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Advise Needed to get into MIT

dansmomkardansmomkar Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
edited September 2005 in Parents Forum
I have a HS Freshman who wants to go to MIT. Any advice I can get on how to get him prepared would be great! He's great in math and science but I know it takes more to get in than that.

Post edited by dansmomkar on

Replies to: Advise Needed to get into MIT

  • mootmommootmom Registered User Posts: 4,162 Senior Member
    Wonderful to hear that a freshman already is excited about MIT! For now, he should go back to just being a HS freshman, getting involved in things he feels passionate about, and challenging himself to do his best in the most challenging curriculum available to him. That's probably plenty for now! But.

    If you want further insight into how things go at MIT, you can do some reading. First, review the Common Data Sets for MIT to see the statistics for the past few years, and realize that even for the most impressive and qualified applicants, there is no guarantee with MIT. It is never ever ever a sure thing. Next, read the MIT board here to get perspective of current students, applicants, and recent admittees. Next, read the blogs of the admissions -- staff, the director of minority recruiting, and the director of financial aid. Also, read the student blogs (which you can see links to from the right-hand side of Matt's blog) to get a taste of how things are. All of these primary sources, and some of the info on the CC MIT board, will be helpful in getting a sense of what it took/takes to get into MIT. There is no "formula": an applicant usually has to meet some minimum standards to be considered, but after that the admissions staff looks at each applicant in their own context. They usually look for involvement and interest and aptitude in math and science (it *is* an "institvte of TECHNOLOGY" after all), but they also look for evidence of the student having developed a passion and going after it. Not a laundry list of activities, but something meaningful that the student has pursued, usually outside of just excellence in classes.

    That said, it's early. A freshman has several more years before the application process is in full swing, and much will change in those years. While I would never discourage someone from having a dream of attending MIT and striving to fulfill that dream, I would suggest you encourage your son not to become fixated on MIT alone. Encourage him to live his life and follow his passions, not design his HS career around what would look good to certain colleges.

    MIT is never a sure thing: it's a reach for *everyone*. Help your son follow his interests in HS, and a successful college experience will surely follow. Wherever he ends up.
  • maritemarite Registered User Posts: 21,586 Senior Member
    I second everything Mootmom says. My S has many friends in or about to be in MIT. They all took rigorous math and science courses
    All took AP-Calc by junior year and thus multivariable calculus and linear algebra in their senior year, as well as the APs in chemistry, biology and physics. The important thing, though, is that they were all heavily involved in math/science extra-curricular activities. Some of these are math nerds: three of them have attended the same math camp. Some are engineering types, former captains of the science team, heavily involved in building stuff (remote oceanic vehicle; Rube Goldberg contraptions, etc...).
    Instead of focusing on the application to MIT, therefore, it would be best to focus on the preparation, both academic and extra-curricular. If he loves math and science, he'll have fun.
  • mootmommootmom Registered User Posts: 4,162 Senior Member
    And some of the students I know who were admitted this year are *not* math/science "nerds" in all their extra-curriculars -- some of their passions were in very different areas (weight-lifting, digital storytelling, trains, ballet...). Also robotics, but that's kind of science-nerdy ;) even though these folks are nowhere near "nerds". But they were all strong in the sciences and math areas in addition to their other passions.
  • andiandi Registered User Posts: 1,600 Senior Member
    I second mootmom re students not necessarily being math/science nerds in all their ec's. MIT has an excellent music program with involvement by undergrads and grad students alike.

    Also, most of the kids at our school who were accepted didn't take AP Calc until senior year.
  • dmd77dmd77 Registered User Posts: 8,663 Senior Member
    I have to ask: why does your son want to go to MIT? What does he think he knows about it? Does he think it's a good school that will help him get rich, or does he long to do engineering?
  • WS17WS17 Registered User Posts: 663 Member
    Have him "invent or create" something between now and SR year... their application will ask for an optional essay describing it. Optional is never really optional. Have him get a job in a research lab over a summer (preferably at MIT) - this is typical of the other applicants.

    Although MIT publicly says this is not the case, being a captain of a varsity sport or being All-league in a varsity sport also helps.

    When the time comes, prep like mad for SATs.

    Apply EA.
    mootmom wrote:
    I would suggest you encourage your son not to become fixated on MIT alone.
    Heed this advice. MIT is never a safety for anyone. If you invesitgate other schools with good reputations in the area of interest, you'll find you can get an excellent education at many places, including CalTech, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, Rose-Hulman, Harvey Mudd, UC Berkeley, Rice, and UIllinois.
  • tokenadulttokenadult Registered User Posts: 17,471 Senior Member
    DEFINITELY you should remember that MIT admission is hardly a sure thing for anyone. ALWAYS have a plan B. In our town, my son is in a math program that produces, according to a director of the program, 70 percent of all the MIT admittees from our state each year. BUT many strong students in that program apply to MIT but still don't get in. It's scary how competitive MIT admission is. In recent years, it does appear that significant sports involvement is much more appealing to the MIT admissions officers than it used to be, although there are still classic nerds with no sports involvement who get in if they are superstars in some academic pursuit.

    The most important advice for any applicant is dare to be yourself. Don't try to reshape your whole childhood just to please the admission officers at one college. That said, the other replies in this thread have given good advice about what kinds of activities and academic pursuits typify successful MIT applicants in recent years. Have a plan B for your child to apply to other schools with strong programs in your child's area of interest, and fill out the MIT application carefully, spending special care on the application essays. Read Matt McGann's blog a lot. Read the MIT Forum here on CC a lot. Go to an MIT information session this year if at all possible. And enjoy life as a high schooler and don't obsess about getting into MIT or any other school.

    Good luck. My son may want to follow yours in applying to MIT a year or so later.
  • azephyrazephyr Registered User Posts: 46 Junior Member
    "Optional is never really optional."

    I disagree. Two of my daughters are at MIT and love it. The oldest never filled out the optional essay part. She didn't know what to write!

    I think the best advice (stated more eloquently by the other posters on this thread!) is ... be yourself. Then there is a greater chance of attending the school that fits. It seems to me that MIT admissions people do an excellent job of trying to see the person behind all the words and statistics.

    That being said, good luck to you and your son!
  • SpikerSpiker Registered User Posts: 393 Junior Member
    Another question is does your son (or you, vicariously) want to to "attend MIT" because MIT is a vision, a concept? .....or does your son truly want to do the work that people at MIT do? If it is the latter, the range of work varies widely from new media, to emerging arts, to architecture, to engineering, to urban planning. I'd suggest he investigate what broad areas he is most intrigued by and start learning everything he can about that field. (also many of these fields are well represented in other top flight universities if MIT is not the right fit) Once he has honed in on a couple of areas he should do the typical visits, high school outreach programs, competitions etc. but he should also start corresponding with a researcher or faculty member whose work he is interested in by email or letter, discuss their work, ask questions, make friends, visit them at MIT and try to develop a personal connection. He might develop an advocate this way...and he might really learn a lot ...
  • 1moremom1moremom Registered User Posts: 3,960 Senior Member
    I would also encourage your son not to get too fixated on MIT. Though he never said as much, I am sure my son also "wanted to go to MIT" when he was a freshman (and sophomore and junior). He is a strong math student; his father is an MIT grad and his uncle taught there. The summer after his junior year he participated in a summer program that got him thinking hard about other options. Make sure your son does the same. In the end, my son was accepted at MIT, but chose to go elsewhere.
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