The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a research institution located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a city just outside Boston. With a 4.8% acceptance rate for the Class of 2027, an average SAT score of 1550, and an average ACT score of 35, 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 supplemental essays in a way that demonstrates your individual personality beyond test scores and grades so that you can stand out among the other applicants and get into MIT.
MIT does not use the Common App or the Universal College Application, instead utilizing its own application platform. As a 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.
MIT’s 2023-2024 Prompts
Short Answer Essay Questions
- Tell us more about why this field of study at MIT appeals to you. (100 words or fewer)
- 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. (150 words or fewer)
- How has the world you come from—including your opportunities, experiences, and challenges—shaped your dreams and aspirations? (225 words or fewer)
- 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. (225 words or fewer)
- How did you manage a situation or challenge that you didn’t expect? What did you learn from it? (225 words or fewer)
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 (prompts 3 and 4) 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 and refer to another school in the original essay, 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 Short Answer Essay Questions
Tell us more about why this field of study at MIT appeals to you. (100 words or fewer)
By asking this question, the MIT admissions officers seek to understand what motivates you to pursue your academic passions. Even if your choice of field of study does not fully square up with courses or programs you have engaged with while in high school, you should be able to draw on some previous experience, however minor, when responding to this prompt. Showing how you have responded to your interest in this field of study in the past will strengthen your argument that you’ll be able to successfully spend the next four years interested in it.
You may also want to discuss your future career plans in this essay response. This discussion can be brief, given that your essay must be 100 words or fewer. Including a clause about how you chose your major “as an aspiring biochemical engineer,” or your “goal to become an entrepreneur in the mobile banking sector” motivates your academic intentions will demonstrate that you are forward-thinking and thoughtful about your future career path.
And remember: you don’t have to be certain about your future career path, you can just offer up a few possibilities, or, conversely, express how your great interest in a particular field gives you confidence that you will discover an enriching career within that field as well. As long as you’re genuine and specific, and demonstrate excitement for your field of study, you’ll be golden.
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. (150 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 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 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. Or perhaps your family makes up their own rules for 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.
How has the world you come from—including your opportunities, experiences, and challenges—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 the world you come from. To help your essay sound genuine, you need to be genuine. Before you start writing this essay, consider free-writing (write without stopping or trying to write “correctly”) a few paragraphs about what you consider to be “the world you come from.” With these instinctual thoughts nearby, you can embark on responding to the question of how that world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.
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. Consider the different types of people you interacted with that day and how they make up “the world you come from.” Then, consider how each of these people might have influenced (or not) your dreams and aspirations, whether that was a positive or negative influence.
The key with this essay is to not only describe your community but also yourself: ultimately, these are personal essays that should bring your hopes for your future self to life. How have your family, teachers, friends, coaches, etc. influenced your career plans? What have you learned from your 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 world you grew up in will be key to making this essay shine.
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. (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—including within your own community!
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, then it’s worth discussing in this essay.
How did you manage a situation or challenge that you didn’t expect? What did you learn from it? (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 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 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 a 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.