MIT Sloan MBA Class of 2018 (Entering Fall 2016) Admissions Essays Tips: The Questions behind the Questions

MIT Sloan MBA application for the Class of 2018

Application Instructions for Fall 2016 Entry

Information is subject to change. Please verify all data with the schools.


MBA Program Application Schedule – For August 2016 Entry

MBA Round 1

Applications must be submitted by 3:00 p.m. ET on September 17, 2015

The Admissions Committee notifies applicants of their decision by** December 16, 2015

MBA Round 2

Applications must be submitted by 3:00 p.m. ET on January 14, 2016

The Admissions Committee notifies applicants of their decision by** April 4, 2016

MBA Round 3

Applications must be submitted by 3:00 p.m. ET on April 11, 2016

The Admissions Committee notifies applicants of their decision by** May 18, 2016

*Reapplicants and HKS dual-degree applicants may submit their applications by the Round I or by the Round 2 deadline. LGO reapplicants must submit their reapplications by the LGO deadline.

**Decisions will be released early for some candidates who will be denied admission without an interview.



MIT Sloan MBA Essay 1


(required when you apply)

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)



The Admissions Committee invites you to share additional information about yourself, in any format. If you choose a multimedia format, please host the information on a website and provide us with the URL. 
Optional Question Response





MIT Sloan MBA Essay 2 (only required if invited to interview)

A second, short-answer question will be asked only 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).


Optional Question

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.







Let's start by digging into MIT's instructions. They say, "We are interested in learning more about how you work, think, and act. In your response, please describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did."

My suggestion: emphasize thought and felt as much as possible. 


Second, I have highlighted some key words and think about what they could mean to you, the applicant. 


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?


First, what does MIT mean by recent? 

I suggest you pick a success story that happened within the past two years, no more than three years ago. 

Why does Vince suggest you pick a story that happened as recently as possible? 

You want to show upward career growth. Ideally, your most recent position should be your most exciting. In your current role and project, you are doing your best work and making your biggest impact. Is that the case for you? If not, how far back do you need to go in your resume bullet points to find a project where you made the biggest possible impact? 


Second, what does MIT mean by success? 

Success can be measured in all kinds of ways. I am somewhat romantic at heart, so I like this anonymous poem, “Success,” which is often inaccurately attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson

To laugh often and much, to win respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others;to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

Whoever wrote it, it sure sounds nice. It is also WAY too long to include in your MIT essay (the final version must be 500 words or less). 

NOTE: As always, I encourage you to forget about the word limit as you brainstorm your answer. 

Leaving aside my favorite "Success" poem for now, we can find a hint in MIT's question. Look at the last part of the question:

What type of impact did this have?

Perhaps MIT Sloan MBA admissions measures success, at least in part, by impact. 


Third, what is impact? How can we measure it? Why does it matter? 

There are at least two types of impact: quantative and qualitative


  • Save time

  • Save money

  • Make money


  • Grain personal / professional confidence

  • Share knowledge

  • Motivate others to try something new

  • Change organizational culture (ex. increase inter-departmental communication and/or cross-training opportunities)





MBA applicants must submit two letters of recommendation. Professional recommendations are preferred from individuals who are able to speak with certainty about your professional achievements and potential. Recommenders must submit recommendations online. We do not accept mailed recommendations. Recommendations may be in either letter or short answer format and should not exceed two pages each. Please note: We do not accept recommendations from family members.

Please choose recommenders who are able to provide specific answers to the following questions:

  1. How long and in what capacity have you known the applicant?

  2. How does the applicant stand out from others in a similar capacity?

  3. Please give an example of the applicant's impact on a person, group, or organization.

  4. Please give a representative example of how the applicant interacts with other people.

  5. Which of the applicant's personal or professional characteristics would you change?

  6. If you are an academic/technical recommender, please tell us how well the applicant mastered the subject you taught or supervised and in what ways did the applicant demonstrate this mastery.

  7. Please tell us anything else you think we should know about this applicant.



Information is subject to change. Please verify all data with the schools.


- Updated by Vince on 13 Mar 2016

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