The Uninteresting Chronicles of a High School Student

January 5, 2010

Application Breakdown: RSI (Really Selective Institute)

RSI (Research Science Institute) is one of MIT’s three main residential summer programs and apparently one of the most competitive and prestigious in the nation according to Caltech. Hmm, not bad. Not only does the program only accept 80 students, only 50 or so are actually from the US with the 30 remaining slots allocated for foreign students and DoDEA members. College Confidential forumers (who are obviously infallible and omnipotent) claim that about 5% of RSI applicants are accepted annually (does that mean only 1000 people bothered to apply to it in ths US?). That does seem quite formidable for an optimistic estimate, considering that you’re more likely to get into Harvard with their 7% acceptance rate

It does seem quite promising for a free residential program (on the MIT campus, no less), so I took a look at their interactive online application (mirror, .pdf). Sadly, it is neither interactive nor online, being a simple PDF form that is completed electronically, only to be printed out later in dead-tree format and mailed in. (The welcoming message “You cannot save data typed into this form” pretty much means that a power loss or unresponsive browser could nix the entire application. Thankfully, only three pages actually have to be filled out in the actual PDF by the applicant. Page 1 consists of applicant and school information fields, page 2 is a table of scores/course levels/etc., and page 4 (page 3 is the teacher recommendation form) is the applicant/parent/guardian release form.

Despite being a generally very simple, bare-bones application, a few things that raised my eyebrows in the process did pop up. Seems like the RSI application form was not actually tested or coded by technologically adept people…

Where's China? And since when did we have 1984 months?

*While the CEE does sponsor something called RSI Fudan that selects certain students from key high schools in Shanghai, China for a similar local summer program, it’s completely different from the RSI held at MIT and should have no bearing on the RSI application itself, logically. (It is the US Citizen/Permanent Resident application form, after all, so it really shouldn’t matter what your citizenship is.)

While states such as the Holy See (which has no permanent population) and Azerbaijan are on the list, large nations such as “China”, “Taiwan”, “Republic of China”, “People’s Republic of China”, and any other variation thereof are nowhere to be found. Does this mean RSI does not allow Chinese/Taiwanese US high school students to apply, despite being US permanent residents? Of course not. But that does make the application a lot more difficult to fill out accurately. (No custom text can be entered in the drop-down box, for those protesting.)

Another interesting conflict arises from the fact that date fields in Adobe Reader use the “YYYY-MM-DD” format. When the application demands a date in a different format (such as “birthday” above [date modified for no apparent reason]), curious consequences arise…

Wait, I need a specific *date* for these things? Whatever happened to the days when month/year was enough?

At least they didn’t misspell “Institute” this time…

Well, let’s hope for the best. I suppose I’ll hear back from CEE in…March. Probably.

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1 Comment »

  1. Nice point about the Chinese citizen as US high school student. I had that exact problem in my application.

    Comment by Ante — January 10, 2010 @ 3:45 pm


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