M = Motivation

MBA Admissions A-Z: 26 Great TipsA good application essay is comprised of both anecdote and analysis, the what and the why of your personal experiences. Telling a straight story (anecdote without analysis) will leave your essay flat, with no depth or insight into your character or motivations; on the other hand, an essay that rattles on about the why but omits the what will be boring and overly theoretical, lacking substance and voice.

Your goal: To create an essay that balances these two components, that’s full of descriptive details about what happened (your experience) AND why such things occurred (or how you reacted or responded).

Essay Component #1: Anecdote
The first component of a compelling essay is the retelling of what happened to you. This is the story
element of your MBA essay. Most applicants launch their essays with an anecdote to draw in your
readers. Good idea. (For important storytelling tips, please see our free special report, From Example to Exemplary, or the on-demand webinar, Essays that Stick.)

Essay Component #2: Analysis
For this second component, you’ll want to talk about your motivations for pursuing the experience
in question or the lessons learned as a result of it.

The questions below will help you shape the analysis component of your essay. After thinking of a
good anecdote, a key experience that you’d like to share, make sure your essay also addresses the

  1. Why is this experience one that you wanted to bring to the adcom’s attention?
  2. What makes you tick? Why did you make the decisions you made?
  3. How did a particular experience motivate action in the future?
  4. What did you learn from this experience?

You’re applying to b-school, so your quant skills are probably pretty good – so let’s put this in solid
math terms:
Anecdote + Analysis = Your Awesome Application Essay

For more essay writing tips, please see MBA Application Essays 101, a resource guide containing
special reports, webinars, and blog posts on every aspect of the MBA essay writing process.

“M = Motivation” is excerpted from the Accepted.com special report, MBA Admissions
A – Z:26 Great Tips.  To download the entire free special report, click here.

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MIT Sloan 2013 MBA Application Questions, Deadlines, Tips


MIT Sloan

The 2014 MIT Sloan tips are now available. Click here to check them out!

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.

Like all cover letters, this is a marketing document. Make your case for admission using your accomplishments, specifically those where you had impact, showed leadership, and above-average progression and responsibility. How do the talents revealed in these examples demonstrate fit with the MIT Sloan program, its tight-knit community, and its innovative culture?


Please prepare a business resume that includes your employment history in reverse chronological order, with titles, dates, and whether you worked part-time or full-time. Your educational record should also be in reverse chronological order and should indicate dates of attendance and degree(s) earned. Other information appropriate to a business resume is welcomed and encouraged. The resume should not be more than one page in length (up to 50 lines).

Go beyond mere job description to highlight achievement. If your title is “consultant.” Saying that you “consulted on projects” is redundant and uninformative at best. Writing that you “Led a 6-member team working on a biotech outsourcing project to Singapore with a budget of $X; it came in on time and under budget.” conveys infinitely more.


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.

The devil is in the details, and Sloan wants them for each of these stories. Look for moments that stand out in your mind. You don’t have room for anything but those stand-outs.

Also, if Sloan is asking for events that occurred in the last three years, that’s what you should write about. “But!!!” No but’s. Stick to the last three years.

Essay 1: Please describe a time when you had to convince a person or a group of your idea. (500 words or fewer, limited to one page)

This question really reflects two ideas at the very heart of the Sloan MBA: leadership and innovation. Persuasion is one element in leadership and “your idea” should showcase your problem-solving and innovative thinking.

Focus on one event. Make room for analysis. Tell a story. You can use a professional or a non-professional experience for this essay. Work, sports, community service, or the arts can provide the context, but for most of you Essay 1 or Essay 2 should reflect your behavior on the job.

Essay 2: Please describe a time when you overcame a personal setback. (500 words or fewer, limited to one page)

This question is about resilience and your ability to bounce back after a mistake or a setback. Note that MIT is asking here for  a “personal setback” They aren’t interested in a team or company or group setback. This had to have been a reversal or defeat for you. Also realize that a setback is a temporary impediment to progress. 

Again, focus on one event; I’m sure you don’t want to go into more than one. Briefly relate the setback and spend most of your five hundred words on overcoming the experience. What did you do, feel and learn from the experience. Rather than say you learned you “can overcome anything,” which sometimes is more than a little overused, focus on key strategies and tactics you used to overcome your setback.

For more on my thoughts on answering setback questions, please watch this video. I created it in response to last year’s HBS question about setback, but the message is relevant here too. (Sorry. I am uncharacteristically somber and serious in this video.)

Supplemental Information (Optional)

The Admissions Committee invites you to share anything else you would like us or your future classmates to know about you. This may be in written or multimedia format. Please do not use Flash Media Player, and include a URL where it can be accessed online. Written essays should be 300 words or fewer.   

I discussed this question with someone in MIT Sloan’s admissions office last week. First of all realize that you can choose an essay or multi-media presentation. The media option is there so you can express yourself in the way you find easiest and most revealing. MIT does not want a recycled essay from another school. The person I spoke to was explicit about that. If you choose the multi-media format, realize it should be something viewable in about a minute — no 20-minute videos or 100-slide expositions or lengthy orations. Keep it short. It’s also fine to link to something you have created for a club, event, or cause that’s important to you.

What’s behind the option? A deep and sincere desire to meet you as a human being. A genuine, animated, real live human being. So don’t regurgitate your resume or spew stuff found in the required elements of your application. Have the confidence to share a special interest or deep commitment. I’m not suggesting Mommy Dearest or True Confessions; use judgment. I am suggesting that you allow the reader to see a good side of you not revealed elsewhere in the application.  Let them see what makes you smile, motivates you to jump out of bed with joy, and gives you a feeling of satisfaction when you turn out the light at the end of the day.

If you would like help with your MIT Sloan MBA application, please consider Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting or our MIT Sloan School Package which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the MIT Sloan MBA application.

MIT Sloan 2013 Application Deadlines                                     

Round I               Round II

Application Due:              Oct 24, 2012*      Dec 27, 2012*

Decisions Released:        Jan 29, 2013       Apr 2, 2013

*Applications must be received by 3:00 p.m. ET

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

MBA Admissions News Roundup

  • School Visits are Like Online Dating- The MBA Blog, “Por Qué….MBA?” One girl’s MBA application journey!, looks at the importance of visiting MBA programs before making any decisions about where to apply. MBA blogger Mango, visited both Columbia and Kellogg’s programs and learned about her “type” of program.  She explained that the same way you understand a lot about a person from a blind date (even though you can’t understand everything), you learn a lot about your chemistry with a school from an initial visit.  Bottom line: schools are very different on paper than they are in person. To hear more about Mango’s MBA application process check out her interview with Accepted.
  • How to Utilize GMAC Data- GMAC talks about what it has learned after giving 258,192 tests worldwide in 2011. The testing year, which ended June 30,2011, showed that GMAT test taking is down 2.2% from 2010 and 3% from 2009.
  • Plagiarism Has Got to Stop- BusinessWeek reports that Turnitin.com is cutting down on cheating in business schools. Turnitin, a program that scans admissions essays and then compares them to a large database of essays, said there are 10-20 business schools currently using its service. Turnitin reported that a study of 453,000 personal statements from over 300 colleges and universities found that 36% were cases of possible plagiarism. While this number sounds high, since more MBA programs will likely start using Turnitin, MBA applicants should be extra careful and not “borrow” from sample essays online.
  • GMAT is Used By Over 5,300 Programs- GMAC reports that there has been an increase in different types of programs involving business management. The growth in programs is highlighted by the fact that GMAC has had to add or update 23 program code categories this year. In fact, over 5,300 different programs worldwide use the GMAT exam. To help find what kind of program is right for you, check out the different programs—filtered by GMAT program code types—at mba.com.

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