Campus Life mit application essays that worked

Dancing after a double surgery

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of MIT application essays submitted by students who were later admitted to the Institute. The following prompts are from the 2016-17 admissions season.


We know you lead a busy life, full of activities, many of which are required of you. Tell us about something you do for the pleasure of it. (100 words or fewer)


I love putting on makeup. There is something extraordinarily satisfying about choosing different colors and textures to put on my face exactly how I please.

In addition to daily swoops of eyeliner, I also enjoy technical special effects makeup. For the horror-themed dress up day during homecoming last year, I woke up at 5 a.m. to put on a “creepy doll” makeup look of my own design, created entirely out of liquid latex, toilet paper, eyeshadow, and fake blood.

Whether terrifying or not, makeup is a relaxing and creative way for me to express myself.


At MIT, we seek to develop in each member of our community the ability and passion to work collaboratively for the betterment of humankind. How have you improved the lives of others in your community? (This could be one person or many, at school or at home, in your neighborhood or your state, etc.) (200-250 words)


Matsuyo wrapped her aged hands around mine. She had been uncommunicative and unable to feed herself for some time. Slowly, she began mouthing along as I sang “Aki-no-yuuhi,” a traditional Japanese melody. This simple song about foliage in the setting sun had finally broken through the fog of her dementia.

The care managers told me that, from then on, Matsuyo became more alert and began feeding herself again. I am so thankful that I could break down this barrier with my Japanese and music abilities.

Matsuyo is one of the residents living at Sunrise Senior Living: I have spent over 400 hours volunteering there. My responsibilities at Sunrise include spending one-on-one time with residents and leading group activities such as exercise, current events, meditation, flower arrangement, sing-alongs, baking, and gardening. I also began a weekly “Summer Arts and Crafts with Grace” activity and taught crocheting, sculpting, painting, and jewelry making. I sometimes give violin concerts as well. The residents and staff at Sunrise got to know me so well that Sunrise offered me a job (which I unfortunately could not take), and one of the residents, Mama T, refers to me as her granddaughter.

Volunteering has made me appreciate that members of my community are indeed my family, and family members look out for and support each other. Not only was I given the opportunity to enrich these residents’ lives, but they also in turn greatly enriched mine, in the infinitely rewarding moments involving something as simple as a Japanese melody.


Tell us about the most significant challenge you’ve faced or something important that didn’t go according to plan. How did you manage the situation? (200-250 words)


Theatergoers watching my high school’s spring musical “Anything Goes” may have noticed one eager and aptly-named Angel Grace smiling from under her blonde 30s wig and tap dancing her way through the entire show. However, they were oblivious to the physical and mental exhaustion this energetic performer endured to achieve that place onstage.

I was born with hyperpronated ankles which causes chronic foot pain. After fruitless physical therapy sessions, my doctors recommended surgery. Not one to miss any school, I elected to have both surgeries the summer before my junior year, only fourteen days apart.

Thus, I spent my entire summer on the couch, nauseous, frustrated, and elevating both ankles above heart level at all times. When school started, I was just starting to use crutches to move around clumsily.

A few weeks after the beginning of school, our choreographer started weekly after-school tap workshops in preparation for “Anything Goes” in the spring. Immediately, I made up my mind to go. While everyone clicked out their time steps and shuffle off to buffaloes, I sat in a chair in my ace bandages and orthopedic shoes, frustrated, humiliated, and trying to mimic their movements. I was a complete novice, but slowly, slowly, I learned how to tap.

After an entire semester of hard work, the “Anything Goes” cast list was posted, and I received a featured tap role. Throughout the show, Angel Grace’s heels clicked the stage with well-practiced precision, her upturned face glowing with elation and triumph.

—Grace Kuffner ’20