MIT Sloan MBA Strategy: How to Tackle the Application

August 03, 2020 | by Brittany Maschal

MIT Sloan’s MBA application typifies the institution’s innovation ethos 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 materials requested by the majority of business schools include the application biodata, a one-page resume, essays and typically two letters of recommendation. Alternatively, the school doesn’t require you to write an MIT Sloan MBA essay, nor will it let you get by with repurposing your standard MBA resume. Instead, prospective students are asked to capture and create several materials that no other school is asking for, like an MIT Sloan cover letter.

Unique to MIT Sloan:

  • 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 your fit for the MBA program (situational- and self-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 committee 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 approach on what works in the following MIT Sloan application tips – think of this as a free consulting session to increase your chances at success.


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

1. The online application data

2. The organizational chart

3. The MIT Sloan resume, per the school’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 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 MIT Sloan cover letterMIT values individuals who act to make a difference, and the best MIT Sloan cover letter examples often demonstrate that the applicant can 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 and professional goals). The admissions team doesn’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 community service, 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.

Want more advice?

View our MBA Admissions Essay Masterclass featuring MIT Sloan, Kellogg, Chicago Booth & Columbia.

You can also view all MBA Admissions Essay Masterclasses in our series on Fortuna’s YouTube channel.

Fortuna Admissions expert coach Brittany Maschal is a former member of admissions teams at Wharton, Princeton & Johns Hopkins. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.

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