How To Write the MIT Enjoyable Activity 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.
- Choosing an Activity
- Two Methods of Storytelling
- Example #1: Sunset Photography
- Example #2: Solving Rubik’s Cubes
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) consistently is ranked as one of the top five universities in the nation according to U.S. News and World Report. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT Is known for its rigorous STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), business, and entrepreneurship programs. They use their own application system called MyMIT instead of the Common Application, and applicants are required to submit five essays. The prompt for option 1 reads:
“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)”
In this article, we will discuss how to approach the prompt as well as some 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.
Choosing an Activity
Your response to this prompt should focus on something that you do, not because it is required of you, but because you are intrinsically motivated to do it. This could be a formal extracurricular activity, such as being a leader of a club at your high school or an informal hobby that you pursue independently and for your personal enrichment.
This essay is a key opportunity to discuss something that you have not explored in your other essays. You need not, and should not, choose something just because you think it may seem impressive. Rather, choose a pursuit that demonstrates your genuine, authentic passion and that is reflective of who you are and what you will bring to MIT.
You want to discuss an activity or pursuit that demonstrates your ability to think critically, creatively, and maturely about something. Scrolling through TikTok or looking at memes will not resonate with admissions officers. Rather, you want to highlight a substantive activity where you are engaged actively, invested emotionally, and maybe even producing original content. This could take the form of volunteering in your community, having a part-time job at a local store, or operating your own Etsy shop or YouTube channel. Choose something that you love to do without even being asked.
Two Methods of Storytelling
Once you have selected an activity, decide which method you want to use for telling your story. One method you can use is the “moment-in-time” method where you share a brief but detailed anecdote about a single point in time in which you were engaged fully in the activity. With this method, you will recreate a moment that is significant to you and demonstrate through your narration why you love doing the activity.
Alternatively, you can use the longitudinal method where you explore the activity you love, explain how you discovered it, describe how you have engaged in the activity, reflect on how you have grown and what you have learned, and contemplate how you will pursue the activity in the future.
Regardless of whether you choose the moment-in-time or longitudinal method, you will want to incorporate some elements of both methods into your essay. For instance, if you are using the moment-in-time method, you still need to provide context and self-reflection. If you are using the longitudinal method, you still want to provide a rich description of a meaningful moment. Overall, your essay should strike a balance between description and analysis and incorporate vivid imagery, compelling narration, pathos, context, and self-reflection.
Consider these questions as you brainstorm and begin drafting your response to this essay prompt:
- Who introduced you to the activity?
- Who inspires you to keep doing the activity?
- Who do you serve when you do the activity?
- What is involved in doing the activity?
- What does the activity mean to you?
- What are some of the strongest memories you have of doing the activity?
- Where do you do the activity?
- When do you do the activity?
- When did you first learn about the activity?
- How often do you do the activity?
- How has the activity shaped your life and the lives of those around you?
- How have you grown as a person?
- Why are you passionate about and motivated to do the activity?
Example #1: Sunset Photography
For example, consider an applicant whose passion is sunset photography. If the applicant uses the moment-in-time method, they may describe sitting on a pier and watching the sun go down, the experience of lifting the camera, the colors and the sky melting into a gradient of buttercup and creamsicle, the sun hitting the horizon, taking a burst of photos, hearing the rapid succession of camera shutter clicks, and feeling all of their stress evaporate.
Meanwhile, maybe the applicant uses the longitudinal method and describes their first time holding a camera, their first photo, their experience taking photography classes, and the journey they went on taking photos of various subjects before, ultimately, focusing on sunset photography. With either method, the applicant can use sunset photography to talk about why they appreciate nature’s beauty and how photography allows them to capture a fraction of that beauty and hold onto it for just a while longer.
Example #2: Solving Rubik’s Cubes
Another example of the difference between the moment-in-time method and the longitudinal method of approaching Prompt 1 is an applicant who loves solving Rubik’s Cubes of all sizes, from the standard 3x3x3 cube to the 33x33x33 cube. The applicant has been solving Rubik’s Cubes for as long as they can remember and loves solving puzzles and improving over time.
The applicant could write about the moment when they solved their first Rubik’s Cube. Maybe the applicant could describe how solving the standard Rubik’s Cube led to tackling more complex cubes, starting a speedcubing club in their community, and competing at the state, regional, national, and international levels. With either method, the applicant could have a meaningful discussion about their approach to solving puzzles and handling challenges.