Applying to MIT Sloan

MIT’s Sloan School of Management has combined the quantitative strengths of its parent school with a focus on entrepreneurship to establish itself as one of the most highly regarded MBA programs in the country. The school is also well-regarded on Wall Street, where Sloan grads are prized for their analytical skills.

As expected, the school’s curriculum emphasizes the quantitative side of business. Courses such as Data, Models, and Decisions and Economic Analysis for Business Decisions will test your quantitative abilities, but Sloan also encourages students to apply the skills that they learn in these classes to nearly all of their coursework. Graduates speak highly of the hard skills that they learned at Sloan, so make sure that this is what you want out of your MBA experience. Also be sure to demonstrate that you are comfortable being surrounded by numbers, through your GMAT score, previous coursework, or job experience.

Sloan’s curriculum provides a lot of flexibility and control for the individual student. After completing the standard first semester core courses, students are free to chart their own course for the rest of their time at Sloan. One especially unique aspect of the curriculum is the school’s Sloan Innovation Period, a break during each semester in which students can take week-long seminars and hands-on workshops in a variety of subject areas including leadership, management communications, achieving work-life balance, and entrepreneurship.

Speaking of entrepreneurship, it’s a big deal at Sloan, as characterized by students’ participation in MIT’s annual “$100K” entrepreneurship competition. The competition, which started as the “$10K” competition back in 1990, allows Sloan students the chance to develop a business plan and compete against students from other MIT programs for cash and startup business assistance. Many companies founded in the competition go on to be successful, and Sloan touts the fact that these companies now have a combined market capitalization of over $7 billion.

Sloan students who really want to focus their MBA education on entrepreneurship can enroll in the school’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation program (E&I), which was introduced in 2006. Students who are accepted into the E&I program are placed into their own cohort and take their core classes together, plus an additional class on technological entrepreneurship, concluding in a group trip to Silicon Valley after the first semester. They continue to take additional entrepreneurship-oriented electives, and finish their two years at Sloan with an MBA as well as an additional certificate in entrepreneurship & innovation. If you are serious about entrepreneurship, then consider applying to this program, which requires no more than checking a box on your Sloan application.

Another important program at MIT Sloan is Leaders for Global Operations (LGO), a two-year joint degree program offered in conjunction with MIT’s School of Engineering. It offers students courses in engineering, change management, information technology, and operations management through a variety of in-class and on-the-job experiences. Students spend more than six months on-site as an intern with a sponsor company, culminating in a thesis. The best part of the program is that students receive up to 80% fellowships, thanks to sponsor companies including Cisco Systems, Dell, General Motors, Boeing,, and Raytheon. The bad news is that the program is very exclusive – just 45 to 50 students participate each year – but give it a look if you want to work in manufacturing after business school.

Insider Information

MIT Sloan says that its mission is “to develop principled innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice.” Note the words “innovative” and “leaders” – the admissions office will look for both of these dimensions in your application. To that end, Sloan has recently introduced several new admissions essay questions that hit directly on these dimensions. The questions ask you to describe several specific situations in which you demonstrated examples of having an impact on a group, had to put an idea into action, and advocated a certain position. The school is clearly looking for dimensions beyond basic quantitative skills, and these essays are where they will look for them.

What Makes Sloan Different?

  • Technology. Given the strength of MIT and engineering, it’s no surprise that Sloan has a superior offering in the area of tech ventures and IT. Innovation is a buzzword at many top business schools, but Sloan embodies it, particularly in the area of high tech. Support for an entrepreneur in launching a new venture at business school is stronger at MIT than almost anywhere else (schools like Berkeley Haas and Stanford also have extensive resources and are good choices for those wanting to pursue a technology career).
  • “A systems approach to understanding the world and understanding business came out of MIT. And because of that systems perspective, there is a disinclination to see a problem as an accounting problem, or a marketing problem, or a manufacturing problem. But it is rather a system that needs redevelopment, usually by applying multiple perspectives, academic disciplines, and business functions.”
    Dean David Schmittlein
  • Sustainability. Sloan has a concerted focus on “green” business, and the relatively new Certificate in Sustainability is one of the few formal programs of its kind at any top school (UCLA Anderson has a certificate called Leaders in Sustainability). Sloan also has a track record for putting its money where its mouth is: not only is the new E62 building going to be LEED certified for environmental friendliness, but MIT’s admissions team recently invested in Apple iPads in order to make their entire admissions process paper-free.
  • Open access to information. Not just Sloan, but all of MIT believes in sharing information, and the school is a pioneer in the way it’s made its educational content – nearly all of it – available for free on the web through the MIT OpenCourseWare initiative. This includes a vast array of Sloan courses, from undergraduate to graduate to PhD. These course materials are open to everyone, though the school does not grant degrees or certificates or provide any proof of completion (it is no substitute for the actual MBA experience).
  • A challenging curriculum. The first semester at MIT is notoriously challenging – more so even than other top schools. All students take the same set of five required core courses in that first term, and it’s said to be grueling. Most schools have a fixed core that extends over two semesters and while challenging, typically isn’t quite as brutal as the one-semester core at Sloan.
  • A flexible curriculum. The reward for completing that difficult core curriculum is that students are given the freedom to design much of their own educational experience thereafter. Many students focus on fulfilling the requirements of one of the certificate programs, and others create an informal specialization of their own. However, past that initial semester, Sloan does not dictate which classes students must take, which means that the educational experience can be tailored at MIT more than it can at some of its peers.
  • Truncated admissions processes. Besides the differences in academics, MIT also is different in how it handles MBA admissions: Sloan has just two application rounds for its standard MBA program, with deadlines in October and in January. Each of the other Sloan degree programs, including the Leaders for Global Organizations and the new Master of Finance, has its own separate deadline as well, which is usually much earlier than those at other top schools. Additional information on the application process is provided further on in this Essential Guide.

The Sloan Approach

The MIT Sloan approach to the business school education can be summarized with the Institute’s motto “mens et manus” or “mind and hand.” Both in and out of the classroom, it is very much a part of Sloan culture to learn by doing. MIT Sloan wants its students to not only possess a deep understanding of business management theories, but to also be well equipped to execute the practical application of these concepts.

Below are some of the key elements of the MIT Sloan experience:

Hallmarks of the MIT Sloan MBA program include entrepreneurial innovation, a customizable curriculum, distributed leadership, and action-based learning.
Action-Based Learning. While case studies and lectures have their place in the Sloan curriculum, there is an emphasis on action-based learning (commonly referred to at other programs as “experiential learning”) as being one of the best ways to learn important business management lessons. Sloan offers a host of project based “lab” classes focused on global entrepreneurship, innovation, and sustainability, which pair student teams with companies and organizations around the world. The faculty also embraces the idea of learning by doing, whether piloting experimental classes to share their ground-breaking research, or making significant adjustments to flagship courses based on student and partner feedback. Going beyond theoretical discussion to take action is a deeply engrained aspect of the MIT Sloan culture.

Collaboration. A lesser-known fact among many potential applicants is that MIT Sloan enjoys a deeply collaborative culture. From the first moments of the intense “Core Semester” experience, to the launch of fledgling start-ups upon graduation, the desire to work with and help out fellow students is shared by most Sloan students throughout their MBA experience. Sloan views the art of developing high-performing teams as crucial to addressing today’s business challenges, and strives to cultivate effective teams and leaders through action-based learning in the field.

Entrepreneurship and Self-direction. The MIT Sloan MBA program is customizable, allowing for each student to focus on developing specific leadership and analytical skill sets, while pursuing unique set of interests. Following the rigorous and intense experience of the first-semester Core, students are given the remaining 75 percent of their time at Sloan to craft their own curriculum. Sloan students tend to be proactive, creative, and comfortable with ambiguity. These entrepreneurial traits are all helpful in this environment, where each individual student has a higher degree of responsibility of making the most of their time at Sloan.

Going beyond theoretical discussion to take action is deeply engrained in the MIT Sloan culture.
Global Focus. The school boasts a well-respected global curriculum and actively seeks to further expand the MIT Sloan name and network around the world. Over the course of the two-year MBA program, most students will travel internationally as part of a Sloan sponsored project or trip, or on a student-organized event. Programs such as China Lab and Global Entrepreneurship Lab are unique offerings that allow Sloan students to gain hands-on experience overseas as part of their MBA education.

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