Wondering how to get into MIT?
In this guide, we’ll share information and advice that will help you strengthen your application and increase your chances of acceptance.
“The MIT community is driven by a shared purpose: to make a better world through education, research, and innovation. We are fun and quirky, elite but not elitist, inventive and artistic, obsessed with numbers, and welcoming to talented people regardless of where they come from.”
Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university in Cambridge that hosts roughly 4,600 undergraduates each year. The student-faculty ratio at MIT is three to one. Students spend their first year gaining “a broad and strong foundation in core fields of human knowledge” before choosing a major.
MIT occupies 168 acres along the Charles River. It’s an open campus, meaning that its museums and libraries are open to the public and the wifi doesn’t require a password. There are hundreds of clubs, including clubs dedicated to chocolate, science fiction, fire spinning, wilderness retreats, and puppies.
Is it Hard to Get into MIT?
MIT is one of the most difficult schools to get into. Its 3.96% admission rate for the most recent incoming class is comparable to Stanford, Harvard, and Princeton.
Acceptance rates have been declining steadily for years. Just a couple of years ago, MIT’s acceptance rate was over seven percent. Twelve years ago, acceptance rates were in the double digits. College admission is more competitive than ever, and MIT is no exception.
33,767 students applied to be part of MIT’s Class of 2026. MIT admitted 1,337 – that’s an admittance rate of just under four percent. The admittance rate for U.S. citizens and permanent residents who applied was nearly five percent. The admittance rate for international students was much lower, about 1.4 percent.
But you know what? That’s not one in a million. It’s not even one in a hundred. That’s one in twenty-five – closer to one in twenty if you’re a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. And if you follow the advice outlined here, you’ll have a great shot at getting into MIT.
GPA and Test Scores
Students admitted to MIT maintain excellent grades and have high test scores. MIT doesn’t list an official average GPA for the Class of 2025 on their website, but the data suggests that the average weighted GPA is nearly 4.2.
MIT requires students to submit an SAT or ACT score. They do not require the ACT writing section or the SAT optional essay. The middle fifty percentile range of recently admitted students for SAT and ACT tests is as follows.
What is MIT Looking For?
“The most important thing to remember,” MIT stresses on their admissions site, “is that at MIT we admit people, not numbers.” In addition to academic excellence, MIT is looking for students who show courage, creativity, and curiosity.
Each student is considered on their own merit; MIT has no quotas by school, state, or region. They don’t favor legacy or alumni students. They don’t even have quotas for various fields of study. At MIT, “what ultimately really matters to us is who you are, what qualities you bring to the table.”
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Here are the key qualities that MIT lists on their admissions site:
Alignment with MIT’s mission
Above all, MIT is looking for students who are actively working to make the world better. Two examples they give are “tutoring a single kid in math” and “lobbying a senator to amend bad policy”. Your dedication and drive are more important than specific achievements.
Collaborative and cooperative spirit
MIT is looking for students who work well with others. The institute is known for its interdisciplinary research, and classes are designed to encourage students to work together.
MIT wants students who have a history of taking advantage of what’s around them. Show them that you can take initiative to improve yourself and make the world a better place.
“When people take risks in life, they learn resilience—because risk leads to failure as often as it leads to success.” MIT knows that students who are willing to take risks are the ones who will go on to accomplish great things. Playing it safe all the time won’t get you into an extraordinary school like this one; you have to take chances and persevere even when you fail.
MIT’s Latin motto means “Mind and Hand.” They’re looking for students who can take high-level knowledge and use it to solve real-world problems. MIT students go beyond the theoretical. They get their hands dirty and make things happen.
Intensity, curiosity, and excitement
If you want to go to MIT, they emphasize that “you should be invested in the things that really mean something to you (we’re not particularly picky as to what).” Explore everything that interests you, and dive deep into things that you’re passionate about. MIT wants students who put their whole heart and mind into the things that they care about.
The character of the MIT community
“Our community is comprised of people who take care of each other and lift each other up, who inspire each other to work and dream beyond their potential.” MIT admits people who they think will further their established values of teamwork and innovation.
The ability to prioritize balance
If you want to go to MIT, you’ll need an outstanding academic record. But that alone won’t get you in. MIT wants students who pursue interests beyond school too – interesting, community-minded people whose intelligence goes way beyond the ability to ace multiple-choice tests.
What Should You Do in High School?
So, now that we know what MIT is looking for, let’s talk about what you can do in high school to show them that you’ve got all that and more. Here are some things that you can do now to increase your chances of being accepted.
1. Do Well in School
That’s the baseline, right? A four-point-something GPA isn’t enough to get you into MIT, but it’s a starting point. Here’s what one MIT admissions director wrote: “Take tough classes. Interrogate your beliefs and presumptions. Pursue knowledge with dogged precision. Because it is better to be educated and intelligent than not.”
MIT encourages the following classes to be taken in high school:
- Math, through calculus
- One year or more of physics
- One year or more of chemistry
- One year or more of biology
- Four years of English
- Two years of a foreign language
- Two years of history and/or social sciences
2. Earn High Test Scores
This is another basic thing to ensure that your name is in the running. As we discussed in the Test Scores section above, MIT requires standardized test scores and most students who are admitted to MIT score very well on the SAT and ACT exams. You’ll want to test early and follow up with additional study or tutoring if your first score isn’t as high as you’d like it to be.
That being said, try not to get too hung up on test scores. One MIT admissions officer wrote, “to us, a 760 math is the same as any higher score she could receive on the retest.” Yes, you’ll need excellent scores to make it to the top of the pile at MIT. But that’s just the start of the process. Once you have an adequate score under your belt, devote your time and energy to other things.
3. Pursue Your Passions
“You should find projects, activities, and experiences that stimulate your creativity and leadership, that connect you with peers and adults who bring out your best, and that please you so much that you don’t mind the work involved.”
Pursuing things that you’re passionate about will give you something to write about on your college essays. It will give you your hook, something to distinguish you from the other applicants and make you more memorable. Pursuing your passions is what will help you become that one in twenty-five.
4. Serve Your Community
Each year, MIT seeks to create a community of brilliant, kind human beings. Community service activities are an excellent way to show prospective colleges that you work well with others and would be a valuable addition to any community. Don’t stretch yourself too thin by dabbling in dozens of different projects; find something that you truly care about and contribute in a meaningful way.
MIT takes a broad view of community service. Your contributions to your community may not happen through an established organization or charity. Tutoring other students or helping your family are just as valid. They want students who are genuinely committed to helping others, not people who show up to events and participate in a halfhearted way to try and tick “community service” off of their college prep list.
5. Relationships with Your Teachers
MIT requires letters of recommendation from two teachers. One of these should be from a math or science teacher. The other should be from a humanities, social science, or language teacher. They also require materials from your school counselor (typically including your transcript, a school profile, and a letter of recommendation), so you’ll want to have a good working relationship with them as well.
MIT reminds applicants that “the best recommendations are written by teachers who know an applicant well as both a student and a person.” It’s not enough to have gotten an A in the class. Your teacher should know you on a personal level as well. Being an active member of your school and participating in clubs or competitions will help you get to know your teachers better.
MIT Checklist and Application Process
Your application will include:
- Official high school transcripts
- Self-reported Coursework
- Supplemental Essays: 4 – 5 200-word essays
- Activities list: 4 extracurriculars that mean the most to you
- Two letters of recommendation—one from a math or science teacher and one from a humanities, social science, or language teacher
Your application may also include a creative portfolio submitted through SlideRoom. For more information on what’s expected of performing artists and other creative individuals, click here.
There is a Research Supplement option for students who have worked on a significant research project outside of high school classes. Applicants have the opportunity to answer a brief questionnaire and provide a letter of recommendation from a research mentor.
See an up-to-date list of requirements and deadlines here.
Once you submit your application to MIT, it will be reviewed by a senior admissions officer who will consider your application “in a holistic manner”. Strong applications will then be evaluated by additional admissions officers, who summarize them for the Admissions Committee. These summaries, along with your entire application, will then go to the selection committee.
MIT also offers interviews. After you submit your application, you may be offered the chance to meet with a member of the MIT Educational Council, a network made up of thousands of MIT graduates who volunteer to meet with local applicants. Most Early Action interviews take place in November and most Regular Action interviews take place in January.
Multiple groups of staff and faculty members weigh in on each application that’s strong enough to make it this far. MIT writes that at least a dozen people will discuss and debate an application before a student is admitted.
MIT Supplemental Essays
Essays are your chance to distinguish yourself from a stack of similar candidates. “Be honest, be open, be authentic,” MIT reminds prospective students, “this is your opportunity to connect with us.”
The 2022–2023 application had four short essay questions that students were asked to refer to with 200 words each. In addition to these four, there was also a fifth text box where students could tell them anything else they thought they ought to know.
- 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.
Don’t overthink this question. Choose something that you truly love, and let your passion shine through in your response.
- Describe the world you come from (for example, your family, school, community, city, or town). How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations?
This is an opportunity to show MIT how you’re involved in your local community. In addition to explaining how it’s shaped you, be sure to include how you’ve given back and how you continue to be a kind and active participant in the world around you.
- MIT brings people with diverse backgrounds and experiences together to better the lives of others. Our students work to improve their communities in different ways, from tackling the world’s biggest challenges to being a good friend. Describe one way you have collaborated with people who are different from you to contribute to your community.
This is an excellent place to dive deep into a community service experience or another example of how you’ve succeeded in making the world a better place.
- Tell us about a significant challenge you’ve faced (that you feel comfortable sharing) or something that didn’t go according to plan. How did you manage the situation?
Remember, MIT loves risk takers! This is an opportunity to tell them of a time that you failed, learned from the experience, and kept going.
“You should certainly be thoughtful about your essays,” MIT reminds applicants, “but if you’re thinking too much—spending a lot of time stressing or strategizing about what makes you ‘look best,’ as opposed to the answers that are honest and easy—you’re doing it wrong.”
Should You Apply Early to MIT?
MIT’s Early Action deadline is November first. The Regular Action deadline is January fifth. MIT has claimed that there’s “no strategic benefit to applying during either action cycle,” but recent numbers tell a different story.
Of the 33,767 students who applied to MIT this past year, 14,781 applied Early Action. Of those students, 697 were admitted. That’s an admittance rate of 4.7 percent.
9,488 of the students who applied to Early Action were deferred to regular action, and 176 of those students were eventually admitted – that’s under two percent. Although 763 students were offered a place on MIT’s wait list last year, zero students placed on the wait list were admitted.
Of the remaining students who applied during Regular Action, fewer than 2.5 percent were admitted. So while it’s not the enormous difference that we see at some schools, students who apply Early Action do appear to have a better chance of admittance than students who apply two months later.
Every year, over half of the students who are accepted to MIT are students who applied through their Early Action program. If you’re set on MIT, it would be wise to apply by the first of November.
Final Thoughts: How to Get into MIT
To be admitted to MIT, you’ll need to be an excellent student, an active participant in your community, and a well-rounded person. MIT respects risk takers and world changers.
Take challenging courses, earn mostly A’s, and get high scores on standardized tests. Those things will put you in the running. But to go to MIT, you’ll need to pursue your passions outside of school as well. Get out in the world, find out what lights you up, and go for it!