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MIT Early Applications Down 20 Percent this Year

By Issel Anne L. Lim


Early applications for the Class of 2008 decreased by 21 percent from last year, but a surplus of regular applications almost made up the difference.

MIT accepted 438 students out of a pool of about 2,830 early action applicants for 2008, and is currently examining the 7,585 regular applications, according to the admissions office. Last year, 3,579 students applied to MIT early, with 6,980 regular-time applications.

“The students that applied to MIT early this year were ... almost more ‘MIT-type’ than we’ve seen in a long time,” said Marilee Jones, the director of admissions. By “MIT-type,” she said she meant “more technically-focused.”

Application boom ends

The number of applicants to MIT leveled off from the boom of years past, a trend Jones says has been seen in many technical schools. Jones said that a loss of faith in dot-com companies has led to a public view that liberal arts colleges are “safe,” providing students with more flexibility for future careers. Fewer international students applied this year as well, she said.

Application seeks creativity

How do the members of the Admissions Committee decide whom to accept? Admissions Counselor Amrys O. Williams ’02 said that she looks for “directed imagination,” “intellectual irreverence,” and “things that I valued in friends at MIT that encapsulated what MIT is about.”

As an example, one applicant constructed a 40-foot sling and sent a video of his sling hurling pumpkins across a field, she said.

Professor Alexander H. Slocum created an optional question where students had to use one piece of paper to explain or define why they wanted to come to MIT. Many applicants sent in collages and paper cranes, and one sent a page covered in code -- which “was pretty hot,” Williams said.

Jones said that she relies heavily on recommendations from faculty members and how students interacted with them. “MIT affiliates are really good about this compared with other schools,” she said. “They always tell the truth.”

“When I hear something from a faculty member that so-and-so’s really good, then I’d listen,” she said. “You don’t see it very often. Faculty members are pretty tough.”

Early class of 2008 by the numbers

Of the accepted early applicants, 53 percent are male. A racial breakdown of the class shows that 41 percent are Caucasian, 26 percent are Asian-American, and 20 percent are members of under-represented minority groups. Almost 40 percent of the accepted students come from southern or mid-Atlantic states. An overwhelming 75 percent are from public high schools and 93 percent said that they are planning to major in a science or engineering field.

Consistent with the past five years’ trend, the average SAT Verbal score of those accepted is 730, while Math is 763. Only 8 percent of those accepted scored 1600 on the SAT I, but 67 percent had at least one score of 800 in one of the sections.

Information on accepted students can be found at admissions/inside/yourclass/.