How to Write the MIT Essays
MIT is one of a few top schools that does not accept the Common Application. Instead, they have their own application which consists of several short essay prompts. You can feel free to borrow and recycle ideas from your Common App essay, but make sure each of these short essays functions well as a stand alone piece. With that in mind, here are some tips to tackling each MIT prompt:
We know you lead a busy life, full of activities, many of which are required of you. Tell us about something you do simply for the pleasure of it. (100 words or fewer)
This question really helps admissions officers learn about you. Stay away from trying to impress or talk about accomplishments you’ve had in your extracurricular or volunteer experiences. Instead, think about what makes you unique and what truly brings you joy. Do you like hanging out with your family? Awesome, what specifically do you do that makes you the happiest? What do you do in your spare time? What do you love learning about? When do you smile most? Why do you do it?
MIT wants to know what you do in your downtime. If you feel like you’re getting super personal and revealing your quirks then you’re on the right track! Remember that what you love to do says a lot about your personality and what makes you unique so embrace this opportunity to dig deep!
Although you may not yet know what you want to major in, which department or program at MIT appeals to you and why? (100 words or fewer)
This question is going to require some research! Look into specific departments, courses, professors, and research opportunities that really resonate with you and share them here. You’ll want to keep this response focused, so key in on a major or two. Your answer to this question will also allow you to show admissions why you and MIT are a perfect fit for each other. What learning experiences are you most excited and passionate about? What will you take advantage of while on campus? How will your learning at MIT help you towards any of your short and long term goals?
At MIT, we bring people together to better the lives of others. MIT students work to improve their communities in different ways, from tackling the world’s biggest challenges to being a good friend. Describe one way in which you have contributed to your community, whether in your family, the classroom, your neighborhood, etc. (200-250 words)
This is a great question to get at what you are most passionate about and what really moves you! Our biggest advice is to be unique, vulnerable, and creative. If you want to talk about a community service project or experience, drop us into the experience first by including lots of specific details. Or maybe talk about what your thoughts and feelings were heading into it and how your mindset and feelings changed after. Avoid popular anecdotes about traveling to another country, helping low income communities, and understanding how other people live. Brainstorm less about the most “impressive” contribution you may have made to a community and more about what contribution you have made that has really meant the most to you. Think small community, big impact. The more specific and unique to you the better. Volunteering for ‘Habitat for Humanity’ is amazing, but helping your neighbor and his dad build his back deck when he got injured is more unique and personal to you. See how you can authentically connect this to a larger issue such as advocacy and support for individuals with physical disabilities. Choose specific but meaningful takeaways. MIT wants to see how you uplift, help, and inspire others.
Describe the world you come from; for example, your family, clubs, school, community, city, or town. How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations? (200-250 words)
This question is another wonderful opportunity for you to get personal. We would recommend working backwards. Write down what your specific goals and aspirations are. Then think about which people and groups of people have influenced you the most towards forming and achieving those goals. No community is off limits here; feel free to talk about your family, church, teachers in your school, role models, or your peers. Describe what this community is like. Tell us about what it feels like to be a part of that community and how it has made you who you are. MIT wants to learn about how you collaborate with others and what community means to you.
Tell us about the most significant challenge you’ve faced or something important that didn’t go according to plan. How did you manage the situation? (200-250 words)
You’ll want to think about what your favorite lesson that you’ve learned is first, then describe the experience that taught you that lesson. Is there a moment that splits your life into before and after? What temporarily set you back in the pursuit of your short or long term goals? Is there a difficulty you’ve experienced that you’re somewhat grateful for because of what it taught you? Try to stay away from talking about getting a bad grade or not doing as well on your first SAT. Similarly, avoid treating this essay as a place to vent about something you hate.
Explain the situation or difficulty, but most importantly you want to offer insight into YOU: how you navigated it and what you struggled with. Ultimately, tell your reader what you learned once you came out the other side. It’s important to talk about your resiliency and resourcefulness and to end on a positive note. MIT loves risk takers who are not afraid to fail and use struggles to find future success.
There is also one final, open-ended additional information text box, where you can tell us anything else you think we really ought to know.
This space allows for you to share any information that you believe is important to your application, but has not yet been conveyed through your essays or through your grades or test scores. You can share how you’ve been making the most of the past few months since the world has completely shifted – have you been spending invaluable time with family, which has impacted your outlook on relationships and life, that you’d like to share with the admissions committee? Have you started your own company or initiative to help others during this difficult time? Perhaps you’d like to elaborate on an aspect of your application that would require more context to fully understand it. Whatever you choose to write, be sure to use this space wisely – you shouldn’t use this space to brag about all your amazing accomplishments, but rather, give more context or add information that you think would be valuable to your application.