Only Superman Get to go to MIT?

<p>OK, this is just between us adults. The kids on this forum are great, but they lack a certain amount of perspective.</p>

<p>I've been helping my son look into colleges. He's a really smart kid who was born to be an engineer or scientist. All his numbers are good, etc. His grades are NOT 4.0. </p>

<p>Reading what the kids post, it sounds like you have to have a 2350+ SAT, 4.0uw GPA, write like Shakespeare, and have completed at least 12 AP classes to have a 50/50 shot of getting into MIT, CalTech, Carnegie Mellon, or any of the other top engineering schools.</p>

<p>Are the kids just caught up in compulsive over-achieving and Type A hoop-jumping behavior, or am I just fairly clueless? There is no doubt that most colleges publically say "we look for the best students, not just the ones with the best numbers." Are the colleges lying to us?</p>

<p>I would love to hear from anyone with some perspective on this. If you are under 25, I encourage you to mention that fact if you post on this thread. It's nice to know who's a parent and who is "age challenged." Thanks!</p>

<p>I'll let you know how it turns out. Mathson has 2240SATs, less than 4.0 unweighted, 8 APs plus one post AP course and pretty good experience in computer science (paid freelance work, and one program that's been acknowledged in a couple of scientific journals), but no Intel and consistent Bs in English. He dropped our science research program like a hot potato, he doesn't do sports, he has two academic ECs (some 4th place State finishes in Science Olympiad), but nothing out of this world. He refused to join NHS as it was hoop jumping behavior - even though he put in a ton of volunteer hours this summer. I still think he has a decent shot. He's applying to all the schools you mentioned.</p>

<p>I don't think colleges are lying to us, but I suspect the kids with lower scores and grades have something else that shines through in their applications. If you're dealing with an engineering-doesn't-like to-writ-type - I fear it may not come through, but maybe it will. Good luck to your son!</p>

<p>Well, here's a little data from one school (my S's hs) on admissions results for 3 kids who applied to MIT (uwGPA, wGPA, SATv, SATm):
accept 95.62 120.52 680 780
denied 95.68 122.43 800 800
denied 93.52 117.73 640 780
And here's another tidbit: Stanford has published stats for recent years showing that 50% of applicants with 800/800 SATs were rejected. Stanford's not on your list, but I venture to guess that the situation is similar for at least MIT and CalTech.</p>

<p>So, if you are framing the question as whether even kids with "super stats" have only a 50/50 chance of acceptance, you are probably correct.</p>

<p>And if you are asking whether you have to be a superstar to have a 50/50 chance of acceptance, you are probably still correct. Because very few applicants have that 50/50 chance. Most have more like a 1 in 8 or 1 in 10 or 1 in 6 chance, depending on the school.</p>

<p>But they are not all super human. And the acceptances are not all the ones with the best numbers - if numbers told the whole story, these schools would not be rejecting the 800/800 kids. And they would not have 25-75% SATmath ranges of 680-760 (CMellon) or 740-800(MIT), meaning 25% of the class had SATs below 680 or 740.</p>

<p>I think it is a wise coping mechanism to <em>never</em> read the threads where kids post their stats. Some people believe that some kids inflate their stats on cc; I don't know. But what is the point?</p>

<p>If your kid is really smart, born to be a techie and can convey that in his application, he probably has a decent chance at these reach-y schools. Of course, he needs to get excited about some excellent engineering schools with higher acceptance rates as well, for his match and safety schools. At those schools, he will have very good chances (50/50 or better). </p>

<p><em>I have not been under 25 since sometime in the 1970's :D</em></p>

<p>Rick Tyler, this gem of a post by Ben Jones, an admissions officer at MIT, is required reading. </p>

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<p>Rick, my son was accepted early to both MIT & Caltech(he's a freshman at Caltech now). briefly - GPA 3.8, SAT 2190 with 800's on both SAT II's. He'd done 2 AP classes (all but one of the AP's offered at his very small high school - a graduating class of 20). He did have advanced math at UC Berkeley (1 class in progress at the time he received his acceptances, 2 the next semester but they didn't appear on his application). What he did to get in? my guess is he demonstrated his passion for mathematics: 2 summer math programs & participation in a math circle & on a math team (made up of kids who didn't have math teams at their Bay Area high schools). & no he doesn't write like Shakespeare.<br>
I think the MIT admissions folks are wonderful & are telling the truth. They look for fit, not just the numbers.<br>
We'd had an experience of applying for private high schools in the bay area when my son was in the 8th grade & my son was not accepted at his dream schools but in the end the high school he attended was a perfect fit for him (even though they didn't do math beyond calculus AB - he found math elsewhere). He took that lesson with him into the college application process. Even if he didn't get into his dream school, he knew where he got in would be right for him.<br>
Like the previous poster said, if you kid is bright, born to be a techie and can convey that in his application, he has a decent chance at these "reach-y" schools. My son got in. It sounds like your son might be very similar.</p>

<p>You are asking the standard BWRK question and you seem to know the answer already. The top schools draw nationally and internationally ranked 17 year old talent. Chances are that oaklandmom's son had some amazing math projects and recommendations that made MIT and (!) Caltech realize that he had extraordinary talent. Most 17 year olds don't have those credentials--even super smart engineering types. </p>

<p>The sage advice around the parent's forum is: "Apply to a few Reach schools but be SURE to fall in love with a Safety school."</p>

<p>Anthony is such a good example of what true passion and the ability to express it in a great application means in pools where everyone has great stats. Can you just imagine how great his essays were?</p>

<p>I thought our oldest son would have strong chances everywhere, but he was rejected by both Princeton and Stanford a few years ago. He had uwGPA 3.9, 1530 on the SAT1, 5's in BC calc, Bio, Chem, USH (and was enrolled in AP Phy, AP Fr, and multivatiable calculus in senior year.) He was a 3-season varisty athlete (track and soccer), in the honors band and a jazz ensemble, and did 2 summers of work in a genetics lab; when he applied he said he wanted to major in some form of life science.</p>

<p>He's been very happy at Columbia, which seems to be a great match for him, but the experience has certainly made me more apprehensive with son two.
So yes, its good to have safety schools and fall-back plans.</p>

<p>OP, other side of 40 mom here. I think that kids and their parents are caught up in overachieving. As a society we have gone from homes where Mom and Dad were home for dinner every night and you played kick the can in the yard to homes where everyone is running off somewhere (as a matter of fact I have ten minutes before my ballet carpool). My 26 year old employee went to a house in a very prominent area last week to do some work. He let himself in. When their kids got off school, a nanny came and picked them up, brought them home, made a snack, unpacked their backpacks. They immediately started on homework (these are grade school kids)...then the parade of others started. According to him, a religion teacher, a music teacher, and a tutor came between after school and when the Dad got home. Dad was home for ten minutes and rushed off to take the same children to sports practice...my employee was incredulous. He is a single guy with no children and no idea of what goes on...he was like "is that normal?"...I love the Lake Wobegone thing "where all the children are above average."<br>
Technology, as great as it is (IMing my DS right now) has also created the situation where as parents we are available and working 24/7 if we choose that route.<br>
So, is it possible for someone without the unbelievable stats and resume to get into an Ivy? Probably...for me the bigger question is how these kids at 17 or 18 are going to feel when they are 25. I get burnt out and tired just thinking about it. I have been encouraging my kids to enjoy the beautiful place they live in, take time to spend time with their pets, and breathe once in a while. If we don't teach them to say "no" to every opportunity that comes along we may be creating completely stressed out, exhausted adults. Nobody says we can't do it all but do we want to? I for one don't.</p>

<p>Nope. Really, Really really get great recommendations.</p>

<p>My high school stats are [url=<a href="http://www.mitadmissions.org/topics/apply/the_freshman_application/how_to_do_everything_wrong_and.shtml%5Dhere%5B/url"&gt;http://www.mitadmissions.org/topics/apply/the_freshman_application/how_to_do_everything_wrong_and.shtml]here[/url&lt;/a&gt;]. I was your typical BWRK -- my major ECs were theatre, show choir, and marching band, plus a few school service groups on the side. I didn't do research, didn't win (or enter) any math competitions, didn't take any science APs. I scored under a 700 on the SAT I math section.</p>

<p>In the "awards" section, I wrote that I had been selected for all-state chorus and was a National Merit Semifinalist. I think I also wrote that I had been selected as the "Outstanding Junior" in the marching band's color guard.</p>

<p>I wrote my essay on being a performer with severe stage fright.</p>

<p>MIT has an extremely low admit rate, and having stats like mine (or, alternatively, perfect stats) doesn't go too far toward assuring admission. But it is certainly possible to be admitted with a profile similar to mine. (My fiance got a 450 on the SAT II in writing! That's a true story.) Most of my friends at MIT were basically normal, smart, well-rounded kids in high school.</p>

<p>My daughter got into MIT a couple of years ago. She's pretty bright but not Superwoman material. 3.9 uw, 1560 (old test), 9 APs, #2/700, main ECs were musical: bassoon, piano, percussion in the marching band. Had one summer of research in a program that placed high school kids in university labs.</p>

<p>So overall strong stats, but no big awards, olympiads, Intel or that sort of thing. Just your basic smart, hard-working girl. Hope this helps.</p>

<p>Rick, I think you're saying 'how can I help my kid achieve his dreams', or alternatively, 'how do I tell him he should forget it'?</p>

<p>Most parents here are or have been in your position. It is very hard. Please don't tell him 'forget it' no matter what his GPA, test scores or any other indicator says. All he can do is send out his apps and see -- but within his apps, he needs to demonstrate his keen interest in math, science and engineering. His activities (in school and out) should reflect that. His enthusiasm will come through in his essays.</p>

<p>But what am I doing, Ben Jones said it best in the blog post copied here. Son should certainly peruse the MIT admissions blogs, and you should sit down with him and go through the websites of every college near and far with strong engineering programs. Many many colleges have great science/engineering programs that you may not even be thinking of right now.</p>

<p>Colleges are not 'lying to us' when they say they are not stats-driven. I believe they truly want to admit the kids that fit the school. Why? They don't want to just enrol students, they want to graduate them too. They don't want kids to transfer out in droves because the school was a poor fit from the get-go!</p>

<p>Son was accepted at MIT, Caltech, Harvey Mudd, RIT, RPI, and others, and he had a very unusual transcript. Not all A's! Some outlier scores! But an unmistakable focus and interest in science.</p>

<p>He chose MIT and is loving every minute of it, even though (or maybe because) he's "hosed" -- MIT-speak for sandbagged with work. If your son does not want to spend 12 hours on one math pset, tell him -- stay away from MIT and Caltech! For kids who love that -- you have found your Valhalla.</p>

<p>Good luck!</p>

<p>Setting aside the AD COM boilerplate for the moment and speaking honestly:</p>

<p>Like most of the elite colleges in the United States MIT basically uses a "holistic" (standardized tests/grades/class rank - don't necessarily matter) approach to URMs and a superman approach to nearly everyone else, however I believe they sprinkle in now and then a few (non-URM) less than superperson acceptees - just to keep everyone confused and off balance</p>

<p>Readers, please do not necessarily equate "speaking honestly" with "providing facts".</p>

<p>The Admissions folks at a school like MIT know what it takes to survive there: like A.M.'s son, students will be "hosed", a lot of the time, and with expectations that far exceed even those of the most rigorous high schools. Admissions will look for accomplishment, but also resilience, tenacity, and even recovery from failure. Students who haven't demonstrated these characteristics may have a more difficult time thriving at a school like MIT. As an anecdotal aside, there were 13 MIT admits from my son's class of 124 a couple years ago. I'd say 3 of those 13 were of the "superman" variety. The other 10 were smart, creative, good students... but not just in terms of grades on paper, they weren't "grinders". They were clearly interested in <em>something</em> -- but those somethings ranged from science fair projects to web comics to glee club to fixing cars to violin to long-term dedication to a community service organization. They were not supermen, but I'm willing to bet their recs and essays and interview were very, very good at showing who they really are. That's got to help Admissions figure out how they'd fit into and contribute to the class Admissions is trying to shape.</p>

<p>Rick Tyler, if your son has the personality that would thrive at MIT and has interests beyond "getting perfect scores/grades" (which it sounds as if he does!), don't despair. Support him in applying to MIT and similar schools, but tempered with the realism you've heard from others above. As you've also heard, Step 1 is for your son to discover a "likely" school that he'd be happy attending, and to accept in your own heart that it will not be a bad thing if he matriculates there. (Parental shadings can be more influential in this process than we'd like to admit.) Polish up a star for that school in his heavens. Then reach for whatever other stars shine in his eyes. </p>

<p>(PS: I know both Anthony (referenced above) and molliebatmit (and Ben Jones, for that matter). They are warm, bright, fun, motivated students and fine human beings. They're not supermen. I'm very glad I know them.)</p>

<p>And do not skip the interview...</p>

<p>Rick, Do remember that in the field of engineering, nobody will care where he went to school. So if MIT doesn't work out, his career opportunities will not suffer.</p>

<p>This has been a terrific thread -- thanks.</p>

<p>John's lucky -- his "safety" school is the University of Washington, which is perfectly fine. In fact, depending on financial aid and scholarships, he might enroll at UW no matter where he is accepted. His special interest (as of today, anyway) is biomedical engineering, which is a program area at UW. In-state tuition is a Good Thing.</p>

<p>John's list includes several schools that I think are big stretches (MIT, Caltech), a pretty big stretch (Northwestern), and some safer schools. It's not like we haven't thought about this. A lot.</p>

<p>The question way up there at the top had more to do with my resisting the temptation to listen to the CC "conventional wisdom" on what was necessary to be accepted at the super-stretch schools. After hearing the dean of admissions at Princeton quoted as saying that he could fill his freshman class with valedictorians that they did not extend offers to, I realized instantly that the stretchiest schools were something of a crapshoot for everyone.</p>

<p>FWIW, John <em>loved</em> what he's heard about Olin (super-stretch) and Rose-Hulmans (match-ish). It might come down to whether John can convince his financial aid consultants (his mom and me) that some place like RHIT is worth three times as much as UW.</p>

<p>Again, thanks for your comments. Great thread so far.</p>

<p>My impression (without one iota of first-hand experience ;) ) is that the type of kid who loves an Olin or Rose-Hulman is just the kind of kid who would thrive at those or an MIT/CalTech... So he should surely "go for it."</p>

<p>I think (although you haven't posted his stats here) that a kid like yours could have other financial safety possibilities beyond UW. Tulane ranks 4th in BME and gives great merit aid. My "non-superstar" S (710M/610V, 94uw, 121w) got the DSA at $22K/year (renewable with a very realistic GPA of 2.7). They also have the DHS of full tuition. Other strong Engineering schools like a Lehigh give merit aid, but I don't know as much about the specifics.</p>

<p>He shouldn't sell himself short on trying for the reaches. He also shouldn't sell himself short on the variety of match/safety schools which could be exciting for him and financially attractive.</p>

<p>Best of luck and keep us posted.</p>

<p>Is he looking at Rice, Cornell or Johns Hopkins? I think those are good places for biomedical engineering - at least my nephew thought they were!</p>