MIT Sloan Admissions Essays for 2010-2011

A few weeks after releasing its application deadlines for the coming year, the school has published its admissions essays. Here they are, followed by our comments in italics:

MIT Sloan Cover Letter
Prepare a cover letter 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. (500 words)

While this isn’t an essay in the traditional sense, the cover letter is a rite of passage of MIT Sloan applicants every year. Over the past couple of years the prompt has evolved slightly to place more emphasis on your “impact on an organization.” (And regular readers of this blog know how much emphasis we place on demonstrating impact!!) This year the question remains the same, so the Sloan admissions office must think that this phrasing helps them more effectively get at what they’re looking for in MBA applicants.

MIT Sloan Application Essays
  1. Please describe a time when you went beyond what was defined, expected, established, or popular. (500 words)

    Sloan added this question last year, and it must have liked what it saw in applicants’ responses. Just as the cover letter prompt has evolved to place more emphasis on impact, this change suggests that Sloan is really looking closely for evidence of how you have gone beyond your regular job description to make a positive impact on those around you. We consider this as one of the key ingredients of leadership, and Sloan clearly wants to see more of it in its applicants.

  2. Please describe a time when you convinced an individual or group to accept one of your ideas. (500 words)

    This question is new this year, and it is yet another example of how Sloan is really looking for leaders in its applicant pool. If you just read that last sentence and thought, “Oh no, I’ve never managed anyone or been a team lead,” that’s okay. That’s not how Sloan (or any top MBA program) defines leadership. One practical definition of leadership is the ability to positively influence others, and Sloan directly asks for an example of that ability with this question. Even if your example feels fairly mundane (such as an engineer convincing other engineers to pursue a certain technical solution), you will be successful if you can show real skill maturity in HOW you go it done.

  3. Please describe a time when you took responsibility for achieving an objective. (500 words)

    This question carries over from last year. Once again, we see a question that gets at signs of leadership. In this case, it’s a willingness to take on the burden of achieving a goal. Once again, the “SAR” technique will be critical to demonstrating not just what you accomplished, but also HOW you accomplished it, which is what the admissions committee really wants to see. They don’t want to simply hear about how you were handed a goal and you easily achieved it; discuss an instance when you took on an especially challenging goal, maybe when others avoided it or had failed in achieving it, and describe what exactly you did to make it happen.

  4. You may use this section to address whatever else you want the Admissions Committee to know. (250 words)

    Our usual words of warning here… Applicants tend to err on the side of overusing this essay to explain away small details in their profiles. Only use this essay if needed! Two examples are if you have a low undergrad GPA (this is the most common use that we see) or if your current supervisor does not write a recommendation for you. But don’t waste the admissions office’s time unless you really need to answer a significant question that admissions officers might have about your application.

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