Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan) Essay Analysis

Note: The following essay questions pertain to the previous academic year. This section will be updated when the new question are released in early to mid-July of 2008. 

Because Sloan’s questions are so broad, many candidates play a “shell game” of sorts, optimizing the mix of stories. For example, a story about an “impact on a group or organization” may also be applicable as story about a “time when you executed on a plan.” Candidates should heed this flexibility and give extra thought to their essay selection in order to ensure that they are creating a sufficiently diverse picture of themselves and their experiences.

Essay 1: Please tell us about a time when you had an impact on a group or organization. Describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did.

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 exercised your influence and brought about a new and better reality.

Essay 2: Please tell us about a challenging interaction you had with a person or group. Describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did.

It is important to note that “challenging” need not be interpreted as “heated.” In this essay, you do not have to tell the story of a confrontation, but need to show the reader that you encountered a dynamic that was difficult to navigate and, of course (despite the fact that the question does not ask for it), diplomatically attempted to resolve or did resolve the problem. Through your efforts at resolution, you will reveal your character and management/team/interpersonal style to the Admissions Committee; so it is important that you carefully consider the message that you send via your actions. Ask yourself objectively, “Am I revealing ‘Sloan-friendly’ qualities?”

Essay 3: Please tell us about a time when you defended your idea. Describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did.

Each year, Sloan has a question about your ability to advocate, persuade or, in this case, defend an idea. Again, in terms of semantics, the word to take notice of in this essay is “your” in “your idea.” This is not an opportunity for you to discuss a time when you advocated for someone else – you need to “own” this idea to answer the question properly. Of course, your ownership will have its foil – those who do not believe in it. While it is important that you show that you defended your idea passionately, it is also vital that you show that you were not stubborn or inflexible. You want to show that you were willing to consider alternatives and reason through counterarguments. Although this is not a rule, many successful essays will show that you were persuasive and succeeded in changing minds.

Essay 4: Please tell us about a time when you executed a plan. Describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did.

Essay one is about impact, which pertains to results; essay four is about execution, which creates a bias toward the process itself.  In this essay, you will lead the reader not through the mechanics of a business implementation, but through your process as you were taken by a possibility and gathered the resources and momentum to see it through. Again, in this essay there may be elements of advocacy or persuasion that enter into the process. What is important to note is that this should not be a “hard” business case, but that the Admissions Committee will come to understand your personality through your actions; so, you will need to concentrate on the “soft” aspects of the process as well (indeed – “what you thought, felt, said and did”).

Cover Letter

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 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 that 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.

While MIT has its differences, there are still some “global” fundamentals that apply to this Personal Statement. Thus, we offer our “MBA Mission Personal Statement Guide” to you, free of charge, via our online store.  Please feel free to download your copy today.

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