How to Write the MIT “Community” Essay
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Hale Jaeger in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
- What Is a Community?
- Impact and Personal Significance
- Example #1: Tutoring a Friend
- Example #2: Managing Food Waste
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is consistently ranked as one of the top five universities in the nation, according to US News and World Report. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT is known for its rigorous STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), business, and entrepreneurship programs. It uses its own application system called MyMIT instead of Common Application, and applicants are required to submit five essays. The third essay prompt reads:
“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. (225 words)”
In this article, we discuss how to approach the prompt and provide tips for writing your essay. For an overview of the five essay prompts and guidance on how to approach them, check out our post on how to write the MIT application essays.
What Is a Community?
This prompt asks you to reflect on the impact that you have had on your community and the specific ways that you have worked to improve the lives of others within it. A community is defined broadly and includes, but is not limited to, one or more of the following:
- Your nuclear or extended family
- Clubs and teams that you are a member of
- The street or neighborhood where you live
- A place where you work
- A religious community or house of worship
- A racial or ethnic group
Impact and Personal Significance
The specific way that you have contributed to the community you choose to write about doesn’t need to be award winning or impressive. You could write about being a good friend, taking care of your neighbor’s pets, or hosting a weekly coffee hour for members of your church. Anything from your life is worth writing about as long as you have made a positive, measurable, and clear impact on the lives of others.
Beyond having concrete outcomes, you should also have gained something from this experience, such as a new perspective or understanding of yourself and the world around you. It’s important that you communicate how you have changed and grown as a result of this experience. By weaving together the impact of your contribution to others with its significance to you personally, you demonstrate that you not only know how to give of yourself but also that the act of giving is something from which you derive meaning.
Ultimately, this essay is used by MIT admissions officers to predict who you will be in the MIT community based on how you interact with and care for others and your ability to turn empathy into action and direct service. Admissions officers want to see that you are generous in spirit, eager to make a difference, and care deeply about adding value to your community.
Example #1: Tutoring a Friend
For example, suppose an applicant writes about tutoring a friend on their varsity soccer team in mathematics. The person was struggling in math class, worried about failing, and feeling really demoralized. The applicant writes about offering to tutor that friend pro bono because they know that money is tight for the friend’s family. After working together five days a week for two months, the friend’s math test scores start improving, and they finally get their first A on a test. Beyond the improved test scores, the friend starts to really understand and internalize various mathematical concepts and problem-solving techniques to the point where math starts to become fun and interesting.
The applicant should write not only about the positive impact (improved grades and outlook) on their friend but also how the experience was personally significant and illuminating. Perhaps this experience has inspired them to seriously consider a career in teaching because helping others understand difficult concepts is meaningful work to them.
Example #2: Managing Food Waste
Consider another example. An applicant is shocked to find out that their school generates a sizable amount of food waste. Instead of dumping the waste into the landfill, the applicant decides to use their position on the student council to liaise with a sustainability group to develop a two-pronged system of composting and donating leftover food. After this system is successful within the applicant’s school, the applicant works with administrators and students at schools across the school district to implement a similar system.
The applicant could write about the experience of developing the food waste management system, the quantitative and qualitative benefits of such a program to the community and the environment, and the personal satisfaction that they derived from implementing such a program. Additionally, they may discuss their newfound interest in pursuing an academic and professional career at the intersection of agriculture, public policy, and environmental studies.