For Fall 2021, MIT admissions officers have added two optional questions to understand the context of a student’s current COVID-disrupted reality. During a recent conversation, an MIT admissions officer explained the intent of the two questions.
For the first question:
If there is anything we should know about your school’s grading system or course offerings, please use the space below.
MIT admissions officers seek to understand the specific academic impacts of the Spring 2020 “emergency learning” which was hastily implemented in many school districts around the US and globally. Additionally, as schools, like those here in California, implemented Pass/No Pass policies with little or no appeals process for students to request academic letter grades, GPA’s and transcripts are marked with a semester of straight P’s.
Thus, MIT admissions officers ask students to explain the impact of such grading policy changes, including if the student was improving their academic performance in the spring semester as an adjustment from a less-than-expected fall grade which may be masked by a P(ass). Furthermore, students can explain how they continued to manage the rigorous coursework, including learning concepts with potentially diminished guidance from their teachers.
For the second question:
If you have or had any extenuating circumstances (including disruptions due to COVID-19), please tell us about them here.
While everyone has been disrupted, the MIT admissions officer explained that he and his colleagues seek understanding of the specific educational opportunities that may have been canceled or suspended during spring, summer and/or fall, which stymied a student’s exploration of a particular academic interest or blocked them from fulfilling a multi-year commitment.
For example, some students have been Science Olympiads since middle school, consistently placing in the regional or national competitions, which were canceled in Spring 2020. Or student-athletes could suddenly not complete their collegiate recruiting processes since their spring sports were canceled. Furthermore, summer research programs or internships may have been canceled or shifted virtually, somewhat diminishing the experience that “could have been.”
Both questions are optional so answering is according to the applicant’s discretion, and NOT a space for an additional essay or listing of every missed opportunity, which the MIT admissions officer emphasized. However, he encouraged applicants to judiciously provide greater dimension to their COVID-impacted experience so their potential for admissions can most fairly be evaluated.
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