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For a student who has difficulty writing...

#theorymom#theorymom Registered User Posts: 1,688 Senior Member
...what are the chances for success at MIT?

In other words, my son will be applying, and although he has abyssmal writing scores and his essay will reflect his lack of ability, he still has a very good chance of being accepted, based on his strengths in math and science and his ECs and test scores.

But SHOULD he apply? If he is accepted, will his lack of writing ability keep him from succeeding as a student there?

He is very bright, has excellent reading skills, reasoning skills, math skills. The difficulty seems to be not in writing something good, it CAN and does happen, his writing is quite good, but it is in the length of time it takes him to get anything down on paper. After many years of trying to help him improve this skill, he has gotten a little better, but it not "there" yet. This gets him behind in all his course that require a great deal of "creative" writing, but he is not too hindered when it comes to science labs, math, answering questions with concrete answers, that sort of thing.

If he got accepted at MIT, will he find himself wallowing in writing requirements, or might this be a place where his true talents can shine?
Post edited by #theorymom on

Replies to: For a student who has difficulty writing...

  • CalAlumCalAlum Registered User Posts: 1,367 Senior Member
    Engineers, scientists, mathematicians, economists, and medical researchers all need to know how to express themselves well in writing. I can't think of any top science or engineering program in the country that does not emphasize this.

    If you son wants to avoid applying to MIT to avoid having to write in undergraduate classes, he will also have to avoid applying to any of the other top colleges and universities, because they all require writing. So he may as well apply to MIT.
  • st. aegisst. aegis Registered User Posts: 461 Member
    i disagree, with having to pay for mit. If your son knows what he would like to do, yes all colleges require the writing (except for a few institutions), then tell him to suck it up.
    colleges are places you go to learn, and if he does not want to learn writing, then he will have this kind of anticipation all the way through out his life
  • #theorymom#theorymom Registered User Posts: 1,688 Senior Member
    "If you son wants to avoid applying to MIT to avoid having to write in undergraduate classes, he will also have to avoid applying to any of the other top colleges and universities, because they all require writing."

    I guess I did not make myself too clear. HE wants to apply, it is the worrying Mom who wonders if it will be "too much".

    He knows he has to express himself, and has always done so, but it is a real struggle. He is truly brilliant, scarily so, but there seems to be a small disconnect when it comes to getting it out in the written word. I feel it may be something that is developmental in some way, but it improving all the time. Those of you have not experienced this as either one afflicted, or a paren to someone who has this difficulty may not be able to relate.

    So this is not an issue of him not WANTING to do it, his dream schools are MIT and Stanford (Stanford is a reach) and he is an avid learner, and scary smart.

    My question had more to do with requesting info from MIT students and alum as to the rigors of writing at MIT. He can handle research papers. But things like creative writing, essays about literature, history, things like that will, despote his efforts, drag him down. So I wonder how much of that there is for a math and comp sci major who also wants to continue music studies.

    The truth is, if he is accepted, there is not a thing in the world I could say to him, even a warning about rigorous writing requirements, that would cause him to decline acceptance, so I suppose the question is rhetorical in a sense and only for my own edification.
  • Arch3r25Arch3r25 Registered User Posts: 458 Member
    You could teach your son the Aristotlean method of writing essays, and then every single expository piece will be like filling out a template--much faster. Teachers/professors love it =)
  • ColdWindColdWind - Posts: 1,598 Senior Member
    Would your son be willing to attend a summer program that focuses on writing? If so, then it might be worth starting a new thread asking for suggestions for a summer program such as SSP at Harvard University which offers several great writing courses.

    Most universities offer writing clinics that assist students with all written assignments, papers, applications, etc. My son attends Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois which has a fully staffed writing clinic with generous hours. I think that the writing clinic at Northwestern will also assist with foreign language written assignments. So don't let a fear of writing arouse unnecessary worries about elite universities when the only concern should be whether or not the school has a well established writing clinic.
  • skyskskysk Registered User Posts: 58 Junior Member
    MIT has a "Communication Requirement," which can be fulfilled through a selection of distributive courses throughout your 4 years at MIT. Unless your son has scored a 5 on either AP English [Lit or Lang] exam, he will have to take the Freshman Essay Evaluation if he is accepted. Depending upon his performance on the FEE, he might be required to take a "Communications Intensive" (CI) subject in writing his first year. These courses are focused on writing (there's nothing wrong with needing to take these, by the way, they're regular courses in the writing department that just happen to have a particular focus on writing). And if he does do well on the FEE, he'd still have to take a communications intensive course his first year, but it wouldn't need to be focused on writing but would still require numerous essays, essay re-writes, and oral communication practice. To graduate he would need to complete 2 CI courses in the humanities and 2 CI courses within his major, which I suppose he would enjoy because those are more focused on technical writing and presentation.

    ANYWAY, yeah, if he went to MIT, he'd have to meet some writing requirements. Good scientists need to be good communicators, no exceptions. But if he is accepted and chooses to go to MIT, he certainly shouldn't FEAR these requirements. Rather, I'd tell him to look at them as opportunities to improve his writing skills. I certainly hope he wouldn't "wallow" in these requirements at the expense of letting his "true talents shine." Instead, MIT would be a great place for him to improve his writing AND let his talents in science/engineering shine. MIT has an excellent writing department with free writing advisors/tutors who are very good at what they do and very willing to help students who need extra writing assistance.

    So definitely don't discourage your son from choosing to go to MIT or apply to MIT simply because of the writing requirement. If his writing scores are very low and his humanities teacher recommendation does not have many substantial things to say, that will hurt his chances of getting in to MIT because MIT looks for communicators as well as scientists. But if his scores, grades, and recommendations in the writing/humanities fields are good enough for MIT to say "I think we see some potential here, our writing courses will really help him out, AND we really like his enthusiasm and potential in science/engineering," then he has an excellent shot at MIT.

    And Stanford's and MIT's acceptance rates are similarly low. They are both reaches for any applicant, and any applicant who thinks otherwise needs to re-evaluate their understanding of college admissions.
  • molliebatmitmolliebatmit Super Moderator Posts: 12,374 Senior Member
    I had a friend at MIT who was mildly dyslexic, and a boyfriend (now husband) who is a good writer, but abhors writing. Both were able to get through MIT successfully, albeit with very selective humanities course choices -- my husband sat down with the course catalogue every semester and tried to pick the humanities course with the least required writing, and he was pretty successful in his picks. :)

    As you are probably aware, MIT students are required to take 8 courses in the humanities, arts, and social sciences, and at least two of those courses must be "communication intensive" or CI. CI courses tend to require more written work than non-CI courses, but it's not generally ridiculous.

    MIT does have a writing center, as ColdWind suggests, and friends of mine used it frequently.

    I also felt strongly that the required technical writing at MIT (research papers, lab reports, short answers, etc.) really helped me when it came to churning out non-technical writing, which I am not as happy to do. My writing skills improved greatly as a result of my MIT education, and I think this is also true of my fellow alums.
  • #theorymom#theorymom Registered User Posts: 1,688 Senior Member
    Arch, never heard of the method, but I'll look it up. it "sounds" like something he could get his mind around. I'll let you know, thanks for the suggestion.

    ColdWind - point taken. I'll check on the schools he is applying to to see what writing support they have and make sure he knows about that option.

    As far as summer programs, most of those we have looked at are competitive to get into (in other words you need good writing skills) So I'll need to look for something more remedial, if there is such a thing for HS seniors - I'll take a look in the summer programs forum here.
  • #theorymom#theorymom Registered User Posts: 1,688 Senior Member
    "And Stanford's and MIT's acceptance rates are similarly low. They are both reaches for any applicant, and any applicant who thinks otherwise needs to re-evaluate their understanding of college admissions."

    Hi Skysk
    I am referring to the fact that MIT does not (yet) use the writing portion of the SAT for admittance purposes, while, to my understanding, Stanford does. (I would love to know if I am wrong on this) Both are fabulous schools containing very bright people and both are equally discrimminating, but my son's writing score would not probably even get past the initial look at his app at Stanford. He actually has a chance at MIT given his other stats.

    Mollie says - "My writing skills improved greatly as a result of my MIT education, and I think this is also true of my fellow alums."

    That is my hope for him, wherever he ends up. I am sure he will improve significantly, and it is good to know that most schools are set up to make sure they CAN.

    You guys are right, I am probably tilting at windmills
  • skyskskysk Registered User Posts: 58 Junior Member
    MIT says on their admissions website that they require the SAT with writing, and as I recall I had to self-report my writing score on my application. So I'd imagine MIT does take a look at the writing score, though you'd be correct in assuming it does not carry as much weight as verbal or math. This is probably true for most selective colleges.
  • molliebatmitmolliebatmit Super Moderator Posts: 12,374 Senior Member
    ^No, MIT is actually not considering the writing score at this time -- they're recording it for statistical purposes, but they're not using it for evaluation. I asked this of Matt McGann a few weeks ago, and he confirmed this.
  • pebblespebbles Registered User Posts: 2,617 Senior Member
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