Case Studies

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Admission Guidelines

Miguel Marfori

How to gain admission in Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Take a good look at the picture above. When you first see it, it makes you think it's the White House, right? Or, it might give you the impression it's some institute that caters to the many astrologists lurking about to see more reasons to discover the origin of humanity. But it's none of those things. The place you're seeing is Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or it's popularly known, MIT.

This elite college is well-known around the world because it was ranked as the best university back in 2017, according to Top Universities. It's also got a reputation for being the college that many applicants sought to apply for because of the technology and science programs it offers. It's also the place where technology and science evolves and grows to reach the potential for greatness.

But it does make you think: Can you enter this college and be a part of it? Yes, you can with the guide we have laid out for you below.

1. Take a good look at yourself and determine if you got what MIT’s looking for

The first step toward applying for MIT is knowing firsthand if you got what they're looking for. You can't expect just to enter this institute and not understand what MIT wants in each student. After all, if Harvard and other elite colleges can point out what they wish to, MIT has to do it too. That's why they lay it out for all prospective students here to let them know more about the factors in their process. But if you’re not in the mood to click the link, here’s a few of them to get you all pumped up:

  • Alignment with MIT’s Mission

This is one crucial factor MIT lists above all else. They want students who agree with their mission statement. If you're curious about it, they have it written right here. Here’s the full statement:

“The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.

The institute is committed to generating, disseminating and preserving knowledge, and to working with others to bring this knowledge to bear on the world's significant challenges. MIT is dedicated to providing its students with an education that combines rigorous academic study and the excitement of discovery with the support and intellectual stimulation of a diverse campus community.

We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion for working wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.”

So to get this factor, you need to commit to this mission right to the core which means if you’re not 100% with this one, then you don’t have what it takes to be part of MIT. 

  • Collaborative and Cooperative Spirit

Another factor MIT wants is to see students be comfortable working with others. It’s because many of the things you’ll be doing in this college will require teamwork and collaboration. So if you’re the kind who cooperates with others and gets into the bulk of the work with some help, you’ve got the spirit they want. 

  • Initiative

Are you the kind of person who sees the opportunity and will have the guts to go for it with reason and dignity? Then you're in luck because MIT looks for students with the initiative. For those who don't know, MIT can be quite handy with doing research, so if you're the student who wants to try out something MIT's never been done before and want a few resources only they can provide, you got the initiative in you.

  • Risk-taking

This factor is something many colleges don't often like to see, but at MIT, you're free to do this. They'll even say failure is a way for people to learn lessons in life so if you don't mind going through trials and errors, they'll gladly like that. It's also another way for them to say taking risks will get you to places you never thought possible.  

  • Hands-on Creativity

While other colleges just talk about being diverse and creative on a small scale, MIT doesn't mind getting into the bulk of it all with their own hands. For this factor, they'll gladly like students who don't mind getting their hands dirty to try something out. It's where theories are tested against the reality of the real-world. Do you know those times when you could just spend some good old times being in some lab and then having fun doing some experiments that would you lead to other crazy things? MIT wants that kind of craziness within you.

There are many other factors in the link we've cited above, but the gist of all this is MIT wants a student who isn't just all talk but is the one who does the talk and backs up with the walk. If you got all these factors in place, then you're ready to get it on with the next step.

2. Be that person who isn’t part of the hive 

Even with the factors laid out on what MIT is looking for, it still doesn't paint the whole picture. A closer view into their mission shows that you have to be the kind of person who isn't just average: You need to be the person who forges a path for individuality. It's put nicely by PrepScholar when they said that MIT, “want students who break molds—they’re incredibly intelligent, but they also think outside of the box. Don’t follow everyone else’s path if you want to get into MIT—create your own. MIT students are genuinely excited to learn and innovate. They’re not interested in accolades (though they certainly earn them)—they’re motivated by discovery and intellectual stimulation more than recognition. MIT students don’t fit into any particular profile, except that they’re all highly, highly talented.” In short: You have to be very different from everyone else. 

3. Develop the spike from within

With all that being said, it does make you ask yourself: how can you indeed be the student that MIT wants while revving up the factors without losing yourself? You can do that by developing the spike. What's a spike? According to PrepScholar here, a spike, "is what sets you apart from all other applicants. It goes against the spirit of simply being well rounded. By nature of being unique, you don't fit in with all of the other well-rounded applicants; you do something that truly stands out in a meaningful way." An excellent way to say it is you're going to become the person who'll be on top of the world in the area. It's where you'll be spectacular in something that everybody will have to stop and look at you well.

To achieve this level, you have to reach the status of someone like Elon Musk. Yes, one mention of his name and you already know what he's achieved in this world. You can't expect him to be someone else good at other areas but if he can achieve what he did with his ideas and innovation to make millions, who says you can’t do that? 

When it comes to developing the spike, it pays to choose one area of interest that you know you're good at and can be extended to the max. You must also schedule timing in making sure that as you're great with the area, you're already implementing habits that will show further devotion to becoming spectacular.

4. Maintain excellence with other areas of interest

As you’re slowly developing your spike in one area, you’ll need to maintain excellence with other areas of interest because you can't go into MIT and think you're only good for one thing. You need to have a few things up your sleeves. For example, if you're spending time with eight areas of interests, it’s best to keep 3 or 4 of them, and the rest will be thrown out. From there, the remaining fields can be improved by yourself through scheduling and goal-setting. Once you get in sync with the areas while developing the spike in one area you're good with, MIT will be glad to see you're doing other things and show you're no slouch at all.

5. Pick the course at MIT that syncs well with you

Once you've got yourself familiar with the spike and the excellence with your prioritized areas of interest, it's time to pick the course in MIT that syncs well with you. You'll see the courses offered here are focused on technology, science, and engineering, so if your goal is to become great in one of those fields, you got it right here. But not many know MIT offers other courses too. As you'll see in their courses listed by department here, you’ll be surprised to see they offer a course in architecture, management, urban studies and other topics that you wouldn’t see in an elite college that devotes itself to the world to technology. See? Even MIT’s got to be a little diverse too when it comes to course offerings. 

6. Be mindful of the requirements from Cornell

Found the course that speaks to you? Good! You’ll now need to know the criteria that you'll need prep up. Just a heads-up on this because while most elite colleges have more straightforward ways with their admission, MIT's requirements is a bit of a hassle. How much of a hassle? Take a look at this and ask yourself if you can even do that smoothly. It's also known that MIT doesn't use the Common Application like other colleges. That's why College Vine has a nifty guide here to show you more details on the requirements. They also take note of the requirements that aren’t even mentioned but will come in handy in the long run. As a way to prepare, here’s a list of the requirements MIT has listed out on their website:

Got all that? Then you’re ready for the next step. 

7. See the scores MIT that’ll make them smile

MIT's requirements are the results from the SAT or ACT tests you'll need to take. It may not be much for you, but for the students who get accepted, they sure had to work their butts off even to get the scores that made MIT say yes to them. So what scores do you need to make MIT consider you? According to what Magoosh gathered here back in 2018:

MIT SAT and ACT scores

As you can see, your SAT score must be above 1550 and ACT score must be above 34 - 35 to let MIT know you're not going for the easy way into things. You want them to see that you want to be part of their crew and if it means getting scores that other applicants can't reach, then you're in for the long haul.  

8. Score significantly on the required tests

Now that you’re aware of the scores you need to get from SAT and ACT to make sure MIT will not ignore you, your next move is getting those scores. But how? You'll need to study well and do the tests like nobody else. You need to forge a path of discipline and determination. It'll be quite the journey, so remember these things:

  • Practice the tests 

A great athlete practices their moves to become better at what they do without fail, so you must adopt that kind of mindset when it comes to the test. That's why you have to practice these tests and be prepared. Condition yourself to know what the tests are like and feel like you're taking the actual thing.

  • Prepare with the apps

In the old days, preparing for the tests was something you didn't want to do. Can you find the time to have space for the books, making time for the other stuff that just wasted your day, and do other things that weren't necessary at all? Thankfully, the app versions are available, which means you can apply what you've done in your practices and ace them with a smile.

  • Expand your mind 

While you’re getting prepared for the test, why not expand your mind too? It helps in getting your neurons up and running. You can try watching some great documentaries, read challenging books, participate in extracurricular activities that pique your curiosity, and explore other aspects of the areas of interest that’ll have you look so awesome. 

  • Go to class

Even when the app versions are there to help you prepare, it still pays to be part of a class. You'll not only be with the other applicants who have the same goal as you, but you'll also learn from the people who took on the tests and came out alive.

9. Know more about MIT’s acceptance

If you think MIT's requirements for admission is going to be a challenge, you'd better be good at making sure your application is worth their time because their acceptance rate is going to be something to keep in mind at all times. As TopTier Admissions shows here: 

MIT Acceptance Rates

As the data shows, acceptance rates from 2012 were as high as 11.60%, but it went down considerably over the years until it reached 7.80% this year. It’s estimated that by 2023, it’ll be 6.62% 

What does this mean for you? You’ll have to step up your game because with many applicants applying, only a few are accepted so if you’re aiming to be part of this institute, know these acceptance rates and remember them as you move on. 

10. Get your application up and running with excellence

So now that you're already aware of the current situation with Cornell, it's time to give your application a boost. You won't just apply like any ordinary student: You want to apply as the diverse and opportunistic applicant who lives and breathes the values Cornell wants to see. So how do you go about it? Here are the ways:

  • Be spectacular with the essays

When applying for MIT, you’ll be required to answer five essay questions. They only require a few words and won't have you write a full page about them. But before you think they're nothing, you need to be very selective and specific on how you'll use the word requirement which means you need to give answers that'll show who you are with a bit of spark in them. To put it more simply, be the person that shows them you’re meant to be part of the MIT. So if you have to give them a story that’ll have them think of other great stories of the many spectacular individuals in this world, then do that. 

  • Address your strengths with enthusiasm and confidence

As you're getting your profile tidied up, be vigilant in your addressing your strengths with utmost confidences. MIT looks for the kind of student who can use their skills in ways that many don't often do, so show them you're that student. It's also great to tailor your strengths, particularly to the factors we've discussed earlier along with your personal mission of letting them know what you can do well with the education they're providing you.

  • Be familiar with them through their website

You may think MIT's website just ordinary and doesn't say much in the design, but a closer look shows they got a robust set of resources you can use. They also explain a lot of things that make up much of their institute as a whole. That's why when you're applying with them, be sure to know who MIT is and let them know you have familiarity in a way that'll make them feel like a good old friend in your life.

  • Talk with the experts

When you’re nearing completion with your application, chat up with the experts and let them see what you got. Being able to have a second opinion and seeing what you missed out will help you in perfecting your application in ways you never thought you could do it. 

11. Know more about MIT’s admission process

When it comes to processing applications, MIT has quite a system to get it done. Unlike most colleges, MIT is happy to give everyone an idea on how they even make the admissions as laid out here. As MIT says about their selection process: “After you click the submit button, it's easy to feel like your application has entered a black hole. So what happens between when you apply and when you receive your decision?

Once your application is complete, it will first be read by a senior admissions officer who will consider your application in a holistic manner, within its proper context. Strong applications will then be evaluated by additional admissions officers, who will summarize it for the Admissions Committee.

These summaries, along with your entire application, will then go to the selection committee, where multiple groups of different admissions staff and faculty members will weigh in. At least a dozen people will significantly discuss and debate an application before it is placed in the admit pile.”

Yes, quite a process that your application will go through right? Then add the blog posts they have that give everyone an idea on how the admissions faculty feel about the process, and you can already see MIT is very transparent.

It can also be a way for the admission to show how they feel when they’re making selections. Take it from Michael Ming Yang, the director of admissions, who wrote about it in his blog post titled “Bleary-eyed” back in 2011. He said that as they go through the process and reading thousands of applications, he and the rest of the faculty get attached. But then at some point, they'll feel something, and it'll be a tough decision to make when they have to admit one student but reject the other. He also stated that "I knew there would be joy for some, but for many more, there would be heartache. There would be times I'd take a step back, and just reflect upon how everything seemed so utterly ridiculous. For so many of the students we weren't admitting, was there anything wrong with them? Could they have done anything better or differently? No. That was the cold, hard truth. But there simply wasn't enough room in the class. They were all amazing in their ways, but we had to make unbelievably tough choices.” In a way, what Michael and the rest of MIT admissions staff want to show the world is that the selection process isn’t easy for them. Even rejecting a prospective student can break their hearts too, so don’t go thinking they can go about their day and smile about it. Just saying no to an applicant can already be as hard as breaking up with a partner. 

12. Submit everything, cross your fingers and hope for the best

Once you've got it all under wraps, make that submission, cross your fingers, and hope for the best. It's not a guarantee you'll get right in, and it'll take time. But just know that you did all that you can, and you'll just need to wait and see what MIT thinks about you.  

Not Accepted? 

You've waited for some time and finally got the response! You look at the results and find out MIT did not accept you. It gets you all down and out, feeling sadness fill you up. Does it mean all is lost? No, because there is an alternative option you can try if you're still determined to be part of MIT. It's not a usual option, but if you still want to try, here it is: 

Alternative Option: Attend a different college and transfer to Cornell later

You can try applying for a different college and transferring to MIT later. The requirements are here so you should keep them in mind when you’re getting evolved elsewhere. But don’t get your hopes up too high on this option because the transfer acceptance rate MIT has now is 4.28% according to Campus Reel. It's lower than the acceptance rates shown above, so it's going to be an even tougher challenge if you're aiming to get transferred her. But at the same time, you can make good use of your journey in the other college so that when you're ready to make the transfer, you can do everything we've listed here and let MIT know that you still got what they're looking for and you just went to a different place to redefine it for them.


MIT is one heck of a college being one of the top-ranked universities that encourage innovation, risk-taking, initiative and other factors that let the students see the world beyond its limits. It's no wonder many applicants do their best to get here and see what it's all about. It's no walk in the park being accepted here, but if you're determined to apply here and be one of MIT's most exceptional students, then you got what it takes to be with them!



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