I've been reading around a lot lately about MIT admissions and the application. One thing I've noted is that the interview is an extremely important part of the application, for reasons I'll discuss in a bit. And after visiting countless pages of the MIT blog, reading around on CC's MIT forum and paying close attention to ECs’, admissions officers’, alumni's, and current MIT students' posts and advice, I've compiled a list of tips to help with the interview. The interview isn’t that complex and requires minimal preparation beforehand, but there are some things you should know going in, especially since for many this will be a first-ever interview. As someone who's been reading up a lot about the application/interview and is also an upcoming applicant, I thought I'd share. Here it is:
What’s the purpose of this guide?
- Interview Questions
- About the ECs
- Interview Tips
- Closing Advice
Very simply, it’s a compilation of interview advice from various reliable resources, meant to help you know what you need to going into the interview. A sort of guide/FAQ, if you will.
This thread is also meant to be the official interview thread of 2010.
Why is the interview all that important?
Well, as far as I can gather, this question has two answers.
-From the admissions officers'
perspectives, this interview shows your interest in MIT. This is both because it's optional, meaning you’d be showing initiative by taking it, and because it’s a chance to almost directly talk to the admissions officers. The interview is there for these reasons - it shows how good a match you are for MIT, your interest in MIT, and to some extent, the initiative you'd take in order to get into the school. It's "highly recommended" by admissions officers, which is code for: Do it.
-From an applicant’s
perspective, it's important because - and this is a simple answer - statistically, those who do
take the interview [or have the interview waived, more on that in a bit] have a much higher chance at acceptance than those who don’t.
In fact, of students who had an interview [or had the interview waived], 12.5% were accepted. Of those who didn’t, only 2.8% were accepted. Those aren’t exactly encouraging statistics if you’re choosing not to interview.
Another reason it’s important is that you can discover more about the college. You’re likely to find out something you never knew before from your EC. Some students decide on the college just after the interview, even.
The interview is a chance for you to show who you are as a person – your personality, your qualities, your quirks – everything that doesn’t show on the application [disregarding the essays]. For admissions, it's a chance for them to ask you questions they otherwise couldn't. It usually reflects very favorably on an applicant, so do try to take it.
Does the advice in this post apply only for MIT interviews?
I read several ECs’ posts on here, and not all were from MIT. However, what I write in this post is MIT-related, so not everything I've written applies to other schools' interviews, but a lot of it does – especially for other American
universities, including the Ivies. Different colleges, though, ask different questions, look for different things
, and treat the interview in a different way, so your experience will vary with each interview...
You said American. So this information doesn’t apply to international universities?
In short, no. I can’t vouch for it applying to any schools outside the US, and it’s likely completely wrong for universities such as Oxford and other international colleges.
After registering for MyMIT, your EC [educational counselors - essentially MIT alums who are kind enough to conduct the interviews] contact information will show up on the MyMIT page. Your EC will be matched to you based on location, so they’ll be living somewhere nearby – no traveling or cross-country trips just to take it. In some cases the EC might be a long way away, so perhaps you can agree on meeting somewhere in the middle for convenience.
To set up the interview, you’ll contact him/her, usually through an e-mail [in the subject field, fill out: ‘MIT Interview Request’ to make it easier for the EC, especially in case it goes into the spam folder], and ask to set up the interview, which will take place at a place to be set. Make sure to be rather formal in the first e-mail you send, but not sycophantic. Don't let them get an e-mail describing the glorious history of the interview in admissions, as one EC on here did. Just be formal, direct, and polite. The EC may take up to 2 weeks to reply, but will usually only take a few days. After they agree to the interview, you should agree on date, time, and location. If they don’t reply after a few days, it’s fine to contact them again, but give them as much time as you can before you do so. Contact the e-mail at the bottom of this thread if your EC fails to reply after your second contact attempt [this’ll probably be a rare occurrence though.]
If you choose to contact your EC by phone, the process is pretty similar – just call him/her up, and if leaving a message, leave your full name and number and state clearly that you’re calling about setting up an interview for your MIT application. Speak slowly and clearly.
For those without EC information, it's likely that there is no EC in your area, in which case your interview will be waived and have no negative effect on your application. You'll have to make sure to note that in the interview info part of the application.
Do I have to finish the rest of my application before contacting my EC?
No, you don’t. In fact, you should probably contact your EC as soon as you feel you’re ready for the interview.
There are, however, deadlines for contacting your EC that you’ll have to follow.
There are deadlines for contacting your EC to set up an interview, so make sure you do so by the set date. Contacting the EC early won't necessarily score you bonus points, but it's probably better - no rush for you or him/her, and you're not stressing anyone out this way. The EC's program generally gets more hectic as the deadline approaches.
So when are the deadlines?
If you’re applying EA, the deadline to contact your EC is October 20, 2010.
If you’re applying RA, the deadline to contact your EC is December 10, 2010.
You’ll likely want to be done with the interview by those dates, though. Try not to wait til the last minute to contact your EC.
First thing to note
Now, the first thing you should know about the interview is that it's not much like a job interview. It's more of a two-way conversation, with some emphasis on your story rather than the EC's. As such, there's no reason to treat it like a Q&A session. Be relaxed, be genuine, be yourself.
-Dress Code: The interview is not necessarily a formal gig [depending on the place you're meeting] but usually an appropriate dress code is - anything you're comfortable in. Seriously. You probably shouldn't show up in above-the-knee shorts and a fishing hat, but you get my point. Wear something casual, but on the lower end of the formal scale at the same time. Some black/kakhi pants and a polo/buttoned shirt would be fine, but so would some nice jeans and a shirt - provided you're comfortable in them. Don't look too casual, but not too dressy either. As for suits: Generally, you want to be relaxed in your clothes, and the EC will want you to be relaxed, so don’t go in a suit unless it actually puts you at ease. Here’s an informative post on how to dress: What To Wear
-Turn your cell phone off. Or at least put it on silent, in every way possible. Don't answer it during the interview, don't text, don't open up the net. It's discourteous. And definitely don't get it [or your laptop] out and open Facebook or Twitter. This has actually happened with one EC.
-Be early. Like at least 5 minutes early, preferably 10. Upon first meeting the interviewer, introduce yourself and say something like "Nice to meet you." A firm handshake won't hurt you, and neither would a smile.
Will all the below questions show up on my interview?
The short answer is no. You might get all of these questions on your interview, and you might only get 2 of them with others having nothing to do with what I posted. But some of the below are of the more frequent ones. The interview doesn't have a set amount/list of questions. Each interview is different in its questions, and the EC might choose a question right on the spot based on your previous answers. Therefore, the exact questions that will come up are impossible to predict. There are between 2000 and 3000 ECs, and your mileage will vary a lot – and not just in terms of what questions are asked.
Remember: the EC’s job is to find out more about your personality. Since this is the case, you don’t really need much preparation for questions he/she may ask. Just keep in mind that they’re trying to get a picture of the real you.
What questions will my EC ask me?
ECs have guidelines for questions, so they will have to cover some points. Very few questions will consistently show up, and there's a great variety and range of questions, as well as a great number of interviewers, so your interview (and its questions) might unfold in an infinite number of ways. I'll try and cover some of the more important and frequent questions that I've found:
-Why MIT?/What drew you to MIT in the first place?
Expect this question of some variant of it in your interview. It'll definitely show up somewhere. It's one of the few questions [and it well might be the only question] that will show up without a doubt. Try and avoid clich