The MIT app was my first-ever collge application, which might have been a good thing and might have been a bad thing. When I approached the essays I really tried to avoid a "formal essay" approach, because I figured that maybe that was a big reason they did away with the long essay. Instead I just said "the heck with it" and used a conversational approach, so to speak. I don't know if it will make me stand out and help in the long run, or if it will hurt me, or if other people did the same thing and it won't help or hurt in either direction. Be honest, I suppose. If an anecdote is the most natural way for you to express yourself in the essay context, use that. If a slightly broader but still representative perspective is YOU, use that. Go with your strenghths. The admissions officers don't want to see cookie cutter stuff.