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MIT interview guide and discussion

Jimmy797Jimmy797 Registered User Posts: 868 Member
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:

  • General
  • Logistics
  • Interview Questions
  • About the ECs
  • Interview Tips
  • Closing Advice


What’s the purpose of this guide?
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.


Interview How-To
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.

Interview Waiving
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.

Interview Day
-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. :)

Interview Questions

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
Post edited by Jimmy797 on

Replies to: MIT interview guide and discussion

  • MrWheezyMrWheezy Registered User Posts: 445 Member

    Stickie worthy! Helped a lot Thanks!
  • MITChrisMITChris College Rep Posts: 1,719 Senior Member

    When you interview at MIT, you should remember that the person reading the summary of the interview already knows everything from your application. So if your interview is just a rehash of the application, it doesn't provide us with more info.

    If your EC is only answering these questions, then don't interrupt or redirect your EC. However, you should have plenty of time and space and flexibility to elaborate upon your application or things you do not include within it.

    If your interview is just application 2.0, you're wasting your time and ours.
  • resilient193resilient193 Registered User Posts: 281 Junior Member
    @MITChris. If I really love doing something and has written extensively about it on the app. Do I just... not talk about it in the interview? That seems counterproductive. I thought the interview was meant to complement and reinforce the application?

    @Jimmy797, thanks for the effort. This is an informative guide
  • kryptonsa36kryptonsa36 Registered User Posts: 1,735 Senior Member
    If I really love doing something and has written extensively about it on the app. Do I just... not talk about it in the interview? That seems counterproductive. I thought the interview was meant to complement and reinforce the application?
    The interview is supposed to reinforce the application by giving the admissions office information about you that wasn't available in the written application. If you only reiterate what you wrote, then the EC's report won't do anything except convey that, yes, you DO do all the things you wrote about, but nothing more. The idea is that you should be sharing things about yourself that, by being new to your application, bolster it.

    That isn't to say you shouldn't elaborate on "old" things, though. If you want to talk about the details of an extracurricular (ECs often even ask for them!), for instance, then mentioning the specifics not covered in the application (such as what motivated you to get involved, what opportunities were afforded to you by participating in the extracurricular, etc.) is a good thing! There is always going to be something you had to leave out of your application that, if mentioned during the interview, would indeed complement what you wrote earlier.

    In short, make sure to give your EC something new to tell the admissions office.
  • lidushalidusha Registered User Posts: 1,273 Senior Member
    Some questions I got that you didn't mention, but which might be helpful to applicants (no idea how common they are, if they're common at all): "What makes you tick?"; "What are you most proud of?"; "Tell me about a time when you were disappointed"; and "Do you have any friends?/Tell me about your friends." The latter three kind of threw me off.

    The best advice for someone going into an interview, I think, is to just relax. It's a conversation and a chance to have fun--and get to know someone who likely got pretty far in life, probably wouldn't have been able to spend an hour with you otherwise, and has some interesting stories to tell.

    The night before, reread your application, looking for things you might have forgotten to mention, chat with your parents about your life story (you know, in case you forgot anything :p), and get a good night's sleep. Wear clothes that are comfortable but pretty so you feel confident. Eat a good lunch. Show up about 20 minutes early, quietly find the location of your interview (without your EC noticing), and take a walk with your MP3 player. Show up at your EC's office (or wherever you're meeting) exactly on time--not early, because your EC might have another interview/work to do/his own plans for the minutes before your interview; and not late, because that's just bad. Good luck.

    76% of accepted applicants chose to enroll at MIT. That's - if I'm not mistaken - tied with Harvard as the highest yield in the country.
    I thought the yield was around 64%?
    MIT’s highest yield was the class of 2011’s 69 percent.
    -The Tech
  • IndymattIndymatt Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    First off, I must say this was an outstanding guide to the interview process. I have just now started learning more on the whole "EC interview" section of the application and I have got to say this is by far the most helpful advice I have seen. I really appreciate the time you put into this thread to benefit others. Thanks!!

    Now that I have addressed that issue :P, on to other matters. I was curious as to whether the interview can help overlook part of the application. Currently I am faced with the situation that up until recently, by that I am referring to this year (my senior year), I have showed no "academic excellence" in that I did not take my Freshman through Junior year as serious as I have now come to wish I did. I was somewhat an "average" student, with regular A's and B's and the occasional C in a particularly "challenging" (not very hard, but a lot of effort required) class. Around the tail end of my Junior year I began realizing that my actions now will ultimately be the factors of what college I am accepted into. It was almost like a click, like a sudden realization that I needed to shift into gear. I decided to take the last few chances I had and grab as many accelerated classes (All AP possible, honors for rest) as I was permitted. Still, I was far behind the majority of classmates who had already been prepared for this time in their life. (usually parents reinforced this into their head as they grew up, in which mine did not) I am currently in AP Calculus BC which I think will help make me stand out from a lot of the crowds (only 17 kids in my school are currently taking this course). That, and I am pushing for a teacher recommendation from my calculus teacher, as that would look extremely well on my application (a recommendation from arguably the hardest class) a long with tie in with my major.

    With all that being said, I am more-so trying to get to the main question, which is: Will an excellent interview, with the EC contributing outstanding words on my behalf, help the admissions officer overlook the fact that I acted like a kid up until my senior year? A very close friend, who is already guaranteed (35 on ACT, 4.5 GPA, 11 on act writing) entry into Harvard, told me to try and stress to MIT that the potential student they will gain will not be the kid from my freshman-junior year, but will be the dedicated kid from my Senior year. I am trying to pack in as many feats as possible before the application deadlines to help better my chances, including founding/running the school's first Engineering club where I will use my parent's "connections" (friends) who are actual engineers to let us become sort of "interns" for a few days and have some hands on experience with real-life engineering. This will hopefully show leadership traits, pursuit of interests, and once again, a passion towards what I love. Back to the point, I am just worried that my goofing off the first few years, and maturing slower than the average kid (physically and, as I have now seen, mentally) will easily get me declined admission. However, if I am to be declined, I am working towards Vanderbilt (which is in-state and more possible) in which I will dedicate my time to maintain the highest gpa possible and re-apply to MIT every year. It isn't the MIT brand name I want for a job application, it is the knowledge and resources MIT has to offer..the level of education it offers...I want to obtain that intellect and become more than the average engineer.

    Anyways, my essay is over :)...Thanks again for the excellent guide!

    PS- Thanks in advance to anyone who wishes to help me in my situation. The whole issue has really got me down to a point I have never seen before..even people are noticing the difference. Hopefully I can get this resolved, cheer up, and dedicate the short time I have towards school.

    PSS- Also, to anyone who may know this, does previous experience in your future major, or any previous work (ie. average jobs), factor in to your acceptance? I have been unemployed since birth (besides non-payed labor on my own farm) and do not expect to stack on a job to my list of things to do to prepare for my application.
  • WLsilverWLsilver Registered User Posts: 113 Junior Member
    Excuse me Indymatt, but how is your close friend "guaranteed acceptance into Harvard"?
  • IndymattIndymatt Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    Well for one, his scores are pretty impressive (I mentioned some of them above). Second, I believe he has somewhat of a connection with a few people there, or at least his father does, and so I have a strong feeling they will already favor him. Also, like I said, his scores are ridiculously high...
  • debarghya9debarghya9 Registered User Posts: 615 Member
    Jimmy thanks for taking the time for posting such useful info. :)
  • kryptonsa36kryptonsa36 Registered User Posts: 1,735 Senior Member

    Scores like that are a dime a dozen among the pool of Harvard applicants. I think an often-quoted statistic is that 50% of 2400s are not accepted to Harvard. The actual percentage may or may not be in that ballpark, but it correctly conveys that scores are just about the last thing guaranteeing an acceptance letter from Harvard.
  • resilient193resilient193 Registered User Posts: 281 Junior Member
    50% of 2400s are not accepted to Harvard
    That also means 50% of 2400s get into Harvard, a much higher chance than 8%.
    But yea I agree, no one/thing can guarantee you Harvard. Perhaps maybe his dad donates in the 8 figures range.
  • Jimmy797Jimmy797 Registered User Posts: 868 Member
    To those asking about repeating something on the interview that you've already written in your application - I second what kryptonsa36 said. If you've already written about something in your essay, there's probably no use just telling your EC the same story again. If you want to talk about it with your EC or it's a good answer for a question that comes up, then sure, use it, but shed some light on it in a way that's different than your essay. Talk about a different side of the experience's effect on you.

    Upon re-reading my post, I noticed that there are some type-o's. Some glaring ones, in fact [yikes]. I'm not going to point them out in hopes that you guys didn't notice them, but forgive me if you did ;) Should've proofread a bit more - some are just like nothing I've ever done before. Wow.

    Thanks for the additions, they're definitely helpful and those questions are important in the context of my post. As for the yield - well, I remember looking at a chart a week or two back that showed all colleges' yields and acceptances and it had both MIT and Harvard at 76%. I can't find the chart, unfortunately, so I have nothing to back up my claim with, and your statistics seem likely and well-founded. They're probably the correct ones. If possible though, I'd love it if Chris could pitch in here.

    I'm not sure how the admissions officers will respond to your application, and several aspects of your application might seem unappealing to them in many ways, but you should know that you should apply anyway, if MIT is a college you really hope you'll get into. As I said in my first post, grades are extremely important, and if you lack them then MIT might see it as a lack of capability on your part, which would indicate that you're not fit for the difficult studies there. However, you should ask your teachers, the ones who are giving your recs, to try and emphasize the fact that you're taking things more seriously and didn't miss out on anything (or that you were able to catch up) by getting those grades before. This is, of course, if they agree. No single aspect of your application will help them 'overlook' it. Nothing will. Your grades are there and they look at them and consider them - a lot. But you can try and make up for it in the interview and recs :) But as for your interview - treat it normally. If you are what you say you are, it'll show. Don't worry about that.
    Small note: Have a teacher who knows you really well write your recommendation. It's always better than a teacher you don't know, no matter their status.
    Also, in case you are, don't try cramming too many extracurriculars into senior year. Take up one or two that you really want to and contribute as much as you can into them. MIT cares more about commitment than number. Just a heads up.

    I also have to agree that your friend is not guaranteed acceptance anywhere, let alone Harvard. Grades (no matter how 'ridiculously high' they are) are the last factor he should look at. Perhaps half the applicants to Harvard have those grades or better. It doesn't matter. You can tell more about whether or not he'll be accepted by looking at the other parts of the application. And relations with Harvard won't get him much advantage, either, unless his parents donate millions to them. That's practically the only guarantee anyone could ever get - if you have good grades and your parents donate a lot, you're probably in.

    A 2400 alone won't get you much. That 50% figure is kind of misleading in some ways. A 2400 would usually correlate with excellent school grades and a lot of initiative - which is to say, an excellent application. It's not really the score that nets you the 50% chance. But applicants with a 2400 are likely to have a higher chance - just not exclusively because of that one score. But even on its own, it does help you to some degree.
  • JobbinJobbin Registered User Posts: 204 Junior Member
    Is it okay if you contact your EC now but don't have the interview until a few months from now? When people say "contact your EC early", does that mean that the actual interview has to be early, or what?

    Also, for the email, should it just be like:

    Dear Mr./Ms./Mrs. _,

    My name is _, and I live in _, _. I'm interested in applying to MIT this year and would like to set up an interview, preferably _ (i.e. within a few weeks, in a couple months, etc.).

    Thank you,
  • molliebatmitmolliebatmit Registered User Posts: 12,374
    Your template is fine.

    I don't think it's necessary to contact your EC more than a few weeks before you'd like to have your interview. I just always remind people to contact their ECs early, because there's always a rush closer to the deadline, and it's most likely easier to schedule an interview earlier rather than later.
  • tmanneopentmanneopen Registered User Posts: 1,647 Senior Member
    Hmmm, so I just contacted my EC the other day and we're meeting this weekend. He likes to spend an hour with the student, and then an hour after with the parents. Has anyone else had an interview like this? Is this good, or bad, or indifferent? Should I worry about what my parents say and if they embarass me or something? haha
This discussion has been closed.