A reader named James just submitted this query about applying to the MIT EECS program:
I’m applying into EECS(electrical & computer science dep.) at MIT. My GPA is 3.9/4 and I just started a research work about 2 weeks ago and i don’t think there would be any publications before the application deadline.My question is this, is it possible to get admission into Msc program at MIT without any publications? What are your advice?Is teaching experience important? What type of volunteer work will give ones application a boost?
My instinct is to suggest your CV show all research you are currently involved with (even just starting), and any research or publications you contributed to in earlier degrees. Put in anything that was submitted, pending review, expected publication date, or in-progress Any research experience you had, even if it didn’t culminate in a publication, should be documented on your CV.
Add teaching experience, especially if you had to develop parts of the curriculum (a form of independent research). Volunteer work is nice to see (so include it), but will likely hold little weight with this admissions committee unless it was in a research lab. Their seeming disregard for applicants with work experience suggest that volunteer work will not be a major benefit. Based on the FAQ assessment I did below, I suggest not waiting to apply to this program. Developing skills through work experience appears to be a negative for this program. I see you will be applying soon, good luck.
Now here is what the MIT EECS website says with my interpretation added (questions originate from http://www.eecs.mit.edu/grad/faqs.html):
Who is eligible to apply to MIT EECS?
The only specific requirements are to hold a bachelor’s degree and a very strong background in math, physics, computer science, or engineering. Notice no mention of specific amounts of research or publications. The more you can do to illustrate your strength in these areas, the better off you will be.
Should I list the subjects that I am currently taking?
Yes, and be inclusive with your descriptions and examples.
Are there separate admission procedures for Master’s and PhD programs?
In the MIT EECS department there is only one admission process so you don’t have to worry about different requirements for masters or PhD application packages. There are about 700 graduate students in this department too, so there will likely be another student that has faced a similar situation.
Is it OK to send copies of awards, papers or extra letters of recommendation to supplement my application?
The department says no on their FAQ page. This makes it more important that your CV and any other documentation have as much information as possible to support your viability as a candidate.
This particular question and answer are telling so I am quoting them in their entirety:
Since I have been in the work force for the last few years, it will be difficult to obtain all the letters of recommendation from faculty members. Is it OK to ask my employer/supervisors to write letters in support of my application?
“In a case like this, we usually suggest that you submit at least one letter from a faculty member who knew you well–perhaps your undergraduate thesis supervisor. The other two letters can be from employers. When in doubt, remember that our Admissions Committee wants to know about your ability to do independent research. Character references do not carry weight.”
- They still want a letter from a faculty member.
- This effectively shuts out a career changer because they probably weren’t close enough with a faculty member several years ago to still justify getting a reference.
- It assumes you had to do a thesis, not a given unless you were in a certain kind of undergrad program.
- Either this assumes you are currently working in a research setting (independently) or it is a screen for people in tor workforce that would keep them from applying.
- The strategy is to ensure your reference providers can talk about your independence and productivity, even if it was not on classical research.
- This part gives me a negative visceral reaction toward their admissions committee because as written, it insults applicants with more post-bachelor’s experience and assumes an employer reference is a character reference. It is an unfortunate implication that employer references are “character” references.
- In admissions, no one wants to read a “character reference”. We all ask for useful assessments of a candidate on criteria that matter to our programs. Putting this statement in that answer shows a certain amount of disregard, or even disdain on the part of the adcom for employer references, and therefore applicants with more professional experience than typical.