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Getting to MIT from India

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

Hey!

I'm a 11th grader right now, and I'm really interested in majoring in physics, and maybe engineering too. Now, I know that it's really hard to get into MIT, Harvard, Caltech, and all those really great institutes with amazing physics undergrad courses (The best in the world apparently, according to Google). I've religiously read everything I found on MIT's mitadmissions blog, and I'm still pretty confused to be honest, since I'm an international student. Now I know that 4 Indians on average get accepted every year for undergrad, but at the same time I can't find the number of people who've applied from India, so I'm finding it really hard to figure out my chances.

I think I have pretty decent ideas for my essay - I've been really passionate about astronomy since I was a child, and I have a ton of stories back then about how I'd ask questions or talk about black holes in 1st grade to a few cool friends I found. And my passion for astronomy, or now physics as a whole, is still alive and kicking. I also love Carnatic Music and I'm really good at it according to my teacher and other acquaintances - I've performed at concerts and turned a lot of heads.

Anyway, here's what I've got to show:

A's all round except for a few B's since 9th, but the dips are in mid terms. I've got 90+/100 for all my finals till now.

I've been studying Carnatic Music for around 8 years at this point, and I can sing pancharatna kritis (really hard songs to sing basically).

I've been debating for years, and I won a state level debate competition this year. I'm also the head of the debate team at my school, and I've trained people who've come to the same competition with me. They didn't get to the finals tho. :(

I've written Trinity's grade 4 exam for the keyboard (73/100). Not that great, I assume. I also passed with distinction in the initial grade.

I also MUN a lot. My school sent me to another city for a MUN at a law school, and I made it through quite easily, even though I didn't win any prizes. I also go to a lot of local MUNs and in my first MUN, because of my performance while in practice sessions, my teacher gave me a P5 nation.

I've written two subject tests - SAT2 Math Level 2 (800/800) and SAT2 Physics (760/800). I'll write my SATs and TOEFL soon.
You get the idea... I was also a semifinalist in this competition from the adi shankara institute of engineering in Kerala, kind of like a science fair, and I presented a project about making mars colonization easier which took a lot of effort. It was a national competition and it was televised on this TV channel that's really popular in Kerala. Only the finals were shown tho, and I was eliminated in the semis.

I've participated at science fairs, multiple olympiads (only one or two medals tho, and those are for being first or second from my school), taught children who were lagging behind in my school maths, science, English, and performed at concerts (Carnatic Music).

How likely do you think it is that I'd be accepted by MIT if I applied?
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
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Are you the fourth best student in the entire country?
 
  • #3
Are you the fourth best student in the entire country?
I get where the sass is coming from and I realize that it's near impossible to get there, but I'm also pretty sure that half the people who send their applications to MIT to study there for their undergrad from my country can't express themselves really well, no offense to them lol.

Plus, most of the country doesn't care about going international. Everyone focuses on getting to an IIT. But that's next to impossible too. Even if a 100 people apply from India every year, my chances of getting to MIT would be around 5%, better than IIT's acceptance rate of 1%.

No institute in my country would take my extra curricular activities seriously at all - and that's why I'm here, asking y'all what chances I have right now. :I
 
  • #4
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Even if a 100 people apply from India every year, my chances of getting to MIT would be around 5%, better than IIT's acceptance rate of 1%.
So MIT is a safety school?
 
  • #5
So MIT is a safety school?
Of course it's not a safety school. It's at the top of my list. If I get in there, I'd be really glad.
I'm not even gonna aim to get to an IIT - there are other options like going to an IISER or NIT, but they're not as great as options in the US like Harvard and Caltech.
 
  • #6
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that's why I'm here, asking y'all what chances I have right now
Nobody here can say one way or the other. Or, maybe I should say, nothing anyone here says matters. If you really want to know if you will be accepted by MIT (or any other school) you have to apply and then wait and see.
 
  • #7
Is there anything I can do now to help my chances?
 
  • #8
Dr. Courtney
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Getting into one of the top PhD programs in Physics is more straightforward than getting into a top program as an undergrad. The top programs as an undergrad will always be a roll of the dice and somewhat long shots. In contrast, do the following and I'd estimate at least an 80% chance of getting into each top 10 grad program to which you apply:

1. Attend a top 100 Physics undergrad school in the US
2. Earn a 3.95 or better GPA majoring in Physics (BS degree)
3. Score in the 85th Percentile or better on the PGRE
4. Get into research by your second year and contribute in such a way that you co-author 2 or more papers in the peer-reviewed journals by the time you apply to grad schools
5. Earn such respect from your research supervisors and teachers that you have 2-3 letter recommendation writers that put you in the top 1% of students they've worked with

Easy? No. Straightforward? Definitely.

I can offer no similar recipe for admissions into BS programs, because unless you are an underrepresented minority, there are no brief qualifications I can articulate that improve your odds to better than 50% at top schools.
 
  • #9
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To the OP: read @Dr. Courtney post above very carefully. Assuming your goals are to get into a physics PhD, look at his list. All the things he mentions require hard work, but can be done just about anywhere ("top 100 physics undergrad" covers alot of ground beyond MIT, Harvard, and Caltech).

Be known by your work, not by where you do that work.
 
  • #10
phinds
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Even if a 100 people apply from India every year, my chances of getting to MIT would be around 5%, better than IIT's acceptance rate of 1%.
(1) I would be VERY surprised if so few people applied from India every year. (2) You are giving WAY too much weight to where you do your undergraduate work. Read post #8 several more times.
 
  • #11
ZapperZ
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To the OP: You appear to be more obsessed into getting to MIT, etc... rather than the goal of being a physicist. Getting to be the latter does NOT automatically mean that you have to get your degrees ONLY from the institutions that you have been obsessing over. I mean, do you think you'd be seriously hampered if you "only" get your physics PhD from, say, the unknown University of Michigan, or the flimsy Johns Hopkins, or run-of-the-mill U. of Wisconsin, or Micky Mouse school UC Santa Barbara? Oh, the SHAME of getting a physics degree from U. of Illinois or SUNY Stony Brook, of all places!

Remove those blinders attached to your head, and look at the FACT that there are numerous schools here in the US (and also elsewhere) where you can get first rate undergraduate physics education, and also first-rate graduate education, BEYOND just those name-brand schools that you have been obsessing over. It isn't healthy.

Zz.
 
  • #12
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OP, I don't think you've thought this through. If MIT enrolls ~4 students a year, it means they admit around 6. So, if you're in the top ten students in India, you have a pretty good chance, and if you're not, you don't.

If just the top ten students apply, it still holds: if you're in the top ten students in India, you have a pretty good chance, and if you're not, you don't.

If the next 90 students also apply, it still holds: if you're in the top ten students in India, you have a pretty good chance, and if you're not, you don't.

If the next 900 students also apply, it still holds: if you're in the top ten students in India, you have a pretty good chance, and if you're not, you don't.

If the next 9000 students also apply, it still holds: if you're in the top ten students in India, you have a pretty good chance, and if you're not, you don't.

The total number of applicants is irrelevant. (And the answer to the question "What if the Top 10 don't apply?" is "MIT will accept four students from somewhere else.")

It sounds like you are among the top students in your school, which is commendable. But there are 1.3 million schools in India. Maybe a better way to think of it is that there are ~25 million 18-year olds in India. If you are in the top 0.1%, you're in a group of 25,000. That group is 15x larger than the number of people MIT admits worldwide.

Dr. Courtney and ZapperZ have given you some really good advice. You should think about it. Further, you seem to think of getting into MIT as an end unto itself and not a means to an end. I can tell you very few MIT students think this way.
 
  • #13
OP, I don't think you've thought this through. If MIT enrolls ~4 students a year, it means they admit around 6. So, if you're in the top ten students in India, you have a pretty good chance, and if you're not, you don't.

If just the top ten students apply, it still holds: if you're in the top ten students in India, you have a pretty good chance, and if you're not, you don't.

If the next 90 students also apply, it still holds: if you're in the top ten students in India, you have a pretty good chance, and if you're not, you don't.

If the next 900 students also apply, it still holds: if you're in the top ten students in India, you have a pretty good chance, and if you're not, you don't.

If the next 9000 students also apply, it still holds: if you're in the top ten students in India, you have a pretty good chance, and if you're not, you don't.

The total number of applicants is irrelevant. (And the answer to the question "What if the Top 10 don't apply?" is "MIT will accept four students from somewhere else.")

It sounds like you are among the top students in your school, which is commendable. But there are 1.3 million schools in India. Maybe a better way to think of it is that there are ~25 million 18-year olds in India. If you are in the top 0.1%, you're in a group of 25,000. That group is 15x larger than the number of people MIT admits worldwide.

Dr. Courtney and ZapperZ have given you some really good advice. You should think about it. Further, you seem to think of getting into MIT as an end unto itself and not a means to an end. I can tell you very few MIT students think this way.
To the OP: You appear to be more obsessed into getting to MIT, etc... rather than the goal of being a physicist. Getting to be the latter does NOT automatically mean that you have to get your degrees ONLY from the institutions that you have been obsessing over. I mean, do you think you'd be seriously hampered if you "only" get your physics PhD from, say, the unknown University of Michigan, or the flimsy Johns Hopkins, or run-of-the-mill U. of Wisconsin, or Micky Mouse school UC Santa Barbara? Oh, the SHAME of getting a physics degree from U. of Illinois or SUNY Stony Brook, of all places!

Remove those blinders attached to your head, and look at the FACT that there are numerous schools here in the US (and also elsewhere) where you can get first rate undergraduate physics education, and also first-rate graduate education, BEYOND just those name-brand schools that you have been obsessing over. It isn't healthy.

Zz.
Thanks for the advice.

I'm obsessing over it because MIT and Harvard are need blind + offer financial aid based on need + are easier to get into than an IIT. My family really couldn't afford to pay for another college which doesn't offer need based aid which is what motivates me to aim for this. I'll try to find some other options. Thanks
 
  • #14
OP, I don't think you've thought this through. If MIT enrolls ~4 students a year, it means they admit around 6. So, if you're in the top ten students in India, you have a pretty good chance, and if you're not, you don't.

If just the top ten students apply, it still holds: if you're in the top ten students in India, you have a pretty good chance, and if you're not, you don't.

If the next 90 students also apply, it still holds: if you're in the top ten students in India, you have a pretty good chance, and if you're not, you don't.

If the next 900 students also apply, it still holds: if you're in the top ten students in India, you have a pretty good chance, and if you're not, you don't.

If the next 9000 students also apply, it still holds: if you're in the top ten students in India, you have a pretty good chance, and if you're not, you don't.

The total number of applicants is irrelevant. (And the answer to the question "What if the Top 10 don't apply?" is "MIT will accept four students from somewhere else.")

It sounds like you are among the top students in your school, which is commendable. But there are 1.3 million schools in India. Maybe a better way to think of it is that there are ~25 million 18-year olds in India. If you are in the top 0.1%, you're in a group of 25,000. That group is 15x larger than the number of people MIT admits worldwide.

Dr. Courtney and ZapperZ have given you some really good advice. You should think about it. Further, you seem to think of getting into MIT as an end unto itself and not a means to an end. I can tell you very few MIT students think this way.
I've seen Indian people reply to questions related to this on the web and some of them didn't really have anything that made them stand out. They barely had any extracurriculars but had great grades is all, and they got selected.

First answer, Awnit Singh

And also, they don't sort by region do they? There's a cap on international students but they say they don't sort by region on their website, and they also say we're not compared with students from our region, which explains how the other Indian got in.

I'm gonna study for an other alternative, sure, but I'm still going to apply for undergrad and see if I get lucky tbh. And if there is any way all of you can help me out, please do! Thanks.
 
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  • #15
StatGuy2000
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Thanks for the advice.

I'm obsessing over it because MIT and Harvard are need blind + offer financial aid based on need + are easier to get into than an IIT. My family really couldn't afford to pay for another college which doesn't offer need based aid which is what motivates me to aim for this. I'll try to find some other options. Thanks
To the OP:

The issue is that even though MIT and Harvard are need blind, they only admit a small percentage of all applicants, whether they be American or international applicants. So even those with the most impressive grades may not be accepted.

I am aware of how difficult it is for Indian students are to be admitted to IIT -- the situation is similar for Japanese students to be admitted to the University of Tokyo or other top schools (I am half-Japanese and half of my relatives live there).

I have a few questions for you:

1. Are there other universities in India that are need blind that you could apply to?

2. Have you thought about applying to universities other than the US? For example, schools in the UK, Canada, or Australia? Universities there are far less expensive than those in the US, and the quality of the education is similar.
 
  • #16
To the OP:

The issue is that even though MIT and Harvard are need blind, they only admit a small percentage of all applicants, whether they be American or international applicants. So even those with the most impressive grades may not be accepted.

I am aware of how difficult it is for Indian students are to be admitted to IIT -- the situation is similar for Japanese students to be admitted to the University of Tokyo or other top schools (I am half-Japanese and half of my relatives live there).

I have a few questions for you:

1. Are there other universities in India that are need blind that you could apply to?

2. Have you thought about applying to universities other than the US? For example, schools in the UK, Canada, or Australia? Universities there are far less expensive than those in the US, and the quality of the education is similar.
Can you give me a few examples of schools in other countries that are need blind and offer need based aid? That would really help. And yeah, I have options like IISERs in my country but MIT is where I really want to end up.
 
  • #17
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I'm gonna study for an other alternative, sure
"Gonna" is not a word. If you want to - or even "wanna" - get into a top university, you should get in the habit of writing properly.

They barely had any extracurriculars but had great grades is all, and they got selected.
Your link (and by the way, I can't see anything more pointless than a discussion on PF duplicating one on Quora) says the exact opposite. "what I found to be important, and what I believe many admission officers look for is...What you do outside school"

You seem to be ignoring anything that you don't want to hear. That alone makes you a poor fit for MIT, as well as less likely to get in.

The example that would be funniest if it weren't so sad is your absurd claim that it's easier to get into MIT than an IIT. There are more IIT institutes than Indian students at MIT.
 
  • #18
"Gonna" is not a word. If you want to - or even "wanna" - get into a top university, you should get in the habit of writing properly.



Your link (and by the way, I can't see anything more pointless than a discussion on PF duplicating one on Quora) says the exact opposite. "what I found to be important, and what I believe many admission officers look for is...What you do outside school"

You seem to be ignoring anything that you don't want to hear. That alone makes you a poor fit for MIT, as well as less likely to get in.

The example that would be funniest if it weren't so sad is your absurd claim that it's easier to get into MIT than an IIT. There are more IIT institutes than Indian students at MIT.
It IS easier to get into MIT instead of an IIT. Just because we have a lot of IITs here doesn't mean it's easier, we also have a much larger population competing for seats at these institutes.

But fair enough. I get it, it's hard, and I probably won't get selected. Thanks for your time.
 
  • #19
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It IS easier to get into MIT instead of an IIT.
You keep telling yourself that if it makes you feel better. (But do you really think the four students at MIT are there because they couldn't get into an IIT? Really?)

While I think ranking is overblown, the QS ranking has MIT as #1. IITB is #162. That should tell you something about desirability.
 
  • #20
StatGuy2000
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You keep telling yourself that if it makes you feel better. (But do you really think the four students at MIT are there because they couldn't get into an IIT? Really?)

While I think ranking is overblown, the QS ranking has MIT as #1. IITB is #162. That should tell you something about desirability.
@Vanadium 50 , what you fail to take into account is that IIT schools are similar to universities in Japan (where half of my family lives), where admittance to the most prestigious schools (like the University of Tokyo) is contingent on highly competitive examinations and only those who score in the top 1-10% on the exams are admitted.

If you look at the QS rankings, the University of Tokyo is ranked #23. That doesn't mean that somehow it is easier to be admitted into the University of Tokyo than MIT or Stanford (#1 and #2, respectively).
 
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  • #21
StatGuy2000
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Can you give me a few examples of schools in other countries that are need blind and offer need based aid? That would really help. And yeah, I have options like IISERs in my country but MIT is where I really want to end up.
Canadian universities (which I am most familiar with) do not offer need-blind admission to any international students (financial aid is strictly limited to domestic Canadian students, although there are international scholarships available if I'm not mistaken).

However, as far as I'm aware, universities in Germany have abandoned tuition fees for both domestic and international students, so in essence you do not have to pay anything if you are admitted.

Here is an essay that discusses these matters:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/quanzhiguo/2018/07/19/only-five-u-s-colleges-are-truly-need-blind-for-international-students-here-they-are/#4cfab25c4a9a

It's also worth keeping in mind that there are 2 universities that are need-blind outside of the US:

1. New York University Abu Dhabi
2. Yale-NUS College, Singapore

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Need-blind_admission#Non-U.S._institutions_that_are_need-blind_and_meet_full_demonstrated_need_for_all_applicants
 
  • #22
ZapperZ
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Are these nitpicking on which ones are more difficult than the other to get into has any meaningful outcome out of this whole thing? We are getting into the useless metric that the OP is playing, and it is getting nowhere and a total waste of time. If someone thinks there's really a value in all of this, I want to hear it.

The problem here is that people think that unless one gets into these prestigious schools at the undergraduate level, then one's career or ambition to be a physicist is shot. THIS IS FALSE! (there, is that clear enough?). It is a wrong, silly, and misguided impression.

What one does need is to get to a well-known graduate school, or at least, go to a graduate school and be a student of a well-known physicist in a particular area (pedigree). THAT is more significant than the obsession of getting into brand-name schools at the undergraduate level. Unfortunately, many students starting out, including the OP, does not realize that.

In the Chicago area, I have personally seen undergraduates from "very less well known schools" such as DePaul University, U. of Illinois-Chicago, IIT (as in Illinois Inst. of Tech.) going to prestigious schools such as Northwestern, Princeton, U. of Chicago, UC-Berkeley, etc. for their graduate studies.

We need to stop "feeding" the OP with such nonsense.

Zz.
 
  • #23
StatGuy2000
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Are these nitpicking on which ones are more difficult than the other to get into has any meaningful outcome out of this whole thing? We are getting into the useless metric that the OP is playing, and it is getting nowhere and a total waste of time. If someone thinks there's really a value in all of this, I want to hear it.

The problem here is that people think that unless one gets into these prestigious schools at the undergraduate level, then one's career or ambition to be a physicist is shot. THIS IS FALSE! (there, is that clear enough?). It is a wrong, silly, and misguided impression.

What one does need is to get to a well-known graduate school, or at least, go to a graduate school and be a student of a well-known physicist in a particular area (pedigree). THAT is more significant than the obsession of getting into brand-name schools at the undergraduate level. Unfortunately, many students starting out, including the OP, does not realize that.

In the Chicago area, I have personally seen undergraduates from "very less well known schools" such as DePaul University, U. of Illinois-Chicago, IIT (as in Illinois Inst. of Tech.) going to prestigious schools such as Northwestern, Princeton, U. of Chicago, UC-Berkeley, etc. for their graduate studies.

We need to stop "feeding" the OP with such nonsense.

Zz.
@ZapperZ , I'm not sure if your post is directed at me, but I think what you need to keep in mind is that the OP's primary concern is affordability. Hence why he is looking into schools that offer need-blind admission for international students (e.g. Harvard, MIT, etc.).

The issue is that the even the less well-known schools in the US you mention above can be very costly in terms of tuition, which I believe he mentioned that the OP and his family cannot afford.
 
  • #24
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@ZapperZ , I'm not sure if your post is directed at me, but I think what you need to keep in mind is that the OP's primary concern is affordability, hence why he is looking into schools that offer need-blind admission for international students.

The issue is that the even the less well-known schools in the US you mention above can be very costly in terms of tuition, which I believe he mentioned that the OP and his family cannot afford.
I'm aware of that, but the discussion that "MIT is easier to get into than IIT" is also irrelevant, regardless on whether MIT has a "need-blind admission", considering that it is already horribly difficult to get into in the first place AND the chances of getting financial aid makes it even lower! That's why I said that this whole discussion on which one is easier to get into his meaningless. How does that help the OP other than give the acutely-misleading impression?

My point here is that you can get your undergraduate degree elsewhere, even in India, and then aim for the good schools for graduate work, be in in the US, UK, rest of Europe, Canada, etc. IF your final goal is to get a PhD in physics and increase your chances of working as a physicist. THAT is the GOAL. Getting into MIT isn't! The OP has turned a MEANS into an ENDS!

Zz.
 
  • #25
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what you fail to take into account is that IIT schools are similar to universities in Japan (where half of my life lives), where admittance to the most prestigious schools (like the University of Tokyo) is contingent on highly competitive examinations and only those who score in the top 1-10% on the exams are admitted.
I am not failing to take that into account at all. IITs enrolls over 10,000 students from India. MIT enrolls about 4. It's not the case that the IIT's enroll numbers 1 to 10,000 and MIT is left with 10,001, 10,002, 10,003 and 10,004. MIT is not a safety school for those who can't make it into an IIT., (It's admissions is different, but I would argue that it is a lot easier to get "coached" for a single test than for the MIT process)

MIT admits about one student per year from japan. Do you think this one lucky student was not able to get into the University of Tokyo and that MIT was his or her safety school?

THAT is the GOAL. Getting into MIT isn't!
I don't think that is his goal. Look at what he writes. I think his goal is to get into MIT and then let the magic happen. The irony is that this makes him ill-suited for MIT and that the admissions process is designed not to admit people who think this way.
 

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