How To Write the MIT ‘Why Major’ 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.
- Understanding the Prompt
- Choosing a Major
- The Reasons Why
- Example: Studying Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is ranked consistently 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 math), 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 second essay prompt reads:
“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)”
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 please review how to write the MIT application essays.
Understanding the Prompt
This prompt is a “Why Major” question that asks you what you want to study and why you want to study it. Most importantly, it asks you why you want to study this major at MIT. Ultimately, the most compelling response to this essay prompt is one that:
- Demonstrates clearly your passion for the major that you have chosen.
- Integrates your past and present studies and interests seamlessly with your future at MIT and your long-term academic and professional goals.
- Addresses specifically why MIT―its campus, resources, faculty, programs, and opportunities―is the place where you need and want to study.
Choosing a Major
MIT has a unique list of distinctive majors. Before you start brainstorming and drafting a response to this prompt, spend ample time exploring the various courses on the MIT website. You should pinpoint a few courses of study that appeal to you and then dive deeper into what the curricular emphasis is of each course of study, what resources and opportunities are available, and which faculty might you be interested in studying with or whose research you find compelling.
The key phrase in this prompt is “right now,” which many schools don’t include in their “Why Major” essay prompt, but which all schools imply. This key phrase means that if you matriculate at MIT, you will in no way be required to major in the field of study that you write about in response to this prompt. You are free to choose and change your major, and most students change their major at least once during their college career.
For anyone who has many interests, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to choose just one major to write about. It is completely fine, and even expected, that you may be undecided, but spend time condensing your list of potential majors to one or two that you are truly interested in pursuing further. If you cannot decide on one major to write about, you can use your essay as a space to discuss the disciplines that you want to explore further and why.
The Reasons Why
This straightforward prompt requires a concise response since it has only a 100-word limit. While specificity is still important, there is less space for detail than in the other 200- to 250-word prompts that MIT asks you to write.
Once you have introduced the field of study that most appeals to you, you will need to discuss why this field appeals to you. The reasons that you give need to be authentic reasons, such as ones that are based on pure intellectual curiosity, personal goals, and strongly held values. Reasons that will not interest or impress admissions officers will be those related to clout, prestige, post-graduation salary, or because that is what your parents want you to do. The admissions committee wants to know what you are genuinely passionate about and why.
Here are some key questions to consider before writing Prompt 2:
- What past experiences of yours have influenced your decision to study this field at MIT?
- What coursework or independent study have you pursued in this field?
- What classes are you interested in taking at MIT?
- Who are the teachers that you have had, thought leaders in this field, or other role models that inspire you to pursue this course of study?
- Who are the professors or researchers at MIT that you would want to learn from or work with?
- Who are the people that you wish to serve, or whose lives you hope to improve, through working or doing research in this field?
- How did you first discover this field of study?
- How do you engage with this field of study inside and outside of the classroom?
- How do you envision yourself using this field of study in your future career?
- Why is this field of study personally meaningful to you?
Example: Studying Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Take, for example, an applicant who wants to pursue the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) major at MIT. In their response, they should explain that they want to study EECS because it will help them develop a rigorous understanding of the hardware and software sides of technology and build the technical skills that they need for the start-up that they aspire to run in the future.
At MIT specifically, there is a new curriculum, and the applicant should discuss how the increased flexibility and emphasis on this interdisciplinary study will benefit them since their interests span electrical engineering, computer science, environmental science, and public policy. The applicant also recognizes that entrepreneurship and business acumen are skills that they will need to develop to run a successful start-up. Consequently, they should talk about the classes, faculty, and extracurricular programming they may want to explore at the MIT Sloan School of Management.