Getting into MIT from the UK

(53 Posts)
Threesoundslikealot Sun 17-Jul-16 20:55:23

I have a 13 year old with his heart set on MIT. He is very gifted at maths and science, and is likely to do well in his other GCSEs, but is naturally lazy. I want to encourage him in his ambition but does anyone know what MIT looks for? I know it's incredibly competitive. Their website talks about applicants with very rounded lives, not just maths and science. Is this true? I have seen Oxbridge people on here admit that brains are the clincher, not grade 8 flute. Is MIT similar?

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lljkk Sun 17-Jul-16 21:02:14

American elite universities want the leaders of future. So they need to be all round brilliant at lots of things. I gather from MN that Oxbridge wants narrow passion and only that, but Ivy League wants amazeballs at everything. Grade 8 in flute would be good. And head boy. And some kind of sporting excellence or long term commitment. A Good public speaker. Somebody who starred in the school musical. All of above, ideally.

The academics matter less than the amazeballsness at a variety of things.

titchy Sun 17-Jul-16 22:19:53

£££££££ also useful...

PitilessYank Mon 18-Jul-16 00:47:46

Schools like MIT and Harvard get applications from hundreds of applicants at the top of their respective classes every year, kids who have checkbox qualifications in sports, music, academics, and even community service.

What they tend to look for is authenticity, and genuine interest/passion for the activities one has on one's CV., rather than excellence in every single area. Also, contrasting interests are good; for example, an applicant in math who does sculpture.

(I am the mother of four teenagers, live in the US, and have several friends in academia, included at your son's choice.)

PitilessYank Mon 18-Jul-16 00:51:25

P.S. Schools like MIT have massive endowments, and can and do give applicants plenty of financial aid if they want them there, irrespective of country of birth.

lljkk Mon 18-Jul-16 08:06:26

I get the impression that Caltech would be more enthusiastically Pure Science geek than MIT, and MIT would be more science geek than many of the other famous American universities.

The other trick is to go for grad school rather than undergrad. Much easier to get in.

Threesoundslikealot Mon 18-Jul-16 08:12:00

Thanks, all. This thread formed the background to a fairly gentle conversation about how more effort all round is necessary IF he wants to go for this sort of thing. At the moment he is in a world of 'phone in the homework', sometimes not bothering to do subjects that don't interest him, not doing any voluntary extension work, and virtually no extra-curricular interests outside his computer. So an extremely long way from the MIT ideal! He had been complaining that he was desperate to catch Pokemon but had to walk 30 minutes into town to do it so couldn't be bothered.

We discussed some extra curricular stuff that plays to his interests and abilities, and impressed on him that he'd be competing with kids who not only eat up extension work but then go and ask for more. He reckons he wants to have a go at it all. We'll see.

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bojorojo Mon 18-Jul-16 09:57:39

Would he really be bothered to live so far away from home then? He really does not sound like the type of child who would suit being in the USA unless he changes quite a lot. If he does not get a scholarship for undergrad, fees are probably in excess of £20,000 a semester plus living costs. (This was the fee level where my DD applied and MIT may well be more.) Yes, some American universities offer "needs blind" (in other words, if they want you, they offer fees reduction no matter how much or little money you have) but if you need to have a full scholarship, you must be outstanding in every aspect and sufficiently motivated to walk 30 minutes to do something.

Personally, I would start looking closer to home. How much does he really understand about MIT and how hard it is to get in? He is very young and there is always chat in schools about studying in th USA , but realistically, few can do it academically at the top Unviersities and obtain scholarships or indeed afford it if a scholarship is not offered. Post grad is easier as there are more streams of funding.

shockthemonkey Mon 18-Jul-16 10:31:54

Yes, they won't take lazy kids, though obviously there is time for your DS to change in that respect.

They want well-rounded kids who stand out from the crowd: academically of course (they need to be top of the class consistently)... then there needs to be very compelling extra-curricular interests/ achievements. To top things off, since they like a nice balance in the student body, his chances are somewhat better if he's not WASP or Asian (as the top schools in the US are awash with such people).

FoggyBottom Mon 18-Jul-16 13:47:44

Start saving now. It will cost you a lot more than you imagine.

But if he's bright but lazy, so are a significant minority (if not almost the half) of nice middle-class boys with ambition and/or ambitious parents. He'll need to be a lot more than gifted and lazy.

AtiaoftheJulii Mon 18-Jul-16 19:42:43

fees are probably in excess of £20,000 a semester plus living costs. (This was the fee level where my DD applied and MIT may well be more.)

There must be quite a bit of variation I think. My son's (vaguely) interested in Caltech, and they say that for 2016/17 they predict costs of about $65000 for everything, fees and accommodation, for the year.

Not that we can afford that! So if he applied and managed to be offered a place, it would still only be possible with an almost full ride at least. Which could be disappointing.

esornep Mon 18-Jul-16 19:43:05

The other trick is to go for grad school rather than undergrad. Much easier to get in.

I wouldn't say that it is much easier to get into grad school at MIT. I would phrase it that the criteria for getting into grad school are more transparent - the most important factor being academic achievement in undergraduate.

If you want to do e.g. physics grad school at MIT, then you are unlikely to get in without a high first from a top UK university, so it's not like it's easy to get in. But indeed if you are accepted then there would usually be funding for you.

lljkk Mon 18-Jul-16 20:13:12

But you don't need to be president of the student body & grade 8 in flute & a Judo champion too, to get into the grad school, whereas those things truly matter for undergrads. They really do look much more narrowly at pure academics for grad school.

it (usually) takes longer than UK because grad-students teach tutorials to undergrads (helps to cover the fees).

tbh, OP's DS doesn't sound driven enough to come close to seriously considering MIT (I hope that doesn't sound horrible). I was totally totally turned down from 2 Ivy League Unis, so obviously no shame in that. wink

bojorojo Mon 18-Jul-16 21:20:16

Many apologies, that should have read $ not £. Even so, it is a massive expense in comparison to here and fares home are not cheap either! We worked out costs would be $65,000 for each of 4 years - minimum .

bojorojo Mon 18-Jul-16 21:21:40

There is a lot more funding for post grad, not necessarily easier academically.

CuboidalSlipshoddy Mon 18-Jul-16 21:31:07

Yes, some American universities offer "needs blind"

From when one of my children was applying, I think the only places that offer needs-blind to overseas applicants as a policy, rather than case by case, are Yale, Harvard and Princeton. But we were looking at humanities, so MIT wasn't on our radar.

The people to talk to are the the Fulbright Commission. I have a memory of going to events they held in, of all places, Kensington Town Hall (?), just off Kensington High St. My child did the SAT at some godforsaken boarding school in the middle of nowhere, and the first ("reasoning") part isn't hugely difficult: they got a 2300 SAT on very little preparation. But the SAT subject tests, which you would need for a serious application, are harder: the maths syllabus is different, and some of the other subjects are seriously tricky.

From a student room thread my child was involved in which was mostly people applying to Yale/Harvard and Oxbridge, very, very few people were offered both, because they are looking for different things.

I was sanguine about the idea of having a child 3000 miles away, but now they're actually at university, I'm glad they're closer. Dealing with the odd trip to casualty and the occasional wobble is easier when they're a car ride away.

Sturmundcalm Mon 18-Jul-16 22:01:33

This is all based on what my DD says cause I just leave her to it at the moment... She's decided she fancies MIT (on the basis it's #1 in international rankings and it is physics she's interested in) and according to her they don't do scholarships - every student pays based on parental income. She's spending her summer holiday doing some SAT practice so she can sit them in October. As well as being predicted to do v well academically she plays netball for school, town and county; she does volunteer coaching for younger kids; on Saturday she goes away for a week to do conservation volunteering for the national trust and is considering doing DoE; she's also planning more after school stuff for next year. Some of the motivation for all this is what she reckons is needed for the unis she wants.

My H and I would prefer she picked somewhere more local but that has been partly undermined by bloody brexit vote as we were encouraging Denmark on basis it would be free!

If anybody's kids are at MIT would be good to hear what it's like, cause she does seem to be getting serious about it.

FoggyBottom Mon 18-Jul-16 22:22:22

She's decided she fancies MIT (on the basis it's #1 in international rankings and it is physics she's interested in)

If she's interested in a research future in physics, and is a UK citizen, or UK-based now, I think the advice upthread about doing a degree here in the UK, at one of the top places (Imperial et al.) and then doing her PhD in the US is probably a more doable course of action.

Scientists are expected to move about, and #1 in the world is a better place to do a PhD.

Sturmundcalm Mon 18-Jul-16 22:29:48

Thanks foggybottom- although if (and it is an if) she's right about MIT's fee structures we'd be cheaper with her going there than Imperial (which is also on her list)... Obviously would be even cheaper if she would just go to a Scottish university!

She is planning on doing general physics initially I think but it's Astro physics she's most interested in. Every so often she gives us an update on internships with the European space agency!

Threesoundslikealot Tue 19-Jul-16 12:25:42

MIT is pretty clear on its website that needs blind applies internationally as well as domestically, but in our case it's not an issue as he has a big trust fund (for complicated and rather difficult reasons - he is richer than either of us or any of his siblings will ever be!) so finances are less of a worry.

I agree entirely that he's probably punching above his weight! He's not at a school with loads of very bright kids, although there are some, most of which put noticeably more effort in than him, and has a tendency to think that he is just brilliant. He will probably do A levels at a grammar school so I think his eyes will be opened at that point, if not before.

He is reluctant to go to uni in the UK now as he is worried about the loss of research funding post-Brexit. It's so early on in things that we're not having very serious conversations yet, but obviously even if that is the case, he can look in Europe or other US or worldwide institutions.

I just really wanted to get some idea of how much MIT really means what they say! And if so, to get him to start thinking about it all. He's young for his age, and we have been trying to encourage him to develop interests for as long as I can remember. hmm

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Needmoresleep Tue 19-Jul-16 18:43:06

I wrote a detailed post and lost it.

The gist was that if he is really keen he would be best off moving at sixth form to somewhere with good experience of American applications like Westminster or Eton.

If these are probably too much of a stretch, then MIT may be the same.

And think now about taking up an extra curricular. To late to get to a good standard in music or most sports, but he could start rowing or, say, debating. Plus obvious things like DofE.

I agree though that a good UG UK degree followed by US post grad is normally the way to go for scientists. Top British Universities should be able to hold their own on research funding - at least as far as UG teaching is concerned.

esornep Tue 19-Jul-16 19:52:12

He is reluctant to go to uni in the UK now as he is worried about the loss of research funding post-Brexit.

Why does he think this would be directly relevant to undergraduate education? How does he think that research funding would affect his undergraduate experience?

Of course the HE sector is worried about the loss of EU research funding, UK research funding (due to recession), investment from Europe and international students and staff. But in reality all of these things are not likely to have significant effects on the undergraduate experience at the very top UK universities in the short or even medium term.

Actually, loss of research income (and more emphasis on teaching via TEF) could have slightly positive effects on the undergraduate experience in the short term. Right now some senior professors don't teach much because of large research grants - we might actually have to teach more because of Brexit and TEF, which could be good for undergraduates.

Medium term there is of course the likelihood of brain drain and not being able to recruit the best academics but the effects of this won't kick in for students for quite a while.

esornep Tue 19-Jul-16 20:35:46

MIT is pretty clear on its website that needs blind applies internationally.

In the case of OP's son, needs blind is not an issue due to the trust fund. However, for others thinking about Harvard and MIT, you need to be very careful about what "needs blind" actually means. For a family with a gross income of around 100k pounds per year, needs blind can still mean that you have to pay e.g. 20k per year. And while 100k is a good household income, many families on that kind of income may not be able to pay 20k+ out of net income.

For those above the income thresholds, the full costs at Harvard or MIT would be close to $70k per year for 4 years. My own family income would be such that we would be expected to pay this but we couldn't pay this from income without removing other DC from private day school, cutting our expenses to a minimum (particularly given the crash of the pound versus the dollar).Top US schools are assuming that you and your family have been saving up for College since birth.

BTW I agree with Needmoresleep that if he seriously wants to pursue this option then he needs good advice on building up his profile. IB may well be a better option for US college than A levels, while A levels are a better option for the UK.

lljkk Tue 19-Jul-16 21:06:41

Also, kids at American unis are expected to work own jobs. 8-20 hrs/week in term time and FT in holidays. That's considered part of the needs-blind package, student will be earning or find equivalent money from somewhere.

Things like transport costs to/from the university not usually part of the financial package. My dad planned to remortgage our house if I got into Ivy League.

Threesoundslikealot Tue 19-Jul-16 21:43:44

esornep he thinks that because he is 13 years old! He does not yet have an in-depth grasp of university research funding streams. Don't worry, I've been telling him to look at UK unis still.

needsmoresleep, the trust fund will pay for uni. It won't pay for private school fees. We can't either.

He's going to look at debating. He'd be good. DoE too. He hates team sports but is interested in others vaguely so a bit of motivation might see him getting more involved. But basically he's probably not MIT material at this point.

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