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COVID-19

Learn more about how MIT Admissions is responding to COVID-19 in this blog post from our Dean and new dedicated FAQs.

MIT staff blogger Dean Stu Schmill '86

To our prospective students and their families by Stu Schmill '86

on taking care of ourselves and the people we love

Over the last few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of many people around the world, including our prospective students and their families. As organizations, institutions, and individuals have responded — responsibly — by changing or cancelling their activities in the public interest, the educational trajectories of our prospective students have been redirected as well. 

I know that this may be a frustrating moment for many of the students who have been looking forward to visiting and exploring MIT, or who are concerned about changes to their academics and extracurriculars that are beyond their control. My elder daughter is in college, and my younger daughter is a high school senior who is looking forward to beginning her university studies this fall, so I have seen firsthand how this crisis has affected their education and — more importantly — their connections with friends, family, and community. 

When the Making Caring Common report was released in 2016, I wrote that an important principle for our process is that “we want young people to be students and community members first, and applicants second.” This principle has served as the foundation for our longstanding general policy for disasters and disruptions, where we remind students to focus first “on taking care of yourself, your family, your community, and your safety,” and that we will not penalize them for crises beyond their control. Indeed, our holistic, student-centered admissions process requires that we consider this kind of context when we evaluate each application. 

In a blog post on COVID from early March, we applied this policy to our present situation, when my colleague Chris wrote: 

…we will not penalize students for factors outside their control, including changes to grading policies and procedures, cancellations of activities and exams, and more, because of COVID or any other disaster or disruption. We always strive to evaluate applicants fairly in their context, especially in times like these.

I’m writing today to reaffirm what Chris said in that post, and to expand upon it. As Dean of Admissions and Student Financial Services, I hope you know that when we advise you to take care of yourself and those around you first and foremost, we mean it. This is not the time to be concerned about building your college admissions resume, or worry about how things will look to us.  

In the last few weeks, I have heard from students worried that their school’s pass/fail grading system will hurt them because they won’t be able to show their talents compared to students in schools that are still using grades. I have heard from students who are worried they may never be able to take the SAT or ACT, or if they can, that they won’t have a chance to do their best because of all the disruption. I have heard from students worried that they are not really learning much from their online classes, because there is too much chaos or spotty internet at home, or their classes were never really designed to be online. I have heard from students worried that their internships and summer programs getting cancelled will hurt their chances at MIT or other selective schools. And I haven’t heard, but know to be true, that it is so much harder to be motivated to learn on your own at home.01 Indeed, we are working under the same disrupted and disruptive conditions that are unequal for staff across our office and less than ideal for all of us.

I want to reassure you that we are very aware of all these tough conditions (and more), and we will evaluate your application with full appreciation for the specific challenges you may have faced.02 Our application essays have long included an optional 'Additional Information' text box where students can tell us about anything else they think we should know about their educational context so that we can more accurately evaluate their application. We encourage you to use this, and other, essays if and as necessary to help us understand how you might have been impacted by COVID-19 or other constraints and challenges. And so while you may rightfully be sad that there are many things that you cannot do to spend your days in the coming months, do not let yourself be preoccupied about how it will affect your college application. Your specific activities were never what made a difference in our process – who you are, your approach to life and the world around you, and your match with MIT have always been most important.

At a practical level, I understand that many of you may have questions about how the disruption caused by COVID will change our operations and processes, particularly for those who would otherwise be visiting campus this summer and applying to MIT this fall. To that end, we have developed a dedicated COVID-19 FAQ topic to provide the most up-to-date information. We will continue to expand and update these FAQ posts as appropriate throughout the duration of the pandemic. We have also updated the Visit section of our site with suggestions on ways to explore MIT from wherever you are,03 Please note that we do not consider demonstrated interest as part of your application; 'visiting' campus virtually or physically, now or in the future, will neither benefit nor detract from your candidacy. and plan to announce more virtual programming by early June. And, since so many families are experiencing financial turmoil right now,04 I should mention that our financial aid is dynamic: a family that does not receive financial aid initially but sees a change in their financial situation is able to apply for aid at any time during an undergraduate’s MIT career, up to and including senior year. We have always been able to adjust aid upward to help better support families during periods of hardship and will continue to do so. I would like to reassure you that we will maintain our need-blind admissions policy and will continue to meet every admitted student’s demonstrated financial need through our generous financial aid.  

Since we are the Admissions office, our FAQs will focus on addressing concerns held by prospective students, families, and educators. However, there are other places where you can learn more about MIT’s institutional response to COVID-19 including: 

This is an unprecedented time, one in which we are all doing the best we can under difficult circumstances, some facing more difficult challenges than others. And I hope that it serves as a reminder to us all that what is most important during the pandemic — taking care of ourselves and the people we love — will remain most important after the pandemic subsides. The rest will follow. 

Wishing you and yours all of our best in these difficult times. 

 

  1. Indeed, we are working under the same disrupted and disruptive conditions that are unequal for staff across our office and less than ideal for all of us. back to text
  2. Our application essays have long included an optional 'Additional Information' text box where students can tell us about anything else they think we should know about their educational context so that we can more accurately evaluate their application. We encourage you to use this, and other, essays if and as necessary to help us understand how you might have been impacted by COVID-19 or other constraints and challenges. back to text
  3. Please note that we do not consider demonstrated interest as part of your application; 'visiting' campus virtually or physically, now or in the future, will neither benefit nor detract from your candidacy. back to text
  4. I should mention that our financial aid is dynamic: a family that does not receive financial aid initially but sees a change in their financial situation is able to apply for aid at any time during an undergraduate’s MIT career, up to and including senior year. We have always been able to adjust aid upward to help better support families during periods of hardship and will continue to do so. back to text