The Massachusetts Institute of Technology supplement consists of 5 short-answer essays. Here are our tips and tricks to note when completing MIT’s supplemental essays:

In the MIT application, they are not looking for one long, highly-polished essay. Instead, interspersed throughout the application will be short-answer questions designed to help MIT get to know you. Just be yourself.

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.

At highly selective universities like MIT, applicants with an academic focus will be viewed more favorably than those who are truly undecided on what to study. It is not required nor imperative that you know your major as a high school senior! But it is in your best interest if you have a few ideas about what you’d like to study. (You can always decide on your major, or change your mind about your major, once you get to MIT.) 

More importantly, though, you’ll want to tell MIT not just what you want to study, but why that area of study interests you. (If you have a couple fields of study that you like, you should be sure to let MIT know that as well.) Do you have clubs or organizations that demonstrate your interest in your proposed major(s)? Have you participated in a research project or two related to your prospective major? Presumably you have taken high-level courses at your school or local community college that help you articulate what you want to study and why. 

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.

Here’s a chance to describe an interest or endeavor outside of your primary activities that you genuinely enjoy. Be honest in describing what about the activity is appealing to you – why were you drawn to it originally? What about it is indicative of your personality?

How has the world you come from—including your opportunities, experiences, and challenges—shaped your dreams and aspirations?

Think about the way you were raised. What has shaped your beliefs, faith and/or morals? In what way has your family or community had an impact on you? Be honest about the world you come from, whether it was good, bad or a combination of both. Be sure to highlight your future goals and how your past has led you in a certain direction.

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.

Admissions officers work each year to fill an incoming class of students who will have a positive impact on one another over four years. (For those who enjoy taking part in community service, here is your chance to mention which activities you’ve participated in.) As the question states, communities come in many forms, both big and small. Describe your impact on others and how you hope to have an impact on the MIT community.

When answering this question, make sure to clearly state the contribution that you had to your community, not just the challenge that you faced. The admissions officers want to learn how you can collaborate with those who are different from you and enact positive change.

How did you manage a situation or challenge that you didn’t expect? What did you learn from it?

Challenges and conflict affect everyone, and admissions officers understand that high school students are not perfect! You should feel open to describing a moment of failure. Be sure to stay focused on the outcome of your challenge: How did you grow, change, improve or react to setbacks? Showing an ability to manage and ultimately learn from failure is important. Side note: we recommend avoiding a COVID-19-related response here if you’ve already mentioned how the virus has impacted you in a separate part of your application.

About the author
Marc Zawel

As author of Untangling the Ivy League, Marc literally wrote the book on gaining admission to highly selective colleges. He earned a BA from Cornell University – where he met AcceptU’s co-founder – and an MBA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Marc chaired the admissions advisory board; he has also conducted alumni interviews for Cornell for more than fifteen years.

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