Mit Sloan Essays Analysis

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:

  1. That you have something in your experiences, achievements, personality, leadership style, whathaveyou, that would be beneficial to others.
  2. 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:

  1. Intellectual Might – No real surprise here, but it’s a specific brand of intellect. The one that’s coupled with that second component:
  2. 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 Essay Topic Analysis 2017-2018

Following up on the release of MIT Sloan’s 2017-2018 application essay prompt, we thought we’d offer some suggestions about how Sloan MBA hopefuls might approach this year’s written materials.

The school has maintained their required cover letter—albeit with a bit more room compared to last year. The video essay is now mandatory and invites applicants to introduce themselves, as opposed to an open-ended optional video for additional information.

MIT / Sloan Essay Topic Analysis 2017-2018

Let’s take a closer look at this year’s MIT / Sloan essays:

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).
Rod Garcia has long likened the MBA application process to the recruiting process; MBA aspirants, just like job applicants, need to demonstrate that they know how to market themselves.  This is why the school requires a cover letter as part of their application.

As you approach this assignment, keep in mind the many standard cover letter themes—your attributes and skills, why you are interested in joining the ‘company’ (MIT / Sloan), and what you feel you could contribute.  These certainly intersect with the ideas covered by other schools’ “career goals” essays, so much so that it may be tempting to simply tack a greeting onto the beginning of a career goals essay you’ve prepared for another program.  MIT’s request for these ideas in a cover letter format, however, actually makes it very easy to spot recycled material, so it’s important that you tailor your response to the school’s unique process.  It’s also worth noting that the Sloan admissions team has been open about their decision to avoid direct questions about ‘why MIT’ or ‘specific career goals’ – so while those themes may play a role in your cover letter, the focus should be largely on who you are and what you have accomplished, as opposed to a simple expression of your love of the program/plans for the future.  With such a limited length, all points must be concise, yet informative.

A potential outline for this essay might open with a couple detailed sentences about who you are and what you would bring to the school; then a short statement of your career goals with a summary of the ways in which your experience to date has prepared you to accomplish them; and finally a brief “why MIT” section explaining why Sloan is the best place for you in terms of what you need from an MBA and your fit with the school, concluding with a thank you.  To effectively convince the adcom that your background is uniquely suited to MIT Sloan, it will be important to conduct a fair amount of research on the program.  Taking the time to learn about MIT’s curriculum, special programs and extracurricular activities—whether through a visit to campus, conversation with alumni or reading the Clear Admit School Guide to MIT Sloan—will pay dividends here.

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.

Instructions:

  • 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.

This year’s video prompt specifies an audience: one’s fellow students (rather than the admissions committee). While a brief mention of your professional background and career goals may be appropriate, we encourage applicants to use this opportunity to showcase elements of their personalities and candidacies that they will not have the chance to address in their other application materials. Perhaps you have a particularly interesting work or extra-curricular experience to share, or a personal accomplishment or aspect of your heritage of which you’re especially proud. By focusing on a range of qualities and characteristics, this video will allow applicants to demonstrate the well-rounded nature of their candidacies even within the minute limit. Speaking of length, do not hesitate to practice your response to ensure that it will be within the time limit—after all, you will only have one chance to record this. You should also record your response on your own and watch it so you can improve before the actual recording. The key caveat here is to not allow the practicing to lead to a robotic/overly rehearsed final video.

As this is a visual presentation that will be recorded live, ensure you are dressed in appropriate professional attire. In terms of a background, clean and steady may work best—you do not want to make the adcom dizzy by taking them on an unsteady walking tour with your laptop. While many applicants will be tempted to introduce props into their video, such as signs, souvenirs, or any prized possessions that might quickly convey who you are, we would like to urge some degree of caution in this domain.  A focused, one-minute, heartfelt introduction (while looking your audience in the eye) may be far more effective than a distracting string of props, signs, charts—each requiring valuable time to make transitions—not to mention careful attention to readability/visibility on screen.  This isn’t to say that displaying a prized souvenir from traveling along the Silk Road in Asia can’t work, it’s just that we want you to think carefully about how to best convey your message on video.

Optional Essay

Please provide any additional information you would like the Admissions Committee to know that may be helpful in evaluating your candidacy (i.e. choice of recommenders, areas of concern in your academic record, other extenuating circumstances, etc.). This information should be provided in a written format (200 words or less).
This prompt offers an opportunity to address elements of one’s application that require explanation (e.g. choice of recommender, a semester of poor undergraduate performance), and may also be an opportunity to share important information that isn’t captured elsewhere in one’s written materials.

Clear Admit Resources
Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s MIT / Sloan MBA essay topic! As you work on your Sloan MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s offerings:

Posted in: Essay Tips & Advice, Essay Topic Analysis, Essays

Schools: MIT Sloan

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