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Discover all you need to know about MIT Sloan’s MBA program [Show Summary]
MIT Sloan is one of the magic M7 MBA programs, and its Assistant Dean, Dawna Levenson, shares everything applicants aiming for acceptance should know.
Interview with Dawna Levenson, Assistant Dean at MIT Sloan School of Management [Show Notes]
Welcome to the 498th episode of Admissions Straight Talk, Accepted’s podcast. Thanks for tuning in. Are you ready to apply to your dream MBA programs? Are you competitive at your target schools? Accepted’s MBA admissions quiz can give you a quick reality check. Just go to accepted.com/mbaquiz, complete the quiz, and you’ll not only get an assessment, but also tips on how to improve your qualifications. Plus, it’s all free.
It gives me great pleasure to have back on Admissions Straight Talk, Dawna Levenson, Assistant Dean at MIT Sloan School of Management. Dawna earned her bachelor’s and master’s in Management Science at MIT Sloan, became a partner at Accenture, and then returned to MIT Sloan in 2007 as Associate Director of Academic Programs. She moved into Admissions in 2012 and became Director of Admissions in 2013 and Assistant Dean in 2018.
Can you give us an overview of the MIT Sloan Full-Time MBA program for those listeners who aren’t that familiar with it? [2:07]
Absolutely. I think I would begin with class size. Our two-year MBA has a class size of roughly 410. You may have some friends who just graduated in the past year or so, and their class size was slightly bigger. That’s a result of the pandemic when there was a fair amount of uncertainty, and we actually grew the class size in 2020. However, it was never intended for that to be permanent, and so we have slowly worked our way back down. Fundamentally, the class that just matriculated, and moving forward, will be approximately 410.
We have a one-semester core and then three semesters to really shape the curriculum as you see fit based on your interests. As much as you as a student have flexibility in terms of your classes and shaping that, our faculty have a lot of flexibility, too, in terms of how they teach. Your classes will be a combination of traditional lectures and problem sets, as well as a lot of project-based classes.
We have a subset of these project-based classes that are called our Action Learning labs, where you are either on a particular subject matter or focused on a certain geography and working as part of a team to solve a real problem for a real company and make recommendations to them at the end of the project.
Are you seeing any trends in terms of hiring? Where do MIT Sloan MBA grads get jobs? [3:42]
We just recently published our 2022-2023 employment report, so these numbers are right off of that. For students who graduated in 2022 seeking employment, 31.2% of them went into consulting, 22.6% went into finance, and 22.6% went into technology. An additional 6.8% went into pharma, healthcare, and biotech. It’s a good spread.
What’s a little misleading is some may have gone into consulting, but they’re focused on the tech industry. So, keep that in mind.
Can you explain the optional core electives? [5:02]
Our two-year MBA students spend their first semester taking core classes. You’re actually part of a cohort of somewhere between 65 and 70 students who you’re taking all of your classes with. You’re also assigned to be part of a core team of six or seven people where you’re actually doing all of your work together. In addition to your core set of classes, you also have the option to take one additional elective. You can choose from marketing, finance, strategy, or operations for that additional elective.
What are the core requirements? [5:48]
They include microeconomics, DMD, which is data models and decisions, accounting, and communications.
What are the tracks and certificates that MIT Sloan offers? What is the difference between them? [6:16]
We offer a flexible curriculum, however, if you are interested in finance, entrepreneurship and innovation, or enterprise management, we have tracks. The tracks are very much MBA-specific, and you could really think of them as a roadmap. They provide you with some guidance on how to take your electives over the next three semesters.
Additionally, we now have four certificates. We have certificates in sustainability, healthcare, data analytics, and we just introduced digital product management. One of the differences would be that while the tracks are very much MBA-specific, certificates are not. In fact, the sustainability and healthcare certificates will have students in them from throughout the institute. Analytics is actually too popular at Sloan to be able to really open it up to others.
The question that I often hear is, “Are tracks and certificates designed so that you could possibly combine them and do one of each?” The answer is also absolutely. As you can imagine, someone could be on the finance track but want to apply it to the healthcare space, so that’s a great option for them.
The piece of advice I give to students, if you’re seriously considering doing a track and certificate, is to be a bit of a planner. Look ahead and lay out your courses. Some classes are only offered in certain semesters, so make sure that you’re taking them when they’re offered. If you lay it all out in advance, it is absolutely doable.
What don’t people know about MIT Sloan that you would love for them to know? What is a common misconception about MIT Sloan that you’d like to dispel? [8:13]
The misconception is definitely this idea many people have that you need an engineering or STEM background to apply, be admitted, or do well in our program. Our students come from a very diverse set of backgrounds, studying different things in school and having had many different jobs and job functions prior to actually matriculating.
To answer your second question, I think it’s fair to say that when many people are thinking about going to business school because they want to pursue a career in finance, we are not at the top of their list. There are other schools that are more likely to be there, either because of their reputation or perhaps their location. What I think many students will tell you that surprises them is that when they show up, they realize how amazing our finance faculty are and how diverse the courses are. Our whole finance ecosystem, which is inclusive of classes and clubs, and conferences, is a very pleasant surprise to many students.
During COVID, MIT Sloan was waiving the test. Today, a waiver can be requested if a candidate cannot access the GMAT or the GRE. Why the change? [9:43]
To be honest, waiving the test for everyone was never meant to be permanent. It was really in response to the fact that at the height of the pandemic, in the 2021 application season, it was very difficult for many of our candidates across the world to have access to an in-person exam or even, quite frankly, to an online exam. We did not want anybody to be disadvantaged. Given the global nature of our applicant pool in our class, we thought that waiving it would make sense.
What we did at the time to address that was we added a new section to our application where people could very easily provide us with additional information. They could have done this before, but we made it a little bit more visible. In this section, applicants could share certifications they may have or online classes they may have taken. That was the 2021 season. This past year, we implemented the waiver, and we were somewhat lenient with that waiver as well, sort of weaning ourselves from that.
This cycle, we continue to have a waiver, but we have much stronger language around the specifics of what the intention is for the waiver. It’s truly meant for people who don’t have access to an exam.
Does MIT Sloan have any plans to accept the Executive Assessment or other graduate aptitude tests like the MCAT or the LSAT? [11:47]
Not at this time. For the two-year MBA, we accept the GMAT or the GRE. The percentage of people who are submitting a GRE continues to increase.
In case anyone is listening who is considering our Sloan Fellows MBA program, which is for people who have, on average, 14 years of work experience, we do accept the Executive Assessment because, quite frankly, that’s the population it was designed for.
What is the purpose of the different elements in the Sloan application? It is a very distinctive application. [12:45]
We believe that our application process is extremely straightforward and that it’s really an opportunity for us to get to know you as a candidate. There really are no embedded tricks here at all. Let me just walk you through it a little bit.
I like to think of the cover letter, the resume, and the video as a bit of a package that tells your story. Your resume is your work history. Your video, which is a 60-second video introducing yourself to your future classmates, is really your personal side. We do not expect this to be production quality. This is you holding your phone or a friend holding your phone and recording you. You can have a little bit of fun with it. Over the years, people have gotten pretty creative, but I would caution you to please not get so creative that we’re not able to hear the audio clearly. The cover letter really ties it all together and begins to answer, “Why MIT Sloan?” It should be 300 words or less. You can’t possibly tell us everything that you want to, but you’re telling us enough so that we want to know more.
We then have the organization chart. You should think about this as a relationship map. Stick your face in the middle of the page, and then draw lines to other people with whom you engage at work. Do you have direct reports? Do you have peers? Who’s your immediate supervisor? How many levels does that go up? We are not looking for the company organization chart that anybody can find on the website. If perhaps you work in an environment that’s project-based, like consulting or something else, feel free to submit your most recent project structure.
This helps give us a little bit more perspective in terms of your work and where you fit in. There is no wrong answer here. I promise you. We have never not admitted somebody solely on the basis of their org chart.
If you are an entrepreneur and don’t have any formal direct reports, think about who you engage with. Do you have clients? Do you have customers? Do you have suppliers? These are the things we’re looking for for the org chart.
We ask for one letter of recommendation. Ideally, it is your current supervisor, but we know for a whole variety of reasons, you may not be comfortable telling him or her yet that you’re going to business school. Maybe you just switched jobs and they don’t know you that well. Think of somebody who knows you well and can talk about the impact that you have made on an organization or a group. It should be somebody who is willing to champion you and spend the time to write a meaningful letter of recommendation.
The two additional references are very similar to when you apply for a job and you list references. We’re asking for their names and contact information. In the event that we are looking for additional information about you, perhaps there are just one or two lingering questions, we would then reach out to one of the recommenders. We would never blindly call them. We would always send an email, give them some context and ask to schedule a call. So, you should let them know, but let them know that the chances of us calling them is pretty low.
This year, we added an optional short answer question. This is truly optional. It’s 250 words or less. The question is, “How has the world you came from shaped who you are today?” It’s really an opportunity to share more about yourself that you did not find a spot for somewhere else in the application. If there’s nothing more for you to say, feel free to leave it blank. This is not the place to tell us why you had a lower undergraduate GPA than you would’ve liked. This is the first year that we’re doing it, and we’re very interested in seeing exactly what kind of information we get from that.
In terms of our process, we have three application deadlines. We review all applications after a deadline, so you get no extra credit, and you’re not better positioned at all if you submit an application two weeks in advance, although perhaps you can sleep a little easier. After an application deadline, we review all of the applications. We have a group of trained readers who read through all of our applications, and then a subset of people are invited for an interview.
An interview is a required step in the process. It is by invitation only. This year, we are continuing to offer interviews via Zoom. Before the pandemic, they were, for the most part, in person. This is by no means a statement that they will continue to be via Zoom forever, but for this year, we felt it was the right choice. They are roughly 30 minutes long.
If you’re invited for an interview, you’re going to be asked to submit two additional pieces of information. One of them is a response to a question that is reinforcing the fact that we are truly a mission-driven school. Our mission is to really identify and solve the world’s biggest and most challenging problems in order to make it a better place. As one of the pillars of this mission, we believe that creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment is really important. So we want applicants to tell us about a time that they contributed to creating a diverse environment. The second piece is a data visualization that has some meaning for an applicant. You could have either read it online, found it in a magazine, or created it on your own, whether it be for work or not. There are no wrong answers here, for the most part. The range of topics that we get is fascinating. It really runs the gamut. There are some that have been around COVID, sustainability, healthcare, gender inequality in the workforce, you name it. Most likely, your interviewer will ask you to talk about it as an initial icebreaker at the very beginning of your interview, so be prepared to talk about it.
The interview itself is 30 minutes long. We may begin with this icebreaker. We may have a few questions about the application. Are there some gaps or holes or outstanding questions we might have? Then we’re going to spend a good portion of that 30 minutes asking you a series of behavioral questions. I know that you can now Google behavioral questions so, if you feel the need to prepare and practice with friends, go ahead. Then finally, in the end, we will ask you if you have any questions. The one thing I’d say is to have a question or two prepared. These should be questions that you can’t easily find on our website. Some people think that it sounds good to say, “You know what? I’ve done all my homework. I’ve talked to a bunch of students, and I have no more questions left.” I know that sounds like it could sound impressive. The truth is, it’s a real missed opportunity. So, have a question or two available.
Check out our School-Specific MBA Application Essay Tips >>
What’s the most common mistake that you see applicants making? [21:19]
The most common mistake is trying to stand out in an inappropriate way. Perhaps provocative is the best word I can use. Some applicants do this in their video or cover letter, where they talk about subject matter that has a shock factor tied to it. They use unprofessional, inappropriate language. It happens. Every year, there’s a handful of them.
Aside from that, it’s just not following instructions. I believe we’re very reasonable. We’re not word counters. If we ask for a cover letter to be 300 words and it’s 310, that’s no big deal. If you submit a five-page essay, it raises a red flag for us.
Can you touch on MIT Sloan’s early admissions program? [22:11]
We launched this back in 2019. This is very much for people who are either finishing up undergrad or graduate school and have not yet worked full-time. You can apply to our MBA program, be admitted, and then after two years of work, decide whether or not you want to come. You have a two- to five-year time period to matriculate with our MBA program. You will have a seat in our class. We will reach out to you every summer and ask you if you think that the following September might be the time you want to matriculate. We’ll have a call with you to see what you’ve been doing. For the most part, we’re pretty reasonable as long as you haven’t been sitting on the couch for two years. Then we will ask for your deposit. We will ask for you to truly commit at the tail end of our Round 1 timeframe, which is early December, and we will fold you into our Round 1 accepts, admin weekend, and deposit timeframe.
All right, great. Thank you for that. Before I leave the early admissions program, I mean, I know it’s for people who are graduating college or are completing a graduate program, have not yet worked full-time, but that’s a very broad category, right? Can you give a little bit more… I mean, that would be millions of people. Can you give a little more detail?
Whom is the MIT Sloan early admissions program for? [23:34]
This is for people who sense they might be interested in pursuing an MBA down the road. Or people who are planners. The GMAC folks will tell you that if you’re considering applying to business school, the best time to do it is actually while you’re a college senior because of your comfortableness with taking exams. Our application is very similar to our MBA application. We don’t have the org chart because we recognize that you haven’t necessarily been working full-time, but we’re looking for evidence of competencies which is very similar to what we would ask for the two-year MBA.
We recognize that we’re looking for this information in different amounts and in different locations. We’re looking to see evidence of relationship building. For the two-year MBA, we would most likely be focused on your work environment and building relationships there. For those who are applying to the MBA early, it may be in the classroom or research. Perhaps you’re involved in your sorority or fraternity or play a sport. We’re looking for similar evidence, just in different locations.
Announcing Extended Round 2 Deadline for Laid-off Workers
We have our Round 2 deadline coming up in January. However, as a result of a lot of the recent layoffs that have taken place, we have actually announced a Round 2 extension for people who may have been impacted by this series of layoffs. That deadline will be February 23rd. We have chosen not to specify a field because there could be a ripple effect. If you’re listening now and this has happened to you, you have three months, which we feel is sufficient time to really prepare, study for an exam, and submit an application by February 23rd.
What advice would you give to someone thinking ahead to a fall 2023 or even a 2024 application? [26:00]
I will say it’s never too early. You’re creating your list of schools, and you should engage with each and every one of those schools as much as you possibly can, whether it be virtually or in person or through these podcasts, because every school has a personality. It does. That personality is made up of certain tangibles and certain intangibles.
Take, for example, class size, which was the first thing I talked about. I think that’s something that people should make note of when they’re putting together their list of schools. Some people want a bigger student body than others.
But fundamentally, it’s never too early to start engaging with different schools, attending events virtually or in person and really start to narrow down your list to schools that really resonate with you.
What would you have liked me to ask you? [27:29]
For those of you who follow me on LinkedIn, you saw I just celebrated 15 years at MIT, which is a long time. People ask me why I stay, and the truth is every day that I drive into work, I think, “Wow, I can’t believe I get to work here every day.” And this is 15 years in. MIT is a very special place. Yesterday, we had an overview of our sustainability certificate. People from the certificate came and really drilled down on the sustainability work that’s happening here at Sloan and at MIT that you can really engage with as part of that certificate. It is really trying to make the world a better place. We, as a school, have a very strong mission statement. I believe in it strongly. And for me to be able to play some small role in that is very fulfilling.
Where can listeners and potential applicants learn more about MIT’s full-time MBA program? [28:46]
You can go to mitsloan.mit.edu.
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