An Unconventional Path to MIT

From Industry, to MicroMaster’s, to Master’s
Jan 2021
Maria
R.
Supply Chain Management

For many of us, MIT has been our dream school since childhood. My personal journey leading to MIT took four years. It was a long time, but worth the wait. Let’s start at the beginning, in the summer of 2013. I had recently obtained my bachelor's degree, and had decided to take some time off before finding a job. At the time, I was staying with my sister in Boston, and one day decided to google “fun and free activities to do in the Boston area”. I found an exciting activity at MIT, called Eureka Fest. I was curious to experience what it felt to be at MIT, so without any hesitation, I registered for the event.

I remember that day, like it was yesterday. Student teams running around the corridors at the Stata Center, preparing their presentation boards and setting up their inventions. Sounds of different electronic devices resonated everywhere. 

Eureka fest is a three-day event celebrating outstanding inventors and inspiring young people to pursue creative careers through invention. This program, supported by the Lemelson Foundation, awards student prizes that range from $10,000 to $15,000 and a grand prize of $500,000 for outstanding mid-career inventors. Upon hearing about this program, I immediately felt like MIT was “the land of opportunity”; you could not only study, but also create, innovate, and possibly even get rewarded! I felt so motivated and wanted to learn everything I could on how to become an MIT student, possibly sponsored by a foundation like Lemelson. 

Summer 2013 at the Eureka Fest

After that great summer vacation, I returned to my home country, full of energy in considering MIT for a graduate degree. My program of interest was Supply Chain Management, but it required a minimum of two years of work experience, which I didn’t have. So, I decided I should get some industry experience first, before applying. 

I worked for three years as a Logistics Specialist, then, in 2016, I learned about www.edx.org, a platform created by Harvard and MIT that provides online education all over the world. Edx is free, unless you want to receive a certificate to boost your professional career, get credit for graduate courses, or, as was my case, start a path that could lead to a master's degree at MIT at a very low cost. Check the latest updated information on courses in the edx platform. (Note that you can apply for financial aid to make the cost even lower). 

I completed a total of five online courses and a final comprehensive exam and obtained a MicroMaster’s certificate (for those who don’t know, a MicroMaster’s certificate allows you to apply to different university programs to complete a full master’s degree). The great thing for me was that I could complete the coursework and continue to gain more industry experience at the same time. 

The MicroMaster’s certificate was a prerequisite for me to apply to the MIT Supply Chain Management program. In the program, you have two options: complete either a 10-month residential program, or a blended program that requires the MicroMaster’s credential plus five months of on-campus learning. You can learn more about the blended program here

I applied to the blended program at the end of 2019, finally taking a shot at becoming an MIT student. Everyone thinks it’s hard to get into MIT, and guess what: it is! But if you don't try, you´ll never know. I was accepted at MIT on November 22, 2019. So my dream finally came true. 

Well, sort of... 

Yes, I was admitted to the Master’s program, but I had no idea how I was going to pay for it. Still, I was optimistic and figured that I had plenty of time to look for funding options.

In February 2020, I learned that I could be nominated for a graduate fellowship through the MIT Office of Graduate Education (OGE). I read the requirements and realized my options were limited, but I decided to try for one of them anyway. A couple of days later, I received the news that I hadn’t been nominated for an OGE fellowship, but that I was instead going to be considered for the School of Engineering Presidential Fellowship. I had mixed feelings. The idea of a Presidential Fellowship sounded great, but I was also nervous, knowing how highly competitive those fellowships can be. The fellowship decisions were to be announced in April.

Covid-19 hit hard in March and, like most people, all I could think about was the pandemic. I was beginning to have second thoughts about the Master´s program, especially considering the financial burden on top of the rest. However, in the midst of the chaos, on April 23, I received an email from the School of Engineering Department informing me that I had been awarded the fellowship! I felt so relieved that I cried. And the best part was that the fellowship was sponsored by none other than the Lemelson Foundation -- the same organization that supports the Eureka Fest I attended in 2013. I had come full circle. 

I have enjoyed every second of this journey. If I were to reflect on what I think helped me accomplished this dream it will be determination and belief. I encourage others to consider this path because you can get a glimpse of what MIT is like through the online courses in edx and even get to have a campus experience with the Supply Chain Bootcamp. If you want to take it the next level, you can apply for the Blended Master’s degree. 

Supply Chain Bootcamp