MIT Sloan's Supplemental Essay - Mandatory or Optional?

Our clients are reporting to us that during their visits to MIT a number of admissions committee members are "strongly encouraging" applicants to submit Sloan's Supplemental (Optional) essay.  This is advice that should definitely be considered, but only if you really have something to say - not just a rehash of prior content or an ill-advised attempt at a goals statement.  At a high-level, the supplemental essay is a test of your ability to deal with ambiguity.  So consider this a de facto requirement, but (again) only if you have a different dimension of your character to bring to the table.  If you can pass that sniff test - read on.

What you say and how you show it represents your ability to know your audience.  This is why we recommend using PowerPoint to convey your ideas.  PowerPoint is not only a medium readily grasped by the layman, but it maximizes your ability to present a number of themes and a longer chronology (timeline) to the viewer.  Just like the MIT Sloan "cover letter" essay,  your supplemental PowerPoint has to be just that - a presentation that effectively utilizes the medium and not a data dump of words, graphs, et al.  

On that note, get your face in the shots front and center.  Columbia Business School's application asks for a photo of your mug, Chicago Booth's PPT essay wants to see your face as well - so guess what? - MIT Sloan's application committee wants to see that you have all your teeth and that you are physically presentable as a person (and to a certain extent as a professional.)  It's a vain world out there according to the Economist.  

Finally, Jeff Carbone (of MIT Sloan MBA Admissions) says in this Youtube video that any applicant video should be no longer than one minute.  So when considering the number of slides that you are going to submit - pick a number that would not exceed a minute to full view and absorb (as the reader).  My recommendation is to go with five slides.  Avoid four slides for one simple reason - the Chicago Booth PowerPoint presentation essay asks for four slides.  Lame reason?  Sure.  Practical advice?  I think so.

Another practical tip - Use the interwebs to Google up some current Sloan applicant presentations.  I have culled a few from Slideshare and Youtube to show you what works and what could use some work.  This is just my personal evaluation/opinion/constructive critique and not an indication of whether or not these applicants got in (or not.)  Additionally, I have no relationship with the authors of the MIT presentations below.

For the sake of clarity, I am including Sloan's actual (supplemental) essay question below:

Supplemental Information (Optional)

The Admissions Committee invites you to share anything else you would like us and/or your future classmates to know about you. This may be in a written essay of 300 words or less (limit 2000 characters) or in a multimedia presentation. Presentations must be accessible via an unprotected URL and cannot be uploaded directly into your application.  Videos should be no more than one minute long; please do not use Flash.  If you wish to share a link, please only link to content that is hosted online already. We are not looking for links to download files (e.g. no Dropbox, ftp, etc.).


Overall, this is an example of a good presentation.  It's personal and makes the viewer feel emotionally connected (not emotionally manipulated) by the applicant (Kang Sung Su).   

Sung Su needed to be a little more clear in some of the language he used when referring to who was going back to school, but the message is clear by the end of the supplemental essay.

Clear and concise connects with the committee.


This is another creative presentation, albeit a little gimmicky.  IMHO, this would pass the adcom's sniff test. However, the applicant could chose a different song because "Call Me Maybe" is the next "Bye Bye Bye". 

A suggestion - dump the subtitles - instead slow the video down and zoom in on the playing card text. Otherwise, the impact of the card tricks is lessened  Just don't make the adcom stop and zoom to read because Jeff Carbone has to view the supplemental on an iPad for the love of God. 

One last point - "Offer me Maybe" as a closer is good in that it asks for action, but it is poor in that no one in the US uses the term as an idiomatic expression.  If they do, it's probably not a legal profession in 49 states.


This supplemental slide presentation belies the fact that the applicant is probably a very competitive candidate to MIT Sloan. Overall, I felt that the applicant failed to connect, or even understand who would view this presentation.

Read through it and ask yourself if you feel a supple, yet mental connection with the applicant.  

In all seriousness, I believe there is a generic element here - most notably - no pictures of the applicant.  There is no introductory slide with the applicant's name, presentation theme, or sense of solid direction.  Remember, that presentation has to stand on its own as a coherent entity.  

Interests Slide - I thought that Indian Classical Music tip was good - how about running with that for the first slide?  It would have been good to see some onstage photos here. 

Also, is "Nucor" really an interest you want to tell the adcom about?  You may love your job, but it seems odd that Nucor, Accents and TimeMachine are interests.  I do understand that building a Time Machine could have been the crux of the cover letter essay for Sloan.  However, each essay needs to stand on its own because Jeff (who's Jeff? Exactly) was only issued one iPad. That is, he should not have to keep going back to a prior essay to cross reference a point being made here. Don't make him do the work.  

Belief(s) Slide - Quoting others is not advised because you are using others thoughts to represent your own.  Just state what you believe in - the adcom does not care what Thomas Paine thinks.  The adcom wants to know "that you" and "what you" think.  In fact, most of the public figures referenced are better off at an EMBA program.

I can tell that the applicant here is smart, accomplished and is a contributor, but this Sloan presentation could be improved.

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