What are MIT Admission Requirements?
With an admissions rate of 6.7%, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is one of the most selective schools in the U.S. MIT is especially famous for its top STEM programs in fields like engineering and computer science, but it does have programs in other fields—even in humanities subjects, such as creative writing.
If you hope to attend MIT, you’ll face stiff competition. Read on for the school’s admissions requirements, and learn how you can boost your chances of admission.
Stated vs. Unstated Admissions Requirements
Because the admissions process at top universities like MIT is holistic and so competitive, there is a difference between stated and unstated admissions requirements.
Selective college admissions is a two-step process. First, you must meet the minimum academic qualifications. This includes explicitly-stated requirements, such as the classes you must take and implicit minimum standardized test scores and GPAs for students of your background. Then, among students who meet the threshold, holistic admissions factors such as essays, your extracurricular profile, and other, more subjective qualities come into play.
The requirements you’ll find on MIT’s website or college search portals like US News are merely the stated admissions requirements. Do not trust them blindly: meeting these minimum requirements doesn’t mean you will get accepted to MIT. However, as long as you do meet these requirements, you will not be actively prevented from matriculating at MIT.
Literally tens of thousands of students meet those standards, so the unstated requirements separate 1,400 actual accepted students for a given class from the more than 10,000 who meet the minimum requirements and apply.
These are qualities like the strength of your extracurricular accomplishments, the quality of your essays and writing, and your alignment with what MIT is looking for on a cultural and skillset basis.
How Your Background Impacts These Requirements
One of the biggest myths about admissions is that all 20,000+ applicants to MIT are judged against each other. In reality, universities are looking for a rough volume of students with different skill sets.
For example, a selective college like MIT might want a class with 20-30 journalists, 15-20 students with experience overcoming adversity, and a certain number of students with other characteristics (both objective and subjective). Because of this factor, the criteria for admission are different based on your background. For example, a student from an affluent suburban school district with a prototypical STEM profile will need to have higher scores and more traditional extracurricular achievements, while a student who grew up in the inner city and is a student-athlete will not need as strong qualifications due to the other characteristics she brings to the class.
MIT’s Unstated Requirements
The highest level goal on your application is to show alignment with MIT’s culture of deep academic inquiry and theoretical foundations. It’s not about STEM alone; that’s a misconception many people have about MIT. But anyone at MIT who pursues disciplines such as English and History approaches the field with that ethos of theoretical inquiry.
Another common archetype is the tinkerer or researcher, someone who pursues projects on their own and shows initiative. If this describes you, it must come across in your essays and extracurriculars.
For example, if you want to study history at MIT, the following profile:
- President of the Debate Club
- President of the Red Cross Club
- President of the Gardening Club
Is actually often less effective than:
- Creating a stellar independent National History Day project
- Working with a professor at a local community college to do research into an arcane period in European History (i.e. Belarus from 1650-1800)
- Creating a YouTube series that breaks down a highly specific history topic (say Ukraine from 1850-present) with bite sized deeply researched videos
Even though the latter profile has less formal accomplishments, it offers better cultural alignment with what MIT is looking for in its class.
If you’d like to get a more precise estimate of your chances of admission at colleges like MIT, CollegeVine’s Applications Program includes access to our “chancing engine,” which is built from the data of thousands of applications.
Recommended (and Encouraged) Coursework
While MIT doesn’t require specific high school courses for admission, it does recommend the following courses:
- One year of high school physics
- One year of high school chemistry
- One year of high school biology
- Math, through calculus
- Two years of a foreign language
- Four years of English
- Two years of history and/or social sciences
You should also strive to take a rigorous course load. Of course, this will depend on the interests and profile of the student in question. Since the average GPA for incoming students is 4.13 on a 4.3 scale, your grades need to be stellar, and you should take plenty of AP or IB and honors courses.
Standardized Test Requirements
MIT superscores the SAT and ACT, meaning the admissions committee will only consider your highest test scores on each section of each test, regardless of whether those scores occurred on the same test. Along with the SAT and ACT, applicants must submit two SAT subject tests, one of which must be Math I or II, and the other of which must be Physics, Chemistry, or Biology.
If you are not a native English speaker, you must achieve a minimum score of 90 on the TOEFL. (This is the minimum, but in reality, most international students score at least a 105.)
While these ranges are the 25th – 75th percentile, keep in mind that if you’re applying without special circumstances or a hook of some sort, being on the lower end of these ranges can hurt you.
On SAT Subject Tests you’re looking for at least a 720, and ideally 780+ on each of the exams. While students have gotten in with scores that are lower, this is the most common range.
|SAT Math||[770, 800]|
|SAT EBRW||[730, 780]|
|ACT Math||[34, 36]|
|ACT English||[34, 36]|
|ACT Composite||[34, 35]|
(Source: MIT Admissions website)
The MIT Application
Students may apply to MIT under the early action or regular decision plan. Unlike many selective colleges, MIT doesn’t use Common App or Coalition application, but uses an independent application specific to the school. However, it’s similar to other applications in that you will need to complete sections such as your biographical info and activities and extracurriculars.
Check out How to Write the MIT Application Essays 2018-2019 to learn more about the application and essay prompts.
Letters of Recommendation
MIT specifies that you should submit two teacher recommendations: one from a math or science teacher and one from a humanities, social science, or language teacher. (For more information on letters of recommendation, check out How Important Are Letters of Recommendation?)
The MIT Interview
MIT offers interviews with alumni, members of the MIT Educational Council, whenever possible. After submitting the first two components of your applications, an Educational Counselor may contact you. You must be in an area where there are local alumni who are members of the Educational Council in order to receive an interview.
If there aren’t any interviewers available in your area, MIT may arrange a Skype interview. If you are unable to have an in-person interview due to limited local availability, this won’t count against you in the admissions process so long as you complete the Skype interview.
Admissions are highly competitive at MIT, so you will need to have stellar grades, SAT scores, and activities in order to be accepted. It’s a great choice for STEM majors as well as students studying other specialties. In fact, if you’re interested in other specialities, such as humanities disciplines, you might have a leg up in the admissions, since having strong candidates for these programs will help MIT build up other fields.
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