    Hey Matt, I have a couple of questions come to think of it. One, I saw you guys said it’s okay to send pictures, is it okay to send pictures after the application has been sent? Because one thing I love to do is participate in the science fair and we don’t get to present it or anything until late January. Second, is it okay to send in sat scores after submitting the application… would it help if we improved as well? Thank you so much for answering all these questions, it makes this process a little less stressful. =)

  6. Anonymous says:

    I am autistic, which is classified as a learning disability. Will this hinder or aid my application in any way? And where would I mention this?

  7. Shikhar says:

    Matt, the anon entry wasn’t mine (though it looked like a question I was about to ask…maybe you thought the same thing..hehe)



    1. The intake ratio is small (simple reason huuuge population)

    2. No research project is done(and no one can convince me otherwise because three of my seniors went there last year and two went there this year)

    3. It does not allow research in every subject.

    The only silver lining is the scholarship that one gets.

    Matt one advice: when you see things here in India don’t get overwhelmed by them . The one fact that our generation is trying hard in India is to change the way the people manipulate things done here and keep the people away from reality.

    Oh and do you guys at MIT know about the changed pattern of the IIT entrance examinations. The intake ratio remains the same though (2.1%)

  8. Hi Matt, I live in Peru, Sout America. A few weeks ago I went to USA, especially to Boston to visit the MIT and know all about it because that is my dream and I want to make it real. I am finishing high school next year so I will be entering college in 2007 but I am preparing a lot since now. I t

  9. I love MIT’s application because it encourages people to send extra stuff and get personal. smile

    I suppose this question could be applied to any application, but I feel most comfortable asking it here. What counts as a scholastic distinction? I don’t have any huge state and national awards. Are certificates of mastery in a subject lame? Are trophies (not 1st place) from outside programs impressive?

  10. Carla says:

    Thanks a lot Matt!!! I’ll apply next year… but I have another questions… I have started filling out my application online, and I was wondering if what I have already answered will be useful for next year’s applications (the part about the extracurricular activities) or will it be completely different? Thanks again!!

  11. Mike W says:

    MIT already has all my SAT scores and my October ACT score on file. I do have an April ACT score that has not been sent to MIT; however, it does not contribute much in addition to the scores MIT already has. Would it be OK just to leave it off the application, because I don’t want to pay ACT to have an official score of my April ACT sent to MIT (if it were free, then I would have ACT send it to MIT).

  12. Robb Carr says:

    Jay: Mr. McGann actually has an earlier entry in his blog about younger students. Under the MIT admissions section. I am fourteen so I am familiar with the situation as well. Yes a fifteen year old can attend…my advice is to find Mr. McGann’s entry.

    -Rob Carr

  13. Rushil Goel says:

    Shikhar: I’d like to correct you on your comments regarding KVPY. Although yor point on low intake is correct, as far as research is cnoncerned, you are off track. I know this coz I am a KVPY Fellow. While the summer camp mainly involved(ours – maybe the time your seniors went , they didn’t do)lectures and practicals we did, we were associated with research profs. in universities near our homes whom we could contact and pursue a research project in ANY subject we want with. It was absolutely open to choose ANY topic and later, our projects will be submitted to KVPY. Hope this information exposes a bit more to you!

  14. Mahsa says:


    In my country SAT or ACT exams have not taken,

    What should i do?

    I i have honours ,Should I take the SAT exams??


  15. Shikhar says:

    Well actually an MIT blog is just the place to discuss anything tech and as from past research I do know that people here do like to know things about India (am I right Matt?) so I thought I’d let everyone know this fact (if they didn’t know it already).

    Okay Matt tell me one thing:

    in class 9 I gave an opening speech for Intel to support their concept of Technology Aided Learning. I was the main speaker and this was a regional seminar. My job here was to convince all the schools near and around the region to transfer to technology aided learning and Basically I was doing the job which should have been done by an Intel executive. That was a very prestigious thing for me as I was the only student out of thousands who they thought had the ability to clearly explain the benefits of technology aided learning. I want to mention this under my awards category but will my speech be called the keynote address (practically it would be called so…but theoretically I am not so sure..coz mostly its the executive of the company who gives the keynote) So please resolve my dilemma and tell me what to write on my app(coz writing just “speech” sounds kinda lame and does not describe the magnanimity).

  16. Shikhar says:

    oh and people sorry for making the post so long.

  17. Angie says:

    Thanks Matt! For the MITEs tip… One more question… raspberry how does MIT see nominations for things like Who’s who and being a Presidential Scholar?

  18. Rushil and Shikar, KVPY is very prestigious and deserves the respect it gets. Sad thing….. I only heard about it on sept.16th(at this very blog) and checked out the site to see that the last sate for registration was sept.15!!! The major flaw with this,as anything in India, is the fact that not everyone knew about this. Anyways, the new IIT format is good; but an MIT Admissions Blog is NOT the place to discuss it.

  19. Jay says:

    I was just wondering if there is a minimum age for entrance to MIT. I’m 15 by the way.

  20. Alvin Soon says:

    Hi Matt, I would like to enquire if an additional essay on my experiences at a local research lab would be useful for my application. I would like to send a poster that was the result of my project there, is that too trivial to be even considered at MIT?

    Would it also be beneficial for my research mentor to write me a recommendation in support of my application. honestly, i don’t know him too well since the project lasted only for a month or so, but it was a 9 to 5, monday to friday month so it was quite rigorous.

    Also, will a writing score of 600 hurt my chances? I’ve got 730 for critical reading and 780 for math for SAT I (new).

    Thank you!


  21. Leon Liu says:

    Hi Matt. Although I know you will be visiting my school shortly, but this question is quite urgent as I am asking teachers for recommandations for early action right now. My question is: can I have more than two recommandations from the teachers? I believe that in order for the admission officer to know me better, I would like both of my math and physics teachers to write recommendation letters for me.(note: I would still have the other recommendation letter from a humanities teacher)

  22. Anonymous says:

    is resietering at MY MIT sufficient for an applicant to get the paper application form at his/her given address.if yes,could anyone tell me by how many days shall i receive those stuffs?

  23. Timur Sahin says:

    Hey Matt! It’s me, Timur. :D. Nancester mentioned that our applications get summarized, and it kinda worried me as to the impact of my essays and rec letters, and whether they’ll be dwarfed by a less-than-5 NI, or whether the NI gets dwarfed by the recs and essays.

    One of your biggest claims is that you want these blogs to demistify the admissions process. Can you detail the exact process our application goes through? As I understand, it gets passed through a triager, then summarized onto the cards, then gets read over by two or three small committees, then gets passed by the dean? How many people get to read the whole application? Is it just the people mentioned on your blog, or is there any help from MIT students and professors? How specifically do grades correlate to NI?

    I’ll understand if you don’t feel comfortable answering these questions, but I figure it’d be better to ask and remain ignorant than to not ask and remain ignorant. :D.

  24. Carla says:

    Hi again Matt well I am asking my teachers for the recommendations now and I was wondering if I could send 2 recommendations from humanities teachers, besides the one from the science teacher, this is because I come from a Spanish speaking country, and the teacher I originally planned on asking for my recommendation was my language teacher, because she knows me out of the classroom, but then i thought it would be good if i sent a recommendation from an English teacher also…so can I send 3 recommendations? one from a science teacher, one from a English teacher and one from my language teacher? once again thanks for answering all our questions… it makes it all much easier.

  25. Jared says:

    Mr. McGann (or Matt, if you would prefer),

    I just wanted to say thanks so much for these question omnibuses, they have saved many an e-mail to the admissions staff. I’m currently wrapping up my application right now, and hopefully I can save some money to make a trip out East soon to visit the campus.

    Thanks again,

    Jared Sadoian

  26. Timur Sahin says:

    Matt: Honestly, I’d like to withdraw my very last question (grades -> NIs) for personal reasons. Sorry about that. :D

    -Timur S.

  27. sylvia chen says:

    I’ve been studying 6 years in high school (it should be 7 years for completion. )And, I am now studying foundation year in UNSW in Australia ,it started in October .If I want to apply as freshmen of 06 fall,can I ask the tutors in UNSW to fill in the ealuation form or the high school teachers in Hong Kong?

    How does MIT regard applicants are foundation year students of Australia universites?

  28. I am having SAT-I verbal score 570 and Math score 800. With this much of score can i manage to get admission to MIT. Do I have to appear TOFEL or SAT-II Physics and Math. I am a student from India and seek admission after 2007 April. When shall I send my application form.