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Articles / Applying to College / Am I On the Path to MIT?

Jan. 28, 2016

Am I On the Path to MIT?

Question: I am currently a freshman who is taking five honor classes. For the first marking period, I received an A+ for physics. But this marking period, I only have an A- for physics. Do colleges(MIT or Harvard) really look at your freshman marking period grades?

Also, I am in the Math Team, Debate Club, and Academic Decathlon. Although I am not doing very well in those clubs, are they going to help me for getting in MIT?

First the good news: An A- in any freshman class, especially physics (not usually a 9th-grade subject) will not hurt you at MIT, Harvard, or anywhere else. For starters, colleges look only at final grades and not those from each marking period. And even a final grade of A- will have no impact on your college prospects.


As for the extracurricular activities you've chosen, these all suggest that you are a serious student—the type whom MIT seeks.

Now for the bad news: The clubs you've mentioned (Math Team, Debate Club, and Academic Decathlon) are all extremely common on MIT applications. I could see an admission officer falling asleep before even getting through your list. 😉 So, if you want to stand out in the extremely selective MIT applicant pool, you should aim to move beyond the standard high school clubs and do something more memorable … perhaps outside of school … such as a research project. Admittedly, it can be hard for a teenager to conduct research independently but, if you can come up with a great idea, you may be able to enlist a professor at a local college to back you. Even one of your high school science or math teachers might be willing to support your efforts. Since you've said that you're not “doing well" in your clubs, you ought to look further to come up with a more unusual–and perhaps more satisfying—activity. Sure, MIT does accept candidates whose résumés include only school-based organizations and no outside endeavors. But if MIT acceptance is your goal, you'd certainly improve your chances by pursuing a path that highlights your uniqueness as well as your brilliance.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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