A Guide to the MIT Supplement

Personal Statement Tips

A Guide to the MIT Supplement


The MIT undergraduate application doesn't have a general Personal Statement. The essay prompts are specifically tailored to target the most creative, dream-chasing, problem-solving parts of you. They’re much more personal than a traditional PS because they really force you to dig deep into some of the most private areas of your life. Keep in mind that these short essays can be an incredibly powerful way of showing these admissions officers who you truly are as a person. What do you want them to take away from your application? Will they have a good picture of the real you?


The Main Essay: 500(ish) words

Option A: Tell us about an experience which, at the time, really felt like “the end of the world”— but had it not happened, you would not be who you are today. Describe the process through which you discovered value in the negative.

Option B: 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?

I say “ish” because the 500 is more of a general guideline than a strict limit. 400 words is fine, and so is 550. Your goal here is to connect with your reader, and doing that in just a few paragraphs requires incredible openness. Vulnerability is something we’re taught from a young age to defend against because it makes us look weak; true communication throws those lessons right out the window. Don’t worry about being cliché, just focus on telling your story. If your essay conveys something deeply personal, then so what if one of the seven billion people (or millions of fiction books) in the world has addressed something similar? This essay prompt will ask you to discuss something in your life that helped to define who you are today. What experience would you be a completely different person without? What drives you, makes you tick?


The Short Answers: 250 words

1: What do you do for fun? They actually want to know. Everybody needs time to decompress, but in college it becomes a necessary skill for surviving the 294872092384 things you’ll be juggling on campus. It can be something silly, like having ten minutes every day to just dance around in your room to N’SYNC; don’t try to impress them by saying that you watch the Feynman Lectures or read Gödel to relax. Unless you do… that’s cool too.

2: Which department or program appeals to you, and why? MIT does NOT have any quotas to fill, and the department you pick here doesn’t matter at all. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with some new departments if you have no idea, and just as great a chance to showcase your research on a specific program if that’s something you've already done. They seriously are just curious about your academic interests.

Optional: Show/tell them about something you've created. Doesn’t hurt you at all to leave this one blank!

In the end, what matters is that you be yourself. Admissions officers are experts at sniffing out fakers, and MIT in particular is looking for applicants to really make it personal. As hard as it is to do with a few hundred words, your job is to let your reader climb inside your mind, have a good look around, and leave feeling as if they understand what motivates you and makes you tick. Great things to mention:

  • experiences that challenged you in unexpected ways (and what you learned from those challenges)
  • creative ways you tackled a situation
  • any project or idea that made you jump out of bed in the morning to work on
  • a significant role model or mentor in your life, why you admire them, and how they've impacted your view of the world