MIT can be applauded for taking a straightforward approach to their essays. Each of the four essays are flexible enough that you can showcase your diverse talents/strengths and dimensions of your personality, but are still quite clear in their demands on you as an applicant.
Essay 1: Please tell us about a time when you had an impact on a person, group, or organization. Describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did (500 words or less).
In this essay, you will need to show a clear cause and effect relationship, between your actions and the resulting implication for others. A successful essay will show how you took specific steps to produce the desired results, focus on the results themselves and then, most importantly, add a reflective element, explaining the personal significance or learning, via the experience. This is a leadership essay and while it does not demand that you exemplify rousing “Churchillian” leadership, the goal is to show how you exercise your influence and bring about a new and better reality.
Essay 2: Please describe a time when your team had to arrive at a compromise. Describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did (500 words or less).
The committee is clearly interested in how you reason, negotiate and manage yourself amid pressure; you will notice that they are not asking you to discuss a time when you arrived at a compromise, but when you had to arrive at a compromise – the important word being “had”. A well-written essay will likely show two competing sides, offer a decision that needed to be made and showcase how you acted in a diplomatic way to reach consensus and maximize the outcome. Again, the details of your actions are essential; the committee wants to get to know your personal style, so generalities will not do.
Essay 3: Please tell us a time when you advocated for a position. What alternatives did you consider? Describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did (500 words or less).
There is a nuance between essays two and three. Essay two demands that you discuss how you created compromise amid a group, but essay three is more personal and seeks to understand how you evaluate your own thoughts on a position. While you do not need to eliminate external influences in your decision making process, the resolution of the position is entirely your own. Again, even though the end is yours to decide, it is important to show flexibility and open-mindedness along your path. A well written essay will not only show how you came to your own conclusions, but how you were effective in persuading others and gaining support for your point of view, possibly even showing how you ultimately won or lost support for your issue. As in all of these essays, a reflective element at the end or throughout is vital.
Essay 4: Please tell us a time when you put an idea into action. Describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did (500 words or less).
Some are bound to have trouble differentiating between this essay and essay one, above. In this case, the focal point is that you started something, created momentum and ensured that your initiative took hold. Whereas the first essay is seeking to understand the direct outcome of your actions, this essay could be a story about how you took initiative, got others involved and built something bigger than you could have achieved alone. This essay is not limited to such an idea and you can display singular leadership in this space as well, but it is important that whatever path you take, you show that you were the “spark that lit the fuse”.
Prepare a cover letter (up to 500 words) seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA Program. Please comment on your career goals and those factors which influenced you to pursue an MBA education at MIT Sloan. The cover letter provides a chance for you to discuss your passions, values, and interests. Through what you write we hope to discover whether you will thrive at MIT Sloan and how you will contribute to our diverse community. Address your cover letter to Mr. Rod Garcia, Director of MBA Admissions.
MIT is gives you a mere 500 words to discuss career goals, factors that influenced you to pursue your MBA, passions, values and interests and explain how you will thrive and what you will contribute to the program. You will need to be judicious as you draft your letter to Mr. Garcia and ensure that you do not roam throughout, but cover these topics in a systematic and coherent manner. Because the demands of this letter are so extensive and because this is in an unusual cover letter style, you will need to write in a direct personal tone which makes a more acute point about your appropriateness for MIT and engages the reader.
A quick point about your introduction: for some reason candidates feel compelled to start cover letters with “my name is X and I am applying to MIT…” This is a typical and boring introduction offering information that the school already possesses; by creating a different and compelling opening you will grab and hold the attention of an Admissions Officer who has read thousands of these essays.