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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Application Experience Sharing

Posted by Celine Wan

Note: It’s the MIT interview season and some juniors have been asking me about my interview experience. Though I did not write about my interview experience in this super old and private (now made public haha) diary post, I’d like to share the MIT application process instead so that students can get a taster on how to apply. A lot of Malaysian students do not apply to the USA universities because it is tedious and there is not much guidance on it.

MyMIT Application Journey

Currently: Meh. If only there's a list of all the emoticons The Student Room has, then I'll show you how I really feel like.

Dear self,

It's the university application decisions season, which explains the incessant rambles about universities. Bear with me; I'm all hyped out.

MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology Application Interview Experience
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in all its grandeur

It was Pi Day (3.14) and Tau Time (6.28) in New York when the results were released. At that time, it was about 5:30am over here on the 15th of March; I was asleep.

Remember how I've said that there might be one University that will make me reconsider my Cambridge University offer? Well, this is the one -- MIT: like how Julliard is to Musicians, and Harvard is to Americans. MIT is sort of like a pinnacle of academe for engineers. But sadly, maybe it's because of their strict quota on international undergraduates (due to generous financial aid), that I was inevitably squeezed out from the crowd of MIT undergrad hopefuls, simply because I wasn't good enough; thus, got rejected.

I'm not entirely sad about this, nor am I happy too. In fact it is a mix of contradictory feelings. This is because I've instantly fell in love with the Natural Science and Chemical Engineering Tripos in England and couldn't bear to turn down that offer. Aside from loving the 'other' Cambridge's course structure, I didn't like the prospects of attending swimming and PE classes for a year, because I was told that I'm required to do so in MIT. There were a lot more factors which have caused an inner conflict within me, and though I have to admit that I'm feeling worse than I've expected, since I've predicted a rejection anyway as the competition was one of the fiercest in history, but I still feel rather upset about it because I've put in a lot of effort and hope into it. Still, I concede that I'm not as passionate or dedicated as other people are in the field of engineering because I initially wanted to be a doctor, nor am I better in conveying my feelings in my essays till the admissions officer would have been able to glean some sort of vicarious emotions from me. To add to this, I've only recently know about the existence of MIT (sad case). So for those who fit into any one of these categories which I've mentioned above (love MIT since 19XX or love engineering since 19XX ) but was unsuccessful, I guess that's even more sad.

Don't doubt yourself Celine. Take everything at face value. Plus you’ll never get any offers without risking rejection ☺

Sigh, sometimes, I feel as if I'm a little too harsh on myself. Is being strict unto oneself just an unnecessary burden that one is carrying? Why am I still in prison when the doors are wide open?

Anyway, here is a little blog entry of my journey as an international MIT undergraduate applicant: the hopes and fears as I've masochistically endured the tedium of "myMIT" application. Enjoy:-

Application to become a MIT-ten

It was October 2011 when I've decided to try my luck on this prestigious institution. I kept telling myself that I'm simply buying a lottery ticket: if I get in, then by all means bloody congratulations to myself but if I didn't, then it was just some time and effort that'll be in my expense (how wrong I was to assume as such). I had once doubted my sincerity in applying to MIT until I've read the MIT admissions blog-- it's so easy to fall head over heels for Mitty after that.

Applying to MIT is no easy feat. Here's a brief summary (I may miss out a few trifling things):-

MIT Application Interview Experience

How to Apply MIT

First and foremost, I had to return to my form 3 secondary school to retrieve my PMR results and have them translated to English and then validated by the school principal. Next, I rushed to my form 4 and 5 secondary school to have all of my INTERNAL and external examinations translated, photocopied, and certified. After getting all of my high school records officially sighted and "chopped", I went to Taylor's to find my records of all the internal examinations that I've sat for during my time as a college student there. Of course, this includes my official AS and A levels results but I was required to also obtain all of my internal examinations records and submit them to the admissions officer. As I was also required to give two teacher recommendations (one essay from Science teacher and another essay Humanities), I was having a hard time to decide whom I should ask for help. It was no easy task for their part too, because I had to 'disturb' them multiple times for meet ups and such. In the end, I asked for my Biology lecturer's and English teacher's help.

Unlike most other US universities, MIT does not run on the "common application" (UCAS equivalent). Just like Cambridge's "COPA," all accounts were from a separate body (although Cambridge needs UCAS AND COPA). I was confused about everything at first, because I never attended the US applications workshop and the placement centre said that the US universities are too independent from one another, and thus, hardly share any similarities. Every knowledge I have is through the help of friends who had applied to the US last year and through my own experience (forums etc). I was quite alone in this. To me, to obtain good results in my A levels is probably the easiest thing in the university application process (I'm really bad in personal statements and essay writings).

Then came the SATs.

From an international student's point of view, the SAT is one of the most difficult examinations that I've ever taken. I'm not gifted in languages, maybe it is a curse that most engineers possess. The SAT (II) subject tests were fine, I got decent marks for that, but what I'm referring to is the daunting SAT I. I took Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics Level 2 for SAT 2. Both the SATs took a long time to be completed, but the SAT 1 is as easy as half a day because it's about 3-4 hours. I'm glad that I've significantly increased my SAT scores though. At first, I thought I have pretty decent scores, because my percentiles are 86, 95, and 98 respectively (not in order of whichever sections). Unfortunately, it's not the case if I'm applying for the Ivy Leagues, to the point of me questioning my intelligence and 'theirs.' I guess I'm not cut out as an ideal American University applicant ): [I was very discouraged when I read forums from College Confidential, Brightsparks, ReCom, and The Student Room...]

Edit: US is more lenient to international applicants when it comes to SATs, that's why they have the TOEFL for us non-native speakers :)

My TOEFL: 115/120
SAT subject test: 2390/2400 (meh...I wanted a 2400 :C)
SAT first attempt (october): 1990/2400
SAT second attempt (november aka the following month): 2060/2400

Yes, I suck in English. Just....don't rub it in. I know forums say that it is not "Ivy League standard." But bloody hell, I've only decided to apply to the US after reading Terrence's article/ 3 months before uni deadline so shaddup/shush? ): I STARTED WITH NO CLUE (excuses like a bimb...heh.)

Edit: My friend got into Wharton with a 2040 and plenty of Malaysians with 2300+ in SAT1 didn't get in to all the top universities-- HAH!! (US is really so weird I'm getting scared.. decided not to go there anymore, after the rejection from MIT sigh. Maybe postgraduate lah? I heard it’s easier then.)

I've met our Taylor's assistant principal many times to ask for the principal's details and for the student counselor's recommendation letter. I've also drafted a letter to request for an application fee waiver. Since I'm applying for financial aid, I had to scrutinize my parents too.

MIT Application Interview Experience Malaysia

After submitting Part 1 from 'MyMIT' account, I had to email a MIT alumnus to request for an interview. The interview went smoothly, so I have no qualms about that, and then I proceeded to complete part 2 of my application. All this while trying to obtain stellar grades in the SATs and TOEFL (and of course handling other things). Note that my MIT interview was just a few days before my Cambridge one, so I was shocked by the vast difference between the two's expectations.

When all of the documents were filed and ready to be mailed, silly me entrusted all of my important documents to Pos Laju. In the end, I had to use my colour-photostated copies (the contingent plan…So lucky I had backups for all my documents) as substitutes and sent them via DHL. Part 2 of my application was a string of essays and a list of all activities etc. It had ruined my holidays and Christmas. Enough said.

Once I was done with my MIT application, I was rushed to complete the rest of my US applications. A month later, I created an account in college board to fill in my particulars for a financial aid application. The fact that I have to pay for a financial aid application is very interesting. Soon after that, I've submitted other required documents that are essential for my financial aid application to be processed. That was it. Then came 'the wait.'

The Outcome

I've anticipated a rejection. I know that it would come, because I've submitted an admittedly weak application. In fact, I won't be too surprised if there are more rejections to come. With that bearing in mind, I was unusually calm and slept very early on Pi Day Malaysia time. I was not nervous when I woke up, because with the knowledge that I have already secured a lucrative offer at hand, it's just easier to fall back on something that I've already wanted. As expected-- and after all of that-- it was a rejection anyway (note that the application process took me from October till January...and a bit of February). Slightly upset at most, I believe that my efforts were not entirely a waste. It was a good experience, for America is a very different world to me, with different ideologies and expectations. Do I really want to go to the USA when I've plenty of friends in the UK? Culture shock, liberal arts education, great alumni network, legacy.... Yes— Just not now.

So maybe I should be glad, because confusions would no longer arise. I guess the 800-year-old Cambridge is where I would be heading without any guilt whatsoever. In retrospect, my confidence to gain an admission had also ebbed away when I saw the video of a girl who has launched her MIT acceptance letter into OUTER SPACE.

To quote Jodi Picoult again:
"It was possible that a miracle was not something that happened to you, but rather something that didn't." - The Tenth Circle, Jodi Picoult
Well, life goes on. It was fun/good experience while it lasted.

"And England it is! O levels, A levels, and now a degree and masters from the same institution! The land of punting (Wizard's Institute of Technology aka WIT) I go!"


Till then!


Update: You can go for a student exchange program to MIT in Cambridge ☺ I’ve met some people who are from MIT studying here right now vice versa.
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  2. Hello! May I know if you requested(and received) a scholarship for Cambridge as well?

  3. Hello! May I know if you requested(and received) a scholarship for Cambridge as well?


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