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MIT Sloan MBA Strategy: How to Tackle the Application

MIT Sloan just released deadlines for its 2023–24 admissions cycle, with the same application components used in the past. 




MIT’s round one deadline is set for Sept. 27, 2023, round two for Jan. 17, 2024, and round three on April 8, 2024.

Its MBA application typifies the institution’s ethos of boundary-breaking innovation, forgoing several of the typical elements of an M7 application. The school doesn’t require you to write a “Why MIT” 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. Unique to MIT Sloan, the application requires:  

  • A cover letter
  • A one-minute video introduction
  • A uniquely formatted resume
  • One letter of recommendation, with contacts for two supporting recommenders
  • An organizational chart showing your position in your company
  • A  short optional essay on the candidate’s background
  • Pre-interview questions, for those invited to interview

The goal is to try and avoid a copy-paste from another school’s application and get to the true authentic you.

In addition, for the 2023 application cycle, MIT Sloan significantly expanded the list of questions that recommenders must respond to. Sloan only requires one recommender, but candidates must supply the names and contact information of two others who may be contacted if the admissions committee needs a broader perspective.

All in all, It’s a beast of an application, and tackling it successfully requires a different strategy than any other program. Within these highly structured components, you must find a way to accomplish three things: 

  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. Use the finite real estate you’re given to craft a coherent narrative for your candidacy while avoiding duplication. This balancing act across the assorted pieces of the application is a challenge for many candidates. You must do a shrewd job of spreading key facts and details across components in ways that best fit the medium.)

Step-By-Step Strategy Tips For Tackling The MIT Sloan Application

First, begin by breaking down the more standardized, less flexible portions of the application:

Review the high-level data you will provide in the online application, the organizational chart, and the resume tailored to Sloan’s requirements. Make note of the skills, traits and accomplishments you convey in those components. 

For instance, Sloan’s unique request for an organizational chart lets you show at a glance where you and your department fit in your organizational hierarchy, quickly providing some context for your title and role. (See insights on handling the org chart requirement from Fortuna’s Heidi Hillis.) This piece,  plus your resume, means you can focus the rest of your application on more personal and persuasive points.

Once you have assessed the basic information you’ll share in these elements, strategically determine additional points you need to convey to fully tell your story and make your best case for admission.

Next, decide how to incorporate those points in the other components of the Sloan application, which demand more imagination and considered attention. 

The flow I have outlined below may not feel intuitive, but it’s exceptionally effective from a strategic perspective.

1) 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 come across in your cover letter. With the strengths of video in mind, brainstorm ideas best suited to the medium. Veer away from the resume by sharing a personal story that invites real resonance in the viewer.

Although Sloan describes the video as a chance to introduce yourself to your future classmates, it is not shared with them. Only the admissions committee sees it, so it’s really a way for them to get to know you. However, describing it as an introduction to your peers is a signal that they want the video to be casual and friendly (but dress professionally).

In alignment with its culture and values, MIT Sloan is looking for: “brilliant builders” and “unconventional thinkers who are independent, authentic, fearlessly creative, and determined to put their stamp on the world.” At the same time, they want students who will immerse themselves in the opportunities at Sloan and contribute to the experience of other students. 

The video is a great opportunity to introduce yourself in ways that align with that profile. Talk about a personal passion or shoot your video in a location that is meaningful to you and explain why (but make sure the sound is clear and audible.) 

As discussed in my colleague Brittany’s previous 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 a single, specific experience that reveals an important 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 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.

You only have one minute and must deliver your message in a single take, so revise, refine, and rehearse until you can deliver a memorable story concisely.

2) The cover letter


mit sloan cover letter prompt

MIT values individuals who act to make a difference. The best MIT Sloan cover letter examples often highlight examples of professional or extracurricular achievements from the last two to three years that demonstrate these values. 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 – but if it’s fitting, weave in a brief statement about why attending MIT Sloan will help you achieve those goals.

The admissions committee doesn’t seem to be so interested in the classic “why MIT?” response about what the school can do for you, but rather what you as a student can contribute to the greater experience of your classmates. They want you to prove that you’re a doer who would leverage the MIT experience (labs, events, competitions and more) to do something great that will impact the world with other MIT students.

Of course, you only have 300 words or less to do all this. The best examples of cover letters we’ve seen are direct and to the point. They quite literally introduce the candidate and offer examples that explain how they align with Sloan’s desired student profile and how they will use their MBA to make an impact in the world. Think of your cover letter as an elevator pitch that can cover some areas you don’t get to in your 60-second video.  

3) Optional short-answer essay

This is the final portion of your application you should consider. Applicants are invited to expand on their background by responding to the following optional 250-word short answer question: The prompt reads: 

How has the world you come from shaped who you are today? For example, your family, culture, community, all help to shape aspects of your identity, please use this opportunity if you would like to share more about your background.

This open-ended question is a golden opportunity to fill in anything you’d like to discuss that does not fit neatly into the confines of the other required components. It also lets you share information about your identity in ways that help the admissions committee select a diverse and inclusive class with broad backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. No matter what your background, it’s a space you can use to share your awareness of how your background shaped you and, similarly, shapes others in different and powerful ways.


Pre-interview reflection

Applicants invited to interview are also required to submit brief responses to MIT Sloan’s two pre-interview questions. In the past, one question has centered on diversity and inclusion and the second related to how you make data-driven decisions. 

Both are behavioral style “tell us about a time” questions designed to elicit information about not just your values or skills but also how you put them into action. (In the past, the data question has also included an option that is more focused on values and goals). For more information on how to address these questions, see our tips from previous years available here

A final note

A central theme across the entire Sloan application: MIT values individuality, so in your responses, don’t be afraid to be authentically you.  Your deployment of illustrative examples across the cover letter, video, short essay, and pre-interview reflection is vital.  Muster your authenticity and courage to show them you already have developed this capacity – and then make it 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 you 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 recent MBA Admissions Masterclass featuring MIT Sloan & Columbia Business School.


You can also view all M7 MBA Admissions Masterclasses, and other invaluable strategy sessions, 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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