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MIT staff blogger Ben Jones

The Match by Ben Jones

Our thoughts, and a request for current MIT students to weigh in.

Those of you who are savvy surfers of this site will note that our page on “The Match” has displayed the dreaded “coming soon” message for the better part of the fall. I apologize for this, and thanks to all of you who sent me gentle reminder emails. :-)

The page has finally been updated, and I think it’s a good overview. I’m hoping, however, that current MIT students (and alums, if any feel like weighing in!) will comment in this thread and add their thoughts on the topic. What qualities do you think make good matches to the undergraduate culture of MIT – academic, social, and otherwise? Do you have any anecdotes from your MIT experience that will help illustrate the qualities we’ve outlined?

43 responses to “The Match”

  1. Jigar says:

    Thanks Ben for the hardwork, the page really helps understand the term “The Match.” Good Job ^_^

  2. Sarab says:

    A nice post, but I feel it will be taken the wrong way. I mean if someone reads that, they’ll start trying to mould themselves to be exactly what your post talked about even though that’s exactly what you don’t want…..
    I can’t see any way out though..

  3. Vanessa says:

    Yeah, that I guess that idea Sarab mentioned is justified, but on the other hand, maybe applicants who read this lose some of that tension and just relax, because they know they DON`T have to change themselves to get intó MIT and just be themselves. Also, maybe some of the ones that originally wanted to apply to MIT will think about what kind of person they are and maybe realize that they would be happy in a different school. Although I think that would be sad because maybe they actually would fit, I guess it´s better than applying and getting admitted to a school you won´t be happy with. There are many great guys out there and many schools, and some may be just perfect and others won´t. It´s just like that. So maybe some people will by themselves find out that they won´t be happy at MIT and will be saved from the disappointment of not being admitted. And others might just read this and think: “Oh f***, I just want to get there so badly” and thus will do even greater in their application. I know I´m kinda idealizing this, but I really think it´s a great idea :D

  4. Jess says:

    Sarab, regardless of whether “The Match” page exists or not, people have been trying to mold themselves to be what they think MIT wants ever since there’s been a competitive admissions process. So at least the page’s existence gives people a guidline in terms of personal qualities to strive for – if you’ll notice, they’re not attributes like International Science Olympiad or 2400 on the SATs; “collaborative and cooperative spirit” isn’t something that can simply be spawned by starting a club. Especially that last quality!

    I don’t have much to add to the page, but I do think that it’s important to emphasize that a lot of what it talks about deals with aspects of your personality that have already been shaped and developed by your choices and your interactions with people from your daily life. That’s definitely not to say that your fate has already been decided, but the character of the MIT community is really something special; people help each other grow here. And the way you’ve dealt with your environment up until now is going to serve as a template for how you deal with whatever gets thrown at you later down the line, MIT or not, and it will show through on your application.

    Just something to think about! Best of luck to you all.

  5. Mollie says:

    It’s hard to emphasize enough that you have to be collaborative, cooperative, and helpful to survive at MIT.

    I hear a lot that prospective students expect MIT to be “competitive,” probably because that’s all they’ve known in high school. MIT isn’t high school. And it’s not nature red in tooth and claw. You have to play nice if you want to do well, and I think that’s a fabulous attribute of the school.

    I think wanting to make the world a better place flows naturally out of being a good person and a self-motivated team player.

  6. anonanon says:

    Ben, it is one thing for the admissions staff to list subjective qualities that make for a perfect match, but it is quite another to determine which students actually have demonstrated those qualities. I happen to know (quite well) a couple of applicants who “match” perfectly, according to your list, and who have stellar academic records to boot. Nonetheless, they were deferred at early action. Could it be that modest students don’t brag about themselves well enough to let you know what they are really like? Could it be that a kid who spent every night for weeks–at the expense of his own grades–tutoring a friend who missed 10 weeks of school due to chronic illness never told counselors or teachers about it? Could it be that some really active, dedicated students are far too busy to read blogs and cc to keep abreast of what kind of subjective stuff they are supposed to fill up their apps with? Could it be some guidance counselors at large public schools don’t know what is going on in the world of elite schools and so fail to make sure promising students are covering all the bases on their apps? Could it be that the very best candidates are completely independent of parental and gc input, and their naivete puts them at a disadvantage relative to those with savvy and pushy parents and guidance counselors?

    I don’t object to your office striving for a good match between student and school, but I am bothered by the notion that the highly subjective criteria you seem to value so highly are a good way to identify that match. But thanks very much for getting rid of the word “passion”. Scientists are curious/inquisitive (very much so), determined, creative, energetic, stubborn, resourceful…but I don’t know any students who describe themselves as “passionate” about the activities which they love, and to which they are very dedicated.

  7. Anonymous says:

    well, thanks Sam!
    can I sue you if i don’t get accepted? =P

  8. Monika says:

    well said wink

    I really love this sentence: “we are looking for a richly varied team of capable people who will support, surprise and inspire each other.”
    Who ever climbed a mountain will agrre, that its much more fun to have a varsity of people than to have a group of profesional climbers…
    (-> not necessarily relating to climbing, but teamwork in general )

  9. Hi,
    Iam a 11th class student from kerala…I would like to join in mit for aerospace engineering on year 2008…But i don’t know what to do…I decided to clear SAT mathe matics level 1 and SAT physics and TOFEL…But i dont know how to prepare for these exams…Can you please send the topics for these exams and what i have to do after clearing exams for the admission..

  10. Hi,
    Iam a 11th class student from kerala…I would like to join in mit for aerospace engineering on year 2008…But i don’t know what to do…I decided to clear SAT mathe matics level 1 and SAT physics and TOFEL…But i dont know how to prepare for these exams…Can you please send the topics for these exams and what i have to do after clearing exams for the admission..aND I WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT YOU MY EMAIL ID:[email protected]

  11. I got a question, i have a low sat score(1590 in total of all three and ranked 5 in my school with a GPA of 3.75)-ouch I know- really low, but for external reason i couldn’t preform on the test- not only I’m not a good test taker but i haven’t studied for finical problems, its embarrassing enough so so please no comments in this. But i have been in so many things, i was president of a engineering club, been in sports trying to join another one (Baseball) and have taken most of the APs in my school which is a Charter. I have forced teacher to start new APs, like Cal BC and Physics C. All this because I believe if i completely master science i can change the world. Above all im the newest captain to my Acad Decal in the honor devision, but my team cant preform only reason there in the team is out of pity my teacher told me when i asked if i would get out. The pity goes so deep that when they forget a test date or a practice date, the teacher kicks them out but like 3 days there back. We will lose if they stay, and i don’t want to lose on external reasons. I want to quit but not for that reason but because the January testing date which i can actually study for now is in the same day a a competition date. What should i do? Stay in the disorganized acad decal or take the SAT over? Please help

  12. Anonymous says:

    Filled up Space –

    Study for and take the SAT again. People have gotten into MIT without being the president of an academic decathalon but not usually with a math SAT of Filled up Space –

    Study for and take the SAT again. People have gotten into MIT without being the president of an academic decathalon but not usually with a math SAT of <550.

  13. Anonymous says:

    less than a 550.

  14. Benjamin says:

    On a completely unrelated (but much happier) note, Kickoff is…today! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

    (Beginning of the FIRST Robotics season, for those of you who may not know what I’m talking about.)

    Good luck to all you FRC people out there!

  15. Alan B. says:


    If my first reaction was “Wow, 1024 factorial would be a really huge number” what school do you think I should have applied to? I was hoping for MIT ,obviously, but I guess I don’t have the requisite preference for exponents. smile

  16. Laura says:

    So back on topic…

    Collaboration and risk-taking are the two biggest points in my book. I knew a couple of people in high school who were a)super competitive and b)had never failed at anything, and let me tell you, they were not better people for it. I can’t really put a finer point on it than that, but in my experience those qualities make you better equipped to change the world simply by being more human.

    And the best risk-takers are those that don’t believe in failure- someone who sets out to do the impossible despite the fact that they objectively know that they might fail and that others may believe they are doomed to do so, because that person truly believes that it is possible.

    I think the title “risk-taker” is a bit of a misnomer- in my eyes, those people aren’t actually taking risks, they’re simply ignoring anyone who uses the word “impossible.” (My senior quote was by Walt Disney: “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”)

  17. theresa says:

    I like the reference to mountain climbers, Ben. smile I think the descriptions and characteristics were good..
    as far as what anonanon said about “passion” – I’m concentrating heavily on sciences this year – it’s clear I’m passionate about science. Besides that, I’m passionate about music. and my religion. and there are a few other things I’m interested in that I’m not exactly “passionate” about – but I do follow through with everything. I guess my point is, they didn’t get rid of “passion” because there weren’t enough people who were passionate; It makes it seem like they got rid of it because too many other people started using the term and misconstruing it for something else. In that sense, I agree with the anonymous after anonanon. and anon2 has some pretty viable points –
    but overall, (regardless of anonanon’s comments) great job, Ben! smile

  18. Anonymous says:

    I think someone somewhere else said this too, but why does MIT defer so many people (~2700) when it only has ~1200 spots left for admission?

  19. Sarab says:

    To put another 2 cents in, a friend of mine who shall go nameless has had himself put on the national shooting team *at least on paper*, has written his own recommendations and has made sure that enough charity contributions show him as a member. And yeah, everyone has tried to mould themselves to fit MIT, but for people like him, this is a checklist and he’s been checking it twice allright. (Bad pun, I know) Other than that it’s a great page, but shouldn’t you have posted it when the brickbats and the bouqets come through?

  20. Michael says:

    I think the page is a good idea. Reading Marilee Jones’ Time article and having the opportunity to listen to her speak at one of the meetings really made me believe I had a chance of getting in. Not that I wouldn’t have applied anyway, but to know that the emphasis isn’t on superficial things like SAT and is instead on finding the people who fit well at MIT gives a person like me a boost of optimism.

  21. Monika says:

    I ‘ve been waiting for so long for this page;)
    I think the admission people are clever enough to see, wether people did something for it sounds good in an application or for the pleasure of doing it…
    It’s really nice!
    I like your suggestion, Sam, I am hopeful;)
    (I got the Feynman lectures for Christmas, they are somehow like 1024)

  22. -Anonymous
    But isn’t different what MIT wants and not SAT focused, but in the other hand the scores were really bad. And it was my first time paying for the sat, and that was Christmas gift (50 bucks for a test isn’t cheap). Sorry that I’m resisting your argument because you are Anonymous and I’m not one to listen to total stranger.

  23. uh, hey, I really dont wanne be impolite, but I wouldn´t want this blog to turn into a discussion of SAT scores. Although I think MIT assists people greatly during their application, I think this blog is not the right place to ask if you should retake the SAT. It´s, as the headline could suggest, about your MATCH with the MIT. I´m talking about personal qualities. And I really think this site gives us a view of what the students of the MIT – of what life there – is like. Maybe some people may abuse it and turn their application into a mirror of whats written here, BUT in my opinion, it´s still great that this site was published. Ther´s no use in faking about how honest and cooperative you are when ´t´s not backed up by others. And I guess your teachers won´t write false stuff into their recommendations.

  24. Sam says:

    My answer is the same as it ever was.


    If your first reaction was “hey, that’s a power of 2,” you should be an MIT student.

  25. Anon2 says:

    In response to “anonanon”‘s comment…

    I think the point of “the match” is that people aren’t going to get in to MIT by trying to get in to MIT. There are going to be some people for whom it’s impossible to tell what’s real, but I think for the most part the admissions officers are really good at what they do. As for your objection to identifying “the match” by subjective criteria, I don’t think science has yet found an objective measure of character.
    Regarding your hypothetical situations that would disadvantage certain applicants, I think the entire point of MIT’s admissions process is that those situations will have as small of a negative effect as possible. It could be that a student is too modest to talk about his accomplishments, but in general that is not a very good quality for achieving success anyway. It could be that a student is too busy to read these blogs, but the type of people MIT wants to accept are not the type of people who would write their applications based on what MIT suggests. It could be that a student does not have access to the best counseling and advice, but this means that the person’s application would truly reflect himself, as it should.

  26. The difficult we do immediately, the impossible just takes a little longer.

    Another quote, but I don´t know from whom it is.

    *love it* XD

  27. I think being happy at MIT requires a different set of social skills from being happy at other schools.

    A good metaphor for the social experience might be dining. Unlike most schools, where most students eat most meals in one or two dining halls and sit with most of the same easily-locatable friends each day, MIT students find their own breakfast, lunch and often dinner. I suspect that the abilities to enjoy this type of flexibility and lack of predictability are two social characteristics that make MIT a match.

  28. anonymous says:

    I love that quote! “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” – Walt Disney

    heh I used it in one of my essays =D

  29. I really enjoyed reading about “The Match.” It did kind of put me at ease. Also, it reminded me that the students who are truly good matches with MIT can take a rejection from there and succeed anyway.

  30. oasis says:

    I really liked that mountain climber analogy.

    I should have read this before I applied lol, but eerily I fulfilled several of those subpoints without knowing about them previously.

  31. well if somebody moulds himself for the likes of a particular univ, i term that hamosapien as a loser. I mean MIT is a dream come true but it also an internationally well documented fact that MIT is a univ after all.

    Well, I am not changing myself for any univ, ill b happier at a place where they accept me as I am.

    And MIT ppl are cool that way, i think, if u write a lie in the app or you mould yerself, they’ll sniff those things quiet easily.

    That “Match” page will help prospectives decide whether or not they shud apply to MIT and will they survive there.

    Sorry for acting against “using my own name thing”, i just feel uncomfortable using my real name in public internet.

    17 till i die

  32. As a parent of an admitted student, I think the information presented on “The Match” page is very congruent with the portrayal of MIT presented at admissions sessions. When she was a sophomore, my daughter asked me to drive her to an MIT admissions presentation held at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, California. The auditorium was jam-packed with juniors, seniors, and parents. Quite frankly, as I listened to Matt McGann’s presentation, I did not think the school would appeal to my daughter, probably because it would not have appealed to me. I was wrong. She wanted to stay and speak with McGann after the presentation, so I went to stand by the auditorium door and wait as dozens of parents swarmed him with questions about SAT scores, essays, and extra-curricular activities. After about 15 minutes, the number of people around McGann dwindled to a half dozen, and he finally turned to my daughter and asked, “Do you have a question?” She said no, that she just wanted to let him know how much she’d enjoyed the talk. “I can see myself there,” she said. That was two years ago, but I remember it well, because that day I learned a great deal about my daughter. Now she’s an admitted student. My husband and I are concerned about the cost, but after reading “The Match,” we both find ourselves in agreement about one thing: It is hard to imagine a better match for our daughter anywhere else. We’ll find a way to make it work. Thanks for posting the article.

  33. so do you have the data for the Distribution of SAT Reasoning Test Scores (Writing). Its not on the current page.

  34. @david
    well, I wouldn´t try to think like this. With your essays already submitted, you at least show who you really are, and not what others want you to be. You shouldn´t turn yourself into someone that fits “The match” perfectly just for the sake of fitting to it perfectly! If you´re not like that, you at least are yourself. That´ll be, hopefully, valued higher than being just the copy of an article. So don´t think about it to much. It´s better that your stuff is already sent away

  35. david s says:

    man…i should have read this post before i submitted my essays…i want to get my winter break back

  36. Bill says:

    Help! I need a site of exercises for the test of admission. Please..

  37. This makes me feel good- i have few massive failures to boast about.
    I believe MIT is looking for ppl with an ability to cope up with failures. Here in IIT(Indian Institute of Technology) we have 20-25 suicide cases ever year. Reason? Most of the IITians have never experienced failure in their life- straight toppers in High School- They aren’t able to cope up with bad grades and hence suicide.

  38. Deb August says:

    Just wanted to remind you all, in response to anonanon’s post, that special situations (like having a lower GPA because you’ve spent all your time tutoring a sick classmate) will almost always come to light during the interview process. It’s our mission to find out stuff like that about you (and we’re really good at telling who’s BS-ing, too).

  39. l0ngL says:

    hey ben, on the opening where it says “Our site is maintained by twelve students and four admissions staff members…” I counted and there were only ten students.

  40. Mikalye says:

    When I first became an educational counselor (interviewer), I thought it would be very tricky to identify candidates who would match. It isn’t. In most interviews, you get a fairly strong indication as to whether the candidate matches well.

    Not always, and a lot depends on the applicant’s context. Someone coming from a rural school with a graduating class of 6 is going to have had different opportunities to show many of these traits than someone from a large wealthy suburban high school (as an international EC, I tend to see both in a year).

    But in the majority of cases, you really, really can tell.

  41. Kenechi says:


    That means I was born for MIT. This was my reaction: Hey, that’s my birthday, which is cool cause its 2 to the 10th power!!

  42. Xi Zhang says:

    hey ben! what percentage of the perfect-SAT-score applicants of class of 2010 were rejected or waitlisted last year? same question for ACT?