MIT Sloan Deadlines, Essays & Analysis, Recommendation Letter Questions (Class of 2015, Starting Fall 2013)
Please prepare a cover letter (up to 500 words) seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA program. Your letter should describe your accomplishments, address any extenuating circumstances that may apply to your application, and conform to standard business correspondence. Your letter should be addressed to Mr. Rod Garcia, Senior Director of Admissions.
Analysis: Like HBS and Stanford GSB, MIT Sloan has pared down its application this year, and even further simplified their staple requirement: the cover letter. They really couldn't make the directions any more simple. When outlining your achievements, it's a good idea to touch on things that occurred over three years ago, which you can't describe in Essays #1 and #2 below. At the same time, it won't hurt you to introduce briefly your essay topics to get Rod and the rest of Sloan's adcom excited to read your stories. An interesting addition to the cover letter prompt is the instruction to "address any extenuating circumstances", which we read as taking the place of a more traditional "optional essay", in which you would explain a gap in career history, poor test scores, recommender choice, etc. Finally, this all needs to be done in a traditional (read: Western) business letter format. (Google it!) That is a lot to cover in 500 words, so if you are going to include something about your goals or why Sloan, it has to be brief. Sloan is all about proving your future potential, no matter in what area, through your past success.
We are interested in learning more about how you work, think, and act. For each essay, please provide a brief overview of the situation followed by a detailed description of your response. Please limit the experiences you discuss to those which have occurred in the past three years.
In each of the essays, please describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did.
Essay 1: Please describe a time when you had to convince a person or a group of your idea. (500 words or fewer, limited to one page)
Analysis: We read this as a fairly typical "leadership/accomplishment" essay, which almost always includes a strong element of persuasion. The distinguishing feature, however, is that the idea, plan, strategy, suggestion, etc. has to come from you, implying that Sloan wants people who can generate great ideas, work within a group to execute them properly, and hopefully get the desired benefits. Don't stop at just persuasion. Prove that you're the complete package. It's a good idea also to address a professional success here, since Essay 2 restricts you to personal experiences.
Essay 2: Please describe a time when you overcame a personal setback. (500 words or fewer, limited to one page)
Analysis: There are two possible approaches to this essay, depending on your interpretation of the word “setback”. If by setback you mean a failure from which you learn something important and which leads to success the next time, then a typical “failure” essay will work well here. If you take a setback as a temporary roadblock that you overcame on the way to success, then you’re looking again at a “leadership/accomplishment” essay. In either case, the topic has to come from your personal life. In the past, Sloan never dictated professional or personal stories for the essays, only that the experiences have occurred within the past three years. That led many applicants, especially those with significant professional experience, to write only professional stories. This year, by requiring a personal experience within the past three years, Sloan seems to be signaling that no matter how much professional experience you have, they still expect to see you challenging yourself in your personal life. We suggest avoiding topics that might be considered "too personal" (e.g., family death, divorce or break up, etc.) that, while clearly examples of personal setbacks, might not offer the same kind of "applied growth potential" as setbacks in personal endeavors like volunteering, running a marathon, making a film, etc.
- How long and in what capacity have you known the applicant?
- How does the applicant stand out from others in a similar capacity?
- Please give an example of the applicant's impact on a person, group, or organization.
- Please give a representative example of how the applicant interacts with other people.
- Which of the applicant's personal or professional characteristics would you change?
- Please tell us anything else you think we should know about this applicant.