How to Tackle The MIT Sloan Application

August 27, 2019 | by Brittany Maschal

MIT Sloan’s MBA application epitomizes the institution’s ideologies around innovation and forgoes the norms of its M7 peers.

It’s a beast of an application, and tackling it successfully requires a different strategy than any other program.

The usual requested by the bulk of business schools include the application biodata, a one-page resume, essays and typically two letters of recommendation. Alternatively, MIT Sloan doesn’t call for written essays, nor will it let you get by with repurposing your standard MBA resume. Instead, you’ll be asked to capture and create several materials that no other school is asking for.

Unique to MIT Sloan:

  • Cover letter
  • One-minute video introduction
  • Uniquely formatted resume
  • One letter of recommendation, with contacts for two supporting recommenders
  • Organizational chart
  • Pre-interview reflection

The MIT application process is a puzzle, and your mission is three-fold:

1. Articulate and your fit for the program (situational- andself-awareness) along with a deep understanding of MIT’s guiding values.

2. Convey your distinctive value add, in a way that’s both resume-specific and personal (your values, personal characteristics, traits and a dash of more self-awareness).

3. Deploy your finite real estate to craft a coherent narrative for your candidacy while avoiding duplication. (This balancing act across the assorted aspects of the application is a challenge for many candidates. You must do a shrewd job of spreading the love on this app, or it will fall flat.)

As a coach with Fortuna Admissions, and a former member of the admissions teams at Wharton, Princeton and Johns Hopkins, I’ve honed a framework for approaching distinctive applications that demand applicants think critically and showcase themselves in novel, creative ways. I’ve applied this methodology to the MIT Sloan application and my efforts supporting many successful candidates to the program. You’ll find my approaches on what works in the guidance that follows.

YOUR STEP-BY-STEP STRATEGY FOR TACKLING THE MIT SLOAN APPLICATION:

First, begin by breaking down the less strategic portions of the application:

1. The online application data

2. The organizational chart

3. The resume, per Sloan’s requirements

Begin with a high-level review of what you can provide in the application data, organizational chart and resume to identify what you convey to the committee across these elements. There isn’t much flexibility for creativity or storytelling, so I suggest finishing them, noting of the characteristics and accomplishments you’ve conveyed, and continuing forward. For insights on navigating the organizational chart requirement, take a look at this article by my Fortuna colleague, Heidi Hillis.)

The next components of the Sloan application demand more imagination and considered attention. This flow may not feel intuitive, but it’s exceptionally effective from a strategic perspective:

First, the video introduction. This isn’t where most people begin but hear me out: Certain stories can’t be conveyed in 200 written words and are best told live. Some stories work here and won’t in your cover letter. Start with the video in mind and brainstorm ideas best suited to the medium. Veer away from the resume by sharing a personal story that invites real resonance in the viewer.

As discussed previously in my post, Ace the Video Statement for MIT Sloan, take a risk and be vulnerable – the goal is to provide a genuine glimpse into who you are. You only have a minute to deliver a response that’s memorable, profound and articulate. A compelling tactic is to elaborate on one, specific experience that reveals an important part dimension of who you are. We all have stories to tell. Are you the only member of your family who can get a grandparent to have a meaningful conversation around health? Is your gummy smile so infectious that you’re legendary around for brightening people’s days in your neighborhood? Don’t shy away from talking about those things.

Next, the cover letter. MIT values individuals who act to make a difference, and you can often best demonstrate that you resonate with these values through extracurriculars or work. After revealing how you’ve already started to live your values, clarify why the MBA is essential to get where you want to go next (career goals). They don’t want to read anything regurgitated from their website – they know their own program – so weave in a brief “why” MIT line if it’s fitting.

Finally, the (pre) interview reflection. Note a central theme across the entire Sloan application: MIT values individuality so don’t be afraid to be unapologetically you. This prompt is about diversity, which means articulating what you uniquely bring to the table. Akin to the video introduction and cover letter, your deployment of illustrative examples is vital. When have you worked to create or nurture a community that is increasingly diverse, inclusive and welcoming? Select a single answer and elaborate upon that story. Whether it’s through your love of MotoGP or chess or charity work, muster your authenticity and courage to show them you already have developed this capacity – and then make clear where you hope to let it shine at MIT. And this bears repeating: save the “why MIT” for the actual interview or post-interview email follow-up, which is the best place to fill in these types of gaps.

As exemplified by the application components themselves, MIT is significantly more interested in understanding how you think and act – how navigated a difficult decision, came up with an innovative solution and what makes you memorable. While they definitely respect quantitative abilities, Sloan also values the uniquely human parts of your personality, and the integrity, passion and principles that guide you. Sidestep the temptation to mold yourself into the ‘perfect applicant’ you think Sloan is looking for. Instead, embrace the idiosyncratic application prompts and allow them to fuel your creativity.

Fortuna Admissions expert coach Brittany Maschal is a former member of admissions teams at Wharton, Princeton & Johns Hopkins.

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