Everything You Need to Know About Applying to MIT

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Everything You Need to Know About Applying to MIT

MIT is one of the country’s top schools, and if you’re thinking about applying, there’s a good chance you’ve spent your high school career preparing for the rigorous academic challenges that await you. But before you start picking out your classes, we need to discuss what it takes to apply to MIT and gain admission. In this post, we’re going to explain the process of preparing to apply as well as the application itself, and everything else you need to know.

Because MIT is one of the most competitive schools in the world, you will need every advantage if you want to have the best chance of getting in. Luckily, at AdmissionSight, we’ve been helping guide students through this process, and we can do the same for you.

How many students apply to MIT each year?

While these numbers vary slightly from year to year, the average number of applications received by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is around forty-thousand per year. For the class of 2025, approximately 1400 students were admitted to the freshman class. So, if you do the math, you see that MIT’s acceptance rate is right around 4%.

Young woman standing next to a shelf full of books.

This means that in order to gain admission to MIT, you will need to stand out from the large pack of applicants. This means having the right preparation in high school, but it also means understanding how to write the best possible application for MIT. Since MIT uses their own application, you will not have the benefit of using your common application answers, but we’re going to show you how to put together the absolute best application possible.

What does MIT expect from their applicants?

We’ll get into all of the requirements for your application in a minute, but the first step in applying to an elite school like MIT happens before you start filing out your application. Your preparation for applying to MIT should start at the beginning of your high school career, and if you plan on attending a top-tier school, you need to plan your high school experience accordingly.

As you can probably imagine, getting good grades in high school is necessary if you plan to apply to MIT. But good grades can be relative, so you need to make sure that your grades are top notch, but that your curriculum is sufficiently rigorous.

While MIT doesn’t have a GPA or standardized test score requirement, most applicants to MIT will come from the top one or two percent of their graduating class. Because most high schools currently use a weighted GPA system, many applicants to MIT have earned a GPA above 4.0. But MIT also looks at what types of classes you’ve been taking.

In order to be competitive among MIT’s applicants, you should take high-level classes such as honors, AP or IB classes. Many MIT bound students have also taken college level courses at local universities and community colleges.

Because MIT is a specialized school focusing on mathematics and technology, they also expect that you will have taken high-level high school courses like Calculus and Physics, preferably at the AP or IB level. That said, MIT still maintains a holistic approach to admissions, and they attempt to look at the whole student rather than just a transcript and test scores.

Does MIT require SAT/ACT scores?

Many schools have adopted a test-optional model of admissions, but MIT is not one of them. While MIT does not require the ACT writing supplement or the SAT optional essay, they do still require official copies of your SAT or ACT scores for first year and transfer students.

While MIT does not have a minimum standard for standardized test scores, MIT applicants have typically scored very well on both the verbal and math sections. Typical SAT math scores are in the 780 to 800 range while verbal scores are typically in the 760 to 780 range.

Writing in a desk using a pencil.

MIT does not require the ACT or SAT written sections but submitting them if you got a good score is still a good idea. While many may think that MIT is focused only on math and science, they also value the ability to display excellent written communication. As a result, MIT requires all undergraduate students to take a common requirement that integrates their instruction with written and verbal communication.

How to apply to MIT?

As we mentioned, MIT does not accept the common app or the Coalition app. Instead, MIT uses their own application system which can be found on their website. The first things to keep in mind when applying to MIT are the application deadlines. The early action (non-binding) deadline is November 1st, and the regular action deadline is January 1st.

MIT doesn’t really care whether you apply early or regular decision, and one type of application doesn’t tend to give students an advantage. That said, some students know which school they want to attend, and they want to get the process over with as quickly as possible. If this sounds like you, you may consider applying early action.

Many students wonder: what is the cost to apply to MIT? There is a $75 application fee that can be paid when your application is submitted, but MIT also offers a fee waiver for families who have trouble paying for application fees. The fee waiver is part of the application.

Young woman holding her books while walking.

Additionally, MIT is interested in what you plan to study should you gain admission. It’s important to keep in mind that this part of the application is not binding. MIT doesn’t expect you to have your entire future planned before you even arrive at college, but they do want to know what interests you.

MIT students don’t declare their major until the end of their first year, but many students already have some sense of their direction. If you don’t know exactly where you plan to end up once you reach MIT, that’s ok. Just focus on the fields of study that interest you the most, or field in which you have already done work.

In the first part of the application you will be asked for standard biographical information including your email, name and preferred name, as well as citizenship and geographical information.

The next section of the application is the essay section which is vitally important because it allows you to set yourself apart from the thousands of other talented applicants. Many students look at their flawless transcript and near perfect SAT scores and figure that their admission is guaranteed, but schools like MIT see tens of thousands of applications from students like this every year. As a result, they need ways to choose the absolute top students. In order to be a part of this elite group, you need to be more than just a great transcript.

When you apply to MIT, you will be asked to answer all of the following short essay questions:

  • Describe the world you come from; for example, your family, clubs, school, community, city, or town. How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations? (250 words or fewer)
  • Pick what field of study at MIT appeals to you the most right now, and tell us more about why this field of study 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. (200–250 words)
  • At MIT, we bring people together to better the lives of others. MIT students work to improve their communities in different ways, from tackling the world’s biggest challenges to being a good friend. Describe one way in which you have contributed to your community, whether in your family, the classroom, your neighborhood, etc. (200–250 words)
  • Tell us about a significant challenge you’ve faced or something that didn’t go according to plan that you feel comfortable sharing. How did you manage the situation? (200-250 words)

There is also one final, open-ended, additional-information text box where you can tell us anything else you think we really ought to know.

Once you’ve answered the essay questions, it’s time to let the admissions staff know about your activities. This is another area where you get to set yourself apart from the crowd. MIT allows you to discuss four of your activities. If you’re one of those students who seems to be involved in everything, this may feel restrictive, but MIT wants to know about the four activities that mean the most to you.

Take some time to consider which activities are the most meaningful to you. It doesn’t have to be the activities that sound the most impressive or where you spend the most time. Instead, MIT admissions officers want to see how your activities have shaped you as a person. Because so many students will apply to MIT this year, it’s important to make sure your activities help tell your story.

The next section allows you to self-report your high school coursework. MIT will use this in conjunction with your official transcript in order to evaluate your work in high school. MIT provides the following tips for students about filling out this section of the application:

  • The self-reported coursework should be completed by students in U.S. school systems only. If you attend an international school, we’ll just use your transcript.
  • The information you provide does not replace your official high school transcript, which must be sent to us from your school to verify your self-reported information (in order to avoid accidental misrepresentation, it might help to have a copy of your high school transcript in front of you while completing this form).
  • Avoid abbreviations, if at all possible, and enter the names of your school courses by subject area. Please include all classes you have taken and are currently taking. If your courses were taken outside of your high school (at a local junior college or university, for example), tell us where they were taken in the “Class Name” field.
  • In the “Grade Received” field, list term and/or final grades for each class, as found on your school transcript (semester, trimester, quarter, final, etc.). Use one entry only per class. For example, it’s not necessary to use a separate entry for each semester of the same class. Place all grades for a class in the same field, separating grades with commas.

How to get the best letters of recommendation?

Like most universities, MIT requires that you submit letters of recommendation. When it comes to how to apply to MIT, this is an important part of the process. When you apply to MIT, you will need to submit two letters from teachers. One needs to be from a math or science teacher, while the other letter should be from a humanities teacher. But how do you know which teachers to ask?

Young teacher talking to a group of students.

First, you should seek out teacher with whom you’ve developed a relationship over your high school career. Ideally, you should ask teachers who have gotten to know you and who understand your potential. If you’re not sure, ask yourself this question: would this teacher be able to write something unique about me?

When making all of these decisions you should keep in mind that you are telling a story. The story of you. Elite schools like MIT are looking for only the top students from around the world. In order to gain admission, you need to give yourself every opportunity to stand out. Stellar letters of recommendation mean a lot to admissions officers as they try to get a complete picture of who you are and where you’re going in life. Which brings us too…

How to get an interview at MIT?

Not all schools offer interviews, but MIT likes to get as good a sense of their applicants as possible. According to MIT, they don’t just want to see who you are on paper, they want to see who you are as an actual human being. When you apply to MIT, you will have the opportunity to speak with an educational counselor who can coordinate an interview.

Female student shaking hands with her interviewer.You don’t even have to travel to Massachusetts to have your interview. MIT maintains a network of over five-thousand MIT graduates who conduct interviews all over the United States. So, what is it like to interview with MIT?

There is no set format for interviews, but they typically last about an hour. Your interviewer has a certain amount of latitude to ask you about different topics, but the goal of the interview isn’t to trip you up or quiz you on facts. Instead, the goal is to get to know you as a whole person rather than a list of grades and scores.

If you are feeling nervous prior to your interview, consider the following tips:

  • Ask your friends about their interviews and what they talked about.
  • Your interviewer will likely ask you about the areas in which you are passionate. Since you can anticipate this topic, plan your answer ahead of time. Choose a story (or stories) that help to illustrate your points.
  • Feel free to ask your interviewer about their time at MIT. There’s a good chance they will ask you if you have any questions for them, and they want you to have some well thought out questions prepared for them.
  • Practice your interview beforehand. Ask a parent, friend, or teacher to do a practice interview and give them some topics to ask you about.
  • Try your best not to be nervous. Your interviewer wants to get to know you. Chances are, they’re on your side, and they want to be able to recommend you for admission. You don’t have to dress up, you don’t have to use your biggest vocabulary words, just be yourself.

What else should you send?

These are all of the materials you NEED to supply when you apply to MIT, but you can choose to submit additional materials if you feel as though they would benefit your application. While MIT focuses on mathematics and the sciences, they also recognize the value of creativity in all of these fields. As a result, you are welcome to submit a variety of different materials.

If you worked on a significant research project, you can send a research supplement as part of your application. Musicians/composers can submit recordings or written composition, and screenwriters/playwrights can submit a ten-page writing sample.

For visual artists or architecture projects, you can submit a portfolio in whichever medium you prefer. MIT also offers a Makers Portfolio for students to showcase projects which require creativity and skill.

At AdmissionSight, our goal is to make the admissions process as easy and successful as possible. Navigating the application process and all of its nuances can be a challenge, but we have years of experience guiding students through the process. If you want to see how AdmissionSight can help you, book your free consultation today.


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