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.
This article has been re-published as per the terms of LEAP Partners Program with Stacy Blackman Consulting.
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