Massachusetts Institute of Technology

46 Essays that Worked at MIT

Updated for the 2023-2024 admissions cycle.

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The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a world-renowned research university based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Known for its prioritization of intellectual freedom and innovation, MIT offers students an education that’s constantly on the cutting-edge of academia. The school’s star-studded roster of professors includes Nobel prize winners and MacArthur fellows in disciplines like technology, biology, and social science. A deeply-technical school, MIT offers students with the resources they need to become specialists in a range of STEM subjects. In many ways, MIT is the gold standard for creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving.

Unique traditions at MIT

1. "Ring Knocking": During the weeks preceding the MIT Commencement Ceremony, graduating students celebrate by finding a way to touch the MIT seal in the lobby of Building 10 with their newly-received class rings. 2. "Steer Roast": Every year in May, the MIT Science Fiction Society hosts a traditional event on the Killian Court lawn for incoming freshmen. During the Steer Roast, attendees cook (and sometimes eat) a sacrificial male cow and hang out outside until the early hours of the morning. 3. Pranking: Pranking has been an ongoing tradition at MIT since the 1960s. Creative pranks by student groups, ranging from changing the words of a university song to painting the Great Dome of the school, add to the quirkiness and wit of the MIT culture. 4. Senior House Seals: The all-senior undergraduate dormitory of Senior House is known for its yearly tradition of collecting and displaying seals, which are emblems that represent the class of the graduating seniors.

Programs at MIT

1. Global Entrepreneurship Lab (G-Lab): G-Lab provides undergraduate and graduate students with the skills to build entrepreneurial ventures that meet developing world challenges. 2. Mars Rover Design Team: This club is part of the MIT Student Robotics program that provides students with the engineering, design, and fabrication skills to build robots for planetary exploration. 3. Media Lab: The Media Lab is an interdisciplinary research lab that explores new technologies to allow individuals to create and manipulate communication presentation of stories, images, and sounds. 4. Independent Activities Period (IAP): A month-long intersession program that allows students to take courses and participate in extracurricular activities from flying classes to volunteering projects and sports. 5. AeroAstro: A club that provides students with the opportunity to learn about aerospace engineering and build model rockets.

At a glance…

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Real Essays from MIT Admits

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..

Last year, my European History teacher asked me to host weekly workshops for AP test preparation and credit recovery opportunities: David, Michelangelo 1504. “*Why* is this the answer?” my tutee asked. I tried re-explaining the Renaissance. Michelangelo? The Papacy? I finally asked: “Do you know the story of David and Goliath?” Raised Catholic, I knew the story but her family was Hindu. I naively hadn’t considered she wouldn’t know the story. After I explained, she relayed a similar story from her culture. As sessions grew to upwards of 15 students, I recruited more tutors so everyone could receive more individualized support. While my school is nearly half Hispanic, AP classes are overwhelmingly White and Asian, so I’ve learned to understand the diverse and often unfamiliar backgrounds of my tutees. One student struggled to write idiomatically despite possessing extensive historical knowledge. Although she was initially nervous, we discovered common ground after I asked about her Rohan Kishibe keychain, a character from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. She opened up; I learned she recently immigrated from China and was having difficulty adjusting to writing in English. With a clearer understanding of her background, I could now consider her situation to better address her needs. Together, we combed out grammar mistakes and studied English syntax. The bond we formed over anime facilitated honest dialogue, and therefore genuine learning.

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Essay by Víctor

i love cities <3

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.

Jump. Pull. Prepare for landing.

These steps race through my mind as I brace myself for my first skydive, 14,000 feet above the ground. Jumping into new activities and venturing outside of my comfort zone brings me incomparable pleasure.

For years, undying curiosity and bold ambition have dared me to make these jumps. I chose to jump out of that plane just as I chose to fling myself across the flying trapeze rig, pick up dropped tangerines until I finally taught myself to juggle, or hop back on my unicycle, persisting until I found my balance. Whether it’s being the first in my family to play an instrument or leading a state championship cheer team, waking up at 4 am to try crabbing in the Pacific or leading discussions on unfamiliar topics like combinatorics and game theory with fellow math enthusiasts, I’m grateful for the way my upbringing has allowed me to cultivate a spirit of tenacity and grit as I seek new jumps of aspiration.

I didn’t go skydiving with the mindset that it would be my only jump, and I don’t face life’s challenges that way either. Whether it be tackling an unsolved Millennium Prize Problem in the math department, improving life for the Wounded Warrior community, or even making an appearance at the Collegiate Skydiving Championship, I’m ready to jump into college and pull the cord on new experiences. While I don’t know where my landing zone will be, I’m confident the sky isn’t the limit.

Essay by Gabrielle W

Math + Bioengineering @ Stanford!

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?

I was 23 minutes into my First Affirmative Rebuttal—a speech that’s supposed to take only four. But I couldn’t sit down mid-speech in my first-ever practice round.

“Now, uh, let’s move on to my opponent’s second contentio- oh shoot I messed up again.” I wanted to scream. I questioned why I was even doing debate—I’d never been good at public speaking.

“Don’t worry. Just keep going, get the words out.” Easier said than done.

But I also couldn’t just stand there forever.

So I started saying words, stumbling, pausing, and speaking in cycles. I forced myself to spit out sentences, accepting my circumstances and moving forward. In that moment of low-stakes desperation, I told myself, “Just full send it.” I had already crashed and burned, what’s the worst that could happen? All I could do was try my best.

After another agonizing five minutes, I finally finished. I turned around, wiped my pre-tears from my eyes, and sat down.

Pushing through that mortifying experience (and later realizing it wasn’t that bad after all), something changed. My confidence grew. Since then, my roles in various parts of my life—from a leader in [Organization Redacted], debate, and Student Council to an avid dinner-table debater—have required me to speak with conviction, whether I’m leading a Zoom Bootcamp event or starting off icebreakers to a group of new students. Four years later, those waves of anxiety still wash over me when I step up to speak, but each time I tell myself, “Full send it.”

Essay by Elaine

Electrical Engineering and CS student interested in Management, Public Policy, and Political Science

Prompt: What field of study appeals to you the most right now? Tell us more about why this field of study at MIT appeals to you.

Last summer, I volunteered in a vascular bioengineering lab at the [School Redacted] Boulder. Making and testing vascular grafts, I became interested in biological engineering. In MIT’s Course 20, courses such as Cell Biology and Biological Engineering Design, would lead me back to hands-on research. Having had experience microspinning grafts, I am particularly interested in Professor Laurie Boyer’s work developing 3D cardiac organoids. At Boyer Lab and other similar biological labs that are working to understand the systems of the body, I hope to contribute to knowledge that can make a difference to patients.

Essay by Hannah

Premed studying Bioeng. + CS @ MIT!

Prompt: Describe the world you come from (for example, your family, school, community, city, or town). How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations?

The fragile glass beaker shattered on the ground, and hydrogen peroxide, flowing furiously like lava, began to conquer the floor with every inch the flammable puddle expanded. This was my solace. As an assistant teacher for a middle school STEM class on the weekends, mistakes were common, especially those that made me mentally pinpoint where we kept the fire extinguishers. However, these mishaps reminded me exactly why I loved this job (besides the obvious luxury of cleaning up spills): every failure was a chance to learn in the purest form. As we conducted chemical experiments or explored electronics kits, I was comforted by the kids’ genuine enthusiasm for exploration—a sentiment often lost in the grade-obsessed world of high school. Accordingly, I tried to help my students recognize that mistakes are often the most productive way to grow and learn. I encouraged my students to persist when faced with failure, especially those who might not have been encouraged in their everyday lives. I was there for students like Nathan, a child on the autism spectrum who reminded me of my older brother with autism. I was there for the two girls in a class of 17, reminding me of my own journey navigating the male-dominated world of STEM. I wanted to encourage them into a lifelong journey of pursuing knowledge and embracing mistakes. I may have been their mentor, but these lessons also serve as a crucial reminder to me that mistakes are not representative of one’s overall worth.

Essay by Sarah J.

cs @ stanford!! lover of STEM, taylor swift, and dogs!

For as long as I could remember, my grandmother lived with my family up until her passing in April 2020. I vividly recall as a kid how she would walk around the house, laugh, and watch her Mexican soap operas. However, I will never forget the gradual diminishment of her vibrant personality and level of interaction with my family. By the last few years, her medications became less effective, and she would simply just sit in her room, gazing at nothingness; at night, I would hear groaning and near-yelling coming from her room as her schizophrenic episodes worsened. Additionally, within the past year, my sister was unfortunately diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder, marking the continuation of my family’s battle with mental illness. Therefore, my first-hand accounts of these illnesses have, without a doubt, inspired me to want to take action by engineering refined medications and revolutionizing medical treatments. Having to experience the despairing feelings that come from witnessing loved ones suffer is absolute torture, so if I can enhance the efficacy as well as reduce the side effects of even ONE drug, I will be able to protect countless families from agonizing pain. Furthermore, although my family is fortunate enough to have had insurance to cover the costs of my grandmother's numerous medications, not everyone is as lucky. With my work in the pharmaceutical industry, I would advocate for reducing the unethically high costs of drugs that plague the United States.

Essay by Gabriel

ChemE Major Interested in Applying Computation to Drug Discovery @ MIT

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mit essays that worked

How to Write the MIT Application Essays 2023-2024

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, colloquially known as MIT, is known as one of the world’s most prestigious research universities with top programs in STEM. Consistently ranked in the top 5 national universities, MIT draws in accomplished students from across the globe. 

Located just outside of Boston in Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT affords students the opportunity to explore their intellectual and extracurricular passions in a thriving urban setting. Beyond STEM, MIT also offers students an equally prestigious business and entrepreneurship program, making its urban environment all the more conducive for both business and engineering opportunities. 

Keep in mind that MIT does not use the Common Application, and instead uses its own system called MyMIT . For the 2023-2024 application cycle, MIT is requiring students to complete 5 additional essays, all of which, understandably, can seem quite intimidating upon first glance. However, CollegeVine is here to help and offer our guide on how to tackle MIT’s essays!

Read these MIT essay examples to inspire your writing.

MIT Application Essay Prompts

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. (100 words)

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. (150 words)

Prompt 3: How has the world you come from—including your opportunities, experiences, and challenges—shaped your dreams and aspirations? (200 words)

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. (200 words)

Prompt 5: How did you manage a situation or challenge that you didn’t expect? What did you learn from it? (200 words)

Prompt 6 (optional): No application can meet the needs of every individual. If there is significant information that you were not able to include elsewhere in the application, you may include it here. (Many students will leave this section blank—and that’s okay.) (350 words)

What field of study appeals to you the most right now? Tell us more about why this field of study at MIT appeals to you. (100 words)

This prompt is classic “Why This Major?” question that asks you what you want to study and why you want to study it. Most importantly, it asks you why you want to study this major at MIT. Ultimately, the most compelling response to this essay prompt is one that:

  • Demonstrates your passion for the major that you have chosen.
  • Integrates your past and present studies and interests seamlessly with your future at MIT and your long-term academic and professional goals.
  • Addresses specifically why MIT―the campus, resources, faculty, programs, and opportunities―is the place where you need and want to study.

MIT has a unique list of distinctive majors . Before you start brainstorming and drafting a response to this prompt, spend ample time exploring the various courses on the MIT website. You should pinpoint a few courses of study that appeal to you and then dive deeper into what the curricular emphasis is of each course of study, what resources and opportunities are available, and which faculty might you be interested in studying with or whose research you find compelling. 

The key phrase in this prompt is “right now,” which many schools don’t include in their “Why This Major” essay prompt, but which all schools imply. This key phrase means that if you matriculate at MIT, you will in no way be required to major in the field of study that you write about in response to this prompt. You are free to choose and change your major, and most students change their major at least once during their college career.

For anyone who has many interests, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to choose just one major to write about. It is completely fine, and even expected, that you may be undecided , but spend time condensing your list of potential majors to one or two that you are truly interested in pursuing further. 

This straightforward prompt requires a concise response since it has only a 100-word limit. While specificity is still important, there is less space for detail than in the other 200 word prompts that MIT asks you to write. 

Once you have introduced the field of study that most appeals to you, you will need to discuss why this field appeals to you. The reasons that you give need to be authentic reasons; they should be based on pure intellectual curiosity, personal goals, and strongly held values. Avoid listing prestige, post-graduation salary, or your parents’ desires as reasons for choosing your major or MIT. The admissions committee wants to know what you are genuinely passionate about and why. 

Here are some key questions to consider before writing: 

  • What past experiences of yours have influenced your decision to study this field at MIT? 
  • What coursework or independent study have you pursued in this field?
  • What classes are you interested in taking at MIT?
  • Who are the teachers that you have had, thought leaders in this field, or other role models that inspire you to pursue this course of study?
  • Who are the professors or researchers at MIT that you would want to learn from or work with? 
  • Who are the people that you wish to serve, or whose lives you hope to improve, through working or doing research in this field? 
  • How did you first discover this field of study? 
  • How do you engage with this field of study inside and outside of the classroom?
  • How do you envision yourself using this field of study in your future career?
  • Why is this field of study personally meaningful to you?

With these ideas in mind, you should be able to write a concise response about why you have picked your major of choice and why MIT will be the perfect fit for you.

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. (150 words)

First, remember that the prompt is asking for an activity that isn’t required of you . If you’re the captain of your school’s varsity basketball team, then don’t write about basketball (even if you do play for pleasure outside of school). MIT wants to know something about you that they can’t already find elsewhere in your application, something outside of your academic and extracurricular responsibilities. Essentially, MIT is asking you: “ What do you do in your free time? ”

A great way to approach this prompt is to construct a brief anecdote to illustrate your passions. Do you love reading because you enjoy imagining yourself in fictional worlds? Do you find peace in painting natural scenery? Now is a great time to describe these experiences.

Here are some examples:

  • Photography – Sitting on the pier, you watch as the sky transitions from blue to yellow, and from yellow to orange. With your camera in hand, you capture the exact moment that the sun touches the horizon, the moment that the colors begin to fade into a gradient. Perhaps the sound of your camera’s shutter acts as an instant stress reliever. Or perhaps you love the ability to capture nature’s wonders from a different perspective. Either way, the vivid imagery here makes writing an anecdote a very powerful approach.
  • Baking – Do you love the aroma of homemade baking? Do you love experimenting with new recipes and creations? Maybe you love the meticulousness of measuring out ingredients and combining them to form one cohesive unit. If this sounds like you, write an anecdote about how you use baking as an outlet for your creativity. Use sensory details to briefly go through the process of that new cupcake recipe you came up with, sharing with the reader your passion for innovative baking. You’ll definitely make the admissions officer drool a little bit with this one.
  • Rubik’s Cube – You love the thrill of solving a challenging puzzle. Starting with no instructions, you figured out the secret behind solving the cube and how to move each square to the right place. After a few more tries, you can now solve it in just a few minutes, a reflection of your ability to quickly learn and master difficult puzzles. While this may be a “nerdier” example, don’t be afraid to let your inner nerd shine (this is MIT after all). 

What makes each of these examples strong is the employment of imagery and sensory details. Although the response must be brief, you want to make the admissions officer interested in what you love; appealing to the five senses is an excellent way to do so. Don’t tell them that you love photography, show them that you love it by transforming your answer into a story.

Be honest — don’t lie for the sake of sounding more impressive. While volunteering at the local homeless shelter may sound very humble, don’t write about that if it isn’t what you actually do in your free time. MIT can spot essays that try too hard and lying about humanitarian efforts is definitely one of those instances. 

While it’s important to be honest, make sure to also use good judgment when articulating your response. Generally, anything goes for this prompt and you can essentially write about anything you’re passionate about. But if your favorite activity is “looking at memes,” it might be better to choose something else.

mit essays that worked

How has the world you come from—including your opportunities, experiences, and challenges—shaped your dreams and aspirations? (200 words)

Out of the many prompts, this one is the most open-ended. MIT is asking this question to see how your environment has shaped you as an individual. When thinking about your “world”, think about the unique culture, community, and people you have interacted with and consider how they each have contributed to the person you are today. Consider how they have shaped your value systems and the way you view the world. 

A great way to start brainstorming for this prompt is to think about your dreams and aspirations first; what do you hope to achieve in your lifetime? Next, reflect on specific opportunities, experiences and challenges that you have faced in your community and evaluate how these factored into your individuality and personal goals. 

Perhaps you grew up on a Native American preservation and were a central figure in the tribe’s pow-pow committee but faced backlash from park rangers for planning rituals in public areas, and this fueled your desire to work in politics to defend indigenous land-rights. Or maybe your childhood love for building Lego masterpieces contributed to your goal of becoming a civil engineer. Either way, remember to reflect on your past (or present) and use this reflection to analyze your future.

What each of these examples succeeds in doing is analyzing the “world” from the lens of challenges, experiences, and opportunities that led to a specific dream or aspiration.

mit essays that worked

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. (200 words)

For this prompt, MIT wants to see your selfless side by looking at the strategies you take to help those around you. Don’t panic if you haven’t saved hundreds of lives or discovered the cure for cancer; as the prompt suggests, helping your community can be as simple as lending a shoulder for your friend to cry on. Your community can be practically any group from family, neighbors, classmates, sports team, etc.

Whether big or small, think of a time that you made a positive impact on one or more people. Maybe you have experience volunteering at the Red Cross or at your local retirement home. Or maybe you founded a club at your school with the goal of bringing education to children in need. No matter what the cause is, show the admissions officers your generosity and willingness to make a difference in your community.

Here are a few more examples:

  • Tutoring a Teammate – One of your cross country teammates said that she was struggling in her Algebra 2 class, and was worried about failing. She didn’t see the point of math and thought she was just “bad” at it. You volunteered to tutor her for free on a weekly basis. After just a month of your tutoring sessions, your teammate got her first A on a test. This sparked your interest in teaching math, as you were able to get your teammate to not only understand math concepts, but also appreciate them.
  • Food Waste Campaign – You noticed your school cafeteria was generating tons of daily food waste, so you created a campaign to implement a compositing system and encourage students to reduce their waste. You gathered a team to research different composting services, contact your principal and the school board, and create educational materials on how to compost correctly. The program was successful at your school and diverted several tons of food from the landfill weekly. You’re currently working on getting the system implemented across the district.

What both of these examples succeed at doing is describing the impact that an action has on others. Whether it be putting a smile on someone’s face or preventing a child from contracting a deadly disease, remember to show the reader what the outcome of your efforts were. Tying in your personal development is another great way to heighten the magnitude of your contribution, as it gives your actions more significant personal meaning. Ask yourself: How did you grow from this experience? What changes did you see?

How did you manage a situation or challenge that you didn’t expect? What did you learn from it? (200 words)

The idea of this prompt is similar to the archetypal “ Overcoming a Challenge ” prompt. Whether it is a personal situation or a challenge, MIT wants to know how you handle difficult situations that suddenly arise and what you learn from such experiences.

You want to construct an anecdote that goes through both the situation and/or challenge and your thought process. When crafting your response, start by briefly describing the situation or challenge, making sure to answer the question, “ What was so significant about this event? ” Next, go into detail about the steps you took to approach the unexpected event and how you went about this process. Make sure to discuss the outcome of the situation and show the admissions officer how you matured from this experience, specifically identifying what you have learned from this experience. The most common mistake students make is to focus too much on the situation or challenge, rather than their thought process, emotions, and their growth.

As you brainstorm and begin drafting your response, here are some guided questions to get you thinking:

  • Why was this challenge so important to you? What is the significance?
  • At that moment, what was your reaction to the situation? How did it affect you (thoughts, emotions)?
  • Were the steps you took to manage the situation successful? Why or why not?
  • How did this challenge allow you to grow and mature as an individual?

Try to avoid “challenges” that are too trivial; although you may be upset that you got a B on that one calculus test, this is not a significant enough challenge to analyze. For this prompt, it’s important to demonstrate personal growth and maturity, as this shows your capacity to adapt to difficult environments.

You should also try to avoid challenges that are cliche , such as:

  • A sports injury
  • Working hard in a difficult class
  • Adjusting to a new culture or school
  • Facing tragedy (death, illness, abuse)
  • Romantic relationships and breakups

These tend to be very common experiences that have a predictable outcome, often focus too much on the challenge instead of your growth, or are simply inappropriate topics for your essay. Of course, you can still choose to write on a common topic if you feel that you can write something especially meaningful, but it’s better to find a more original experience to share.

You can, however, “spin” a cliche topic. For example, the “sports injury” essay tends to go: you get injured, can’t play, have to go through rehab, and you eventually get back on the field and succeed. A more unique approach would be to talk about how your injury led you to start a blog while you were recovering, and that became a big passion. Or, how your injury made you realize that you actually liked the strategy of the sport more than the actual sport, which led to your interest in competitive chess.

Here are some good examples:

  • You had to switch positions last-minute on your Model UN simulation of the Nuremberg Trials. You’d researched and prepared your arguments for months, but a delegate showed up late, so you needed to represent the opposite side you’d prepared for. Instead of panicking, you gather as much info as you can in a short time to argue the other perspective. When it’s your turn to speak, you blank out, however, and the Committee Director says they’ll come back to you. You take a deep breath, refocus, and re-outline your notes. When it’s time to speak again, you present a confident and articulate argument. The experience teaches you the importance of both preparation and adaptability.
  • You are passionate about robotics and wanted to start a competitive robotics club at your school. You gathered a group of interested students and began the process of getting the club approved by the administration. To your disappointment, your club was rejected. Instead of accepting defeat, you and your peers petitioned the school in hopes of having the board members reconsider their decision. While you didn’t ultimately win over the school board, you discovered your talent for persuasive speaking in the process, and decided to join the Debate Team. You’ve since won several awards and even got to give a local TED Talk.

No application can meet the needs of every individual. If there is significant information that you were not able to include elsewhere in the application, you may include it here. (Many students will leave this section blank—and that’s okay.) (350 words)

This is your typical “ Additional Information ” prompt, and while we usually recommend that you fill out all optional prompts, this is an exception. As MIT says themselves, many students won’t need this space to complete their application.

However, if you have unusual circumstances or a significant experience you weren’t able to address, you should write about it here. Some potential topics include:

  • Family responsibilities that prevented you from taking on traditional extracurriculars
  • Financial hardships
  • Death of a loved one
  • Unique extracurricular that can’t be fully explained in the Activities section

While your other essays should have a more narrative quality, your response here can be more straightforward, and you also don’t need to take up the full 350 words. 

Just avoid using this space for topics that may be deemed trivial, such as explaining that B on your transcript when you otherwise have straight A’s. Significant dips in grades for reasons out of your control are certainly fine to explain, but make sure that anything you cover here is actually a major part of your high school experience and development.

It’s important to note that in light of the Supreme Court striking down the use of affirmative action in college admissions, many colleges have added open-ended prompts that give students the opportunity to discuss their racial background. Because the ruling allows colleges to consider race on an individual basis, essays are the prime place for you to reveal your racial background and its effect on you. If you feel that your racial background has impacted you significantly, this is the place to discuss that.

Where to Get Your MIT Essays Edited

Do you want feedback on your MIT essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools.  Find the right advisor for you  to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

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Our Collection of Essays Written By MIT Admits

Every MIT essay example in this database was created by students who were accepted into MIT. It makes this collection a great asset for all students who want to gain MIT admission.

These essays that worked offer valuable insights for aspiring MIT candidates looking to gain a deeper understanding of what appeals to the admissions team. Explore these essays that worked below to understand how these applicants achieved their goals and use their experiences as a roadmap for your own application journey.

Essay #1: “Tell us more about why this field of study at MIT appeals to you. 100 words.”

Biological engineering’s flexibility frees my mathematical mind, the complexities of which can only really be adequately comprehended through interdisciplinary lenses like those of bioengineering. To me, the mystery and mystique of the cell is paralleled only by the multi-faceted methodology of mathematics itself. As with biology, I’m drawn to math because it’s ubiquitous and there are multifarious pathways to the same answer, just as there are in life. As for my pathway, I’m still paving it but undoubtedly the most formidable foundation for learning about life would be studying bioengineering at the Mass mecca of modern mathematics and science: MIT.

Essay #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. (225 words or fewer)”

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.

Essay #3: “Describe the world you come from (for example, your family, school, community, city, or town). How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations? (225 words or fewer)”

When the alluvion occurred, every tent throughout the hills of [CITY]- some with people still inside - washed downhill into the city. It was in this city of [CITY] that I was born and exposed to the gritty reality of immigrant life, catalyzing my drive to be both informed about immigration policy in multifarious countries and involved in aiding the immigration process by spearheading an initiative called [NAME OF ORGANIZATION] for volunteers to teach Spanish to [ETHNICITY] immigrants. 

Besides the [CITY] alluvion washing tents downhill, I saw my sister get metaphorically washed downhill from a young age, as she’s 12 but isn’t yet able to read or write. She suffers from [DISEASE] and a [DISORDER], and I’ve seen her struggle in school, where administrative solutions include skipping tests, activities, and basic education instead of actually providing the necessary assistance. Consequently, she must now climb back uphill and regain all she’s lost academically due to lack of both quality therapy and support from her standardized education system. 

Accompanying my sister on her epigenetic journey since she was born, I’ve become engrossed in neurobiology and genetics, particularly as they apply to access and quality of education for people with disabilities, including [DISORDER] like my sister’s. I dream of a world where she can read, write, and communicate just as I’ve been blessed by my education to do.

Essay #4: “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)”

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 ne

Essay #5-11

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Supplemental Essays Guide: 2021-2022

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Not sure how to approach the MIT essay prompts? With tips from an Ivy League graduate,’s guide to the MIT essay questions will show you exactly how to write engaging MIT essays and maximize your chances of admission. For more resources on MIT,  click here . Want help crafting your MIT essays? Create your  free account  or  schedule a free consultation  by calling (844) 505-4682.

MIT  Essay Guide Quick Facts:

  • MIT has an acceptance rate of 4%— U.S. News  ranks MIT as a  highly competitive  school.
  • We recommend answering all MIT essays comprehensively and thoughtfully.

Does MIT require supplemental essays?

Yes. In addition to the Common App  personal statement , there are MIT essay  questions . Most of these MIT essays have 250-word requirements, but one of the MIT essays is limited to just 100 words.

Need tips on writing your Common App essay? Check out our blog  article .

How many supplemental essays does MIT require?

There are five total MIT essays: one MIT essay with a 100-word maximum, one MIT essay with a 250-word maximum, and three MIT essay prompts that are required to fall between 200 and 250 words. You’ll want to pay careful attention to word count when writing your MIT essays; it is likely admissions officers will be checking for your attention to detail in these MIT essay prompts.

What essays do you need to write for MIT?

All five MIT essay questions mentioned above are required—no shortcuts or optional MIT essay prompts here! You’ll find the MIT essay examples below.

What does MIT look for in essays?

This guide will break down exactly how to respond to each of the MIT essays. If you want to do additional research for the MIT essays (and you should!), we recommend that you visit the  MIT website  and observe the language they use when describing the type of student that they’re looking for. When you respond to the MIT essay prompts, keep this language in mind. How do you fit in with what they’re looking for in a student? These MIT essay questions are the place in your application to make that even clearer.

Of course, you will want to avoid any grammatical errors that could weaken your MIT essays. You should also strive for clarity of tone and phrasing in all of your MIT essay questions. Use all of your standard exemplary essay-writing practices! Read on for some MIT essay examples to guide your writing.

Does MIT have a main essay?

This is a great question, but no—none of the MIT essays are really the “main” essay you should focus on. We recommend paying equal attention to each of the five MIT essay prompts; just because they vary in length does not make one more or less important than another!

MIT Supplemental Essays – Question 1

Describe the world you come from; for example, your family, clubs, school, community, city, or town. How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations? (250 words or fewer)

How do you write an MIT essay?

By breaking down each of the MIT essay examples, this guide will explain how to write an MIT essay.

This first MIT essay is the classic “Tell us more about yourself” college essay question. MIT wants to learn what made you  you.  With this MIT essay, you should think first about your dreams and aspirations. Maybe you want to be a veterinarian; maybe you want to be an engineer.

Once you know how you want to answer the second half of this question, it will provide direction for the first half. Why do you want to be a veterinarian or an engineer? For instance, maybe your community has felt the increasing effects of climate change, which has made you passionate about environmental engineering.

The best way to answer this prompt is to be specific. Pick one aspect that has been influential in your youth, give a brief anecdote explaining it, and then turn to the  how.  For instance, you won’t want to use up too many words describing each and every detail of your school’s journalism club. Instead, succinctly paint a picture that provides insight into why journalism has become so important to you and what you feel you can do with the skills you have learned from it.

MIT  Essay Draft Key Questions :

  • Do you use concise and descriptive words to depict your world?
  • Do you focus on the  why  and not just the  what ?
  • Does your response teach the reader something new about you?

MIT Supplemental Essays – Question 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. (200–250 words)

This MIT essay just asks what you do for fun! Don’t think your answer has to be scholarly; you don’t have to say that you read textbooks about quantum mechanics in this MIT essay for them to admit you. In all of the MIT essay questions, MIT wants you to be honest. This is a chance to discuss something you haven’t talked about in your other MIT essay questions or the rest of your application.

Out of all the MIT essay examples, this is the hobby question—maybe you’re an amateur magician, or you make short nature documentaries, or you love fishing. No matter what it is, MIT wants to hear about it. You would do best here to use descriptive language to briefly describe your activity of choice. Then, explain  why  it means so much to you. Why do you enjoy it? Maybe it’s the rush of knowing you have succeeded in bamboozling your friends and family with a difficult card trick it took weeks to master. Maybe capturing a snail’s slow journey across a beach reminds you to have patience and perseverance.

Any example like the ones above is great as—just make sure to talk about something you do purely for enjoyment. Most of the MIT essay questions do not ask you to talk about something that sparks joy for you. In this MIT essay, be sure to demonstrate how much you genuinely love the activity you discuss.

  • Does your draft clearly communicate your chosen activity?
  • Do you articulate why your chosen activity matters to you and how it has influenced your growth and identity?
  • Does your supplement provide information not present in the rest of your application?

MIT Supplemental Essays – Question 3

At MIT, we bring people together to better the lives of others. MIT students work to improve their communities in different ways, from tackling the world’s biggest challenges to being a good friend. Describe one way in which you have contributed to your community, whether in your family, the classroom, your neighborhood, etc. (200–250 words)

This MIT essay asks you to demonstrate your willingness to help others. The answer to this prompt does not have to be extreme; it can be as simple as watching, cooking for, and cleaning up after your younger siblings while your parents both work full-time, tutoring a friend who’s struggling in calculus, or starting a food pantry at your local library. The  scale  of the contribution is not as important as the  heart  behind it.

You can spend the first half of the essay discussing the activity, and then you should turn to an analysis of why or how it has an impact. It doesn’t have to be big; MIT isn’t expecting you to have saved hundreds of lives. Even an action that seems small can have a big impact—it’s your job to showcase this. And remember that a community can be anything; you just have to define what community means to you in the context of this MIT essay.

  • Do you talk about a specific action you’ve done to improve your community?
  • Does your essay focus on  how  the action was impactful, rather than just describing it?
  • Do you address how you grew from this experience?

MIT Supplemental Essays – Question 4

Tell us about a significant challenge you’ve faced or something that didn’t go according to plan that you feel comfortable sharing. How did you manage the situation? (200-250 words)

Here, MIT asks how you manage failure. They want to see that one, or two, or however many setbacks will not prevent you from overcoming a challenge or an obstacle. For this essay, choose a time when you faced a challenge, then mention why the challenge was particularly important to you. Try to find an original example; a sports injury or getting a C on a test can sometimes seem cliché.

Try to pick something a little more outside the box. Think of a challenge that not many other people applying to MIT have likely faced. If you’re struggling to come up with an interesting challenge, try to put a unique spin on how you overcame the challenge.

Whatever you write, make it specific to  you.  You also want to make sure not to focus too much on describing the challenge itself. Rather, MIT wants to know how the challenge pushed you to grow as an individual. You should try to demonstrate what you learned from the experience. You can also be honest about how scary or frustrating the situation was at first. The important thing is to end with the confidence and knowledge you gained from an ability to adapt and be flexible.

  • Do you explain why this challenge was so important to you?
  • Does your draft demonstrate how you solved or addressed the challenge?
  • Do you reflect on the impact of overcoming this challenge?

MIT Supplemental Essays – Question 5

Pick what field of study at MIT appeals to you the most right now, and tell us more about why this field of study appeals to you. (100 words or fewer)

This is MIT’s combination version of the “Why us?” and the “What do you want to study?” questions. It requires you to name a field of study, rather than discuss the college as a whole, but you’ll still want to make your answer MIT-specific. Start by looking through all of the undergraduate programs MIT offers. Once you list your desired major, jump straight into the  why .

This is the shortest MIT essay you’ll write, so concision is paramount. This is the space to show off your expert investigation and analytical skills: name-drop courses and professors and analyze why they would benefit your academic growth. You can also allude to your previous academic track record and how an MIT education would build on your past intellectual experiences.

  • Did you pick a major that MIT definitely offers?
  • Do you connect the specifics of this major directly to your own academic passions?
  • Does your response supplement and/or complicate the other aspects of your application, with special regard to academic preferences?

MIT Supplemental Essays – Final Thoughts

The MIT essay prompts can seem daunting, but don’t let that discourage you from applying. The MIT essays are a great opportunity to demonstrate who you are for admissions officers reading your application. We hope the above MIT essay examples helped to jumpstart your thinking! These MIT essays can boost your application if you have a  lower than average SAT score  or GPA.

Use this guide as a step-by-step aid when approaching the MIT essay prompts, and start earlier than you think you should. You may believe it will be easy to answer the MIT essay prompts quickly, but it is always better to have more time to draft than less. Don’t be afraid to ask for revisions from someone; it’s helpful to have another set of eyes checking your MIT essays for grammatical errors, tone, and clarity. Good luck!

mit essays that worked

This essay guide on MIT was written by  Laura Frustaci , ‘21. For more resources on MIT,  click here . Want help crafting your MIT essays? Create your  free account  or  schedule a free consultation  by calling (844) 505-4682.

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How to Write Outstanding MIT Supplemental Essays (With 5 Real Examples)


This is your complete guide to writing outstanding MIT supplemental essays.


We all know MIT is math- and science- focused.

But MIT isn't looking for students who can just do the work (most students applying to MIT already can).

You need to be able to tackle dense STEM subjects and communicate your ideas effectively.

Which is why your supplemental essays are still incredibly important for MIT.

Let's dive right in.

How to Write the MIT Essay Prompts for 2023

According to MIT Admissions , there are 4 required MIT supplemental essays for 2023 which they ask you to answer in "approximately 200 words."

The MIT essay prompts for 2023 are:

MIT Essay Prompt #1: "Activity for Pleasure"

Prompt #1. 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. (About 200 words)

This is a quintessential "extracurricular activity" essay.

MIT wants to know what you do for fun, and how you spend your time outside of school.

But they don't want to hear about your "resume" activities. MIT already provides their own Activities Section for that.

Instead, this prompt is about sharing something that reveals who you are as a person , not just what you do.

How to Answer MIT Essay Prompt #1

Your goal with this essay should be simple:

Let the admissions officer understand exactly why this activity is enjoyable to you.

You want them to be able to understand your thought process and how you see the world.

To bring them into your world, you need to show where exactly you find pleasure in this activity.

How to Choose an Activity for MIT Essay Prompt #1

First, here's what topics you should avoid or be careful about writing:

  • Activities already on your activities list. You want to reveal something new about yourself. - Generic or broad activities (e.g. "I like to read"). - Common activities without having an uncommon angle (e.g. "I like to play video games"). - A "big" activity (e.g. "I love working on my non-profit to help the homeless"). - Focus on the activity itself, rather than what ideas it represent.

Why? Because these topics are overdone and easily cliché.

Instead of focusing on the activity itself, your essay should be an exploration of an idea.

  • Biking around your neighborhood? → An exploration of the unknown and what it means to be free
  • Doodling extensive notes and diagrams while on plane rides? → Your exploration of imagination and elaborate daydreams
  • Creating a new recipe for Thanksgiving dinner? → How exactly and at what point something becomes tradition

Here's how you can find your own unique topic:

  • Focused on ideas. Ask questions like, "Why do I really enjoy this activity?" or "What ideas does this activity represent?" - Be unapologetically honest. Even if your activity seems silly or trivial, you can make it meaningful by connecting to an idea of what it represents.
  • Be ultra-specific. Don't write about "drawing" or "playing the piano." Write about "drawing pictures of random people on the subway" or "writing fugal counterpoint." - A "small" activity. Something close to home. Then, connect to a bigger idea. If you like to draw pictures of people on the subway, you could write your love of questioning the seemingly mundane and overlooked.

MIT is a highly intellectual school.

They want to see that you're a strong, deep thinker who can connect the dots between seemingly unrelated things.

Here's the deal:

Focus on writing about ideas , not just the literal activity itself. What does this activity represent ? What unexpected connections can you form?

MIT Essay Example #1: "Activity for Pleasure"

Here's an example of a great response to MIT's first essay prompt.

This essay was written when the prompt was limited to only 100 words, so it's a little shorter than the current 200-word limit.

You can still use this essay as inspiration for your own MIT supplemental essays.

Prompt: We know you lead a busy life, full of activities, many of which are required of you. Tell us about something you do for the pleasure of it. (100 words max)

After combining the ingredients came an hour-long wait. I tapped my fingers, paced the kitchen, watched the clock anxiously. Time to shape the dough. Then another 30-minute wait. Stress. Dough in the oven! 40-minute wait. The aroma of freshly baked bread wafted lazily through my kitchen, impossibly tantalizing, evoking daydreams of quaint little French bakeries, ceilings stacked high with masterpieces of flour. Holding the bread to my ear, squeezing, I was reminded of the quote from Ratatouille, how great bread is distinguished by the sound, the “symphony of crackle”. Finally, finally , it was time to eat.

Why This Essay Works

  • It's not a "big" activity. It's a small, everyday activity that's close to home. - It's not an activity on the author's Activity List, so it reveals something new. - It's ultra-specific: the author doesn't just say "I like to bake bread," they show us exactly what that looks like. - It has a sense of voice . The author writes informally and stylistically, without being casual.

What Could Be Improved

  • Connect the activity to a bigger idea. What does baking bread represent? What does it mean to them? - Too much time spent describing the activity itself. The author could have spent more time on the "why" and "how" of the activity, which is more interesting.

I'm sure if this student had 200 words, they would have been able to expand on the "why" and "how" of their activity.

That said, this is still a great example of showing your personality through a small, everyday activity.

It doesn't need to be big or impressive. It doesn't need to be "quirky" or unique.

It just needs to be a meaningful activity that's close to home.

Then show us why it brings you pleasure. Specifically and vividly.

Allow the reader to relate to you and understand your thought process.

MIT Essay Prompt #2: "World You Come From"

Prompt #2. Describe the world you come from (for example, your family, school, community, city, or town). How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations?

Prompt #3. 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.

Prompt #4. 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?

Common App Prompt #1: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. (250-650 words)

Why This Essay Works:

This essay starts off by posing a challenge, which is typical of essays. But rather than showing how they overcame this particular challenge of speaking Romanian without an accent, this reader shows how something unexpected—baking—came to satisfy what was missing all along. By the end, this creates a conclusion that is both surprising, connected to the beginning, and makes perfect sense once you've read it. In other words, the conclusion is inevitable, but also surprising in content.

This student uses Romanian words to help exemplify the culture and language. If you're writing about a culture, using foreign language words can be a compelling way of adding depth to your essay. By including specific terms like "muni" and "cornulete," it shows a depth of knowledge which cannot be faked. Always use specific, tangible language where possible, because it is "evidence" that you know what you're talking about.

This student exhibits strong self-awareness by noting characteristics about themself, even some which may not be the most glamorous ("can be overbearing at times, stubborn in the face of offered help"). Rather than telling the reader flat out about these personal attributes, they are able to discuss them by connecting to another person—their grandmother Buni. Using another person to showcase your own character (through comparison or contrast) is a literary "foil," which can be an effective way of showing your character without stating it outright, which generally is boring and less convincing.

This student doesn't focus on surface-level ideas like "how they got better at speaking Romanian." Instead, they reflect in a creative way by connecting the Romanian language to baking. Revealing unseen connections between topics is a great way to show that you're a thoughtful and clever thinker. Ultimately, having unique ideas that are specific to you is what will create a compelling essay, and this essay is a perfect example of what that could look like.

Prompt: Although you may not yet know what you want to major in, which department or program at MIT appeals to you and why? (100 words max)

I remember boiling down cabbage with my dad to make titration indicators. When I first read about the process of translation, of rendering mRNA into proteins, my eyes filled with tears; this is what I would do, apply the chemistry that had defined my childhood to my love of biology. In the past few months alone, MIT researchers have visualized a critical growth kinase and decoded the kavalactone gene. To major in both the chemistry and biology departments at MIT would be an unequaled opportunity to explore the molecular basis of life and apply that knowledge to real-world innovation.

Prompt: Describe the world you come from; for example, your family, clubs, school, community, city, or town. How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations? (200-250 words)

I grew up in a household with a physicist and a chemist. Our cupboards are occupied by periodic table mugs, our closets by t-shirts with taglines like “velociraptor= displacementeraptor/timeraptor”.

Underneath all the unabashed nerdiness, my parents fostered an environment of inquiry. Our kitchen moonlighted as a laboratory, complete with burets. My mom once brought home a 3D printed likeness of her own brain; I traced each sulcus in wonderment, imagining how each fold shaped her personality. My house was a sanctuary, a place where no question was too small, no claim uninvestigated.

It is precisely this background that drew me to research. Spending the past two summers in a neuroscience clinic, I found my second home surrounded by quirky med students, exhausted post-docs, and incisive surgeons. I felt more comfortable than I ever had in high school; loving science was no longer an embarrassment, but an asset. Lunch was spent in discussion about anticipatory alpha activity, and that’s just how I liked it. Though we used EEG’s in place of homemade indicators, MATLAB instead of “borrowed” dry ice, we were working towards the fundamental goal I’d spent my childhood developing: finding new knowledge.

Every one of my dreams can be traced back to my past, to individuals and experiences that have shaped the way I see the world and how I hope to better it. My parent's passion for learning by doing was passed down to me, finding its intersection with my love for the brain in one field: neurosurgery.

Prompt: Tell us about the most significant challenge you've faced or something important that didn't go according to plan. How did you manage the situation? (200-250 words)

Bluntly put, moving in high school was difficult. I remember waving good-bye to my best friend through tear-filled eyes. I remember staying up the night before the first day at my new school, dreading having to eat lunch alone. I remember crying on my birthday. Most of all, I remember hating how my life had become a movie cliche, how I had seemingly been reduced to a shell of myself by relocating 399.2 miles south.

Resolute in my desire to restore some semblance of normalcy, I started running incremental exploratory missions on this alien planet. I joined Science Olympiad, finding comfort in the companionship of fellow biology geeks. Fulfilling a longtime goal, I joined a volunteer station and became an EMT, loving the urgency of working in an ambulance and the unique satisfaction of saving a life. I spent countless hours reading papers about spinal cord stimulation, temporarily forgetting my social isolation with academic collaboration. I learned to drive, much to my parent’s chagrin.

Though I still had the occasional bad day (as do we all), things were looking up. Reluctant optimism replaced hopeless despair as I became more confident in my abilities and less reliant on the context in which I applied them. Moving compelled me to meet different people, try new things, and succeed in an environment I hadn’t grown up in. The result was resilience, a firm belief that with hard work, a willingness to diversify, and a little self-deprecation, no situation was impossible, no crisis un-manageable.

Ryan Chiang , Founder of EssaysThatWorked

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Princeton Admitted Essay

People love to ask why. Why do you wear a turban? Why do you have long hair? Why are you playing a guitar with only 3 strings and watching TV at 3 A.M.—where did you get that cat? Why won’t you go back to your country, you terrorist? My answer is... uncomfortable. Many truths of the world are uncomfortable...

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MIT Admitted Essay

Her baking is not confined to an amalgamation of sugar, butter, and flour. It's an outstretched hand, an open invitation, a makeshift bridge thrown across the divides of age and culture. Thanks to Buni, the reason I bake has evolved. What started as stress relief is now a lifeline to my heritage, a language that allows me to communicate with my family in ways my tongue cannot. By rolling dough for saratele and crushing walnuts for cornulete, my baking speaks more fluently to my Romanian heritage than my broken Romanian ever could....

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UPenn Admitted Essay

A cow gave birth and I watched. Staring from the window of our stopped car, I experienced two beginnings that day: the small bovine life and my future. Both emerged when I was only 10 years old and cruising along the twisting roads of rural Maryland...

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  • College Application

MIT Supplemental Essay Examples

MIT Supplemental Essay Examples

Knowing what to write for your MIT essays might be difficult, but the process is made much easier by reading over MIT supplemental essay examples.

Checking out sample college essays gives you a good grasp of what supplemental college application essays should look like.

It also helps to read up on how to write a college essay . However, while learning through instruction is good, pairing that instruction with examples lets you see the practical application of that knowledge before attempting your own essay.

This article contains sample essays for the current MIT supplemental essay prompts.

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<

Article Contents 15 min read

Mit supplemental essay example #1:.

Describe the world you come from; for example, your family, clubs, school, community, city, or town. How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations.

Word Count: 250 words or fewer

Example Essay #1:

The place where I live isn’t the worst community in our city, and I’m thankful that crime is relatively low, but it’s still pretty run-down. If you want to find employment, our section of town is not for you – even more so if you’re looking for a good job; anything you’d think of as a “career” doesn’t exist here.

We couldn’t afford aspirations; we were too busy worrying about where the rent and grocery money was coming from.

One day, I started asking myself, “Why can’t our neighborhood have jobs and nice houses? Why can’t we have hope be something other than tomorrow’s disappointment?”

I’m dreaming big these days. I want to be a community leader – a local politician. I know this is strange, but I’m not worried about the national right now, I’m worried about the municipal – making sure that everybody gets enough in my city.

I got in touch with several alderpersons on my city’s council and asked how I could help my neighborhood. They spoke with me and one of them asked if I could address my city’s government at a meeting. I prepared a speech about my neighborhood’s poverty and delivered it. Then I volunteered with the reelection campaign for the alderperson who recommended me.

The place where I live is who I am, and who I am today will let me be somebody better tomorrow, if I choose to aspire to hope, and dream of every place being the nice part of town.

When you’re little, you don’t understand why your parents are getting divorced, you only know that they are. You beat yourself up over it, then you come to accept it, but it takes a while to see the silver lining.

I’m not saying it’s “good” that they split up, although I recognize that it’s at least better for them. After a while my mom and dad even got remarried. Then something weird happened: I didn’t have evil step-parents from fairy tales.

In fact, not only were my step-parents not evil, they were lovely people who really cared about me. My step-mom is a psychiatrist, and hearing about how she helps patients has inspired me to learn about therapy.

My step-dad works as a police officer. The world of law enforcement is a harsh one, especially on the psyches of law enforcement officers. Learning about that hardship from my step-father, and thinking about how my step-mother helps people, has led me to study psychology. I want to practice therapy for police officers and participate in research, looking for methods to keep stressors away and heal officers who have suffered as part of their “routine” jobs.

My family is big – four parents and eight grandparents, and a lot of love – and that largess has opened my eyes to a calling in the world that I otherwise might not have found. I think that’s most why I want to help find healing for others: I know the opportunities that healing can create.

Be sure to check out some MIT interview questions , too!

Example essay #3:.

We were moving away from my home of thirteen years to go miles and miles away, from my whole life. Worst of all: away from New York City – the only place in the world worth knowing – or so I thought.

The town might as well have been called “Miniscule Ville”. I resented every second of it. The real shocking thing to me was almost that anything existed outside of New York City. NYC is a world of its own, with its own pulses and lifeblood. I still think it’s a great place, and I’ll likely at least visit it someday, but right now, I want to visit everywhere.

My move humbled me. I began to love nature walks, the friendly camaraderie of the small town, and saw a world I never imagined. I thought I knew it all just because I lived in New York. Here was a great place, hidden from view. I loved experiencing that new world, learning local history, and most of all, learning the life stories of my new neighbors, each one of whom had a fascinating life.

My greatest dream is to be a journalist, covering other countries, and learning about new worlds and neighbors. My old perspective feels so limited. If I can share global stories, I can open up my perspective, and I can share those stories with a thousand homes so readers can learn about other perspectives as well. The world is full of different lives. Everywhere is somebody’s home.

Wondering how to write your supplemental college essays?

Pick what field of study at MIT appeals to you the most right now, and tell us more about why this field of study appeals to you.

Word Count: 100 words or fewer

My neighborhood is run-down and hangdog. Buildings are collapsing, practically on top of the homeless who could use a place to stay. I am sad for the people who have no place to go and for the beauty in design that is decaying all around.

I want to restore my neighborhood. Architecture and design are my academic interests, because they help restore neighborhoods and cities into communities where everybody has a place. I hope to redesign and give a new life to my neighborhood. With the help of MIT’s Architecture and Urbanism program, my dream is bound to come true.

Example Essay #2:

The current state of economics is more complicated than ever.

Hustle culture is burning people out. Job-seekers complain of a lack of good employment, while prospective employers complain of a lack of worthy candidates. We are abandoning traditional work models, payment models – even the concept of money is being tinkered with since the advent of cryptocurrencies.

These innovations require new technology, business models, and currencies; I will embrace this future at the Economics program at MIT, and help blaze the financial trails we will all someday walk.

We are meant to be a nation of liberty and unity, so much that we made it our motto: e pluribus unum. But tribalism and division have been on the rise – we are more divided as a nation than ever.

Recently I have seen people striving to start good-faith conversations. On a new political podcast, for instance, opposing politicians discuss instead of argue.

The arena of political science has never been more dangerous, divisive, or exciting. I need to help keep our nation of “many” as one nation. I will start my journey at the Political Science department at MIT.

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.

Word Count: 200-250 words

I take the path less travelled, if I may reference Frost for a moment. When it came to choosing a sport, I couldn’t just do any sport, so, I chose HEMA: Historical European Martial Arts.

This is the study of the longsword, the mace, the dagger, and the rapier. It is as much a study of history and anthropology as it is exercise. All of the moves and strategies come from old manuscripts, many of which need decoding to get into a recognizable language.

Connecting with the past in such a way is a fun, engaging way to learn history and get exercise – and it is considerable exercise! Swinging a longsword about, or fighting with shields and arming swords, often while wearing armor, is no easy task.

The community of HEMA is a welcoming and wonderful one. I found out about HEMA in a video somebody posted to my social media only to discover that there is a chapter near where I live. I went around to ask about classes, and they were very friendly and affirming.

There is always more to learn, too, whether knowledge of circumstances for the various manuals, different fighting styles, or a variety of weapons. Through HEMA, I fuel my mind, exercise my body, and am part of a friend-filled community of historical combat buffs.

When the wind is up, I cannot wait to go to the park with my latest kite.

As a kid, my mum and dad would take me kite-flying. I’d have done it every day, and no matter how old I got, I still wanted to fly.

Soon I was trying to do maneuvers too complicated for my dinky little kite, and I begged mum and dad for a better one. I got one for my birthday, but even that much more advanced model didn’t satiate my desire to vicariously soar above the park. I realized that the kites we bought from the store do not exactly meet my vision of how I wanted my kites to perform. This meant that I would need to start designing my own kites.

It took a lot of trial and error, and my father and I almost destroyed one of my special kites trying to improve it, but we eventually got the hang of it. After that, we started “modding” more kites, and I have now built three myself, special kites designed for specific maneuvers. It takes a lot of problem-solving to get there, but figuring it out and flying those kites is so rewarding.

It’s almost like I’m up there with the kite, floating on the wind. It’s relaxing, challenging, and a wonderful way to spend a day.

My love of poetry came from my love of hip-hop music. 

One evening, I found myself in a café in a basement – one of those places with steps leading below street-level, into a room that reminds you of how you think a speakeasy would look. It was slam-poetry night, and my friend Trisha was performing. He told me it was just like hip-hop.

I was in awe of my friend and his group, spitting lines that were fierce and which moved me deeply. I got involved with the group and was soon writing my own stuff. My verses were clunky at first, but they were mine; I was learning to express myself.

Every aspect of slam poetry fascinated me: rhythm, metaphor, stress, and the ever-elusive emotions between the lines.

Slam poetry is wonderful, but in my study of the art, I came to love other verse forms. The slam poet group’s leader told me to check out the Elizabethan sonnets for some tight beats – she was referring to the about iambic pentameter, which led me to a love of a form of poetry with one phrase – tight beats. Something that my English teacher didn’t accomplish with a whole class unit.

My favorite poems I have encountered are haikus. The all-encompassing focus on syllables makes the rhythms of masterfully-written haikus flow in my mind’s ear.

Poetry is my passion. I can’t wait to put down verses, whether for a slam poetry night, and some just for my journals at home.

At MIT, we bring people together to better the lives of others. MIT students work to improve their communities in different ways, from tackling the world’s biggest challenges to being a good friend. Describe one way in which you have contributed to your community, whether in your family, the classroom, your neighborhood, etc.

My dad’s a smoker, and mom’s always on him to quit. I don’t mind too much – I understand that it’s hard to quit – but he chucks his cigarette butts everywhere, and I hate that.

One day I’d had enough of it, and when he whipped his cigarette butt out the car window, I actually spoke up and chewed him out for littering. He wasn’t happy about that, and it made the car ride home unpleasant.

But the next day, he came and apologized, saying I was right. That event inspired by responsibility to our community, and I decided to help gather up trash in our neighborhood. I volunteered with the city, got a little grabber and a garbage bag, and started picking up litter, including a bunch of cigarette butts, many of which were, statistically-speaking, my dad’s.

I felt good, and encouraged my family to come out with me. Dad was the first one to cave, and we actually had fun, talking and picking up litter. But we needed more help. I’m fourth out of five kids and I convinced most of my siblings to join in as well.

Dad and I wound up bonding a lot, chatting about life and sharing our news at the side of the road, plucking debris from the street. He doesn’t smoke as much, either, but I don’t know if that’s because of me or just that he hates picking up his old butts.

The bullying at our school, and in my class in-particular, had boiled up. It wasn’t uncommon to see one or more students in tears because of some cruelty or other, a lot online, but plenty of it live and in-person.

I stayed out of it as much as I could. I didn’t want to be a target.

My friend Mark got it bad one week. Somebody decided to start accusing him of being “the problem” whenever anything went wrong, calling him cursed. He lost a lot of friends that week, and though I didn’t abandon him, I didn’t stick up for him like I should have.

That festered in me. I hated feeling helpless, so, after the Christmas break, I came to school with a purpose. I went straight to our teacher and asked what I could do to help stop bullying, besides just not participating in it. We came up with an anti-bullying campaign. We knew posters wouldn’t do it alone, so we created a program where bullied students could come forward safely and anonymously. We put together a mechanism for dealing with accusations, and the school was very supportive.

It was slow going at first, but gradually we saw a lowering in the amount of bullying being done in our class and across the school. I might not have been able to stop Mark getting hurt, but I did my best to stop it happening again.

I’m a soup kitchen volunteer. My mom said it’d be good for me to volunteer and see what poverty did to people. I wasn't thrilled about it. I was fifteen and had better places to be, or so I thought.

What I found out was that there are people who need a lot of help, and it just took one shift for me to know that I was coming back. I needed to be there, helping people, because where else are they going to get help?

Community aid programs are often underfunded, and our community has a severe dearth of available funds to help people in need. Support for the local food banks and shelters is low in our municipality. Volunteering is an integral part to bring a little humanity into these people’s lives.

I’m not going to pretend it’s sunshiny, because it’s not: it’s harsh. But I can help make my neighborhood a better place. I can give people food and comfort.

What matters is making a difference. I can’t make a huge difference right now, unless you’re one of our customers – then I’m making up the difference between a night of comfort and one of despair. Small differences still make a difference, and I want to help my community however I can.

Tell us about a significant challenge you’ve faced or something that didn’t go according to plan that you feel comfortable sharing. How did you manage the situation?

The sixth letter in the alphabet shouldn’t make your stomach feel like a frozen stone is rolling around in there, but the F on my test paper was doing that. I was trying to envision a future I could actually look forward to.

Yes, that’s a bit dramatic, but I’d never gotten an F before, and my brain was panicking with the non-future into which I had cast myself. Chemistry had beaten me.

I kept that F from my parents as long as possible, assuming a furious volley of punishments and lectures would be my comeuppance. I couldn’t have anticipated the reaction.

“Hm.” A syllable which sat there for a long time before dad said, “Well, what are you going to do about it?”

It hadn’t even occurred to me that there was a next. I was busy with melancholic despair; I forgot about “what next?”

My parents asked if I wanted to switch the course, but I want to study the sciences, my answer was no. Mom helped me put together a new rubric for studying and I stuck to it. My next text was a C+. After that? An A.

Failing a test taught me something more valuable than any class ever did: how to dust myself off, know what I really want, and try again with everything I have in me. Ultimately, my only failure was giving up on myself and focusing on one failure. My lesson is learned, and from now on, I will always focus on what I can do next.

I was unable to breathe, or even move, really, and covered in dust. I was one, big bruise all over my body. Samson was responsible, having thrown me to the ground for the seventh time that day.

Samson had come to the stables with a warning that this would happen. He was a problem horse, young, headstrong, and seemingly impossible to train. For days I tried the approaches that had worked on other horses, but worked on Samson.

The barn owner was in one day, watching me fail. She called me over and said, “He’s stressed because you’re stressed. Try to be calm. When you’re calm, go over there and don’t ask anything of him. Just be there with him. See what happens. Make some offers, but don’t do anything he doesn’t want to do.”

I went over to Samson and patted him, and he stepped in. Little by little, I’d make a move and he’d make a move. He got nervous when I tried to get on him, so I backed off. I didn’t ride him that day, but eventually, after a few days of just making friends, the good advice worked. Samson was soon a great riding horse, and one who had tremendous empathy with his rider.

Too often we go to people with our stresses, needing them to be something they aren’t. I try to remember to expect less and just be there. The results are great. When you don’t pile on, you never get thrown off.

I had said, “Yes,” because I always said, “Yes,” regardless of how busy I was. That was how I wound up on the track team, mathletes, and a dozen other things I had no time for. I was stressed out and in denial.

This time, I had said, “Yes,” to organizing a fundraising event to buy new instruments for the school’s music program. A variety show seemed like a good idea until it became clear that somebody would have to organize talent, balance schedules, as well as create decorations, and everything else for the event. Guess who this “somebody” was?

Mr. Kowalski had offered to help and I’d said, “No.” I should clarify that I always said, “Yes,” when taking on responsibility, but “No,” when it came to delegating. I felt I wouldn’t be pulling my weight.

My grades were slipping, I was losing sleep, and the fundraiser almost collapsed: no new instruments for the band. Mr. Kowalski came back, luckily for me, and offered his help again. Learning my lesson, this time I did not miss my chance for getting help. The fundraiser got back on track. He didn’t take over, but gave me the assistance I needed to get it done without punishing myself too much.

I learned how important it is to ask for help and delegate responsibility. I learned that being a good leader or project head doesn’t mean being a superhuman who handles it all.

And I learned how to better employ the word, “No”.

Want more tips?

Please note that the supplemental essay section has an additional-information text box within it. MIT suggests that students can use this box to tell them anything you think they really ought to know.

MIT says it is optional, but we would advise you to take advantage of the extra space; give yourself every opportunity to stand out as the perfect applicant and to be unforgettable to the admissions committee.

In MIT’s case, they are required for your application, but even if they weren’t, as with the additional-information box, we would still counsel you to take any option that can make your application soar.

No. In fact, MIT says specifically that this is not a writing test, and encourages applicants to, “Be honest, be open, be authentic – this is your opportunity to connect with us.”

That doesn’t mean you should use colloquialisms or ignore spelling and grammar, but it does mean that you won’t need to worry about a specific style, or avoid the use of the first-person – which you will be using most of the time – or cramming in citations.

However, remember that this is still an essay, so your submission must follow the academic essay style, with a strong introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.

If they fit with your schedule, yes, but MIT doesn’t give preference to early applicants.

Check with other schools you would like to apply to, see what their application schedules are like, and build an application schedule that works best for you.

Do note that some schools don’t allow you to submit multiple early applications. MIT is not one of those schools, but they do specify that you must respect exclusivity rules from other schools.

There is a lot you can do, but starting with reading up on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a good start.

Beyond that, finding good mentors will benefit you tremendously, and using university and college admissions consulting will cover all angles and give you the best edge you can find.

Potentially, yes. How to get into college with a low GPA is harder, but not impossible.

Grades are only one puzzle piece that you’ll be sending to MIT, and their reviewing panels and admissions boards won’t just reject your application because of low grades. They provide an “additional information” section on the application which will allow you to provide insight into anything you need to explain on your transcript.

No. Don’t let the name fool you, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers a wide variety of courses across disciplines, and they have programs for all kinds of students.

Most students with family incomes below $140,000 (US) do not pay tuition. According to their website, 82% of MIT’s students graduate debt-free.

In short, MIT offers robust financial aid, and can be very affordable for students from all income brackets.

Want more free tips? Subscribe to our channels for more free and useful content!

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MIT Essay: Most Significant Challenge | Joseph

mit essays that worked

Joseph , Massachusetts Institute of Technology Class of 2024

Tell us about the most significant challenge you’ve faced or something important that didn’t go according to plan. how did you manage the situation.

I’d been disappointing myself at tennis tournaments for years. My coaches constantly said that my rankings were lower than my talent level. We thought it was a simple fix—a sports psychologist would do the trick. Eight visits later, my results were still terrible. What was I doing wrong?

The answer was right in front of me: when things got tough, I gave up. It was a way to protect myself from upsetting setbacks. To me, losing without giving effort was better than trying and still failing.

Thankfully, my coach took notice. Before lessons, he reminded me that I wouldn’t remember losses in the future—I would remember my character. If I didn’t put the effort in now, I would have to live knowing I had squandered my talents. That would be worse than the pain of failure.

Coach’s words stung. I was the one holding myself back. I wasn’t putting in the work during training. I didn’t believe in myself because I never gave myself a reason to.

“Better starts right now,” has become my personal motto, one that has halved my national ranking in less than 12 months. Whether it’s the end of a tournament, the end of my tennis career, or the end of my life, I want to know I achieved the most I could. After hard matches, I no longer have any regrets. Yes, failure sucks. But if I sacrifice everything and still come back with an L, there’s nothing left to say other than “well played.”

Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2024

About the author 🎓, major: computer science, economics, and data science, accepted universities: massachusetts institute of technology (mit) northwestern university vanderbilt university university of southern california (usc) university of michigan--ann arbor university of north carolina--chapel hill (unc) georgia institute of technology (georgia tech) case western reserve university university of illinois--urbana-champaign (uiuc) purdue university, hometown: naperville, illinois, more essays, common app essays →, harvard essays →, mit essays →, princeton essays →, stanford essays →, yale essays →, common application essay: describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve | dyllen.

Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma –

mit essays that worked

Stanford Supplemental Essay: Reflect on an idea or experience that makes you genuinely excited about learning | Dyllen

The Stanford community is deeply curious and driven to learn in and out of the classroom. Reflect on an idea or experience that makes you

Stanford Supplemental Essay: Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you | Dyllen

Virtually all of Stanford’s undergraduates live on campus. Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your

Stanford Supplemental Essay: Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why | Dyllen

Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why The day’s memories flash through my mind as I lie in bed. The piano

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How To Answer MIT's 2023/24 Application Essays: Tips & Insights

How To Answer MIT's 2023/24 Application Essays: Tips & Insights

What's New in 2023/24

What Are MIT's Essay Prompts?

Short Answer Questions

General Guidelines

The MIT essays are crucial to your application, offering a window into your character and aspirations. Highlight your unique experiences, challenges faced, and lessons learned. Approach these essays with authenticity, genuine introspection, and a focus on how you align with MIT's ethos. Ensure your essays resonate with MIT's pioneering spirit, showcasing not just your academic excellence but also your potential contributions to the MIT community. Our expert review services and consultations are here to guide and support you in this journey.

What did MIT students write their college application essays about?

MIT’s 2023/24 Essay Updates: What's Changed?

Securing a place at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) , with its acceptance rate of approximately 4% , is an extraordinary feat. In the realm of elite college admissions, your essays are instrumental in illuminating your unique journey and alignment with MIT's ethos.

Each academic year, top-tier institutions like MIT meticulously refine their application process to ensure they gain a holistic understanding of their prospective students. For the 2023/24 admissions cycle, MIT has introduced several significant modifications to its essay questions .

The first notable change is the introduction of a prompt that asks applicants to select their desired field of study from a drop-down list and elaborate on why this field at MIT appeals to them. This change underscores MIT's commitment to understanding applicants' academic passions and reasons for choosing MIT as their ideal educational destination.

While the second question remains consistent, focusing on personal activities pursued for pleasure, the third question has been reworded for clarity. It now emphasizes the world the applicant hails from — its opportunities, experiences, and challenges, and its influence on their aspirations. This revision showcases MIT's interest in understanding applicants’ diverse backgrounds and experiences.

The fourth question has evolved to spotlight collaboration, not just in the context of community contributions but also in terms of mutual learning. Although rooted in understanding how applicants handle unexpected challenges, the fifth question now emphasizes the lessons derived from such experiences.

These updates reflect MIT's continuous efforts to evolve its admissions strategy, emphasizing the diverse experiences, aspirations, and values that applicants would infuse into its vibrant academic community.

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What Are MIT’s Essay Prompts for 2023/24?

For the 2023/24 application cycle, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has meticulously crafted specific essay prompts to understand its applicants better. These prompts explore your academic inclinations, personal narratives, collaborative experiences, and resilience in facing challenges. Applicants will need to answer all five questions, with responses ranging from 100 to 200 words each, through the MyMIT application portal .

Short Answer Essay Questions

MIT's short answer questions provide insights into your academic interests, personal pursuits, background, and experiences.

  • Field of Study : 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.
  • Pleasure Activities : 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.
  • Personal Background : How has the world you come from—including your opportunities, experiences, and challenges — shaped your dreams and aspirations?
  • Collaborative Experiences : 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.
  • Unexpected Challenges : How did you manage a situation or challenge that you didn’t expect? What did you learn from it?

With an acceptance rate of around 4% , MIT's application process is highly competitive. These prompts give applicants a golden opportunity to highlight their academic passions, personal growth, collaborative spirit, and the unique perspectives they'll introduce to the MIT community.

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How to Answer MIT’s Essay Questions?

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., - 100 to 200 words.

MIT, at its core, is an institution that thrives on innovation, research, and pushing the boundaries of knowledge. This prompt aims to understand your academic inclinations, passions, and how they align with MIT's offerings . It's an opportunity to showcase your intellectual curiosity and eagerness to delve deep into a specific field at one of the world's premier institutions.

Choosing Your Field

Begin by reflecting on:

  • Your academic interests and passions
  • Courses or projects that have particularly resonated with you
  • Articulating the appeal of the field of study you selected from the drop-down list
  • Future aspirations and how they align with the chosen field

Once you've identified your desired field of study, delve into:

  • Why this field intrigues you : Is it the challenges it presents, its potential impact on society, or personal experiences that have drawn you to it?
  • MIT's Unique Offerings : Research specific courses, professors, research opportunities, or facilities at MIT that make it the ideal place to pursue this field.
  • Future Aspirations : How does studying this field at MIT align with your long-term goals, be it in research, entrepreneurship, or any other endeavor?

Being Specific and Demonstrative

Avoid generic statements. Instead, demonstrate your genuine interest by mentioning specific courses, labs, professors, or projects at MIT that align with your interests. Showcase your understanding of the field and how MIT's offerings stand out.

  • "As someone deeply fascinated by quantum mechanics, the research being done at MIT's Center for Theoretical Physics, especially under Prof. XYZ, aligns perfectly with my aspirations. The blend of theoretical understanding and practical applications offered by MIT's courses would provide the ideal foundation for my goal of contributing to quantum computing solutions."
  • "Biomedical engineering at MIT stands out due to its interdisciplinary approach. The opportunity to work at the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES) and collaborate with experts from various fields is precisely the kind of environment I seek to develop solutions for pressing medical challenges."

MIT's first prompt is your chance to demonstrate your academic interests and your understanding of what MIT offers in your chosen field. It's about showcasing your passion for the subject, awareness of MIT's unique strengths, and a vision for your future . Approach this essay with thorough research, genuine enthusiasm, and a clear understanding of why MIT is the best place to delve deep into your chosen field.

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.

MIT is keen on understanding the multifaceted nature of its applicants. Beyond academic achievements and extracurricular commitments, this prompt seeks to uncover what genuinely brings you joy, relaxation, or fulfillment . It's an opportunity to showcase a side of you that might not be evident in the rest of your application.

Identifying Your Source of Pleasure

Begin by reflecting on activities or moments that bring you genuine happiness. This could be:

  • Simple joys like reading a book, cooking a new recipe, or stargazing
  • Engaging in hobbies such as photography, gardening, or playing a musical instrument
  • Spending quality time with family, pets, or immersing yourself in nature
  • Delving into philosophical thoughts, writing poetry, or journaling

Articulating the Significance

Once you've identified your source of pleasure, delve into why it's meaningful:

  • Personal Growth : Does this activity offer introspection, relaxation, or a break from routine?
  • Skill Development : Perhaps it's a hobby where you've honed a particular skill or discovered a new passion.
  • Emotional Connection : Maybe it's an activity that connects you to cherished memories, people, or places.

Being Authentic and Personal

Avoid reiterating activities already mentioned in your application. Focus on personal experiences, feelings, and motivations behind your chosen activity. The aim is to offer a glimpse into your personal life, values, and what truly matters to you.

  • "Every Sunday, I bake bread from scratch. The rhythmic kneading, the aroma of fresh bread, and the joy of sharing it with my family transports me to my grandmother's kitchen – a haven of love and warmth."
  • "Late at night, I often find myself sketching. It's not about creating a masterpiece but capturing fleeting moments, emotions, and thoughts on paper. It's therapeutic, a silent conversation between my heart and hand."

MIT's second prompt is a canvas for you to paint a picture of your joys and passions. It's about showcasing the activities or moments that offer solace, happiness, or fulfillment. Approach this essay sincerely, detailing the emotions and motivations behind your chosen activity and providing a window into your world beyond academics and obligations .

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

MIT seeks students who are academically driven and deeply influenced by their surroundings and experiences. This prompt aims to understand the interplay between your environment and personal growth, aspirations, and dreams . It's an opportunity to showcase how your unique experiences have molded your ambitions and how you envision channeling them at MIT.

Reflecting on Your Background

Begin by considering:

  • The community or environment you grew up in
  • Key experiences, opportunities, or challenges that have had a significant impact on your life
  • How these factors have influenced your goals and aspirations

Narrating Your Journey

Once you've introspected on your background, focus on:

  • Specific anecdotes or experiences that were turning points in your life
  • The lessons you've learned from these experiences and how they've shaped your perspective
  • How these experiences have influenced your academic and personal aspirations

Connecting to MIT's Environment

Reflect on how your unique background and experiences will contribute to MIT:

  • How do your dreams align with MIT's mission and values?
  • Are there specific programs or initiatives at MIT that resonate with your journey and aspirations?
  • "Growing up in a multicultural neighborhood in NYC exposed me to many cultures and languages. This dynamic environment ignited my passion for urban planning, and I aspire to create inclusive urban spaces. At MIT, I aim to leverage the resources in the Urban Studies and Planning department to bring my vision to life."
  • "Having a father who served as a firefighter instilled in me a deep respect for public service and the sacrifices it entails. This inspired my interest in chemical engineering, with a goal to develop advanced safety equipment. MIT's cutting-edge research facilities would be the ideal platform for my endeavors."

MIT's third prompt is about introspection and understanding the symbiotic relationship between your environment and aspirations. It's about showcasing the influences that have shaped you and how you plan to channel them into meaningful contributions at MIT . Approach this essay with authenticity, clarity, and a clear vision of how your unique experiences align with MIT's ethos and offerings.

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.

MIT is renowned for its collaborative ethos, where students from varied backgrounds come together to innovate and solve real-world problems. This question seeks to understand your ability to collaborate, learn from diverse perspectives, and contribute to a collective goal .

Identifying Your Collaboration

  • Instances where you've worked with individuals from different backgrounds or experiences
  • The dynamics of the collaboration — how did you navigate differences, and what was the shared goal?
  • The outcomes and impact of this collaboration on you and the broader community

Narrating the Experience

Once you've identified a significant collaboration, delve into:

  • The challenges faced and how they were overcome
  • The lessons learned and how they have shaped your perspective on teamwork and diversity
  • The tangible outcomes, whether it's a project, an event, or a community initiative

Consider how this experience prepares you for MIT's collaborative environment:

  • Are there specific groups, clubs, or initiatives at MIT where you see yourself contributing?
  • How have your past collaborations equipped you for future teamwork at MIT?
  • "Collaborating with international students in my school's Model UN club, I learned the importance of understanding diverse perspectives. Together, we organized a cultural exchange event, bridging gaps and fostering a sense of unity in our community."
  • "Volunteering at a local shelter, I worked alongside individuals from different socioeconomic backgrounds. This collaboration taught me the value of empathy and the power of collective effort. Together, we initiated a fundraiser that provided resources for the shelter's expansion."

MIT's fourth prompt is about understanding the power of collaboration in diverse settings. It's about showcasing how you've embraced diversity, learned from it, and contributed to collective goals. Approach this essay with authenticity, clarity, and a clear vision of how your collaborative experiences will enrich the MIT community and your future endeavors.

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

MIT is interested in your resilience, adaptability, and problem-solving skills . This question seeks to understand how you handle unexpected challenges and what insights you gain from such experiences.

Identifying Your Unexpected Challenge

Reflect on:

  • A situation that caught you off-guard or was unforeseen
  • The immediate emotions and thoughts you experienced
  • The steps you took to address or navigate the situation

Narrating Your Response

Once you've pinpointed the challenge:

  • Describe the context and the unexpected challenge succinctly.
  • Detail your thought process and actions in response to the challenge.
  • Highlight any external support or resources you sought or utilized.

Drawing Lessons and Growth

Conclude by reflecting on the following:

  • The insights or lessons you derived from the experience
  • How the challenge and your response have influenced your subsequent actions or mindset
  • Any skills or perspectives you developed that will be beneficial in future endeavors, especially at MIT
  • "While leading a group project on environmental conservation, a key member, responsible for the data analysis, unexpectedly dropped out a week before the deadline. I had to quickly redistribute tasks, manage team morale, and ensure the project's timely completion. This experience taught me the importance of adaptability, clear communication, and contingency planning."
  • "During my junior year, I faced a sudden health challenge that required hospitalization, disrupting my academic routine. Navigating this unexpected hurdle, I reached out to teachers for extensions, prioritized my well-being, and sought peer assistance for notes. This ordeal underscored the value of seeking help, being compassionate towards oneself, and the importance of a supportive community."

MIT's fifth prompt offers a window into your character, resilience, and problem-solving abilities. You demonstrate your capacity to adapt, learn, and grow by detailing an unexpected challenge and your response to it. Approach this essay with honesty, introspection, and a focus on personal growth, showcasing how such experiences have prepared you for the rigors and unpredictability of life at MIT .

How Bobby Got Into MIT with Crimson

General Guidelines for Answering MIT's Essay Questions

  • Research and Specificity : MIT's essay prompts aim to understand your fit within its innovative and diverse community. Dive deep into MIT's offerings, from courses and professors to clubs and research opportunities. Demonstrating your knowledge about MIT specifics indicates genuine interest and a proactive approach.
  • Show Growth and Resilience : MIT values students who can adapt and grow from challenges. When discussing unexpected situations or your background, emphasize the events and lessons learned and how they've shaped your perspective.
  • Diversity of Experience : MIT's community thrives on diverse experiences and viewpoints. Highlight how your unique background, challenges, or interests will add a fresh perspective to classroom discussions and group projects.
  • Be Authentic : Authenticity is paramount. Write from the heart, focusing on genuine experiences and aspirations. Authentic narratives resonate more than manufactured stories tailored to what you think MIT wants to hear.
  • Depth Over Breadth : Given the word constraints, it's essential to delve deep into a few topics rather than skimming over many. This approach offers a richer insight into your character and experiences.
  • Narrative Storytelling : Engaging narratives can make your essay memorable. Whether discussing a community project or a personal challenge, a well-told story can convey your character and values effectively.
  • Proofread and Revise : Ensure your essays are polished and articulate. Beyond just grammar, your essays should have a logical flow and effectively communicate your thoughts. Feedback from trusted individuals can be invaluable.
  • Connect to MIT's Ethos : Always tie your responses back to how you'll contribute to MIT and how MIT's ethos and resources align with your goals. This shows a forward-thinking approach, emphasizing how you see MIT as being instrumental to your personal growth and vocational aspirations.
  • Embrace the MIT Spirit : MIT is known for its innovative spirit and problem-solving approach. Use the essays to showcase how you embody these qualities through past experiences or future aspirations.
  • Reflect on the Broader Impact : MIT is about improving the world through science, technology, and other fields. Ensure your essays reflect personal growth and how you aim to make a broader impact in your chosen field or community.

MIT's essays are a window into your personality, aspirations, and fit for the institution. By thoughtfully crafting your responses and showcasing your alignment with MIT's values and ethos, you can effectively convey why you'd be a valuable addition to the MIT community.

Final Thoughts

Embarking on the journey to MIT isn't solely about showcasing academic prowess; it's about weaving a narrative that aligns with MIT's pioneering spirit and the admissions committee's values. Your essays provide a unique opportunity to spotlight your character, aspirations, and the distinct contributions you'll bring to the MIT community.

Every MIT aspirant has a unique story waiting to be told. This is your moment to share yours. Approach your essays with authenticity, introspection, and a genuine passion for your narrative.

If you're unsure whether your essay truly captures your essence or stands out amidst the myriad of applications, our essay review service is here to guide you. Our seasoned experts will meticulously review and provide feedback, ensuring your essay resonates with MIT's admissions officers. Explore our  ebook , which features essays from students who secured places at elite institutions for added inspiration.

For those beginning their college application journey, consider booking a free consultation with our experienced college counselors. We're dedicated to guiding you in crafting an application that maximizes your chances of joining the ranks of MIT's innovative thinkers and doers. Your dream of becoming part of the MIT legacy is within reach, and we're here to support you every step of the way.

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Key Resources & Further Reading

  • Everything you need to know about US Application Supplemental Essays
  • Acing your College Application Essay: 5 Expert Tips to Make it Stand Out from the Rest
  • How to Tackle Every Type of Supplemental Essay
  • 2023-24 Common App Essay Prompts
  • What are the Most Unusual US College Supplemental Essay Prompts?

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MIT Supplemental Essays 2023-24 – Prompts and Tips

September 8, 2023

MIT supplemental essays

When applying to MIT, a school with a 4% acceptance rate where a 1500 SAT would place you below the average enrolled student (seriously), teens should be aware that it takes a lot to separate yourself from the other 26,000+ applicants you are competing against. While trying to be among the 1 in 25 who will ultimately be accepted sounds like (and is) a rather intimidating proposition, every year around 1,300 individuals accomplish this epic feat. We’ve worked with many of these students personally and can tell you one thing they all had in common—exceptionally strong MIT supplemental essays.

(Want to learn more about How to Get Into MIT? Visit our blog entitled:  How to Get Into MIT: Admissions Data and Strategies  for all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.)

There are few schools that offer as many essays as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. All applicants are required to respond to five prompts as they work through the MIT application. Your mission is to write compelling, standout compositions that showcase your superior writing ability and reveal more about who you are as an individual. Below are the MIT supplemental essays for the 2023-24 admissions cycle along with tips about how to address each one.

MIT Supplemental Essays – Prompt #1: 

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. (200-250 words)

There are many different ways that you can approach this prompt, but the first step is to take MIT at their word that they are sincerely interested in what you do “simply for the pleasure of it.” While this may be something that also happens to be high-minded and/or STEM-oriented in nature, there is no expectation that this will be the case.

In essence, you want to ask yourself, what brings you great pleasure and happiness? Universal experiences of joy like family, a beautiful sunset, smiling children, or your cat or dog curled on your lap are perfectly acceptable answers here. However, you could also talk about dreams for the future, more bittersweet moments, abstract thoughts, moments of glorious introversion, or even something semi-embarrassing and vulnerable. The only “wrong” answer to this question would be an insincere one. As you enter the brainstorming phase, just make sure to turn off your “resume mode” setting. Instead, allow yourself to embrace the limitless possibilities of this essay.

Essay Prompt #2 

What field of study appeals to you the most right now? Tell us more about why this field of study at MIT appeals to you. (Note: You’ll select your preferred field of study from a drop-down list.) (100 words or fewer)

Generally speaking, we all have a story of what drives us to pursue a certain academic pathway and career. How did your interest initially develop? What was the spark? How have you nurtured this passion and how has it evolved over time? If you desire to go into engineering, this is a chance to talk about everything from your childhood fascination with how things work to your participation in an award-winning robotics program at your high school. Share a compelling (and, of course, true!) narrative about how your love of your future area of study has blossomed to its present levels.

In other words, this essay should show evidence of intense hunger for knowledge that extends well outside of the classroom. How do you learn about your favorite subjects? What books have you read on the subject? Which podcasts have you listened to? What museums have you visited?

You can also tie your passions into specific academic opportunities at MIT including courses , professors , hands-on research programs , or any other aspects of your desired major that appeals most to you.

MIT Supplemental Essays – Prompt #3 

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. (225 words)

How you interact with your present surroundings is the strongest indicator of what kind of community member you will be in your future collegiate home. This prompt asks you to discuss how you have collaborated with others (in any setting) in order to learn from them or contribute to a particular community. This could mean how you’ve collaborated with others during a group project, internship, extracurricular opportunity, sports event, or service project, to name a few.

Some words of warning: don’t get too grandiose in explaining the positive change that you brought about. Of course, if you and your team truly brought peace to a war-torn nation or influenced climate change policy on a global scale, share away. However, nothing this high-profile is expected. Essentially, MIT wants to understand how you’ve worked with other people—in any capacity—to expand your thinking or reach a common goal.

A few potential ideas for areas where you may have worked with/alongside others include:

  • Racial injustice
  • Assisting those with special needs
  • Climate justice/the environment
  • Making outsiders in a group feel welcome
  • The economically disadvantaged
  • Mental health awareness
  • Clean-up projects
  • Tutoring peers or younger students
  • Charitable work through a religious organization

This is, of course, by no means a comprehensive list of potential topics. Most importantly, your story should be personal, sincere, and revealing of your core character and developing values system.

Essay Prompt #4

How has the world you come from—including your opportunities, experiences, and challenges—shaped your dreams and aspirations? (225 words or fewer)

This essay encourages you to describe how your world has shaped your aspirations. We all have any number of “worlds” to choose from, and MIT is inviting you to share more about one of these worlds through the lens of how that has shaped your dreams and aspirations.

Take note of the wide-open nature of this prompt. You are essentially invited to talk about any of the following topics:

  • A perspective you hold
  • An experience/challenge you had
  • A community you belong to
  • Your cultural background
  • Your religious background
  • Your family background
  • Your sexual orientation or gender identity

Although this prompt’s open floor plan may feel daunting, a good tactic is to first consider what has already been communicated within on other areas of your application. What important aspect(s) of yourself have not been shared (or sufficiently discussed)? The admissions officer reading your essay is hoping to connect with you through your written words, so—within your essay’s reflection—be open, humble, thoughtful, inquisitive, emotionally honest, mature, and/or insightful about what you learned and how you grew.

You’ll then need to discuss how your chosen “world” has influenced your future, and in what ways.

MIT Supplemental Essays – Prompt #5

How did you manage a situation or challenge that you didn’t expect? What did you learn from it? (225 words)

Note this prompt’s new wording: How did you manage a situation or challenge that you didn’t expect ? Can you think of a time when you felt surprisingly overwhelmed? When something out-of-the-ordinary occurred? When you were caught off guard? Basically, MIT is trying to discover how you deal with unforeseen setbacks, and the important thing to keep in mind is that the challenge/story itself is  less important  than what it reveals about your character and personality.

Of course, some teens have faced more challenges than others, potentially related to an illness or medical emergency, frequent moving, socioeconomic situation, natural disaster, or learning disability, to name a few. However, you don’t have to have faced a significant challenge to write a compelling essay (and even if you have faced a significant challenge, you don’t have to write about it if you’re not comfortable doing so). Writing about a common topic like getting cut from a sports team, struggling in a particular advanced course, or facing an obstacle within a group project or extracurricular activity is perfectly fine. Any story told in an emotionally compelling, honest, and connective manner can resonate with an admissions reader. The bottom line here is that there are no trite topics, only trite answers.

Given the 225-word limit, your essay needs to be extremely tight and polished. In all likelihood, getting this one precisely right will involve a round or two of revision, ideally with some insight/feedback from a trusted adult or peer in the process.

Some tips to keep in mind include:

  • Firstly, make sure you share what you were feeling and experiencing. This piece should demonstrate openness and vulnerability.
  • Additionally, you don’t need to be a superhero in the story. You can just be an ordinary human trying their best to learn how to navigate a challenging world.
  • Don’t feel boxed into one particular structure for this essay. The most common (which there is nothing wrong with), is 1) introducing the problem 2) explaining your internal and external decision-making in response to the problem 3) Revealing the resolution to the problem and what you learned along the way.
  • Lastly, don’t be afraid that your “problem” might sound “trite” in comparison to those of others. This essay is about you. Y our job is to make sure that your response to the problem shows your maturity and resilience in an authentic way. That matters far more than the original challenge itself.

Essay Prompt #6 (Optional)

Please tell us more about your cultural background and identity in the space below. (150 words)

Unlike other optional essays, this one truly is optional. You don’t need to respond unless you have something significant to share about your cultural background and identity that hasn’t already been shared elsewhere on the application.

How important are the MIT supplemental essays?

There are 8 factors that MIT considers to be “very important” to their evaluation process. They are: rigor of secondary school record, class rank, GPA, standardized test scores, recommendations, extracurricular activities, and most relevant to this blog—the MIT supplemental essays.

Moreover, character/personal qualities are the only factor that is “very important” to the MIT admissions committee. Of course, part of how they assess your character and personal qualities is through what they read in your essays.

Want personalized assistance with your MIT supplemental essays?

In conclusion, if you are interested in working with one of College Transitions’ experienced and knowledgeable essay coaches as you craft your MIT supplemental essays, we encourage you to get a quote  today.

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Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 177 college essay examples for 11 schools + expert analysis.

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College Admissions , College Essays


The personal statement might just be the hardest part of your college application. Mostly this is because it has the least guidance and is the most open-ended. One way to understand what colleges are looking for when they ask you to write an essay is to check out the essays of students who already got in—college essays that actually worked. After all, they must be among the most successful of this weird literary genre.

In this article, I'll go through general guidelines for what makes great college essays great. I've also compiled an enormous list of 100+ actual sample college essays from 11 different schools. Finally, I'll break down two of these published college essay examples and explain why and how they work. With links to 177 full essays and essay excerpts , this article is a great resource for learning how to craft your own personal college admissions essay!

What Excellent College Essays Have in Common

Even though in many ways these sample college essays are very different from one other, they do share some traits you should try to emulate as you write your own essay.

Visible Signs of Planning

Building out from a narrow, concrete focus. You'll see a similar structure in many of the essays. The author starts with a very detailed story of an event or description of a person or place. After this sense-heavy imagery, the essay expands out to make a broader point about the author, and connects this very memorable experience to the author's present situation, state of mind, newfound understanding, or maturity level.

Knowing how to tell a story. Some of the experiences in these essays are one-of-a-kind. But most deal with the stuff of everyday life. What sets them apart is the way the author approaches the topic: analyzing it for drama and humor, for its moving qualities, for what it says about the author's world, and for how it connects to the author's emotional life.

Stellar Execution

A killer first sentence. You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again: you have to suck the reader in, and the best place to do that is the first sentence. Great first sentences are punchy. They are like cliffhangers, setting up an exciting scene or an unusual situation with an unclear conclusion, in order to make the reader want to know more. Don't take my word for it—check out these 22 first sentences from Stanford applicants and tell me you don't want to read the rest of those essays to find out what happens!

A lively, individual voice. Writing is for readers. In this case, your reader is an admissions officer who has read thousands of essays before yours and will read thousands after. Your goal? Don't bore your reader. Use interesting descriptions, stay away from clichés, include your own offbeat observations—anything that makes this essay sounds like you and not like anyone else.


Technical correctness. No spelling mistakes, no grammar weirdness, no syntax issues, no punctuation snafus—each of these sample college essays has been formatted and proofread perfectly. If this kind of exactness is not your strong suit, you're in luck! All colleges advise applicants to have their essays looked over several times by parents, teachers, mentors, and anyone else who can spot a comma splice. Your essay must be your own work, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting help polishing it.

And if you need more guidance, connect with PrepScholar's expert admissions consultants . These expert writers know exactly what college admissions committees look for in an admissions essay and chan help you craft an essay that boosts your chances of getting into your dream school.

Check out PrepScholar's Essay Editing and Coaching progra m for more details!

mit essays that worked

Want to write the perfect college application essay? Get professional help from PrepScholar.

Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We'll learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay that you'll proudly submit to your top choice colleges.

Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now :

Craft Your Perfect College Essay

Links to Full College Essay Examples

Some colleges publish a selection of their favorite accepted college essays that worked, and I've put together a selection of over 100 of these.

Common App Essay Samples

Please note that some of these college essay examples may be responding to prompts that are no longer in use. The current Common App prompts are as follows:

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. 2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? 3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? 4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you? 5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. 6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Now, let's get to the good stuff: the list of 177 college essay examples responding to current and past Common App essay prompts. 

Connecticut college.

  • 12 Common Application essays from the classes of 2022-2025

Hamilton College

  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2026
  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2022
  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2018
  • 8 Common Application essays from the class of 2012
  • 8 Common Application essays from the class of 2007

Johns Hopkins

These essays are answers to past prompts from either the Common Application or the Coalition Application (which Johns Hopkins used to accept).

  • 1 Common Application or Coalition Application essay from the class of 2026
  • 6 Common Application or Coalition Application essays from the class of 2025
  • 6 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2024
  • 6 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2023
  • 7 Common Application of Universal Application essays from the class of 2022
  • 5 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2021
  • 7 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2020

Essay Examples Published by Other Websites

  • 2 Common Application essays ( 1st essay , 2nd essay ) from applicants admitted to Columbia

Other Sample College Essays

Here is a collection of essays that are college-specific.

Babson College

  • 4 essays (and 1 video response) on "Why Babson" from the class of 2020

Emory University

  • 5 essay examples ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ) from the class of 2020 along with analysis from Emory admissions staff on why the essays were exceptional
  • 5 more recent essay examples ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ) along with analysis from Emory admissions staff on what made these essays stand out

University of Georgia

  • 1 “strong essay” sample from 2019
  • 1 “strong essay” sample from 2018
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2023
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2022
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2021
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2020
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2019
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2018
  • 6 essays from admitted MIT students

Smith College

  • 6 "best gift" essays from the class of 2018


Books of College Essays

If you're looking for even more sample college essays, consider purchasing a college essay book. The best of these include dozens of essays that worked and feedback from real admissions officers.

College Essays That Made a Difference —This detailed guide from Princeton Review includes not only successful essays, but also interviews with admissions officers and full student profiles.

50 Successful Harvard Application Essays by the Staff of the Harvard Crimson—A must for anyone aspiring to Harvard .

50 Successful Ivy League Application Essays and 50 Successful Stanford Application Essays by Gen and Kelly Tanabe—For essays from other top schools, check out this venerated series, which is regularly updated with new essays.

Heavenly Essays by Janine W. Robinson—This collection from the popular blogger behind Essay Hell includes a wider range of schools, as well as helpful tips on honing your own essay.


Analyzing Great Common App Essays That Worked

I've picked two essays from the examples collected above to examine in more depth so that you can see exactly what makes a successful college essay work. Full credit for these essays goes to the original authors and the schools that published them.

Example 1: "Breaking Into Cars," by Stephen, Johns Hopkins Class of '19 (Common App Essay, 636 words long)

I had never broken into a car before.

We were in Laredo, having just finished our first day at a Habitat for Humanity work site. The Hotchkiss volunteers had already left, off to enjoy some Texas BBQ, leaving me behind with the college kids to clean up. Not until we were stranded did we realize we were locked out of the van.

Someone picked a coat hanger out of the dumpster, handed it to me, and took a few steps back.

"Can you do that thing with a coat hanger to unlock it?"

"Why me?" I thought.

More out of amusement than optimism, I gave it a try. I slid the hanger into the window's seal like I'd seen on crime shows, and spent a few minutes jiggling the apparatus around the inside of the frame. Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. (I actually succeeded in springing it.) The other was the realization that I'd been in this type of situation before. In fact, I'd been born into this type of situation.

My upbringing has numbed me to unpredictability and chaos. With a family of seven, my home was loud, messy, and spottily supervised. My siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing—all meant my house was functioning normally. My Dad, a retired Navy pilot, was away half the time. When he was home, he had a parenting style something like a drill sergeant. At the age of nine, I learned how to clear burning oil from the surface of water. My Dad considered this a critical life skill—you know, in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed. "The water's on fire! Clear a hole!" he shouted, tossing me in the lake without warning. While I'm still unconvinced about that particular lesson's practicality, my Dad's overarching message is unequivocally true: much of life is unexpected, and you have to deal with the twists and turns.

Living in my family, days rarely unfolded as planned. A bit overlooked, a little pushed around, I learned to roll with reality, negotiate a quick deal, and give the improbable a try. I don't sweat the small stuff, and I definitely don't expect perfect fairness. So what if our dining room table only has six chairs for seven people? Someone learns the importance of punctuality every night.

But more than punctuality and a special affinity for musical chairs, my family life has taught me to thrive in situations over which I have no power. Growing up, I never controlled my older siblings, but I learned how to thwart their attempts to control me. I forged alliances, and realigned them as necessary. Sometimes, I was the poor, defenseless little brother; sometimes I was the omniscient elder. Different things to different people, as the situation demanded. I learned to adapt.

Back then, these techniques were merely reactions undertaken to ensure my survival. But one day this fall, Dr. Hicks, our Head of School, asked me a question that he hoped all seniors would reflect on throughout the year: "How can I participate in a thing I do not govern, in the company of people I did not choose?"

The question caught me off guard, much like the question posed to me in Laredo. Then, I realized I knew the answer. I knew why the coat hanger had been handed to me.

Growing up as the middle child in my family, I was a vital participant in a thing I did not govern, in the company of people I did not choose. It's family. It's society. And often, it's chaos. You participate by letting go of the small stuff, not expecting order and perfection, and facing the unexpected with confidence, optimism, and preparedness. My family experience taught me to face a serendipitous world with confidence.

What Makes This Essay Tick?

It's very helpful to take writing apart in order to see just how it accomplishes its objectives. Stephen's essay is very effective. Let's find out why!

An Opening Line That Draws You In

In just eight words, we get: scene-setting (he is standing next to a car about to break in), the idea of crossing a boundary (he is maybe about to do an illegal thing for the first time), and a cliffhanger (we are thinking: is he going to get caught? Is he headed for a life of crime? Is he about to be scared straight?).

Great, Detailed Opening Story

More out of amusement than optimism, I gave it a try. I slid the hanger into the window's seal like I'd seen on crime shows, and spent a few minutes jiggling the apparatus around the inside of the frame.

It's the details that really make this small experience come alive. Notice how whenever he can, Stephen uses a more specific, descriptive word in place of a more generic one. The volunteers aren't going to get food or dinner; they're going for "Texas BBQ." The coat hanger comes from "a dumpster." Stephen doesn't just move the coat hanger—he "jiggles" it.

Details also help us visualize the emotions of the people in the scene. The person who hands Stephen the coat hanger isn't just uncomfortable or nervous; he "takes a few steps back"—a description of movement that conveys feelings. Finally, the detail of actual speech makes the scene pop. Instead of writing that the other guy asked him to unlock the van, Stephen has the guy actually say his own words in a way that sounds like a teenager talking.


Turning a Specific Incident Into a Deeper Insight

Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. (I actually succeeded in springing it.) The other was the realization that I'd been in this type of situation before. In fact, I'd been born into this type of situation.

Stephen makes the locked car experience a meaningful illustration of how he has learned to be resourceful and ready for anything, and he also makes this turn from the specific to the broad through an elegant play on the two meanings of the word "click."

Using Concrete Examples When Making Abstract Claims

My upbringing has numbed me to unpredictability and chaos. With a family of seven, my home was loud, messy, and spottily supervised. My siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing—all meant my house was functioning normally.

"Unpredictability and chaos" are very abstract, not easily visualized concepts. They could also mean any number of things—violence, abandonment, poverty, mental instability. By instantly following up with highly finite and unambiguous illustrations like "family of seven" and "siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing," Stephen grounds the abstraction in something that is easy to picture: a large, noisy family.

Using Small Bits of Humor and Casual Word Choice

My Dad, a retired Navy pilot, was away half the time. When he was home, he had a parenting style something like a drill sergeant. At the age of nine, I learned how to clear burning oil from the surface of water. My Dad considered this a critical life skill—you know, in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed.

Obviously, knowing how to clean burning oil is not high on the list of things every 9-year-old needs to know. To emphasize this, Stephen uses sarcasm by bringing up a situation that is clearly over-the-top: "in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed."

The humor also feels relaxed. Part of this is because he introduces it with the colloquial phrase "you know," so it sounds like he is talking to us in person. This approach also diffuses the potential discomfort of the reader with his father's strictness—since he is making jokes about it, clearly he is OK. Notice, though, that this doesn't occur very much in the essay. This helps keep the tone meaningful and serious rather than flippant.


An Ending That Stretches the Insight Into the Future

But one day this fall, Dr. Hicks, our Head of School, asked me a question that he hoped all seniors would reflect on throughout the year: "How can I participate in a thing I do not govern, in the company of people I did not choose?"

The ending of the essay reveals that Stephen's life has been one long preparation for the future. He has emerged from chaos and his dad's approach to parenting as a person who can thrive in a world that he can't control.

This connection of past experience to current maturity and self-knowledge is a key element in all successful personal essays. Colleges are very much looking for mature, self-aware applicants. These are the qualities of successful college students, who will be able to navigate the independence college classes require and the responsibility and quasi-adulthood of college life.

What Could This Essay Do Even Better?

Even the best essays aren't perfect, and even the world's greatest writers will tell you that writing is never "finished"—just "due." So what would we tweak in this essay if we could?

Replace some of the clichéd language. Stephen uses handy phrases like "twists and turns" and "don't sweat the small stuff" as a kind of shorthand for explaining his relationship to chaos and unpredictability. But using too many of these ready-made expressions runs the risk of clouding out your own voice and replacing it with something expected and boring.

Use another example from recent life. Stephen's first example (breaking into the van in Laredo) is a great illustration of being resourceful in an unexpected situation. But his essay also emphasizes that he "learned to adapt" by being "different things to different people." It would be great to see how this plays out outside his family, either in the situation in Laredo or another context.

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Example 2: By Renner Kwittken, Tufts Class of '23 (Common App Essay, 645 words long)

My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver. I saw it in my favorite book, Richard Scarry's "Cars and Trucks and Things That Go," and for some reason, I was absolutely obsessed with the idea of driving a giant pickle. Much to the discontent of my younger sister, I insisted that my parents read us that book as many nights as possible so we could find goldbug, a small little golden bug, on every page. I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon.

Then I discovered a real goldbug: gold nanoparticles that can reprogram macrophages to assist in killing tumors, produce clear images of them without sacrificing the subject, and heat them to obliteration.

Suddenly the destination of my pickle was clear.

I quickly became enveloped by the world of nanomedicine; I scoured articles about liposomes, polymeric micelles, dendrimers, targeting ligands, and self-assembling nanoparticles, all conquering cancer in some exotic way. Completely absorbed, I set out to find a mentor to dive even deeper into these topics. After several rejections, I was immensely grateful to receive an invitation to work alongside Dr. Sangeeta Ray at Johns Hopkins.

In the lab, Dr. Ray encouraged a great amount of autonomy to design and implement my own procedures. I chose to attack a problem that affects the entire field of nanomedicine: nanoparticles consistently fail to translate from animal studies into clinical trials. Jumping off recent literature, I set out to see if a pre-dose of a common chemotherapeutic could enhance nanoparticle delivery in aggressive prostate cancer, creating three novel constructs based on three different linear polymers, each using fluorescent dye (although no gold, sorry goldbug!). Though using radioactive isotopes like Gallium and Yttrium would have been incredible, as a 17-year-old, I unfortunately wasn't allowed in the same room as these radioactive materials (even though I took a Geiger counter to a pair of shoes and found them to be slightly dangerous).

I hadn't expected my hypothesis to work, as the research project would have ideally been led across two full years. Yet while there are still many optimizations and revisions to be done, I was thrilled to find -- with completely new nanoparticles that may one day mean future trials will use particles with the initials "RK-1" -- thatcyclophosphamide did indeed increase nanoparticle delivery to the tumor in a statistically significant way.

A secondary, unexpected research project was living alone in Baltimore, a new city to me, surrounded by people much older than I. Even with moving frequently between hotels, AirBnB's, and students' apartments, I strangely reveled in the freedom I had to enjoy my surroundings and form new friendships with graduate school students from the lab. We explored The Inner Harbor at night, attended a concert together one weekend, and even got to watch the Orioles lose (to nobody's surprise). Ironically, it's through these new friendships I discovered something unexpected: what I truly love is sharing research. Whether in a presentation or in a casual conversation, making others interested in science is perhaps more exciting to me than the research itself. This solidified a new pursuit to angle my love for writing towards illuminating science in ways people can understand, adding value to a society that can certainly benefit from more scientific literacy.

It seems fitting that my goals are still transforming: in Scarry's book, there is not just one goldbug, there is one on every page. With each new experience, I'm learning that it isn't the goldbug itself, but rather the act of searching for the goldbugs that will encourage, shape, and refine my ever-evolving passions. Regardless of the goldbug I seek -- I know my pickle truck has just begun its journey.

Renner takes a somewhat different approach than Stephen, but their essay is just as detailed and engaging. Let's go through some of the strengths of this essay.

One Clear Governing Metaphor

This essay is ultimately about two things: Renner’s dreams and future career goals, and Renner’s philosophy on goal-setting and achieving one’s dreams.

But instead of listing off all the amazing things they’ve done to pursue their dream of working in nanomedicine, Renner tells a powerful, unique story instead. To set up the narrative, Renner opens the essay by connecting their experiences with goal-setting and dream-chasing all the way back to a memorable childhood experience:

This lighthearted–but relevant!--story about the moment when Renner first developed a passion for a specific career (“finding the goldbug”) provides an anchor point for the rest of the essay. As Renner pivots to describing their current dreams and goals–working in nanomedicine–the metaphor of “finding the goldbug” is reflected in Renner’s experiments, rejections, and new discoveries.

Though Renner tells multiple stories about their quest to “find the goldbug,” or, in other words, pursue their passion, each story is connected by a unifying theme; namely, that as we search and grow over time, our goals will transform…and that’s okay! By the end of the essay, Renner uses the metaphor of “finding the goldbug” to reiterate the relevance of the opening story:

While the earlier parts of the essay convey Renner’s core message by showing, the final, concluding paragraph sums up Renner’s insights by telling. By briefly and clearly stating the relevance of the goldbug metaphor to their own philosophy on goals and dreams, Renner demonstrates their creativity, insight, and eagerness to grow and evolve as the journey continues into college.


An Engaging, Individual Voice

This essay uses many techniques that make Renner sound genuine and make the reader feel like we already know them.

Technique #1: humor. Notice Renner's gentle and relaxed humor that lightly mocks their younger self's grand ambitions (this is different from the more sarcastic kind of humor used by Stephen in the first essay—you could never mistake one writer for the other).

My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver.

I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon.

Renner gives a great example of how to use humor to your advantage in college essays. You don’t want to come off as too self-deprecating or sarcastic, but telling a lightheartedly humorous story about your younger self that also showcases how you’ve grown and changed over time can set the right tone for your entire essay.

Technique #2: intentional, eye-catching structure. The second technique is the way Renner uses a unique structure to bolster the tone and themes of their essay . The structure of your essay can have a major impact on how your ideas come across…so it’s important to give it just as much thought as the content of your essay!

For instance, Renner does a great job of using one-line paragraphs to create dramatic emphasis and to make clear transitions from one phase of the story to the next:

Suddenly the destination of my pickle car was clear.

Not only does the one-liner above signal that Renner is moving into a new phase of the narrative (their nanoparticle research experiences), it also tells the reader that this is a big moment in Renner’s story. It’s clear that Renner made a major discovery that changed the course of their goal pursuit and dream-chasing. Through structure, Renner conveys excitement and entices the reader to keep pushing forward to the next part of the story.

Technique #3: playing with syntax. The third technique is to use sentences of varying length, syntax, and structure. Most of the essay's written in standard English and uses grammatically correct sentences. However, at key moments, Renner emphasizes that the reader needs to sit up and pay attention by switching to short, colloquial, differently punctuated, and sometimes fragmented sentences.

Even with moving frequently between hotels, AirBnB's, and students' apartments, I strangely reveled in the freedom I had to enjoy my surroundings and form new friendships with graduate school students from the lab. We explored The Inner Harbor at night, attended a concert together one weekend, and even got to watch the Orioles lose (to nobody's surprise). Ironically, it's through these new friendships I discovered something unexpected: what I truly love is sharing research.

In the examples above, Renner switches adeptly between long, flowing sentences and quippy, telegraphic ones. At the same time, Renner uses these different sentence lengths intentionally. As they describe their experiences in new places, they use longer sentences to immerse the reader in the sights, smells, and sounds of those experiences. And when it’s time to get a big, key idea across, Renner switches to a short, punchy sentence to stop the reader in their tracks.

The varying syntax and sentence lengths pull the reader into the narrative and set up crucial “aha” moments when it’s most important…which is a surefire way to make any college essay stand out.


Renner's essay is very strong, but there are still a few little things that could be improved.

Connecting the research experiences to the theme of “finding the goldbug.”  The essay begins and ends with Renner’s connection to the idea of “finding the goldbug.” And while this metaphor is deftly tied into the essay’s intro and conclusion, it isn’t entirely clear what Renner’s big findings were during the research experiences that are described in the middle of the essay. It would be great to add a sentence or two stating what Renner’s big takeaways (or “goldbugs”) were from these experiences, which add more cohesion to the essay as a whole.

Give more details about discovering the world of nanomedicine. It makes sense that Renner wants to get into the details of their big research experiences as quickly as possible. After all, these are the details that show Renner’s dedication to nanomedicine! But a smoother transition from the opening pickle car/goldbug story to Renner’s “real goldbug” of nanoparticles would help the reader understand why nanoparticles became Renner’s goldbug. Finding out why Renner is so motivated to study nanomedicine–and perhaps what put them on to this field of study–would help readers fully understand why Renner chose this path in the first place.

4 Essential Tips for Writing Your Own Essay

How can you use this discussion to better your own college essay? Here are some suggestions for ways to use this resource effectively.

#1: Get Help From the Experts

Getting your college applications together takes a lot of work and can be pretty intimidatin g. Essays are even more important than ever now that admissions processes are changing and schools are going test-optional and removing diversity standards thanks to new Supreme Court rulings .  If you want certified expert help that really makes a difference, get started with  PrepScholar’s Essay Editing and Coaching program. Our program can help you put together an incredible essay from idea to completion so that your application stands out from the crowd. We've helped students get into the best colleges in the United States, including Harvard, Stanford, and Yale.  If you're ready to take the next step and boost your odds of getting into your dream school, connect with our experts today .

#2: Read Other Essays to Get Ideas for Your Own

As you go through the essays we've compiled for you above, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can you explain to yourself (or someone else!) why the opening sentence works well?
  • Look for the essay's detailed personal anecdote. What senses is the author describing? Can you easily picture the scene in your mind's eye?
  • Find the place where this anecdote bridges into a larger insight about the author. How does the essay connect the two? How does the anecdote work as an example of the author's characteristic, trait, or skill?
  • Check out the essay's tone. If it's funny, can you find the places where the humor comes from? If it's sad and moving, can you find the imagery and description of feelings that make you moved? If it's serious, can you see how word choice adds to this tone?

Make a note whenever you find an essay or part of an essay that you think was particularly well-written, and think about what you like about it . Is it funny? Does it help you really get to know the writer? Does it show what makes the writer unique? Once you have your list, keep it next to you while writing your essay to remind yourself to try and use those same techniques in your own essay.


#3: Find Your "A-Ha!" Moment

All of these essays rely on connecting with the reader through a heartfelt, highly descriptive scene from the author's life. It can either be very dramatic (did you survive a plane crash?) or it can be completely mundane (did you finally beat your dad at Scrabble?). Either way, it should be personal and revealing about you, your personality, and the way you are now that you are entering the adult world.

Check out essays by authors like John Jeremiah Sullivan , Leslie Jamison , Hanif Abdurraqib , and Esmé Weijun Wang to get more examples of how to craft a compelling personal narrative.

#4: Start Early, Revise Often

Let me level with you: the best writing isn't writing at all. It's rewriting. And in order to have time to rewrite, you have to start way before the application deadline. My advice is to write your first draft at least two months before your applications are due.

Let it sit for a few days untouched. Then come back to it with fresh eyes and think critically about what you've written. What's extra? What's missing? What is in the wrong place? What doesn't make sense? Don't be afraid to take it apart and rearrange sections. Do this several times over, and your essay will be much better for it!

For more editing tips, check out a style guide like Dreyer's English or Eats, Shoots & Leaves .


What's Next?

Still not sure which colleges you want to apply to? Our experts will show you how to make a college list that will help you choose a college that's right for you.

Interested in learning more about college essays? Check out our detailed breakdown of exactly how personal statements work in an application , some suggestions on what to avoid when writing your essay , and our guide to writing about your extracurricular activities .

Working on the rest of your application? Read what admissions officers wish applicants knew before applying .

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

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The recommendations in this post are based solely on our knowledge and experience. If you purchase an item through one of our links PrepScholar may receive a commission.

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Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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How to Make Better Friends at Work

Friendships in the workplace can enrich our lives and make us better leaders and workers if we make the effort to cultivate truly healthy relationships.

  • Workplace, Teams, & Culture

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Anna Godeassi/

I don’t remember the moment that Francesco and I started referring to our friendship as a place. But in the grind of medical school rotations nearly 30 years ago, a flower bed between a parking lot and the building that hosted the internal medicine wards became “the friendship.” That’s what our friendship felt like then: A scruffy patch of nature wedged between the workplace and the comings and goings of daily life. “Come to the friendship!” one of us would say when the other was agitated or idle. We would walk out, sit there for a while, and then get back to work a little sharper, braver, and, some would say, more obnoxious for it.

Research has long established that friendship blossoms where people with similar interests spend time together, share meaningful and intense tasks, face uncertainty, and need each other’s help. 1 Francesco’s and my workplace ticked all those boxes, and soon our friendship wasn’t confined to it. In the friendship, we jumped between reviewing a procedure we had just seen and dissecting failed romances, sharing career dreams and making plans for the weekend. It was the first of a handful of work friendships without which I would not be writing this essay, do the work I do, or be who I am. It was also the beginning of a quest to understand friendship at work and what it takes to make those friendships work.

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The workplace can be fertile ground for budding friendships because of the proximity that forming friendships requires. But growing friendships at work can be problematic. The philosopher George Santayana wrote that friends are the people “with which one can be human” — that is, a complex and conflicted person, not just the competent occupant of a role. By definition, friendship challenges the norms of instrumentality and impersonality in force at many workplaces. For that same reason, if nurtured properly, friendship can be a potent humanizing influence for ourselves and our colleagues.

It’s no wonder that as work becomes more technological and workplaces more remote, there has been renewed interest in friendship. Hybrid work might make us more productive, but it also risks making us less connected. 2 It deprives us of the serendipitous encounters and idle time with coworkers that could turn into life-changing friendships. Most exhortations to return to the office focus on its sociality. 3 They cast it as a place to forge deeper bonds than we can create on Slack or Zoom. Those bonds, scholars have argued, foster the resilience and creativity that we need to thrive in a turbulent world of work. 4

People’s experiences, however, are more mixed. 5 Not everyone trusts that befriending coworkers is wise. Some worry that friendship will interfere with professional judgment. Others prefer to keep their personal and work lives distinct. Likewise, research highlights both benefits and drawbacks of work friendships. It shows that they can help us feel safer, braver, and freer at work — but they can also make us feel conflicted, cautious, and constrained. (See “Understanding the Three Elements of Friendship at Work.”)

Gaining those benefits and avoiding those burdens depends on our capacity to forge healthy friendships. To do that, it helps to view work friendships as a welcome patch of nature, as my old friend and I once did. But the best ones grow beyond an unkempt secret garden that we take refuge in. They become carefully cultivated grounds that sustain our selves at work.

What Friends Are (For)

Francesco and I are still friends, even though our careers no longer intersect. Once we took different paths for our specializations, I found it harder to enjoy work. I missed the comfort, the camaraderie, and even the competition. I also found it easier to begin a transition from medicine to management academia. These days, he helps people survive physical illness; I, the intangible malaise of the workplace. Friendship, it turns out, will protect you against both.

Having friends keeps you healthier. In a densely referenced 2023 advisory about an “epidemic of loneliness and isolation,” U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy estimated that its health consequences cost American companies $154 billion annually. Friendship lowers the risk of fatal diseases and prolongs life expectancy. In all species that form similar bonds — humans are not the only ones — friendship confers advantage. Individuals who have friends are more likely to live longer and reproduce.

If you have friends at work, “you are going to be less likely to want to leave; you are going to want to show up. You will probably accomplish more,” Julianna Pillemer, a New York University professor who studies work friendships, told me. Close relationships are crucial to well-being and success, she noted, and yet she has found that “people have polarized views. They really want to make friends at work or they say, ‘I don’t go there.’”

The reason, Pillemer explained, is that “going there” requires crossing a line or, more precisely, erasing the line between personal and professional. Concerns for mutual gain, goal achievement, and return on investment must be put aside, and so must power differences. At best, friendship is voluntary and reciprocal without being transactional.

Work connects you to what you do. Friends connect you to who you are.

The healthiest work friendships can be critical ballast for leaders, keeping them grounded when their position threatens to isolate them, and flattery or ego to blind them. “My friends are a stabilizer,” tech entrepreneur Fred Mazzella told me, explaining how friends helped him through his journey from anonymous start-upper to successful tech leader to highly visible entrepreneurship advocate. The cofounder of BlaBlaCar, a mobility platform and one of only 25 “unicorns” founded in France, recalled the days in which he was building the company. “I was in the media as much as I could because I needed our platform to be known. And at some point, I realized that I had created two things: I had created a company and an image of myself, or at least an image of what I do.”

Mazzella had seen many entrepreneurs lose themselves in that reflection. “Since they work a lot — all the time, really — and maybe have a young family, they don’t have time to see their friends anymore. And they begin to think they are who the media say they are,” he explained. If he wanted to preserve his authenticity, Mazzella realized, he needed friends. “Work connects you to what you do. Friends connect you to who you are,” he remarked.

Friends help us stay true to our roots — our history, values, and idiosyncrasies — as we reach for professional goals. It was friends, after all, that Aristotle first described as holding up a mirror to ourselves. And they provide an anchor for those selves too. In my research on mobile managers and independent workers, I found that those who had friends felt better equipped to navigate the anxieties of nomadic careers and solitary work. 6 Others have observed that friendships can provide a foundation of solidarity to resist indignity at work.

In short, good friends give us confidence, comfort, and courage. They shape our working lives and career dreams as much as, if not more than, our managers do. They help us show up as we are and imagine who we can become. 7 Those benefits, however, come at a price.

Friends Without Benefits

“Work friendships are wonderful, and they are hard work,” Pillemer told me. Her research with Wharton professor Nancy Rothbard has shown that the demands of friendship regularly conflict with the demands of our work roles. 8

Neglect a friend, and you might lose them. But attending to a friend might not always be the best way to use your time and energy at work. Furthermore, friendships can silence us. Many involve what scholars call “navigating to commonality” — smoothing differences and avoiding disagreement. That tendency can deprive us of feedback we need to hear, erode the quality of group decisions, and bring our fairness into question.

Spending time with our friends to the exclusion of others, or depending solely on them for support, can isolate us. Cliques are almost always detrimental and can be particularly counterproductive when we need a nudge in a new direction. Research shows that new ideas and career opportunities are most likely to come from weak ties — relationships outside our closest circles. Similarly, the cocoon of friendship might protect us too much. In unreliable institutions, people often turn to friends as a buffer against factors that harm their well-being and performance. In that way, friends can make us more tolerant of workplace cultures that we should try to change or leave, such as cultures of overwork. With friends around, our life at work becomes more comfortable. And comfortable people, at times, make poor change agents.

Precisely because it blurs the boundary between the personal and the professional, friendship can breed confusion, caution, and conformity. If those make friendship hard for corporate coworkers, some argue that they make it fatal for entrepreneurs. One study found that companies started by friends were more likely to fail because their cofounders were too cautious to exchange critical feedback and too comfortable to seek help outside.

“Mentors advised me to never start a business with a friend,” Mazzella told me. That warning did not suit him. A Stanford computer science graduate and aspiring founder, Mazzella decided to leave Silicon Valley and return to Paris, where he and his best friend started the company that would become BlaBlaCar. But soon, the friends faced an impasse. Their unequal commitment to the startup was fostering resentment and ineffective leadership. Eventually, Mazzella took the lead and a larger share of the company, but their friendship endured.

Their story reminded me of Pillemer and Rothbard’s observation that not all friendships hold people back, harm organizations, or fray under the pressure of work. Only fragile ones do. Some friendships do begin and end at work, but others grow beyond it. The best work friendships eventually lose the qualification and become just … friendships.

The admonition should not be to avoid forming friendships at work but to make stronger ones. The question is how to turn a friendly coworker into a good work friend. To begin, it helps to recognize friendship as an organic process that we can assist but can’t force.

How to Cultivate Friendship

Friendship is a natural product of our species’ fundamental need and desire to belong. And friendship is an accomplishment, too: a product of our choices and efforts. Both aspects of friendship remind me of the olive trees of my ancestral countryside that grow in sunstruck soil, take years to bear fruit, and, when mature, provide shade and joy to children who climb them. You can’t build one of those. But you can cultivate one, if you care.

What follows is a blueprint for how to care for and grow work friendships over three stages. Use it to reflect on your own friendships, if you wish, and then go and discuss it with your friends. The sooner and more frequently you do it, the better. Until you can be honest about how your relationship affects your work and vice versa, your friendship will remain fragile and might cause conflict, demand caution, and isolate you. Discussing how to nourish it, make space for it, and share it, conversely, will make your friendship stronger.

Helping the seed of friendship sprout. Sometimes we find the seedling of a friendship at work, like when we notice a coworker who seems to share our outlook on life. Other times, we plant it there — say, when we hire a friend. Some budding friends are peers at work, whereas others are not. In any case, you must prepare the soil.

The composition of fertile ground for friendship is shared activities, common interests, and comparable challenges. It’s not enough to do something together, like working on the same project or for the same client, if you do not share similar views on, and similar struggles in, that work. Furthermore, friendship grows best on egalitarian ground, hence a degree of equality needs to be established alongside commonality.

Those were the circumstances under which Christina Anagnostopoulou, an executive in the pharma industry, found a close friend in the workplace. “We met working on the same team. We were peers,” she told me. “My friend is an expert, detail-oriented, serious, and focused. I am a generalist, easygoing, always doing 10 things at once. We were executives in a formal, competitive, complex environment. We both loved work and felt a need for lightness, for laughter. We shared, without judgment, the pain and failures that were never discussed in the office.”

High-pressure work environments might incline us to seek friends as well. “Ours can be a dreary industry,” a banker told me, “but having friends around when you are pulling all-nighters, dealing with a difficult boss, or working on something you have no idea about makes it much easier and more fun.”

In her book on the evolution and functions of friendship, Lydia Denworth describes how gifts are a hallmark of friendship across many cultures. 9 When we approach a potential friend in the workplace, we might offer a croissant, a word of advice, or some gossip. These gifts represent the nutrients that the seeds of friendship need to grow: attention, candor, and, most importantly, time. The more uptight and pressured your workplace is, the more likely it is that you will see as a potential friend someone who treats you as an equal, gives you their time and attention, and seems to want nothing other than yours in return. Lack of time, conversely, makes friendships wither.

A budding work friendship also needs protective boundaries that acknowledge its intersection with work as well as its differentiation from it. You need to speak up when you need space, are disappointed, or have critical feedback. You need to be clear about when and how to put the friendship or the work aside deliberately.

A senior manager at a global consumer goods company learned that when he hired his best friend. After a difficult six months, they realized that they had to cultivate new relational boundaries. “I insisted on trying different ways to have a transparent discussion and exchange feedback about work and our relationship, and the more we opened up, the more the barrier disappeared,” the manager told me. The two also agreed not to speak about work when they met outside of it, and they stuck to that deal.

Openness makes it easier to set boundaries, and boundaries make it easier to be open, minimizing conflict if not preventing it entirely, which allows your friendship to set roots and unfurl its first leaves.

Making space for friendship to grow. Once your friendship has sprouted, it needs enough space and support to grow, flower, and bear fruit. Time matters at this stage, too — not just as a signal of interest but as an expression of commitment.

Few friendships survive asymmetry in how much time each person expects to spend with the other. One study showed that remote coworkers develop friendships only if their contact is frequent enough to let them feel connected beyond the requirements of work. The virtual contact, however, must be synchronous. A phone conversation is better than a text, unless we are texting back and forth at the same time. We need friends to be there with us, even online.

Entrepreneur Mazzella took time to stay connected with friends despite years of 80-hour workweeks. “I would often call a friend, inviting them to dinner around 9 p.m., when I took a break,” he told me. “If they were available, we would connect over a meal. If not, at least it was an occasion to discuss for a few minutes on the phone.” Those dinners and conversations were a physical expression of the friends’ commitment to each other.

Temporal and physical space — spending time somewhere you enjoy, such as on a hiking trail — makes friendship viable. Psychological space makes it stronger. Making that space involves committing to getting to know each other well and helping each other grow. Like a stake that supports a young tree, those commitments are friends’ stakes in mutual development.

Sadaf Hosseini, a senior manager at an international organization, told me that her work friends are “truer friends than those I have found in other contexts,” and she pointed to their honest feedback as one of the ways in which good friends help each other grow. “They have the capability of calling me on my bulls**t. That’s hard to find, as friends usually close their eyes on your weaknesses and sometimes even lie, just not to hurt you,” she said. This observation captures a crucial difference between fragile and stronger friendships: The former just reassure you; the latter challenge you, too. They keep you focused on your dreams and accountable for doing your best.

We build stronger work friendships by helping each other see how a personal issue might get in the way of work or how work can stifle who we are, and helping each other do something about it. The trunk of friendship has become strong enough when it lets us stay grounded and reach out freely. This is the point at which a friendship begins to bear fruit that nourishes two selves.

Letting others share its shade and fruits. Large trees are often visible features of a landscape, and so are strong friendships in the workplace. Once your friendship has grown deep roots and used the space to flourish, you will need to attend to its impact at work and avoid exclusivity and cliquishness. At this stage, you must ensure that your friendship is hospitable and does not become a hideout that stops you from engaging others.

I have witnessed hospitable friendships frequently among independent workers. Those professionals often rely on friends in their line of work for emotional and practical support. And yet they are mindful that they need to help each other tap into the weak ties that can help improve their work or find new work: the writer friends who set up a group to critique each other’s work, inviting peers from outside their circle; the consultants who asked one or two colleagues they did not know well to join them on a project; or the trainers who brought their respective clients together for a retreat to share best practices. They were all doing the same thing: opening up the protection and resources of their work friendship to others who might bring them new insight, a sense of community, and value.

Opening your friendship up is even more important in an organization, where the temptation might be the opposite — to seclude the friendship and keep it aside. “Sometimes you want to show that you are not offering preferential treatment to your friends, so you end up treating them worse than a stranger,” a corporate lawyer told me. That strategy, however, often backfires, creating suspicions that something inappropriate is afoot, even when it is not.

To counter the concerns about favoritism or cliquishness that friendship can create in work groups, it is not enough to be discreet. You must find ways to share the fruits of your friendship with the group. The same lawyer told me that discussing how to stay close yet professional with her friend made her question the need for so much distance with other coworkers. “Most of the time at work, we treat each other like robots. We fail to see the individual behind an email or a phone call,” she said. Her friendship made her resolve to treat everyone with the same care.

Friends who have done the work I’m describing here can become role models of openness. Declan, one of my closest work friends, is a master at this. I love to have him on my side on delicate projects and in mundane meetings. He is fierce and funny. He will have my back, and he won’t let me hide. He will be sensitive to my concerns and challenging with my shortcomings, and I with his. And we will be all that in public: letting everyone else know that care and honesty are what we expect and cherish in our line of work, and that they can join in.

Seen as a source of vitality to generously share, friendship becomes more than a way to survive a demanding workplace. It is a way to reject and challenge its norms of distance and instrumentality and begin humanizing it, making it more inclusive and engaging.

Don’t Fear Making Friends

We are all better off for having access to the grounded freedom that friendship provides. That we so often fear it or try to hide it at work says more about workplace norms than it says about our friends. People in circumstances in which work is personal and close relationships are vital often remind me that not having friends at work is potentially disastrous.

Organizations desperately need to bring humanity back into their cultures. Friendship is a way to do that.

Strong friendships are developmental for those involved and for those around them. They help everyone grow more than they could have alone. They make us feel that someone cares for our self and for our learning — rather than just for our skills and performance. Being dedicated to cultivating them will help you realize the true value of friendship: making us more secure, free, and generous.

Seen that way, friendship is not the antithesis of work relations but its expansion. It provides a template for the kinds of relationships that make a workplace a community. Reflecting on a career in professional services, an executive told me: “I have done my best work, my most creative work, my most impactful work with friends. Organizations desperately need to bring humanity back into their cultures. Friendship is a way to do that.”

Related Articles

Fragile work friendships will fade once a hard project ends or a friend leaves the company. Strong friendships born in the workplace often outlast those transitions. We take them with us because they become, as philosophers have argued and neuroscientists have shown, a part of us. And they keep us human and growing at work and beyond.

My friend Francesco and I have done a decent job at that. We have shared the moments that friends are meant to be there for — breakups and weddings, funerals and births, rejections and promotions. We have kept each other’s secrets and our conversation running. “Did you bring the friendship?” one of us will ask every time we meet. “It’s there!” The other will answer, pointing to a flowerpot. (There must be dirt.) More confined yet just as green, the friendship is still there — to witness who we once were, who we have chosen to be, and who we might still become. 

About the Author

Gianpiero Petriglieri is an associate professor of organizational behavior and the academic director of the Initiative for Learning Innovation and Teaching Excellence at Insead.

1. T.M. Newcomb, “The Acquaintance Process” (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1961).

2. C.N. Hadley and M. Mortensen, “ Are Your Team Members Lonely? ” MIT Sloan Management Review 62, no. 2 (winter 2021): 36-40.

3. G. Petriglieri, “ In Praise of the Office ,” Harvard Business Review, July 15, 2020,

4. G.R. Kellerman and M. Seligman, “Tomorrowmind: Thriving at Work With Resilience, Creativity, and Connection — Now and in an Uncertain Future” (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2023).

5. L. Gratton, “ Why You Should Make Friends at Work ,” MIT Sloan Management Review, Oct. 13, 2022,

6. G. Petriglieri, J.L. Petriglieri, and J.D. Wood, “ Fast Tracks and Inner Journeys: Crafting Portable Selves for Contemporary Careers ,” Administrative Science Quarterly 63, no. 3 (September 2018): 479-525.

7. M.G. Franco, “Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make — and Keep — Friends” (New York: Penguin Random House, 2022).

8. J. Pillemer and N.P. Rothbard, “ Friends Without Benefits: Understanding the Dark Sides of Workplace Friendship ,” Academy of Management Review 43, no. 4. (October 2018): 635-660.

9. L. Denworth, “Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond” (New York: W.W. Norton, 2020).

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Illustration showing the development stages of 3D-printed microstructures. At left, interconnected network diagrams with two highlighted nodes. At right, a 2D pixelated microstructure pattern that looks like a crossword puzzle. Below, a physical object showcases the same complex pattern, suggesting it's a 3D-printed prototype.

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Every time you smoothly drive from point A to point B, you're not just enjoying the convenience of your car, but also the sophisticated engineering that makes it safe and reliable. Beyond its comfort and protective features lies a lesser-known yet crucial aspect: the expertly optimized mechanical performance of microstructured materials. These materials, integral yet often unacknowledged, are what fortify your vehicle, ensuring durability and strength on every journey. 

Luckily, MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) scientists have thought about this for you. A team of researchers moved beyond traditional trial-and-error methods to create materials with extraordinary performance through computational design. Their new system integrates physical experiments, physics-based simulations, and neural networks to navigate the discrepancies often found between theoretical models and practical results. One of the most striking outcomes: the discovery of microstructured composites — used in everything from cars to airplanes — that are much tougher and durable, with an optimal balance of stiffness and toughness. 

“Composite design and fabrication is fundamental to engineering. The implications of our work will hopefully extend far beyond the realm of solid mechanics. Our methodology provides a blueprint for a computational design that can be adapted to diverse fields such as polymer chemistry, fluid dynamics, meteorology, and even robotics,” says Beichen Li, an MIT PhD student in electrical engineering and computer science, CSAIL affiliate, and lead researcher on the project.

An open-access paper on the work was published in Science Advances earlier this month.

In the vibrant world of materials science, atoms and molecules are like tiny architects, constantly collaborating to build the future of everything. Still, each element must find its perfect partner, and in this case, the focus was on finding a balance between two critical properties of materials: stiffness and toughness. Their method involved a large design space of two types of base materials — one hard and brittle, the other soft and ductile — to explore various spatial arrangements to discover optimal microstructures.

A key innovation in their approach was the use of neural networks as surrogate models for the simulations, reducing the time and resources needed for material design. “This evolutionary algorithm, accelerated by neural networks, guides our exploration, allowing us to find the best-performing samples efficiently,” says Li. 

Magical microstructures 

The research team started their process by crafting 3D printed photopolymers, roughly the size of a smartphone but slimmer, and adding a small notch and a triangular cut to each. After a specialized ultraviolet light treatment, the samples were evaluated using a standard testing machine — the Instron 5984 —  for tensile testing to gauge strength and flexibility.

Simultaneously, the study melded physical trials with sophisticated simulations. Using a high-performance computing framework, the team could predict and refine the material characteristics before even creating them. The biggest feat, they said, was in the nuanced technique of binding different materials at a microscopic scale — a method involving an intricate pattern of minuscule droplets that fused rigid and pliant substances, striking the right balance between strength and flexibility. The simulations closely matched physical testing results, validating the overall effectiveness. 

Rounding the system out was their “Neural-Network Accelerated Multi-Objective Optimization” (NMO) algorithm, for navigating the complex design landscape of microstructures, unveiling configurations that exhibited near-optimal mechanical attributes. The workflow operates like a self-correcting mechanism, continually refining predictions to align closer with reality. 

However, the journey hasn't been without challenges. Li highlights the difficulties in maintaining consistency in 3D printing and integrating neural network predictions, simulations, and real-world experiments into an efficient pipeline. 

As for the next steps, the team is focused on making the process more usable and scalable. Li foresees a future where labs are fully automated, minimizing human supervision and maximizing efficiency. "Our goal is to see everything, from fabrication to testing and computation, automated in an integrated lab setup," Li concludes.

Joining Li on the paper are senior author and MIT Professor Wojciech Matusik, as well as Pohang University of Science and Technology Associate Professor Tae-Hyun Oh and MIT CSAIL affiliates Bolei Deng, a former postdoc and now assistant professor at Georgia Tech; Wan Shou, a former postdoc and now assistant professor at University of Arkansas; Yuanming Hu MS ’18 PhD ’21; Yiyue Luo MS ’20; and Liang Shi, an MIT graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science. The group’s research was supported, in part, by Baden Aniline and Soda Factory (BASF).

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Video transcript: Actions related to a student organization

View the video.

Good afternoon, everyone.

Before the start of this semester, in a letter to the whole community and one directly to students, we were very clear   about the rules of the road regarding campus demonstrations. These rules exist to ensure that we can make ample room for free expression – while also allowing everyone to pursue their work and lives here, safely and unimpeded.

Last night, members of the CAA – the Coalition Against Apartheid – once again conducted a demonstration on campus without going through the normal permission processes that apply to every student group at MIT.

Therefore, the CAA’s executive officers received a letter today from Vice Chancellor Suzy Nelson immediately suspending the CAA’s privileges as a recognized student organization. An official complaint has also been filed with the COD. 

This interim action means, among other things, that the group

  • is not allowed to reserve any space on campus for any purpose
  • is not allowed to use MIT facilities
  • will not receive standard funding of student groups
  • and will not be permitted to organize any further protests or demonstrations anywhere on our campus.

The suspension will remain in force until the Committee on Discipline makes a formal determination – our usual process in such cases. Individual cases referred to the COD will also come with interim restrictions.

I want to be clear that suspending the CAA is not related to the content of their speech. I fully support the right of everyone on our campus to express their views. 

However, we have clear, reasonable “time, place and manner” policies in place – for a good reason! The point of these policies is to make sure that members of the MIT community can work, learn and do their research on campus without disruption. We also need to keep the community safe – and we can’t do that without enough advance notice to organize staff and police resources. That’s why we have the rules.

We all know that universities have been the site of protest movements at many times in history.  But when students don’t respect the rules, we have to take steps to ensure the safety and smooth functioning of the campus community.

#          #          #

Now, just a closing word – returning to something I’ve raised repeatedly regarding how we treat each other.

I’m sure by now that almost everyone in our community has heard me emphasize that there is a difference between what we can say – that is, what we have a right to say – and what we should say.

I understand that many of you feel that what you should say in this moment is in fact a passionate expression of your political views about the causes you believe in. 

However, I hope that all of us can find a way to express our political views with a basic sense of respect and empathy for other members of our community.

It is, for example, legitimate to criticize the policies of any government, including the current government of Israel – as indeed many Israelis do. But as members of one community, we shouldn’t feel it’s OK to vilify and shun Israeli and Jewish members of our community. 

Equally, we shouldn’t feel it’s OK to vilify everyone who advocates for the Palestinian people as “supporting Hamas.” 

And we definitely shouldn’t feel it’s OK to single out other members of our community because of where they’re from or what they believe – and tell them that they’re “not welcome” on our campus. And of course, we do not tolerate threats to physical safety.

I have very high expectations for anyone privileged to be part of this community. In a time of exceptional turmoil and polarization, I don’t see how we can do the important work of MIT if we can’t find a way to speak to what’s important to us without damaging the fabric of our community.  We must find a way to live and work together.

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When Your Technical Skills Are Eclipsed, Your Humanity Will Matter More Than Ever

A graphic depicting a door being opened to  reveals a handshake, a cup of a coffee, a briefcase and a swirl of colors.

By Aneesh Raman and Maria Flynn

Mr. Raman is a work force expert at LinkedIn. Ms. Flynn is the president of Jobs for the Future.

There have been just a handful of moments over the centuries when we have experienced a huge shift in the skills our economy values most. We are entering one such moment now. Technical and data skills that have been highly sought after for decades appear to be among the most exposed to advances in artificial intelligence. But other skills, particularly the people skills that we have long undervalued as soft, will very likely remain the most durable. That is a hopeful sign that A.I. could usher in a world of work that is anchored more, not less, around human ability.

A moment like this compels us to think differently about how we are training our workers, especially the heavy premium we have placed on skills like coding and data analysis that continue to reshape the fields of higher education and worker training. The early signals of what A.I. can do should compel us to think differently about ourselves as a species. Our abilities to effectively communicate, develop empathy and think critically have allowed humans to collaborate, innovate and adapt for millenniums. Those skills are ones we all possess and can improve, yet they have never been properly valued in our economy or prioritized in our education and training. That needs to change.

In today’s knowledge economy, many students are focused on gaining technical skills because those skills are seen as the most competitive when it comes to getting a good job. And for good reason. For decades, we have viewed those jobs as future-proof, given the growth of technology companies and the fact that engineering majors land the highest-paying jobs .

The number of students seeking four-year degrees in computer science and information technology shot up 41 percent between the spring of 2018 and the spring of 2023, while the number of humanities majors plummeted. Workers who didn’t go to college and those who needed additional skills and wanted to take advantage of a lucrative job boom flocked to dozens of coding boot camps and online technical programs.

Now comes the realization of the power of generative A.I., with its vast capabilities in skills like writing, programming and translation. (Microsoft, which owns LinkedIn, is a major investor in the technology.) LinkedIn researchers recently looked at which skills any given job requires and then identified over 500 likely to be affected by generative A.I. technologies. They then estimated that 96 percent of a software engineer’s current skills — mainly proficiency in programming languages — can eventually be replicated by A.I. Skills associated with jobs like legal associates and finance officers will also be highly exposed.

In fact, given the broad impact A.I. is set to have, it is quite likely to affect all of our work to some degree or another.

We believe there will be engineers in the future, but they will most likely spend less time coding and more time on tasks like collaboration and communication. We also believe that there will be new categories of jobs that emerge as a result of A.I.’s capabilities — just like we’ve seen in past moments of technological advancement — and that those jobs will probably be anchored increasingly around people skills.

Circling around this research is the big question emerging across so many conversations about A.I. and work, namely: What are our core capabilities as humans?

If we answer that question from a place of fear about what’s left for people in the age of A.I., we can end up conceding a diminished view of human capability. Instead, it’s critical for us all to start from a place that imagines what’s possible for humans in the age of A.I. When you do that, you find yourself focusing quickly on people skills that allow us to collaborate and innovate in ways technology can amplify but never replace. And you find yourself — whatever the role or career stage you’re in — with agency to better manage this moment of historic change.

Communication is already the most in-demand skill across jobs on LinkedIn today. Even experts in A.I. are observing that the skills we need to work well with A.I. systems, such as prompting, are similar to the skills we need to communicate and reason effectively with other people.

Over 70 percent of executives surveyed by LinkedIn last year said soft skills were more important to their organizations than highly technical A.I. skills. And a recent Jobs for the Future survey found that 78 percent of the 10 top-employing occupations classified uniquely human skills and tasks as “important” or “very important.” These are skills like building interpersonal relationships, negotiating between parties and guiding and motivating teams.

Now is the time for leaders, across sectors, to develop new ways for students to learn that are more directly, and more dynamically, tied to where our economy is going, not where it has been. Critically, that involves bringing the same level of rigor to training around people skills that we have brought to technical skills.

Colleges and universities have a critical role to play. Over the past few decades, we have seen a prioritization of science and engineering, often at the expense of the humanities. That calibration will need to be reconsidered.

Those not pursuing a four-year degree should look for those training providers that have long emphasized people skills and are invested in social capital development.

Employers will need to be educators not just around A.I. tools but also on people skills and people-to-people collaboration. Major employers like Walmart and American Airlines are already exploring ways to put A.I. in the hands of employees so they can spend less time on routine tasks and more time on personal engagement with customers.

Ultimately, for our society, this comes down to whether we believe in the potential of humans with as much conviction as we believe in the potential of A.I. If we do, it is entirely possible to build a world of work that not only is more human but also is a place where all people are valued for the unique skills they have, enabling us to deliver new levels of human achievement across so many areas that affect all of our lives, from health care to transportation to education. Along the way, we could meaningfully increase equity in our economy, in part by addressing the persistent gender gap that exists when we undervalue skills that women bring to work at a higher percentage than men.

Almost anticipating this moment a few years ago, Minouche Shafik, who is now the president of Columbia University, said: “In the past, jobs were about muscles. Now they’re about brains, but in the future, they’ll be about the heart.”

The knowledge economy that we have lived in for decades emerged out of a goods economy that we lived in for millenniums, fueled by agriculture and manufacturing. Today the knowledge economy is giving way to a relationship economy, in which people skills and social abilities are going to become even more core to success than ever before. That possibility is not just cause for new thinking when it comes to work force training. It is also cause for greater imagination when it comes to what is possible for us as humans not simply as individuals and organizations but as a species.

Aneesh Raman is a vice president and work force expert at LinkedIn. Maria Flynn is the president of Jobs for the Future.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

Follow the New York Times Opinion section on Facebook , Instagram , TikTok , X and Threads .

An earlier version of this article misstated the group surveyed in a poll on worker skills. The respondents were executives in the United States, not executives at LinkedIn.

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