Mit Sloan Optional Essay Word Limit On Personal Statement

Adcom Director on MIT Sloan Application Changes

byClear Admit on July 22nd, 2017

The 2017-18 MBA application to MIT Sloan School of Management went live last week, featuring a range of changes from last year’s. The debut of a new video statement (required of all applicants), the implementation of the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) Common Letter of Recommendation form, and an increased word count and expanded instructions for the Cover Letter component were just a few. To learn more about these and other developments in MIT Sloan admissions, we caught up with Director of Admissions Dawna Levenson to walk us through. Read on to learn what she had to share.

More Words Allocated to Cover Letter

For starters, based on applicant feedback, Sloan has upped the word count for its Cover Letter component from 250 to 300 words. Somewhat unique among leading business school applications, Sloan invites applicants to submit a cover letter—as they would if they were applying to a job—that explains their interest in a place in the MIT Sloan MBA program and why they believe their personal characteristics would be valued by the school.

“The amount of stress and anxiety applicants expressed around last year’s 250 word limit was by no means our intention at all,” Levenson told Clear Admit, noting that her office got multiple calls and emails from applicants concerned they couldn’t come in under the limit. While acknowledging that 300 words is also brief, she hopes the extra space will nonetheless be welcomed by this year’s applicant pool.

The application also provides additional guidance on how to approach the cover letter. In a recent blog post, Levenson offered the following additional tip: “Your letter should conform to a standard business correspondence and include one or more examples that illustrate why you meet the desired criteria stated in the cover letter instructions!”

Sloan Adopts GMAC Common Letter of Recommendation Form

MIT Sloan will also be using the GMAC Common Letter of Recommendation (LOR) form. The form, which was developed by a GMAC committee that included MIT Sloan Senior Director of Admissions Rod Garcia, provides a set of competency ratings and a number of open-ended questions around a candidates’ work performance, personal strengths, and areas for development. GMAC’s goal in developing a common form was to streamline and standardize the process for recommenders, benefiting both the recommenders themselves and the candidates, many of whom have historically had to ask recommenders to complete multiple different forms if they were applying to more than one MBA program. So far, more than 15 leading schools have implemented the GMAC Common LOR form in part or in its entirety, including Columbia Business School, McCombs School of Business, McDonough School of Business, Ross School of Business, NYU Stern School of Business, and Stanford Graduate School of Business.

“It was always our intention to implement the GMAC Common Recommendation Letter form, especially since we were an integral part of its creation,” Levenson says. Having recently returned from a South American admissions tour, she was primed to offer advice on how to approach the recommendation process, thoughts she’d shared four times in the span of a week. “We believe very strongly that the recommendation letter should be one of the first things you do as part of the application process,” she told Clear Admit. “Think about who you want for recommenders and reach out to them early on.”

Advice on Choosing Your Recommenders

As for who makes a good recommender, Levenson also had specific thoughts to share. “It should be someone who can speak in detail to work you have done and an impact you have made on an organization,” she said. “Second, but perhaps more important, it should be someone who is on your side—someone who is truly willing to take the time to write a detailed and comprehensive recommendation.”

Those two things don’t necessarily go hand in hand, she pointed out. For example, in many cases a direct supervisor may not be the best person to choose, because while he or she may be able to speak in detail to your work, not all bosses are eager to see their employees leave for business school. “We are not married to it being an immediate supervisor,” Levenson stressed.

“It needs to be people who are close to you,” she added. For this reason, Sloan discourages the CEO of the company you met once on an elevator who could write a couple of general sentences about you. “Often, applicants think the CEO holds more weight, but that is not the case at all—we are not assessing the recommender, we are assessing you.”

While the school encourage someone who knows you well, Sloan does not want family members providing recommendations—even in the case of candidates who work for family businesses. “In those cases, customers and clients make for great recommenders and can speak to your contributions to the business in a very meaningful way,” Levenson suggested.

She also encourages applicants to meet in person with those they are asking to write letters of recommendation on their behalf. “Sit down with them—you want them to understand why it is important that they spend time writing a meaningful recommendation,” she said. “Not only that, in hearing directly from you why you’re pursuing an MBA and why you chose to apply to MIT Sloan, they often become better advocates for you, whether consciously or not.”

Sloan Takes the Video Essay Plunge

In recent years, schools from Northwestern’s Kellogg to Yale SOM have turned to video statements as a means of getting a clearer sense of who an applicant really is before the interview. MIT Sloan is the latest school to join this movement.

“We are very excited about this,” Levenson said. She notes that applicants to Sloan have in fact had the opportunity for several years to submit a video as part of the application’s optional essay, and a fair number of applicants have chosen to do so. But when Technolutions Slate, a leading provider of admissions software solutions, this past year introduced a video embedded within the application, Sloan piloted it with one of its other degree programs. “We really thought we got some meaningful early data about people in terms of their presence and communication skills that was very valuable to us,” Levenson told Clear Admit. This year, the school has incorporated a video statement into the application for all of its programs.

Applicants to the MBA program are asked to introduce themselves to their future classmates via a brief video statement. “Videos should be a single take (no editing) lasting no more than one minute. You can use an application such as QuickTime or iMovie to record yourself,” wrote Levenson in her recent blog post.

“The assignment—introduce yourself to your classmates—sounds light, but it’s much harder when you start thinking about it,” Levenson warned. Although the ultimate submission should be done in a single, unedited take, applicants would do well to give it plenty of forethought. “This is not a spur-of-the-moment ‘respond to this question right now’ approach,” Levenson noted. By sharing the prompt in advance, her team is signaling that applicants should be thinking strategically about what they choose to share. “We are letting them consider what they think it important to them that they want their classmates to know about them,” she said. “As with everything else that we do, our goal is to get to know them better.”

The tip Levenson offered in her recent blog post was: “Be yourself! Be authentic! We are using this video to further assess your fit with MIT Sloan and to gather additional insight into your personality, presence, and passions!”

Optional Essay Instructions Have Changed Some

With the addition of the video statement, Sloan has also changed some of the instructions around the optional essay, Levenson pointed out. The optional essay should really be reserved for sharing things that might warrant additional explanation, such as your choice of recommenders, areas of concern in your academic record, or other extenuating circumstances in your history. This information should be provided in 200 words or less.

Last year, in part because of the tight word count on the cover letter component, many applicants felt a need to share more with the Admissions Committee and looked to the optional essay as the place to do that. Though she didn’t have precise statistics, Levenson wagered that as many as 80 percent of applications submitted an optional essay last year. The hope, between the increased cover letter word count limit and the new video statement component, is that the number of candidates who feel a need to use the optional essay will fall dramatically this year, she said.

More Specific Time Frame Around Interview Invites to Continue This Year

After receiving feedback from applicants and others that Sloan needed to be more specific about when it issues interview invitations and more sensitive about when it sends out other emails during the same time frame, Levenson and her team plan to do both this year. “We are constantly taking the pulse of our applicants and prospects to see how we can improve our process—and that feedback was clear,” she said. So, expect to see blog posts from Levenson around the timing of interview invitations for each of the upcoming season’s three rounds.

“We will be as transparent as possible without sacrificing our ability to admit the most qualified applicants at all times,” Levenson said. “There is a balance there though,” she continued. Because there is a human element to the application process, it’s very difficult to set absolutely rigid dates, she noted. “The number of applications we receive determines how long we take to read them,” she continued, which can result in some variation year to year. “On the part of the applicants, it’s all actually really good news—we spend a lot of time reviewing their applications and there are some variables that we can’t predict.”

No Tricks, No Surprises

“I’d like to just repeat what we have always said—there are no tricks, no surprises,” Levenson told Clear Admit. “This is an opportunity for people to let us know who they are and get to know us and assess fit. The application process is designed to establish a relationship so that all their questions can be answered as well. It is very much a two-way street.”

Women’s Week Events Fill Early August, Female Enrollment Continues to Grow

Sloan will again host its popular Women’s Week events throughout the week of August 7th. These events—which this year will take place in Chicago, Cambridge, New York, Washington, DC, San Francisco, and Los Angeles—bring prospective female applicants together with current female students and alumnae to learn more about Sloan and its inclusive community. This year, prominent alumnae will provide TED Talk–like presentations in several select cities on the impactful work they are currently doing and how Sloan helped prepare them for it. A panel of local alumnae from across MIT Sloan’s two-year MBA, Sloan Fellows, and Executive MBA programs will share how they are creating ideas made to matter. In place of a webinar the school has offered in the past for applicants outside of the event cities, this year it will live stream the Thursday Cambridge event to help give women all over the world a true sense of what the events are like.

The response to Women’s Week events in recent years has been very positive, Levenson noted. “A large percentage of those who attend Women’s Week end up applying to our program.”

Surely related, the percentage of women continues to increase every year and looks like it will increase again this year, Levenson said. “It will definitely be over 40 percent.” In addition to Women’s Week events, Sloan also puts on a range of other events specific to women throughout the year, including a Women’s Ambassadors Program in both the fall and spring, and collaborates extensively the Forte Foundation. “Sloan is really a very nice environment to be in for women,” Levenson said.

Overall Application Volume Up Slightly After Huge Increase Last Year

Last year, Sloan saw application volume jump by 34 percent. This year it increased slightly above that, which suggests to Levenson that recognition of the value of the MIT Sloan MBA program is strong and continues to grow.

As for international applicant volume, Sloan did not see any significant shifts, despite concern around immigration and visa policy. Her team did get questions from international applicants in the past season and prospective international applicants they are interacting with now, Levenson noted. These questions take a few different forms—about student visas, work visas, the overall culture and environment, and whether changes to immigration policy will affect Sloan’s admissions process. “The answer to that last question is emphatically no, not in any way, shape, or form,” Levenson stressed.

As for visas, Sloan can’t control what may or may not happen any more than any other school can. “I will say that there is a great group here that works with all of our admitted students to help with the process of getting visas, and so far we have not had any problems with any incoming students getting the visas they need to come here.” As for the environment and culture international students will encounter upon arrival at Sloan? “I can’t stress enough what a diverse environment we have—not just at Sloan but across MIT,” she said. “MIT has taken a very strong stand throughout the past few months—we are and will remain an incredible supportive and collaborative environment for anyone who comes here to study.”

Don’t miss essay topic analysis for MIT Sloan’s 2017-18 application from Clear Admit’s team of experts.

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MIT Sloan Essay Prompt 2017-2018

The MIT Sloan School of Management has just posted its 2017-2018 essay prompt. An encore of last year’s change, the MIT Sloan application is foregoing the traditional essay requirement in favor of a cover letter and résumé. New this year, however, is the addition of a brief video statement.


2017-2018 MIT Sloan Essay Prompt

Cover Letter

MIT Sloan seek students whose personal characteristics demonstrate that they will make the most of the incredible opportunities at MIT, both academic and non-academic. We are on a quest to find those whose presence will enhance the experience of other students. We seek thoughtful leaders with exceptional intellectual abilities and the drive and determination to put their stamp on the world. We welcome people who are independent, authentic, and fearlessly creative — true doers. We want people who can redefine solutions to conventional problems, and strive to preempt unconventional dilemmas with cutting-edge ideas. We demand integrity and respect passion. 

Taking the above into consideration, please submit a cover letter seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA Program. Your letter should conform to a standard business correspondence, include one or more examples that illustrate why you meet the desired criteria above, and be addressed to Mr. Rod Garcia, Senior Director of Admissions (300 words or fewer, excluding address and salutation).


Please submit a résumé that includes your employment history and academic record in reverse chronological order. Other information appropriate to a business résumé is welcomed and encouraged. (no more than 1 page in length).


Video Prompt

Please introduce yourself to your future classmates via a brief video statement.

You will need to use an internet-connected computer, with a webcam and microphone.  As part of the application review, the Admission Committee will evaluate your response to see how you express yourself and to assess fit with the MIT Sloan culture. The simple, open-ended question is designed to help us get to know you better.


  • Please make sure you are using a working Internet connection not wireless or shared wireless connection. If your Internet is not a strong signal you will not be able to upload. Please also make sure you have the most up to date browser.
  • You will need to use an internet-connected computer with a webcam and microphone.
  • We suggest using Google Chrome* or Firefox as your browser.
  • If using Google Chrome – please click the camera icon in your browser to allow the site to access your microphone. If you are having issues with your microphone please re-start your computer for Google Chrome to access your microphone.
  • Once the video statement question is viewed you will have 60 seconds to prepare, and then 60 seconds to record your answer.
  • You will only have one attempt to record your response.


Posted in: Admissions Tips, Essay Topics, Essays

Schools: MIT Sloan


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