In my experience assisting MIT Sloan Fellows applicants for over a decade (Successes every year, and last year all of my MIT Sloan Fellows clients were accepted), I have seen consistently that the adcom values applicants who, among other things, demonstrate consistent outstanding impact and are on track to become leaders in their company and even industry (“high performing” per the MIT SF website). While your application as a whole should convey these points about you, the essays are an ideal opportunity to make the case affirmatively and directly, with example and detail.
Simultaneously, use the essays to convey fit with MIT Sloan’s enduring emphasis on being a proactive, innovative leader and agent of change – as the Sloan Fellows’ website says, “individuals who aren’t satisfied with the status quo and have demonstrated their ability to effect change.”
The essays together should create a vibrant, holistic view of your candidacy:
• The Statement of Objectives, which serves as a lens and sets the context for understanding your candidacy
• Two “story” essays delving into different aspects of your experience – at least one of these should be relatively recent, to strategically show you performing at your highest level organizationally
• A video essay focusing on (for most applicants certainly) a non-work aspect of your life and showing how you engage people personally.
As you select your essay topics and prepare the essays, keep this holistic picture in mind – especially important given the expectation that each MIT Sloan Fellow contribute substantially and distinctively among highly accomplished peers.
Statement of Objectives: What are your immediate and ultimate professional objectives and, specifically, how will the MIT Sloan Fellows Program help you to achieve them? What unique contributions will you bring to enrich the experience and 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; after all, that’s really what you’ll be bringing to the table.
Think about an instance when you were on a team which did not work well together. What challenges did you face and what did you learn from this experience? (500 words or less, limited to one page)
In selecting a story for this essay, keep the focus on the difficult team dynamics. In addition, be strategic – look for a story that shows an aspect of your work that is particularly interesting and/or impactful and/or represents diversity in some way and/or impressive. (Keep in mind essay 2 to ensure you are portraying different elements.)
Use a story-based structure, which is both efficient and engaging for the reader. First, set the scene briefly – what, where, when, who – and clarify what was at stake for the team. Next, narrate the story, clarifying your specific role in the events. The challenges you faced should be woven into the story. Provide your perspective at key moments: what were you thinking, feeling, saying. Conclude the story with the team’s results.
After the story, add a short paragraph reflecting on what you learned from the experience. I recommend 1-3 points derived specifically from the story. Avoid generic lessons here. And ideally add a sentence or two noting how you applied one of those lessons subsequently.
Please describe a time when you made a significant positive impact to an organization that demonstrates your ability to lead. (500 words or less, limited to one page)
When you discuss a “significant positive impact” for a MIT Sloan essay, I suggest finding one that is “bottom line plus.” By that I mean, one you can quantify in some way or for some aspect, but that also extends beyond mere numbers to include change, even in some small way. And this change will likely be related to your demonstrated ability to lead.
Here too (as in essay 1), follow a straightforward story approach to structure the essay –make it a story of your leadership. Use your leadership role as the lens for telling the story. Unlike essay 1, you do not need to include anything about what you learned. I’ve found that it’s almost intuitive for people to add that that the end (“What I learned from this experience is…”) even when it’s not asked. I’ve found pretty consistently that with only 500 words and a compelling story, it’s a much more powerful to just end, if additional reflection isn’t requested. It lets the story reverberate, and it conveys confidence.
Please choose one of the questions below, and upload a video (90 second maximum) of you responding to the question.
• What are you passionate about?
• Tell us something that we would be surprised to learn about you.
• What do you like to do for fun?
Video can be uploaded on the Multimedia tab
Video: .avi, .flv, .m1v, .m2v, .m4v, .mkv, .mov, .mpeg, .mpg, .mp4, .webm, .wmv
In deciding your topic, respond to the “tone” of the question – it’s kind of begging for something that will make the viewer of the video smile. It doesn’t have to be hilarity – it can be a warm smile or a delighted smile or a charmed smile or a moved smile or a surprised smile.
You can certainly, with an effective presentation, simply discuss your chosen topic on the video. Given the wording of the question, “…of you responding to the question…,” you must be in it and should be the key visual component. But since it’s a visual medium, you could, and I believe should, if the topic warrants, show some aspect of your topic as well (e.g. if you’re discussing your hands-on restoration of an old farmhouse in answer to “tell us something we would be surprised to learn about you,” set the video in the location and walk us through). Keep in mind that it is a visual presentation, not just an essay spoken aloud.
If you aren’t accustomed to doing video presentations, practice and expect to put some effort into visual elements like background and lighting. Keep the background simple, clean, and uncluttered. Have the light behind the camera and shining on you.
Additional Information (a separate question in the application):
Please use this section to include any additional information that you believe is important for the Program to have when evaluating your application that you have not been able to address elsewhere.
If needed, use this space to address a weakness in your profile or qualifications. You can also use it to explain things that are not weaknesses but still need explaining (lack of recommendation from a boss or gap in resume for understandable reason). This question also allows you to discuss a diversity element in your personal background or simply some unique – and relevant — area of interest.
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***
MIT Sloan Fellows Deadlines:
By Cindy Tokumitsu, author and co-author of numerous ebooks, articles, and special reports, including Why MBA and Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One. Cindy has advised hundreds of successful applicants in her fifteen years with Accepted.