September 20, 2019

MIT Essay 4


Describe the world you come from; for example, your family, clubs, school, community, city, or town. How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations? (200-250 words)

This is a tricky one. Kind of. But we’re going to make it un-tricky. Let’s reverse the prompt, as far as your approach goes. Begin with identifying what your dreams and aspirations are. Focus less on the actual end, and more on the underlying nature of it. For example, you’d want to avoid saying “I want to be the CEO of Apple” and instead say “I want to lead a tech company that pushes the world to dream, daily.” That way you don’t box yourself into a narrow definition and you allow yourself to achieve that vision in a variety of ways.

Once you have a vague sense, try to trace your influences (don’t skip ahead yet, for now just think about the few significant people or things that helped inspire these goals). This can happen in a variety of ways, by the way. There may have been people whose examples inspired you to follow in their footsteps and build upon things they’d already done. Or, it could be oppositional. Your influences may have been people doing things that drove you insane and inspired you to counteract them, as your life’s mission. Or anywhere in between. Try to “materialize” those influences though, in the form of a few bullets along a timeline that charts the evolution of your aspirations.

Great. This isn’t easy, by the way. And as a soon-to-be college student, you’re not expected to have your life mapped out. (In fact, the coolest kids are the ones just brimming with potential who have yet to discover their true callings.) Now… try something interesting. Imagine the world you come from. Family, clubs, school, community, city, town, all those things, and REPLACE IT ALL with a starkly contrasting alternate version.

Go with us here. Could be fun, could be tedious, but try it. Imagine it. “Try on a different race. Or socioeconomic status. Or neighborhood, or size of house you grew up in, or what your parents did for a living.” Imagine it all differently. A good way to do this is to swap out your material circumstances with a friend’s, or someone you know. Someone who grew up with different influences.

Now take another look at your list of bullets from earlier. Which of those disappear? Which of those would look COMPLETELY different now that all your “environmental” stimuli have changed? Which ones stay the same, meaning, no matter WHAT the circumstance would be exactly as they are cuz they are not vulnerable to environmental stimuli? This may help reveal which stimuli (in the form of people or things) helped to shape your goals, and allow you to formulate clear crisp explanations of exactly how that shaping took place. Walk us through a few great examples. Struggling to come up with examples? You can consider getting guidance from our admissions consultants.

(Depending on your particular story, you can order this either way: start with your aspirations and then walk us through the influences. Or, start with the influences and lead up to your goals. Either can work, you’ve just got to find the version that makes your story pop the most.)

You can also read through our team’s analysis of the rest of MIT’s application essays.

Learn more and explore each step of MIT’s undergraduate application process here.

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