The Big Secret to MIT Sloan MBA Admissions

There’s something you really need to know before applying to MIT Sloan, and it’s not just about the video interview. The MBA at MIT Sloan has a VERY specific attitude towards MBA admission that you’re going to want to know before writing your essays (and definitely before the interview!). Don’t treat it like Wharton, don’t treat it like Stanford: make yourself a coffee and Angela Guido will catch you up with everything MIT Sloan wants from you.

YouTube video

Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

Follow that advice, you will avoid the primary pitfall that MIT applicants fall into, which is they treat the MIT application like a Wharton application or like a Stanford application, and they make it at least substantially about the future. That is not what you want to do. Welcome back to MBA Monday. I am Angela Guido, the founder of Career Protocol, and I'm here to help you get into the business school of your dreams, among other things. Actually, what I'm really here to do is to help you have a career that makes you deeply happy. But for many of you, getting into business school is a very useful and important step en route to having everything you want in your career, which is why I'm here most Mondays talking about business school. Today I'm talking about the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Business. All about MIT today on MBA Monday.


Understanding MIT Culture

All right, so I make light of the notion of secrets in most of my videos. I really like to illuminate the fact that there aren't very many secrets in the MBA application process, and in fact, schools really tell you exactly what they want to know when you're applying to their program. So, you don't need an admissions consultant to decode school talk for you. You don't need anyone to explain to you what's important in the application process, because the schools actually tell you really what it is, and for the most part, they just really want you to be your earnest and authentic self. The one school that I think does need a little bit of interpretation is MIT. We could chalk it up to the fact that the school is really grounded in engineering. So, first thing you need to understand about MIT as a culture is that it's a super nerdy school. And as a Booth alum, one of the other super nerdy schools, you know, I actually think that's a great thing. I think that the thing that business schools can actually teach really well is business frameworks; how to think in a quantitative way, how to move forward and base decisions on data. That's the stuff that business school can actually teach. Soft skills I'm not so sure about, to be honest. But MIT is really great at teaching the quantitative stuff. That's what they're known for. Their curriculum is rigorous, it’s challenging. It’s got a lot of tech integrated into it. There are a ton of VC firms in Boston, a lot of tech companies that have come out of MIT and the Boston ecosystem. So technology data and analysis are really core to the MIT curriculum. So, if you're looking to go in that direction, and if you really want your MBA to be valuable to you in terms of helping you think and make decisions like a business leader, then MIT is a really great school to consider.


Past Performance Predicts Future Performance

Let's talk about the MIT application. I'm going to give you a piece of information that's useful even though the truth is they actually do say it. They say this right there in their application. It's a school that's really committed to its principles. Many schools are, but MIT, I think, more stubbornly than most, and they really believe that past behavior predicts future performance. Take a moment and take that in. So as you approach their application, you're going to find, surprisingly, that none of their essays ask about your goals. They also don't ask really about why you want to go to MIT. You're welcome to include reference to that in your cover letter, but the cover letter is really not about what's your future and therefore why do you want to go to MIT Business School. If you make your cover letter a personal statement style essay, you're going to be very sad with the results that come back at you because MIT wants you to talk about your past experiences.


1. Talk About Your Past Experiences

This is true in the application and it's also true in the interview. Their interviews are famously hardcore behavioral interviews. That means you're going to get just a small handful of questions that are really focused on specific past experiences so that the admissions committee can evaluate how you behaved in various circumstances so that then they can form their own decision to predict how you're going to behave in the future. So I'm just going to read to you an excerpt from the cover letter instruction: MIT Sloan seeks students whose personal characteristics demonstrate that they will make the most of the incredible opportunities at MIT, both academic and nonacademic. Skip, skip, skip some words. We welcome people who are independent, authentic, and fearlessly creative. True doers. So the words I want to highlight here are they're looking for doers and people whose personal characteristics demonstrate. This is all about who you are based on what you've done. They want to know about your actions. They want to know about the things that you've actually done in the past to create value, to be creative, to have integrity, and to be a leader. So then it says: Taking the above into consideration, please submit a cover letter seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA program. It's not all about why you want to go to MIT, but you should probably mention that in the letter. And then it says: 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. Okay, so they're telling you point blank, really directly, that they want you to show them who you are in that cover letter, by showing them what you've done so far in your career. Make at least 250 words of that 300-word cover letter focused on your past experiences. And really importantly, do not rehash your resume. Make sure that you have an amazing MBA resume. The resume really has to do the heavy lifting to showcase your achievements. That will be a very important input into their decision. The essay is about something else. The essay is about making a bold statement about who you are as a professional and then illustrating that with a couple of examples. So make sure that your cover letter is focused on what you've done in the past, and don't just react to your rehash your resume, take a specific point of view. Make the cover letter about some specific aspect of your professional profile, some value that you've upheld, some commitment that you've had, some way in which you've continually sought to make a contribution across all of your activities. Form a clear picture of who you are in those very scant 300 words, and do it based on what you've done in the past. Okay! If you follow that advice, you will avoid the primary pitfall that MIT applicants fall into, which is they treat the MIT application like a Wharton application or like a Stanford application, and they make it at least substantially about the future. That is not what you want to do in that cover letter.


2. Show MIT Who You Really Are

The second question is about introducing yourself to your classmates. It says: Here is a chance to put a face with a name, let your personality shine through, be conversational, be yourself. We can't wait to meet you! Yes, this is the 60-second video essay that Sloan introduced several years ago and which gives you the chance now to show them who you are by literally showing them who you are. MIT introduced this video essay a few years ago, and my suspicion, having been a recruiter of MBAs at schools including MIT and having for many years struggled to recruit ample candidates who were both really intellectually competent and also socially and EQ savvy from MIT. My suspicion is that they introduced this video so that they can ensure that all of the students who arrive on campus have not only the appropriate level of English, but also the appropriate level of personality and presence to be successful in the post-MBA world. This is why, when I talk about creating your video essay (which I do in this video right here, please go watch it. It’s one of our most popular videos on this channel.), I dissect several examples of MIT video essays so that you can see what really works and what may or may not work in the process. I talk about really letting your personality shine through. You want to seem natural. You want to seem comfortable. You want to seem confident. You want to seem like someone who can casually talk about themselves without being weird. That's really, really important to your MBA application to MIT. So, as you're making that video, take their instructions to heart. Show your personality. Talk about something that's not in the cover letter, something that's not fully covered on the resume. You could talk about your goals. You could talk about your future here if you want to, if that's really important to you, if it's important to you that your classmates know about your vision. For most of you you'll decide that there are better things for you to talk about, that your goals are not the way you want to introduce yourself to your classmates. But really think about how would you talk to a peer? How would you introduce yourself to someone that you're going to be sitting next to in class for the next couple of years as friends, as collaborators, as colleagues, as equals? How do you want to introduce yourself to that person? And then put together a response that allows you to show your personality and then record it as many times as you have to to get a take that makes you seem comfortable and at ease with who you are. And like I said, if you need more tips, you can check out our video advice on the MIT video essay. It's also linked here. But really have fun with it. Take that opportunity to show them a side of yourself that is not represented in the very serious resume and the very more or less serious cover letter.

Okay, that's it! If you want to get into the incredible MBA program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Sloan Business School MBA: make sure you have a strong resume; make sure you use the cover letter to demonstrate how your past has prepared you for leadership; show your personality in the video essay; and then get ready for intense behavioral interview questions come interview time. You can also check out our guide to behavioral interviews, which is linked here. I'm really hoping that you are going to need that video because your MIT application is so awesome that you get invited to interview and then eventually get in, if MIT is your dream school. And there are a lot of reasons why it could be, why it should be. It's a forward-looking, futuristic MBA grounded in the distinctions of engineering and data. It's really an MBA for the future. I'm wishing you all the best, and I'll see you here next week on MBA Monday!

Sign up for a free MBA strategy call right here:

Free MBA Strategy Call

Picture of Angela Guido

Angela Guido

Student of Human Nature| Founder of Career Protocol

All Posts

NO, DO NOT ASK AI TO WRITE YOUR MBA ESSAYS FOR YOU! Watch this video to learn how to use it instead to boost your MBA application.

Read More

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that all M7 schools are the same. They’re not! Discover how to choose the right M7 for you and how to approach your applications.

Read More

Everything to know about Harvard Business School… in one place! Learn about the Harvard MBA culture, interview, essay, & class profile in this video.

Read More