Following the release of MIT’s MBA Deadlines, we’re presenting our definitive guide to Sloan’s written and video application essays. As a quick note, there have been no major changes to the app this year.
Importantly, once you pop open the application, you’ll notice that there is no traditional optional essay (i.e., one referencing problems in your candidacy) included. Instead of an optional section, applicants are provided with two spaces within the Academic Information and Employment Information portions to address any problems in their profile, such as poor school performance or significant job gaps. Should there be any red flags in your history, it goes without saying that it is in your best interest to use that space.
Because MIT’s MBA admissions process is hyper-competitive, the first step to standing out should be to learn about and connect with the program: dive deep into MIT’s courses, structure, culture, and the other things that make MIT unique. Interacting with the program’s staff, as well as former and current students, either virtually or in-person, should also play a key role in your admissions process for MIT Sloan.
Cover Letter – MIT Sloan seeks students whose personal characteristics demonstrate that they will make the most of the incredible opportunities at MIT, both academic and non-academic. We are on a quest to find those whose presence will enhance the experience of other students. We seek thoughtful leaders with exceptional intellectual abilities and the drive and determination to put their stamp on the world. We welcome people who are independent, authentic, and fearlessly creative — true doers. We want people who can redefine solutions to conventional problems, and strive to preempt unconventional dilemmas with cutting-edge ideas. We demand integrity and respect passion.
Taking the above into consideration, please submit a cover letter seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA Program. Your letter should conform to a standard business correspondence, include one or more professional examples that illustrate why you meet the desired criteria above, and be addressed to the Assistant Deans of Admissions, Rod Garcia and Dawna Levenson (300 words or fewer, excluding address and salutation).
One of the most common questions about this essay is whether or not MIT actually wants a cover letter. The answer is, sort of. While this essay’s format should follow that of a generic cover letter, its content should be oriented to match MIT’s particular tone and preferences.
In terms of substance, the two main areas of focus should be on your experiences and MIT’s MBA. The larger part of your essay should share examples from your life that reflect the values of MIT, such as recent professional experiences and successes. You can extend your focus, however, as long as you make sure to highlight those qualities that MIT is looking for, such as leadership, teamwork, creativity, and communication.
For the cover letter’s second portion, try connecting the experiences you just mentioned to concrete aspects of MIT’s program and/or culture. It’s best to only include relevant points gathered from your prior research and outreach; writing that’s too general risks being read as coming from a lack of effort, care or both. It’s important to remember that the purpose of this second part is to show how you fit the profile that MIT desires, which is difficult to accomplish without expressing a deeper understanding of the MBA.
Finally, while cover letters can at times come across as dry, it’s best to show a bit of style and creativity while writing this particular one. Try to avoid generic language when possible, and try to pique your reader’s interest by employing an engrossing and generally positive tone.
Optional Short Answer Question – Applicants are invited to expand on their background by responding to the following optional 250 word short answer question:
How has the world you come from shaped who you are today? For example, your family, culture, community, all help to shape aspects of your identity, please use this opportunity if you would like to share more about your background.
This question is truly optional; applicants will not be evaluated more positively or negatively should they choose to respond. This is an opportunity for you to share more about yourself with the Admissions Committee, should you choose to do so.
Let’s start with what worries applicants most: is this a truly optional essay? Yes, it absolutely is. Not only will you not be penalized for leaving this out of your application, it may in fact be to your benefit to not attempt this question. If you have nothing that you can add that would reveal an engaging or unique perspective that helps you stand out more from the applicant pool, there’s not much that needs to be added here. Having said that, the question does allow for a candidate at the margins to really bolster her candidacy with a show of her vibrancy or an expression of the difficulties that she has overcome.
Before you decide to tackle the question, think back to your history. What were the factors and experiences that drove you to become the individual you are? What shaped your world view or the way you interact with people? What helped create the drivers of your life? Once you have these in mind, weigh them against the rest of your application and what you believe others may include as responses. Will it improve the admissions committee understanding of your profile and might it help set you apart? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can decide on whether to include a response.
Potential Additional Essay (Interview Dependent) – The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice. We believe that a commitment to diversity, inclusion, equity, and well-being is a key component of both principled leadership and sound management practice. In 250 words or less, please describe how you, as a member of the MIT Sloan community, would work to create a campus that is welcoming, inclusive and increasingly diverse.
Details for submitting your response will be included in the interview invitation.
MIT wants to grow its strong, supportive student and alumni network. In order to accomplish that goal, they try to ensure that admitted candidates will actively participate in Sloan’s MBA community. In order to best answer this potential essay, try to identify how your previous interests and activities align with those available at MIT, especially those outside of the classroom. Feel free to be creative. It may help to ask yourself how you can improve a particular MIT community or association, and how that improvement is linked with your unique strengths, interests, and former experiences. However, do remember to stay humble when mentioning your potential contribution, as MIT doesn’t want to run across any sort of hubris in this essay (even if it’s merited).
Applicants are required to upload a 1 minute (60 second) video as part of their application. In your video, you should introduce yourself to your future classmates, tell us about your past experiences, and touch on why MIT Sloan is the best place for you to pursue your degree.
Videos should adhere to the following guidelines:
No more than 1 minute (60 second) in length
Single take (no editing)
You should be speaking directly to the camera
Do not include background music or subtitles
We recommend using applications such as QuickTime or iMovie to record yourself. Upload the video file according to the detailed instructions within the application.
Video recordings understandably make many people nervous. However, this isn’t like INSEAD’s video essay where you’re asked a series of random questions and need to think on your feet (for more about that sort of requirement, read our post here). Instead, for MIT you can plan the video out as much as you’d like. The question then becomes, what should you do with so much control?
Before we get to the shoulds, let’s quickly review the shouldn’ts. This is not a place where you should be mentioning any subjects that have been discussed in other parts of the application. Neither is this a question about your future goals, nor is it about MIT. This video is all about you.
Most applicants benefit from taking a personal approach here. First, take some time to outline the passions that define your life. What are the hobbies that take up most of your time? What are the events that have recently caused you to change your mind? What are the principles that guide your daily life? There are many questions you can ask yourself to help identify them.
Once you have a rough outline of what you’d like to present about yourself, consider how to best present those aspects. First of all, this isn’t a movie shoot: a camera crew is not a must (unless you happen to actually work in the film industry). However, there are many ways to bring your passions to life without having your video come across as overworked. If some of your main interests revolve around flight, for example, why not shoot your video amidst aeronautical materials or even in an airplane hangar – either could be a simple method to visually connect the viewer with your message. Beyond the mise-en-scène, we recommend that you practice your pitch so as to make sure that your speech comes across in a natural, friendly, and attractive manner, all while remaining professional.
If you’re planning on building a successful application for MIT Sloan, be sure to connect with our leading Sloan Experts.