The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a research institution located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a city just outside Boston. With a 3.96% acceptance rate for the Class of 2026, an average SAT score of 1550, and an average ACT score of 35.5, MIT is one of the most challenging universities to gain acceptance to in the world. But MIT admissions officers are emphatic that they “admit people, not numbers.” In this blog post, you’ll learn how to write the MIT supplemental essays in a way that demonstrates your individual personality beyond test scores and grades so that you can stand out among the other 34,000 annual applicants to MIT.
MIT does not use the Common App or the Universal College Application, instead utilizing its own application platform. As result, there is no Common App essay to submit to MIT, but instead a series of MIT-specific shorter essays. This often stresses out potential applicants already writing supplemental essays and a Common App. It just seems like a lot of extra time to write another 4 essays just for MIT! But this blog post will give you the tools you need to complete the MIT essays efficiently, without too much extra time and effort, but with appropriate thoughtfulness and detail. As their admissions website says, “You should certainly be thoughtful about your essays, but if you’re thinking too much—spending a lot of time stressing or strategizing about what makes you ‘look best,’ as opposed to the answers that are honest and easy—you’re doing it wrong.”
For all of these essays, particularly given that MIT does not use the Common App, recycling answers is an effective method of saving time without sacrificing thoughtfulness. If you’ve already crafted an excellent response to another college’s supplemental essay about community, then either of the two community-focused prompts in the MIT application could draw from this response.
Conversely, if you complete your MIT application before completing any other applications, be sure to return to them when crafting essays for other schools. (The only type of essay question that you should never recycle is an institution-specific question, such as the “Why this school?” question or any other question that refers specifically to the relevant institution.)
Additionally, bear in mind that some essay responses benefit from specific reference to the school to which you’re applying, even if the school is not referenced in the prompt. For instance, in the “Describe your community” question for MIT, some students may wish to explain how their community influenced their decision to apply to MIT. If you recycle your answer to this question, be sure to take that section out! The ability to recycle essays for another application should not be a deterrent from personalizing an application to a specific school, but it is something to bear in mind.
Lastly, when writing your MIT supplemental essays, remember that the information you put in your Common App will not be visible to your readers. Much of the MIT application replicates the Common App, but there are still notable differences. If there is information you feel was missed out on in the MIT application that is in your Common App, be sure to include this information either in the content of your essays or in the Additional Information section of the MIT supplemental essay section.
MIT’s 2022-2023 Prompts
Short Answer Essay Questions (~200 words each)
- 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.
- Describe the world you come from (for example, your family, school, community, city, or town). How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations?
- MIT brings people with diverse backgrounds and experiences together to better the lives of others. Our students work to improve their communities in different ways, from tackling the world’s biggest challenges to being a good friend. Describe one way you have collaborated with people who are different from you to contribute to your community.
- Tell us about a significant challenge you’ve faced (that you feel comfortable sharing) or something that didn’t go according to plan. How did you manage the situation?
MIT’s Short Answer Essay Questions
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. (225 words or fewer)
This prompt asks you to describe what you do for fun, within the context of the many demands the average high schooler faces in their life. Based on the fact that you share your top four extracurricular activities elsewhere in the MIT application, this essay is not the place to list the club you do because it’s in your area of academic interest, or the responsibilities you may have at home. Even though these activities demand much of your time and may often be enjoyable, they are still dictated by outside forces, such as your career goals or your family’s well-being. This essay also isn’t the place to talk about anything you’ve mentioned elsewhere in your MIT application, or anything which is school-associated, career-driven, work-related, or family-motivated.
Instead, this essay is the place to talk about what you do when you’ve got some spare time and no one is making demands upon you. Do you find yourself heading over to the piano, or watching your favorite sports team? Do you enjoy board games with your family, play video games with your friends, or take your dog on a long, long walk? These are all fairly standard ways of having unstructured fun, so they may resonate with you. If they don’t, though, or you can think of other activities, then you may be in luck: uniqueness is your friend.
As long as you’re being authentic, then describing a unique activity will make your MIT application much more memorable. Maybe you don’t have a dog, but a pet lizard. Maybe your favorite sport isn’t soccer or basketball, but kickboxing or curling. Maybe your family makes up their own rules to board games, or you record your video game sessions to upload with commentary to YouTube. Whatever it is that you do to have fun, be as specific as possible, searching for details that will highlight your personality. Whether your hobby seems “impressive” or “boring,” your essay should communicate the joy you take in it.
Describe the world you come from (for example, your family, school, community, city, or town). How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations? (225 words or fewer)
This essay works best when you sound genuine about both the positive and negative aspects of whatever community you choose to describe. In order to help your essay sound genuine, you need to be genuine. Even if you loved the one rock concert you’ve been to, if you’re not attending rock concerts regularly, then it doesn’t count as “a community you’re part of.” Choose a community you have been a part of for at least one year and which has impacted your life significantly.
You can think big with these essays, but you can also think small. If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, you can always go about your day and write down every person you interact with. After crossing out all the people you don’t interact with regularly, consider which of those people feels most important to you in your life. Then, using your relationship with that person as a jumping-off point, describe the community that brings you and that person together. If it’s your younger brother, describe your family. If it’s your math teacher, describe your school.
The key with this essay is to not only describe your community, but also yourself: ultimately, these are personal essays that should bring you to life. How has the community you’ve chosen influenced your career plans? What have you learned from this community that widens or narrows the scope of who you hope to become? If, for instance, someone in your community encouraged you to pursue a specific area of STEM or to apply to MIT, then this would be a great topic to discuss. Linking who you are and hope to become with the community most important to you will be key to making this essay shine.
MIT brings people with diverse backgrounds and experiences together to better the lives of others. Our students work to improve their communities in different ways, from tackling the world’s biggest challenges to being a good friend. Describe one way you have collaborated with people who are different from you to contribute to your community. (225 words or fewer)
This prompt once again permits you to think both big and small about your relationship with people in your life. Remember, although this prompt also has the word “community” in it, and your community should play a role in your response, it’s also important to describe how you interact with people who are different from you.
If you have ever participated in community service, this essay is a great place to explain what you did and how it impacted your community. If you have never participated in formal community service, though, don’t worry! Community contributions can be as big as fighting world hunger or as small as sitting next to the lonely person in the lunchroom. It’s also possible you’ve contributed to your ecological community, such as by picking up litter or planting flowers in your town, or you’ve contributed to your political community, such as by attending protests or raising awareness about issues important to you and your community.
Even if you’ve participated in formal community service, if you’ve discussed it elsewhere in your MIT application in detail, then you may want to avoid being repetitive. MIT asks this question to get a sense of how you will act as a part of the MIT community and how you will reflect on MIT by contributing to the world after graduation. Demonstrating how you move through communities in your life currently, particularly focusing on how you interact with people who are different from you, will help you answer this question effectively. Regardless, be sure to only focus on one interaction or way of collaborating, in order to stick to the prompt and write with specificity.
Think deeply about the people you’ve interacted with in your life who may have a differing socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, ability (i.e. disabled versus abled), and so on. Differences can also arise in ways that census bureaus don’t analyze, so although you don’t want to focus on details irrelevant to daily life, if a difference between a person you’ve collaborated with has influenced your collaboration. Perhaps you speak different languages, or one of you is autistic, or you practice different religions—if you share important differences, then they’re worth discussing in this essay.
Tell us about a significant challenge you’ve faced (that you feel comfortable sharing) or something that didn’t go according to plan. How did you manage the situation? (225 words or fewer)
This prompt seeks to understand who you are when you aren’t your best, or how you’ve overcome a low point in your life. As the prompt indicates, you can be as personal as you feel comfortable, but it’s generally good practice in a college essay to engage in some vulnerability. Vulnerability not only demonstrates your humanity, but it also draws a more authentic picture of you as a person and student in the world.
This essay, like the others on the MIT application, presents an excellent opportunity for thoughtful essay recycling. If you are writing essays for other schools in addition to MIT, it is highly likely that at least some of the topics of the essay prompts overlap between the different essays you are writing. The “facing a challenge”-type question is a particularly common essay topic. Many students also choose this topic for their Common App essay, and given that MIT does not accept the Common App, you may want to thoughtfully recycle your Common App essay for the purposes of this MIT essay prompt. Even though it is a much shorter essay, you may be able to take a paragraph from your Common App essay and reuse it for this one. At minimum, you could reuse the ideas you’ve already thought through to inform this essay.
If you need help polishing up your MIT supplemental essays, check out our College Essay Review service. You can receive detailed feedback from Ivy League consultants in as little as 24 hours.