Getting Into MIT Without a High School Degree

by Jeff V. on May 11, 2011

Chris Dixon tells the story of his friend and business partner Tom Pinckney, who got into MIT without ever having received a high school diploma.

Tom grew up in rural South Carolina and mostly stayed at home writing video games on his Apple II.  There was no place nearby to go to high school. He took a few community college classes but none of those places could give him a high school degree. It didn’t really matter – all he wanted to do was program computers.  So when it came time to apply to college, Tom just printed out a pile of code he wrote and sent it to colleges.

It’s a heartwarming story, but it also underscores the de-emphasis of human judgment in the college admissions process.  For all to many, college admissions is a calculus of pre-determined measures of academic worth: SAT scores, cumulative GPA, extracurricular activities.

Tom Pinckney’s story gets even better.  After doing his undergraduate work at MIT (who gave him a chance without a college degree), he was recruited by the four best CS (Computer Science) schools in the country: Stanford, Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon and MIT.  He stayed at MIT, the school that gave him his chance originally.

And finally, this closing quip by Dixon:

MIT is a national treasure.  If you believe in meritocracy and the American dream, you believe in MIT.

Related post: On Parenting, College Admissions and Continuous Learning

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