Chance me into getting into MIT—background but not enough stats? [linguistics and languages, 3.71, 1380, MD resident, story]

Nigerian American

US domestic - US citizen



Male/ African American/ Nigerian

Adopted, first generation American, first to attend college (I mean technically??, was only recently adopted this year and I still connect with my biological family so)

Major: linguistics

UW 3.71
W 4.11
Class Rank: N/A

SAT: 1380 , 730 Math and 650 ERW


freshman year (was fostered at DC and went to a feeder school)
Honors English

Sophomore year (moved to MD)
Honors trig/maths analysis
Honors English 11
Honors US government
Advanced orchestra (worth 1 whole pt like an ap)
Honors Spanish 3
AP Music theory
(Dual enrollment French 3 (highest they offered) and Calculus 1 (passed with D’s, was bad due to family/legal circumstances :frowning: )

Junior Summer
NSA sponsored Chinese language course dual enrollment with an A

Junior year
AP English Lang
Ap Microeconomics
AP Physics C: Mechanics
Advanced Chem (but plan to take AP exam)
AP Spanish Lang
Advanced Orchestra
AP Calculus AB (but plan to take the BC exam)

(Dual enrollment: Music performance class with director of the department and NSA sponsored language thingy—may be able to get an internship!!!)

exams without the course junior year
AP Chinese Lang
AP Japanese Lang
AP Chemistry
AP Calc BC

LARGE amount of community service hours via tutoring math to ESOL students / tutoring at local middle school’s music program

Honor Societies:
Spanish Honor Society
National Honor Society
Tri-M Mysic Honor Society

Participated in:
International Linguistic Olympiad (2years)
AMC 10/12 (2 years)
A couple of local music and writing competitions won!

Honor Societies:
Spanish Honor Society
National Honor Society
Tri-M Music Honor Society

School mascot
Math team captain
Model UN
Mathematics tutor and translator in Spanish
Sexuality and Gender Alliance translator in Spanish

LORs should be good I believe, quite personable imo.


I’m not the clearest of writers. But I definitely have a LOT of material to work with (see hooks)

Government aid and qualify for financial need

Boston College

In order of most wanted for their program to least, I didn’t put Dartmouth too high because I just never got the chance to visit the campus and Brown under BC because I enjoyed the DP Syntax and semantics course I got to attend and Brown just didn’t spark as much interest to attending than BC.

An other recommendations would be good to add to list of considering for linguistics ! Keeping only reaches here as safeties are a different thing I’m not too into sharing at the moment.


Minority with a story:
Freshman year I was in the hospital for second semester due to mental health and family issues for over THREE MONTHS :unamused:(resulting in me having a crushing 4.0 to a deadly 2.88 :sob:); family ditched me to the foster care system :pensive: then got housed with the best family in the world (previously known), delt with family deaths and depression second semester of sophomore year (hence the bad dual enrollment scores, but all a’s in hs that year!); finally adopted, in therapy and trying to move on junior year :slight_smile:

Faced homelessness, group housing until a year ago and I think I still turned out alright :slight_smile:

I plan on applying for QuestBridge so any helpful app hints would be amazing! I really think QB is my only shot at MIT and any of these reaches :sob:

I talked with counselor and they can help with explaining in my behalf concerns due to grades this year being A/B average and end if sophomore year due to custody battles and a whole lot of wounds reopening as they did a whole investigation and I had to go through hours of interrogations—I don’t want to waste an essay where I’m jumping needles to not throw a pity party and get a flat rejection so I asked my counselor for help lol

Planning to retake SAT, really wanting a 780+ and 730+ ERW

I think a friend summed it up kinda well, I have the back story but gosh darn it I just really need those stats Щ(º̩̩́Дº̩̩̀щ)—but idk

Plan to do Matchlighters program this coming May, is it worth it?

Tagging linguistics professor @dfbdfb who may be able to provide guidance to this aspiring linguistics student.


You have done incredibly well with the background you have and you should be proud of your achievements. That said, all of your reach schools are very unlikely. As you know, your stats are just not at the level that you need for those schools. I hope you have a list of match and safety schools that you just haven’t bothered to include here.

FYI: a hook is something that a school needs like a recruited athlete or a child of a wealthy donor. Having a challenging life is not a hook. You do have hooks of being URM and first gen, but not all schools consider those. IMO those are not big enough hooks to overcome your stats.


Sounds like you sure did turn out okay, despite severe troubles. Doubtful for MIT, but not impossible. The anticipated Supreme Court decision may decrease your chances, but who knows if it will come out in time to affect admissions for next fall.

You might consider adding Harvard to your list, because of strong linguistics. It’s just as much of a long shot as MIT, but they might take your music achievement more into account than MIT would.

If you really want linguistics and foreign language, especially defense-sensitive ones, you must look at UMass Amherst. I think it’s a low match, or even maybe a safety for you. It’s arguably the top linguistics undergrad program in the nation, has lots of excellent foreign languages too. They might give you honors college and up to 16K in merit; don’t know whether you would get fin aid, but if you were legally adopted, the finances of your adoptive family would be looked at, not of your biological family. Also, in some states, if you were adopted from foster care, especially as a teen, the state promises to pay for college for you, to encourage adoptive families to legally adopt. Speak with your social worker from the State. Also, make sure you apply to U Md, which has very good linguistics, and is your in-state safety. U Arizona has good linguistics, will probably give you a lot of merit money. U Mich Ann Arbor has good linguistics, too, might be a reach for you, but a lesser reach than some of the others on your list.

If you are more foreign language than linguistics oriented, consider adding Middlebury. Also maybe Amherst college - you get the best of both worlds, small prestigious LAC with great funding, plus can take linguistics at UMass, 1 mile away.

Penn has excellent linguistics and excellent foreign languages, and is closer to home. UC Berkeley and UCLA both have excellent linguistics, to a lesser extent UCSD, but no fin aid for out of state, plus I don’t think they’ll take a “holistic” view of your application, which makes acceptance unlikely there.

Take a look at this world ranking for linguistics:

I’m not sure that Brown or Dartmouth are the right places for you, what with your linguistics and foreign language interests.


Do you have a sense of what kind of linguistics you want to do? Like computational linguistics would make me think Stanford or MIT, whereas something like linguistic anthropology would make me think UC Berkeley whereas something more foreign-language focused would make me think Middlebury. So this is something to consider about as well. Not all linguistics programs will have an equal distribution of subspecializations.


Strong candidate for Questbridge. I expect you will be matched with a reach school easily


I also suspect that you will be a strong candidate for Questbridge, and also that it is your best chance at getting into (and affording) the schools on your list.

Although you don’t want to talk about safeties, I want to make sure you’re aware of this program for which I believe you are eligible which covers tuition & fees at public universities in Maryland.

U. of Maryland - College Park is the only Maryland public with a major in linguistics, but if offers through a PhD in it, so there’s obviously lots of depth there. I would urge you in the strongest of terms to include an app there.


These are the QuestBridge college partners that offer majors in all of these majors (selected based on the AP exams you’re taking this year):

  • Linguistics
  • Chinese Language and Literature
  • Japanese Language and Literature
  • Spanish Language and Literature

Granted, perhaps a university classified their program as Applied Linguistics or Chinese Studies, but for a first pass, I thought this might be helpful as you think about possibilities within QuestBridge. (By the way, I just checked various iterations of linguistics in College Navigator, and no other QuestBridge partners pulled up.)

  • Boston U. (MA): About 18k undergrads in…you guessed it…Boston

  • Carleton (MN): About 2k undergrads about 45m from Minneapolis

  • Dartmouth (NH): About 4600 undergrads in rural New Hampshire, about 2h from Boston

  • Emory (GA): About 7100 undergrads in Atlanta

  • Macalester (MN): About 2200 undergrads in the Twin Cities

  • Pomona (CA): About 1700 undergrads (in a close consortium of about 5k undergrads) about an hour from Los Angeles

  • Stanford (CA) – About 7600 undergrads about an hour outside of San Francisco

  • Swarthmore (PA ) – About 1700 undergrads just outside of Philadelphia

  • Washington U. (MO) – About 8k undergrads in St. Louis

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For MIT, the median score for the math part of the SAT is 790. The 25th percentile is 780. There are students at MIT who found that there was not even one single question that was remotely challenging on the math part of the SAT. They (formerly we) still find MIT to be academically very challenging.

You will want to retake calculus in university regardless of where you end up attending. Calculus is useful for quite a few other classes. I have also used it multiple times on a job.

Back when I was an undergraduate student at MIT, I do not recall talking to anyone who admitted to anything other than A’s and A+'s in high school math classes. I still remember the one high school math class where I barely got the + sign after my A. I still found math and science classes at MIT to be very challenging.

You have overcome a great deal. I think that you are going to do very well in university. I do not think that MIT is a good fit for you for your bachelor’s degree.

Also, congratulations on being adopted by a great family. This part is really important. I have a relatively close relative who was adopted by a great family and who always speaks very warmly of her (adoptive) mother and father and (also adopted) brother. Because she lives in Canada, at some point she got to exchange mail with her birth mother, who she warmly thanked for putting her up for adoption because it allowed her to find such a great family.


If you’re interested in linguistics, what kind of linguistics do you want to do? Because if you’re interested in theoretical linguistics, cognitive science approaches, or child language acquisition, the University of Maryland College Park is very strong, and both easier to get into and (in most cases) cheaper for a Maryland resident than the ones you list.

(And if you’re interested in other parts of linguistics and going on to grad school, I’ll just mention that your undergrad focus isn’t determinative—my undergrad was at Maryland in the late 80s/early 90s and therefore theory, theory, and nothing but theory, but I’ve made a career in academia in sociolinguistics, having learned of other subfields in grad school.)

And if you’re interested in applied linguistics, you should strongly consider the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Not as well-known a university, but a really solid program.

Which leads me to: If you’re interested in a particular field and you’re interested in it enough to figure there’s a really solid chance you’re going to stay in it, don’t focus on the perceived strengths of institutions, focus on the (IMO much more meaningful) strengths of programs.


The OP is retaking calculus as AP calculus AB in high school.

Definitely into the computational side of things, but more options to consider is better than none!!!

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Questbridge to Stanford might be a worth a shot at a very attractive option

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Isnt questbridge income based? Since he has been adopted, wouldnt his new parents income be taken into account?

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We noticed that too! Though the new income doesn’t exactly fit into the “recommended” income range I’m thinking—or rather, hoping—my essays help create a more whole picture of my life and circumstances m. I really do think QB is my best shot for these kinds of institutions. And in all honesty, we don’t have money for any kind of schooling because our family never got the opportunity to save up for college as they weren’t expecting me to hope into their lives so suddenly! :slight_smile: QB isn’t the only option, but it would really really REALLY be amazing if I could get a match with them!

Thank you so much! I’ve been looking at Stanford and got to talk with one of the professors at their linguistics program and it would be an amazing option! I do remember he gave me his email so I’ll have to send an email to him soon!

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Northeastern U could be worth a look. In addition to the straight Linguistics BS, they offer a number of combined majors including CS+Linguistics, and Data Science + Linguistics. They’re also very flexible with major changes, which is to say that you could apply to the regular linguistics major and still be able to pivot to a combined major once there. Linguistics < Northeastern University FWIW, NEU’s President is a linguistics prof.

URochester has a Computational Linguistics track within their Lingustics major: Major Requirements : Undergraduate Program : Department of Linguistics : University of Rochester They meet need and could be a good fit. Your high-level music EC’s would appeal to them; even though Eastman School of Music has a separate campus, the main UR campus has very strong performing arts as well.

(ETA: not to ignore the “chancing” question - I just have nothing to add on that front - you know the ultra-reach schools are a long shot. There’s no harm in trying, but you definitely need some lower-reach and match schools that you can be excited about as well. Hopefully UMD is a safety for you, since you won’t be applying to a highly-impacted major like CS.)


Yes! And by the looks of this year I should be have an A in the course! I know it wasn’t the best path, but I think at least having the new A now can show some sort of “growth” or something thereof. Plus, I think the A can start helping to reaffirm that the situations/circumstances really did have an affect on my performance rather than just some vague allusion of an excuse—again I’ve talked with my counselor and he’s agreed to write more about last year/this year in particular so I don’t waste essays trying to jump the bombshell of a self-pity portrait.

Thank you so much for this!! I’ve been really inclined towards linguistics around a computational focus—I only ask for variety because I do have interests in other fields of the field (namely sociolinguistics and language acquisitions) and I’d rather looking and discovering the option than never seeing it in the first place. Regardless thank you so much because this is a key focus to remind myself of!!!


Thanks so much!! I do plan on retaking the SAT as the first time was not the best preparation I could have ever done haha! Also I most definitely plan to retake calculus, the first time is never the same as the second time you take a class!

Shortened version:
I am aware that naturally by MIT’s standards I’m not the most hunted for applicant, but call me crazy there is still a 1 in a million chance… that is if I can get my SAT situation fixed at minimum.

original (I was on the bus and rather than play Tetris this peaked my interests):

My main thing to offer is my resilience. I never got to go to any schooling until around the 3rd grade—well I was actually aged for the 4th but due to my language and education deficiency I was put in the 3rd—from then I knew I was pretty much guaranteed to be the slower kid in the back of the room who the teachers gave a worried glance to during state testing. I don’t know what clicked, I never had a tutor, my mother was paranoid the school would catch on finally to how awful my living conditions were, and all the adults around me kept speaking to me knowing dang well I only understood 25% of what they were saying. I don’t know but I refused to be limited to some weird presumption that I wasn’t going to make it. Only until I had spent hours at night and day reading, practicing, learning did I then learn there was a world outside of a motel 6 hotel. I don’t know why but that made me want to change the world… isn’t just evil that it is actually possible for hundreds of kids to not know if a world outside of a hotel exists… and even in the land of the free?

I had been talking to my music teacher and we were discussing schools and how his teacher taught him that the main three markers for your match were: location, student community, and the actual learning. I think the only reason why I’m applying is because for some reason when I visited their campus it clicked perfectly in synch with what I wanted for education—and the most important part, helping people. Now I haven’t gone there as a student, and sites such as Quora really aren’t a solid determiner of whether or not I’ll like/thrive at the school. I don’t know, I just want to apply. The last thing I want is to regret not taking the shot, and -$75 isn’t comparable for a chance at MIT—again, not really special, but I like being a little delusional! :smiley: