Advice about the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Cultural Background Written Response

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Often when a written response is “optional” on a college application, especially when the admit rates are 3.96%, like at MIT, students accustomed to following every direction, and seeking every advantage in such a low probability admissions process, usually pause to consider, “How optional is ‘optional’?” 

Yet, after talking with admissions officers at MIT, optional really is optional. MIT admissions officers advised students to consider how to portray their experiences, not simply follow a mandate to frame themselves. 

In relation to questions about culture, MIT admissions officers first state: 

MIT is a diverse and supportive community. We are committed to the MIT Nondiscrimination Policy, so answering these questions will in no way negatively impact your application. If you have questions about how this information is used by MIT Admissions, please contact our office or refer to our Privacy Policy.

Bold emphasis is original to the MIT application

And, conversely, NOT answering the questions, according to the MIT admissions officer, will NOT impact their application either. Admissions officers want students to choose how to reveal their cultural identity or not. 

Thus, when considering the following question:

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

students can determine, first, how they define “culture” for themselves, and second, how they identify themselves. 

Lastly, knowing the culture of MIT where everyone is accepted for who they are, who they think they are, or who they are gaining confidence in being, every applicant must determine for themselves how to share their experience from their own perspective.


Creative Marbles was founded by teachers who appreciate helping students craft insightful essays, first in the academic classroom, now as part of the complex college admissions process. For more information, please contact us

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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