Writing the MIT Application Essays 2020-2021

Padya Paramita

Writing the MIT Application Essays 2020-2021

Massachusetts Institute of Technology is the dream university for many STEM-oriented students, and it comes as no surprise that it’s also one of the most selective schools in the world. If you’re set on majoring in Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Computation and Cognition, or one of the other highly specialized programs that MIT offers, it’s important to let admissions officers know who you are and what you’d bring through the MIT application essays 2020-2021.

Since MIT uses MyMIT, its own application system, you don’t have to worry about repeating your Common App personal statement topic here! But, this means that the essays act as your personal statement and supplemental responses all in one. Alongside conveying your love for MIT, you must take advantage of your essays to provide crucial context on your interests and background. You have five prompts to convince admissions officers why you’re an ideal fit for this highly competitive Boston institution. To help guide you through the writing process, I’ve outlined each prompt, dos and don’ts for your responses, and more tips on the MIT application essays 2020-2021.

Prompts for the MIT Application Essays 2020-2021

Prompt 1 

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. (100 words or fewer)

MIT values students who are particularly invested in activities and topics that are important to them, no matter what the scale. If you have a hobby that is highly meaningful that isn’t a conventional extracurricular per say, MIT is telling you to go for it. Just the introductory paragraph to most essays requires over 100 words - you might find it difficult to restrain yourself while talking about your favorite activity. In order to get your point across, you need to put less emphasis on describing the activity - limit it to one or two sentences - and more on what brings you joy about it. Why is it your favorite? How does it recharge you in a way others may not? Has it shaped your perspective in a significant way?

Since admissions officers will see your activities list through MyMIT, you should find ways to include anecdotes which will convey additional information about yourself. While you should not pick a purely academic activity or something that you think MIT wants to hear, you also should think of something beyond sleeping, eating, or hanging out with friends. Your outlook on the activity should be unique, and help you stand out among your peers.

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Download Every Supplemental Prompt Here!

 

 

Prompt 2

Although you may not yet know what you want to major in, which department or program at MIT appeals to you and why? (100 words or fewer)

This is an accelerated version of the “why this school” essay. Remember that your response shouldn’t revolve around broad categories that make MIT wonderful - everyone knows it’s a great school. Plus, you have a very tight word limit. Think about how an MIT education pertains to your goals. Even if you’re not sure what specific major you’re interested in, you should have an idea of one or two programs you like the most in order to connect your experiences and aspirations with why you’ve chosen the school. 

Research is the key to any “why this school” essay. Before you write this response, it’s important to sit down and look through the majors and course offerings. Once you’ve decided which major appeals to you, it’s time to think about your own experiences. How did your love for the field begin? How have you honed your skills in the discipline since then? If you’ve taken any challenging courses or started relevant clubs, how is MIT the perfect place for you to continue your exploration? No matter which MIT major you’ve chosen, it’s important to show admissions officers why your interest makes sense for you and that your dedication to the field is real. 

Prompt 3

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. (200-250 words)

Since the prompt clearly states that there are no specific boxes which your choice of community has to check, think about a place where you’ve actually made an impact. Think about how to differentiate yourself - while service trips abroad definitely could count as community service, they won’t help paint a memorable picture of you because lots of students participate in them. You could write about the smaller circles such as your family, friend group, or neighborhood. You may have helped the community as a whole or you could have helped one or two individuals who belong to it. 

To think about the kinds of contributions to elaborate on, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How have you collaborated with others in your community?
  • Have you taken any risks to help others? How have they paid off?
  • Have you spearheaded any initiatives towards change?
  • Are there any service examples that portray your curiosity and creativity?
  • Why do you care about this community? How have you shown it? 

If you choose a larger community - like your whole school or city - make sure your essay still focuses on your own contribution and role. A response to such a prompt needs to follow the classic “show, not tell” advice. Admissions officers won’t be satisfied with just “I helped my family.” You need to dig deeper and convince them through the MIT application essays 2020-2021 that you are the kind of hardworking and passionate individual who can thrive at MIT.

Prompt 4

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? (200-250 words)

It’s crucial that you go through all of the prompts offered by the MIT application essays 2020-2021 before you decide on a topic for each of them because what you covered in Prompt 3 might also be a good fit for Prompt 4. And if you are invested in more than one community, then you’re in luck! Either way, your answer to questions 3 and 4 should not cover the same topic because each essay is meant to add new information about you.

A good clue on what to write here comes from the second part of the question - “how has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations?” It’s time to think about your goals again. Is there any community or group which has played a strong role in solidifying your goals? If the answer is yes, there’s your answer. Start your essay by introducing the chosen world - keep it brief as you have another segment to cover. The major focus of your essay should lie in elaborating on the connection between the topic you’ve chosen and your career aspirations. Use anecdotes as evidence to drive your point home in order for admission officers to better visualize the impact. 

Prompt 5

Tell us about the most significant challenge you’ve faced or something important that didn’t go according to plan. How did you manage the situation? (200-250 words)

MIT values candidates “who are not only planning to succeed but who are also not afraid to fail.” When admissions officers read prompts about challenges students have overcome, they don’t want to know every single detail about the hurdle. The response should be more focused on the way the student reacted in the situation and how they’ve grown from the circumstances. Don’t pick an experience where you gave up easily after failing to do something. Your essay should highlight your strength and resilience in the face of an obstacle.

The definition of a “challenge” may vary from person to person. The keyword here is “significant.” Avoid writing about situations such as a bad grade or a sprain playing soccer that might be minor in comparison to issues other students have faced. Instead, think about an instance which showcases how your ability to recover from a struggle and proves your determination as well as humility. Instead of writing general statements, focus your essay on your actions you took during the situation and the lessons you picked up. 

This is a great opportunity to tell admissions officers about the way you respond to tough moments - end your essay on a positive note!

More Tips to Answer the MIT Application Essays 2020-2021

  • Use Your Common Application Profile As Inspiration - Chances are, other schools on your list use the Common Application so you’ve already filled it out. The Common App can be a great source of letting you know the kind of context colleges want to know about you. If there’s anything that you’ve mentioned in the Common App that you haven’t gotten a chance to express for MyMIT - whether it’s mentioned in your personal statement topic or an impressive award - you may be able to include it somewhere in your response to the MIT application essays 2020-2021!
  • Read the Website Very Carefully - Research is extremely important before sitting down to answer school-specific questions and the MIT application essays 2020-2021 are no different. Luckily, MIT has very detailed information for prospective students that can help you go deeper into admissions officers’ minds. Use the information given on the “What we look for” page to get an idea of which characteristics you should emphasize in your responses. 
  • Use Strong Examples - The MIT application essays 2020-2021 are all about gauging your intellectual pursuits, community involvement, and engagements outside the classroom. Since the word limits for the prompts aren’t generous, each of your essays should focus on being as specific as possible in depicting your personality and interests. Adding specific examples lets admissions officers understand your perspective better and envision the areas of campus where you’d contribute and how you’d fit in with the MIT community. 

The questions asked by MIT act as your personal statement and supplemental essays all in one. So when thinking about the MIT application essays 2020-2021, make sure your responses show your passions and perspective in a way that distinguishes you from other applicants. If admissions officers understand your context and agree with the ways you would be a strong fit for MIT, you’ll be one step closer to that acceptance letter. Good luck!

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