I recently was accepted in the DOW MIT ACCESS program. This is one of several similar programs across the nation that gives underrepresented students the chance to preview graduate programs in the hope that more students will apply.
The MIT program was well organized, super informative and inspiring! During this two day program I attended a number of workshops specifically about the graduate experience at MIT, hung out for hours with grad students and heard faculty presentations on their exciting research.
The first thing you need to know about MIT is that they have a strong innovative culture. So no matter what you might have heard about it before it is definitely on the cutting edge of research and technology! This was very apparent when I learned that a major part of the original MIT building is under construction to create an interdisciplinary nano technology group that brings together all the majors of engineering to work collaboratively on this work!
Boise State students are really set up well for entering an MIT program because of small class sizes and the amazing undergraduate opportunities you have. Here is why…
One of the first workshops I attended was on the admissions process for the Material Science grad program. I was able to ask questions of two members of the admissions review board.
- Competition — Does it matter where you went for undergrad when you are competing with others in the application pool?
No. Even MIT undergrads are looked at with the same rigor than non-MIT grads. And everyone is on an equal playing field when it comes to participating in programs like DOW MIT ACCESS.
So don’t disqualify yourself because you are from a small school in the rural northwest!
- Letters or Recommendation — Do you need really prestigious letters of recommendation to get in the program?
No. The admissions committee would much rather hear from a professor or mentor that can ENTHUSIASTICALLY talk about you and your accomplishments and how impressed they are with you.
At a school like Boise State is really easy to form strong relationships with faculty and staff researchers. So this is a no brainer!
- Research — What kind of research should I be working on to be a good candidate?
This question has a really interesting answer. First, if you haven’t started seeking out research opportunities as an undergrad yet, you need to start now! (Another plus for Boise State students because research opportunities are abundant!) And secondly, graduate applicants come from many different background, from technical and non-technical backgrounds. So you don’t need to be on a direct track of material science or whatever you interest is to then get a graduate degree in it.
Another point they made is that your graduate adviser does not have to be in the Material Science department. You could work on research for someone who works in the Mechanical Engineering department while still working on your Material Science core class requirements. — So in other words, if Mechanical Engineering research has an intersection with your Material Science interests you can cross over and achieve both interests at the same time!
So I guess, the first step of getting ready for MIT is just considering it. Take a look at their programs and see what interests you. The second, is to apply to the DOW MIT ACCESS program next year. You can attend as a senior as well. Third, don’t let the GRE (Graduate Records Exam) scare you. For the Material Science program all they care about is the math portion which only goes as high as Algebra 2. And I recently found there is another cool graduate program for entrepreneurs, engineers and everyone called the MIT Media Labwhich does not even accept GRE scores!
Again, consider MIT!