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MIT Entrance Examinations, 19th Century

Today, only a small percentage of the thousands of prospective students applying to MIT are admitted each year. This intense competition is a magnificent testament to the enduring relevance of William Barton Rogers’ original vision for a new kind of university. While today’s admissions officers are faced with an abundance of talented applicants, it was a very different situation in the 19th century. In 1865, the new MIT faculty created the first requirements for admission which included “satisfactory evidence by examination or otherwise” of competence in mathematics, English, geography, basic French, and good handwriting. These requirements evolved over the coming years, most notably with the gradual stiffening of mathematics requirements to include an algebra examination. It should be noted that what constituted “passing” scores varied annually as MIT relied on tuition as its major source of revenue. What never varied was MIT’s commitment to the admission of students who embraced the ideal of Mens et Manus—Mind and Hand—for the purpose of bettering the world.

From the Twelfth Annual Catalogue of the Officers and Students, with a Statement of the Courses of Instruction, 1876-1877.

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