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After giving applicants in 2013–2014 a welcome hiatus from its dreaded “cover letter” essay prompt, the MIT Sloan School of Management reinstated the query last year and has maintained it for this application season as well, though with a slightly augmented word limit (300 versus 250) and additional context as to the kind of content the admissions committee wants to see. Candidates must craft a self-introduction letter to Sloan’s longstanding senior director of admissions, explaining and illustrating their fit with and expectations for participation in the school’s MBA program and community. Applicants must then shift their focus to their future classmates and introduce themselves a second time with this new audience in mind and using a different medium: a 60-second video. Although MIT Sloan has removed the choice of format for this essay and prescribed a specific topic, it is still rather open-ended and, as such, offers a valuable opportunity to provide an interesting new angle (or several angles) on your candidacy and personality. We offer our thoughts on MIT Sloan’s application essays in the following analysis to help you navigate your options…
Cover Letter: MIT Sloan seeks 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).
We strongly advise that you avoid starting your letter with a rote opening like “My name is Bob, and I am seeking a place in the MIT Sloan Class of 2020.” Your admissions reader will likely be asleep before he or she even finishes the sentence! Such information is obvious—we can assure you that the admissions reader is well aware of your desire to be admitted to the MIT Sloan program—and is therefore a waste of precious word count, not to mention that it is hardly the kind of gripping opening that will grab and hold someone’s attention.
The broad scope of this essay prompt allows you a great amount of freedom to choose and share the information you believe is most important for your candidacy. The 300-word maximum is equal to roughly three short paragraphs with which you can make an impression. Informal guidance provided by MIT Sloan’s admissions committee after the release of this same essay question last year indicated that applicants should focus on sharing their personal experiences, accomplishments, values, viewpoints, and/or skills to demonstrate (1) what they can contribute to the school’s greater community as a result and (2) why Sloan’s MBA program in particular is the best one for them. The school does not ask you to outline your post-MBA goals, but if doing so allows you to better substantiate your need or desire for a Sloan MBA specifically, a (very) brief explanation of your aspirations could be appropriate and useful.
After discussing your accomplishments—being careful not to brag!—along with any other elements of your profile that you feel make you a great fit with the school, strive to relate these achievements and qualities to the MIT Sloan experience. Citing specific courses, experiential opportunities, or other relevant resources can help you make a compelling case for your spot in the next incoming class.
VIDEO STATEMENT: Please introduce yourself to your future classmates via a brief 60 second video statement. (This video will be used for application purposes only and will not be shared.) Videos should be a single take (no editing) lasting no more than one minute and consisting of you speaking directly to the camera. We recommend using an application such as QuickTime or iMovie to record yourself.
Upload the video file according to the detailed instructions within the application. We support the following file formats: .avi, .flv, .m1v, .m2v, .m4v, .mkv, .mov, .mpeg, .mpg, .mp4, .webm, .wmv
Should you experience difficulties uploading your file, please ensure that you’re using a modern web browser (Chrome, Firefox, or Safari) on the fastest wired Internet connection available. An intermittent or slow Internet connection can cause uploads to timeout.
Before you do anything else, stop and take a deep, cleansing breath. We know video essays can be scary, but MIT Sloan is not trying to stress you out. The admissions committee simply wants a more dynamic representation of your personality than a written essay can provide, so your primary goal is simply to be as authentic and natural as possible. This is not a job interview, and you are instructed to consider your fellow students your intended audience, which certainly implies that a less rigid and traditionally “professional” demeanor is okay, though you should never be inappropriate or offensive. Do not concern yourself with trying to say the “right” things in your video. The topic here is one you know very well—you! A good brainstorming tactic is to imagine meeting someone for the first time at a party or other event and to think about the kinds of questions you might ask one another in the process of getting acquainted. What kind of information would you want to know about this person, and what facts about yourself would you be most eager to share, as a way of conveying who you are and making a connection? (You can even Google “icebreaker questions” to find examples of these sorts of questions.) Take some time to delve into your personality in this way.
Keep in mind that even though in the scenario the school presents, you are supposed to be addressing your fellow students, your actual audience will be the admissions committee, so put some thought into what the school will already have learned about you from your cover letter essay and the other portions of your application. You do not want to repeat any of that information unless the impression you are trying to create would be truly lacking without it. Do not use the video as an opportunity to pitch your candidacy or to pander to the school. This is not the time to detail your career goals or express your admiration for the program. You have only one minute in which to make an impression, and even without knowing you personally, we are confident that you have more to your character than can be conveyed in a mere 60 seconds—so do not waste any of them!
Given that this is a video, you will want to pay some extra attention to the clothing you will wear, your tone of voice, your language style, and other such details. In the end, your message is what is most important, so no fancy bells or whistles are needed, but if you are a more creative type, you might consider ways of nonverbally communicating some of your strongest attributes and key aspects of your life to help permeate your submission with as much information as possible. For example, if you are an avid baker, consider filming your video while standing in a kitchen, perhaps wearing an apron (if you typically do so) and surrounded by the ingredients and tools you need to create one of your favorite recipes. If you are a dedicated guitar player, perhaps strum your guitar as you speak. If you are especially confident, you could even sing about yourself! Think about what makes you who you are today, decide what you most want to share with your future classmates, and then let your creativity flow.
On a practical note, be sure to speak clearly. You naturally do not want any part of your message to be lost or misunderstood, and the admissions committee may view your communication skills and style as indicators of how you might interact with your classmates and/or speak in the classroom. Although we recommend spending some time practicing in front of a mirror or a friend, do not overrehearse. You still want to come across as genuine and natural.
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. We believe that a commitment to diversity, inclusion, equity, and well-being is a key component of both principled leadership and sound management practice. In 250 words or less, please describe how you, as a member of the MIT Sloan community, would work to create a campus that is welcoming, inclusive and increasingly diverse. Details for submitting your essay will be included in the interview invitation.
In business school—as in life in general—you will encounter people who think differently from you, operate according to different values, and react differently to the same stimuli. And success in an endeavor often involves evaluating and incorporating the views of others in one’s efforts. Via this essay, MIT Sloan hopes to learn how you view and approach such differences. Once enrolled in the school’s MBA program, you will be surrounded every day by individuals who are unlike you in a multitude of ways, and you will need to work in tandem with and alongside these individuals when analyzing case studies, completing group projects, and participating in other activities both inside and outside the classroom. Note that the school’s prompt does not ask about simply being part of a “welcoming, inclusive and increasingly diverse” community but about actually helping to cultivate one. The admissions committee wants to know that you are comfortable within such a dynamic, of course, but in this case, it is especially interested in hearing what skills and mind-set you have that could be beneficial in bringing various people together in a harmonious and productive way.
We assume that you have already researched the school well by now in the process of deciding to apply to MIT Sloan in the first place and also in crafting your application. We therefore hope that along the way, you have been able to identify certain areas and opportunities at the school that speak to or connect with you personally, places where you can bring your enthusiasm or know-how to the table for the benefit of others. We realize you have limited space with which to work for this essay, but you must go beyond simply listing the campus organizations/events/resources through which you would engage and make your contribution and clearly communicate the why and how behind your intentions. For example, perhaps you plan to join the Sloan Jewish Students Organization and have always really enjoyed your family’s annual Seder. You might then state that you aspire to organize and lead the first Passover Seder on the MIT Sloan campus, thereby introducing others to an important element of your religion and creating an opportunity to experience this traditional custom alongside your Jewish classmates. Or, if you expect to join the MIT Sloan Entrepreneurship & Innovation Club, perhaps you would discuss how daunting entrepreneurial lingo can be. Then you could explain how you would establish and run a workshop to help those with limited exposure to the field understand and develop a familiarity with the vernacular, which could serve as an important part of their foundational knowledge base. Of course, these are just examples, and the contributions you make need not be exclusive to clubs but must simply be personal to you.
To add a level of credibility to your claim and increase the admissions committee’s confidence that you will actually follow through on your stated intentions, include a brief reference to a time in the past when you did something similar. You want to assure the school that you are not simply offering a nice-sounding idea but one you truly aim to—and can—fulfill. So, for example, if you were to suggest the campus-wide Seder idea, you might describe the time you invited your entire community-league soccer team to your family’s celebration and how you walked your fellow players through the various stages of the tradition. This kind of reference to a related past situation will illustrate that you have some firsthand understanding of how to facilitate such an endeavor and that you must have seen some benefit from the undertaking, given your interest in revisiting the idea.
Be assured that like all other application essay questions, this one has no “right” answer, so do not try to guess and deliver what you think the school wants to hear. Authenticity and enthusiasm are the keys to your success here.
Many MBA candidates find admissions interviews stressful and intimidating, but mastering this important element of the application process is definitely possible—the key is informed preparation. We therefore offer our free Interview Primers to spur you along! Download your free copy of the MIT Sloan School of Management Interview Primer today.
For a thorough exploration of the MIT Sloan academic program, unique offerings, social life, and other key characteristics, be sure to download your complimentary copy of the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the MIT Sloan School of Management.