We posed questions to admissions officials at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management regarding the application process, what they look for in applicants, and what sets their school apart. These are their responses:
1. What can applicants do to set themselves apart from their peers?
Honestly, we tell applicants to focus on themselves and not on their peers, but there are factors to consider. On the academic side, work to get as high a GMAT or GRE score as possible. A good score is an insurance policy and further evidence that you can handle the academic load. Besides a solid academic record, applicants should focus on activities and experiences that further their personal and professional development goals and passions. The focus should be on developing oneself, not competing against others. Our application instructions provide more details about each piece of the application and the process. It's also important to consider their "fit" for the School. Visit the School, attend an information session in Cambridge or in cities across the U.S. and the world. Do your homework before you apply.
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
Simply put, with the essays, we want them to answer our questions, not tell us what they think we want to hear. The essays are an opportunity to share the thoughts, experiences, accomplishments, and feelings that we wouldn't otherwise know about an applicant. We are looking to understand how each applicant makes decisions, builds and sustains relationships, and handles stressful situations.
3. How important is the applicant's GMAT score? How do you weigh it against undergraduate GPA and work experience? Which of these carry the most weight? The least?
A GMAT or GRE score that falls within the 80 percent range for a MIT Sloan (650 to 740) shows us that an applicant can handle the workload. Combined with their GPA, the two demonstrate a track record of academic achievement that our admissions committee can then expect to see continued during the M.B.A. program.
4. How much does prior work/internship experience weigh into your decision making? What's the typical or expected amount of work experience from an applicant?
Our students' average about five years' work experience, but the range can be from none to 15 years. What matters more to us is the quality and scope of one's accomplishments and successes, not the number of years.
5. What sets you apart from other schools? What can students gain from your school that they might not be able to find anywhere else?
The MIT Sloan curriculum provides an impressive number of international and action-based learning opportunities through its several "lab" classes, such as Global Entrepreneurship Lab (G-Lab) and Sustainability Lab (S-Lab), and trips and treks. If you are interested in entrepreneurship, sustainability or clean energy, MIT is the place to be because we are at the center of an extensive ecosystem for entrepreneurial activity and new product development. Our career "brochures" detail some of the directions students take in their academics and related extracurricular activities.
6. What do you look for in recommendation letters? How important is it that the letter's writer has worked regularly with the candidate in an office or school setting? Do you put much weight on letters from prominent public figures who may not know the applicant well?
In recommendation letters, we look for specific information about the applicants' strengths, areas for development, and accomplishments, so it is crucial that the recommender know the applicant well. The recommendations are an opportunity for an applicant to provide us with two other perspectives on themselves. Vague and general letters of recommendations that lack real specifics are a lost opportunity for the candidate.
7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?
From an applicant's perspective, we know it is a slow process, especially if they submit their application early. For example, the application for Round I will be available in mid-summer, the deadline is at the end of October, we review applications in November/December and then we (finally!) send out interview invitations in mid-December through January. If one submits early, that's a long wait. For Round II, the process moves a little faster. The deadline is usually mid-January and the interview invitations go out starting in February. If someone applies at the beginning of November, then the wait still seems long. There is no advantage to applying early, so remember to apply when your application is ready and complete.