These three straightforward questions are comprehensive and wide ranging. They give the Stanford Sloan MiM adcom both factual information about you such as your current work responsibilities, your goals, and details of your work experiences, and also insight into your thought process, self-evaluation skills, and ability to synthesize information and draw conclusions. The questions reflect the adcom’s interest in admitting people with the requisite experience who are movers-and-shakers currently and who will be path-breaking leaders in the future.
While no word or page length is specified, the instructions say to “use separate sheets of paper to answer the following questions.” For each of the essays, a broad range to target would be 500 – 1000 words. It would be hard to answer the questions substantively in fewer than 500 words, yet taking more than 1000 would indicate lack of focus and discipline – no one needs more than 1000 to do any of these essays well.
Essay 1: Tell us about your current duties and responsibilities, including references to the total number of people you supervise and/or the amount of assets you manage. Describe one or two of your major accomplishments and explain why they are meaningful to you.
In describing duties and responsibilities, focus on those that show you dealing with significant issues, decisions, and/or challenges – those that have a substantial or potentially substantial impact on your business. Be selective; don’t detail every single thing you are responsible for, but focus on the most significant. Also, do highlight the breadth of your work – include your people management (not just number of reports but their professional levels and scope), strategic role, operational role, key decision-making responsibilities, P&L responsibility, and/or global involvement. In selecting accomplishments, I suggest using two, ideally representing different types of skills/capabilities. At least one should be fairly recent. In describing why they are meaningful to you, avoid generalities like “from this experience I learned how to lead large global teams” – to make this statement meaningful add some specific detail and anecdote about exactly HOW YOU lead large global teams.
Essay 2: What educational and personal objectives do you hope to satisfy through the Sloan Program? What are your short-term and long-term career goals?
This essay will show that you are focused and that your objectives align with the program’s offerings. You might start sketching your answer by addressing the last part first (regardless of how you structure your final essay) – clarifying your short-term and long-term career goals in concrete terms – i.e., company, industry, position/function, intended impacts, possibly geography – will reveal development needs both educational and personal. Describing those goals, you will naturally see the challenges of getting from where you are now to that future place and doing it well. These developmental needs create your educational and personal objectives. Finally, elaborate how the Sloan program will address them, providing details and examples.
Essay 3: Describe a situation that challenged your leadership skills and explain what you learned about your strengths and weaknesses.
The bulk of this essay should be a straightforward narrative – tell the story of a time when your leadership skills were challenged. In selecting the content, keep in mind the accomplishments you discussed in essay 1 in order to avoid redundancy. This essay provides another opportunity to show you working in an interesting context, dealing with high level and/or high stakes issues, interacting with significant decision makers. Conclude the essay with a frank discussion – don’t focus only on strengths and skim over weaknesses. Show how learning about the stated weakness has helped you by providing a very brief (even one sentence) example of how you’ve applied that learning. Alternatively, you can link the weakness to the objectives in the previous essay.
The application deadline for the Sloan Class of 2014 (commencing July 2013) was November 1, 2012, with rolling admissions after that until the class is filled.
If you would like professional guidance with your Stanford Sloan MiM essays, please consider Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting.
By Cindy Tokumitsu, co-author of The EMBA Edge, and author of the free special report, “Ace the EMBA.”