I'm an MIT Admissions Officer & longtime FIRST person, AMA.

Came here to read about the game hints, realized there might be some use in this forum, even at this relatively late hour in the admissions season.

Hi, I’m Chris Peterson. I’ve been involved with FIRST as a student, mentor, and advisor since 2002, and on ChiefDelphi for almost as long. I’m currently an Assistant Director of Admissions at MIT, where I focus on our recruitment and evaluation of students with exception academic achievement and technical talent.

I don’t post on CD so much anymore but I’d be happy to help anyone in this community think about MIT specifically and college in general. We have a lot of basic stuff answered at http://mitadmissions.org but if you have anything else you want to BS about I’m happy to do so!

Wish I could have talked to you when I applied last year!

Hi Chris! A few questions…
How much does it benefit students to have an activity like FRC on their college app, as opposed to something less intense?
What’s the best way to show the impact of my FIRST experience on an application to colleges that may not be as familiar with FIRST as MIT is?
I’m not sure if you’re allowed to disclose this, but I’ll ask anyway - what percentage of recent MIT freshman classes has had FIRST on their resumé?

Thanks!

Hi Chris,

I applied to MIT Early Action this year, and had my application deferred. It has always been my dream to go to MIT, so I am looking to give the February updates my best shot. Do you have any tips on what to include in this? Is there anything that really stands out in admissions?

Thanks!

Sorry! I made one of these a few years ago too but not last year, I guess. To be truthful, I don’t lurk in CD much anymore outside of build season, but we have a community of our own over at mitadmissions.org.

Having it “on” the college app isn’t worth much. We care about what you’re doing with it. If you’re really involved w/ FIRST then that can be good; if you’re peripherally involved with FIRST, but in some kind of positive support capacity and also involved in other stuff, that can also be good.

Sometimes students ask me if MIT wants students who are well-rounded. I usually say I don’t care as much if you’re well-rounded or pointy, what I care about is evaluating the space enclosed by the shape.

What’s the best way to show the impact of my FIRST experience on an application to colleges that may not be as familiar with FIRST as MIT is?

Letters of rec. Find the teacher or mentor who can advocate most compellingly on your behalf and have them write a letter supporting your candidacy. If the school you’re applying to is unfamiliar with FIRST, have the first paragraph of the letter be a short but detailed description of what FIRST is, what the team must do, all of the time requirements (when your team meets, during what time of the year), and have the next paragraph be your specific role in the team.

Most admissions officers don’t know just how much of a time-sink FIRST is; no one does, unless you’ve lived it. That’s ok, you just need to find someone who can describe it on your behalf.

I’m not sure if you’re allowed to disclose this, but I’ll ask anyway - what percentage of recent MIT freshman classes has had FIRST on their resumé?

A few years ago we manually tabulated involvement with FIRST on every enrolling student’s application and I think came up with something like 10% of the class that we allowed FIRST to quote publicly. To be honest, I’m not sure how meaningful that number was or is.

I’d include a few specific sentences about what you’re doing for this year’s build season, since you can submit the FUN form after kickoff.

Two other unsolicited but hopefully helpful pieces of advice:

  1. If you are involved on the technical side of the team (and/or if you do technically creative things outside of FIRST), consider submitting a supplemental maker portfolio: https://mitadmissions.slideroom.com/#/login/program/21846

  2. KEEP YOUR GRADES UP. It’s not uncommon for FIRST students to sacrifice their grades for FIRST. Doing FIRST is great - see this essay our dean wrote - but colleges generally won’t accept it as an excuse for poor grades. Learning how to do both well is a key signal to college that you’ve got time-management down.

Greetings,
I have so MANY questions. If you have time, here is my list:

  1. Can you comment on how upper level school weight grades? I constantly get flack from my AP students when they say, “Mr Wilson, this ‘B’ is going to hurt my GPA. I will never get into the school I want with a ‘B’.” Will “B’s” really keep kids out of school?

  2. Every fall my school hands out class ranks to the students. This is most depressing day of the year. Really good students get depressed when they see their rankings and consider themselves failures. How does MIT weigh class rank?

  3. I teach at a very competitive school. How does MIT compare students between schools with varying academic rigor?

  4. What is a good recommendation letter? What do you look for in one?

Thanks for your time!

What are the other 90% of the admitted doing that’s better than FIRST, assuming there’s a substantially larger number of FIRST students who apply than who are getting in?

Depends. We don’t care about grades / GPA as much about demonstrated academic preparation to succeed at MIT. As a teacher, your obligation is to grade your students accurately, which we appreciate.

  1. Every fall my school hands out class ranks to the students. This is most depressing day of the year. Really good students get depressed when they see their rankings and consider themselves failures. How does MIT weigh class rank?

We pay very little attention to class rank as such.

  1. I teach at a very competitive school. How does MIT compare students between schools with varying academic rigor?

We spend a lot of time trying to understand the school, looking at all the applicants and teacher letters if and as necessary.

  1. What is a good recommendation letter? What do you look for in one?

Specificity. I wrote a bit about this earlier, but not every admissions officer understands what FIRST is, so helping to describe their involvement helps. And generally, specificity w/r/t an applicant is better than generic positives; don’t tell us a student is a “great leader,” give us some examples of how they make everyone else around them better, etc.

Well, I wouldn’t necessarily assume that the numbers are skewed. I honestly don’t know. But we wouldn’t admit a class full of FIRSTers even if we could, just like we wouldn’t admit a class full of mathematicians or chefs or skeeball players.

As we write here: http://mitadmissions.org/apply/process/match

When we admit a class of students to MIT, it’s as if we’re choosing a 1,100-person team to climb a very interesting, fairly rugged mountain - together. We obviously want people who have the training, stamina and passion for the climb. At the same time, we want each to add something useful or intriguing to the team, from a wonderful temperament or sense of humor, to compelling personal experiences, to a wide range of individual gifts, talents, interests and achievements. We are emphatically not looking for a batch of identical perfect climbers; we are looking for a richly varied team of capable people who will support, surprise and inspire each other.

Thanks for doing this thread Chris. I’m in the same boat as jbott. How much do the FUN form and any portfolios submitted swing admissions during the Regular Action cycle?

Hi Chris,
Thanks for taking the time to do this thread! I have a few questions:

  1. You suggested the possibility of submitting a maker profile to showcase the technical work people do on the team. I know on almost every FRC team, the design process will typically involve multiple people giving input and feedback, and there is rarely any project that someone can claim as their “own”. Is it okay to submit team projects for maker profiles, or is the maker profile supposed to be for more individual projects?

  2. For those of us who were deferred, will we be able to include supplemental letters of recommendation or other supplements(e.g. Maker Profile, Research Supplements, etc.) with our FUN?

  3. You said you came on CD for game hints… so what do you think this game will be this year? :smiley:

Thanks again for taking the time to post on this thread! Have a happy holidays!

Depends on the new information contained. Most don’t swing it that much one way or the other. Really good info (you won Intel STS!) or really poor info (you got all Ds at the midyear!) obviously have more impact.

You can submit your contributions to the FIRST project so long as you clearly delineate what you specifically did. We don’t want people to submit a maker portfolio of the team’s robot and say “I worked on this!” and nothing else.

Basically, the maker portfolio is an instrument to help us evaluate a student’s technical creativity and skill, the same way the music portfolio helps us evaluate their musical talent and so on.

  1. For those of us who were deferred, will we be able to include supplemental letters of recommendation or other supplements(e.g. Maker Profile, Research Supplements, etc.) with our FUN?

Sure. You can send another letter if you like, and you can submit a portfolio by Jan 1. You don’t need to, however; usually the FUN form is all we need.

  1. You said you came on CD for game hints… so what do you think this game will be this year? :smiley:

Honestly, I don’t know. The tossing the game manual in the trash at the end makes me wonder, though, if they’re going to “toss” the manual and try to radically simplify the game, which has been a goal for FIRST for some time now.

I’m glad you are here. How do admission officers view Rotary Exchange (senior year abroad) programs?

My son applied. MIT better scoop him up soon or Purdue’s gonna get him. (my choice and alma mater. ) He’s currently the head of PR on our team.

I don’t think there’s a standard take or view. Really depends on the case…are you getting good educational content, having a positive/rewarding/challenging experience, and so on.

Sounds like great options either way!

Thanks for doing this! Few questions:

  1. How does MIT weight the importance of standardized tests (SAT I, SAT II, ACT) against school grades and GPA?

  2. Not sure if this can really be answered, but along the lines of “Will a B keep me out?” and to get somewhat of a gauge, what is a good average for the GPA of accepted applicants? Do accepted applicants usually have lots of A+'s in classes or are A-'s and A’s mixed in perfectly fine as well?

Hello! Right now i’m a junior in High school I do have a question about colleges in general if you, for example realized you reached your limit and switched out of a course that took up most of your time and caused other class grades to suffer but, switched out of it second semester and are doing a good job with all your classes now, that you switched out of the hard course. How do colleges look at that?