How To Get Into MIT’s
Sloan School of Management
The essentials of getting into MIT Sloan are to demonstrate a past full of leadership and entrepreneurial qualities while establishing a personal idea for the future. The MBA essays provide a great opportunity to showcase these areas and set yourself apart from other applicants.
If they’re like the navy, then MIT Sloan students are like pirates, with a can-do spirit that at times bends the rules.
At Sloan, it’s about the four-H’s: the Heart to strive, the Head to keep up, the Hands to get things done, and the Home to take risks in a supportive environment. The ideal candidate is looking for the big treasure chest – innovation-driven entrepreneurship, market disruption, and economic transformation. It’s a meritocracy, a place where you can be older, less traditional, and maybe just a little wild in your thinking but accomplished in your doing.
You either get it or you don’t. If you get it – it’s the only place for you: if you don’t, maybe somewhere else is a better match. Apparently, a lot of people think they get it; this past year, applications were up 35%. That means 6000 applicants for 350 slots in the MBA program. If you do the math – and they always do at MIT – this year’s acceptance rate is between 7% and 9%. Yikes!
In real terms, how does this manifest itself – and maybe more importantly for our purposes, how does all this affect your application? Well, it all starts with an application that feels somewhat different: simpler and harder simultaneously:
Please submit a cover letter seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA Program. Your letter should conform to a standard business correspondence and be addressed to Mr. Rod Garcia, Senior Director of Admissions. (250 words or fewer)
What this really is asking about is what’ve you done, not what you dream about doing. Sloan’s thinking is if you’ve done it in the past, you can do it in the future. Therefore, the cover letter should focus on past achievements and how all the successes that have come before naturally lead to MIT. Of course, some mention should be made about where the candidate is going, but far more words should be used on the details of past experiences and how they reflect on the candidate’s overall capacity to be successful as a professional going forward.
It is important to note that these experiences and past successes should be highly focused on managerial skills, motivations, team work, leadership, grit, drive, and, of course, entrepreneurship rather than on simple tactical skills. The candidate should not bother laying out their quant skills or that they are really a math person, Sloan will figure this out by their GPA, GMAT score and recommendations. Interestingly, the GPA and GMAT scores at Sloan are lower than expected, likely due to Sloan accepting some older, non-traditional students, who have the pirate-spirit they are seeking.
What may be a quirk to MIT is that not only do they want MIT to be the candidate’s top choice for business school, in some sense they want it to be their only choice. This means the candidate must be very clear about why Sloan and why only Sloan. Sloan takes great pride in the connections it has to the rest of campus, and the broader entrepreneurial community in which it plays an out-sized part (much better than Silicon Valley they claim). A successful applicant stresses being part of the MIT universe and why it’s important to them.
Of course, the process doesn’t quite end there, because there’s the optional essay that’s sort of mandatory.
The Admissions Committee invites you to share additional information about yourself, in any format. If you choose a multimedia format, please host the information on a website and provide us with the URL.
Please keep all videos and media limited to 2:00 minutes total in length.
Please keep all written essays to 500 words or less.
Just another opportunity to “show not tell.” As noted with regard to the first essay/cover letter, there are essentially two levers to push on when applying to MIT. The first is that you have actually done stuff; the second is that MIT is your first and only choice.
Give it to them again: maybe something else entrepreneurial you’ve done, or very specific reasons about why MIT/Sloan/Kendall Square (Sloan’s home).
It is also a good place to explore the nuances that are required for achieving great results. For example, not just talking about the product you created but the internal dynamics of the company (from a team building perspective: What worked, What didn’t? What do you wish you knew when? When leading an organization, how did your own perspective change over time? What do you still need to learn as a manager? Etc.)
One slightly off-topic point but worth mentioning is that Sloan is highly focused on organizational behavior, and the best and most successful essays I have read focus on just this. Its faculty and alumni produce books like “The Fifth Discipline,” “Reengineering the Corporation,” and talk a lot about the “Learning Organization” and organizational theory. An applicant who brings this perspective into their essays will be well-served.
In other words, don’t forget to talk about the heart of the pirate and how esprit de corps matters, more so when you’re pulling together the classic Sloan team for the start-up competition: the 19-year old undergraduate engineer, the French lawyer, the 33-year old African teacher, the Olympic rower and the woman who started the mountaineering business. After all, this is the type of company that is going to change the world.
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Topics: MBA Admissions Insights, MBA Application Tips, School Specific Articles, Your Top Schools | Tags: MIT Sloan School of Management
Admissionado here, back once again with hot off the presses essay analyses for Sloan's 2017 application! We wanted to jump in and give you a head-start on those essay questions, jog that imagination, and give you a few tips and tricks to get started on your Sloan essays. Soooooo, without further ado:
MIT Sloan School of Management MBA Cover Letter
MIT Sloan seek 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 examples that illustrate why you meet the desired criteria above, and be addressed to Mr. Rod Garcia, Senior Director of Admissions (300 words or fewer, excluding address and salutation).
Let’s start by interpreting/translating that opening blurb:
“MIT Sloan seek students whose personal characteristics demonstrate that they will make the most of the incredible opportunities at MIT, both academic and non-academic.”
Basically, they’re saying: “Since résumés flatten a person from 3D to 2D, we’re hoping the essay portion will give us a hint in that direction of what your particular “personal characteristics” are. We are on a quest to find those whose presence will enhance the experience of other students, because the net effect of a single person bettering others will be nonstop betterment in every imaginable direction, the net effect of which is maximal success for the class and, most practically, of the individuals who comprise that class.”
So, MIT is going to look for evidence of two things:
That you have something in your experiences, achievements, personality, leadership style, whathaveyou, that would be beneficial to others.
That you seem like the kind of person who will “lean forward” to have that impact on others, and that you’re not just a taker.
Now, onto the next part of that blurb:
“We seek thoughtful leaders with exceptional intellectual abilities and the drive and determination to put their stamp on the world.”
MIT chose the phrase “exceptional intellectual abilities” on purpose because it goes beyond classic indicators of “intelligence” on a résumé, or through GMAT/GRE scores. “Exceptional” intellectual abilities includes dimensions like “thinking of stuff most other people wouldn’t have” or “questioning long-held truths because something about those truths bothers you” or “succeeding at an attempted solution where countless others have failed.” If you have evidence of THAT kind of intellectual capability, take them on the SCENIC route. They’re saying that the Sloan School of Management welcomes people who are independent, authentic, and fearlessly creative — true doers. In other words, they want to get the sense that where there’s a status quo, you’re the person who has an itch to disrupt it, and has a track record of doing so.
They want to get the sense that in a situation where others might have played it safe and tried to hit an iron shot into the center of the fairway, you put yourself on the line, took a risk, and reached for your driver, knowing that you might fail, but having the belief in yourself and the courage to follow through on your will. They want people who can redefine solutions to conventional problems, and strive to preempt unconventional dilemmas with cutting-edge ideas, because when someone is uncomfortable with “the way things are,” good things tend to happen from a business perspective. Basically they’re saying “Show us that discomfort with the status quo. We demand integrity and respect passion,” but then again, who doesn’t.
Putting it all Together – Part 1
There are two themes that jump out in that intro:
Intellectual Might – No real surprise here, but it’s a specific brand of intellect. The one that’s coupled with that second component:
Restlessness – Sitting around, doing what you’re told to do, choosing NOT to “re-open the case because someone else said that it was unsolvable,” having a great idea, but not having the time to pursue it – these are all the OPPOSITE of the person who’s restless. The restless person is always lusting for some opportunity to improve something, change the game, break the mold.
The smart person alone who lacks restlessness isn’t all that interesting. Similarly, a restless person who isn’t a next-level problem solver is still attractive (and maybe worth taking a risk on), but MIT is lucky enough to have the kind of demand where they can screen for the guys and gals who have BOTH.
Putting it all Together – Part 2
Great, so, now we have a couple themes to make sure we’re going to PROVE in our cover letters: (1) I’m as intellectually next-level as it gets, but also (2) my arch nemesis is the Status Quo. Cool so… how does one… execute… that… in a cover letter?
Awesome question. Let’s step back for a second. What’s an actual cover letter like in real life? In first-date terms, it’s the VERY first impression. The first time you LAY EYES on your date. It’s the way that person LOOKS to you. It’s the body language that sends either attractive or unattractive signals. In other words, it’s mostly animal instinct. In fact, let’s run with that. In animal interaction terms, it’s “is this other animal a harmless friend? Or a predator? What cues do I have from the LOOK of this animal, and the WAY IT MOVES to provide an answer to that?”
It’s important to consider this deeply. Because the “impression” we’re talking about happens very quickly and does not tap into the more evolved (and relaxed) part of our brains that care about nuance. Why is this significant? Because it’s different from an essay where the reader is generally poised to spot you that first impression, and “hear what you have to say.”
The cover letter is the moment before all that where you have to EARN that next part. This has implications for STYLE and HOW you write your cover letter. It’s one of the few instances on an MBA application where HOW you attack this is almost as important as WHAT you’re attacking with. You can’t just write your way into seeming like a forward-leaning, restless person. You have to COME ACROSS that way in your actual writing. You can’t take your time proving that you’re intellectually next-level over the course of four or five sentences. It has to be evident right at the beginning in “the way you look” and “in your body language.”
Writing cover letters is a true art form, and in our experience the meek and conventional are almost NEVER rewarded. Boldness, assertiveness, risk-taking, authority, confidence, borderline brazen-ness… these are all desirable qualities in a kickass cover letter. Just shy of being smug (no one likes smugness). This is the part where you smirk to yourself, and find your swagger before you put pen to paper.
Now for the actual 300 words themselves, you need to convey a bunch of things:
I understand what your program is, and what you’re looking for.
I LIKE your program and I want to be in it BECAUSE (this is the part that most people miss) your program helps me get to where *I* need to go better than any other place.
Now I’m going to give you just a taste that will make YOU ultimately want to chase ME, and not the other way around. Let me walk you through an example or two of what it is that I’m all about. You’ll see within these glimpses (1) that I’m a restless m*********er, (2) My intellect has a headache because it keeps hitting the ceiling, and (3) that I understand what an MBA can do for me, and that my energy right now to TAKE FROM and CONTRIBUTE TO an MBA program is a net win for everyone: me, my classmates, MIT, and eventually… the world, once I’m out of here.
That may sound like a lot for 300 words, and in some ways it is. But, if you stay intensely focused on those three bullets, no matter how long your first draft ends up being, you’re going to have EXCELLENT clay to mold. If you have a natural tendency to write in a tone that isn’t too stiff and has some personality, then great. Your work will be easier. If you DON’T have that natural flair for letting personality invigorate your prose, fret not. Stay focused on those three bullets. Try not to deviate. And you’ll end up with something that’s (at its worst) extremely targeted. Targeted = confident. There’s always room to infuse drafts with some personality, but the hard part is getting the core content NAILED.
MIT Sloan School of Management MBA Résumé
Please submit a résumé that includes your employment history and academic record in reverse chronological order. Other information appropriate to a business resume is welcomed and encouraged (no more than 1 page in length).
We have lots to say about résumés… including all the juicy nuggets contained in this entire guide we created specifically to help you write a killer one-pager. But let’s key in on a few CHOICE words from MIT here.
Reverse chronological order is fairly standard, but the fact that they’re throwing a spotlight on it is a hint that either or both (1) some folks do it the opposite way and LEAD with earlier stuff, like college, and then whatever comes next, but maybe more interestingly (2) that the truly important stuff is the most recent few years of your life.
The dialogue in the reader’s head probably goes something like “Let me get a quick gauge about where this person is at RIGHT now, what s/he’s up to, and what s/he’s achieving TODAY. Got it, now, let me get a sense of the career ARC. Where did this person start out, what was s/he achieving at any given moment, but also, does his trajectory from one node to the next feel sluggish? Or does this person feel like a juggernaut? Is s/he just blowing out the competition left and right, or is s/he doing serviceable-level work? Where does it seem like it’s all headed?
Anyway, use reverse chronological order to offer up that initial high-level glimpse, then they can dip as far back as they need to get as much as of the story as they care to.
The other neat thing worth mentioning is this: “Other information appropriate to a business résumé is welcomed and encouraged.” On the one hand they’re talking about stuff like community service and volunteer activity, but also, they’re asking you to “unflatten” the 2D portrait of yourself with dimension in the form of skills, hobbies, interests, quirks; in other words “stuff that may be unique to you and/or interesting as hell to read about. Some folks go to this section FIRST before scanning the rest, to hunt for signs of life. Have fun here folks. Include FUN stuff. Include weird stuff. Cool talents, weird talents, weird anything. You’ll want someone to reel you in because you CAN go overboard. But take a swing. Straightforward and lifeless just puts that much more pressure on the REST of your writing to provide all the personality and color. This is an easy way to INSTANTLY stand out against a person with a similar “résumé.”
MIT Sloan School of Management MBA Video Prompt
Please introduce yourself to your future classmates via a brief video statement. You will need to use an internet-connected computer, with a webcam and microphone. As part of the application review, the Admission Committee will evaluate your response to see how you express yourself and to assess fit with the MIT Sloan culture. The simple, open-ended question is designed to help us get to know you better.
Please make sure you are using a working Internet connection not wireless or shared wireless connection. If your Internet is not a strong signal you will not be able to upload. Please also make sure you have the most up to date browser.
You will need to use an internet-connected computer with a webcam and microphone.
We suggest using Google Chrome* or Firefox as your browser.
If using Google Chrome – please click the camera icon in your browser to allow the site to access your microphone. If you are having issues with your microphone please re-start your computer for Google Chrome to access your microphone.
Once the video statement question is viewed you will have 60 seconds to prepare, and then 60 seconds to record your answer.
You will only have one attempt to record your response.
How on Earth can you prepare for something when you don’t know what they’re gonna ask!? Well, lots of ways:
Step 1: Know Your Greatest Hits. What are the absolute best stories you have, lifetime, ever? Get acquainted with them according to category. Stuff like, what are my one or two best:
Funny Moments at Work Stories?
Funny Moments Outside of Work Stories?
Stories That Capture the ESSENCE of who I am?
Business Ideas that would change the world?
People I admire?
Favorite Movies (or books or songs or bands)?
Step 2: Get a feel for what 1 minutes is. In fact, get a feel for what 50-55 seconds is. Answer some of these questions within that timeframe. Write out a response, look at it on the page. How many sentences is it? Get comfortable with 1 minute.
Step 3: Record yourself ten times, answering ten different questions. How do you look? Are you looking at the camera? Or are you looking AT YOURSELF ON SCREEN WHILE RECORDING? Are you fidgeting? Are you moving your hands too much? Are you stumbling over words? Are you reading from a script?
Step 4: Get comfortable to the point where you no longer need to feel rehearsed, or nervous. Copy a list of “interview” questions, keep them hidden, and then test yourself by revealing a question, give yourself 60 seconds to come up with a response, and then record a response in 60 seconds. Do this enough times, and you’ll start to develop “IQ” for “this kind of question.”
The worst thing you can do? Seem overly rehearsed. Meaning, don’t rehearse and deliver exact sentences. It will defeat the purpose of the ENTIRE experiment. The point is to relax the bad kind of nerves to allow your free-est self to SHINE. For some folks, this comes utterly naturally, and honestly, they can skip maybe all those steps. Others might benefit from some dry runs just so that there’s a better chance at real assertiveness and confidence on “the big day.”
This is not the time for you to convince someone how smart you are, how good a leader you are, how much of a restless intellectual you are——this is the part where you get the other to LIKE you and WANNA GET TO KNOW YOU MORE because you come across irresistible in some way shape or form. This is 100% about personality, and 0% about résumé. If we watch this video and say “wow, what an impressive person!” you shanked it. If, however, we say “holy crap I would KILL to meet that person” or “Man, I’d like to invite THAT person to a dinner party,” then congrats, because that’s the correct reaction.
If you’re not naturally gifted in extemporaneous speaking, then there are things you can do to develop some of that swagger. Those steps above may be worth considering as a starting point.
MIT Sloan School of Management MBA Interview Invitation Essay
Those invited to interview will be asked to answer the following question: 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. Please share with us something about your past that aligns with this mission. (250 words or fewer).
Details for submitting your essay will be included in the interview invitation.
They could just have asked…
“Please share a leadership story,” or “Please provide evidence that you can lead large teams,” or “Please prove that you have the ability to grow a business.” But they’re clearly looking for something else. Let’s find it.
Let’s isolate a few phrases: “principled, innovative leaders,” “improve the world,” and “advance management practice.” If you’re able to draw a line between something in your (recent) past and at least one of those phrases, you’re in good shape. Don’t strain too hard to nab all of em. They’re connected.
Here’s a trick for teasing out the correct story to tell, and then telling it in the right way.
Step 1 – Generate a short list of some of your stronger “leader” or “business” or “decision-making” moments.
Step 2 – Isolate the gear-churning moment for each one that shows why you acted “better” than a competitor might have. “I chose X over Y action, whereas most others would have chosen Y.” Or “I was able to do A because of B skill/talent that others don’t have.”
Step 3 – Now see if you can say, “But it wasn’t just about succeeding in this moment to … improve the bottom line, hit our deadline, get through this impossible challenge, etc.” Because… it was about more than that.
A principle that I believe in that transcended this isolated business moment. A thirst for innovation that had larger implications than success in this moment. A desire to improve the world, through my example. A desire to improve management practice itself.
The worst thing you can do is take a strong “resume” moment, and shoehorn those principles in, “oh and in doing so I was clearly trying to advance management practice and mission accomplished, you’re all welcome!”
One of the best ways to show how genuine you are may, in fact, require a story where you didn’t succeed in the conventional sense, BECAUSE of your commitment to succeed along one of these other, loftier principles. Again, resist the temptation to take a failure story and tack on the idea that “but I failed because of my commitment to advance the world, when you really look at it, I’m a hero!”
It’s subtler than that.
The best version will be some moment where you could have chosen REASONABLE PATH X, but instead chose OTHER PATH Y that may or may not have succeeded in conventional measures, because of your commitment to these deeper principles and aspirations. Take us through THAT decision node: explain Reasonable Path X, but show us why you took on some risk and went with Other Path Y (over Path X), highlighting the importance of what that choice signifies to you specifically.
And that's that. Helpful, eh? If you have any questions on it or MIT Sloan or anything, just reply here or shoot us a PM. And if you want more Essay Analysis Goodness, check out more schools here. We're updating 'em daily as new prompts are released, so keep checking back.
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