Stanford and MIT, while they are both strong in engineering, are still very different schools, and they’re looking for different factors in their applicants. Stanford seeks leaders who will make a difference in society and has a strong entrepreneurship culture and ecosystem. MIT seeks students who are intellectually curious in the math and sciences, and who collaborate and work together toward the discovery of new knowledge, particularly research.
At MIT, you will find a high concentration of students who competed in the Intel Science and Engineering Fair, the Math and Science Olympiads, among other competitions. In fact, MIT has the highest concentration of undergraduates who place in the Top 500 of the Putnam Competition every year, so it certainly speaks to the strength of its undergraduate student body.
Stanford has a much more diverse student body of budding artists, politicians, scientists, economists, historians, entrepreneurs etc. I’d say Stanford is much closer to Harvard in terms of their admissions criteria (although still different) than MIT. Of the students I’ve helped get into Stanford, they exhibited incredible leadership in their activities, while the students I helped get into MIT were very strong in the math and sciences, performing well on many of these competitions.
MIT’s application is also tricky because it’s a series of short 250–300 word essays, while Stanford’s is much longer with the 650 main common application personal statement and the short 250 and 50 word essays. While MIT’s essays still definitely matter, we can tell you that they tend to place more emphasis on your raw stats (academic and extracurriculars, particularly competitions), as well as your recommendation letters and strength of coursework.
At Stanford, the students tend to be much more well rounded and entrepreneurial due to its culture, but MIT’s undergraduates are definitely stronger academically and incredibly gifted when it comes to the math/sciences.