MIT Sloan Admissions Essays for 2012-2013

MIT Sloan has released its admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2015. Sloan has made some tweaks this year, including dropping an essay, which continues a trend that we have seen among top MBA programs so far this year. However, the school’s famous cover letter returns. This cover letter is still unique among other top MBA programs’ application essays; apparently its still works well enough that the Sloan admissions committee wants to keep it around.

Here are Sloan’s application essays for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:

MIT Sloan Cover Letter
Please prepare a cover letter (up to 500 words) seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA program. Your letter should describe your accomplishments, address any extenuating circumstances that may apply to your application, and conform to standard business correspondence. Your letter should be addressed to Mr. Rod Garcia, Senior Director of Admissions.

This isn’t an admissions essay in the traditional sense, but the cover letter is a rite of passage for MIT Sloan applicants every year. Over the years the prompt has evolved a bit, but at its core it remains the same: It serve as your all-in-one, cut-through-the-noise, “This is who I am, this is what I’ve done, and this is why I want to earn an MBA at MIT Sloan.” Whatever core themes you have decided to emphasize in your application, be sure that they are well represented here.

MIT Sloan Application Essays
We are interested in learning more about how you work, think, and act. For each essay, please provide a brief overview of the situation followed by a detailed description of your response. Please limit the experiences you discuss to those which have occurred in the past three years.

In each of the essays, please describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did.

  1. Please describe a time when you had to convince a person or a group of your idea. (500 words)

    This question carries over from last year with just some very subtle tweaking. Last year, Sloan’s questions (including for its cover letter) put a great deal of emphasis on the traits that demonstrate leadership. Sloan has toned it down a bit this year, but you can be certain that Sloan admissions officers are still looking for leaders in the applicant pool. If you just read that last sentence and thought, “Uh oh, I’ve never managed anyone or been a team lead,” don’t despair. That’s not how Sloan (or any top MBA program) defines leadership. One practical definition of leadership is the ability to positively influence others, and Sloan directly asks for an example of that ability with this question. Even if your example feels fairly mundane (such as an engineer convincing other engineers to pursue a certain technical solution), you will be successful if you can show real skill maturity in HOW you go it done. That’s what MIT Sloan is looking for.
  2. Please describe a time when you overcame a personal setback. (500 words)

    This question is new this year, and it also addresses some of the traits that admissions officers look for in emerging leaders: the ability to objectively take a challenge and setback and turn it into something positive, coming out better in the end. Many applicants see “setback” and think, “Oh no, a failure essay,” but you shouldn’t be afraid to write about a failure or shortcoming. (You also don’t need to write about one of these… a setback could also be something that happens to you, such as a devastating sports injury.) In fact, writing a response about overcoming a failure or weakness will usually more powerful than answering with “My biggest challenge was completing a marathon.” While that may sound impressive, it’s far less revealing than a story about a time when you had to make a more fundamental change to who you are as a person and as a leader.

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