How to Ace the MIT Interview: Process, Questions, & Tips

How to ace the MIT interview
Updated:
May 7, 2024
9 min read
Expert Reviewed
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”Mary

Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/7/24

Do you have an upcoming MIT interview and need help preparing? This guide provides tips and valuable information that will help you ace your admissions interview!

“We want people who are academically curious and passionate, people who will bring their various talents to MIT and share them with others, people who will be good roommates, good mentors, good friends. We do not admit test scores. We admit people.” -Matt McGann, former MIT admissions director

The MIT admissions interview has long been a staple of the application process. It’s the school’s opportunity to put a face and a personality to some of the thousands of applications they receive, so it’s important to put your best foot forward. 

It’s also your chance to discuss your goals and aspirations to be sure that MIT is the right fit for you. 

In this article, you’ll find helpful tips on getting an interview, an explanation of the interview process, a list of sample MIT interview questions with advice on best approaching them, and a list of frequently asked questions about the process.

Understanding the MIT Interview Process

If you’ve been offered an interview, take it. If you decide to accept the offer, ensure you accept it within the MIT interview deadline.

If the interview is waived, it won’t affect MIT’s final decision, but it’s not a good look to turn down an interview offer. Educational Counselor (EC) Chris Su’s primary advice is, “please do it. We like talking to you. Really!”

Let’s go through some more details about the process of interviewing at MIT. 

What Does the MIT Interview Process Look Like? 

If you’ve been selected for an interview, the first step in the MIT admissions interview process is receiving an email from your EC. This is where the relationship starts. Be prompt in responding to your MIT interview invitation email, and be friendly and respectful throughout further correspondence. 

First impressions are very important, so you’ll want to show them the best of who you are from the beginning. 

The interview won’t be too formal, so there’s no need to wear your best dress or a three-piece suit. As long as you’re looking professional and feeling comfortable, you don’t need to worry too much about what you’re wearing. 

The interview can last approximately an hour, although it could range from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Whatever the length, don’t take that as a good or bad sign. As long as the conversation flows smoothly, the interview length isn’t an indicator of how you’re doing.

EA interviews normally are conducted in November, and RA interviews usually happen in January or February. 

What Do MIT Interviewers Expect to See?

MIT suggests you “think through stories or examples that will give your interviewer a vivid sense of your passions and aspirations.” What are your ambitions? What drives you? Passion and excitement are contagious, so if you come prepared to talk about your favorite things, you’ll set yourself up for success. 

Your EC only will know your name, your school, and your contact information. They won’t know anything about your background or application in order to foster an organic conversation, so don’t be afraid to go into detail about your passions!

What’s important is to avoid one-word answers. You’ll shine in the interview when you answer their questions genuinely and thoughtfully. You don’t need to follow a script, but you’ll do well if you show that you’re engaged in the process and excited to talk about it. 

Come prepared with questions of your own. EC Kim Hunter says she loves answering questions about her experiences at MIT. It’s a two-way conversation, after all. So she’s always happy to provide information. She emphasizes, though, that the questions should be intelligent. 

“Just like you wouldn’t go to a job interview and ask what the company does, don’t come to your MIT interview and ask overly simplistic questions,” Hunter says. She wants to see that you’ve researched and know what you’re looking for in a school. 

Try not to be too nervous. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but they don’t want to put you through any undue stress. There are no “correct” answers to the interview questions. Every interview is unique because, at its core, it’s just a conversation between two individuals. 

Chris Su’s main advice is to be sincere, punctual, and polite. If you’re hitting those notes, you should be absolutely fine. It’s a conversation, he emphasizes, not an oral exam. 

Who Conducts the MIT Interview?

Alumni conduct the interviews, so there’s a ton of diversity among the pool of ECs. The Alumni Association has a series of profiles on notable alumni who run the gamut of entrepreneurs, engineers, research scientists, and data analysts, to name a few. 

You’ll know who your EC is when they reach out to schedule the interview. At that point, of course, you can Google them—Kim Hunter says this doesn’t put her off, but you shouldn’t rely too heavily on what you find. 

She cautions against connecting with them on social media before the interview, which will seem unprofessional. 

“The interview is about you,” says Chris Su, so while it never hurts to “be inquisitive,” you should come prepared to talk extensively about yourself. He wants to advocate for the prospective students he interviews, but he can only do that if they first advocate for themselves!  

MIT values wellness and a balanced life, as does former admissions director Matt McGann. He once advised a student concerned about her test scores to “have a picnic” instead of retaking the SATs. 

The most important thing to remember is that ECs are people too. They’re not sitting in the room with a secret checklist or waiting for you to say the wrong thing so they can reject you. They’re invested in your education, and they want you to succeed. 

How to Get an Interview at MIT

The first step to rocking your MIT interview is getting an interview in the first place. With a 4.8% acceptance rate, the competition is stiff. This is especially true for getting an MIT Sloan interview because of how difficult it is. However, there are many ways to ensure your application gets rocketed to the top of the list. 

In brief, you want to show MIT the best you can offer. High test scores can carry you some of the way (check out their breakdown of admission statistics for comparison), but they’re far from the most important element of the application.

In fact, Matt McGann, former admissions director, said that when reading applications, he would “glance at the test scores... before moving on to the more important parts of the application.” 

This is not to say that grades don’t matter, but with thousands of applicants, the vast majority of whom score highly on their tests, it’s not the only factor.

MIT wants to see how well you fit with their mission. It emphasizes that it wants to make the world better and attract students who aspire to do the same. It looks for leadership skills, a willingness to take risks, creativity and curiosity, and community orientation.

Above grades and test scores, MIT wants to see that you’ve spent your time focused “on becoming your best self by pursuing your interests, your aptitudes, and your education.” If you can emphasize these qualities in your essays, the admissions team will look at your application more favorably.

One way to highlight these qualities is by explaining your extracurricular activities. There is no list of extracurriculars that look better on an application than others. What's important is that you can showcase your qualities that align with MIT’s mission. 

Focusing on these qualities will help you secure an interview and get into MIT!

Beyond this, ensure you’re hitting the deadlines and requirements with lots of time to spare and closely monitor your email. The MIT Sloan interview invitation will come through the email address you provided on your application, and you will be responsible for scheduling it from there. 

Does Every MIT Applicant Get an Interview?

MIT interviews are not a required part of the application process. The school does try to offer as many interviews as possible; they only have limited spots. If your interview is waived, it will not put you at a disadvantage in the admissions process.

Sample MIT Interview Questions and Answers 

Here are some MIT interview questions and answers to help you prepare.

Why Do You Want to Go to MIT?

This is the most common interview question you can expect to hear. With this question, the interviewer wants to know that you’ve done your research on the school and have made an informed decision. Be precise about what MIT offers and what you hope to learn if you attend.

Tell Me About Yourself 

This is another incredibly common question. Be prepared to give a concise but well-rounded answer—Chris Su suggests a one-minute response with key details about your upbringing, interests, and goals. This establishes a foundation you can build upon for the rest of the interview. 

When answering this, start with a very brief personal introduction, highlighting your academic background and any notable achievements. Then, discuss your extracurricular activities and interests outside of academics. 

It’s important not to speak about your academic achievements too much because the admissions committee already has that information on your application.

Finally, connect your experiences to MIT by demonstrating how they align with the institution's values and opportunities. Be authentic and enthusiastic, focus on aspects of your background most relevant to your application, and showcase your fit for MIT.

What Activities Did You Do in High School, and Why? 

Extracurricular activities can showcase your connection and engagement with your school and can emphasize your leadership skills, initiative, and ability to collaborate. These are all qualities MIT looks for in its applicants. 

Limit your answer to three things. You don’t need to give a long list of all your accolades. You’ll want to tell them what you care about and how you spend your time. 

To answer this question, explain why you chose the three activities, emphasizing your passion and the skills you developed through them. Discuss how these experiences align with your academic interests and goals. 

What Activities Do You Do Outside of School, and Why? 

Community engagement is important to MIT. Again, limit your answer to three things. Your interviewer wants to understand your passions and how you connect to the wider community. This is a great way to show you have a balanced life, which is important to MIT.

You can answer this question similarly to the previous one. However, it would help if you spoke about your activities outside of school rather than in it. Remember to relate the activities to your academic or career goals and aspirations. 

What Are Your Strengths?

This is your opportunity to show yourself off! While humility is generally a virtue, you can highlight what makes you shine in this question. Think about some things you’ve done worth bragging about and frame them to relate to what MIT looks for in a successful applicant.  

You’ll want to answer this question by identifying specific strengths relevant to your academic pursuits and personal growth. Provide brief anecdotes demonstrating how these strengths have impacted your experiences or achievements. Be confident, genuine, and humble while highlighting your unique qualities.

What Are Your Weaknesses? 

This is always a tricky question to answer. Don’t discuss something that’s a strength (i.e., “sometimes I can be too organized!”). Your interviewer will see right through this. Instead, try to be honest but not overly self-deprecating. When did you fail at something, and what did you learn from the experience? Start there. 

The trick is to pick a genuine weakness you have had and take steps to improve. Discuss how you recognized this weakness, the actions you have taken to address it, and the progress you have made. 

These MIT admissions interview questions are meant to tell the interviewer more about yourself beyond your grades and test scores. Don’t be nervous; remember to be clear, confident, and concise with your answers! 

What Do You Want to Study at MIT? 

Since your interviewer will not have seen your application, they won’t know any details about what you’re planning to study or your academic goals. This question will help them get a better sense of your personality, your interests, and your career trajectory. 

Answer this question honestly, and don’t be afraid to go into detail! Demonstrating a passion for your chosen field of study is a great way to impress an admissions interviewer. 

What Is Your Favorite Book?

Our interests can say a lot about us! Your interviewer will get insight into your personality by hearing about the kinds of books you like to read. 

For this question, it’s important not to try and choose a book that you think will impress MIT or one you’ve never read. Your interviewer will be able to tell if your interest is genuine or not! Besides, they aren’t looking to be wowed by an academic title. They want to know what you’re interested in! 

Choose a book that you genuinely enjoyed or were moved by. A novel, a comic book, a biography, a philosophy book… the list goes on! As long as you actually enjoyed it, it’s fair game. 

What Are You Most Looking Forward to About College?

This question is another opportunity for you to demonstrate excitement and eagerness to attend MIT! You can talk about all kinds of aspects of college that interest or excite you: particular classes or professors, clubs, community life, etc. 

However, be sure to keep your answer appropriate. Stay away from topics like college parties or anything that might be deemed irresponsible. 

What’s Your Favorite Class?

Your interests in high school are likely related to what you’re interested in studying at MIT, so this question is a great way for the interviewer to learn more about your passions and your potential as an MIT student. 

Don’t be afraid to gush about your interests, especially if they’re related to what you want to study at MIT! This shows enthusiasm for learning and eager participation in academics. 

What’s Your Least Favorite Class? 

You might not be eager to tell your MIT interviewer about a class you dislike, but this question will only help them to get to know your interests better! Not everyone enjoys every topic or subject -- it’s okay to prefer certain subjects over others. 

However, try not to be overly negative, and instead talk about what you’ve learned in the class despite not loving it. This shows that you’re willing to stay positive even in less-than-ideal situations. 

Tell Me About a Time You Failed

It’s not easy or particularly fun to talk about our failures, but for this question, it’s important to choose an authentic story. Similarly to the question about weaknesses, you should show honesty and humility, but not self-deprecation. 

Try to walk this balance by focusing on taking responsibility for your mistakes and what you learned from them. This will demonstrate maturity, self-awareness, and growth. 

Tell Me About a Time You Took a Big Risk

Taking risks, even if they don’t work out, is indicative of someone who’s ambitious, dedicated, and confident. These traits will help you thrive at MIT! 

The important thing to remember with this question and other story-based “tell me” questions is that the story itself is less important than what you learned from the experience. Whether the risk you took paid off or not, the interviewer wants to know how the experience affected you. It’s not about succeeding; it’s about learning. 

Who Is an Influential Person In Your Life?

You can reveal a lot about your personal values through the people you admire. We are influenced by people who possess qualities that we also want to possess. Your interviewer wants to learn about the traits that you value and admire.

For this question, you can talk about anyone as long as they actually had an impact on you. Don’t choose someone just because they’re famous and inspirational, and don’t choose a friend or family member if you’re not actually that close with them. Be genuine! 

Tell Me About An Experience You Had Working With a Team 

Being a good team player is not only important in college but also in the workforce and in many other areas of life. Your interviewer wants to know how you’ll fare working alongside your classmates and professors, and past experience is a great way of evaluating that. 

You might choose to talk about a great experience you had with a team and why it worked, as well as what you personally contributed to the healthy team environment. This will show that you value collaboration and working with others. 

However, you can also choose to speak of a team experience that went poorly, provided that you steer clear of speaking ill of past teammates and instead focus on what you learned from the experience. 

If You Could Change Anything About Your High School, What Would It Be? 

This question is asked to evaluate your critical thinking and leadership skills. Your interviewer is putting you in the shoes of a leader to see what things matter to you, especially within a school setting. 

Remember, although you’re being asked to be critical, it’s not wise to be too negative about your high school. Gently explain certain issues and talk about how you might do things differently.

Top 5 Tips for a Successful MIT Admissions Interview

Below are five MIT admissions interview strategies to help you prepare and ace the process. 

1. Do Your Research On the School

Before the interview, exploring MIT’s values, mission, programs, and faculty is important. You can use this knowledge during the interview, which will help show the interviewer your enthusiasm for the school and what it offers. 

2. Highlight Your Achievements and Experiences

MIT seeks students who have demonstrated excellence and a drive to make an impact. Showcase your academic accomplishments, research projects, extracurricular involvements, and other experiences that highlight your skills and passions. 

Discuss how these achievements have shaped your academic journey, showing your commitment to learning and innovation.

3. Bring Something Cool

MIT encourages students to bring something interesting and worth sharing to the interview.  In the past, students have brought their laptops to show the websites they’ve built and editions to their school's newspaper to show a piece they’ve written.

If you decide to bring something, ensure you’re prepared to discuss it. Presenting and discussing your work will be a huge and crucial skill at MIT and beyond, and presenting something cool to your interviewer is a great opportunity to practice.

4. Dress Appropriately 

Ensure you dress appropriately for the MIT interview. However, this doesn’t mean you should show up in a three-piece suit. It is perfectly acceptable to wear the same clothes you wore to school that day, whether a uniform with a blazer, your team jersey with sneakers, or jeans and a non-offensive t-shirt. 

5. Prepare Questions For the Interviewer 

Preparing questions for the interviewer demonstrates your enthusiasm and genuine interest in the program and the institution. Take the time to research and think about aspects of MIT that you would like to learn more about, such as research opportunities and academic resources.

Here are some examples of questions to ask your MIT interviewer: 

  • What specific qualities and experiences are you looking for in successful MIT applicants?
  • Can you tell me more about the research opportunities available to undergraduate students at MIT?
  • What resources and support systems are in place to help students navigate their academics at MIT?

These thoughtful questions will showcase your proactive approach to learning. Remember, asking relevant and thoughtful questions not only benefits you but also helps leave a lasting impression on the interviewer.

FAQs: The MIT Application Interview 

Still feeling nervous about the interview process? Here are some FAQs to put your mind at ease. 

1. How Will I Find Out If I’m Getting an Interview at MIT? 

If you’ve been selected for an interview, your interviewer will email you. Monitor it closely because scheduling the interview from there will be your job. Check your spam or junk mailbox in case the email gets blocked.

2. What Should I Bring With Me? 

Firstly, don’t bring your transcripts, test scores, or recommendation letters. The ECs aren’t supposed to have that information. 

Kim Hunter suggests bringing something cool that showcases an interest or talent so that a portion of the interview can be akin to show-and-tell. This isn’t mandatory, but it’ll give you something to connect over and help you stand out from the rest of the interviewees. 

Finally, bring your questions! This is your chance to talk to somebody who’s been there—they want to answer your questions about student life, classes, picking a major, or whatever else you’re curious about. Chris Su says that if somebody asks him something he doesn’t have an answer for, he’ll look it up and get back to them. 

3. What Should I Wear? 

You’ll want to look professional but feel comfortable. Don’t wear pajamas, but don’t dress for the opera either. You should feel confident going into your MIT interview, so your outfit choice should be whatever makes you feel your best. 

4. What Happens After the Interview?

Your EC will write a report about the interview. The report goes into your application folder for the admissions committee to review. You don’t have to do anything else at this stage. Your application is complete! You’ll get your decision soon after

5. Is It Okay to Turn Down the Interview? 

You’re not required to accept the interview, but you should take it if it’s offered. It’ll show the school that you’re serious about attending. Historically, however, MIT has tended to accept a higher proportion of applicants who participated in interviews compared to those who declined.

6. What If I Don’t Get an Interview? 

That’s okay! Even with over 3,500 volunteer ECs from the Alumni Association, there aren’t enough people to interview each applicant. Don’t stress if you aren’t offered an interview—it won’t adversely impact your application. 

7. Do All MIT Applicants Receive Interviews?

No, not all MIT applicants are given interviews. The school tries to provide as many interviews as possible to applicants. However, availability is limited. It’s important to note that if your interview is waived, it will not affect your chances in the admissions process.

8. What Does It Mean If MIT Wants to Interview You?

If you’re given the opportunity to interview for MIT, the school wants to get to know you further. The MIT admission interview will allow you to tell admissions more about who you are beyond your academics. 

Since high-ranking tech schools like MIT are so competitive, they want to ensure they’re making the most informed decision on your candidacy!

9. How Long Is the MIT Sloan Interview?

The MIT Sloan interview is 30 minutes long, maximum. It is known to be one of the shortest interviews for an MBA program. 

10. What Is the Interview Rate for MIT Applicants?

MIT seeks to interview as many applicants as possible, normally around 70%. However, they can’t interview every applicant, so it’s important to note that not receiving an interview does not put you at a disadvantage. 

Final Thoughts 

The MIT interview can seem daunting because of how prestigious MIT is, but the ECs genuinely care about you. Ben Jones, former Director of Communications for the MIT Office of Admissions, says, “I have a list of all the applicants whose stories changed my life.” The connection you form in the interview can last a lifetime. 

If you take one thing away, let it be this: the MIT admissions interview is not an interrogation. It’s a conversation with a person. Come prepared, certainly, but don’t overthink it. According to MIT’s website, the most important thing is to be yourself!

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