Admissions Staff Recruits the Class of 2012

By Stu Schmill, Interim Director, MIT Admissions

The months of September and October find MIT’s admissions officers scattered around the country, talking to as many parents and students as possible about the Institute. While it is true that most students are familiar with the MIT name, many of them are far less familiar with the “real” MIT – in other words, the reality of our culture, community, and people. I am writing this article in San Diego after visiting one of the top high schools in the area, where the students were amazed to hear of the breadth of programs and opportunities we offer.

It is clear that the reputation of the engineering school is so strong that it casts quite a shadow on many of our other programs, and even on how we integrate engineering with the sciences and the humanities. We are careful to be clear about what MIT is and what it is not — we do not want to encourage students for whom MIT would not be a good fit. But there are many talented students who have both a central interest in math and science and the capacity and desire to make a real difference in the world who do not apply to MIT, simply because they don’t fully understand what we are about. And, while we have a strong web presence — indeed, our website is often cited as the gold standard of admissions websites — we need to reach those students who might not make the effort to visit us online due to the mistaken thought that we’re worlds apart from what they’re looking for in a college.

When we are on the road, we visit high schools to talk with students, guidance counselors, and teachers; we visit with our alumni volunteers who do outreach and interviews for us, to keep them motivated and informed as to our current practices and policies; and we hold Central Meetings: information sessions in the evening or on a weekend afternoon where we talk about MIT to prospective students and their parents. Below is a blog entry from Associate Director and blogger extraordinaire Matt McGann ’00 that describes what we talk about when we are on the road:

Matt McGann '00 | September 03, 2007 "MIT goes on the road"

Beginning Wednesday until the end of October, my Admissions colleagues and I will go forth across this continent to tell you tales of MIT.

This year, the first meetings are in Maine, Connecticut, Ohio, and Rhode Island, followed quickly behind by Virginia and Pennsylvania. For a complete list of sessions, click here.

You might be wondering, what happens at these meetings? What should you expect?

First, the admissions officer and the local Educational Counselors (MIT alumni interviewers, also known as ECs) will greet attendees at the door. Please note that no RSVP is required.

The meeting itself will last no longer than 90 minutes. Each admissions officer's presentation varies somewhat, but will cover the same information.

We'll talk about MIT: academics, research, student life, Boston/Cambridge, MIT culture. What makes MIT different from other universities? How might you know whether or not MIT is a good match for you?

We will of course talk about admissions, including the different application components, the deadlines, what makes an applicant "competitive," how we make decisions on which students to admit. We'll provide advice and tips wherever we can.

Money and financial aid will be discussed. How do you apply for financial aid? Should you apply for it? What should I expect?

Also, the local ECs will introduce themselves. They'll talk about what MIT looks for in an interview and give you some advice. This is also a good chance for students to meet their interviewer face-to-face and to set up a time for their interview.

We will always finish with an open Q&A. We'll take as many questions as we can and do our best to answer every question fully. I've found that even students and families who don't have any questions find it interesting and helpful to hear other people's questions and the corresponding answer.

This year, my travels will take me to Northern California, Downstate New York, and Toronto, though, for reasons I'll talk about in a future entry, my first meeting isn't until the very end of the month (editors note: Matt got married in September).

For those of you who have attended other college "road shows": what has been most helpful? What hasn't been helpful at all? And for those of you planning to attend an MIT Central Meeting this year, what are you looking forward to hearing about?