Meet MIT Sloan’s MBA Class Of 2021

MIT Sloan Classroom


What drove this class of doers to pursue their MBAs? Caitlin Braun was inspired by Jeff Bezos’ concept of Day 1, where early-stage success is mobilized by “unrelenting passion, hard work, agility, and dedication.” For Bezos, an organization’s biggest challenge is always maintaining this spirit – and Braun has accepted the challenge.

“Just as it is always Day 1 at Amazon, it is always Day 1 for me,” Braun writes. “I am passionate about learning, growing, and never becoming complacent. Returning to school to pursue an MBA and Masters in Mechanical Engineering is what keeps me in Day 1.”

For Daniel Ballesta Quintana, the urge stemmed from agonizing soul-searching. After college, Quintana admits that he was “obsessed” with getting ahead. That ambition began to dissipate after agonizing experiences like re-possessing the home of a family of four – and the feeling of helplessness that came with it. After a stint as a trader, Quintana realized that he needed to take a different path.

“During all those years, I was so focused on my career that I never stopped to ask myself: Why am I doing this? Who am I creating value for?…There is a latent opportunity for the financial sector to undergo a change and have a true positive impact in society. Instead of just being another player in the financial sector, I strive to become the driver of change towards a more balanced system.”


How does the Sloan Class of 2021 shape up so far? Caitlin Braun touts her classmates’ passion, pointing to their penchant to always ask “why” and “going above and beyond what is expected and pushing the limits on what we had thought could be achieved.” Adam Swartzbaugh has been struck by his peers being “collaborative competitive,” where the focus is on ideas and solutions over grading curves and class ranks. For Parisa Movahedi, the class already personifies the legendary all-in-this-together mindset of previous MIT Sloan classes.

“Sloanies helping Sloanies” is also not just for show,” she writes. “Even in the past few months leading to school starting, I found that Sloanies, both from my class and from the class above us, are willing to go the extra mile to help us prepare for the adventure ahead.”

Students meeting inside MIT Sloan

This shared mission and camaraderie also extend far beyond Sloan, Movahedi adds. “An element that attracted me to Sloan was the integration of Sloan with the broader MIT community, whether through curriculum, shared resources, or the intermingling of students. By bringing brilliant cross-disciplinary minds together, MIT is able to continue solving for the problems that affect our society most.”

Ask the Class of 2021 about their early impressions of MIT and Sloan and words like technology, collaboration, and impact are certain to pour out. In his early impressions, Sam Walsh came away with three different words: “analytical, entrepreneurial, and rigorous.” For him, these qualities are what differentiates Sloan from peer schools.

“As I have gotten to know the school, I have come to appreciate just how essential these characteristics are to the institution and am thrilled to be part of the management program that enables its students to bring entrepreneurial solutions alive through commercial ventures.”


Sloan’s timeless pledge to learning-by-doing and integrating theory and practice may explain how it successfully navigated a rough 2018-2019 recruiting cycle. First, here is the bad news: applications are down. The 5,200 applications for seats in the Class of 2021 fell by 6.5%. In context, that number is roughly equivalent to declines reported by Harvard Business School (-6.7%) and Michigan Ross (-6.2%) and far better than ones endured at Northwestern Kellogg (-15.5%) and Yale SOM (-15.6%).

Still, over the past two years, applications have dropped by 10.3% at MIT Sloan. While this slump would raise red flags at most programs, MIT Sloan has managed to weather the downturn without a deterioration in acceptance rate or inputs. Notably, the program reports that it only accepted 11% of all applicants – a number that’s actually a point below the previous year. What’s more, this rate makes Sloan actually more selective in 2018-2019 than either Harvard Business School (12%) or the Wharton School (14.5%). By the same token, average GMAT scores only dipped by a point to 727 – which is still a five-point improvement over the Class of 2019. In addition, average undergraduate GPAs reached a high of 3.60, equaling both Chicago Booth and Northwestern Kellogg.

In addition, the percentage of women held steady at 42% in the 2021 Class – a rate that hasn’t changed in three years. That said, the percentage of international students continues to climb, going from 33% to 42% over the last three classes. This year, students hail from 54 countries, up from 49 last year. Overall, the number of students rose to 416 with the Class of 2021, up from 409 and 404 the previous two years respectively. At the same time, the school received 12.5 applications for every open seat, which continues to rank Sloan among the most selective business schools in the world.


Classroom lectire

Andres Paz-Ares, a mountain climber and investment banker from Spain, describes MIT Sloan as a “community where passionate people come together to change the world with revolutionary ideas and a collaborative mindset.” It is a think big and future-centric program custom-tailored for partnering, experimenting, and creating. That is the spirit of Sloan, no doubt. Still, the program has sparked certain myths. One is that Sloan is where you head to be a CTO not a CEO. That wasn’t the experience of Janelle Heslop, a 2019 P&Q Best & Brightest MBA who joined Amgen after graduation.

“There are so many talented entrepreneurs, founders, innovators, self-starters, and brilliant business-people at Sloan,” she writes. “We may skew towards more analytical and perhaps technical backgrounds because that is one of the core tenants of our program – being analytical and data-driven – but it is not the case that Sloan is a fast track towards technical leadership. Quite the opposite in fact!”

Another myth: The program is too skewed towards the technical. Faina Rozental, a 2019 P&Q MBA To Watch, cracks that a day won’t go by at Sloan “without hearing the words “machine learning,” “AI,” and “Blockchain.” Then again, she adds, MBAs will find a community at MIT Sloan that fits whatever interests they hold. That’s exactly what her classmate, Eilon Shalev, found during his two years in the program.

“Technology is an important and integral part at MIT Sloan,” writes the 2019 P&Q Best & Brightest MBA.

“Yet, MIT Sloan offers so much more. Sustainability, operations, strategy, general management, entrepreneurship, finance, leadership, healthcare, marketing, these and many other topics are very palpable on campus. There are so many terrific classes for every domain, and I believe that MIT Sloan is a fantastic business school for many types of business practices and career paths.”

That’s certainly how MIT Sloan’s academic peers view the program. In a 2018 survey of deans and faculty leaders by U.S. News & World Report, MIT Sloan ranked in the Top 20 for nearly every academic specialization, including 1st for operations and information systems and Top 5 for entrepreneurship, finance, and logistics. In Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2018 alumni survey, the program notched some of the highest scores among respondents in academics, innovation, and prestige. That academic excellence translates into cutting edge research, where the program ranks 4th according to The Financial Times. Best of all, MIT Sloan owns bragging rights in Boston, with 2018 graduates earning $161,355 in total pay – over a $1,000 more than their Harvard Business School peers (with 97.1% of grads landing jobs within three months of graduation to boot). Better still, MIT Sloan MBAs can expect a $135K increase in pay over their first five years according to the latest data from Forbes.

To access 12 in-depth profiles of 2021 Sloan MBA candidates, go to Page 4. 

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