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Admissions Director Q&A: Rebekah Lewin of the University of Rochester, Simon Business School

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We continue our Admissions Director Q&A series with Rebekah Lewin, Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at the University of Rochester, Simon Business School.  She has more than 20 years of experience working in undergraduate and graduate admissions, financial aid and student experience roles, primarily within the University of Rochester.  In her current position, she oversees efforts related to recruitment, admissions, financial aid and on-boarding for more than 500 students across the full-time MBA and MS programs.   Rebekah also oversees academic operations for the business school and has program management responsibilities for the Barry Florescue Undergraduate Business Program within the University of Rochester.

Rebekah currently serves on the Forté School Advisory Council and as a board member on the Simon Women’s Alliance alumnae group.  She is a long-standing member of the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management Board of Trustees, most recently serving as Vice Chair of the Board. Read on for her insights into the Simon admissions process, how COVID-19 has impacted admissions events and more.

Rebekah Lewin, Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Rochester Simon Business School

Clear Admit: What is the one aspect of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?

Rebekah Lewin: Prospective students may already know that Simon offers an option for STEM designation for any MBA specialization, including general management, but what they may not know is that the STEM designation is a great option for any student, regardless of pre-MBA background. There are no educational or work experience prerequisites for pursuing a STEM-designated degree, and every year we see students with non-quantitative backgrounds excel in STEM courses. In addition, roughly half of our core courses are STEM designated, so students are easily able to satisfy the requirements throughout the two-year program. I encourage you to have a conversation with your admissions counselor to learn more about whether a STEM-designated MBA could make sense for you.

CA: How might the applicant experience look different this year due to COVID-19? How would you advise candidates to get to know your MBA program and student community if they aren’t able to visit your campus?

RL: There are some things that will be different for the 2021 application process. We have shifted to virtual Admissions recruiting events due to limitations on travel and larger campus gatherings through at least the end of 2020. However, allowing students the opportunity to learn about the special culture of our MBA program is really important, so we will be arranging virtual events so that candidates to meet us in small groups or individually prior to applying. I recommend checking our website for information on upcoming events. If a student has interest in connecting for a virtual informational meeting, they can reach out to our Admissions team at [email protected] with a copy of their résumé, and we will be in touch with next steps.

Also, we have some students located in regions of the world where test-taking is limited or not available. We will continue to offer several options for the standardized test requirement including the GMAT, the GRE, the Executive Assessment, or a test waiver. Details on our test waiver policy will be available when our 2021 application launches at the end of the summer, and will be based upon a student’s undergraduate GPA.

We will also continue to offer student ambassador connections via email, phone, and webinar once the fall semester begins. This is a great chance to learn more about the student experience directly from our first- and second-year MBA students.

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: After a student submits their application, it is processed by our operations team to ensure that all materials were successfully submitted. It then goes to the Admissions Committee for an initial review and the opportunity for an interview invitation. Following the interview, the application materials are reviewed again by the Admissions Committee for a final decision. This process can take a few weeks or slightly longer—the overall time frame typically depends on the time of year, application round, and how quickly the interview is conducted.

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: We love reading the essays, as we expect they will help you differentiate yourself from other candidates, tell your story, and help us understand and better assess your “fit” for Simon. We encourage you to fully answer the question(s) asked, stay within word limits, and avoid boilerplate essays. Ultimately, the feedback from the person who reads the application and essays should match up with the assessment and details learned during the admissions interview. I encourage you not to “overthink” what to write, and especially try to avoid writing what you think we want to read.  Be your authentic self when you write—it makes a difference and really helps you to shine through as a competitive candidate.

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?

RL: Our interview process is by invitation once a candidate submits their application. We typically interview about half of the candidates in our applicant pool. If a candidate is interviewed, the interview is typically done by a staff member or alum (someone else beyond the person reading the application). The interview is done “blind” with just the résumé as a reference for the interviewer.

CA: Tell us briefly about two notable professors at your institution (ideally one student favorite, and one up-and-coming).

RL: Kristina Brecko joined Simon Business School in 2017 and she teaches the core marketing class in the Full-Time MBA program, and has immediately developed a rapport with her students by making her class engaging and interactive. Kristina’s research interests include quantitative marketing, empirical industrial organization, pricing, advertising, and sustainability marketing. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and her master’s and PhD degrees from Stanford University.

Jeanine Miklós-Thal joined Simon Business School in 2009 and she teaches pricing and game theory elective classes in the Full-Time MBA program. She has been named to the School’s teaching honor roll many times in recognition of her superior teaching. Jeanine holds a PhD in economics and her research spans industrial organization, marketing, and personnel economics. Her research has been published in various journals, including Management Science, Marketing Science, the Journal of Marketing Research, the Journal of the European Economic Association, The Economic Journal, The RAND Journal of Economics, American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, and Games and Economic Behavior.

CA: Anything else you’d like to highlight about your MBA program or admissions process?

RL: Simon Business School recently announced exciting news about our Dean leadership change with the appointment of Sevin Yeltekin, effective July 1, 2020.  Dean Yeltekin previously served as senior associate dean at the Tepper School at Carnegie Mellon University. Prior to joining the Tepper School, she was a member of the faculty at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She has served as an associate editor at four journals: Operations Research, Journal of Monetary Economics, Macroeconomic Dynamics, and Quantitative Economics.

Dean Yeltekin received her bachelor’s degree in economics and mathematics from Wellesley College, and master’s and PhD degrees in economics from Stanford University.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.