Did not get the best grades in junior year. Is it worth my energy to apply to MIT?

Okay so this isn’t your typical chance me post, which is why I won’t be giving too many details. I just want to know whether I should bother spending my time and energy on the MIT app despite my dip in grades…or whether, taking precedent into consideration, I will be screened off immediately

Pakistani Female
Intended Major(s): Either Physics/Electrical Engineering/Robotics

For context: I study in a British system with IGCSE/O levels and A levels. We do not have a GPA system. Rather Internal school exams (Mid term and a final) before we give our final board exam from Cambridge.

I got 12 A*s and 1 A in O level finals. However, with the pandemic and certain household problems the past 2 years, my grades have dipped in the first year of A levels (the second year of A levels is the equivalent to senior year of high school)

I take A level Physics, Chemistry, Math, Further Math, Computer Science and World History.

In my Mid terms i received 3 A*s, 1 A, 1B, 1C

In my finals I got 3 A*s, 3Bs

These are obviously less than perfect and considering the competitiveness of a school like MIT I’m doubtful whether I should spend my energy on this application and maybe focus on other schools?

I will be giving my SAT in August, plus I am confident my Mid term grades for senior year will be really good since my family issues have been sorted out.

For ECs, I have the passion/own initiative leadership thing all set plus some international competitions/awards and national ones too. I have the second top most position in the Student Council while also being the VP of the science society and founder of the robotics society. There is a chance I may land a research internship in one of the most prestigious unis of our country although that is not at all confirmed at this point. I am however working on my own research, though I doubt it will get published any time soon, especially with no mentor

I’ve also spent alot of time doing MUNs/organising National Competitions/tutoring, for free mostly/familial responsibilities/interning at NGOs/writing for my instagram writing account/doing media related projects

I have been offered a spot on the national team for the International Linguistics Olympiad and International Young Physicist Tournament but could not go due to financial restrictions. The same goes for summer programs. I am also working on my Makers portfolio for robotics although nothing too spectacular.

essentially as far as ECs go, I’ve taken up every opportunity I possibly could have within my financial/family background.
For letters of rec, I’m not expecting my teachers to say I was consistent, because I was not, but generally they view me as empathetic, kind, helpful, the most active in class participation, extremely curious, and always challenging ideas trying to get to the bottom of stuff.

So, do you think, keeping my grades in mind. I would be immediately screened off, or is there still a chance if I’m able to explain my struggles during the pandemic adequately.

I think it’s really a long shot. I would focus my energy elsewhere. You need to be perfect it really stand out in some way.I just don’t see it. And so what? There are other good tech schools. Why so focused on MIT?


For perspective, this year, MIT accepted 1.3% of all international students who applied. Unless you feel that your profile puts you at least in the top 1% of your high school, preferably the top 1% of your country, your chances are far below slim.

You won’t be “screened out immediately”, since that’s not how MIT reviews applications, but it is most likely that you will not be accepted. Apply if you are willing to put some effort into putting together an application, but your chances are very low, and even if your grades were all A*, your chances would be very low.

You may want to look at other schools, depending on your financial situation, but engineering is a very competitive major, and acceptance rates to engineering programs is very low across most colleges in the USA. If your family can afford to be full pay, there are a number of good choices in the USA.

Good luck, though!


Given how very low the odds are, I was tipping towards a ‘no’- but the place on the IOL team tipped it back the other way.

So, here’s my metric for you: are your official predictions for your final (cumulative) A-level marks all A*/A? If so, apply and have your recommender note the official predictions and (ideally) note that the A1 marks are interim, not final marks. MIT AOs should be well familiar enough with the A level system to understand. And, leave the family drama out of it- covid disruptions are sufficient explanation.

If your official A level predictions are not all A*/A only apply if your heart is really set on it.

One more thing: MIT is one of the most ‘fit’ schools out there- that is, it either really fits you - or it really, really does not, and admissions is pretty good at recognizing their own. I know they are famous, and need blind + meet full need for international students, which is a powerful combination, but if it’s not a good fit (which you can’t really know at this point) you really don’t want to be there. So if you apply and don’t get an offer, know that it is just as likely to be because they don’t see the fit as it is your A1 marks.

Finally, this:

You need to dig a little deeper to understand what MIT (or other US colleges you may be applying to) are looking for. Your list of things your teachers might write about you goes from the least important to the most-important. Go read the websites, admissions blogs, etc. And help your teachers write your LoRs by making a reminder sheet for them, with specific examples of their experience with you that demonstrate the characteristics you want to highlight.


And in general, the international students accepted at places like MIT are pretty exceptional in terms of ability even compared to MIT students from the USA. A large percentage of international students at MIT have won international awards, such as the IMO, plus have everything else right, including grades and recommendations.


How are your grades in math, “further math”, physics and computer science?

MIT is more likely to accept imperfection in other areas. The typical incoming MIT freshman is very, very strong in math and sciences. “There was not a single question on the math part of the SAT that was remotely challenging” might apply to quite a few MIT freshmen.

Also, @collegemom is entirely correct that “fit” is very important for MIT. Why do you want to attend MIT?

Attending the incoming reception for international students at MIT is somewhat intimidating. “How did I get accepted here” is one thing that came to mind when I did it.

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