MIT’s Most Challenging MBA Essay

What are the most challenging essay questions business schools ask applicants? That’s a question we hope to answer in this new six-part series. Stacy Blackman, founder of the MBA admissions consulting firm that bears her name, is picking out what she considers to be the most challenging and then providing advice for how to approach each essay.


What constitutes a highly challenging essay? They may force you to be incredibly introspective, surprisingly creative or perhaps highly succinct. Some of the essays are not as straightforward as they seem, others are very straightforward, but it is tempting to stray off topic. Whatever the reason, we are here to help, with some tips taken straight from the Stacy Blackman Consulting series of school specific essay guides.

Most Challenging MBA Essay Question #5


MIT Sloan School of Management:

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.

Overview of the question

Because Sloan does not require the standard “career goals” essay, your work background will be largely communicated through the required resume and the cover letter essay. Your cover letter will need to present much of the material that you often find in the career goals essay, yet should also make a strong case for your selection into the class of 2012. It can be thought of as a cover letter you would use while job seeking.

The cover letter is also your opportunity to make the case for your fit with Sloan. Note that the cover letter format will require a recruiting and marketing approach that focuses on key points that will make you a great Sloan student, rather than the narrative style of a typical essay.

The instructions ask specifically for key accomplishments and your impact on an organization, which should be concise and focused examples that support your reasons for applying and why you should be accepted into the class.

Career Goals

Many applicants wonder if it’s permissible to write that they want to attend business school to explore possible career paths and that they plan to “figure it out” once they are in school. Although there are exceptions, we typically advise our clients against this because the integrity of the essay is compromised. Not only will you have failed to answer the career goals question, but you will also find it difficult to answer the follow-on question about your motivations for pursuing a degree at MIT Sloan with any specificity. If you still don’t have a career game plan it is now time to take stock of where you’ve been, how far you’ve come, and where you want to go. Leaving the workforce to go to business school will be a significant investment of time and money, you want to convince the admissions officers that you have thought deeply about this investment decision and that a MIT Sloan MBA is a necessary step in your career game plan.

Consider also that this question is a test of your leadership abilities. Whether you are leading a club at MIT Sloan or a Fortune 500 company, you will be challenged to define goals with limited information and chart a course for realizing those goals. Leaders must be able to formulate goals in the face of uncertainty and with limited information, an accurate description of the challenge you face in answering this essay question.

Why MIT Sloan?

Key parts of your case for admission to MIT Sloan will hinge on how MIT Sloan will enable you to achieve your goals and how you will contribute to the school. Building a convincing argument that MIT Sloan is critical to achieving your career aspirations, will be crucial to a successful cover letter.

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