MIT Sloan School of Management Essay Questions and Strategic Guidance, 2023-2024

MIT Sloan seeks individuals with confidence but not arrogance. The atmosphere on campus is considered “scrappy” and humble, never stuffy or competitive. The school wants people who are eager to learn and willing to help others do so as well. Sloan also prioritizes innovation, showing a preference for applicants who go against the grain, develop new systems or processes others have not considered before, or champion a novel way of thinking. (Perhaps you were expecting us to mention “technology” or “engineering” in our description of Sloan’s ideal candidates. While MIT Sloan certainly appreciates people who have an appetite for technology or an engineering bent, you will find many Sloanies who have neither. Above all, Sloan values a diverse classroom.)

Sloan’s application puts less emphasis on candidates’ professional goals than those of other top MBA programs. Sloan believes that one’s past experiences are the best predictors of one’s future success. What you have done (and what you were feeling and thinking at the time) is of much more interest to the admissions committee than what you say you are going to do.

The Application

MIT Sloan’s instructions for completing its application offer clues as to how applicants can—perhaps even should—approach it.

For example, Sloan’s directives for its requested Cover Letter include the following preamble:

“MIT Sloan seeks students whose personal characteristics demonstrate that they will make the most of the incredible opportunities at MIT, both academic and non-academic. We are on a quest to find those whose presence will enhance the experience of other students. We seek thoughtful leaders with exceptional intellectual abilities and the drive and determination to put their stamp on the world. We welcome people who are independent, authentic, and fearlessly creative — true doers. We want people who can redefine solutions to conventional problems, and strive to preempt unconventional dilemmas with cutting-edge ideas. We demand integrity and respect passion.”

This provides considerable insight into what the admissions committee is looking for in applicants’ cover letters. Specifically, MIT wants you to provide at least one or two examples of how you have created impact, innovated, and/or implemented change. They want you to explain why you and your actions have mattered and how you care about the world around you.

The actual Cover Letter prompt follows:

“Taking the above into consideration, please submit a cover letter seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA program. Your letter should conform to a standard business correspondence, include one or more professional examples that illustrate why you meet the desired criteria above, and be addressed to the Admissions Committee (300 words or fewer, excluding address and salutation).”

When crafting your Cover Letter, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Approximately 80%–100% of your letter should focus on one to three examples from your past that clearly demonstrate how you and your actions have mattered. The admissions team wants to know not only what you did and why it was special but also how it created impact.
    • Include your motivation for your actions as well as the how (the steps you took to achieve what you did). Remember that your resume will provide the school the headlines of your accomplishments; your cover letter should add color and context.
  • If you have any remaining space, you can briefly state your goals and/or why Sloan is the right MBA program for you, but these elements are not mandatory and should be included only if you feel they are truly necessary for the admissions committee to fully understand and evaluate your candidacy. Keep in mind that your past experiences are what will enable you to stand out because they are unique to you, whereas your stated goals and/or your interest in Sloan will likely overlap with those of at least some of your fellow applicants.

In its Video Statement prompt, Sloan asks you to “Introduce yourself to your future classmates.”

Note that Sloan does not say merely, “Introduce yourself,” nor does it say, “Introduce yourself to the admissions team.” Sloan intentionally requests that you introduce yourself to your classmates.

When crafting a strategy for your introduction, think about what you would like to know about a classmate you are meeting for the first time—and what would make you cringe or roll your eyes if you heard them say it. Once you have a script and/or a draft for your video, ask yourself whether you think your future classmates would like you after viewing your video. Would they think that you were trying too hard to impress (which is not appealing) or that you have nothing to add (and would therefore not be someone they would be interested in seeking out)?

So, be genuine about who you are and what you will bring to campus.

The topics you discuss are up to you, but here are some other basic guidelines:

  • Remember to introduce yourself!
  • Mention a few facts that you feel capture you well.
    • Where you live or are from
    • What you are doing professionally
    • Things you do in the community or for fun
  • Talk about what you hope to do at Sloan.
  • Explain what you would bring to Sloan.
  • Avoid repeating exactly what is in your cover letter, though some overlap is fine.

And consider these execution tips when preparing for, and actually filming, your video:

  • When drafting your content, regularly read it out loud to ensure that it will easily fit within the school’s 60-second limit. Keep trimming as necessary until it does. An introduction you have sped through is not your friend in this process; if your viewer cannot understand what you are saying because you are speaking too quickly, you will miss a critical opportunity to connect with admissions.
  • Once you have finalized your script (or, if you prefer, simple bullet points), put the material away. Your goal is to know which topics you want to cover and be able to communicate them without sounding as though you have memorized your material.
  • Do not read from a script.
  • You can film your intro wherever you would like, including at your desk at work or somewhere in your home! You can certainly be creative (we have seen people film their videos outside or at a location that is particularly meaningful to them), but no matter what location you choose, keep the focus on you. Your background will not make you stand out or convince the admissions committee to admit you; only you and your content can do that.
  • Be sure to speak slowly and to check your sound and lighting to ensure the viewer will be able to easily hear and see you.

In its online application, Sloan includes the following short essay prompt:

We’d like to give you the opportunity to expand on your background. This question is completely optional.

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. (250 word limit)

Although submitting a response to this prompt is not required, we encourage you to view this mini essay as an opportunity to tell the school more about you. The prompt specifically notes “family, culture, community,” so a good way to start is by thinking about how each of these has influenced who you are today. An effective essay response will provide specific details about your background and clearly and logically relate those details and stories to the individual you now are. As always, evidence and action speak volumes, so you want to bolster the description of who you are today by pinpointing and explaining significant influences from your earlier years.

With respect to other elements of Sloan’s application and process, we offer the following advice:

  • MIT Sloan is particular about what it wants to see on candidates’ resumes. Take time to make sure that you fully understand the directives provided on the school’s website and then follow them precisely.
  • Compared to other top business schools, Sloan has only a brief set of online questions embedded in its application. The admissions committee expects you to include the most essential information about your candidacy—the information that will influence its decision—in the other elements of your application.
  • Sloan also asks for an Organizational Chart of no more than two pages. You goal is to communicate the structure of your team/organization and convey the information Sloan asks for in an easy-to-comprehend way. Sloan offers an example on its website that you can use as a guide.

Note that Sloan asks applicants who are selected for an interview to submit two additional essays. The prompts for these essays are as follows:

  • Required Question #1:
    The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice. We believe that a commitment to diversity, inclusion, equity, and well-being is a key component of both principled leadership and sound management practice.

    • In 250 words or less, please describe a time when you contributed toward making a work environment or organization more welcoming, inclusive, and diverse.
  • Required Question #2: 
    We are interested in learning more about how you use data to make decisions and analyze results. Please select oneof the following prompts to respond to:

    • Please select an existing data visualization and in 250 words or less explain why it matters to you. The data visualization should be uploaded as a PDF. Examples may come from current events, a business analysis, or personal research.
    • In 250 words or less, please describe a recent data driven decision you had to make, and include one slide presenting your analysis. The slide may include a data visualization example and should present data used in a professional context. Your slide must be uploaded as a PDF. 

When you are brainstorming ideas for your core Sloan materials, you should also start thinking about how you might answer these pre-interview essay questions.