How to Write MIT Supplemental Essays

June 27, 2024
6 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 6/27/24

Looking into the MIT supplemental essays and confused about what to write? Keep reading, and we’ll break down everything you need to know! 

When it comes to MIT, there’s no doubt most students applying feel stressed out about the written portion of their application. Being able to clearly and effectively articulate your views to an admissions council can seem like an arduous process.

Many students try to fit a profile or write about something inauthentic to them. The problem is MIT is already familiar with disingenuous writing and tries to avoid applications like that. The good thing to know is that with the right tools and strategies, you can craft top-notch essays that impress the MIT admissions committee.

So, without further delay, let’s get into how to go about writing the MIT essays!

MIT Supplemental Essay Prompts 2024-2025

The MIT essay prompts are short questions that offer insight into your life experiences, aspirations and character. You’ll find each question addresses a different aspect of yourself. Let’s take a look at them.  

Prompt #1

“What field of study appeals to you the most right now? (Note: Applicants select from a drop-down list.) Tell us more about why this field of study at MIT appeals to you.”

Prompt #2

“We know you lead a busy life full of activities, many of which are required of you. Tell us about something you do simply for the pleasure of it.”

Prompt #3

“How has the world you come from—including your opportunities, experiences, and challenges—shaped your dreams and aspirations?”

Prompt #4

MIT brings people with diverse backgrounds together to collaborate, from tackling the world’s biggest challenges to lending a helping hand. Describe one way you have collaborated with others to learn from them, with them, or contribute to your community together.”

Prompt #5

“How did you manage a situation or challenge that you didn’t expect? What did you learn from it?”

How to Write Each Essay Prompt For MIT

The way you go about answering each prompt is unique. That’s why we’re here to give the exact tools and tips you need to answer each of the five MIT prompts as effectively as possible.

How to Write MIT’s Supplemental Essay #1 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Prompt #1: This prompt serves as a chance for you to communicate what academic areas you’re interested in. Admissions officers are interested in what field you plan to study and your reasoning for doing so. Make sure to discuss if there were certain incidents that got you more motivated to learn about the subject matter.

1. Be Direct and to the Point: You don’t have to come up with some incredibly deep or insightful information about what sparked your passion in your chosen field of study. Try to simply articulate the factors that appeal to you in your field of interest.

2. Explore How MIT Can Enhance Your Academic Journey.: If there are certain resources MIT has that other schools don’t, this can be a good point to communicate what those are. If their curriculum, faculty, or student environment is more aligned with your interest, let them know.

How to Write MIT’s Supplemental Essay #2 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Prompt #1: This MIT essay prompt is just asking about some of your hobbies and what you like to do for recreation. It isn’t necessarily asking about something you’re so passionate about that you can’t live without it. It’s really more trying to capture general activities you like to spend your time on.

1. Don’t Go Overboard: While having more than one hobby is great, don’t give an endless list of activities that you find entertaining. Try to hone in on one or a select few that you typically fall back on that tend to give you a lot of value.

2. Don’t Worry if Your Interests Are Niche: MIT emphasizes diversity in their student body, so you don’t have to worry if you’re not fitting in with the crowd. Although there may be a lot of students in STEM, that doesn’t mean they don’t have interests outside of the classroom.

How to Write MIT’s Supplemental Essay #3 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Prompt #1: Consider things in your environment and upbringing that you had no control over that may have influenced you throughout your life. This can be what kind of family you grew up in, your cultural background, or certain people in your life. 

1. The Impact Can Be Subtle: An external factor doesn’t need to completely redefine you as a person. Even if the environmental factor influenced you in some small way, it’s still worth discussing and bringing up. Try to unpack how your thinking and perspective have changed as a result.

2. You Don’t Need Extreme Emotions: It can be enticing to write about how you had these crucial barriers and obstacles in life that you managed to overcome. While this can be effective, tugging on the heartstrings of admissions officers isn’t necessary for a great essay.

3. Don’t Shy Away From Honest Difficulties: You might be hesitant to write about things that admissions officers may not want to hear, such as anxiety or insecurities. There’s no need to try to present yourself in an idyllic fashion. Discussing obstacles you face and how you manage them is an honest representation of yourself.

How to Write MIT’s Supplemental Essay #4 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Prompt #1: A cutting-edge charity or fundraiser isn’t necessary for this question. It can be helpful to think of natural scenarios in which you were a help to others. Although you can discuss if you have impressive volunteer experience, it’s not at all required.

1. Talk About Your Family: This is an easy strategy for this prompt as most people can think of a situation or two where they need to help out with family responsibilities. If you have dependent parents, younger siblings, or financial obligations, these are all okay to discuss.

2. Don’t Try to Redefine the Wheel: Discussing how you contributed to innovative scientific research to cure diseases isn’t the goal for this prompt. Normal incidences of prosocial behavior in your life help admissions officers get to know you in a more realistic fashion.

How to Write MIT’s Supplemental Essay #5 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of Prompt #1: Everyone has difficulties in life from time to time. Try to capture aspects of hardships or struggles that you managed to overcome or deal with. This way, you can show you won’t be discouraged from any setbacks. 

1. Avoid Traumatic Events: Trying to show how you’ve lived through horrible experiences isn’t what this prompt is asking. Although some students choose to go this route, it won’t necessarily increase their chances of admission. Everyday setbacks are perfectly fine for this answer.

2. Show How You Manage or Deal With Problems: Admission officers know that students come from all kinds of different backgrounds. They don’t expect you to have a perfect life, but they do expect you to have healthy coping strategies. Try discussing how you find solutions to problems and mitigate their negative effects.

Examples of MIT Supplemental Essays that Worked

In this section, we’ll go over MIT essays that worked and positively impacted admission officers. All these essays were written by successful MIT applicants and demonstrate effective writing strategies

Sample Essay #1

Prompt: “We know you lead a busy life, full of activities, many of which are required of you. Tell us about something you do simply for the pleasure of it. (225 words or fewer)”

Take a look at one of the example essays responding to this prompt: 

Right foot back, along with your weight, then put your weight back on your left leg, throwing yourself slowly forward and bringing back your right foot. Repeat with the left foot. That’s the first basic salsa movement I learned from some lessons taken with my mother when we accompanied my sister to her therapy in [CITY]. Besides learning to dance, I discovered how complete salsa can feel when dancing to it. Salsa is music intended for dance, and it wasn't until I learned to dance that I realized all I was missing from the music. With more practice, I eventually learned to spin (with ease, even!) and mix multiple steps and movements comfortably alongside the music such that it felt like riding a bike.”

Why Essay #1 Worked

The reason why this MIT supplemental essay example works is because it’s straight to the point. A lot of people may have insecurities about something like dancing, but this applicant articulates how they were missing the fun that it provides them in their lives. They then talk about how dancing adds an element to music that is meaningful and brings them value.

The essay doesn’t try to paint a heartfelt and passionate narrative. Instead, it’s direct and simple. The answer gives insight into who the student is and the things they like to do in their spare time.

Sample Essay #2

Prompt: “Tell us about a significant challenge you’ve faced (that you feel comfortable sharing) or something that didn’t go according to plan. How did you manage the situation? (225 words or fewer)”

Check out this sample supplemental essay: 

Missing mom’s call is never good, but not knowing you have *Missed Calls from Mamá* is even worse. Journeying to [COUNTRY] for 3 months, I had neither a SIM card nor internet for Mamá’s calls to connect, so she was worried, and I was on my own where I didn’t speak the language.

I spent days connecting to any free WiFi I could find and memorizing the trains I’d take to get to [LANGUAGE] class without GPS. With my college grad classmates, I faced a significant age barrier as well. These age and language barriers made me feel uncomfortable requesting help. 

Moreover, without friends, family, or a legal guardian, I faced legal complications barring: participation in some physical activities (like field hockey), finding a home, or even having a phone number because I lacked an emergency contact and [COUNTRY] bank account.

After a month succumbing to embarrassment, I began using my broken [LANGUAGE] and Google Translate to request teachers’ help. One teacher let me use his number as my emergency contact to help me get a phone number. Using the same medium of communication with my classmates, I then made a good friend who helped me find a home. 

Traveling to [COUNTRY], I learned that independence involves learning to resolve problems as they arise more than being over-prepared to the point of not encountering any.”

Why Essay #2 Worked

This essay offers insight into the applicant's life. We learn about their relationship with their mother, their exposure to other cultures, and how they solve problems. It ends on a note of how independence isn’t being over-prepared but rather knowing how to tackle issues as they arise.

Keep in mind the obstacle wasn’t some insurmountable hurdle. It’s a simple problem of using a phone to translate a request in order to communicate with their mother. It addresses the prompt clearly and directly by giving a brief snippet into the writer’s life.

Sample Essay #3

Prompt: “MIT brings people with diverse backgrounds and experiences together to better the lives of others. Our students work to improve their communities in different ways, from tackling the world’s biggest challenges to being a good friend. Describe one way you have collaborated with people who are different from you to contribute to your community. (225 words or fewer)”

Take a look at this sample supplemental essay: 

You know the game “Telephone”, right? Well, imagine playing that game with other players who don’t speak the same language! Because of the chain-link-like solution we ended up using to bypass our “Lost In Translation” woes, I’ve taken to calling this particular “Telephone” game iteration “Translation Chain”.

In my first week abroad and alone in [COUNTRY], the language school spearheaded a Saturday and Sunday “get-to-know-you” event for the neighborhood consisting of the international students bringing their favourite candies or games played in their country. The purpose was to ask questions about how to respect and adapt to [ETHNICITY] culture, practice our [LANGUAGE], and give the community a place to share and learn from other cultures. 

We organized ourselves at tables with different games and food, dividing the better [LANGUAGE] speakers equally to be able to communicate properly. In my group, [NAME], my Mexican friend, spoke [LANGUAGE] almost fluently but not English, so he’d translate sentences uttered in [LANGUAGE] from [LANGUAGE] to Spanish for me, I’d translate from Spanish to English for my [NATIONALITY] friend [NAME], she’d translate English into [LANGUAGE] for [NAME], and when someone who spoke [LANGUAGE] came to play a game or inquired about the desserts, we’d pass word back along the same “Translation Chain”.

In playing “Translation Chain”, we successfully connected with our new neighbours, making every word, language, and culture heard.”

Why Essay #3 Worked

The answer here discusses contributing to a community through translation. We live in a globalized world with people from all kinds of different backgrounds. MIT is no exception to this. Being able to facilitate communication between people who don’t share the same language captures the essence of what this prompt is aiming to achieve.


Still have more questions about how to write MIT supplemental essays? Keep reading, and check out our expert answers below!

1. How Many Essays Does MIT Require?

MIT requires students to answer five essay prompts.

2. What Does MIT Look For In Essays?

MIT looks for clear, concise, and thoughtful answers in their essays.

3. How Important Are Essays for MIT Admission?

Essays are one of several components of your MIT application. They won’t be the deciding factor for admission.

4. How Often Does MIT Change Their Essays?

MIT may make minor changes to their prompts each application cycle.

5. Can I Reuse an Essay From Another College Application For MIT’s Supplemental Essay?

It’s never a good idea to completely reuse college essays. That being said, you can gain inspiration or tweak previous writing to help with your current essays.

6. How Long Should My MIT Supplemental Essay Be?

Each MIT supplemental essay should be between 100-200 words.

7. How Can I Make My Essay Stand Out?

To stand out in your essay, simply be yourself and respond to the prompts thoughtfully.

Final Thoughts

Writing the MIT supplemental essays can be challenging. Along with interviews, supplemental essays help give a personal touch to your application. The vital thing to always keep in mind is to be authentic when writing and not try to fulfill some arbitrary narrative to make your writing sound more impressive. 

After writing a compelling application, you can start to look into when you’ll hear back from MIT. Also, if you need any additional help during the application process, don’t forget to reach out for a free consultation with our MIT experts. 

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