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Posted by Chioma Isiadinso
The MIT Sloan School of Management asks applicants to answer two questions, with the following instructions: “We are interested in learning more about you. In each of the essays, please describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did. Please draw upon experiences which have occurred in the past three years.”
Essay 1: 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. Discuss how you will contribute toward advancing the mission based on examples of past work and activities. (500-word limit)
A successful essay here will give examples of two things- when your principles were tested and when your innovation drove a project forward. You could use one example to showcase both of these things, or use a series of smaller examples to show a pattern. Place these examples early in the essay, to draw the reader into your narrative. Think of yourself as a storyteller- don’t forget MIT’s injunction to share what you thought and felt, as well as what you did.
Next, build a bridge between the examples of past action and your hopes for future action. How will you use what you learned? How do your career goals align with MIT’s mission? What can other students learn from your experiences? Be specific, and don’t forget to include the mission terminology that they have given you- principles, innovations, improvements, and ideas. Conclude by looking to the future- both the opportunities at MIT Sloan and what you hope to do with your MBA degree.
Essay 2: Write a professional letter of recommendation on behalf of yourself. Answer the following questions as if you were your most recent supervisor recommending yourself for admission to the MIT Sloan MBA Program. (750 word limit).
This is one of the most involved essay questions demanded of this year’s applicants. It is very important to keep point-of-view in mind, as you are supposed to be writing from the perspective of your supervisor. This means that most of the examples you draw on should be professional in nature.
You will also need to distinguish this essay from your real recommendation letters, which, in many cases, are also coming from your supervisor. If you have prepped your recommenders and shared your personal brand with them, striking that balance will be a bit easier. Just try to align your essay with your personal brand, while providing a range of specific examples. That should help complement the real recommendation while adding fresh insight.
Now, let’s break down each section.
How long and in what capacity have you known the applicant?
This one is a bit odd given all of the point-of-view twists, but just be straightforward and, using your supervisor’s viewpoint, state how long you have worked together. For example- “I have been John’s direct supervisor since he joined Company X as an investment analyst in 2010.”
How does the applicant stand out from others in a similar capacity?
Use themes from your personal brand and examples from your workplace to answer this question. When possible, provide tangible metrics of how your performance has gone above and beyond to help your company. I would use a good bit of your word count in this section, as it is a key question that MBA admissions board members will be asking themselves.
Please give an example of the applicant’s impact on a person, group or organization.
Think about what you might say to your supervisor during a performance review. How have you impacted your team’s performance? Have you mentored anyone at work? Have your insights changed anyone’s mind? Have you helped your department to grow? Choose one-two examples and be as specific as possible. Don’t say, “John has helped our department to increase its output and better serve clients.” That is far too generic. Instead, try something like, “John’s independence and sharp analytical mind have made him a go-to problem solver within his four-person team. The quality of the team’s deliverables has only gone up since he joined, and several clients are now requesting his team for reports.” Again, this a good place to dedicate a large chunk of your word count. You want business school MBA admissions board members to see you as an impactful student.
Please give a representative example of how the applicant interacts with other people.
Specificity is key. Focus on examples of how your actions and words have motivated others to achieve their full potential. You want to highlight your value as a team member, clearly, but without arrogance. The easiest way to do this is to tell a story focused around a specific incident or interaction.
Which of the applicant’s personal or professional characteristics would you change?
This is perhaps the trickiest part of a tricky question. You need to choose a characteristic that is legitimately challenging, but that would not be a “deal breaker” for an employer. Think about why you are seeking an MBA- what do you want to change about yourself? Where do you think you can improve? Be candid, and end this part by focusing on how growth in certain areas could catalyze your career, and how the MBA might facilitate that.
Please tell us anything else you think we should know about this applicant.
This catch-all question offers a final opportunity to cover the elements of your personal brand. If there is one you have missed, now is the time to highlight it. I would end with a simple, earnest statement. Avoid anything too over-the-top, such as, “It would be a devastating mistake to not admit someone as outstanding as John.” Just remind the reader that you are qualified, that you are very passionate about seeking this degree, and that you will use the degree to make an impact in your field.
Before you turn this one in, make sure to proofread (of course) and specifically, to watch out for point-of-view. It is easy to forget that you are supposed to be writing as your supervisor- beware of any slips into your own voice.
For more information, visit MIT Sloan’s website.
MIT Sloan MBA Application Deadlines: Round 1- September 23; Round 2- January 8