Academics

Admissions FAQ

expand all | collapse all


 

Get to Know Us

Where can I learn more about the research being done by faculty and students?
Here are some websites to explore:

  • An orientation to the research happening in IDSS is here.
  • In addition, current research is frequently featured in the IDSS news.
  • Research groups’ and faculty members’ websites can also be good sources of information about research happening at MIT and IDSS.

 
Where can I learn about the program requirements?
An overview of the program requirements is available here.

 
What will the SES program prepare me for? What do alumni do when they graduate?
The first SES class started in September 2016, and so we are several years away from being able to provide data on alumni placements. However, we do have a lot of collective experience working with MIT doctoral students and graduates. So our informed guess, as well as our goal, is that SES graduates will populate academic departments in various fields (engineering, management, operations research, and others), serve in the public sector (from research labs to regulatory agencies), as well as pursue careers in the private sector (from industry to consulting).

 
How do students fund their programs?
Most students will be funded by a graduate assistantship: either a research assistantship or a teaching assistantship. The exception is students who are awarded a fellowship. In addition to external fellowships, IDSS will nominate candidates for MIT’s competitive internal fellowships, administered by the Office of Graduate Education.

Funding typically includes tuition, stipend, and the MIT Student Extended Insurance Plan (health insurance). We are careful to only admit students we believe are fundable for the duration of their programs. IDSS administration is proactive in securing financial support for all students, especially for the student’s first year. Once an admitted applicant accepts their offer of admission, their advisors as well as the IDSS administration will work with students to find funding. In most cases, a student’s initial funding is arranged before they start their program in September.


 
How can I learn about student life?
Here are some resources to get you started:

In March and early April, admitted applicants will be matched with an academic advisor. Additionally, applicants who are new to MIT will also be matched with a student mentor. Along with the academic advisor and student mentor, the IDSS Academic Office is also available to help address questions about student life.


 
Can I visit?
You are welcome! Prospective students may visit MIT at any time except between December 15 through the end of February (sorry: we’ll be too busy processing and reviewing applications to properly greet you). Visits are self-arranged, but here are some suggestions for making the most of your visit:

  • Schedule a meeting with the SES Admissions Coordinator, Arlyn Hertz, by writing to idss_academic_office ‘at’ mit.edu.
  • The MIT Information Center provides tours of campus.
  • Check for IDSS events that are open to the public.
  • Check for MIT events that are open to the public.
  • Attend a Webinar.

 
Can you put me in touch with an IDSS faculty member? I'd like to discuss my application with them.
Through the admissions process the IDSS faculty receives a thorough introduction to your goals and research interests. However, many individual faculty members do not encourage other interactions (meetings, calls, or correspondence) with individual applicants before an applicant is admitted — in some cases this can be a matter of principle, in others it is just a necessity of time-management. In any case, IDSS’s admissions process will routinely admit external applicants who do not have prior MIT experience or contacts. You are encouraged to familiarize yourself with the research being done by IDSS faculty members by investigating their websites. You are encouraged to discuss the overlaps you discover between IDSS faculty members’ research interests and your own research interests within your statement of purpose. However, if you have never met the faculty member you are seeking to contact, and the faculty member’s website does not invite contact from applicants, then we do not encourage you to try and get in touch.

 

My Background

What's the profile of 'an ideal candidate'?
Whether your most recent experience has been an undergraduate or master’s program, or in industry, if you can demonstrate (a) academic excellence in a relevant area (engineering or applied mathematics, or social science) from a strong program, (b) motivation to solve concrete and complex societal problems with technological aspects, and (c) an interest in fundamental research on complex systems, we encourage you to apply.

 
What type of undergraduate background will prepare me for the program?
We are expecting to see applicants with two different types of undergraduate preparation:

  • Students with a background in engineering or applied mathematics
    These applicants should be interested in learning about the social sciences and translating their skills to a particular domain, or interested in incorporating the social or economic aspects of their research problem into their work.
  • Students with a background in social science – particularly those with a background in quantitative analysis.
    These applicants should be interested in learning advanced quantitative methods, and in applying their skills to domains of interest, while also taking into account engineering aspects.

 
Is a master's degree expected? Required?
A master’s degree is neither expected nor required. Many SES doctoral students are admitted directly from an undergraduate program.A master’s degree may be useful for providing applicants with a significant research experience if their undergraduate program (or their professional experience, if any) hasn’t included a substantial exposure to research. It may also be useful to applicants whose undergraduate preparation did not include some of the prerequisites for high-level graduate work in this area.

 
How is work experience viewed?
Work experience is neither expected nor required. Work experience can be useful at focusing career and research objectives, and providing relevant context in an application domain. We expect most SES students will be motivated by solving the complex problems that occur at a systems-scale, at the interface of human activity and technology: problems that incur unnecessary human and economic costs; problems that require a multidisciplinary skill-set to address. That motivation and perspective — however a student arrives at it — is invaluable, and we expect most applicants to have some sort of track record of seeking out opportunities to work with these types of systems, whether that’s through coursework, internships, research, or work experience.

 
How is research experience weighed?
The admissions committee is looking for evidence of an applicant’s potential to thrive as a researcher. The goal is to find junior researchers who can focus on a problem intensively and exhaustively over a period of years; who benefit from instruction, guidance, and critique; and who, over the course of their preparation, can progress to a level where their work is furthering the state of knowledge.

 
What additional preparation should I have?
  • computer programming
  • ability to communicate technical material
  • for social science backgrounds: preliminary experience in engineering and/or quantitative methods is desirable
  • for engineering backgrounds: preliminary experience in social science is desirable

 
I have already completed relevant coursework. Can I transfer those credits?
There is no mechanism for “transferring” credit to SES. It is distinctly possible that some graduate, doctoral-level classes can be counted toward SES program knowledge-requirements, but SES students must still take a minimum of about 7 regular classes (or, more precisely, 72 “units” in the MIT sense) while enrolled in the SES program. In addition, the qualifying exam is never waived.

 

The Application

Where is the application?
 
When does the application open?
September 15

 
When is the application deadline?
Applications are due by 11:59PM EST on December 15.

 
I have been impacted by a (natural) disaster. Can I have an extension?
If a disaster is impacting your ability to apply or meet the application deadline, please write to idss_academic_office ‘at’ mit.edu.

 
What is the Privacy Policy for the application?
MIT is committed to protecting the individual privacy of applicants and students by restricting the use of all collected information as specified by Institute policies. In accordance with these policies, the information in your application may be used by MIT officials only for appropriate administrative and research purposes. The application site uses cookies to maintain a session identifier while you are actively using the site, but does not use cookies for any other purpose.The software we use to process credit card payments uses secure encryption technology (SSL) to reduce the possibility of theft, manipulation, and other alteration of information that you provide to us.Any changes to our policy will be posted on this page.

 
If I apply early does that improve my chances? Will I get my decision more quickly?
Applications are reviewed in one pool, once a year (i.e. an early application will not result in an earlier decision).That said, the advantages to preparing your application in advance are significant. You will have more time to track down missing letters, obtain transcripts, handle standardized testing (including arranging for alternate administration as necessary), etc.

 
What supplemental materials are required?
A complete application includes:

  • A Statement of Objectives that indicates the areas of SES research that (potentially) interest you, as well as your career objectives. You are encouraged to discuss the overlaps you discover between IDSS faculty members’ research interests and your own research interests.
  • Transcripts from all the universities, colleges, junior colleges, and other institutions of higher-learning that you have attended.
  • Three letters of recommendation from persons who know you and are in the best position to evaluate your research and academic potential. (When possible, it is recommended that at least two of these are from faculty members.)
  • GRE general examination scores sent to MIT reporting code: 3514.
  • Proof of English proficiency. (see ‘How do I demonstrate that my English is at the required level?’ for details below.)
  • A curriculum vitae or resume

 
Who should write my letters of recommendation?
Your evaluation letters should be from the persons who know you and are in the best position to evaluate your research and academic potential. A secondary consideration may be providing an evaluation of your domain experience, your leadership potential, and character. When possible, we recommend that at least two of your letters are written by faculty members.

 
What are the minimum GRE scores? GRE requirements?
We expect that successful applicants to SES will meet or surpass the following minimum Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores (in the current scoring format):

  • 157 on the Verbal section (150 for non-native English speakers)
    For older testing formats this translates to roughly the 75th percentile for native English speakers, and the 45th percentile for non-native English speakers.
  • 159 on the Quantitative section
    For older testing formats, this translates to roughly the 75th percentile.
  • and 4.0 on the Analytical Writing section.

Note that these are minimal expectations and admission to SES will be competitive.

Electronic reporting, using the MIT reporting code: 3514, is preferred. Paper score reports may be sent to:

MIT IDSS–DOC
77 Massachusetts Ave., E17-375
Cambridge, MA  02139-4307
USA

All applicants are required to submit recent GRE scores. If you believe you have previous GRE scores on file with MIT (e.g., from an application to another MIT department) you may write to idss_academic_office ‘at’ mit.edu to verify that your scores are available.

Subject tests are not required.

It is possible to arrange accommodations for test-takers with documented disabilities or health needs.


 
How do I demonstrate that my English is at the required level?
All applicants must demonstrate that their command of English is sufficient to participate fully in the regular research and academic activities of an SES student. They can do this by:

  • Completing their entire secondary education (e.g., high-school), or four consecutive years of post-secondary education (university, college, junior college, etc.), at an accredited school where the official language of instruction is exclusively English.
  • Taking the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam, academic format. The minimum IELTS score expected is 7.5. It is possible to arrange accommodations for test-takers with documented disabilities or health needs.

Paper score reports may be sent to:

MIT IDSS–DOC
77 Massachusetts Ave., E17-375
Cambridge, MA  02139-4307
USA

TOEFL scores are not accepted.


 
Should I report unofficial scores?
Yes please! To speed-up the processing of your application, we urge all candidates to self-report test scores within their applications. Candidates must arrange with the testing institution to have official test scores sent to MIT by December 15. These will be checked against the self-reported scores.

 
What are the requirements for transcripts?
Transcripts are required for all post-secondary (university, college, junior college, etc.) coursework. Applicants must upload legible transcripts (official or unofficial), and as up-to-date as possible, with their application. The initial pages of your upload should be the English version of your transcript, but (as applicable) also include an original transcript in the institution’s official language of instruction. As applicable, upload your Fall 2016 grades as soon as they are available. You will be able to upload updated transcripts even after you submit your application.Note that all versions of your transcript that you upload remain available to the Admissions Committee, so append a short summary/explanation to the end of the English version of subsequent transcripts about the update. E.g.:

Now includes final grades for Fall 2016 semester.

Or “Instructor found a grading error in my Fall 2014 ECON-101 final and increased the final grade from ‘B’ to ‘B+’.

Admitted applicants will be required to send official, final transcripts to:

MIT IDSS–DOC
77 Massachusetts Ave., E17-375
Cambridge, MA  02139-4307
USA

Include certified translations of non-English transcripts. Admissions decisions are considered provisional until the grades reported in the application are verified by an official transcript.


 
I'm already at MIT: how do I apply?
MIT students apply using the same application.

 
What is the application fee?
The current application fee is $75.00 USD.

 
Are fee waivers available?
The MIT Office of the Dean for Graduate Education (ODGE) offers a limited number of fee waivers. You can check eligibility requirements and apply for a fee waiver here.

 
Can I send you copies of my publications, awards, etc.?
Publications, awards, etc., can help demonstrate your strengths and skills. However, please do not send or upload these additional materials. Instead, link to supplemental materials in your CV and in the “Test Scores / Experience” portion of the application. For a more curated format, consider hosting these materials on your personal website, google scholar page, etc.

 
May I check the status of my application?
Once you submit your application, you will be able to check the application page for your application status and for updates on the status of any materials arriving from independent sources (evaluations, test scores, transcripts). Once your application is designated “complete,” then in all likelihood the next update you will receive from us is your admissions decision. Given our lean admissions staffing, we cannot field individual requests for status updates. Your patience ultimately helps us get you your application decision sooner.

 

Review

What is the review process?
Applications are reviewed individually and as a pool. Information about MIT’s admissions-related policies is available here.

 
Who is reading the applications?
IDSS faculty and affiliates review applications in a process administered and overseen by the IDSS Admissions Committee.

 

Decisions and Beyond

When and how will I hear if I've been admitted?
Applicants will be notified by the end of February, via email.

 
If I’m not admitted can I reapply?
Yes.

 
When do I start?
Students are admitted for September.

 
What special considerations apply to admitted international students?
International students must be responsive to visa requirements. The MIT International Students Office will work with admitted students to navigate these processes.

 
I have more questions: how do I get in touch?
Admissions practices vary across the globe, but the standard we’re aspiring to is a fair and competitive process. The only way to be admitted to an IDSS program is by submitting a thoughtful and carefully constructed application. Please carefully read this FAQ as well as instructions embedded in the application itself. If you are still stumped, let us know! We’ll answer as we’re able and within the constraints of a fair and competitive process. You can get in touch: here.

© MIT Institute for Data, Systems, and Society | 77 Massachusetts Avenue | Cambridge, MA 02139-4307 | 617-253-1764 | Design by Opus