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Admissions Rigor of schoolwork for MIT

  1. Mar 20, 2017 #1
    I am a 16 year old American of Indian (country) descent, bent on entering MIT.

    I suffer from a condition of excessive blushing and sweaty hands known as hyperhidrosis. This has affected my school performance, leaving me with a 3.5 unweighted GPA at the beginning of my second semester of junior year (currently).

    However, my passion for math has grown exponentially since my sophomore year, and I am now taking classes such as Partial Differential Equations, Differential Geometry. etc at my local university.

    Also, my new SAT score is 1520 and ACT is 32.

    This summer, I will be tutoring calculus concepts at my local community college, as well as volunteering with newly arrived refugee children.

    Do you have any idea how I will fare?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 20, 2017 #2


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    You should definitely have back-up schools in mind. I'd say your chance of getting into MIT is low. MIT has an 8% acceptance rate, and of accepted students, the average SAT score is 1520, and the average GPA is 4.13 (I'm not sure how this is calculated and how it compares to your 3.5). Go ahead and apply, but apply to lesser ranked schools as well. There are many universities where you can get an excellent education if you are willing to work hard.
  4. Mar 21, 2017 #3


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    I am frankly confused -- isn't the US GPA system based on a 4.0 scale (i.e. the highest value possible is a 4.0)? So how can the average GPA of accepted students be 4.13?
  5. Mar 21, 2017 #4
    In many cases, extra quality points are awarded for honors, AP, or dual enrollment (college) coursework. So there are cases where an A can be counted as 5.0 on the scale.
  6. Mar 21, 2017 #5


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    OK I can see how that can that could occur for those students taking AP or dual enrollment coursework. But this isn't necessarily an option available to all American students (not to mention international students). I would think that US colleges/universities (including MIT) would take this into account when assessing whether to accept students.
  7. Mar 21, 2017 #6
    As others have indicated, your odds of admission are likely under 10%, so you should have a plan B. Accurately assessing your level of challenge once you are there would require a more detailed information on your intended major and your ACT scores in math and science.

    If you intend on a STEM major (typical with MIT students), I'd think you may be in for a hard time if your ACT math and science scores are below 34.

    Pay little attention to any success you have at courses at a community college. MIT is HARD. It is a pressure cooker for undergrads. When I was a graduate student there, I tutored undergrads in the typically challenging math and science courses. I've also circled back around to review the current versions of their undergrad math and physics courses to advise my own children and other students I mentor.

    Other than the very brightest (99+ percentile), I recommend a top regional or state school for undergrad, and then MIT for grad school if you can manage a 3.8 or higher GPA at a top 50 school in an undergrad STEM major, a great subject GRE score, and great letters of recommendation.
  8. Mar 21, 2017 #7


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    When I was in undergrad (University of California system), you could earn an A+ in courses, which was above the A=4.0. I don't remember how much above, maybe like a 4.3? That may be where the higher numbers come from (Dr.C offers another way). They were rarely given out in technical courses, but you could earn it by being the top 1-2 students in a large technical class. I think I got 2-3 of them during undergrad. :smile:

    @BillyBones -- have you discussed possible treatments with your doctor? There may be some therapies that can help to mitigate this.

    That sounds very good of you. I agree with others that you should consider other schools. Don't get tunnel vision on MIT. Many schools offer good programs, and it sounds like you could do well at many of them. Best of luck. :smile:
  9. Mar 21, 2017 #8


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    Yes, I expect it's common for admissions people to compute their own metrics for ranking students' grades, based on their detailed academic record, rather than simply using the reported GPA. I know that's what they do at the college where I worked.
  10. Mar 21, 2017 #9
    Yes, this is what they do. The Air Force Academy computed an "academic composite" using a complex formula to boil down all the available information to a single number between 1000 and 4000 which was purportedly a reliable predictor of future student's GPA through four years at the Air Force Academy (divide by 1000 to get GPA prediction). ACT and other standardized test scores were weighed more heavily than high school grades, which simply vary too much by the source to reliably predict much of anything accurately.

    But most admissions processes are more like making sausage than anything scientific.
  11. Mar 23, 2017 #10
    Thank you all so much for the valuable input. I have chosen a few schools to fall back upon, namely UC Davis, University of Washington, Notre Dame, and UT Austin.

    @berkeman-- Unfortunately, in such extreme cases as mine, ETS surgery remains the only option. I've tried all other treatments, but to no avail.

    On another note, are you a UC Berkeley alumni? Will my chances significantly increase after applying there, as opposed to MIT?
  12. Mar 23, 2017 #11


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    Yeah, skip the surgery, you'll do fine. The condition often moderates as you age anyway.

    I did my undergrad at UC Davis and my MSEE at the University of Michigan under scholarship. I did not get into MIT or UC Berkeley when I applied, but did get into a couple other UCs, and I turned out okay. Do you have any idea yet what fields in Physics you are most interested in? That can help to guide your choice of university.
  13. Mar 26, 2017 #12
    @berkeman --As of now, I am leaning towards a math major, possibly with a minor in theoretical physics.
  14. Mar 30, 2017 #13
    In what world is Notre Dame and UT Austin named 'fallback' schools? I honestly believe that you should have one school that you think you are a shoe-in to as a back up fallback school. I would not consider your list of fallbacks to be that.

    I went to UC Berkeley for undergrad. Sure it is easier to get into than MIT. But to tell you that your chances will increase significantly at Berkeley would be flat out lying to you. Sure you have a less than 10% chance at MIT. But it's not like you have a 50% chance at Berkeley. Last year Berkeley admitted 17% of applicants. The 25% and 7% High school GPA's were 4.12 and 4.30 weighted. No, it's not like it is very likely to get into Berkeley. Could it happen? Yes. Are you more likely to get in to Berkeley than MIT? Yes. But is that chance significantly more than MIT? Depends on your definition of significantly - not according to my definition.

    Honestly, I think you need to get straight A's your next 2 semesters. You need to show these schools that not only do you have this issue, but that you are overcoming it. Why should Berkeley and MIT take you when they can take someone who got straight A's in high school? I'm not asking you to respond here, but something you should think about in your head. And whatever your answer is, make that shine in your application.

    The life if an MIT undergrad isn't for everyone. Berkeley undergrad will have a 'better' life in terms of life outside coursework probably.

    That being said, good luck!

    Edit: typo
  15. Apr 1, 2017 #14


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    I didn't attend MIT or Berkeley for undergrad, so take this with a grain of salt, but have several close friends who did and some who are currently there for grad school (so they have taught the undergrads).

    MIT and Berkeley are very challenging schools. Unlike many other top schools like (Brown, Harvard, Yale are prime offenders), there is no grade inflation. Failing out of MIT as an undergrad is actually a reality and can happen to very smart students. I think the same is for Berkeley but I haven't heard any specific stories. MIT especially is meant for a very specific type of student, more specific than the type who would do well attending Ivy League schools like Harvard or Yale.

    Another thing is that getting into any of these top schools is almost entirely random. The process is very unfair as they give preference to legacies and athletes and especially value certain extracurriculars that are not available to most people (of course they say they consider you within your environment but that is questionable). The admissions committee is made up of people in there twenties and thirties. For the most part professors don't have any input in these decisions, with some exceptions made if you are applying to a special program (although you need to get past the general admissions committee first). So as you would expect, a lot of admissions is not based on academic potential but on qualities that are easier to measure like your grades, test scores, extracurriculars, maybe teacher recommendations and essays (I actually have no idea how heavily those are considered). So even if you are very intelligent, if you are more introverted and don't participate in many activities you may have a very difficult time getting into these schools.

    If you want to study math or physics, there are several state schools which have great programs and are easier to get into. Some of these may not be safeties, but the schools that come to mind are UCSB, UCSD, Illinois, Michigan (definitely not a safety), Maryland, and Rutgers.
  16. Apr 2, 2017 #15


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    Your post above begs the question about what is a "safety" school in relation to math or physics at the undergrad (never mind the graduate) level. After all, I might argue that a school with the international profile of, say, Rutgers or the University of Michigan would be more difficult to be accepted than, say, University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).

    Granted, I'm a product of the Canadian university system, which has its differences in terms of admission criteria than American schools (of course, different Canadian universities have very different admission criteria).
  17. Apr 2, 2017 #16


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    To the OP:

    I was curious if you have ever thought of applying to a Canadian university (even pricier schools like my alma mater, University of Toronto, is less expensive than many American schools, and the quality of education would be on par with many of the best American schools).
  18. Apr 3, 2017 #17
    I graduated from the Colorado school of mines in chemical engineering, it consistently ranks right along with MIT in the top 10 nationally recognized and often times top school for chemical engineering specificly, it was brutal, we had one suicide a year and I was accepted into the program with a 3.4 gpa and a 1120 sat.

    I got in as part of an experement to see what would happen to a marginal high school student. No ap classes no nothing, straight into calc 1. I had to fill out a release that I would be tracked through out my tenure, I got a half ride as well ... I graduated.

    One class mate right before we graduated we're talking about high school credentials and he was like how the hell did you even get in lol.

    I bet MIT has something like this.
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