MIT Sloan Cover Letter
Prepare a cover letter seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA Program. Describe your accomplishments and include an example of how you had an impact on a group or organization. Your letter should conform to standard business correspondence and be addressed to Mr. Rod Garcia, Director of MBA Admissions. (500 words)
This hasn’t changed. But here are a few thoughts, having read through hunnnndreds of these suckers. A good cover letter leaps off the page with energy. If it’s dense, you are dead on arrival. We need a reason to read this thing. Try something unusual or brave for your opening. Be professional, always, but don’t be stock. If you’re gonna be stock… there HAS to be more to it, and it HAS to be identifiable very quickly. Otherwise, the whole application gets cast in a dull, average glow.
Take some chances here. Let some smart people rein you in. But take that chance. Be bold. Be risky. Be ultra confident, without being arrogant.
We are interested in learning more about you and how you work, think, and act. For each essay, please provide a brief overview of the situation followed by a detailed description of your response. Please limit the experiences you discuss to those which have occurred in the past three years.
In each of the essays please describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did. (Note: That may seem just to be some erroneous introduction, but it’s not. MIT’s giving you a hint as to what, specifically, they want from you.)
Essay 1: Please describe a time when you went beyond what was defined, expected, established, or popular. (500 words or fewer, limited to one page)
Well, lookie here. We analyzed this very question last year. And the year before.
Essay 2: Please describe a time when you convinced an individual or group to accept one of your ideas. (500 words or fewer, limited to one page)
Essay 3: Please describe a time when you had to make a decision without having all the information you needed. (500 words or fewer, limited to one page)
A new question to their roster. And a cool one. Let’s figure out what they’re REALLY asking.
At first glance, it might feel a bit narrow, but in reality, think of it the other way… when have you ever made a decision after having ALL the information you needed? Y’know? Seriously, that may be a HARDER question to answer. When you make a hire, or forge a partnership, or endorse a product, or valuate a company, etc etc., isn’t it ALWAYS fraught with some risk? Where does that risk come from? Lack of information, no?
Always. We can’t peer into a crystal ball and know exactly how something is gonna turn out. So, don’t let this question scare you too much. You have a story here, somewhere.
Now, it doesn’t mean that EVERY decision easily falls into that category for the purposes of answering this question. There IS such a thing as a better story to tell here. It’s the one where you relied on JUDGMENT that went beyond FACTS/NUMBERS/ANALYSIS, in order to render some kind of ultimate decision. It’s the JUDGMENT that interests MIT most. How do those gears work? What kind of questions do you ask yourself to help the ultimate choice be a smart one? What do you look for in an outcome? What do you look for as a DECISION-MAKER? What do you… DO… when you… “DECIDE”?
We want to know what happens when the facts stop, and YOU kick in. Any monkey can tell you that the number 10 is greater than the number 8. Numbers will make those decisions… not so much decisions as… instructions for how to proceed. But leaders are MADE when that information doesn’t lead anywhere conclusive. When speculation kicks in, a particular type of THINKER needs to emerge. This is what we need to see.
Think about the “factual” aspects of your information gathering as having RUN OUT at some point, leaving you less able to make “the obvious choice.” This is a great starting point for bringing us into that internal conversation that sheds light on what makes you tick as a decision-maker. Walk us through it. Step by step. Let us “hear” that internal dialogue.
The result is far less important here than the process by which you arrived at your call. Here’s a very rough sketch of how the essay might breakdown, word-count-wise.
Part 1 – The setup – paint a scenario where there was a CHANCE you could have had perfect information. Give that aspect momentum. Then show us what happened that cut it SHORT. You ran out of time. Someone dropped the ball. Whatever it was, you were gonna have to make the decision… WITHOUT having all the info you needed. 100 words.
Part 2 – The JUDGMENT – this is the meat of the essay. What did you DO? Walk us through it VERY methodically. Bring us into that conversation. Show us how you grappled with it. Sink into the details here. It’s not about the logistics so much as YOUR HANDLING of it all. 275—300 words.
Part 3 – What happened? – walk us through the results and self-assess. Looking back, how was your process? What would you differently today? Was it successful? Could you improve on some aspects of it? Show us how dangerous you are through your own assessment of the way things turned out, but more importantly, the way YOU approached it. 100—125 words.
Supplemental Information (Optional)
You may use this section to address whatever else you want the Admissions Committee to know. (250 words or fewer, limited to one page)
Ah. The open-ended question. B-school adcoms love this thing… not for the actual answer, but because they want to see what you’re going to put here. In short, if you’re gonna use it, you better make it good. For more on this, check out our analysis of UNC Kenan Flagler’s fifth essay.