Rejected white male

A friend is an MIT graduate. His son scored 750 math/730 verbal on the SATs, has a perfect high school record, and is a super-nice kid who is passionate about building software. When filling out the application forms, he checked “white male”.

MIT rejected him.


36 thoughts on “Rejected white male

    • Best statistic from that page:

      Applicants offered a place on the wait list: 460
      Applicants who accepted a place on the wait list: 381
      Number admitted from the wait list: 0

  1. If you want another anecdotal experience: I was also rejected from MIT even with perfect SAT scores AND the benefit of checking female on the admissions box. I was even clever enough to specify “mixed race” on the profile without clarifying that I was an uninteresting mix of east Asian and white. So either I really fucked up on the rest of that application (very possible) or it is getting tough out there for everybody.

  2. He probably should have gotten SAT tutoring and taken the test multiple times.

    It’s a fine school, but the good news is that there are many other schools that are just as good as MIT (and less expensive). They just lack the “name prestige.” When you get outside the northeast, a degree from MIT really won’t open many more doors than that of the major university in the local state.

    And if he goes to a major university in the south, he can get a job in a warm climate with lower taxes!

    • A nice thought, but “name prestige” is actually 90% of what’s being sought by the applicant.

      The other 10% is split 9% networking and 1% education.

  3. Friend’s son got 800/710, near 3.9 GPA, nice essay, piano, varsity sport, stellar recommendations, volunteer hours at nursing home, first generation american, long interviews with MIT, Yale, Michigan, Upenn alimni, $110k EFC. Not good enough for any of them 😐

  4. Philip’s nephew got 790/800, 5s on 13 AP tests (but some weren’t taken until May of senior year), eligible to swim Division III (even met MIT coach, although head coach bailed on rendez vous, sending asst coach in his stead to watch prospective swimmer do 500 meter free and 100 meter backstroke in MIT Athletic Center). Was rejected in mid-March 2007, year that Admissions Director Dr. Marilee Jones was revealed to have puffed up her resume. NY times broke story in April 2007 and opined that a disgruntled parent may have outed Dr. Jones, who promptly resigned in disgrace. The ever-increasing no of applicants for a fixed size freshman class means it’s even harder over a decade after Miss Crash & Burn was hospitalized for exhaustion the weekend after the acceptance/wait list/rejection letters were mailed (my son’s arrived on Saturday; this preceded online notification from 2010? onward). About 5 other applicants from his suburban magnet high school were admitted. Some of them went elsewhere (full ride at Duke in Scholars program in one case).

    My advice: avoid large high schools in affluent, educated areas as your kids are competing against their peers for a limited no of slots. Harvard Dean Fitzsimmons once described his bucket strategy (geography, demography) with pride.

  5. Those SAT scores are not as impressive as they were in your day. They changed the test so that there is clustering at the top scores. A lot more kids get 800 these days.

    Post topic suggestion: Take the SAT yourself as an adult and give us your impressions.

  6. Polly is correct that the SAT has been dumbed down. Back in the 1970s, there were typically 1-2 kids per year per state who got 800 on both parts of the SAT whereas by 2010 or thereabouts, it was not uncommon for several kids from a high school graduating class of 500 to have gotten 800 on one part and very close to 800 on the other part (and for at least one kid to have gotten 800/800). So this makes it more difficult for college admissions officers to differentiate on basis of SAT scores for kids “at the tippy top” to borrow AOC’s phrase.

    • I wonder about this dumbing down hypothesis. Could also be that kids, or some kids, take school and exams more seriously now (this I see in personal experience) and the influx of high IQ Asians (same comment). The admissions exam for Stuy HS in NYC is basically an IQ test (like the SAT) and Stuy has a student body that is 76% Asian. Black students in 1980 made up about 12% of the Stuy student body, their proportion in the general population. They now make up <1%. Also some top schools have made the SAT optional, because the results don't produce the racial results the schools want so some of the published admissions statistics (not referring to MIT) have to be taken with a grain of salt.

    • I also wonder about the dumbing down hypothesis. I took the SAT in 1985, and the only SAT test prep I did was to sharpen two #2 pencils.
      I didn’t know or hear of anybody who did anything more than that.

  7. I know a kid applied to MIT last year — had a 800 Math, 760 Verbal, top grades at the best NYC public HS, captain of a sports team that won the city championship, math team that placed high nationally and poor — lives in public housing. Parents are immigrants with pretty basic English. He was turned down at MIT and all the Ivies. But he is Asian.

  8. I scored 580 on the GMAT in 1987 but postponed grad school. Ten years later, in 1997, after a job layoff, I studied a GMAT workbook and did timed practice exams for 4 hours per day for 4 months and scored a 720 at the 98th percentile, but still didn’t get in to Stanford. I did, however, get a half tuition scholarship to the 2-year full-time MBA program at the University of Florida, and did my MBA for $4000 total.

    • which brings me to another topic: tuition. Does it come as a surprise to anyone that the annual tuition at B-School (2 years) is higher than at law school (3 years), which are both generally slightly higher than medical school (4 years). Probably reflects federal student loans getting maxed out at a certain threshold, so charging whatever the market will bear. Is compensation of B-School professors any higher than that of their legal or medical brethren?

    • Very unusual case. The fact that he was from N. Dakota was key. The typical “admitted to all Ivy League schools” story concerns a Nigerian-American Igbo.

  9. It’s a pretty amusing situation with white college applicants being subjected to double pressure from both the left side (various kinds of ‘diverse’ applicants) and the right side of the IQ distribution curve (perhaps equally smart but more hardworking Asians). Granted, as we know, Asians are also experiencing some pain, but from one side only, at least.

    Amusing, in the sense that it’s not only Borjas’ “low-skill/high school dropout” group that are losers in this game about whom coastal elites care not a whit, but aspiring elites’ progeny is getting squeezed a bit as well. The pain is of course completely self inflicted (or parents inflicted) — “you’ll reap what you sow”.

  10. As others have said, his SAT scores were well below average for MIT nowadays, especially for a white non-athlete. The 25th percentile math SAT at MIT nowadays is 770 (BTW, even 1 question wrong on certain editions of the SAT drops your math score to 780) but you would find that most of those in the bottom 25% are non-Asian minorities and/or recruited athletes and/or female, so realistically a white male should be ABOVE 780 math to have a chance. Even then they reject tons of 1600s nowadays. They reject pretty much EVERYONE – an acceptance rate of 6.7% means that 14 out of 15 applicants are rejected.

    What would have been surprising is if he had gotten in with those numbers. Being a legacy is somewhat of a help but even for a legacy his numbers were low.
    If you are going to do the work at MIT for a STEM major, the math on the SAT should be pretty trivial to you – it’s just basic algebra and geometry. If you can’t get an 800 or close to it on the current edition of the SAT, you probably aren’t really a good fit for MIT anyway. Either you lack the ability or you lack the persistence to study for the SAT and take it enough times to get a 780+. 750 math is just not impressive anymore. If you are shocked by his not getting in then you are just not up on what it takes nowadays. Those folks who were paying half a million to get into USC were not being ripped off – that’s a realistic value based upon the difficulty of getting into a top tier school nowadays (in fact a bargain – if you want to get your kid in legally thru a donation to the development office, the price tag is in the millions).

    Did he get in somewhere half decent? Carnegie Mellon perhaps? It sounds like he would be a good fit over there.

  11. Jack, IMHO you over-estimate the effort someone should allocate to getting into MIT. I have an example of someone with combined SAT > 1770 (from 1st try), Olympiads 1st places and even some demographics advantages, from underrepresented part of the country, having very bad experience going trough MIT admissions, not just rejected but insulted over the phone by someone with ADD who could not read the application and scheduled to hostile interviewers. fascinatingly, this someone’s opinion of MIT was not changed. In my flyover area, I know one MIT CS grad bartender while nerdy community and parochial college graduate work hard at developing game, web and healthcare software. I agree that it is not typical but so is super-achieving after MIT, although it does produce nobel laureates and entrepreneurs who seem to be as atypical as bartenders. My former colleagues with MIT background were no faster than engineers with other backgrounds and some could not solve non-standard but trivial problems with several unknowns, not exactly what I was thinking about basics CS class at MIT, maybe its real goal really is akin something to buck rut time fight. And what are advantages of getting into USC? Vs other decent schools?

    • Anecdote is not the singular of data.

      The admissions office receives in excess of 20,000 applications each year and is no position to chit chat with every snowflake. The interviews (which BTW don’t really carry a lot of weight) are done mainly by alumni and they vary in quality. Some interviewers ask “hostile” questions as a way of seeing how you stand up to stressful situations. If you wither before a few tough questions, you are probably not cut out for 4 years at MIT.

      Likewise, the talents of MIT CS graduates (and the jobs that they occupy) vary but I don’t think it is typical for someone with an MIT CS degree to be working as a barista. He or she is probably a bottom 1% MIT grad.

      Frankly your entire tirade sounds like sour grapes from someone who did not (and could not) attend MIT.

    • Jack, I have no sour grapes with MIT to argue about. I could not attend another prestigious college in another country, for totally unrelated reasons. But I attended yet another prestigious college in another country and have been fortunate (in American sense of the world, as in had to) work with many of MIT alumni. For some reason none of them were promoted, and not undeservingly. As someone who visited MIT dorms to meet younger friends MIT should also advertise those who come there to live after not finding jobs six month after graduation, and talk about in-house program for those MIT PhD who could not find jobs after last post-doc. These 2 groups are more numerous than MIT Nobel laureate and successful entrepreneurs alumni. It will serve prospected students better. MIT should not behave as snowflakes who need to be admired by everyone.

    • “The admissions office receives in excess of 20,000 applications each year and is no position to chit chat with every snowflake.” That alone shows “quality” of MIT work. Soviet bureaucrat could not state is better. For the entire year, someone needs to review 15 applications to select 1. We are not talking P vs NP here. Someone just needs to work for about 6 hours per day, assuming that he/she has basic reading skills. But perspective students are a hurdle to be overcome, competing with HBO and Netflix time.

    • Maybe I’m missing something in your math, but if each admissions officer only had to review 15 applications per year, MIT would need 1,333 admission officers. I think it’s more like the other way around – that there are under 20 admissions officers and each one has to read more than 1,000 applications in a few months. If each anxious applicant called the office to chat even just once (“did you get my application”) , they’d never get their jobs done.

    • Jack Dee, reading and comprehending few thousands pages per year seems to be a trivial task especially when it is paid. I ma not even saying that MIT not using summarization software that has been used by job boards and litigators now for close to a decade seems really strange. Contrary to what you say, I overheard phone conversation with MIT recruiters calling prospective student, with close to 1600 combined SAT, > 4 GPA, about 6 years of winning or placing high in state and regional competitions, already won scholarships to other colleges, software development project that won one of top places in a competition, > 5 subject SAT and AP SAT tests, and some unrelated sport achievement. All items were enumerated, had it s own very well visible point and paragraph and were easy to read, laid out in chronological order starting with current time, software project being most recent. Somehow athletic achievement, near the end of the list past community volunteering projects, set the interviewer off. Phone Interviewer mentioned it following by loaded and harsh sounding question: “So what’s have you been up to during your junior/senior year”? At which point I advised perspective student to hang up and forget about it and consider himself lucky not to get admitted but the student disagreed and still disagrees.

    • Are you living in 1959? The average age of marriage of graduates from elite schools like MIT is around 30. The MRS degree is pretty much extinct. If you want an MRS degree, MIT is a lousy place to get one anyway – it’s a lot of work just to catch a nerd.

    • JD,

      1959 America appeals more than 2019. I bet most kids would prefer it to our current mess. It was a horrible, terrible era when even black children were likely to live with both their mother and father, who would be married and would never consider aborting an unplanned pregnancy.

    • Maybe America 1959 was a better place, but to say that the point of college is to meet your future spouse no longer reflects what the actual reality is. Maybe it would be nice if our brightest women were marrying young and devoting their 20s to rearing the next generation of geniuses the way our moms did, but that’s just not how it works anymore.

    • JD,
      A good marriage is more important than a good career. Just because so many people have screwed-up priorities is no reason not to extoll virtue.

  12. What a ridiculous post.

    Admissions to top schools has gotten very very hard, much harder than those of us who went to school in the 70’s or 80’s can imagine. Your implication is that it was the “white male” that caused him not to be admitted. You have given no evidence for that. By the way, the fact that his father is an alum is not supposed to be taken into account in admissions decisions at MIT.

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