Crafting a Strong MIT Application

Ashley Thommana
June 15, 2024

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a top-ranked university in Cambridge, Massachusetts known for its robust education for students interested in math, computer science, engineering, and more. MIT reviews its applicants carefully to identify roughly 1000 students to accept out of over 25,000 applications. With its competitive 4% acceptance rate, MIT requires students to put their best foot forward. 

For those curious, here are some statistics for the accepted class of 2027. 

MIT writes on their “What we look for” webpage that while scores and grades are important, fit with the school is valued greatly: “Ask any admissions officer at MIT, and they will tell you that while grades and scores are important, it’s really the match between applicant and the Institute that drives our selection process.”

The question then stands: what is “a good match”, and how do admissions officers make that decision?

According to their website, there are 8 factors that MIT evaluate “fit” on:

Communicating these values in your application is imperative. With our near-peer model, Dewey Smart admissions counselors can help guide you through the process of crafting an application profile that reflects these values. In particular, your essays are where your “fit” can shine through.

 The MIT 2023-2024 essay prompts, with a rough word count of around 100-200, were:

  1. “What field of study appeals to you the most right now? (Note: Applicants select from a drop-down list.) Tell us more about why this field of study at MIT appeals to you.”
  2. “We know you lead a busy life, full of activities, many of which are required of you. Tell us about something you do simply for the pleasure of it.”
  3. “How has the world you come from—including your opportunities, experiences, and challenges—shaped your dreams and aspirations?”
  4. “MIT brings people with diverse backgrounds together to collaborate, from tackling the world’s biggest challenges to lending a helping hand. Describe one way you have collaborated with others to learn from them, with them, or contribute to your community together.”
  5. “How did you manage a situation or challenge that you didn’t expect? What did you learn from it?”
  6. “One final, open-ended, additional-information text box where you can tell us anything else you think we really ought to know.”

Let’s break these essays down and discuss how you can demonstrate the qualities MIT evaluates fit on through your answers to these essays. 

1. Interest in a field of study

Based on their mission statement and evaluation of “fit”, MIT is looking for intensely passionate individuals who are curious about learning. As you write about what you are interested in studying, demonstrating your passion and your “why” for the field through activities, experiences, and reflections is a must. 

2. Something you do for fun

One value MIT mentions is the “ability to prioritize balance”. Having a multifaceted profile is important, and emphasizing not only your academic passions but also your hobbies and extracurricular interests is a great way to meet this requirement. This essay gives you the space to talk about your interest beyond school. Demonstrating passion and commitment in this essay also speaks to your ability to pour your time into multiple fulfilling passions, academic and beyond. 

3. Your background

This is an essay that allows you to reflect on your background and the experiences that have impacted your interests and passions. Connecting the past to your present passions can allow you to emphasize your initiative, curiosity, and excitement, among other key values MIT is looking for.

4. A time you collaborated and made a difference

This essay prompt connects very clearly to one of MIT’s criteria for “fit”: a collaborative and cooperative spirit. Be sure to emphasize this aspect of your experience making a difference, not just the situation you faced.

5. Overcoming a challenge

Challenges often result in us making new decisions to overcome the obstacle. If you have had to make a tough decision or engineer a unique solution when overcoming a challenge, you can use this essay as a way to demonstrate your risk-taking and creativity.

6. Anything else

This essay is space for you to share anything else you would like with the school. If there are key parts of your story that you were unable to elaborate on through the other prompts, then you can do so here. If you are not sure what to include, think back to the criteria that MIT evaluates fit on. Have you demonstrated your fit by addressing the different criteria? If you missed a few, what stories from your life can reflect your commitment to upholding these values?

As you write all your essays, remember MIT’s motto: “mens et manus, which means “mind and hand”. MIT values knowledge applied to real life situations. By emphasizing the actions you have taken and why you chose to make those decisions, you can better highlight your achievements and story and, ultimately, work towards a stronger, more successful MIT application. 

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