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How To Get Into MIT: 9 Insider Secrets From An MIT Alum

As the world's leading institution for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has one of the lowest acceptance rates in the country. In the last admissions cycle, MIT received 26,914 applications, and admitted only 1,291 students, which comes to 4.8%. Herein, you will learn the secrets to overcome these daunting odds and gain a coveted spot in the next group of admitted students.

A little about MIT

MIT, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, places an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning through initiatives like the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), which encourages students to engage in cutting-edge research and innovative projects as early as freshman year. The Institute's culture of collaboration and interdisciplinary work, evident in initiatives like the MIT Media Lab and numerous cross-departmental research centers, fosters a vibrant intellectual community. Additionally, MIT prides itself on its culture of entrepreneurship that supports students in translating their ideas into real-world solutions. The university has produced many successful entrepreneurs and innovators, including the co-founders of numerous prominent companies in various industries. MIT maintains a commitment to tackling global challenges and finding solutions to pressing global issues. These unique aspects of MIT contribute to its reputation as a dynamic institution that nurtures creativity, innovation, and impactful research.

You can read more about applying to MIT here!


Interesting facts about MIT:

  • Founded in 1861

  • 101 Nobel Laureates

  • 4,576 undergraduates, and 7,344 graduate students

  • Motto: Mens et Manus, which translates to Mind and Hand

  • Mascot: the beaver, nature's engineer

  • Total cost of attendance: $82,730


How To Get Into MIT?

So, how can you gain admission to one of the most prestigious institutions in the world? Following is everything you need to know to craft a standout application that will impress the admission committee and ultimately help you become a member of the MIT community.

 Here are 9 insider secrets from an alum! 

1. A Near-Perfect Academic Record

First and foremost, MIT looks at your academic record. In addition to an exceptional GPA, it wants to see that you’ve taken the most rigorous and challenging courses available at your high school, especially in math and science subjects. The overwhelming majority of accepted students rank in the top 10% of their class, with many being the valedictorians of their school. MIT does not publish official GPA data of admitted students, but research suggests most successful applicants have at least a 4.1 unweighted GPA.


2. High Standardized Test Scores

MIT is one of the few top-tier universities that require standardized test scores (either the SAT or the ACT). The Institute is no longer test-optional. As you can probably surmise, the scores must be exceptional. According to official data published by MIT, the 25th percentile SAT scores for reading/writing are 790 and 730, respectively, and the 75th percentile scores in math are 800 and 780. For the ACT, the composite 25th percentile score is 35, and the 75th percentile score is 36.


3. Impressive Extracurricular Activities

Another very important criteria for getting into MIT is having extracurricular activities that truly stand out. The activities should demonstrate a genuine passion for your particular interests, and ideally should display leadership, initiative, and a commitment to making a positive impact. The specific activity doesn’t matter as much as what you’ve accomplished through that activity. MIT values students who have gone out in the world and done something different, new, and out of the box. Don’t hesitate to think big – MIT especially values ambition and big goals.


4. Exceptional Personal Essays

MIT is unique in that it does not participate in the Common App system. As such, the Common App essay is not required. Instead, MIT has its own set of essays, which provide applicants with an opportunity to go beyond their academic achievements and test scores and showcase their unique qualities, experiences, and perspectives. These essays delve into various aspects of an applicant's life, including their personal interests, cultural background, challenges faced, collaborative efforts, and aspirations. The prompts encourage applicants to reflect on their individuality, problem-solving skills, resilience, and contributions to their communities. Through these essays, MIT aims to understand how applicants can bring diverse perspectives, collaborate, and make a positive impact on campus and in the world. 


Following are the essay prompts:

  • What field of study appeals to you the most right now? (Note: Applicants select from a drop-down list.) Tell us more about why this field of study at MIT appeals to you. (Maximum 100 words.)

  • 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. (Maximum 225 words.)

  • How has the world you come from — including your opportunities, experiences, and challenges — shaped your dreams and aspirations? (Maximum 225 words.)

  • MIT brings people with diverse backgrounds together to collaborate, from tackling the world’s biggest challenges to lending a helping hand. Describe one way you have collaborated with others to learn from them, with them, or contribute to your community together. (Maximum 225 words.)

  • How did you manage a situation or challenge that you didn’t expect? What did you learn from it? (Maximum 225 words.)


You need to write compelling and authentic personal essays that reflect your personality and interests. Be sure to also use the essays to explain why MIT is the right fit for you and how you can contribute to the MIT community.

You can read more about crafting the perfect college admissions essay here!


5. Outstanding Letters of Recommendation

MIT requires two letters of recommendation, one from a math or science teacher and one from a teacher in the humanities, social sciences, or languages. Seek recommendations from teachers who taught you recently and can attest to your academic abilities and character. Ideally, ask a teacher who not only knows you well, but actually likes you. The recommenders should be able to provide specific examples of your achievements and contributions. Having a supplemental recommendation from someone who is well known but doesn’t really know you isn’t advised. MIT wants a genuine letter of recommendation that provides insights into who you truly are and how well you fare as a student. Make sure to ask for the recommendation well in advance to give the recommender sufficient time to write it. And as a courtesy, make sure to send a thank you note.


6. A Strong Interview

MIT does its best to interview all applicants, but despite having about 5,500 alumni who conduct these interviews, they can’t accommodate every single student. So if you don’t receive an invitation for an interview, do not interpret that as a negative reflection on your application, and keep in mind that a lack of an interview will not adversely affect your admissions prospects.


If you do receive an interview request, be well prepared to discuss your achievements, goals, and interest in MIT. Make sure to research the school thoroughly and be ready to articulate why MIT is the ideal place for your academic and personal growth. The purpose of the interview is to gather more information beyond what is in your application. It’s important to be confident and well spoken, but also be your genuine self – don’t try to act like someone you think the interviewer wants you to be. And don’t forget to enjoy the interview. Establishing a good report with the interviewer is important.

7. Demonstrated Interest in MIT

Apply Early Action to demonstrate to MIT that it’s your first choice and that you are very enthusiastic about the university. 

In addition, attend information sessions, any webinars that become available, and also (if you are able to) tour the campus. All of this shows your genuine interest and excitement about attending.


8. Alignment with MIT’s Values and Culture

Throughout your application, including the essays, you want to convey that there’s a perfect fit between your background and who you are with what MIT is all about. MIT values diversity in its student body, so make sure to highlight how your background, experiences, or perspectives contribute to this diversity by emphasizing your ability to work collaboratively with people from diverse backgrounds. Also, demonstrate that you understand MIT's culture of collaboration, innovation, and hands-on approach to learning by showing how you will contribute to, and thrive in, this unique academic environment. Interdisciplinary research is very common at MIT, and the Institute encourages students to come together and tackle big questions and challenges together.


9. Intangibles – The Final Secret of How To Get Into MIT

This is the tricky part, and also the most important. As you can see from the preceding points, academic excellence and strong extracurriculars are essential, almost a baseline to be seriously considered for admission. So what will push you over the line and give you that highly coveted acceptance letter? The match between you and MIT is critical. So how can you show that the match is not only there, but is about as perfect as it can be? Many ways.


MIT values research, so be sure to highlight any research you’ve conducted or any innovations you've worked on. MIT loves students that have a genuine curiosity and passion for exploration and gaining knowledge. MIT is also particularly impressed with students who demonstrate initiative and go out into the world and create. For example, any original activities or entrepreneurial projects will be looked upon very favorably. Engage in activities that make a positive difference in your school or community, something that contributes to the betterment of others. Even though MIT is STEM-centered, you may be surprised that they also appreciate students with backgrounds in music and sports. 

MIT wants their students to take advantage of the many opportunities and resources on campus, whether it’s doing research or independent projects. MIT also values risk-taking, students who are not afraid to fail. Failure teaches resilience, which then often leads to success. MIT views failure as part of life, and acknowledges that if you don’t give up, you will eventually achieve your goals. Similarly, MIT values being hands-on and always willing to try something new on the path to success. They value theoretical knowledge, but also expect you to use that knowledge to tackle real-world problems. They also want their students to exhibit excitement and curiosity about learning and exploring. Despite this intensity, MIT wants its students to have interests outside of academics; in other words, fun is part of a complete and fulfilling life. Finally, MIT looks for applicants who are just plain nice! MIT students come from a wide variety of backgrounds and MIT wants members of the Institute to inspire each other, help everyone reach their full potential, and make the world a better place.


The perfect candidate will not have every single one of the qualities and experiences mentioned above, but rather a unique combination of a few key qualities. So don’t try to reach an unattainable goal of doing everything imaginable, but rather follow your passions and excel in the things that matter most to you. Be sure to provide MIT with concrete examples of your accomplishments and their significance.


Closing Thoughts

Remember that each applicant is unique, so tailor your application to reflect your individual strengths, experiences, and aspirations. It's essential to be authentic and genuine in your application. By following the advice and suggestion presented herein, your chances of admission will be dramatically boosted. Best of luck!


About the Author

Dennis Vidach, a graduate of MIT and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business, is the founder, CEO, and Chief Advisor of the College Admissions Essay Expert, which helps students craft phenomenal admissions essays. Through a combination of strategy, experience, and expertise, they deliver exceptional results to students seeking admission to top-tier universities. Visit their website - - to learn more and to sign up for a free consultation.

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