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How to Write the MIT “World You Come From” 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’s Covered



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 the Common Application, and applicants are required to submit five essays. The fourth essay prompt reads:


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? (225 words or fewer)”


In this article, we 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 for 2022-2023.


Understanding the Prompt


MIT wants to know about the world—however you choose to define it—from which you come and how this world has shaped your dreams and aspirations. This prompt is asking you to consider your community, the place you call home, and the people you consider to be your family and friends. Taking these pillars of your past and present, you are then asked to consider how these have shaped the future that you envision for yourself. 


Two Methods for Writing This Essay


Method #1: One method for approaching this essay is to think about your short- and long-term dreams and aspirations. They do not necessarily need to be career-related, although that is a good place from which to start. Once you have identified these goals, you can work backward and select from your past and present what most relates to and has inspired these dreams and aspirations that you have for your future.


Here are a few questions to consider as you identify and work to articulate your dreams and aspirations: 


  • The sky’s the limit. If you could do anything and be anyone, what would you do and who would you be? 
  • What are specific problems in your local, state, regional, or national community that disturb and unsettle you? How might you learn more about these problems and develop the skills and knowledge to approach solving them? 
  • If you could do anything for a person to improve their life in some meaningful way, what would you want to be able to do? 
  • Who are people in your personal life or public figures whose work, achievements, skillsets, or expertise inspire you? In what ways would you like to be more like them?


After you have thought critically about your future, you should be able to draw direct lines between members of your family, clubs in which you are involved, people and classes at your school, or other elements of your community or city that relate to and inform these dreams and aspirations.


Method #2: Another method for approaching this essay is to work chronologically. Start by thinking about various communities that are important to you and that have been (and continue to be) formative in your life. Who belongs to these communities and how have they impacted your life? What have these communities taught you? What values do these communities hold and practice? 


Remember that a community can be defined broadly and includes but is not limited to one or more of the following: 


  • Your nuclear or extended family
  • Clubs and teams of which you are a member
  • The street or neighborhood in which you live
  • A place where you work
  • A religious community or house of worship
  • A racial or ethnic group


After you have identified a few communities that have been particularly meaningful and formative, you can then consider how your dreams and aspirations have been defined or shaped by your involvement in these communities. 


Past, Present, and Future


Regardless of which method you use to approach writing this essay, you need to remember that you are taking your past and present relationships, commitments, and experiences and analyzing how these have shaped your conception of where you are heading in the future and what you want to do and accomplish with your life. Of course, writing this essay is not a commitment to a particular future or set of dreams and aspirations. Rather, this is an opportunity to tell an important story about how elements of your world have led you to realize certain dreams and aspirations that you have for your future.


The forward-facing direction and emphasis on personal growth are the heart of this essay, and the work that you need to do is to reflect on what your dreams are and where they came from. 


Strive for Authenticity 


It’s important to remember that specificity conveys authenticity. To avoid writing a generic essay, you need to locate specific moments, people, and places in your life that form your world and that you can directly relate to your dreams and aspirations. The more detail that you can provide, the more depth and dimension your personality will have, making it easier for admissions officers to understand who you are and what you will bring to MIT. 


Example #1: Breathing Fresh Air


Take, for example, an applicant who has grown up in New Delhi, India, a city rife with smog. This applicant was born here and has spent every year since birth combating the poor air quality and seeing how their family and community have struggled to adapt as the air quality worsens. The applicant could discuss members of their family and community, the street where they live, and the city overall as the “world” from which they come. They could describe how their family and neighbors struggle to afford air purifiers and windows that make their homes airtight.


Then, they could talk about income inequality and how this impacts who has access to the resources needed to combat air pollution. Finally, they could write about how they want to work on transitioning their community and the country of India to a green energy economy and how this has fueled their passion for studying sustainable development, green technologies, and environmental policy. 


Example #2: The Children’s Hospital 


Consider another example of an applicant whose parents work as pediatric nurses at the local children’s hospital. The applicant spent a lot of their early life observing their parents at work. When the applicant started middle school, they began volunteering in the children’s hospital and got to know the nursing staff, doctors, administrative staff, and patients. The children’s hospital feels like a home away from home for the applicant.


In their essay, the applicant might describe the staff in the hospital, the various wards and rooms, the day-to-day routine, and the victories and disappointments that come with working in the children’s hospital. They might discuss a time when it was particularly painful to see the suffering of a patient with whom they grew close or an experience supporting their parents and the other nursing staff going on strike to protest for better working conditions.


Ultimately, they could write about how their experience working at the hospital taught them the importance of effective hospital administration and how they are inspired to obtain medical and business degrees and someday join the children’s hospital’s administrative leadership.