Published in Jan. 18, 2006
By Jiao Wang
Life is getting harder for MIT students, even before they arrive on campus — regular applications rose seven percent this year, following on the heels of a 16 percent jump in early applicants this fall.
This makes the recent hack that changed the lettering on the door to 3-108 from Office of Admissions to Office of Rejections all too true, as more and more applicants vie for the limited number of incoming spots at MIT. A total of 11,231 applicants applied to MIT this year.
The number of international applications, 2,506, shot up by 11 percent from last year, an increase of 203. Although MIT limits the number of international applicants admitted to 10 percent of the total number of admits, this year the number of early international admits doubled, decreasing the number of spaces remaining for international students who submit regular applications.
Students admitted to MIT “need to be the right match,” said Dean of Admissions Marilee Jones, who urges high school students to understand the culture of the colleges to which they are applying. She said MIT provides an analytical education that focuses on trying new things and comments on the importance of self-initiative and inner resilience at MIT.
“You have to be comfortable with not getting it right,” said Jones. She said the admissions office is looking for people who are not afraid to fail, who are not easily discouraged, who spring back from adversity. Being a perfectionist at MIT is a disease; the idea that you have to do everything perfectly has no value, she said.
“I think of MIT as a samurai school,” said Jones. “It is preparing you for the highest work of advancing civilization. You have to find a way to be happy here. Every single student here is challenged — they have their moments, but it’s all in order to prepare you for your ultimate pass … and that is not trivial.”
Jones notes the cultural bias against students who are good in math and science, saying many people believe them to be geeks. She cites OpenCourseWare as an example of how MIT conveys its institution and culture to the rest of the world.
Many admitted students who turn down MIT criticize its curriculum as being too narrow, she said. Others prefer to be in a place where there are people majoring in many different disciplines. Finally, some simply resort to the simplest reason: “it’s not my kind of place,” Jones said. In an age when students use college to help decide what they want to do with their lives as opposed to learning a technical trade, many parents urge their children to get the most versatile degree possible, favoring a liberal arts degree over a technical one.
Currently, Harvard and Yale are the only two schools to which MIT loses more students than it wins, with Harvard winning over two-thirds of their joint admits. MIT loses few students to other schools of technology, Jones said.