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Highlights of our Fireside Talk with Rod Garcia, former MIT Sloan admissions officer

Updated: Jun 3, 2023


Thank you again to Rod Garcia for joining me for a warm and thought-provoking talk on May 24!


One of the most important things that the discussion reinforced - which underscored almost everything else discussed - was how unique each great institution can be. MIT’s special culture, for example, is defined by its “startup mentality” and hands-on work ethic, and these are reflected not just in Sloan School of Management but also across the STEM curriculum. MIT students have a special passion for doing, to the extent that they often pay less attention than other elite graduates to selling themselves optimally. Many do not drop the name of their alma mater in conversation as often as other graduates of top institutions… But some, like me, are so proud of and enthusiastic about MIT, my time there is one of my very favorite things to talk about when meeting new people!


We are pleased to share with you three main takeaways from the conversation that you can all use in your own university applications, no matter where you apply. These are all tips that Rod Garcia emphasized that Hermiona’s team regularly helps students implement in their admissions journey!


  • Admissions is ultimately about the personal connection, whether this comes through an interview, a video essay, or written essays and descriptions of activities. “Selling yourself” as a candidate and being authentic are not mutually exclusive! Find your fit, customize your application, and make that connection with the people evaluating your application. Success in this area starts with research of the institution, department, faculty, and alums - our team can help you figure out how to do this.


  • People eventually achieve great success through diverse and sometimes unexpected educational and career paths. Follow your passions, and you will end up in the right place for you. One of the most wonderful things about U.S. education is its flexibility, and you can choose a major and early career path based on what you love, secure in the knowledge that you will have opportunities to reinvent yourself and even land in a top graduate program such as a Sloan MBA, if that is what suits you!


  • Your first draft of your main essay is not your final essay! Start early, because it takes time and work to tell your story, and the hardest part of presenting yourself in writing will actually be cutting down your story to fit the required length. High schoolers are used to finding the hardest part of writing to be getting words onto the blank page, and then they are almost done - for the admissions essays, it doesn’t work this way at all, with multiple rewrites and deep revisions being essential to success. Also, it’s expected and even desirable on the part of admissions committees for you to get feedback from peers or mentors on your essays! Hermiona’s writing experts are here to help students figure out what their most meaningful story is, how to organize the telling of it, and then how to make it fit into a required word count at the end. The hardest part of the college essay is rarely getting words on the page, but rather, telling your story in 250-650 words.

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