Tuesday Tips: MIT Sloan MBA Essay Tips

On its website, MIT Sloan states that “innovation and collaboration [are] at the heart of what we do.“ This set of essays has remained consistent for the past several years, with a cover letter and a set of behavioral questions. Your task is to remain focused on your overall application strategy and choose stories that can showcase your achievements at school, work and extracurriculars. At the same time, keep in mind that MIT is seeking students with unique approaches and backgrounds to build a class that can learn from each other and continue the tradition of innovation.

Remember to choose examples from the last three years of your life, as specifically directed in the instructions, for the most relevant and recent examples.

Because MIT Sloan does not require the standard “career goals” essay, your work background will be mainly communicated through the required resume and cover letter. The resume should be approached in a similar way to other MBA application resumes. Avoid industry lingo, communicate your measurable achievements, and focus on aspects of your job that involve leadership and teamwork.

Make sure to double check your deadlines for this season before making your MBA application plans.

MIT Sloan Cover Letter
Prepare a cover letter (up to 500 words) seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA Program. Describe your accomplishments and include an example of how you had an impact on a group or organization. Your letter should conform to standard business correspondence and be addressed to Mr. Rod Garcia, Director of MBA Admissions.
Think about how you would approach a cover letter for a job application. You would think about the requirements of the position, and pick the most relevant achievements from your past experience to showcase. Approach this cover letter in the same way to make a strong case for your selection into the class of 2012. Just as with a professional cover letter, make sure you introduce yourself and explain why you are seeking admission.

The cover letter is also your opportunity to make the case for your fit with MIT Sloan. Note that the cover letter format will require a recruiting and marketing approach that focuses on key points that will make you a great MIT Sloan student, rather than the narrative style of the typical career goals type of essay. To learn more about the school, there are resources such as student blogs, campus visits and admissions events around the world. Personal touch points with current or former MIT Sloan students are a great way to learn more about the school, and may be the most customized to your specific questions.

The instructions ask specifically for key accomplishments and your impact on an organization, which should be concise and focused examples that support your reasons for applying and why you should be accepted into the class. Other professional experience should be focused on your unique selling proposition for admission to the MIT Sloan class.

MIT Sloan Essay 1: Please describe a time when you went beyond what was defined, expected, established, or popular. (500 words or fewer, limited to one page)

This question can be used to describe a situation when you exceeded everyone’s expectations, or one when you pursued a path that was not established or popular. This will demonstrate your ability to motivate yourself and show what drives you to accomplish above and beyond your job description or responsibilities.

All of the behavioral questions in the MIT Sloan application require you to describe your past accomplishments and experience on a very pragmatic level. A key part of the MIT Sloan set of essays is the focus on understanding how you work, think and act. The instructions ask you to provide a brief overview of the situation, and then follow the situation with a detailed description of what you did. This requires being very specific about your thoughts and actions as you respond to each essay question.

MIT Sloan Essay 2: Please describe a time when you convinced an individual or group to accept one of your ideas. (500 words or fewer, limited to one page)

This question is seeking to understand how you work with a team when you are not necessarily in charge. A work or extracurricular example where you demonstrated emotional intelligence would be ideal here. When did you realize you needed to convince someone to accept your ideas? What was your strategy and how did you read group or individual dynamics to successfully sell in your concept? This essay will demonstrate your ability to lead from within a group, or to manage up in situations when you are not in charge.

Essay 3: Please describe a time when you had to make a decision without
having all the information you needed. (500 words or fewer, limited to one

This MIT Sloan essay seeks to understand your problem solving ability. Most executives will need to make a decision with limited information, and it’s revealing to describe the process that you take to reach that goal. Do you go with your gut feelings? Or do you make educated estimates? Think about a time when you needed to make a mission critical decision and you did not have the time to gather all of the information you may have wanted.

If you tend to follow a linear process of thinking this question will be more straightforward for you – just describe how you make decisions and what you do when you can’t have all the information you want. For some non-linear thinkers decision making can be a flash of insight which is tough to describe. Going with a gut feeling isn’t the wrong answer, just one you may need to parse out more specifically in order to communicate effectively in this essay. Think about talking to your colleagues, friends or family to see how they view your decision making process. You might find more detail than you knew existed! In either case, this question requires you to fully describe your thinking process so the adcomm can understand it thoroughly.

MIT Sloan Supplemental Information (Optional)
You may use this section to address whatever else you want the Admissions Committee to know. (250 words or fewer, limited to one page)

If there are any areas of concern, this is the correct place to address them. Strike an upbeat tone here and avoid excuses. Explain your issue clearly and focus most of the essay on the correction for the issue. For example, if you had a disciplinary issue in college, spend most of the issue demonstrating that you learned from the experience and have been an ideal citizen ever since.

If you do not have a weakness to address here, it’s an ideal opportunity to provide any information that you were unable to work into the other three essays. If you have an unusual background, hobby or extracurricular experience, this may be an opportunity to provide that information to the adcomm.

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