Getting into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology involves two processes. One is the actual admission process. The other is becoming a likely candidate for admission. Some requirements, such as SAT or other test scores, are straightforward, but the bar is high. In 2014, MIT admitted only 7.9 percent of freshman applicants. There are also some less easily definable qualities that successful candidates need to demonstrate.
MIT Admission Procedures
MIT's admission procedures are spelled out clearly in several documents. You should apply during your high school senior year using MIT's standard admission procedures, outlined in "MIT Admissions: Freshman Deadlines and Requirements." Before filling out forms, look at MIT's "Application Guide." It describes each step in the process in an informal way, beginning with a quote from Douglas Adams "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy": "Don't Panic!" It then provides a checklist of deadlines to be met during your application year and overviews of critical steps, including the often-feared 500-word essay revealing who you are and why you will be a valuable addition to MIT.
SAT and Other Tests
You must take the standard SAT test required for admission at most U.S. universities. Alternatively, you can take the ACT Plus Writing exam and two SAT subject tests, one in math and the other in science. The standard SAT is more of an aptitude exam testing your reasoning and verbal abilities. The ACT concentrates on achievement. Foreign students may substitute the Test of English as a Foreign Language plus one SAT subject test in math and another in science.
MIT admission documents emphasize that the university doesn't rely on scores alone. Other qualities you demonstrate make a big difference. This is apparently true: In 2014, only 12 percent of the highest-scoring students on the SAT math test were admitted, about the same percentage as those who scored highest in critical reading -- 13 percent -- and in critical writing -- 14 percent. However, although high scores alone won't guarantee your admission, low scores will make your admission considerably less probable. In 2014, no student who scored below 600 in the SAT math section was admitted. Only 2 percent were admitted with scores below 600 in critical reading or critical writing. It's an elite institution: the higher your SATs, the better your chances for admission.
Make the World a Better Place
MIT provides several helpful websites relating to its admissions policies. One of these, entitled "The Match Between You and MIT," describes the qualities MIT is looking for in applicants. The first is your alignment with MIT's mission "to make the world a better place." There are no specific experiences or skills that MIT is looking for. Everyone will have different and sometimes specific interests and experiences. Nevertheless, MIT officials also stress that they are looking for applicants who have demonstrated a desire to help others with tangible, positive achievements. They are also looking for indications that you are a passionate self-starter who is unafraid to take risks, that you work well with others, balance work and play and are curious and excited about life. They also note that they don't expect every student to have these qualities in equal amounts.
Patrick Gleeson received a doctorate in 18th century English literature at the University of Washington. He served as a professor of English at the University of Victoria and was head of freshman English at San Francisco State University. Gleeson is the director of technical publications for McClarie Group and manages an investment fund. He is a Registered Investment Advisor.