Your three MIT Sloan Fellows essays must collectively convey the unmistakable message that you surpass your peers through consistently outstanding impact, and that you are destined to become a leader in your company and even industry. Simultaneously, the essays must convey fit with MIT Sloan’s enduring emphasis on being an innovative, principled leader and agent of change. Use the three essays to present different aspects of your experience and your character, to show that you envision and drive change, and to portray your rightful place in the “global leadership community.”
There is a notable commonality among the two essay questions: their emphasis on reflection, self-awareness, and synthesizing your experience. MIT SF adcom wants people who are thoughtful and probing.
Statement of Objectives: What are your immediate (1 – 5 years) and ultimate (>15 years) professional objectives for attending the program? Specifically, please indicate your objectives and how they fit with the purposes of the MIT Sloan Fellows Program. How would your unique background contribute to the diversity of the Sloan Fellows community? (500 words or less, limited to one page)
Let’s break this question into its three parts:
First, your professional objectives. Be specific about position, company/industry, expected scope of responsibilities, and vision for what you want to accomplish. Give more detail for the 1-5 year segment. For the longer term goals, show direction – but not as detailed.
Second, your objectives’ fit with the program. Identify and describe specific aspects of your objectives that align with the values and purposes of the program. Focus on the 2-3 key elements of this fit – fewer, with thoughtful discussion, is far better than a “laundry list” of fit points.
Third, your potential contributions to the community. Again, focus on the 2-3 key aspects. “Unique background” certainly could refer to professional background, and it can also include other relevant, interesting factors and experiences if they represent a potential contribution, such as intimate knowledge of a poorly represented geographic region. This section can be tricky – interesting facts alone don’t show potential contribution; you need to add your insight to make it meaningful.
Essay 1: Reflect on your effectiveness as a leader and give us an example of how you have leveraged your strengths to demonstrate ethical and innovative leadership. Now consider the leader you aspire to be – what are the areas of personal development you want to focus on in this program to become that leader? (500 words or less)
This convoluted question needs to be deciphered before it’s answered. There are three parts: (1) the story (example) of your leadership, (2) your reflection on your related strengths, and (3) your developmental needs.
To make the most of the 500 words, select an example/story that portrays leadership that has ethical and innovative dimensions AND involves your leadership strengths. Also, look for a story/example that has as many of these elements as possible:
• Your performance in a high level environment
• Straightforward to describe
• Reflects an aspect(s) of your experience that you want to strategically highlight.
Here is an effective, simple structure: Start right in with the story – the example.
As you narrate the story, “zoom in” on your actions that show your strengths and present an ethical and/or innovative component. Next, explicitly identify your strengths and briefly discuss how they helped you lead (keeping in mind that the story really will actually show this). Last, identify and reflect on 2-3 leadership areas you want to develop within the program.
Essay 2: Tell us about the most challenging experience you have had in trying to collaborate with a person or group who did not share the same ideas. What did you learn from this experience and did it change the way you dealt with similar situations afterwards? (500 words or less)
When the question says “the most,” you must present an experience of major significance – whether it happened yesterday or years ago. I’ve seen people reflexively respond to this question with stories about how they convinced people of their point (“got people onboard”) – but it’s not necessarily about trying to convince people. If you give the essay that emphasis, the adcom may worry that you are more self-focused and less substance-focused, i.e., more concerned with getting your way than with listening and weighing different ideas. In your story, you may or may not convince people of your own idea – that’s not the main point. It’s really about (a) how receptive and discerning you are with a range of ideas, and how you sift through them, and (b) how you respond to other people and the group (the group dynamic and your role in it) when there are different ideas in play.
Again, I suggest a simple structure: tell the story, then reflect on what you learned, and give a brief example of how you applied that learning subsequently.
Deadlines: Round 1: September 28, 2015; Round 2: November 9, 2015; Round 3: January 18, 2016