“A rigorous transcript and academic preparation are certainly very important,” says Matt McGann, MIT’s director of admissions. “But we’re also looking for students who will add to our mission, our culture, and our community.”
It’s important that new students are ready to join a community dedicated to applying science and technology to solutions that improve the world. That inventive spirit is as important as good grades, says McGann. Members of the high school robotics team or those who create innovative gadgets in their spare time will find an area on the MIT application to list such extracurricular projects. “I’ve seen students talk about personalizing their rooms with custom light switches and locks for their door from materials found at flea markets or online,” McGann says. “MIT values that kind of resourcefulness.”
The folks on the admissions committee recognize that tomorrow’s inventors and leaders need a broad worldview and look for students who demonstrate a healthy school-life balance. “It’s important for students to have outside interests that engage their artistic, leadership, or collaborative side or just bring them joy,” suggests McGann. “Learning that happens on the athletic field or in an a cappella group or in a Bible study has relevance to what happens in the lab and the classroom.”
He also advises a bit of self-examination prior to starting the application process to narrow down the most appropriate colleges. “Students mustn’t think that if they don’t get into MIT, they’ve failed at life,” he says. “There are lots of great places to be an engineer, and it may well be that another school would best suit them. Purdue University, Cooper Union, Stanford – they’re all great engineering schools, but each with its own culture.” Students should ask themselves which learning style best suits them, what kind of environment they are most drawn to, and what opportunities a school offers that relate to their goals. They can then compare their answers to what they find on MIT’s website.
If it’s a good match, students can learn more during campus tours and information sessions with McGann and his team. Worldwide, more than 3,000 trained alumni volunteers are ready to interview prospective students, and MIT’s website outlines specific admission requirements.
One thing prospective applicants needn’t stress about is the bottom line. “MIT is need-blind in our admissions process,” says McGann. “Students who can pay full tuition have no advantage over those who will need financial aid.” All accepted students are offered a financial aid package to cover tuition and fees that their family cannot pay. “This ensures that we always admit the very best students,” says McGann. – Sarah Jensen
Thanks to the dozens of people who have submitted this question.