MIT Sloan School of Management
MIT MBA Essay Analysis
(2022-23 Application Cycle)
MIT Sloan Application Guidelines
Outside the standard transcripts, Letter of Recommendation (one required; multiple optional) and GMAT/GRE scores, MIT has a few other interesting requirements. In particular, this includes the 1-Minute Video, the Cover Letter, and the Organizational Chart.
Let’s look at the details for each of these.
The 60-second Video
These are the MIT guidelines:
Keep it to 60 seconds in length
Record in one take without editing
Speak directly to the camera
Do not use music or subtitles
The video should be in English (as indicated by the "no subtitles" rule)
Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the less-obvious parts of creating a video essay.
Keep the Script to 125 Words
One of the biggest mistakes people make when first trying a video essay is to make the script too long.
Far too many videos show people speaking too quickly, trying to jam their entire script into the allotted 60 seconds. That’s never a good look. Let's work backward: while everyone speaks at a different pace, remember that speaking slowly projects more confidence. When was the last time you saw a manic TED speaker? Yeah, I thought so.
Bearing this in mind then, the amount of content only becomes important relative to the number of words you can fit into the allotted time. For most people, this is somewhere in the region of 125 words without sounding scattered, chirpy, or, on the other side, like you’re gargling molasses on a tape deck with a dying battery.
That’s it: 125 words. Just consider it a 125-word essay that you have to write that someone would read. Then memorize it and speak it. Simple as that.
Are you getting through those 125 words too quickly? It’s a common problem (in fact, far more common than the reverse, at least in our experience). Remember, one of the great truisms of public speaking, or acting in general (and yes, this is a form of acting), is that speaking more slowly than you might be comfortable with is generally a good idea.
Topics for the Video
Keep in mind that this video is titled “Introducing yourself to your future classmates.” Your future classmates are not, of course, who will actually be watching the video; that would be the admissions committee.
The adcom simply wants you to pretend like you’re making the video for your fellow classmates, who, mercifully, will never actually see this video. It’s a bit of pretend, but play along and consider the tone: it will be informal and friendly, a bit less buttoned-up than what you might present to the adcom.
That said, don’t make it too loose, because you need to consider who’s actually watching it. Hide the beer funnel.
A Meaningful Location
One thing that is often helpful is to shoot your video at a meaningful location. This helps the viewers of the video (the adcom, remember) understand something more about you, while it also helps you relax - as long as you pick a place that makes you feel proud, comfortable, or at ease.
Note that an outside location can make it much more difficult to record good sound. Having high sound quality is a must (check out our Application Video Guide here), so make sure that you’re using a wind screen on an external microphone, a lapel mic, or even AirPods at a pinch.
Remember, this is still an essay, so the adcom definitely needs to hear what you have to say.
The Cover Letter
The greatest focus of the cover letter is to tell the story of something impactful that you’ve done in the past. You have 300 words to do this, excluding the address and salutation (“Dear So-and-So”).
The Sloan website asks that the letter use at least one professional example and demonstrate several specific criteria:
–you will “enhance the experience of other students”
–you have “exceptional intellectual abilities”
–you have “the drive and determination to put your stamp on the world”
–you are “independent, authentic and fearlessly creative”
–you are a “true doer”
–you can “redefine solutions to conventional problems”
–you can “preempt unconventional dilemmas with cutting-edge ideas”
All of that is actually quite a lot for 300 words, but most of it makes sense except for that final one, which seems to be little more than a word salad copied and pasted from the most buzzed-up LinkedIn profile you’ve ever seen. Most likely, they mean “you can solve problems.”
How to do this? Tell the story of something impactful you’ve done in the past. Don’t spend much real estate on future goals; MIT is full of Engineers. That is, they want empirical evidence that you’re a “doer,” not just bold conjecture that you might be a “doer” given the right opportunity.
Furthermore, given the Engineering slant to all things MIT, make sure you quantify everything. So you’re a doer? What did you do in numbers? How can you make that impact clear with figures?
In short, MIT cares little about forward-looking goals and wants to know how what you’ve done in the past will make you a contributing member of this year’s cohort. If you need more inspiration about how to write a proper cover letter, get it from the horse’s mouth: the MIT Communication Lab’s Cover Letter Advice page.
Just in case you’re looking for the address to put on the letter, it’s this one:
MIT Sloan School of Management
100 Main Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142
For more practical information, you can check out the Sloan application materials for the correct format for address, salutations, etc. Here’s an example you can use as a basis to write your own cover letter:
MIT cover letter example
November 26, 2022
MIT Sloan School of Management
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02141
Dear Admissions Committee,
Here I present my work experience over the past seven years, which taught me that my initial concept for a company–providing mobile dog-grooming out of furry vans–might lead me to the success that I now enjoy, but that I would eventually hit a ceiling. This made me dramatically rethink my career. Now I will say that perhaps I should have known sooner, but hindsight is 20/20.
The business that I founded, called Roscoe’s Dog Grooming, brought the dog grooming
to you rather than making you come to the dog groomer (or: disrupted the existing paradigm of
fixed-location urban dog grooming by coming to your house in a van; or: sought to remedy the
problem of maximizing profits in my local market by selling my fleet of furry vans and moving
online). The business operates by Zoom groomers who work on dog mannequins, providing
assistance, coaching, and support to home groomers. The special thing that we offer is
Westminster-quality dog grooming with a little bit of productized service with our branded
grooming kits (all backed up by numbers).
Here are some of the success metrics that my business can show (the more numbers the
better). People who have been our clients have gone on to achieve Best in Show at the
Saskatchewan Kennel Club Annual Review, the first Show Poodle-cut Husky team ever to win
the Iditarod, and worldwide recognition for our famous cut, “the Thinker,” which makes even a
King Charles Spaniel look clever. Unfortunately, we experienced a setback when COVID-19
flooded the market for Zoom-based dog-grooming. This forced the business to adapt and to
counter this problem, we instituted our signature line of dog grooming shears, which has been
That said, I feel that I have taken my business to the highest level that I am able to. It is time for
me to use the knowledge and skills that I have developed running this business to help the
world more broadly, in cat grooming, rabbit grooming, and perhaps even reptile skin moisturizer,
expanding worldwide to countries such as Guatemala, the Netherlands, and Andorra.
At this point, I provide another metric and explain how a Sloan MBA will help me engage with
current trends of machine learning-based dog grooming robots and pre-groomed dog avatars in
the Metaverse, particularly when these are technology-based trends explored elsewhere at MIT.
Your Name Here
The idea behind the Org Chart is, in principle, to give a 360-degree view of how you fit into your current work environment. The key takeaways are to make it clear how you fit into the organization, who reports to you, and to whom you report.
One useful note is to highlight your own role in red to make it easy to understand. If necessary, other names can be redacted, but they ask recommenders (if these people are in fact in the chart, which is not absolutely necessary) be identified. Remember, the easier the chart is to read, the better.
On one hand, it might seem more impressive if you work for a larger company, but not necessarily. The Org Chart is designed to show two things. More obviously, how you fit into the company and impact its day-to-day functions. Less obviously, which is important if you are in a smaller firm, your clear understanding of the operations of the company.
Sloan, with its Engineer’s mindset, wants to understand that you understand the principles of what makes your company tick. This is particularly important for solo entrepreneurs. In this or other cases where you don’t actually manage anyone, make the structure of the company clear and highlight your role within it, focusing on the people with whom you have the most direct contact.
That said, if your work environment is structured differently (such as in consulting firms or the military), MIT Sloan has guidelines available on their website to help you create an effective Org Chart.
In short, for consulting, use a recent project you’ve worked on for the chart. For the military, do one chart for your military life and one for your civilian projects. For confidentiality-specific issues, redact as much as is necessary but provide a broad overview of the structure of your role, or, as they say, “whatever you can share will be useful.” The rule is to present enough to say something specific, not to leave the adcom confused.
Every school’s application process is different, and MIT Sloan has some curious requirements that diverge from the mainstream. All that said, the work you have done preparing your other applications will come in very handy.
If you have put a lot of work into defining your history, understanding your contributions within your current working environment, and have taken the time to document–and of course, to quantify–the important factors in your career thus far, then applying these ideas to Sloan’s 1-Minute Video, Cover Letter, and Organizational Chart should come quite easily. If you're applying for MIT Sloan Fellows program instead, check out our Sloan Fellows application guide.
I help determined applicants get admitted to top business schools. Get in touch if you think I can help you with your application. Book a free 20 mins chat now.