MIT / Sloan Essay Topic Analysis 2015-2016
Following up on the release of MIT Sloan’s 2015-2016 application essay prompt (as well as our interview with Admissions Director Dawna Levenson), we thought we’d offer some suggestions about how Sloan MBA hopefuls might approach this year’s written materials.
While the school has reduced its number of required questions from two to just one prompt this season, the admissions committee’s core philosophy has remained constant. The Sloan adcom has long believed that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, and the program has been consistent in espousing and applying this concept over the past decade or so. Accordingly, the school’s 2015-2016 question is highly focused on the specifics of and the applicant’s behavior in a past situation, and is designed to elicit a fair amount of factual information by which the admissions committee can judge a candidate’s broader potential and competencies. The school has also retained its open-ended optional essay for the coming admissions season. And, in a new addition for this season, Sloan has announced plans to ask a second question required only of applicants who are invited to interview for the MBA program.
Let’s take a closer look at this year’s MIT Sloan essays:
Essay: Tell us about a recent success you had: How did you accomplish this? Who else was involved? What hurdles did you encounter? What type of impact did this have? (500 words)
There’s a fair amount to cover in this relatively short response, and its effectiveness will hinge on the quality of the example selected. While it may be tempting to select a solo accomplishment with a very impressive impact, such a story may not deliver the level of behavioral richness that the admissions committee is looking for.
Instead, candidates will need to select a situation that allows them to comment meaningfully on each of the follow-up inquiries, as this will ensure that they are showcasing all of the abilities that this prompt is designed to assess. That is, the situation should include collaboration with others (and ideally some degree of formal or informal leadership), as well as obstacles that had to be overcome via persuasion, persistence, and/or problem-solving. Of course, one will also want to close with a positive outcome that includes an impact on a person, client, process, or organization. Note that this doesn’t need to be a professional accomplishment, leaving personal and extracurricular examples open for consideration. We do want to suggest, however, that a fitting professional example would be preferable, assuming that in contains all of the elements required to fully address the prompt. Meanwhile, applicants should attend closely to the adcom’s request for a “recent” success and work to identify an example from the past 2-3 years.
As for structure, we recommend a straightforward STAR approach (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to applicants tackling this behavioral prompt. Effective responses will open with a full description of the situation, including a discussion of the setting and timeframe, as well as the players involved in the story and their respective responsibilities and motivations. You’ll also want to share the task– i.e. what you set out to accomplish–early in the essay. This section might also include a discussion of your overall strategy, as well as anticipated challenges. Next, the action section should comprise the majority of the essay. In this section, you’ll want to take the reader through your step-by-step process of accomplishing your objective; this piece of the response should also include descriptions of interpersonal interactions and troubleshooting of hurdles. You’ll then want to close with a comment on the result: the positive impact you were able to have. Keep in mind that while MIT is primarily interested in observable behaviors and their impact, some commentary on your reasoning and reactions may help to shed light on your process and enable the adcom to better understand what your actions in this situation say about your likelihood of achievement in the future.
Optional Essay: The Admissions Committee invites you to share anything else you would like us to know about you, in any format. If you choose to use a multimedia format, please host the information on a website and provide us the URL.
As far as optional essay prompts go, this one is fairly inviting – with respect to content as well as format. This prompt offers an opportunity to address elements of one’s application that require explanation (e.g. choice of recommender, a semester of poor undergraduate performance), and may also be an opportunity to share important information that isn’t captured elsewhere in one’s written materials.
Applicants who do have a potential weakness to address should use this response to comment on this issue in a straightforward manner. Meanwhile, applicants who don’t have a pressing shortcoming to explain should think about what they might want to highlight in this response. For example, the multimedia format may represent a particularly great way to showcase an athletic hobby or introduce the adcom to your hometown via video. This is also an opportunity to share a blog, Pinterest page, or other digital content that will show the adcom a unique side of your candidacy. As always, applicants should use good judgment in determining the content and length of this response — remember that responding to an optional essay essentially creates more work for the admissions reader — keeping their comments as brief as possible and thinking carefully about whether responding to this prompt will really make a meaningful difference in their applications.
Interview Invite Essay: 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. Please share with us something about your past that aligns with this mission. (250 words).
Somewhat akin to the school’s required essay, this prompt (a modified version of a question that appeared on last season’s application) asks applicants to produce some evidence from their past that speaks to their fit with Sloan and its mission. Given the abbreviated word count, the school likely isn’t looking for a full STAR treatment with this response; it’s probably not necessary to walk the adcom through a step-by-step process, though it will still be important to share enough context for the reader to appreciate the before-and-after picture of the impact the applicant was able to have. In selecting a topic for this response, applicants should zero in on the concepts of innovation, improvement and idea-generation in this prompt, identifying a time they enhanced an existing process or introduced something novel to their organization. Applicants will of course want to spell out the details of the impact they had. Finally, the comments about principled leaders and improving the world suggest that Sloan is seeking applicants who’ve done more than bolster their company’s bottom line; linking one’s accomplishment to a positive social impact (or potential contribution to a program or student organization at Sloan — see the Clear Admit MIT Sloan School Guide for ideas) could be a particularly nice touch here.
Clear Admit Resources
Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s Sloan MBA essay topics. As you work on your Sloan MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s MIT offerings:
Posted in: Essay Topic Analysis, Essays
Schools: MIT Sloan
MIT Sloan has just announced the essay questions and deadlines for the class of 2018. This year there is only one required question, a second required short-answer for those invited to interview, and an optional open-ended essay.
For many years MIT asked a series of behavioral questions for the admissions essays because past performance was considered to be the best predictor of candidates’ future success. This year the one required essay is a behavioral question again. As you approach topics for the required question consider if you will also answer the optional question. MIT Sloan is looking for people with integrity, passion, creativity, intellectual abilities and drive and determination. Do you have a recent success that will demonstrate some or most of those traits? The success can be professional or outside of work, though should have some relationship to your professional aspirations if possible. If the situation is not one that demonstrates many of the traits MIT Sloan is seeking in candidates, you may also decide to include the optional essay in your application.
We have one required essay at the time of submission: Tell us about a recent success you had: How did you accomplish this? Who else was involved? What hurdles did you encounter? What type of impact did this have? (500 words or fewer).
This essay question is set up to be a behavioral essay question, one that seeks to understand how you think and act in various situations. We often recommend using a framework called STAR to approach questions like this and make sure you are covering all of the required components. STAR stands for: Situation, Task, Action, and Results.
The SITUATION sets the stage and introduces the challenge you faced. It can be a simple sentence like: “My company’s key product was aging and we needed to find an area of growth to maintain revenues.”
Your TASK is a bit more detailed and identifies what solution you decided to implement to address the situation. For example: “I proposed setting up an innovation tournament for our global strategy team to come up with ideas.”
The meat of the essay is the ACTION. Describe in detail what you did to implement the task. Talk about the stakeholders you had to convince, any hurdles to setting up the tournament, how you encouraged buy in among all employees and any other action you personally took to accomplish your goal.
RESULTS can be relatively brief, and ideally quantitative. For example: “the tournament revealed 10 viable new product ideas, 3 of which are currently in development.”
The ACTION part of the essay should be the majority of the response, but setting up the situation clearly and demonstrating results is important and effective to a strong response. As MIT typically asked in the past, make sure to describe: “what you thought, felt, said, and did.” The admissions committee wants to see you developing creative solutions, leading others, and overcoming challenges to “visualize you in action.”
A second short-answer question will be asked of those invited to interview: 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. Please share with us something about your past that aligns with this mission. (250 words or fewer).
This question focuses on your intellectual skills, leadership and character. When you consider topics for this question the most important aspect will be to demonstrate character. Improving the world doesn’t have to be working for an NGO in a developing country, it could also be improving your company to have more benefit to customers or employees.
For example, perhaps you were part of an employee resource group that helped new employees with their careers, increased diversity, or served the community through volunteering. MIT Sloan also wants to see creative solutions to business problems, so make sure to explain your thinking during the experience you describe.
The Admissions Committee invites you to share anything else you would like us to know about you, in any format. If you choose to use a multimedia format, please host the information on a website and provide us the URL. More information on the MIT Sloan website.
MIT Sloan’s entirely open-ended optional essay invites applicants to respond to the essay in any format desired. This allows you to do anything you need to with this space, including clarifying any concerns or highlighting interesting aspects of your background or profile. Because there is only one required written essay this year it may be useful to use this opportunity to show the admissions committee a different angle on your candidacy. The format can be a creative way for you to showcase any technical or design skills you have, but the content should be primary.
Because this essay is highly dependent on who you are and what you wrote in the required essay, consider carefully your overall strategy and refer to the list of traits MIT Sloan is looking for in admitted students. If you have an unusual background, hobby or extracurricular experience, this may be an opportunity to provide that information to the admissions committee.
With similar questions asked by other MBA programs in the past Stacy Blackman Consulting has advised candidates on everything from photo journalism projects to customized multimedia presentations. We treat the application as a holistic process and would advise you on which aspects of your background to consider revealing in this optional essay.
Stumped by your MIT Sloan MBA application? Contact Stacy Blackman Consulting to learn how we can help.
This entry was posted in Application Tips, General, MIT Sloan Advice and tagged advice, Application Tips, applications, Essay Questions, Essay Tips, MBA program, MIT Sloan.
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