We are back for another edition of our Admissions Director Q&A series. This time, we stop in New York’s third largest metropolitan area of Rochester. There, Rebekah Lewin is assistant dean of admissions and financial aid for the full-time MBA and MS programs at the University of Rochester, Simon Business School. She has over twenty years of undergraduate and graduate admissions experience, primarily at the University of Rochester.
In her current role, she oversees strategy related to recruitment, admissions, financial aid, and on-boarding for these programs. Rebekah also provides leadership to several other key areas, including Academic Operations, the Registrar’s Office, and the Undergraduate Business Program that launched several years ago.
Lewin is involved in several board and advisory roles, including serving as Vice-Chair on the Board of Trustees for the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, the Forté School Advisory Council, and the MBA Tour School Advisory Board. She is a graduate of the University of Rochester, Simon Business School MBA program and she holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Roberts Wesleyan College.
Clear Admit got the scoop on Simon’s new STEM-designated MBA option, a step-by-step breakdown of how applications are vetted, the insight essays should offer into candidates, and more!
Clear Admit: What’s the single most exciting development, change, or event happening at Simon in the coming year?
Rebekah Lewin: Last year we launched our STEM-designated MBA option across all of our specializations and tracks (Consulting, Marketing, Finance, and General Management) and this current year, the STEM designation is integrated with a newly-launched curriculum.
Key features include:
- Required project that is specific to a student’s future career interest (i.e. Finance, Marketing, or Consulting)
- Required breadth elective courses in areas such as Negotiations, Business Ethics, or Leadership to name a few
- The ability to take elective courses starting in the second half of the fall semester of the first year.
We are excited about all of these changes and how they continue to focus on preparing our students for their future career path while also integrating with co-curricular activities, such as student club programming, case competitions, and experiential learning.
CA: What is the one aspect of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?
RL: Simon hosts prospective students on campus for several recruiting events between October and March. The events run Friday afternoon through Saturday afternoon, and they are excellent opportunities to visit Rochester, meet current students and alumni, attend a sample class, and learn more about the student experience—from co-curricular activities to career services support.
We offer hotel accommodations to our guests and travel support to those who are traveling a significant distance to visit campus. It’s a great way to check out the School and determine “fit.” We also allow candidates who are applying for the current application year to complete their admissions interview while they are with us in Rochester.
CA: Walk us through the life of an application in your office from an operational standpoint. What happens between the time an applicant clicks “submit” and the time the committee offers a final decision (e.g. how many “reads” does it get, how long is each “read,” who reads it, does the committee convene to discuss it as a group, etc.)?
RL: Our application process is holistic and thorough. Once a candidate submits the application it is processed by our support team to confirm that all materials to complete the file were provided by the applicant. Applications then receive an initial read to review for interview consideration.
They all then go through Admissions Committee for a second review, regardless of whether or not they were invited to interview. We have full-time staff and seasonal staff (most are former admissions officers or alumni) who help with reviewing applications. Our Admissions Committee is a group of full-time staff who meet weekly to review applications and make decisions.
CA: How does your team approach the essay portion of the application specifically? What are you looking for as you read the essays? Are there common mistakes that applicants should try to avoid? What is one key thing they should keep in mind as they sit down to write?
RL: Essays help to differentiate a candidate who might otherwise look similar to another applicant based upon test scores, academic record, or other metrics. We are looking for compelling writing skills, but also the ability to get to know each applicant on a deeper level.
Our current students tell us that the culture at Simon is unique and special, and this is something we are hoping to preserve through our admissions selection process. The essays provide a window into each applicant and this piece of the application, along with the interview, help us to learn more about each candidate and the unique qualifications that they would bring to our program if offered admission.
I encourage candidates to approach each set of School essays with a fresh perspective and resist the urge to edit another School’s essays to try and “fit” them to a new prompt.
CA: How many essays would you wager you’ve read in your tenure at Simon? Thinking about the essays that have been the most memorable, is there something they have in common?
RL: I have been working in MBA Admissions for 20 years, so definitely thousands of essays over the span of my career. The essays that stand out the most find a way to personalize the story while still being succinct and focused.
CA: Could you tell us about your interview process? Approximately how many applicants do you interview? Who conducts the interview (students, admissions officers, alumni) and what is the nature of the interview (blind, non-blind)?
RL: Our interview process is by invitation. More than half of our applicants are invited to interview, and we conduct interviews primarily with our Admissions officers and occasionally with alumni. We really try to conduct as many interviews in person as possible, but we also conduct video interviews for candidates who live a significant distance from campus.
Interviews are blind—the interviewer has a copy of the resume for the candidate, but they have not read the application prior to the interview. This allows a fresh perspective and assessment in addition to the perspective of the person who reads the application. Both of these viewpoints are reviewed by the Admissions Committee before we make our final decision.