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MIT PRIMES: 8 Reasons Why It's a Worthwhile Experience

Engaging in a competitive academic field can offer an excellent opportunity to showcase your passions while honing in on your problem-solving abilities. In particular, leading up to college applications, excelling in a highly challenging subject competition can provide a significant edge to your academic profile.

In this blog, we will highlight the MIT Program for Research in Mathematics, Engineering and Science for High School Students (PRIMES) program. Here, we’ll dive into important information including eligibility criteria, program sections, the admissions process, and the general structure of the program.

If you are interested in knowing about everything MIT offers to high school students during the summer, check out our blog here.


PRIMES is a comprehensive program offered by MIT that provides opportunities for high school students in mathematics, computer science, and computational biology. It includes various sections such as MIT PRIMES for local students, PRIMES-USA for students across the United States, and specialized sections like Menezes Challenge PRIMES Circle and Yulia's Dream. The program also runs collaborative initiatives like MathROOTS and CrowdMath, as well as PRIMES STEP for middle schoolers. PRIMES has received recognition for its commitment to diversity in mathematics and aims to inspire students to pursue research in these fields.

What different sections are offered under MIT PRIMES?

  1. MIT PRIMES extends a cost-free, year-long after-school initiative to provide research projects and guided reading opportunities to high school students within a reasonable driving distance from Boston. Participants collaborate with MIT researchers within this program to tackle captivating, unresolved challenges in mathematics, computer science, and computational biology.

  2. PRIMES-USA presents a year-long distance mentoring math research segment, available at no cost, exclusively tailored for high school juniors and sophomores hailing from all regions of the United States, excluding Greater Boston.

  3. Menezes Challenge PRIMES Circle introduces an enriching math program during the spring term, offered at no expense. It specifically targets high school students from underrepresented demographics and living within a convenient commuting distance from Boston.

  4. Yulia's Dream introduces an extensive math enrichment and research initiative, entirely cost-free, designed for exceptionally talented high school students in grades 9 to 11, originating from Ukraine. In addition to these four sections, there are two collaborative initiatives available to high school students.

  5. MathROOTS, in collaboration with MIT Admissions, is a complimentary two-week residential summer program operated under the umbrella of MIT PRIMES. It serves as an intensive mathematical talent accelerator, catering to high-potential high school students who have been nationally selected and hail from underrepresented backgrounds or underserved communities.

  6. CrowdMath, in partnership with the Art of Problem Solving, represents a vast online collaborative research endeavor that spans an entire year and welcomes participation from high school and college students globally.

Now that we’ve taken a look at the umbrella of PRIMES offerings, let us dive into a comprehensive overview of MIT PRIMES, and key details you should know about.

MIT PRIMES - Key Details

MIT PRIMES is a tuition-free year-long program tailored for high school students, featuring both individual and group research projects and reading group activities, all under the guidance of academic mentors, typically graduate students or postdoctoral scholars. The program encompasses three core sections: mathematics, computer science, and computational and physical biology.

In 2023, PRIMES meetings are scheduled to be held on the MIT campus in accordance with MIT's COVID-19 policies and K-12 program regulations. However, should MIT's policies change, PRIMES may transition to an online format.

What is the acceptance rate of MIT PRIMES?

The acceptance rate of the MIT PRIMES program is low, given that a small number of candidates are admitted every year, and an advanced background in math is expected.

Program Schedule

The program unfolds throughout the calendar year, divided into four distinct phases:

Phase I (January 1 - Pi Day): This stage involves an advanced reading period, where students are informed of their admission status in early January. They are assigned a mentor who recommends advanced readings to prepare for future research projects. Successful completion of Phase I entails submitting a 5-page reading report by early March. PRIMES evaluates students' readiness for research and invites those displaying strong motivation, commitment, and progress to move on to Phase II.

  • Time commitment: At least 10 hours per week, including self-study and a weekly 1.5-hour meeting with the mentor, scheduled at the convenience of both parties.

Phase II (Pi+0.01 Day - May 31): This phase constitutes an active research period. Students work on their research projects under their mentors' guidance and may occasionally consult with the MIT faculty member who proposed the project or the head mentor. By the end of May, students submit an interim report detailing their research progress.

  • Time commitment: At least 10 hours per week.

Phase III (June 1 - August 31): During this phase, students engage in independent study, continuing their research projects independently while staying in contact with their mentors. PRIMES' flexible summer schedule ensures no conflicts with other summer programs.

  • Time commitment: Flexible.

Phase IV (September 1 - December 31): This phase centers on the write-up period. Students meet with their mentors as needed and maintain regular email communication. With mentor guidance, students finalize their projects and present them at the Fall-Term PRIMES conference in mid-October, where family and friends are welcome. By year-end, students craft a final paper summarizing their results, which is posted on the PRIMES website and may be submitted to national science competitions or professional research journals for publication.

  • Time commitment: As required to fulfill program requirements.

The program also offers reading groups within the Math section, encompassing both a research track and a reading group track. The reading group track, particularly recommended for newcomers and seniors, involves the guided study of advanced mathematical books. This approach offers a strong foundation for future research endeavors at PRIMES and beyond.

You can learn more about the assigned books and sections here.

Admissions Process

Admission to PRIMES is highly competitive and is based on demonstrated exceptional mathematical ability, potential for conducting original research or advanced reading, and self-motivation for independent study. The program is tuition-free, admitting only a limited number of candidates with a very advanced mathematical background.

Refer to the "How to Apply to MIT PRIMES" section for application details.

The application deadline for the 2023 cycle of MIT PRIMES was November 30, 2022, and admissions are now closed. Admission decisions for this cycle will be made by February 1. For the 2024 cycle, admissions will open on October 1, 2023. Applicants will have until November 30, 2023, to solve the relevant problem sets, which can be found on the site.

To be eligible for MIT PRIMES, you must be a high school student in Greater Boston. The application process involves:

  • Fill out a questionnaire.

  • Obtaining letters of recommendation.

  • Submitting solutions to the PRIMES problem set with no application fee.

You can take a look at previous problem sets on the website for references to relevant problem sets. Female students, minorities, and students from underprivileged groups are encouraged to apply. There are specific programs like PRIMES Circle and PRIMES-USA for eligible applicants.

8 Reasons Why You Should Participate in MIT PRIMES

  1. You will get the chance to pursue an advanced research experience early on MIT PRIMES offers high school students the unique opportunity to engage in advanced research projects. These projects delve deep into various fields, allowing students to gain hands-on experience in tackling complex and unsolved problems. This early exposure to research can be a significant advantage when applying to colleges and pursuing future careers in STEM fields. You can read up more on the successes of current and former students of the MIT PRIME program here!

  2. You can create networks through expert mentorship during your time in the program Participants benefit from close mentorship by academic mentors, typically graduate students or postdoctoral scholars. These mentors provide guidance, support, and expertise, helping students navigate research challenges effectively. This mentorship fosters a nurturing and intellectually stimulating environment for growth and can be beneficial for future letters of recommendation. You can read up on the affiliates and mentors of the program in the MIT math newsletter. Some examples of faculty affiliations of MIT Primes include Igor Rodnianski, a professor of mathematics who focuses on nonlinear hyperbolic PDEs, specifically Einstein’s equations for space-time in general relativity, and Sug Woo Shin who works in number and representation theory.

  3. Have the opportunity to share a diverse academic exploration in the Mathematical field The program covers various subjects, including mathematics, computer science, and computational and physical biology. This diversity enables students to explore their academic interests and discover new passions. It ensures that the program is inclusive and appeals to a broad range of students with varying academic backgrounds.

  4. You will study and learn about structured phases MIT PRIMES operates on a well-structured timetable divided into four phases. This organization ensures a gradual and systematic progression in research skills and knowledge throughout the year. It also helps students manage their time effectively and stay on track with their research and personal academic goals for future college applications.

  5. Enjoy flexibility during your summer During the summer phase (Phase III), MIT PRIMES provides flexibility in terms of time commitment. This flexibility allows students to balance their participation in the program with other summer activities, such as internships, vacations, or additional coursework. It ensures the program remains accessible and accommodating to students with various summer commitments.

  6. You will engage in presentation opportunities The program culminates in the Fall-Term PRIMES conference, where students present their research findings. This experience is invaluable for honing presentation and communication skills, which are crucial in academia and the professional world. It also boosts students' confidence in sharing their work with peers, family, and friends.

  7. You will collaborate through reading groups MIT PRIMES incorporates reading groups into its curriculum. These groups actively engage with advanced mathematical literature, deepening students' understanding of foundational concepts. Some examples of books can be found here. The reading groups serve as an excellent preparation for more advanced research and provide a solid knowledge base for tackling challenging research problems.

  8. You will have the chance to learn about ethical preparation Beyond academic knowledge, MIT PRIMES strongly emphasizes academic integrity. This focus ensures that participants understand and adhere to ethical standards in research and scholarship. You will learn the importance of honesty, integrity, and ethical conduct in your academic and professional pursuits, preparing them for the rigorous standards of college and beyond.

Our Review of MIT PRIMES

In summary, MIT PRIMES offers a comprehensive and enriching educational experience that prepares high school students for successful futures in STEM fields. This program provides students with an advanced STEM education beyond the standard curriculum, exposing them to cutting-edge concepts and research methodologies. Through hands-on research opportunities and interdisciplinary learning, participants develop critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and creativity, positioning them as future leaders in their chosen fields. Mentorship by experienced faculty and graduate students fosters a sense of community and support. At the same time, the program's strong emphasis on ethics ensures that students are well-equipped with a solid ethical foundation for their academic and research endeavors. MIT PRIMES is a great option to empower skills as a STEM leader, equipping them with the skills, knowledge, and values necessary for success.

If you're looking for a real-world internship that can help boost your resume while applying to college, we recommend Ladder Internships!

Ladder Internships is a selective program equipping students with virtual internship experiences at startups and nonprofits around the world! 

The startups range across a variety of industries, and each student can select which field they would most love to deep dive into. This is also a great opportunity for students to explore areas they think they might be interested in, and better understand professional career opportunities in those areas.

The startups are based all across the world, with the majority being in the United States, Asia and then Europe and the UK. 

The fields include technology, machine learning and AI, finance, environmental science and sustainability, business and marketing, healthcare and medicine, media and journalism and more.

You can explore all the options here on their application form. As part of their internship, each student will work on a real-world project that is of genuine need to the startup they are working with, and present their work at the end of their internship. In addition to working closely with their manager from the startup, each intern will also work with a Ladder Coach throughout their internship.

Additionally, you can also work on independent research in AI, through Veritas AI's Fellowship Program!

Veritas AI focuses on providing high school students who are passionate about the field of AI a suitable environment to explore their interests. The programs include collaborative learning, project development, and 1-on-1 mentorship. 

The AI Fellowship program will have students pursue their own independent AI research project. Students work on their own individual research projects over a period of 12-15 weeks and can opt to combine AI with any other field of interest. In the past, students have worked on research papers in the field of AI & medicine, AI & finance, AI & environmental science, AI & education, and more! You can find examples of previous projects here

If you are passionate about conducting research in math, you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.

Tenzing Dolma is a Masters student specializing in research following the Nechung Oracle and the historical, religious, and cognitive approaches to its presence. She has a bachelors in Neuroscience from Loyola University Chicago and is currently completing her graduate studies at Columbia University. She hopes to help students find their passions through access to programs and organizations the same way she found hers!

Image Source: MIT PRIMES



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