I read in several CC posts that MIT considers Intel winners as one criteria for an academic star. Do they mean Intel Talent Search or the Intel ISEF or both ? Would a category winner at ISEF be considered an academic star ?
Most likely. An ISEF category winner is a substantial and fairly rare award with an attached $5,000 scholarship.
I don't believe there is definitive list as to what types of awards would make a student an academic star for MIT admissions, but international notoriety, prestige in the field and rarity are factors. USAMO qualifiers used to be considereed academic stars, although now that the numbers have doubled to 500 and some high schools have double digit numbers of qualifiers, it is not so rare anymore. Also, academic stars are not necessarily auto-admits: they just have a higher chance of admission. The rarer the award the higher the chance. A top ten Intel STS winner would probably be auto-admit unless there was some major flaw in the application. An STS Finalist would still be an academic star but may only have a 50/50 chance. Same thing with IMO versus just USAMO. I understand that between a quarter and a third of MIT admits are academic stars. The proportion is higher among internationals and has been rising every year.
Last edited by cellardweller; 08-23-2012 at 10:16 AM.
Would presenting research at prestigious international conferences (where an MIT professor gave a keynote and attended by professors and graduate students) be considered under an academic star? I don't have my research published (as the institution at which I conducted research will not allow it unless I am a student of the university), I have not competed in any research competition (same reason as above), but I have copyrighted computer code, research papers, and will have a stellar recommendation from my adviser noting my presentations at these conferences and not being able to publish the papers.
Well, it is a designation used by the admissions office, though I agree that it's not being designated by the admissions office as an academic star that's useful to the application -- it's whatever the applicant did to deserve such a designation.
My understanding is that academic star designation was developed by admissions to track students with major national/international math/science awards. It gives the office an idea of the number of highly accomplished students that apply to MIT and indirectly of how well MIT's recruting efforts are doing. Most of these students are highly sought after not only by MIT, but also by its peers such as HYPS and Caltech, and many will have choices of admission between multiple highly selective colleges. In EC (educational counselor) meetings we get the annual statistics from the admissions office. It has become part of their 'bragging" statistics and we (the ECs) are encouraged to actively recruit such students at the local level and make sure they apply to MIT (like coaches at Div.1 schools scouting top athletes at local high schools). For as long as I have been an EC (5 years) , that number has gone up every year.
This again does not mean that MIT wil give a strong preference to an academic star over another accomplished applicant without that designation. So many USAMO finalists are applying that more than half are turned away, even though they are all classified as academic stars. Two years ago, our local high school had ten students admitted to MIT. Only one was officially an academic star. The other nine were all accomplished and had shown their commitment to science by being involved in multi-year research projects.
There is a common theme of questions, as student hunt for the secret sauce that will make them an automatic admit at MIT (or for that matter HYPS etc.).
Students ask variants of "Will I get in if I am an academic star/recruited athlete/musical prodigy/published researcher?" To which the answer for all of these is "WOW, you have that, that's great and it would look really good on your application." However, it alone will not get you in.
There is no secret sauce. Yes, MIT wants academic stars, yes, more academic stars are accepted than not admitted, but no, having that alone will not get you in. What gets you in is the match (The Match Between You And MIT | MIT Admissions). Starry students who match well tend to get in, those who do not, tend not to.
And of course there is no hard and fixed rules. Some six years ago, I was interviewing a student and I asked "So what do you do for fun?" This was not a trick question. It also (so I thought at the time) had no real wrong answers. MIT can be a fairly stressful place, and it is a good thing for students to have some way to blow off steam, but I genuinely did not care whether that was carpentry, playing Tennis, or playing World of Warcraft. I really didn't. And the student looked at me and said "I read Physics textbooks." Fair enough, this would not be the first time, I have had a student phrase choose to answer in the way that he/she thought would sound the most impressive to an interviewer. Breaking through this facade, is part of the role of the EC. So I grinned and noted that I owned a fair-sized library of recreational mathematics books, and I asked "And apart from that, what do you do for fun." Now he looked confused and little bit concerned "I read physics textbooks" he insisted. OK, I smiled. "When you get together with your friends after school, what do you do then?" Now he looked a little bit rueful. "Well, I don't have any, you know, 'friends' per se, however there are a couple of kids where a couple of times a year we will all go together to the library after school and we will all read textbooks." "OK" I smiled, and I moved on.
Now, MIT tends to be a fairly collaborative place. Indeed, most of science tends to be quite collaborative. A modern physics lab is a team enterprise, and some experience of team working would be quite useful. It does not matter if that manifests itself in working on the school musical or the football team, what matters is that you can work with other people to achieve a shared goal. Here we had a student who had not identified a single friend in his high school career. If admitted, he would be highly unlikely to contribute much to the life on campus. He would spend all of his hours alone in his room, or in the library.
But what if he was an academic star?. And as an interviewer, I do not know this, nor should I. I do not see the application. I do not know about his 15 patents, or his two solo articles in Nature before his 17th birthday. And maybe his academic achievements are sufficiently impressive that that will overcome this student's inability to contribute at all to campus life. And maybe they won't. That is the job of the admissions office, but I am not at all surprised that being an academic star is not sufficient, on its own to get you in. Nor should it.
Most of the students that I see admitted to MIT are not academic stars, nor do they have published research, nor multi-year research projects. Most of them are just "ordinary" great students, who happen to match MITs ethos and culture extremely well. I regularly meet students who are worried about applying because they are 17 and they haven't won an international medal, or cured cancer or anything, and so many students with so many astonishing accomplishments have. Do remember that we spend a lot of time on this board discussing a very very small sliver of the applicant pool. And fear not.
That sounds about right but not all "stars" are treated the same. As Mollie wrote, it is what you actually did to get that academic star designation that matters. Also, a lot achievements don't neatly fit in the academic star designation even though they may actually be considered just as highly.
Assuming no major red flag throughout the application, an Intel STS Top Ten Award Winner would be a virtual auto-admit, the remaining 30 Finalists probably 50/50. I don't even know if the 300 STS semi-finalists are considered academic stars, but their chances may not much greater than somebody without such distinction. US IMO qualifiers are auto-admits but USAMO qualifiers are not, even though they are classified as academic stars. There are probably 50 to 100 USAMO qualifiers applying to MIT evey year, and MIT could not and would not want to admit them all.
Each year, there are about 100 seniors who have qualified for USAMO at least ONCE by the time they submit their college applications. The really shining ones are those who have qualified for USAMO 3+ times.
With regard to Mikalye's post #9, it seems implausible to me that half of the academic stars (the ones who are not admitted) are friendless bookworms.
I grant that some of the academic stars could cause difficulties for themselves with poor interviews. A few of them may have undesirable qualities. But, based on the results threads that I have read over the years, it would be incorrect for a student to think: "I qualify as an academic star. I have many friends. There is nothing particularly wrong with me. Therefore, I can expect to get in."
For any applicant who is highly qualified, but not admitted, I think there are at least three possibilities:
1) Something that actually does hinder the match between the student and MIT (see post #9)
2) Something in the file that is misinterpreted as likely to hinder the match, when the student actually matches well. This might be something that the student has no control over (e.g., a comment in a recommendation letter--in many places the letters are unseen by the student).
3) Nothing wrong at all, but the application just doesn't resonate with the admissions staff member, for some reason.
Not a "reason" of the status of 1-3, but still something I could imagine, with only a slight stretch: Similarity of the high-flying applicants, e.g., "Oh, no, this is our 20th applicant this year who summited Everest without supplemental oxygen by the age of 14. I am getting really tired of these guys. And this one hasn't summited the highest peak on Antarctica yet. He's outta here!"
Last edited by QuantMech; 08-29-2012 at 11:45 AM.
Reason: Fix punctuation.
Each year, there are about 100 seniors who have qualified for USAMO at least ONCE by the time they submit their college applications.
There has to be more than that with 270 USAMO qualifiers every year.
Many students qualify for USAMO at their senior years for the first time; that is too late for college. I don't count these students. The majority of USAMO qualifiers are REPEATED qualifiers.
270 USAMO qualifiers include freshmen, sophomore, juniors, seniors, and even MIDDLE and ELEMENTARY SCHOOLERS. A few years ago, a 3rd grader qualified for USAMO.
In 2012, 15 freshmen and 5 middle schoolers qualified for USAMO. It should be a good guess that only about a dozen seniors have qualified for USAMO 3+ times by the time they send out their college applications.