If you’ve filled out the Common App or Coalition App you understand how these portals help streamline the process, allowing you to apply to multiple colleges. However, there are a handful of schools that have their own application systems, including a few that don’t accept the Common or Coalition App at all. We’re taking a closer look into colleges that fall under these categories, specifically the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Georgetown, and Wake Forest University, to guide you through these individual applications.
MIT does not use the Common Application. The MyMIT application portal is divided into the basic information sections that ask you about your family, education, demographic information, and coursework. MIT is not test optional. However, the school does superscore your results. The university states, “If you take the same standardized test multiple times, we will consider the highest score achieved in each section.”
MIT’s application also asks what major you hope to pursue—and emphasizes that this is not set in stone, but is likely to change once you’re on campus.
When you select a major from a drop-down menu, MyMIT asks you to explain why you’re drawn to your chosen field. You’ll copy and paste your response into a box, and your answer is limited to 100 words. Look through the majors and course offerings at MIT before writing the essay. Once you’ve decided which major appeals to you, it’s time to think about your own experiences. How did your love for the field begin? How have you honed your skills in the discipline since then? If you’ve taken any challenging courses or been involved in relevant clubs, how is MIT the next step for you to continue your exploration?
Unlike the Common App, MyMIT has a “jobs” section. The university asks that you list every single work experience and the duration of the roles, as well as a description (without a character limit!) of what you did.
MyMIT also allows you to list your four most important activities. You may want to prioritize roles where you’ve held leadership positions, have earned impressive achievements, and been committed for multiple years. You also have a 40-word limit to describe what you did as part of each activity. Finally, there is a section to elaborate on your summer activities as well as an honors section that asks for five “scholastic distinctions” and five “non-scholastic” distinctions.
MIT asks all students to respond to the following supplemental questions:
We know you lead a busy life, full of activities, many of which are required of you. Tell us about something you do simply for the pleasure of it. (200-250 words)
This is your chance to elaborate on an activity that goes beyond your resumé and brings you joy. Consider what you like to do outside school and how it has shaped you. It’s important to be authentic. No matter what you write about, consider why this activity brings you joy. Why is it your favorite? How does it recharge you in a way others may not?
MIT brings people with diverse backgrounds together to collaborate, from tackling the world’s biggest challenges to lending a helping hand. Describe one way you have collaborated with others to learn from them, with them, or contribute to your community together. (225 words)
Admissions readers hope to use this prompt to assess how you would collaborate with the MIT community and ways you’d contribute to campus. With that in mind, highlight what you want them to know about you, whether it is about your leadership skills, teamwork abilities or how you work under pressure. What has been your most meaningful experience of working with others in your community? Have you taken any risks? How have they paid off? Have you taken initiative towards change? Focus on what you’ve learned as well as the impact that you’ve made on the place or the people.
How has the world you come from—including your opportunities, experiences, and challenges—shaped your dreams and aspirations? (225 words or fewer)
Start brainstorming by writing down different parts of your life that have shaped your goals—and then pick out the one(s) that have contributed the most. The major focus of your essay should be how the world you come from has meaningfully shaped your career aspirations. Let the reader see that you’re a driven and ambitious individual who can benefit from the resources and opportunities available at MIT.
How did you manage a situation or challenge that you didn’t expect? What did you learn from it? (225 words)
Your response to this prompt should focus on how you responded to the situation you describe, and how you’ve grown from the circumstances. How did this experience shape your perspective? How do you carry the lessons learned from this circumstance with you going forward? This essay is related to other supplemental essay prompts on difficult conversations.
Optional: Please tell us more about your cultural background and identity in the space below. (150 words)
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on affirmative action, MIT has joined other colleges in including a prompt about students’ cultural background and identity. Since the prompt is optional, think carefully about whether your race, ethnicity, or culture has had a meaningful impact on you or shaped your perspective in a particular way. If so, go ahead and write the essay. If not, there’s no need to write it—it truly is optional.
Georgetown University—which doesn’t use the Common App either—asks students to complete the Georgetown Application on their website. Within 24 hours of submitting the Georgetown application form and paying the application fee, you should receive an email with instructions on how to create your application account. You can then begin working on your application supplement, which includes school-specific supplemental essays, questions about testing, and space to elaborate on your extracurriculars.
The initial application asks for your contact information, which admissions round and Georgetown college you’re applying to, your parents’ education and current place employment, your citizenship, and your high school. Once you’ve submitted this part and paid the fee, you’ll be asked to complete the Georgetown supplement.
Georgetown is not test-optional and therefore requires you submit your SAT or ACT scores. While Georgetown superscores your SAT and takes your highest SAT section scores into consideration—even if they are from multiple test dates—the same does not apply for the ACT. The college asks that you send all of your individual ACT scores from every test sitting.
The Activities page for Georgetown allows you to list up to six activities and the positions you held/hold. You only have fifty characters for each—make every word (and character) count!
The school also asks for supplemental essays in response to each of the following prompts.
Please elaborate on any special talents or skills you would like to highlight. (250 words)
This is a chance to show a side of yourself that doesn’t appear elsewhere in your application. Whatever aspect of yourself you choose to focus on, your essay should emphasize why this talent or skill is meaningful to you. Why are you particularly proud of this talent? How have you developed this ability? What have you learned about yourself while pursuing this skill? Let the reader understand why this part of you matters so much.
Briefly discuss the significance to you of the school or summer activity in which you have been most involved. (approximately 1/2 page, single-spaced)
Since Georgetown asks that you write about the activity where you’ve been most involved, choose your most impressive extracurricular. How do you spend a significant amount of time outside school? Consider the role you’ve played in this activity, whether you’ve picked up any new skills, and how you hope to continue developing them. Help the admissions reader picture you on campus. See our guide to writing supplemental essays about extracurricular activities here.
As Georgetown is a diverse community, the Admissions Committee would like to know more about you in your own words. Please submit a brief personal or creative essay which you feel best describes you and reflects on your own background, identity, skills, and talents. (approximately 1 page, single-spaced)
This is Georgetown’s version of a personal statement. If you’ve written a Common App Personal Statement essay, you might use it for your Georgetown response as well (if you can fit it onto a single page). Think about who you are and what matters to you. What matters is that the reader understands what makes you unique, the perspective and experiences you’ll bring to campus, and how you might contribute to the school community.
Depending on which college within Georgetown you’re applying to, you’ll be asked to write a supplemental essay for that specific college–in addition to these essay prompts. These questions range from factors that influenced your way of thinking to why you decided to pursue a specific field.
Wake Forest University
While Wake Forest University accepts both the Common Application and the Coalition Application, it also gives you the option to use its website to apply to the school. The separate Wake Forest application, which students can download and complete, is 20 pages long, including a recommendation section from one teacher of your choice.
Like other application portals, Wake Forest asks you to fill out information about your background, citizenship, family, education, and test scores. Like the Common App, Wake Forest provides you with space for five honors. You’ll also have space to include five activities (with a small space to name and describe the extracurricular) as well as three jobs or internships. Wake Forest asks for your “principal extracurricular and community activities in the order of their importance to you.”
In a separate section, Wake Forest allows you space to highlight your most meaningful activities:
In the space provided, briefly discuss which of the activities or accomplishments listed above has had the most meaning for you and why.
When responding to this prompt, consider which of your experiences has been the most meaningful to you. Don’t just describe the activity–focus on the impact you’ve made. Wake Forest admissions officers want to know about your involvement rather than what everyone generally does in this club or organization.
The Wake Forest application contains the standard school-specific supplemental essays you can find in the Common App and Coalition App. If you apply through Wake Forest’s website, you’ll also find the following “why this college” prompt, which isn’t on the other platforms:
Why have you decided to apply to Wake Forest? Share with us anything that has made you interested in our institution.
While there is no strict word limit, the application allows you approximately half a page for your response. Conduct thorough research before writing the essay. During the research process, go beyond information that is easily available on the college website. You must show that you’ve dug deeper than just the homepage of your chosen academic department. Read course descriptions, faculty profiles, and seek out information about special programs students participate in. If you visited campus, let the reader know what stood out to you from your tour. Once you’ve conducted in-depth research, connect the school’s resources to your interests and make your essay personal. Look over the Wake Forest mission statement. What can you tell the admissions officers about yourself that will help convey how you will contribute to the dynamic and diverse community the school strives for? Remember that you’re presenting a picture of yourself, and that should help admissions officers picture you on campus. You can read more about how to write a strong “why this college” essay here.
Wake Forest also includes the additional personal statement prompt:
On a separate page, using 250-650 words, please submit an essay on a topic of your choice.
If you’ve already written a Common App Personal Statement essay, this should be straightforward–you can even use your personal statement essay here. Consider what you value in yourself and others, the unique perspective you bring, and the experiences you have.
When you start filling out applications for schools with their own portal, you might start finding the questions familiar—and answering these questions becomes easier the more you do it. So, gather your materials and have fun responding to questions about yourself and your background, so that you can show colleges the unique perspectives you’ll bring.