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Foreigner trying to get into MIT

  1. Oct 28, 2013 #1
    Hi all, I am a south african, it's been my dream to get into MIT, what would I need to do to get in? and B what would I need to do to get a bursary(unrealistic I know but still). Do they care at all about second language?
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  3. Oct 28, 2013 #2


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  4. Oct 28, 2013 #3
    it is hence
    Thanks, I have citizenship to both england and south africa. I heard it helps if you do something in your teens. Like build something fancy is that true? well do you have any tips as to what I can do to up my chances?
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 31, 2013
  5. Oct 28, 2013 #4
    You need, excellent grades, excellent test scores, excellent recommendations and to generally be "special". (This last one is the tough one... there are many students who have the first three!)

    How special? Well... take a look at http://web.mit.edu/registrar/stats/geo/index.html to get some idea of your odds. There is currently *one* undergraduate from South Africa, and 6 from the UK.

    Good luck!
  6. Oct 28, 2013 #5
    Essays are really underrated - they're important! Make sure you can write something which says a lot about who you are.

    I don't go to MIT but I go to a similarly competitive school as an international. Message me if you have an SAT above 2200 and I can help you out on other parts of your application - if you have a lower SAT score, you might get in, but given that English is your national language...

    Grades/awards are NOT everything. I have some friends (one from South Africa even!) who had no significant academic prizes when they were accepted. And people with significant academic prizes often get rejected.

    I had a friend who applied to similar places as me and got rejected everywhere. He applied with a silver medal at the IChO, a perfect score on our national exams, a few language and math prizes and participation in sports. He applied to Harvard, Yale, Princeton and MIT and was rejected everywhere except for Princeton, where he was waitlisted and then rejected. I applied with very similar credentials: an award at IPhO, a perfect score on our national exams, some language/writing/music prizes, and I got into Harvard, Yale and Princeton (did not apply to MIT). What was the difference? Given how similar our resumes were, I'm pretty sure it was the essays. I saw one of his and it was lackluster; I'm not a great writer but I'd sent mine to an ivy league student from my hometown and he'd helped me improve it a lot.

    Lesson: Essays are important. Very important. If you have good grades and good SAT scores, they're what makes the difference. But you need good grades to be in the running in the first place. If you have the grades and the SATs, I'm happy to help a fellow international navigate the system. Message me.

    On the topic of a second language, it's definitely not essential but it doesn't hurt. My Yale interviewer sent me his evaluation after I was admitted to encourage me, and something in it noted that I was basically fluent in French (fluent enough to conduct part of the interview in French) despite only being exposed to the language in a public high school. So yeah, it definitely does make a difference.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2013
  7. Oct 28, 2013 #6
    Its a totally different ballgame for international students at a school like MIT. You should look into doing some type of math or science competition instead of the general advice you are getting which is more applicable to domestic applicants.
  8. Oct 28, 2013 #7
    Which math/science competitions would they value the most?
  9. Oct 28, 2013 #8
  10. Oct 28, 2013 #9
    IMO, IPhO, IBO, IChO, maybe IOI. Also, if you can go to RSI or go to the Intel science competition's finals or something, that's also good.
  11. Oct 28, 2013 #10


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    MIT is not everything. Beyond a certain level, getting in is basically a matter of luck.

    In general, choose your extracurricular activities to be things you are interested in and are accessible to you, rather than what you think MIT is going to value most.
  12. Nov 2, 2013 #11

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    I think you need to read the responses a little more carefully.

    MIT enrolls, on average, one South African student every other year. That means you have to be the best student (or so close to that as to make little difference) in your entire country. You aren't going to get to that point by "building something fancy" or picking some competition at random.

    I think you also have to consider the possibility that MIT is not for you, that you wouldn't be happy there, and you wouldn't fit in. Based on your posts here, I think that's a real possibility. The sort of student at MIT (and the sort the admissions department is looking for) would have already checked out MIT's web site before asking questions here (which sent other people to MIT's web site).

    Also, you want to get to very advanced topics when you have only the most superficial understanding of the basics. Not only is that an attitude that's not shared by many MIT students, it's an attitude that practically guarantees not making it through the Institute's curriculum. People have tried to point this out to you, and you've brushed it off - again, an attitude that is very different from that of a successful MIT student.

    So work hard. Apply to MIT if you want. But I think you want to keep your options open.
  13. Nov 3, 2013 #12
    Again? Search through this sub-forum. This topic has been talked about numerous times, and at great length.

    Quick advice:

    1) don't get sucked into "chancing" or whatever nonsense college confidential is up to these days.

    2) "something fancy"...er, do as Cal Newport says. Try a few things, pick one you like (you don't need to love it), and are good at, and dedicate yourself to it for at least six months. And evaluate things then. Work hard. Deliberate effort. Make what you do more efficient. Always improve. Get creative. Eventually, you will end up with "something fancy". If not, then you'll at least come out of it having learned a thing or two. Pick anything. Writing a web comic, making music, powerlifting, electronics, whatever.

    3) you're English, you're eligible for home fees in the UK, and their excellent low interest loans. The odds of you getting into Oxbridge, UCL and the like are probably higher than the odds of you getting into ANY top 20 US college with financial aid.
  14. Nov 3, 2013 #13
    I'm good at physics. I'm 16 now so not near university. I've studyed calculus and linear algebra so as to start studying QM. Science is my passion.
  15. Nov 3, 2013 #14
    Then that makes you much more interesting than the average applicant.


    It's awesome that you're learning. I lacked the direction to do that at your age. But seriously: read through the MIT and admissions posts in this forum. You need more.

    In general, for every other top school, your academics are fine as long as your grades and SAT scores are above their 75 percentile. (look up something called the CDS, or look for stats on their web pages)

    Your essays and recommendations are incredibly important. MIT has a good guide on the latter on their website.

    In terms of who they accept...then that's related to what I said about achieving stuff. Look into Newport's High School Super Star book. There, he talks about a kid who got into Stanford...he wrote a book on game programming, among other things. Another guy who got into Columbia was involved in some high profile non profit. A girl who went to Princeton, iirc, ended up working on curriculum development for multiple schools in her *state*.

    Then you've got the athletes.

    What do they all have in common? Impressive achievements. That's how it works with the top schools in the US. You gotta push yourself hard in more than just academics.

    Play music? DUH. Your single is played in every radio station in South Africa, and within a few months, it's getting a lot of attention in Europe? AWESOME. You study college math and physics? DUH. You co-authored a paper with somebody at a local university? AWESOME.

    You get the idea.
  16. Nov 3, 2013 #15

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    For some reason, people seem to think that this is some magic phrase they can invoke that will somehow help them.

    The word passion comes from the Latin patior, meaning to bear or suffer. That's what they are looking for - not just saying things.

    On the 26th you asked where to learn linear algebra. Eight days later, you claim that you know it. Remember when I talked about "superficial"? This is an example of that. And this is not going to impress anyone.
  17. Nov 3, 2013 #16
    He could have been self-studying it rigorously from lang 15+ hours a day.
  18. Nov 3, 2013 #17
    People learn at different rates and i'm not trying to impress anyone, seriously. just background. I'm probably the least impressive person on this site.

    I'm not saying every single section jus the majority. if you say you know c++ do you know the entire api?Plus I'm pretty isolated and have insominia so 8-2is school. I usually go to bed at round 3am and wake up at 5:30. I literally have nothing to do,all I have is internet and a crap laptop.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 5, 2013
  19. Nov 3, 2013 #18


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    My professor for C++ never claimed to know C++.


    That's fine, you want to learn, you want to go to school. Don't pine all your hopes and dreams on MIT though. Get a visa, get into a decent undergrad program, then focus on going to grad school. You can always try to make yourself shine in UG to do graduate at MIT.

    No one here can help you get into MIT, there is no magic formula. You can not say do X, Y, and Z, and then bam, you're in. It doesn't work that way.
  20. Nov 3, 2013 #19
    Hence me referring to it as "unrealistic". I'm just checking to see what would be required.
  21. Nov 3, 2013 #20
    lang? what does that mean?
  22. Nov 3, 2013 #21
    Perhaps 'know' is the wrong word, perhaps 'have experiance'?

    Yes I meant 'tips' not some sequential set of instructions.
  23. Nov 3, 2013 #22


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    There aren't really any tips to offer other than do you best, hope for the best. A tip like go do something extraordinary isn't really a tip, it's doesn't really provide you any information on what that is - because there isn't a cut and dry answer.

    It's a very rigorous book.
  24. Nov 3, 2013 #23
    No, I use khanacademy and get practice questions from various websites.
  25. Nov 3, 2013 #24
    Ja, thanks I was happy with the first couple of posts and the links. I really don't think there is anything else to contribute to this thread.
  26. Nov 3, 2013 #25
    The only actionable advice you got what to find someone who could help you get involved in an international math and or science olympiad. Nearly every international student ive met from Caltech or MIT did an olympiad.

    Most of the olympiad sites have contact info for different countries.
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