Admitting MIT applicants

Excerpts from MIT admissions folks about how they experience applicants lives …

In March I go into committee with my colleagues, having narrowed down my top picks to a few hundred people. My colleagues have all done the same. Then the numbers come in: this year’s admit rate will be 13%. For every student you admit, you need to let go of seven others.

What? But I have so many who… But…

And then the committee does its work, however brutal. It’s not pretty, but at least it’s fair. (And by fair I mean fair in the context of the applicant pool; of course it’s not fair that there are so few spots for so many qualified applicants.)

When it’s all over, about 13% of my top picks are offered admission. I beg, I plead, I make ridiculous promises (just ask the senior staff) but at the end of the day, a committee decision is a committee decision.

Of my many favorites this year, there were a few who really got to me, and when they didn’t get in, the tears came. Some would call me foolish for getting this wrapped up in the job, but honestly, I couldn’t do this job if I disconnected myself from the human component of it. It’s my job to present you to the committee; if your dream of being at MIT didn’t become my dream on some small level, then really, why am I doing this at all? Others would disagree, but then, others aren’t me.

To the 87% of you who have shared your lives with us and trusted us with your stories over the last four months, please know that they meant something to me, and I won’t forget you. When I say that I share the pain of these decisions with you, I’m not lying. I’m really not lying.

To the person up there who said “while it’s supposed to be comforting, obviously, I just find it really insincere” – you have it backwards. I don’t expect it (or anything else) to be comforting at this moment. But insincere? No. Not that.

It’s who you are that really matters. It’s how you embrace life. It’s how you treat other people. It’s passion. And yes, that stuff really does drip off the page in the best of our applications. It’s not anything I can explain – you just know when you read an application and a “perfect match” is there.

Please don’t argue about stats, about race, about gender. Katharine got some static along these lines a few threads back. Read her response – in particular the part about what’s important in life. If you don’t see that Katharine belongs here, then you obviously don’t know what MIT is about. (And for the record, Katharine’s application could hold its own against that of any boy.)

Here’s an equally important message: I saw the “perfect match” in a bunch of apps that we deferred. Please remember that we deferred a LOT of people who wholly deserve to be at MIT – folks who are passionate, who love life and the discovery thereof, who genuinely care about the people around them. The absolute worst part of this job is the fact that there are so few spots for so many qualified people, which means we can’t take everyone, even if they belong here.

The best we can do is try to build a perfect class. Not the perfect class, but a perfect class. As Andrew mentioned in a different thread, we could build 2, maybe even 3 perfect classes out of our applicant pool, without question. If you’ve been deferred, there is nothing I can say here to make this fact easier to digest. But trying to pin it on anything else – race, gender, whatever – is just deluding yourself. So please stop harassing Matt; you’re not going to get the answer you’re looking for. I wish we could just give you a perfect black-and-white response, but the real world is never that simple.

If you take nothing else from this post, just know that getting deferred is not a personal reflection on you. At all.

Accepted, deferred, or otherwise – you are all amazing people. As I said previously, you’ll make the world better whether you come to MIT or not. I know it’s not a consolation, but it’s still the truth.

I tell this story not out of angst or in hopes of pity; I tell it to share my personal feelings, and to let you know that the decisions we make are never easy nor flippant; saying “no” is never fun. That said, this doesn’t change the news you received. I can’t (and don’t) expect any of this to change how you feel about it. But I do hope it gives you some insight into what it’s like for us on the other side.

Whether you were admitted or not, or still on the waitlist, I just want to say thank you. You’ve allowed us to read about you, care about you, and get to know you – almost as if I’ve been able to sit with you in your home and hear a snapshot of your life story. Many times, my friends, family (and even I myself) ask why I do this job – the long hours, the nonstop reading, the endless heartache – and I tell them that in the end, it’s worth it and I love it. I love getting to read every story, learn about every person, and feel as though I’ve traveled around the world without having left the comfort of my own home.

So many of you have poured so much of yourselves, your time, and your energy into the application and the process, and I want you to know that regardless of the outcome, none of that goes to waste. We are all better for having read and heard your stories. So again, I thank you and applaud you all.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s