Strategizing Your MIT Application Essays

Join for “Strategizing Your MIT Application Essays” where we delve into the art of crafting compelling essays that stand out in a competitive landscape.

In this comprehensive webinar, we will explore the essential components of creating impactful essays for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology application. Guided by admissions expert and MIT alum Lisa Lozano, attendees will gain invaluable insights into:

  • Understanding Apply MIT: A breakdown of what the application entails and how to navigate it.
  • Essay Prompts Deconstructed: Analyzing the essay prompts and deciphering what admission committees are looking for.
  • Showcasing Achievements: Strategically highlighting your achievements, leadership roles, and extracurricular activities to demonstrate your merit.
  • Conveying Personal Growth: Techniques for showcasing your personal growth journey and resilience, emphasizing how you’ve overcome challenges.
  • Dos and Don’ts: A compilation of best practices and common pitfalls to avoid during the essay-writing journey.
  • Q&A Session: An interactive opportunity to ask your burning questions directly to our presenter.

By the end of this webinar, you will be equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary to craft essays that resonate with the MIT admission committee. Join us in this enlightening session to empower your college dreams!

Date 10/18/2023
Duration 1:01:29

Webinar Transcription

2023-10-18 – Strategizing Your MIT Application Essays

Anesha: Hi everyone and welcome to tonight’s webinar. My name is Anesha Grant. I am a senior advisor at CollegeAdvisor and I will be your moderator today. Tonight’s webinar is, “Strategizing Your MIT Application Essays.” Before we get started, I just want to orient everyone with the webinar timing. So our presenter will share some tips and strategies for the first half of the session and then we will open up the floor to respond to your questions in a live Q& A.

On the sidebar, you can download our slides under the handouts tab and you can start submitting your questions whenever you get ready in the Q& A tab. Before we meet our presenter, I just want to have a quick note on questions, so we cannot give you an admissions assessment, we cannot tell you what your chances are of getting into MIT, we can take questions on strengthening application components, or your overall application.

Alright, so I just want you all to keep that in mind as you are sharing some questions with us. Now let’s meet our presenter, Lisa. Hey, Lisa, how are you?

Lisa: Hi, I’m doing good. Okay, Lisa Lozano, I’ve been with CollegeAdvisor for A while, at least two years. Um, I graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, in 2017 with a bachelor’s in brain and cognitive science. Fancy word for neuroscience.

Anesha: And that was healthy projects. No, I’ll keep it push it. Oh, okay. Yeah, no worries. Um, all right. So we just want to hear, first off, what grade level you are in. So please let us know if you are a parent. Um, you can put your child’s grade level or you can tell us other questions.

Um, we’d like to know if and when parents are in the room. Uh, Lisa, as we are waiting, I always ask food related questions. So, um, what was your favorite place to eat on campus or around Cambridge?

Lisa: Okay. Uh, they had a taqueria on campus called Ana’s Taqueria. Um, I like getting their burritos. They were cheap.

They were affordable. Um, Good for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And then off campus, there is a bakery called Flower, which a little pricey, but so good, um, gourmet sandwiches.

Anesha: Nice. I’ve heard about Ana’s. I feel like I did not like it as much as I liked Felipe’s. So that was my, I couldn’t, I felt that I had to like avoid MIT after I said that.

Um, and then Flower I have heard good things about that’s like, yes. So I second that as a recommendation. Um, okay. But anyway, I love food. I love. Food around college campuses, and there are a lot of great recommendations, but we can we can fight about on this later. Okay, we will go ahead and close our poll just so you have some context.

Lisa, before you get started, actually, 44 percent of the majority of folks with us are other. So I think we have some in the room. 33 percent are 12th grade. And then we have one 10th grader and one 11th grader. Welcome to you all. Glad you’re interested in getting started on the strategy for MIT. Um, but we hope the session is useful for everybody.

I will stop talking and hand it over to Lisa. I’ll be back a little bit later for our next poll.

Lisa: Awesome. Um, let’s see it’s time. So what is the MIT application portal? MIT uses its own portal to submit things. This is not the Common App. This is not ApplyTexas. This is not the University of California portal.

Um, it does its own thing because it has its own questions and it has its own format and it wants its own information. For example, Common App wants 10 extracurriculars. MIT just wants 4. So we, they use the MIT application portal for first year applicants and transfer students instead of the Common App.

And when does it go live? Um, around mid August. There’s no day. It’s not like August 15, 16, 17. It’s just around mid August, and once it appears, it’s up. And it will last until early January. The application deadline for early action, it’s non binding, and that’s November 1st. Non binding means that if they accept you early, you’re not forced to go there.

You do not have to commit to going there, and you can kind of leave your options open and explore other colleges while you’re there. Um, entertaining the acceptance, rejection, or deferment of the MIT application. Um, you can add test scores up until November 30th. Admission deadline decisions are announced around mid December.

Um, I think mine was in December 15th. I was an early admissions applicant in 2013, way back when. And for the early action, the entire application, the two letters of recommendation, and the school transcript are due by the same deadline. Okay. For regular action, the deadline is January 4th. I think back in my day was January 1st, but maybe with like holidays and they want people to enjoy New Year’s and New Year’s Eve, they push it back.

That’s my guess. Uh, they can add test scores up until December 31st. Admissions decisions are announced on Pi Day, uh, 3.14159, so I think it, what, like, 1:56 PM, if I’m not mistaken. It’s so cool, it’s super nerdy, I love it. Um, the entire application, two letters of rec, and school transcript are due by the deadline, January 4th.

And the application fee is $75, a little pricey, they’re all pricey, a lot of them are pricey. But, MIT does ask you if you need a fee waiver. Um, for students who are low income or may need extra support affording the application because they don’t want to just Not have students apply because of their financial status.

So there’s so many different sections of the MIT application It’s it’s similar to the common app I guess per se. Um, it just looks like a lot at once And we’re going to break them down today. So, breaking it down. One section is biographical information. So this is demographic information, like where do you live, what’s your address, zip code, what is your citizenship in the country, what gender do you identify as.

Uh, then, there’s another section called personal information. Um, and like it says, it’s your personal information, your pronouns, your sexual orientation, your religious affiliation, and then military service history. And then Um, it also has application information, which cycle you prefer to be a part of, early action versus regular decision, they do not have early decision, yeah, they don’t have early decision.

Um, what field you want to study, and an info about your major interests. Here in this section, there’s kind of like a hidden 100 word prompt, uh, that asks you why do you want to be in the major. You’re selecting there’s another section called family information that asks about your caregivers your guardians your parents What their jobs are where they work if you’re first generation college going what kind of languages are spoken at home Um, and then some more information about your family and background and here there’s a one Optional, there’s one, one optional 150 word prompt about your family background.

Um, I call these hidden prompts with my, with my advisees because there is another page that has all the essays and then there are like these few essays like in other sections, um, that students may not catch. Okay, so schools, they’re going to ask you what schools or colleges you’ve attended and what kind of grades you’ve gotten.

They’re going to ask you to submit the transcripts for those schools. So a lot of students, um, do dual enrollment or they take college classes at their community college or some other college and you can submit those and you probably should to show them that you’re taking advanced courses and challenging yourself, um, above and beyond your high school courses.

There’s also a section for academic history. Um, this is where you put your enrollment and your disciplinary history. If you plan to graduate without a diploma or early, um, or if you’re applying as a non high school student or had a history of disciplinary action, there’s another, there’s like these hidden prompts.

Um, I think it’s called branch logic, that if you say like, no, I don’t have any disciplinary history, no other questions, but if you say yes, that you have had an incident at school, then there’s like this secret prompt that pops up that you have to, you know, Bill out. Okay. There’s another section called self reported coursework.

These are classes you’ve taken or will take and the level of the courses like dual AP regular whether you’ve taken STEM courses Uh, they want to know if you’ve taken calculus physics biology and chemistry in particular and or any circumstances regarding your courses and that’s one um Optional 250 word prompt they have a section for test scores as well.

This is where you put IB/SAT/ACT Um, And other circumstances. So some students have asked, like, do I put my test scores from my physics class, my calculus class? And the answer is no. Um, These are the, like, national standard, the national scores. Not what you’re taking in your classroom or what you got on your test last Friday or last semester.

Um, I like that MIT has a prompt. There’s like another optional prompt that if you, if you feel like you didn’t do your best on ACT or ACT for whatever reason, maybe you had the flu that day. I did during the SAT. Um, or maybe, like, there are things going with around with your family or there’s like some sort of hardship, and you couldn’t perform your best.

This is a place to be honest about it and say like I studied really hard, but this happened and I know that I didn’t perform my best. So be honest about your circumstances, otherwise they don’t have the context to understand where that score is coming from. Um, there also, there’s also a section about your cultural background and there’s two optional 150 word prompts.

And we have, am I, are there, Some more sections. I know, I know there’s a lot of sections. We have jobs, um, where you’ve been employed before, the position, the hours, and how many hours you work there, how many weeks you work there, the description, activities and distinctions. So you can put up to four. And a lot of students push back.

And I can’t fix the MIT application. I can’t change it. Um, it is what it is. So it’s four, four of the most meaningful extracurriculars. to you. Um, if you’re with CollegeAdvisors, sometimes your advisor can help you narrow down those four. Um, because it’s hard. A lot of people applying to MIT tend to have like six, seven, eight, nine, and I’ve seen 12, I’ve seen up to 20.

Um, so making a decision to four, it can be tough, but it’s possible. Um, and then five summer activities. Why is it four and five? I don’t know. Um, then they have as a place where you can put your scholastic distinctions and your non scholastic distinctions. Um, and then there’s another prompt, What do you do for fun?

Additionally, there are short responses, and there’s three short essay prompts, not including the additional information prompt. Uh, there is another, so that additional information prompt, typically, it is used for students who have to report, who report circumstances that may have impacted their academic performance.

Um, that’s typically what it’s used for. Okay, I think we’re getting to the end, our last four sections. We have recommendations. One counselor recommendation, and two from teachers. And you can include one optional supplemental evaluation. So this could be someone from your extracurricular, from your, Sports club from church from some other place who knows you in a different context with my students I try to tell them to get different perspectives like your science teacher knows that you’re inquisitive your english teacher knows that you’re very studious and then your your math coach or some other extracurricular person can talk about how Um, you’re very driven self driven and you’re doing all of these things after school Um, so that’s why I personally tell my advisees to try to to get that other You recommendation if they can.

Uh, there’s a certification page where you add your signature stating like, yes, I have been honest, no, I did not lie. Um, then there’s another section for the fee waiver request, whether you’d like to request Getting the application fee waived, the 75 waive, and then there’s a section regarding review and submit.

And basically this is just a page that summarizes all information you put in and tells you that if there’s a blank spot somewhere that you need to go to. Okay, what different essays do you submit in the MIT application? So in the section for essays, for short responses, they have three prompts. Describe your community.

How you contribute to your community, and then learning from challenges. Uh, they have changed a bit over the years. I think last, I did have to alter the slides for this year because they did change from last year. Um, and that may happen again for next year too. So for the describe your community prompts, the prompt is how is your world, how has the world you come from, including your opportunities, experiences, challenges, shaped your dreams and aspirations?

So how have your, how has your background set your goals and, and made you want to, May you pursue your major, pursue this career, pursue, um, something that you’re dreaming about doing. There’s the contributing to your community essay. Um, the prompt, MIT brings people from diverse backgrounds together to collaborate.

Um, describe one way you have collaborated with others to learn from them, with them, or contribute to your community together. Um, sometimes my students have difficulties with this one. Um, this one, they really want to see how you have collaborated and worked in a team. Um, more than likely than not, you do have like individual experiences of leadership and that’s cool.

But if you’re going to write about leadership, try to make sure that it’s also about how you led a team or collaborated with a team and got along with a team to accomplish something. The last prompt is learning from challenges. How did you manage a situation or challenge you didn’t expect and what did you learn from it?

Um, there’s also the additional information prompt. Uh, no application can meet the need of every individual. If there’s significant information you couldn’t include anywhere else in the application, this is the place for it. And many, and they do tell you, many students leave this blank and that’s okay.

And that they mean it, like this, they’re not trying to test you. They’re not trying to say like, ooh, like let’s see if we can use reverse psychology. No, no, they actually mean it. Um, that a lot of students leave it blank because most students, may not have circumstances that impacted their academic performance or their application.

Um, additionally, this, in this section, they have a little note that tells you that if you want to talk about your research or your art, um, or other experiences, uh, projects you’ve done, coding projects you’ve done, robotic projects you’ve done, you can submit something else called a portfolio. And I believe I have another slide on that somewhere else.

Okay, there are, I call them the hidden prompts in, for my students. So, in the, why this, uh, in the application information, there’s a prompt, a hundred words, and it’s going to ask you, why do you want to study this field at MIT? Now, I want to caution you, this is not the place to say, um, this is not a why MIT essay.

And a lot of students mistake this for a  why MIT essay. This is a why do you want to major in aerospace engineering, physics, math, neuroscience. This is a like, tell us a really concise and precise story about what made you passionate about those things. Not a why do you want to come to our institution essay.

And I know I’m honing that in, but it’s because every, like, 9 out of 10 times students mistake it for a why MIT essay. Okay. The second hidden prompt is the information about your family. Um, this is hidden in the section family information. And it asks you to include some information about your family you think is important for them to know.

Um, so some of my students have written about what it’s like growing up culturally in their family. Or maybe how their family, the family dynamics are. Um, a lot of the times those, those essays are more fun. My students have a lot more fun with it because it just, they get to talk about their family and what they love about their family.

Um, and then what you do for fun. This is hidden in the activities and distinctions section. Um, it states we know you lead a busy life full of activities. Tell us about something you do for the pleasure of it. And again, this is not a trick question. Like legitimately tell them what you do for fun. I have met students and I myself was almost bamboozled into trying to write about like why I like to study for fun.

I don’t know. I don’t think that’s the common student. So do write about what inspired, like what you’re excited about, even if it’s video games. In the year I applied only one Student in my cohort of like a thousand or so applicants wrote about video games, only one, and the admissions officer knew who they were.

Okay, next slide. We got a poll.

Anesha: All right. Yep. You can take a bit of a break so we can deliver and take a sip. Take a sip. Uh, we’re going to deliver this next poll. So, um, let us know where you are in the process that you started. Are you researching schools? Um, and that’ll help us give some context on moving forward with how deep you are into your application and how much information we should be sharing about essays or the general application.

As we’re waiting, do you have, do you remember any of the essays that you wrote and what topics kind of stood out for you?

Lisa: For me, I think one of my essays was probably about the math team. Um, I was a mathlete. I’ll have you know, a mathlete, not an athlete. I was a mathlete and I wrote about how, um, I loved going to competitions and meeting other people who are just excited about math and how I love studying and learning new equations and learning new formulas.

Um, and how it was just so much fun for me. Um, and I think that might have made a difference because I genuinely enjoyed it. I genuinely love math.

Anesha: Yeah, no,

Lisa: thanks for asking.

Anesha: Yeah, no, that’s great. Um, and I think, I think that’s the sometimes the struggle for students when working through essays is being able to convey that passion and convey that like, deep yeah, yeah, it becomes a lot of like, I enjoy math, and I don’t really know what more to say about it.

Yeah. So trying to think about I think, through the lens of like math, you know, like the competition and not just the strategy of learning. All right. Um, cool. Well, we’ll get to some more of that. We’ll go ahead and close our poll for right now. Just so you know. We have about 21 percent haven’t started.

Totally fine. Um, it is okay. You still have time. You should get started sooner rather than later, especially if you are in 12th grade. Um, 47 percent are researching schools, which makes sense. This is why they’re here, to learn a little bit more about if MIT is the right fit. 16 percent are working on their essays, obviously.

Um, hopefully we’ll dive, I think we’ll dive a little bit more into that. Now and into our Q& A as well. Um, 1%, 5%, sorry, are working on getting the materials together and shout out to the 11 percent who are almost done. So good luck to you. Hope you are on 11.1 or November 1st if that’s what you’re aiming for,

Lisa: um, or that

Anesha: you’re just early forging. Right. So I will stop talking and hand it back over to you.

Lisa: Thanks for reading the stats. It’s nice to know kind of where my audience is at right now. So most are researching schools. Okay. Next slide. Okay. So back in my day in 2013, portfolios weren’t really as popular as they are now. So what are portfolios?

It’s kind of like a supplement to your application. So MIT is one of the many schools that allow students to submit creative portfolios to show their scholarly work. And this is due on the deadline, the respective deadlines for early action and regular decision, regular decision. So in terms of research.

You can submit more information about your research experience. Um, I forgot what the portal is called, but they use another portal for your students to submit these things. If you want to submit research information, they ask for a PDF of your abstract, poster, or paper. And then they have a forum where you answer questions about your research.

Like, what did you learn from this research? Um, they also ask for a letter of recommendation from your research supervisor. Um, so for some students, they may not add the research to their extracurricular lists, but they may submit. the research portfolio so that way it kind of shows that they were doing this other thing and they can kind of get away with saying that they have five extracurriculars.

There’s also a music and theater arts portfolio where you can send composition scores, recordings, videos, and images, written scripts, and more. Um, and a letter of recommendation for your music or theater arts teacher. Um, additionally, you can send a visual art and architecture portfolio, where you can submit images, videos, and PDFs of your work.

And this also has a separate form where you answer questions about your, the medium that you’re using, um, any relevant trainings or awards, awards related to your, your art, and any artwork that you’ve created that you find meaningful. Um, so in a way, you, you get to write more about what you’re passionate about, Um, Aside from the application.

And the Maker’s Portfolio. This one’s becoming very popular. Especially with my students. Uh, this is where you submit images, videos, or PDFs showcasing technical projects, coding projects, robotic projects, and this has a separate form where students answer questions about the projects they’ve taken on, what project they have found meaningful, and why they like to create things.

Um, So it is more work, but students do have, like, an extra sense of comfort getting to submit another side of them. Um, and with that is also a 10 fee. So there is a 10, the MIT charges 10 per portfolio. Um, and it may be way for students who demonstrate financial need. I don’t know if I have this on the next slide, but, um, if I’m not mistaken, These portfolios are reviewed by people who have experience in the field.

It’s not, you may not be guaranteed like an expert in the field, but it’s someone who’s going to have competency in the field. So for example, maybe, um, you submitted drawings, but the person, um, though has general knowledge about art or painting. Um, and so. They get experts from campus and from the alum network and yeah, it wasn’t on the other side.

So if you’re interested in that too, I know that in CollegeAdvisor, there are some advisors who’ve done portfolios themselves that I connect my students with when I need support getting their, those works done. Those portfolios look that. Okay, what materials in the MIT application do you request from other people and how is that done?

Again, you’ll need two letters of recommendation. One is from a math or science teacher, and then one is from a humanities, social science, or language teacher. Then your counselor submits a secondary school report on your behalf. What is that? It is kind of like, um, a summary of the classes that your school has available for you. So this is how colleges find out, like, that maybe you didn’t want to take calculus, uh, but they offered calculus. And so admissions will get to see that and wonder, like, huh, like they were offered calculus A, B, and B, C, but they chose not to take it. Um, or they chose, or like, huh, um, they chose to take the AP classes, even though they could have taken pre AP or the regular classes.

So the secondary school report, that’s what it does. Additionally, you can send one optional supplemental letter of recommendation. Again, try to get somebody who knows you in a different context, whether it may be creative or as a leader or as somebody who, an entrepreneur who’s created a new organization or club.

And here it is. Creative portfolios are submitted through SlideRoom. That is the website that I totally forgot about, SlideRoom. And then how do you keep track of other applications? In other application portals, uh, the MIT application portal is only available for the MIT application It is its own thing Um, and sometimes that makes it a pain when you’re trying to keep track of passwords This means you need to keep track of the progress on the MIT application in addition to what you have at the common app What you have in the University of California Application in addition to Apply Texas.

If you’re in Texas and other schools that may have their own application site, it’s a lot to keep track of, which is why I have my students have keep trackers. And I really recommend them for you too. Is there a section on financial aid in the MIT application? Not exactly. The application doesn’t directly ask about students financial aid statuses, but there is a place where admissions can get an idea about your SES, your socioeconomic status.

So when they ask you questions about what was your parent’s occupation, um, whether you are eligible for free or reduced lunches, or describe circumstances that prevented you from, I don’t know, getting ACT prep or doing your best, um, um, in school. This is where they kind of get an idea of where you’re coming from economically.

Um, let’s see. Okay. Additionally, MIT is a need blind school, meaning that they do not take your financial status or SES situation into account when determining whether you should be. So some schools are not need based. Um, how can you get familiar with MIT applications? So I know some of you already seem to have your materials together, you’re working on the essays, you’re almost done.

And so you may have an idea of, What is going on with the MIT application so you can do many things to get a vibe for the school and expectations of MIT Admissions has a blog where you can read about students experiences and even experiences from the admissions officer themselves and sometimes they have feedback and guidance and advice for applicants.

That is one of the, my favorite resources to go to when students are confused about, um, maybe for like an example of, what do I put for my scholarly distinctions? There’s a blog for that. There’s a blog that describes what scholarly, scholarly distinctions mean. And so MIT Admissions, they have answered a lot of questions over the, over the years that students have had.

If you’re an eager beaver, you can create a W account. So just a fake account to kind of explore, um, the application and the website. I have a dummy account so that way I can guide my students through the application portal. And because they do, they are changing the application every year, it seems. So every year I am making an account to see what’s different, what’s new and how I can best support my students.

Students can also start building their resumes. and creating lists of their achievements early. If you are a freshman, if you are a sophomore, if you’re a junior, um, these are things you should probably work on, you could probably work on now. Um, even if your resume is just a list of two things, it’s better than starting at zero in senior year when like there’s just so much going on with AP courses, IB courses, and the application process.

Um, students can also start considering individuals to write their letters of recommendation early. Start building rapport and relationships with adults that like could write a good letter of recommendation for you. Um, like it really sucks when teachers may not have as much knowledge of you or may not get to know you as well.

And so their letters may be surface level and that’s not their fault. And the more you connect with a T a teacher or instructor or the recommender, the better idea they get of you, uh, get to know them and let them know you. So that way you have a stronger, more detailed and powerful letter That is actually meaningful by the time it gets to admissions officers.

Because there are so many people who just write very general statements like, She was a good student. She got good grades. Accept her. And that’s not totally helpful. So make sure people know you and you get to know people. MIT even has a page dedicated to understanding the MIT application process. They have pages for students, for parents, for educators, and for transfer applicants.

I love their website, because sometimes I go to other college websites, and they, I don’t know where to go. But MIT has it down, and I love that about my alma mater. Okay, where in the MIT application do students have a chance to shine? So ensure you’ve taken challenging coursework. Um, this is kind of a, uh, a four year thing, like, it should be demonstrated, ideally, throughout high school.

That’s Because they get to see the menu of courses that you had available, you want to show them that you were challenging yourself. The courses at MIT are challenging. Like, really, really challenging. And I say that from experience. Um, so they want to make sure that you, like, prepared yourself with rigor.

And that you put yourself in these uncomfortable situations, uncomfortable classes, because you want it better for yourself. Additionally, um, With the MIT application, you can do an interview, and most students do, and you probably should, if you are given the opportunity to interview with an alum. Um, and this is another way that admissions officers get to know about you personally.

Um, the alum, if I’m not mistaken, they cannot write anything bad about you. They can only talk about good things. And this is also the place where they get to talk about your qualities. Like, seem like a very considerate and polite person. Very kind. Presented as very excited about math. Presented as excited about science.

Like, so they’ll get to see you. see the excitement and write about it. Um, the essays are also a place where you can demonstrate your personality and shine. Um, a lot of people have a lot of extracurriculars and so essays are a good place to show them a bit of your story. Um, for example, I want to do computer science because I’m good at it and I’ve won a lot of competitions in it.

Versus, I find debugging code thrilling and I enjoy getting lost in my code while the sun sets in the background sipping my Coca Cola and eating my Subway sandwich. I don’t, like, there’s, there’s a difference and you can, you can kind of tell. Who is more excited or passionate about the field, and then another.

And it may not be that they’re not passionate, but they’re not showing it. And a lot of students struggle with that, that they don’t know what more to write. And we were just talking about that, um, with our moderator too. How do we show our excitement? And that’s something a lot of students struggle with.

Okay, how do students submit finished applications through the MIT application? So there is a tab at the end of the application labeled review and submit. And this will tell you what sections are complete and not complete. And if there’s anything that’s not complete, you can’t submit your application.

They’re help, it’s to help you out, essentially. And once everything is complete, everything is filled out, you can finally submit. What last advice do you give to students learning to navigate the MIT application? Be honest. If you spend time engaging in self care activities like yoga, meditating, reading novels, playing video games, knitting, drifting, you can and you should include these spaces.

that ask about leisure. They really want like this diverse group of students who come from different backgrounds. Um, so if you have like a hobby or passion that is like, it’s, it’s different, it’s out there, for example, like playing video games or knitting, um, quilting, if that’s, if that’s a word, write about it.

It’s going to help you stand out. Um, and if you had any circumstances that prevented you from doing your best or participating in extracurriculars, this should be included. because if they don’t have that context, they, they can only really, um, determine your admission or denial based on what they have.

But if you give them context that you are going through a really difficult time for reasons, someone passed away, you were really ill. Like they should know that you got that B, um, B minus in that context. What last advice would you give to students learning to navigate the application? Do not do things, um, in the application portal.

It gets really messy. So instead, copy all the open ended questions, all the prompts, into another document, where you can work on that document until everything is ready. It’s also super fulfilling because when you finish that document and everything is edited, copying and pasting the finished products is just, like, it just feels like a sense of relief.

It’s great. Okay, many students who get accepted have a drive to make an impact in the world. Microsoft So consider how you would use your education to better the world. Uh, when I was a student there, everybody, like, wanted to save the world in some way. Everybody wanted to help other people in some way.

It was beautiful. I enjoyed that experience. So thinking about your own context, what do you want to do with your major, your field, your career, your aspirations to better the planet? Um, and lastly, start early. The application process is tedious, but It’s so tedious, but it’s feasible. Um, if you come, um, if you pace yourself accordingly.

And I guess we’re here.

Anesha: Good job, Lisa. No, I was nervous and you got through everything quickly. So I appreciate it. You’re fine. Um, all right. So yes, that is the end of the presentation portion of our webinar. Um, I hope you found that information helpful. And just a reminder, you can download the slides under the handouts tab.

We’re going to move on to the live Q and A. The way that it will work is that I would read through your questions that you’ve submitted, and I will read them aloud so that Lisa can respond and then paste them in the chat so that everyone can see. Just as a reminder for folks who might have joined this late, we cannot give you an admissions assessment.

Neither Lisa nor I are admissions officer or former admissions officers at MIT. So please do not share your profile in the questions. We cannot summarize your chance of getting into MIT. We can take questions on strengthening application components and your overall application. Just a heads up. Lastly, if you are having any troubles with submitting questions, you might have to double check that you are joined through the webinar link via your email and not through the webinar landing page. page. You might have to log out, log back in in order to submit questions. Apologies if y’all can hear the motorcycles. Um, all right, just a little bit. I’ll close the window in a second. All right. I just wanted to clarify one thing regarding portfolios. Um, so yes, typically they will have someone who is an expert in that field reviewing a portfolio.

Um, or someone who has some kind of training and understand, um, and then I’m not sure if there was a need to clarify need line versus need aware. MIT is need line, which means it does not take your financial need into consideration. Um, when you are, when you are applying, there are some schools that are need aware, which means even if you are academically competitive, if you have too much of a need that they feel like they cannot fill.

They may not fulfill, they may not accept you. So they are need aware in how they admit students. Um, and that is a difference. But MIT is need blind. Alright, so our first question is a clarifying question. Um, MIT, so MIT has no personal statement like the Common App does?

Lisa: Exactly, and I think it’s like a good and bad thing.

Um, because you can’t use your, you can and can’t use your personal, the 650 word essay from the Common App in the MIT application. Instead, they want to see different. Aspects of your life, which is kind of cool. So they they’re asking for five Smaller essays to get to learn more about your dreams and aspirations your background what you do for fun Versus one big essay about like your background or a challenge that you face Some students prefer it that they like writing about these These shorter essays about different aspects of themselves and others, uh, kind of prefer the personal statement format where they just kind of get it all out in 650 words.

Anesha: All right. Our next question is back to the portfolios of should a math major submit an art portfolio as a hobby?

Lisa: Why not? Why not? Well, like, as long as you’re talking about why you’re passionate about math and some other area of your application, as long as it’s demonstrated that you love math. Yes. Like, of course, like, talk about these other parts of yourself.

Additionally, I know that they have, like, minors and other majors in arts as well too. So like that could be an option for you if you want, but other what like, I think that’s an awesome idea because then they get to see another aspect of you, your artsy side.

Anesha: Another person asked a question regarding graduate school applications.

You did not apply to graduate school.

Lisa: Not at MIT. No,

Anesha: I’m going to, I’m going to say we, this is a very different approach and strategy for MIT on the graduate level. All depends on what you’re pursuing, what your background is. And so I’ll just say, we can’t answer this question thoughtfully for you. Um, but thank you for asking it, uh, apologies that we are not the best source for particularly graduate school application, um, strategies.

So apologies there for that person. Um, Oh, one student asked, and I answered in the chat, but I’ll ask it aloud for everybody. Do teacher recommendations need to be current 12th grade teachers?

Lisa: Oh, no, they can be from the past, from 9th, 10th, 11th.

Anesha: I would typically, I slightly disagree with you. I feel like typically we would advise against 9th and 10th, that we try to get something more recent, um, with 11th and 10th.

Um, I would say go to 9th and 10th if they continue to have a relationship with you and continue to grow over 12th grade. Um, but typically they want to see someone who has seen you in the classroom fairly recently at 11. Okay. Okay. Apologies for talking over your answer there, but, um, all right. Uh, okay.

This next one said in the self reported course work optional essay, would you write here only about extenuating circumstances?

Lisa: In the self reported coursework optional. Okay, I remember. I think I remember that prompt. Would you only write here about extenuating circumstances? I think is that, is that the prompt that if you want to give more information?

I’m trying to remember which prompt that is.

Anesha: Yeah, Griffin, I guess clarify what specific prompt you’re referring to. We can give you a clearer answer. Okay. Uh, the next question, we’ll come back to you Griffin on your question, but add some more context there for us. Um, does MIT respect sport activities?

Lisa: Yes, there are sports. I think it’s the re a, um, don’t come at me if I’m wrong, but yes, there are a lot of athletes and they’re fantastic and amazing. I’ve seen soccer. I’ve seen, uh, what else did I used to see swimming? Um, was that it? I think we had tennis as well. Okay. Yes. So if you like sports, um, you can do it as an athlete or you can do it, um, as an intramural.

There are a lot of intramural teams across campus where you can do it for funsies and you don’t have to compete. I think we also have a Quidditch group, too, which I would just see people on broomsticks walking around a yard. I’m not I don’t know if they were hitting anything, uh, but it was cool.

Anesha: Uh, no, uh, Harvard also has a Quidditch team.

So it’s, yeah, they were probably playing each other and I, I don’t fully know how Quidditch without magic works, but it, they exist. Um, okay. Uh, the next question. Okay. So Griffin clarified, it’s the optional 250 word prompt about classes you’ve taken in the self reported. So I guess when you are reporting your classes, There’s an additional 250 words about, um, coursework.

So in that section, should they write about extenuating circumstances? I’m assuming related to their grades or perhaps not so great grades in their coursework.

Lisa: That’s I’m thinking about this one because I remember a student asked about this, but I had to look at the portal term. I don’t know if I should look at the portal right now.

I don’t have the answer on top of my head because I have to see what it looks like. I know that Griffin’s been helpful. I really see the question like visually.

Anesha: I mean, I guess broadly, regardless of where it might be, do you think students should talk about their grades or talk about experience circumstances related to their grades in somewhere somewhere on the application somewhere?

Lisa:Yes, I would say so. Yes. Especially when your grades took a dip. I’ve had some students who are very bright and intelligent, and they don’t want MIT to know that they had a low period or and they don’t want other colleges to know that they went through a struggle. And I had to kind of remind them like, well, if MIT doesn’t know.

that you went through this struggle, like, then they’re going to think that you, you slacked off or that you weren’t trying your best. Um, so do give context. Like if your parent was going through a hard time or in the hospital, or you had to babysit your brother because someone had to travel for work, like this is a place to put it.

MIT is so understanding. And so the admissions officers are so friendly and they understand that life happens.

Anesha: And I would also say that this, this class and the next class of the last two to have had COVID years for high school. And so I think that a lot of colleges are still open to understanding clarity on your COVID, like how COVID might have impacted your earlier years of high school as well. So that could be something to write about.

There wasn’t. If there was an impact. Okay. Um, this next question is a broad writing related. Do you have tips for math majors with weak writing skills?

Lisa: Hmm. Okay. For math majors with weak writing skills. I don’t know if they want to write about math. Okay. Math majors with no, I

Anesha: think they’re just talking about writing in general.

Lisa: They don’t feel confident

Anesha: because their strengths are in math.

Lisa: Okay. So what I’ve done with students before, Oh, we hit, we have an activity. We have activities. We do in CollegeAdvisor to help students like brainstorm experiences they’ve had in math. So for instance, if you were my advisee. Um, I may have you talk to me about a time that you did, um, um, you went to a math competition that went really well or really bad, or talk about a time that you, um, really struggled through your math class or through your math team.

And start really thinking about these stories about yourself and think about, start with what story really shaped you to who you are today. So first is kind of identifying like, I like math. How, what do I want to talk about? Um, well, I mean, I don’t know if I’m answering this correctly because I think, so they’re asking like, how do I, I just, I write about math or how do I,

Anesha: I think it’s just broad general writing skills for someone who feels like they’re

Lisa: writing.

Okay. Um, having a CollegeAdvisor helps. Now, secondly, what helps is also having an outline. And I make a lot of my students do this. And a lot of my STEMI students tend to like, try to write, and just go off without really planning it. And then at the end of the day, we have to plan it anyways. I’m just like, hey, this, the structure is not, it’s not structuring.

So we’re going to have to, We’re going to have to do an outline. Um, so starting with an outline, what, how do you want to introduce your story? Do you want to, do you want to talk about why you’re passionate about math? For example, do you want to talk, do you want to like put the reader into an event in math and your math class?

Um, then talk about like, what do you want the reader to get out of this essay? Do you want them to see? That you are, uh, self driven. Do you want them to see that you are passionate about something? Do you want them to see that you’re persistent, perseverant? Um, and as you’re writing your essay, you want to make sure that you are demonstrating those qualities.

Uh, again, having a CollegeAdvisor helps, having an advisor or, um, a teacher too. I often went to teach. I, I wasn’t a good writer at first. And in high school, I went to a lot of my English teachers for help, help, um. With my stories, and they would give me all the feedback and they would mark things in red all the time until eventually there was less and less red.

Um, you’re gonna have to bomb some things you’re writing, you’re gonna have to get better at it, and you’re gonna have to be okay with people giving you feedback to learn how to improve your writing.

Anesha: I mean, given the challenge of MIT courses, at least from an external perspective, I feel like what you just shared is actually a pretty good advice in general, like being prepared to face some setbacks.

Like it’s going to be really, really difficult through the writing experience and the application. And then even if you are accepted when you start, so just being prepared to get critical feedback on how to get better at things. Okay, the next question. Um, someone said on the contribute to society, you mentioned that applicants have to show.

collaboration. They were a teaching fellow at summer camps that introduced kids to engineering. Do you think that that would count as collaboration?

Lisa: They were a teaching fellow at a summer camp.

Anesha: That yes, that was for introducing kids to engineering.

Lisa: I’ve had students that have similar experiences because it sounds like a leadership sort of experience. So in the context of that question, you probably want to, yes, you can write about that, but you may want to also talk about how you collaborated with leadership or the people above you. Or the people kind of on your level to get this program running and going and succeeding.

So yes, you can talk about that aspect of you teaching other teaching kids being a leader for those kids But then also talk about how you interacted with people other colleagues, other co workers, other people in leadership positions to make sure that the kids were getting adequate education.

Anesha: I’m going to do a quick detour to do a PSA really quickly.

For those in the room who aren’t currently working with us, we know you have a lot of questions about the admissions process, and we have a team of over 300 former admissions officers at admissions. Experts that are ready to help you and your family navigate the process to one on one advising sessions.

You can take the next step in your journey by signing up for a 45 to 60 minute strategy session by using the QR code. That is on the screen during the meeting. We will talk about your current extracurriculars discuss an application strategy and how everything aligns with your college list as well as additional tools.

You’ll need. To stand out in the competitive admissions world. So again, um, there are definitely some parts of any application where we value able to have an advisor. If you want to pursue that with CollegeAdvisor, you can use the QR code that is on the screen. Um, okay. My next question is related to a little bit of a, like a why MIT question.

But essentially, how do I write that? Um, many colleges are asking why am I applying, why am I applying to them? So can you recommend how to best answer this question for MIT?

Lisa: So they’re asking, how do I answer the question? Why MIT?

Anesha: Yes.

Lisa: There’s no, why MIT question? There’s so I, that was something I was honing on that.

There is a question that’s like, why this major? Like, why are you passionate about this major? But there is no why MIT question there. Um, so I’m like, I’m a little, I’m like a little stuck. Um, because I might, they know that a lot of students want to go there and that they have a lot of excellent resources.


Anesha: Do you have advice on how to tackle, I guess, the why this major essay then?

Lisa: The why this, yeah, so that one is, I think my students actually struggle with that the most, even though it’s like a hundred words. That, um, why this major? Why this passion? Why, why do you want to do this major? Um, that one, it’s easy to, It’s easy to to do the I’m really good at math.

I really like math. Um, that’s why I want to do math. But for that prompt and those 100 words, you really have to show it. And so, for example, for me, it’s like, I really enjoy the thrill of sitting in front of a math competition with only 30 minutes to, uh, could do some calculus, do some derivatives and, you know, uh, compete against a hundred other people in the room.

Um, so like, I don’t know if you, like, if you can tell, I’m like, I’m telling a story. I’m, I’m showing you that I really enjoy the thrill of being in the room with other people who like math. Uh, maybe I can talk about, like, I really love as the, the mark, the marker slides across the whiteboard as I write down my, um, differential equations and my integral and my derivatives and it, like, And this is something I can stay up until two or three in the morning doing.

So for that prompt, you’re showing them why you’re passionate. You’re showing them how you’re passionate about it, uh, rather than telling. Um, and it’s, it’s hard for students, especially after so much writing in, in their high school classes, being very analytical. It’s really hard to get into this like, um, sh story sort of showing.

Anesha: Yeah, it’s one of the ways in which the college process is kind of anathema to the curriculum of high school. You’re not really learning personal narrative writing throughout most of high school. You’re mostly learning writing.

Lisa: Oh, can I ask you another question? It’s the one Griffin asked about. I finally, I found it.

Yeah, I didn’t want to leave, leave them hanging. Okay, so it’s the prompt. If there’s anything we should know about your school’s course offerings, extenuating circumstances regarding your coursework, or school’s grading system, please use the space below. So sometimes like the school may already send that information.

Uh, the counselor may send information about what course offerings are available to school’s grading system. You can use this space too to kind of emphasize that as well. You can say like, Hey, I really wanted to take calculus BC, but my school didn’t offer it. And the nearest community college is like 50 miles away.

Um, or I really wanted to take, um, physics, advanced physics, but my school only had pre AP physics. Um, so this is the place where you can talk about those kind of circumstances as well, that you had a desire to take advanced courses, but you were limited. They’re going to see that anyway when the counselor sends it in, but it also shows admissions that you are cognizant.

That the school did not have those offerings, and if they did, you would have taken them. So I think that can help you. Okay, I just didn’t want to leave them hanging. They were so persistent and kind.

Anesha: No, and adding an addendum. So yeah, absolutely. No worries. Um, okay. The next question is, and let me know if you can’t answer it, but is a good TOEFL/IELTS result required for an international student?

Lisa: Okay, I’m not a person. I’m not. Um, an expert at TOEFL. I usually would refer my students to their admissions officers when it came to TOEFL scores.

Anesha: Yeah, I would have to do the same. I would assume, yes, I’m not sure how TOEFL is graded or what the rate is. But, um, I think they are mostly looking for proficiency and comfort in operating an institution.

I think the higher the better on that particular score or maybe even checking the internal TOEFL records to see what is their cutoff for quote unquote proficient, um, in the language. But yes, you’d have to check in with someone other than the two of us today. Uh, okay. So, um, I wanted to ask a question regarding some of the community essays that you were that are included in the short responses.

And so what should, what advice do you have for a student who’s struggling with identifying the world that they come from? Like what is the community that should be aiming to talk about?

Lisa: Yeah, that’s such a good question. Like I’ve had a student write about how he lives in a very techie city and because he lives in a very techie city, it’s made him, um, It’s driven him to become interested in building, let’s say, robots, for example.

Um, I’ve had another student that talks about her, her culture. Uh, what her culture does during holidays and how she celebrates these holidays in tangent to the holidays in America and how she really enjoys being bicultural. Um, think about the identities that you have. Think about who, who you are. Do you like, do you like skating?

Do you like math? Do you like being a good brother or sister? Like, and then how did you become that way? Uh, what factors around you, maybe at school, at home, your city, your community, some extracurricular, what places shaped your identity that you are today? Yeah, that’s a really good question. And it’s so broad, there is no right answer.

And you can really talk about any setting you’ve been in for that prompt. But what setting has been so meaningful in shaping who you are today?

Anesha: This is a broader question. But what are the most common mistakes that people make with the essays?

Lisa: The why MIT.

A lot of students. They think there’s a place for the why MIT and there’s not. Um, and it’s, it’s easy to confuse some of these prompts for it because other schools are asking, like, why do you want to come to our school? Why our school? What resources do we have that you want? Um, MIT doesn’t ask that because they really want to get to know you.

They know they’re awesome. Like, I think they know that they know that they have all the resources and they’re cool and they have all of these awesome labs and buildings. But so now they want to know why. Who are you?

Anesha: Yeah. And I think also probably falling into the habit of having to do that for other schools.

Yeah. So you’re like, MIT must obviously want an answer to this question. And I think also the why this major sometimes people feel the need to justify it through MIT specific. Components as well. Um, what are topics to avoid across any of these essay questions?

Lisa: Okay, I don’t know of topics, but what I will say is that if you’re going to talk about a challenge, a struggle, a hardship, don’t leave it at just that. Don’t be like, I broke my arm last year and everything sucks and it’s gonna be that way forever and the end. Um, you probably, Want to talk about how you grew from that experience and some students when they see those essays and this goes Above and beyond mit as well when they see essays that are like talk about a challenging experience Um, yes, they want to hear about the challenge But they also want to hear how you grew from it and how you developed from it and how you um persevered in it Um, so don’t leave essays at like this no point where you didn’t grow from the experience or learn from the experience.

Um, that would be my advice. Do you have any?

Anesha: Um, I mean, the MIT essays are so radically different. I think if we were talking broadly about supplemental or personal statements, I’d definitely be like, don’t talk about this and this and this. But, um, yeah, I think I agree with you on the challenge of like, discuss the challenge, but also I think it’s more most critical that you talk about what you did to address the challenge on the other side.

So were you asking for help? If you didn’t ask for help, were you at least trying to help yourself? And so yeah, so I think that would be the only piece that I would add on to that. Um, uh, the next question I have was just more, I guess, more a personal question and thinking about, Some of these, um, challenge essays would be like, are there repeated types of topics?

Like, I feel like I’ve had some students who, uh, I thought a student was talking about their parents divorce and they’re like, this is so basic. Like, I shouldn’t write about this or coming out on the other side of it. But it was particularly like traumatic for them. Um, and so I’m just wondering, are there a cliche topics or cliche types of challenges that you say you feel like people shouldn’t perhaps write about?

Lisa: Huh?

Okay, I think every advisor has their perspective, um, and I feel like this is a polarized question. I’m on the side that there is no overdone topic. As long as the way that you it is unique to you. And as long as you are not just saying what you think admissions wants to hear. Um, and I know that’s a little bit broad.

Um, what are your thoughts?

Anesha: Um, I, I agree with you. Um, I, cause I, I mean, when it comes to personal statement or supplemental essays, there are a lot of athletes who are like, I’ve been told someone will murder me if I write about being a football player. One more time, but like, if that is your perspective and that is your experience, yeah.

You should write about it. Um, it’s just how you write about it and what you’re trying to convey about yourself. Like a, you know, a football story could be a football story, but like Mm-Hmm. . What happened to you during that story? How you grew, how you changed, how you learn, what you learned about yourself through it should be different and should be unique.

And so the, it’s hard to say avoid a specific topic. If you can write about it in a. unique or just generally more specific way about your experience in that topic. So I, I’m averse as well to say don’t write about something. I think it just depends on how you write about it. Anything could be a good story depending on how you

Lisa: write it.

Anesha: Um, uh, for the optional, uh, information about your family, what, you know, I think students often feel the need to, you spoke to this before, have to fill in everything. Is there anything in particular that folks should be trying to convey about their family in the Family Information Center?

Lisa: Huh. This could be a place to talk about how you abide by Familism or maybe how you don’t abide by Familism and you all are doing your own things and you’re all or have like your own grind and have your own things Things to do in your own lives.

This could be a place to talk about What you do during holidays how you celebrate holidays together What it’s like speaking multiple languages at home, maybe this could be a place to talk about food Um, how your family is centered around food, or cooks together, or unites with food, I don’t know if I can say that.

Uh, this is definitely just a place where you can talk about any aspect of your family that you would want. So for me, for example, I would have written about what it’s like to be from a single parent family. Like, and how I had to help take care of my brother in the house growing up. That would have been my experience and that would have been my essay.

Um, and it would be different for, for you because I’m not in your family and your family’s yours. So I, I recommend filling it in and I recommend studying it. Picking something that would be most telling for you about your family.

Anesha: Do you think students need to be strategic in the activity section? I feel like I’ve had students who feel like they have to talk about the startup they created or something like that that is specific to the program.

You know, fixing some kind of engineering problem. Like, I feel like they feel like every, every essay has to be an opportunity to brag or discuss themselves. Um, so for that activity section, do you feel like it is genuinely like broad? They can talk about whatever, or they should be dragged.

Lisa: Okay, I like here.

I’m on the more like we need to be a little strategic about what for extracurriculars make the cut because only four can make the cut. And so typically I tell students, like, ideally, these are the ones that are reflect your major that show like. That you have been doing things related to your passion or your future career.

These are things you’ve been doing for a really long time. And these are things that you’re a leader or you’ve grown in leadership. These are not things where you just sat down as a member and listen to other people talk.

Anesha: All right. I think we will end it there. So, um, I think that’s a good piece of advice.

All right. So thank you so much, Lisa. Um, that is the end of our webinar and thank you all for joining us tonight. We hope to gain a greater understanding of strengthening your essays for MIT. We also hope that you will join us. for future sessions. This month, tomorrow, October 19th, we have a session on test optional to submit or not to submit.

Um, the month of the session on storytelling. So how to craft your essays and effective at effective strategies for college essays. So for folks who are not doing MIT And have those longer essays and concerns about that, join us on the 25th. Um, it will also kick off November with a session on finding your college fit on November 2nd.

So we do hope to see you soon. Um, and until next time, have a great evening, everyone. Good night, everyone. And to the question, the last minute question we are. So CollegeAdvisor does provide MBA admissions workshops, but for general graduate school applications, I am not sure, but you can definitely check out CollegeAdvisor.

If you are interested in MBA admissions, we just launched some MBA admissions advising. So if you’re applying for MBA programs, you can come back and see us. Other things. I do not know. I’m so sorry that I have not been able to answer multiple questions for you tonight, but we do it. Thank you for attending and for asking your questions and again, um, take everybody and have a good evening.