MIT Sloan Essays • Question 2 (2010)

Essay 2: Please describe a time when you convinced an individual or group to accept one of your ideas. (500 words or fewer, limited to one page)

Let’s look at the key assumption here. What does it mean to convince?

Imagine I said this: I have a proposition for you. I’ve arranged for you to spend the night with either Carmen Electra or George Clooney, your choice. And for your troubles, I also have a briefcase here that contains 1 Million dollars in cash.

Now, most people on our planet (of sane mind) would take that deal without much deliberation, yes? (please?) It would be inaccurate to say that I CONVINCED this person to accept the deal. The deal sold itself. I didn’t do anything to alter the other guy’s position.

But let’s say that the person I’m talking to was 53 years old, happily married, with three children, extremely pious, and very principled about monogamy and earning money him/herself. Now we’re gonna have some fun J

It’s a silly example because now all of sudden I’m the Devil incarnate, but play along so we can illustrate a very obvious point. The stage is NOW set for me to CONVINCE this man or woman to take this offer. Why?

Because this particular person enters the situation with a reason NOT to go along with my idea.

That is THEEEE premise of this question. There has to been a time when you had an idea about something. Further, there was either a person or group who had compelling reasons NOT to rally behind that idea. Now we have a story.

Now we can indentify and establish those aspects in the beginning of your essay:

1. What you wanted (the objective).

2. Why others would likely NOT buy into your idea (or perhaps they outright said NO initially). This is the key. This essay will only be as strong as the opposing force that required your “convincing” to begin with.

Then, we move into HOW you changed their minds. How you persuaded them. How you turned their no… into a yes. Without that shift in thought, it isn’t quite relevant. Show us the way you did it. Convince us the same way you convinced them. We need to see the convincing, not just the results of it.

[The other component that’s crucial here is that the idea belonged to YOU. We see it often that people were the AGENTS of persuasion, but that the idea didn’t necessarily generate from themselves. Meh, not quite the same thing.]

In order for this sucker to hum, present us with very compelling reasons why someone WOULDN’T buy your argument. Load up. Pour on the opposing argument. This is critical. Setting up the bowling pins, one by one. These things are now in your way. Now what?

Knock em down.

One by one. Show how you prepared an argument, a tactic, a course of action that systematically DISMANTLED all the pins in your path…

MIT Sloan Essay Questions (2010)