What to do to get to MIT?

Having been twice accepted by MIT, first for a PhD in Physics, and then for an MBA at the Sloan School, I have some opinions on this matter. First, being at the top of your class is "must have". Either you have, or have not been in the top %. If not, then the next 2 don't matter.

The second is Recommendations. Get recommendations from the "Right" people. Since you want to go to MIT, first choice is a professor who is an MIT Alumnus. Alumnus recommendations carry a Huge amount of weight. If you don't have an MIT Alum then go to the next best thing. Get a recommendation from professors who are Alums from the highest Universities…Harvard, Stanford, etc. Recommendations from professors with prestigious degrees is very important because in the letter from these profs the writer will say, basically; "I'm from Harvard, etc, and I know what caliber of student it takes to go to MIT and this student is definitely qualified for this."

The third is to Ace the entrance exams. Of the 3, this one is the one that you have the MOST CONTROL over. Acing the exams will make up for some shortcomings with 1 and 2. Realize this. In the few hours of time given to the exam only a certain class of questions can be asked, nothing too long. Secondly, there are certain types of problems that you will be asked to solve. This means that though the specifics will vary, the basic problems to solve are very similar. So, get at least 3 years of previous exams form any of several Exam Prep publishers. Do the tests. On the problems you got wrong, go back to your class texts to learn how to solve them correctly. After you have been able to get ALL the problems solved correctly, but this aside, then do ALL the practice exams again. You want to get every solution correct. By doing this you will see the types of questions, the level of thinking, and the types of concepts that the examiners are looking for. You should see similarities in these categories repeated across the past 3 years tests. THEN when you go to take the exam you will recognize the type of each question, what it's looking for, and how to answer it.

One final thought. If you feel that you can give the impression of a competent, student, one who is able to discuss in some depth his chosen field of study, then making some appointments with MIT professors in this field can help. You will NEED to have a good story for why you want to attend MIT other than it is a top University. For instance if you want to study Physics, make appointments with Physics professors, ESPECIALLY with those on the acceptance board. How you find these takes some research. I did this with most of my Grad School Favorites, and it helped a lot. I went from having a 50/50 chance for acceptance into Harvard Physics to a double acceptance with full fellowship. If you feel unsure about this, then just go with the above 3 suggestions.

I hope that this helps,
Ron
GOOD LUCK!!