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MIT staff blogger Ben Jones

The Only Answer I Have by Ben Jones

"Just a couple of sentences."

I think you guys set a record for – 353 comments in the last thread, as of this writing. Thanks to everyone who understood that it was a personal entry in my personal blog about my personal experience, and not some MIT-sanctioned, carefully crafted spin. Thank you for being human and for recognizing that I am the same.

I had a long response prepared for the haters, but I let it go. No matter how good and honest one’s intentions, there will always be haters. That’s life.

I’ve received hundreds of emails since Saturday and a bunch of blog comments, all asking for “just a couple of sentences” about why a specific applicant was not admitted. I’ve responded to each email with a slightly different version of the same answer, because it’s the only answer I have to offer. And here it is…

What you must understand is that the selection committee votes to admit the applicants who are admitted, not to reject the applicants who are not offered admission. I know that the term “rejected” is common in my field, but it needs clarification. No one is ever rejected by MIT. Almost 10,000 applicants were not offered admission, true – but many of them could have been, had there been additional space in the class. The term “rejection” implies the opposite.

As such, there is always a compelling reason for every admit – and I could reproduce those committee decisions on demand. But often there is not a specific reason that someone is not offered admission, other than the fact that there are too many qualified applicants for too few spots in the class.

Also, as I said in one of my comments in the last thread, I wish people would stop reducing themselves (and other applicants) to a bunch of numbers and a few words of description for the sake of comparison. We have a 25+ page application for a reason. Clearly no one knows the whole story on any applicant except for the applicant him/herself and the committee. That’s why all the speculation in my blog comments (and on College Confidential) is so silly.

I want to remind people that I didn’t go to MIT, and I happen to like my life very much. MIT is an amazing place, but it won’t determine your future success and happiness. How you embrace and dedicate yourself to whatever options life throws your way will.

46 responses to “The Only Answer I Have”

  1. Nirav says:

    First comment on this wonderful post; woo hoo! Thanks again, Ben.

  2. Anonymous says:


    Thanks for the post. How can I get your email address and send you a private note. From your post, apparently “hundreds” have sent you an email and I hope you wouldn’t mind one more.


  3. Shikhar says:

    “I’m off to a meeting; more later.”

    Wow u’r still working…get some rest buddy..

  4. Mushal says:

    okay…so I haven’t been rejected, I’ve just not been admitted:) that’s good:)

  5. Ben:

    You made the right decision to let go of your response to the detractors (I think haters is too strong a word as is rejection).

    While some may view it as a play on words, I like your choice of “not offering” rather than “rejecting”. While words cannot hurt as the saying goes, they definitely can soothe.

    Can’t wait to read more of your post, even though I’ve less and less reason to linger around after my S was not offered a place in MIT.

  6. Ben says:

    Oops, “hater” is slang, I meant to link to its definition. Fixed!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hey Ben,

    Ok, I’m in! But here’s a query: when the letter states, “This offer is contingent upon the successful completion of your senior year”, what do you define as successful and what do you define as stepping across the line for slacking? Like, in past years, what kind of grade drops have caused people’s decisions to be revoked? Not that I plan on slacking, but some slump happens in spite of me…


  8. rorosen says:

    I wish I could prevent myself from kicking this mule but I just find the whole debate so important. The things is, the application is not simply a resume, as has been suggested elsewhere in order to soothe, but is an elaborate attempt to portray ones soul, such a ‘rejection’ will wound, especially if the applicant has done the job well. Colleges, in order to avoid being accused of seeking mere gifted testers, have offered students this opportunity to reveal more than numbers. Unfortunately and ironically, this self-portrait of the intangible ultimately opens the admissions offices to accusations of abitrariness, leaving people to feel ‘unliked’ ‘unpicked’ ‘dateless’ in this highly consequential reality show. The only solution, as I see it, is for the admissions officers to live within each applicant’s household for a few weeks, maybe years, prior to making a decision. It might be a slight logistical challenge but at least it will be fair. Although,.. how then would you be able to turn away someone you’ve come to know so well?

  9. Cathy says:


    To my surprise, you didn’t go to MIT!!! Are you serious?

  10. Phillip Kim says:

    Yeah it seems pretty low when ppl start judging by themselves whether or not an applicant “deserved” to get into a college. Esp happens if they were rejected and a seemingly “lower” (by stats) friend got accepted to the same school.

    As I did during EA selection, I think it’s best to accept the fact, don’t try to put it on others, bite the bullet, feel the hurt, and then move on. It definitely worked for me then.

    Can’t wait to get out and go to cpw!

    Thanks Ben!

  11. Anonymous says:

    “As such, there is always a compelling reason for every admit – and I could reproduce those committee decisions on demand.”

    Really? Would you? Is that allowed? Because i’d really like to know about a couple of people…

  12. Wow, 39 definitions for haters. I didn’t even go beyond the first page but I got the drift.

    Maybe I should add one more: one who exhibits extreme rejection complex.

  13. dragonlady says:

    I have absolutely no reason to be reading these blogs, but find them quite interesting and entertaining. Kind of like a “Peyton Place” for the college admission process. There’s a lot of psychopathology out there, but fortunately, there are clearly some fine human beings out there as well. Glad you were able to step back and take the high road with the “haters”. You don’t want to be poisoned by bitterness. Maybe, some day, they will find some perspective in this whole ordeal, and also become better people in the long run.

  14. Ben says:

    In response to some comments up there – I can’t actually talk about specific cases publicly – privacy issues and such.

  15. Thanks a million, PC, for the grand news.

    My boy will live again. Just joking.

  16. Oh, no Ben. I know you can’t talk about specific cases (though I wouldn’t care if you were to discuss my app).

    We could have some sort of an anonymous discussion, couldn’t we? If you don’t name the student or give any personally identifiable information, so that no one else but the applicant knows that his is the case being considered, will it still be a violation of privacy?

  17. Yes Ben, there will always be haters. I agree that there is a difference between ‘rejected’ and ‘not accepted’. I just hope that everyone sees it and that MIT will be able to increase its class-strength in the future.

    I will love to hear about some of the compelling reasons which made the admissions committee accept the um.. lucky guys like me. Please do post some of those reasons.

    The respect that I had for you has increased a lot after your previous entry. You are a great person.

  18. Danish says:

    Hi Ben,

    this is so true…you guys try your best to see how a particular applicant would contribute to MIT. In my case, I realized that I wasn’t competent enough…SAT scores aren’t the only thing…I know people whose SAT IIs ranged in 600s and yet they were admitted…but offcourse they had some other international distinctions…I am not heart-broken…rather I look towards achieving greater competency. This fall, I would be going to some other US univ, but I do intend to apply as a transfer student and hope I would be selected then…



  19. PC says:

    Say-Chong — I do actually know a couple of transfer students from my year, so even though it’s hard to get in as a transfer, it does happen!

    p.s. are you originally from Malaysia or Singapore? Just noticed based on your name. (I am from the former)

  20. I thought someone has already pointed out in a previous post elsewhere that MIT does not accept transfer students. Getting into grad schools is the only other way. Is that correct?

  21. Hi, PC, apa khabar? I’m from Johor. Email me at [email protected] then we can talk more if you so desire.

    Sorry, guys. Back to the discussion. I’m really at a loss at the insistence of some to keep harping on knowing the reasons for their unsuccessful attempts to get accepted to MIT. You’re being impossible to Ben. Please, have a heart, leave him alone.

  22. Dear Ben,

    You should again consider/ judge on my admission decision and should give First rank among selective students. I also want to ask you , Why do you hate me ? Have you heart or not? Please I kindly request you , agian to take my teacher’s evaluations, grade year report, Secondary schooltranscript from office of admission consider/ judge and select me. I hope you will do so as i request. With best wishes. Abhinav kumar

  23. Laura says:

    Haha Ben is a better person than me, I couldn’t resist responding to the “haters”. =/

    Anyway, Ben rocks, and if I hear one more person make one long list of SAT scores and ask me or anyone else to judge them based on that…I’ll scream or something.

    Oops, guess I can never visit collegeconfidential ever again. =)

  24. Peter says:

    I have recently read the last two posts on your blog and you have given me a sense of hope into applying to some Ivy league schools. The thing is my SAT’s arn’t the best thing in the world. My question is, how do you guys approach a prospective applicant regarding admissions. I feel that I can live up to the standards at any univeristy in this world but the hardest part is getting in. Should I even try? or will my low SAT make me a an automatic reject? I understand there is more to the admissions process but I really would like to get into a really got school such as MIT.

    Thanks Ben.

    Can you reply to me at [email protected]?

  25. Ziyan says:

    I am going to blog this entry. You wouldn’t mind, would you?

  26. Anonymous says:

    Abhinav Kumar, with all due respect, please, please stop. Although I find your posts quite amusing, I think the admissions officers have had enough.

    [post edited to be a bit nicer. grin]

  27. Christina says:

    hmmm General hugs @ Abhinav Kumar.


  28. kenny says:

    Thank you for bringing some of those knuckle-heads back to reality. Just because you were not offered admission to MIT does not mean you’re doomed, and will never succeed in life. Please, get a grip and enjoy what life has to offer.

  29. Colin says:

    Abhinav Kumar is my idol.

  30. Nicely said Ben smile.

    10 years ago i didnt even know what MIT was, or even think that I could be at the level that I am at today (I was a HORRIBLE student “trouble case”). But things change, life goes on, whaddya know.

  31. Sarah says:

    hmmm… I kinda want to see if Abhinav Kumar’s strategy works. It could give me something to do over the summer. (jk :D)

  32. Anu says:

    abhinav kumar, i think you should read ben’s post. it might give you some perspective, and perhaps you’ll realize, as ben has been saying, that mit isn’t the be-all, end-all.

    hope you’re happy in college, wherever you go~

  33. April (out) says:

    i was sorting through some of my papers today and i found a letter from MIT…the hurting hasn’t diminished at all..oh well

  34. ananymous says:

    To Abhinav Kumar: I think that it is not in the transcripts and the recs that he found things missing.

    Quote: “It’s over, Shawn. Deal with it. Rock and roll.”

  35. i’ve always wonderred, through the course of waiting for the decision, what would happen to this blog when everything is over. it is not surprising how fast people left this place after a round of bombardment. this blog was not born to service the utilitarians who come here for the sake of the admission. it is for those who care about mit and will keep caring about it regardless of the admission decision. i felt extremely underrated when my results came out and it is likely that i will not get out of that mood for a while. however, it was a nice experience applying to mit and i really miss the warm environment in this blog we had before the decisions came out.

  36. Christina says:

    “I really miss the warm environment in this blog we had before the decisions came out.”

    Me too, Marco.

  37. Jen says:

    Me too!:-/

  38. Thanks for the little note on my acceptance letter. It (and your blog) makes me realize how much personal thought and consideration you guys put into making these decisions.

  39. April (out) says:

    all good things must come to an end…oh well…i miss it too

  40. All good things do come to an end, including this one. But I have enjoyed the interaction when it lasted, “haters” included.

    Soon MITians and non-MITians alike will seek out their own paths and until we meet again, so long and stay well.

  41. It’s all in the name.

  42. Anonymous says:

    heehee thank you

  43. HarvardChic says:

    hehe, MIT ended up being the ONLY place that did not accept me out of 7 places (incl. 2 ivies). guess i’m gonna go to school down the street from you guys. smile to all MIT-ers: have fun at CPW!!!!

  44. Akhil says:

    Hi ben..Thanks for all the support and encouragement..

    Well, i did not get into MIT, but I will be attending Georgia Institute of Technology (The Rambling Wrecks) this Fall.

    I am extremely excited and happy, and I would like to thank you for your efforts!

  45. Sarab says:

    Well Said!!