How To Get Into MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology Requirements

Matt Larriva
Aug 02, 2022
Home » Blog » How To Get Into MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology Requirements

If you dream of contributing to the world’s understanding of science and technology, then you’ve probably already considered how to get into MIT.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a hyper-competitive institution that’s yielded more Nobel Laureates, astronauts, and influential inventors than most entire countries have. And for this success, it has been recognized.

But getting into MIT is another story.

Coming in on the US News and World Report list of colleges in a three-way tie – with Harvard and Columbia – the Massachusetts Institute of Technology distinguishes itself in the top tier of technically oriented institutions in the world. 

MIT’s low acceptance rate of just 7% makes it seem intimidating to those who seek admission, but if you’re serious about getting into MIT, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for a deep dive into the school, its focus, and how you can gain an edge in applying.

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MIT History

William Barton Rogers, MIT’s first president
William Barton Rogers, MIT’s first president

MIT was the brainchild of William Barton Rogers: MIT’s first president. It was modeled on the European Polytechnic models of the time, focusing on applied sciences, engineering, and experimentation, as opposed to the traditional curriculum of studying the classics.

Rogers was a tireless promoter of the concept of a new kind of educational venture–one that would match the needs of a new nation, entering and contributing to the Industrial revolution.

He was a professor of natural philosophy at the College of William and Mary when he first conveyed his premises for a “new polytechnic institute” in 1846.

Rogers was profoundly influenced by French scientific and engineering education, and its influence figures prominently in MIT’s structure and focus.

Rogers campaigned tirelessly for the creation of the Institute, rallying support and raising funds. It is fitting, then, that his life ended on the podium during his 1882 commencement address at the Institute for which he fought so tirelessly.

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MIT: From Humble Beginnings to Tech Superstar

Rogers’ achievement, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has become an institution unlike any other, surging in success and renowned from its humble beginnings as an educational experiment.

With such rapid success and international prestige, it could be easy to think that MIT is an institution focused solely on academics, but it also has one of the most impressively progressive cultures in the world. It boasted female and black graduates long before was common in America, paving the road for other universities.

1861

Founding of MIT

MIT was granted its official charter in Massachusetts on April 10, 1861, just two days before the start of the Civil War. It was aided in its structure and expansion by the Morrill Land Grant act of 1862 and is officially a private land-grant institution. Over the next several years plans were made and funds raised, with the first classes beginning in 1865, as the civil war came to a conclusion.

1861
1886

Original MIT Campus is Built in Boston

Using rented space in downtown Boston, in the beginning, the school was located on Summer street up to when its first construction was completed on Boylston Street, in Boston’s Back Bay in 1866. The Back Bay facilities grew through the end of the century, and by then the buildings were overflowing Copley Square and beyond. It would be several decades before the campus could be consolidated at its current location on the other bank of the Charles River.

1886
1873

First Female Graduate from MIT

Graduating from MIT in 1873, with a degree in Chemistry, Ellen Henrietta Swallow was the first woman to be awarded MIT credentials. After joining the faculty, later, she founded the Women’s Laboratory.

A pioneer in applying science to the home, through the discipline of home economics, Ellen’s other activities included the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and the application of chemistry to nutrition Her spouse, Robert Richards, was one of the first MIT graduates, and a professor of mining engineering.

1873
1892

First African-American Graduate from MIT

Robert Robinson Taylor is recognized as the first African-American graduate of MIT. An architectural student, Taylor became an architectural drawing instructor and the architect in residence, at the Tuskegee Institute, after graduating from MIT in 1892.

Taylor is often credited with constructing a beautiful and “sound” campus, after the fashion of the day. Taylor retired in the mid-1930s. His Butler Chapel, along with nine other buildings on the campus of the Tuskegee Institute, were considered exemplars of the success of industrial education at Tuskegee.

1892
1912

“Mr. Smith’s” Multi-million Dollar Donation

“Mr. Smith’s” Multi-million Dollar Donation
MIT’s move to Cambridge and the construction of its new campus was made possible in great part by a substantial donation from an anonymous donor referred to as “Mr. Smith.”

“Mr Smith’s” true identity was revealed at an alumni dinner in January 1920. He was George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak. Eastman never attended MIT.

For eight years, President Richard Maclaurin only was allowed to give two clues to the identity of MIT’s most significant donor: he did not live in Massachusetts, and he had never attended MIT.

1912
1916

MIT Moves to Cambridge

The Institute moved to Cambridge during a three-day alumni reunion in June of 1916. An extravagant celebration, which included a “ telephone banquet” connecting alumni from around the country and an elaborate pageant, what today would be called a conference call, punctuated the dedication of the new campus.

“MCMXVI” is carved on the iconic dome of Building 10. The School of Architecture remained in Boston in the old “Rogers Building” until 1938.

1916

MIT University Fun Facts & Trivia

Good Will Hunting

When Ben Afflek and Matt Damon wrote Good Will Hunting, they set it in Boston, as that’s where both were from. But they wanted to distinguish the main character as a math genius beyond comprehension, for this task, they thought, Harvard would simply not do.

They needed some place even more challenging to show his math prowess so they chose none other than MIT.

MIT Mascot: Tim The Beaver

The beaver was assigned as the MIT mascot in 1914. Though most of the sports teams still use the moniker ‘The Engineers’, the football, and several other teams, have adopted ‘The Beavers’.

Integrating this persistent and ingenious engineering mammal into the MIT heritage was aided by the following quote, from William T. Hornaday’s book The American Natural History: A Foundation of Useful Knowledge of the Higher Animals of North America: “Of all the animals of the world, the beaver is noted for his engineering and mechanical skill and habits of industry. His habits are nocturnal, he does his best work in the dark.” (Technology Review, vol. 16, 1914).

MIT Official Colors

It is with this historical context that MIT chose its official colors– Cardinal Red and Silver Gray, in memoriam of the uniform colors of the opposing sides of the American Civil War. The colors were selected in 1876, the year the South finally won the Civil War. 

500+ Student Activity Groups

MIT has over 500 recognized student activity groups, including a campus radio station, The Tech, a student newspaper, an annual entrepreneurship competition, a crime club, and weekly screenings of popular films by the Lecture Series Committee.

Student activities run the gamut of diverse subjects and projects, from community involvement through externships with various corporations and companies. There are official and unofficial affiliations throughout the world between current students and MIT faculty in all walks of life.

One only has to find an interest, to begin an effort to organize around it with the vibrant and curious minds of the MIT faculty, alumni, and undergraduate communities. It should be no surprise that MIT has one of the largest collections of English Science Fiction. But its vibrant folks dance clubs might open one’s eyes. 

Greek Life

Fraternities and sororities provide a base of activities in addition to housing. Approximately 1,000 undergrads (48% of men and 30% of women) participate in one of several dozen fraternities and sororities provide a base of activities in addition to housing.

Approximately 1,000 undergrads (48% of men and 30% of women) participate in one of several dozen Greek Life men’s, women’s, and co-ed chapters on the campus.

The Independent Activities Period (IAP)

The Independent Activities Period spells the gloom of winter in the heart of New England that is Boston on the Charles. This ‘mini-term’ is four weeks long, and is intended to provide a creative break from the pressures of academic life at MIT.

The IAP provides students, faculty, and alumni to indulge their interests in things off the calendar. There, hundreds of lectures, optional classes, demos, and other interactions between the Fall and Spring semesters.

“Hacking” Off-Limit Areas

Many MIT students also engage in “hacking”, which encompasses both the physical exploration of areas that are generally off-limits (such as rooftops and steam tunnels), as well as elaborate practical jokes.

Examples of high-profile hacks have included the abduction of Caltech’s cannon, reconstructing a Wright Flyer, a fire truck, and a police car atop the Great Dome. Another activity is the careful modification and dressing up of the John Harvard statue with the Master Chief’s Mjölnir Helmet at neighboring Harvard University.

The MIT YouTube channel features videos about all types of MIT research, including the robot cheetah, LIGO, gravitational waves, mathematics, and bombardier.

MIT University Majors & Identity

MIT has the following schools:

Your freshman year at MIT is uncommitted.

During that year, you can explore your areas of interest to determine what best fits you, what best suits your interests and aptitudes, and what problems present themselves that most spark and drive your curiosity. In this way, MIT helps you and them find the problems that matter to you. 

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MIT Requirements: Core Curriculum & General Institute Requirements (GIRs)

General Institute Requirements (GIRs) are what make up MIT’s core curriculum.

They include:

  • Science core
  • Humanities
  • Arts and Social Sciences
  • Communication requirements (writing, speaking)
  • Laboratory requirement
  • Science and Technology electives outside your major
  • and a Physical education requirement

For a full rundown of the GIRs, visit the MIT website.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP)

mit medical school student looking into microscope

One element of MIT you should be familiar with and excited about is Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).

The program supports thousands of projects each year with 91% of MIT graduating seniors conducting research, for pay or for credit, during their undergraduate years.

Established in 1969 with funding from the inventor Edwin Land, MIT has spent well over $100 million on the UROP program—redefining research at MIT.

UROP is a first step in moving into the world of published research and navigating the process of becoming a full-fledged professional research scientist. 

Every scientist was once a novice: UROP gives you a point of entry to begin work that can last a lifetime.

MIT Admissions
mit engineering student and professor working on robot

Hands-on Research

In conjunction with MIT faculty, UROP provides the ability to design, or just assist, in every stage of the academic research process. From developing an initial thesis, through the plan to validate or invalidate the thesis, on through the execution of the research process.

Outputs include published papers, co-authored, conference presentation, and possibly new inventions that can provide stipends to support your educational goals. 

MIT Alumni

MIT alumni founded or co-founded many 20th century iconic companies such as Intel, McDonnell Douglas, Texas Instruments, 3Com, Qualcomm, Bose, Raytheon, Apotex, Koch Industries, Rockwell International, Genentech, Dropbox, and Campbell Soup.

The aggregated annual earnings of companies founded by MIT alumni would come in just behind the state of California in magnitude, making it the 11th largest economic entity in the world.  

Additionally, 41 MIT alumni have won Nobel Prizes, 48 have been selected as Rhodes Scholars, 61 have been selected as Marshall Scholars, and 3 have been selected as Mitchell Scholars.

The Guardian reported, “a survey of living MIT alumni found that they have formed 25,800 companies, employing more than three million people including about a quarter of the workforce of Silicon Valley. Those firms collectively generate global revenues of about $1.9 trillion (£1.2 trillion) a year”.

More than one third of the United States’ manned spaceflights have included MIT-educated astronauts, a contribution exceeding that of any university excluding the United States service academies. Of the 12 people who have set foot on the Moon, so far, four graduated from MIT—among them Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin.

MIT notable alumni

Distinguished MIT alumni include:

  • Patrick Francis Orlando, Chairman of DWAC
  • Physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman, SB 1939 (MIT Department of Physics)[393] 
  • Economics Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, PhD 1977 (MIT Department of Economics) 
  • Economics Nobel laureate Esther Duflo, PhD 1999 (MIT Department of Economics), also an MIT professor[392] 
  • CEO of General Motors Alfred P. Sloan, SB 1895 (MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) 
  • “Boston” guitarist Tom Scholz, SB 1969, SM 1970 (MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering) 
  • Alumnus and former faculty member Qian Xuesen led the Chinese nuclear-weapons program and became instrumental in the PRC rocket-program. 

What Kind Of Student Is MIT Looking For?

MIT is looking for talent, of course.

But that talent must have a certain orientation, towards the public interest.

An orientation to want to be involved in solving the problems extant in the world, for which products and solutions are only the tip of the iceberg towards the next set of problems, techniques, and solutions. Science and technology are the means to help build a better world, and at MIT there is a commitment to helping the most creative and talented minds of each generation expand their reach to be able to apply themselves to how science and technology are applied, again, in the public interest. 

This mission has been exhaustively discussed by B. Alden Thresher, an economist and the first Director of Admissions at MIT. In 1966, he wrote “College Admissions in the Public Interest”.

Is MIT The Right School For Me?

The most important thing the MIT admissions process emphasizes is to be of some use. They are looking for personnel who will have an impact on the world. People who will enter the world and make differences in how the world solves problems, organizes problems, and works through them.

So the most sincere question you can struggle with as part of your investigation of whether MIT is the right school for you is:

Do I want to work with people to develop new techniques and methods for problem solving that will lead the world forward? Am I more focused on making those differences than being concerned about how credit is distributed, or who in the group is doing the most work, contributing the most?

If MIT is the right school for you, you’ll be most interested in working within teams to learn how to answer those kinds of questions, to pose the questions that come beyond, and to continue to construct the solutions.

All of the majors listed above have significant decades of tradition and pedagogy.

What angles can you help bring to those disciplines to begin the process of evolving those pedagogies into a more perfect solution for academe, and by applying those, for mankind?

What subjects are missing, that are evolving so fast that it’s barely possible to begin to construct the pedagogy?

After exploring those notions, if you are still interested in learning how to get into MIT University, read on.

Not Sure If MIT Is The Right School For You?

I encourage you to read our guides on getting into the Ivy League schools as well:

MIT Acceptance Rate

mit acceptance rate is 7%

MIT admissions are extremely selective with an acceptance rate of 7%.

As you might suspect the MIT university acceptance rate is just as competitive as the Ivy League schools.

MIT Early Decision Acceptance Rate (Early Action)

The MIT early decision acceptance rate is 4.7%

MIT University Admission Requirements

There are various admissions requirements you will need to meet if you dream of going to MIT. Some MIT university requirements will require students to begin planning their journey to MIT early, including maintaining a high GPA, scoring well on the SAT or ACT tests, and participating in extra-curriculars.

MIT GPA Requirements

mit average gpa 4.17

MIT entrants have a weighted average GPA of 4.17. As one of the most competitive schools in the world, the MIT university GPA requirements (albeit an unofficial requirement) make it so that you will need to be nearly at the top of your class, and have taken plenty of AB or IP courses.

There’s no formula for gaining admission to MIT, however, and interesting hobbies, club participation, and achievements related to the technical world can be invaluable.

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Standardized (ACT/SAT) Test Scores For MIT Admissions

mit average sat score 1510 to 1560 act score 34 to 36

Students that get into MIT have an average SAT score between 1510-1570 or an average ACT score of 34-36.

MIT To Reinstate SAT/ACT Policy Effective for the 2022-23 Admissions Cycle

On March 28th, 2022, MIT announced that they would be reinstating their SAT/ACT requirement for applications. MIT University requirements will once again request either an SAT or the ACT for both prospective first-year and transfer students. The change goes into effect for the upcoming admissions cycle for the 2022–23 application cycle for prospective students of the Class of 2027. 

After careful consideration, we have decided to reinstate our SAT/ACT requirement for future admissions cycles. Our research shows standardized tests help us better assess the academic preparedness of all applicants, and also help us identify socioeconomically disadvantaged students who lack access to advanced coursework or other enrichment opportunities that would otherwise demonstrate their readiness for MIT. We believe a requirement is more equitable and transparent than a test-optional policy.” – Stu Schmill ’86, MIT Dean of Admissions and Student Financial Services

READ THE FULL STORY: MIT Now Requiring the SAT or ACT for Admissions

How To Get Into MIT by Getting an Edge On the Competition

Nowhere is the old adage of ‘to be interesting, you need to be interested in something’ more important than as part of the MIT entry process. Part of MIT culture is about working on collaborative projects and showing an active interest in solving problems by applying knowledge and research, together.

For example, look at MIT’s Independent Activities Period (IAP), which we discussed above.

In MIT’s own words, IAP “is a four-week period in January during which faculty and students are freed from the rigors of regularly scheduled classes for flexible teaching and learning and for independent study and research.”

One way to get an edge on the competition is to be one step ahead by emulating the IAP experience in the years leading up to applying to MIT.

By already having organized, engaged in, and worked through creative problems in your free time, you will not only demonstrate a thorough understanding of MIT, but it also shows that you are ready to do the kind of work the school is focused on.

Keep in mind that demonstrating interest and persistence in one or two areas is of more importance than an overall mastery.

So, if you want to get into MIT, ask yourself:

What have you done to demonstrate problem solving techniques, interest in technical applications, practical real world applications, and an interest in improving the world?

MIT Application Essays

In addition to top grades, top test scores and an interest in applied technology, it’s important to handle the MIT Application Essay well.

Here are the 2021-2022 MIT essay prompts:

Essay Prompt #1

200-250 words

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?

Essay Prompt #2

100 words or fewer

Pick what field of study at MIT appeals to you the most right now, and tell us more about why this field of study appeals to you.

Essay Prompt #3

200-250 words

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.

Essay Prompt #4

200-250 words

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.

Essay Prompt #5

200-250 words

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?

MIT’s Holistic Admissions Process

The numbers below represent the outcome of the MIT admissions process. They are the result of MIT’s reviewers taking all the factors mentioned above into consideration in helping build a vibrant, student community.

MIT has two application cycles:

  • Early Action (EA)
  • Regular Action (RA)

So, what’s the difference? Just the deadline dates.

It’s okay to apply to MIT during either cycle. MIT states that they do not have a preference. In other words, there is no strategic benefit to be gained if you choose to apply in one vs the other.

The reason there are two cycles is that:

  • First, it spread out the work of MIT admissions officers over a longer period which in turn allows them to devote more time on each individual application.
  • Second, having two cycles gives applicants options on applying based on which works best for them

Rules and restrictions:

Both domestic and international applicants may apply Early Action. MIT’s Early Action is not single-choice, binding.

For those applying to MIT during the Early Action cycle, you are not restricted from applying to other schools and you are not required to attend if you are admitted to MIT.

That being said, MIT does require applicants to respect the rules of other schools they may apply to, meaning that if you apply to another school with restrictions in place during Early Action, MIT asks you to abide by those restrictions.

Here is the example MIT admissions uses:

So for example, if you apply to another school that is “single choice”— meaning that you can only apply there during the early period—you may not simultaneously apply to MIT, and if you’re admitted somewhere “binding,” then even if we admit you, you must go there instead. So choose wisely!

MIT Student Body Data

Unsurprisingly, MIT Loves Data. If you want to learn how to get into MIT University, a good place to look is at the data MIT provides.

So, let’s take a look a the MIT student body data. Here it is in summary:

Some facts and figures about the 1,184 members of the Class of 2025: 

Ethnicity of students accepted to MIT

MIT ethnicity demographics
American Indian/Alaskan Native2%
Asian American41%
Black/African American13%
Hispanic/Latinx14%
Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander1%
White/Caucasian37%

Gender of students accepted to MIT

graph showing MIT student gender demographics
Male50%
Female47%
Another gender identity2%

MIT Geographical Demographics

mit student body demographic
New England9%
Mid-Atlantic20%
South & Puerto Rico16%
Midwest & Plains states9%
Southwest & Mountain14%
West Coast, Alaska & Hawaii18%
Abroad13%

MIT Schooling Background

mit student education graph
Public school67%
Independent school12%
Religious school7%
Foreign school12%
Home school0%
Other1%

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