Tell us about the most significant challenge you’ve faced or something important that didn’t go according to plan. How did you manage the situation? (200-250 words)
One key word to consider here: vulnerability. We need to hear about a time when you were knocked off balance. A time when you were absolutely uncertain of the outcome. When you doubted yourself. Maybe even when you lost faith in yourself. Certainly, a time when you felt like you didn’t know the answer. Or a time when you “did” know the answer… and you were wrong. The more willing you are to admit any of these, the more likely you are to seem like someone who has the ability to grow, and to play in the big leagues.
Your first challenge is to pick one example of when you made the biggest miscalculation of your life, or felt the most unsure of yourself… list a few examples that come to mind, and then focus on the one that represented the biggest “belly-flop.” The biggest blunder. The worst mistake. The most vulnerable moment, etc. Extremes are our friend here.
Take us quickly through your initial objective, and the challenges that were in your way, and your reasoning for pursuing whatever actions you initially took. Tell it to us in real time as though you were recording your thought process while it was happening; in other words, back when it all seemed like a good idea, or the correct way forward. This is key.
Then explain what went wrong. Don’t dwell on the details much, just give us the gist. More importantly, reveal how you PROCESSED this twist. This is the part where you talk about feeling weightless, disappointed, angry, no longer confident, whatever the cocktail of emotions was… we want to know it all. Take your time, be honest and admit to it all, fully.
Now, walk us through the “pull yourself up and fix it” plan. Perhaps you didn’t fix it, and that’s okay. But presumably, you attempted to rectify it somehow. Explain the internal (and/or external) conflicts. Walk us through those complicated emotions. And explain how it ended, remembering that a positive result isn’t the goal, but rather, a solid “life lesson” that made YOU stronger somehow.
This essay is all about “can this kid handle major curveballs”? And not just can you handle em, but maybe… have you learned from enough curveballs in the past that now you CRAVE them because that’s how you grow and develop the best? We hope you’re familiar with curveballs and know how to hit em, because your first year MIT (or any college, frankly) is going to be one giant curveball.
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.