Applying after dropping out and 10 years of work?

Hello all! I’m not sure if undergrad is even the right program to apply to, but I’m looking to apply for a dual degree in physics and biochem. I’m not sure if this is possible. I went to UIUC for materials science class of 2014 but dropped out in 2012 to pursue a career in software. Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work hard with great people and eventually start a company and have a lot of career success. My plan is to get technical in atoms and molecules and then start more companies in hard sciences and manufacturing.

Has anyone else been in this situation? Does MIT accept people like me? My GPA was fine but not stellar in college (3.2 and A’s in all technical classes). APs were all 5’s. 33 ACT. Would hope my career overshadows that, but honestly I have no idea.

I will sign off with a YT clip of how I’m sure this next chapter of my life will go. :joy:

Have you seen the MIT open courses?

Sounds like you might be a teturning student?? Perhaps continuing professional education would be a better fit?


You may want to check if UIUC will readmit you as a returning student so that you can complete your degree there. Often, readmission to your former college is less difficult than getting admitted as a new transfer student to a different college, if you left in good academic standing.


In all honesty, why? You seem to be extremely successful as you are, so in what way do you think that having an MIT degree would help you? If you feel that you need that piece of paper, why MIT? With your background and experience, even if you have the need for a degree, you don’t need an MIT degree. Any good college will do.

As for admissions to MIT or other similar colleges - it’s difficult to figure out whether it’s worth your time. On one hand, you are non-traditional, and your college GPA, while pretty solid, is not stellar. On the other hand, you have a good story - you have a decade of experience in the world, and a good amount of success.

My feel is that MIT is likely not the best place, since they tend to be more traditional, and tend to use more traditional factors for admissions. Their acceptance rate for transfers is 3%, and maybe 1% of their undergraduates are ages 25 or older.

Also, like that video, do you really think that you would enjoy hanging out with a bunch of 20 year old kids, with zero real life experience? Can you imagine having the arguments with professors who have less experience than you do about how things work in real life? I think that you’d be much more comfortable in a college with more people of your age and of your work experience.

As a rule, the more selective a college is, the less likely they are to accept an older returning students.

This is also a very good idea, especially since UIUC is a top college for engineering

In any case, good luck! I’m sure that you’ll do well wherever you end up.


Here is general list of schools with non-traditional student programs. I’ve also listed the websites page from Yale and Brown that have been discussed on CC. They would offer you the opportunity to be with other non-traditional students. I’d encourage you to discuss your options with a MIT admissions officer as they may find your situation compelling.

Good luck with your plans!


Thank you all! This is really helpful information. I’ll go ahead and see if I can get in touch with an admissions counselor and check out other nontraditional programs as well.

To answer question about “why”, it really comes down to me wanting to be technical in everything I do, and for subjects like physics, biochem, materials, having access to labs and research is a big unlock (esp. since the equipment is expensive). Being in an environment where everyone is thinking and learning about the same things has significant advantages as well. I could go out, learn from my network, raise money and move on to my next company, but I don’t think I’d have the solid grounding to seamlessly think about the technical problems from first principles. It has very little to do with the degree itself.

I don’t really think I’ll be learning about life or hanging out with 20-something year olds after school (although I’ve been surprised at what I’ve been able to learn from people of all ages in life). Reason for MIT and not UIUC is because of location. My sister and parents live near Boston, and it would be nice to be close by for a bit. I’m also considering Columbia and Stanford because of location-meets-dating. Practical reason for a brand name school is because honestly the story matters when raising money. I’ll find myself on the other end of this degree likely having to raise $100m+, which is something I’ve done before so I know it’s a game of “every green flag counts”.

Thank you again. :pray:t5:


Yep I’ve actually watched the full biochemistry, physics, and intro to aero courses from OCW! When I was in high school, OCW was a God send since my school wasn’t the most well off or academically rigorous (read: middle of nowhere town with few resources).

I’m not a VC, private equity or anything else - but in everything I read, previous success begets previous success - including people who never went to college.

I get the brand name thing - but not everyone from a brand name has the capability to raise money.

But I would assume someone like yourself has the capability - even if you were a HS drop out - based on past success. I would assume, maybe incorrectly, you are beyond the point of needing school - that your brand is your past success.

I’m no expert - I just make that assumption from what I read in Forbes, Barrons, etc.

I understand why you are going to school as you’ve explained that - but I just wonder if the school brand is - that important in your case as I think you are the brand.

You already have a rolodex of sorts - to the point where you could maybe be an adjunct at the school you attend.

Just curious about that - your thoughts. I get it - if you can get into Harvard/MIT/Stanford then great and perhaps your resume gets you in. But what if you don’t and you want to be near Boston - why not another school - even if it’s a far lesser name - even below a BU/NEU/Brandeis - like a UMASS Lowell, etc. Wouldn’t the strength of you carry you over?

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As others have mentioned, your experience and personal brand may be likely to overshadow wherever you choose to complete your studies (as your success has already shown).

That said, however, I don’t see that you should be prevented from attending college just because you’ve had success without it. :slight_smile:

How much college are you wanting to have? Since it’s been 10 years since your college classes, your classes may not necessarily transfer, or all of them may not transfer. Some colleges do offer credit for life experience, which could shorten the time spent in college. Also, public schools are probably more likely to accept your transfer credits from UIUC as well.

For the geographic parameters you’ve set out, these are some of the schools I’d look into more closely that seem to have strengths in your areas of interest (with size of the major used as a proxy for strength):

Boston Area

  • Northeastern: Offers credit for life experience; 1% of undergrads are age 25+
  • U. of Massachusetts - Boston: Offers credit for life experience; 19% of undergrads are age 25+
  • (I excluded Tufts because its non-traditional student program requires that an applicant have taken at least two classes in the last five years)

New York Area

  • CUNY City College: Offers credit for life experience; 19% of undergrads are age 25+
  • NYU: Offers credit for life experience; 4% of undergrads are age 25+
  • Rutgers: 6% of undergrads are age 25+
  • New Jersey Institute of Technology: 14% of undergrads are age 25+

Silicon Valley Area

  • San Jose State: Offers credit for life experience; 17% of undergrads are age 25+
  • UC Berkeley: 5% of undergrads are age 25+

Following up here - I just found out I got into Columbia! :tada:

It seemed like folks in this thread might be interested to add another data point from a nontraditional student applying to traditional schools so thought I’d follow up.

I’m waiting on MIT’s decision in May - will follow up here when I get my decision.


That is marvelous!! Congrats!!:tada::raised_hands:


Hi Vhiremath4:
This is great to hear. Congratulations.

On a related note, MIT has been known to accept non-traditional students. I don’t know how often it’s done, but a few years back I got into MIT 7 years after graduating from high school.

All the best.

Awesome thanks for the insight! I guess we’ll see in May :crossed_fingers:t5:

Update on MIT - rejected! Good luck to everyone else applying - heading to Columbia next fall (deferred 1 year). :rocket:


OP congratulations!! Great outcome and certainly well deserved.

Up thread you were very clear on why you had narrowed your targets to elite schools.

Some posters admitted they are no experts but seemed to refute repeatedly your opinion and experience that every box to be checked mattered when capital raising. They were insistent that going to a “brand name” school didn’t matter.

My kid is also an entrepreneur that has raised significant amounts of investment capital. He describes a process (seemingly as you refer too) in which where you went to school, which incubators you completed, which innovation awards you won, who your advisors and investors are, past ventures success, etc all matters as part of a narrative that is highly scrutinized and interconnected. The nexus for a lot of this starts with where you went to school as many entrepreneurs access angel investments through either the schools venture funds, alumni network or prize money. This is particularly the case for schools that have dedicated entrepreneurship departments and networks, feed into incubators and have a strong alumni presence in the VC space.

Not sure if your observations are similar with the aforementioned? Seems to be a persistent theme on CC that prestige doesn’t matter. While we all recognize people can be successful from any and all backgrounds, in the fund raising side of entrepreneurship it seems that attending elite schools does provide a benefit, boost and access.

I would ask you for the benefit of future readers to expand upon your experience (and correct me if I am wrong) and most importantly good luck at Columbia.


Thank you. :pray:t5:

At the end of the day, fundraising is a sale. People are taking a bet on you in the hopes that you will create an outsized return on their capital.

There are a lot of factors that play into this, but others in this thread are probably correct that brand name (at this particular point in my career) wouldn’t make or break my ability to raise capital. That said, I do think going to an less prestigious school would be a detriment to me raising capital vs. just going straight to raising capital and learning on my own off the fact that I’ve already started a successful company.

The largest bright spot for me raising money at this point is that I’ve done a lot of it successfully and have already built a valuable business. The largest unknown/detractor for investors would be me moving into a new field that is meaningfully more complex than software, which is where the narrative of “went to X prestigious school and studied” would certainly help but likely not be an absolute requirement. If I hadn’t started a successful company already, I would say the bigger requirement would be me working in the field as a MechE, Bioengineer, etc.

Hope that helps! There are many other factors I didn’t touch on but play a large role (market conditions, relative cost of capital, competitors, etc.).



Were you applying as a graduate student?

Or as a transfer student?

Congratulations to you! I wish you the very best.

I’m had to figure out that you were applying as a transfer student. For others reading this…this is not a freshman first time applicant. I say that because a freshman first time applicant would not have been accepted to Columbia in March…and wait for MIT until May!

Columbia is great! Looking forward to hearing about your success there!