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

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In another installment of our Admissions Director Q&A series, we hear from Rebekah Lewin, Senior Assistant Dean of Admissions and Programs at the University of Rochester, Simon Business School, about the Simon MBA application, admissions and more. Rebekah has over 20 years of undergraduate and graduate admissions and program management experience, primarily at the University of Rochester. In her current role, she oversees strategy related to recruitment, admissions, financial aid, career management and student experience aspects for all MBA and MS programs. Rebekah is involved in several board and advisory roles, including serving on the Board of Trustees for the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management and the Forté School Advisory Council. Rebekah holds a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Roberts Wesleyan College and an MBA from Simon.

Read on for her insights into the Simon MBA application, program and more.

university of rochester simon
Rebekah Lewin, Senior Assistant Dean of Admissions and Programs at Rochester Simon

Clear Admit: What is the one aspect of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?
Rebekah Lewin: We have one of the most diverse MBA programs in the US—in terms of our racial and ethnic diversity (more than 30% of incoming domestic students), gender diversity (more than 40% women) and international diversity (around 40% of our students originate from outside the US). This brings a rich diversity of backgrounds and perspectives to team dynamics, classroom conversations, and co-curricular activities. Beyond the diversity of the class, there is also an increased and intentional focus on inclusion and belonging through the types of training, engagement, and support that we offer to our students. This serves as preparation for our MBA graduates to lead, manage, and influence EDI initiatives in their post-MBA companies.

CA: Walk us through the life of a Simon MBA 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?
RL: The application review process includes a team that processes each application to confirm that all required items in the application are fully submitted. Then the application is passed to the Admissions Committee for review. After the first review, interview invitations are extended.  Candidates based in the US are typically invited to campus to interview and candidates outside the US are either interviewed via Zoom or in person (depending on our recruitment travel schedule and/or COVID restrictions). For those candidates interviewed, the application then goes back to the Admissions Committee for another review. Final decisions are communicated no later than the decision notification date for the application round.

CA: How does your team approach the essay portion of the Simon MBA application specifically? What are you looking for as you read an essay? 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: The essay is our first opportunity to truly get to know a candidate. We are looking for applicants to answer the essay question(s), while allowing their personality and unique background to help them stand out among others who might have similar academic or work backgrounds. We want the essay to aid in telling the story—why B-school and why Simon/Rochester? And how do the candidate’s personal and professional goals align with what we offer?

In terms of common mistakes or advice I would offer the following: try to find the balance between thoughtfully answering the question without overthinking how to answer or what you think the school wants you to say. We truly want the essays to be a reflection of you—there are not right or wrong answers. If you are thoughtful in your decision to pursue graduate business school, that should be reflected in each aspect of your application, including your admissions essays.

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 (resume-based, behavioral)?
RL: The Admissions interview is an invitation-only opportunity to connect with an Admissions staff member or a Simon alum. The only exceptions to our invitation-only policy are our signature on-campus events in the fall, when we allow prospective student attendees to have an interview while they are on campus, regardless of whether or not they have completed the full application.

The interview is résumé based, and typically includes a combination of “fit” and behavioral questions. Our interviewers will not have reviewed the other application materials prior to the interview.  We consider the interview to be a two-way assessment. Although we will ask the majority of the questions, we try to reserve time at the end for the candidate to ask us at least one or two questions (depending on time) to better get to know the School and our program.

CA: What is your testing policy? Do you offer exam waivers? Why or why not?
RL: While the Admissions Committee values the GMAT or GRE to assess academic readiness for a rigorous graduate program, we offer exam waiver options depending on a student’s academic profile and professional background, or other unique circumstances that might help to demonstrate capability to successfully handle the academic rigor of a challenging MBA program.

For a candidate who does not submit a GRE or GMAT, we typically put a heavier emphasis on the undergraduate academic record, as well as any graduate or non-degree coursework—particularly business or quantitative classes and the grades the student earned. We also consider certifications and other credentials, such as the CPA or CFA, that might signal academic capability.

CA: Tell us briefly about two popular courses at the University of Rochester Simon Business School.
RL: There are many classes that routinely earn high accolades from our students, but two courses that are very popular include Advanced Marketing Strategy (an elective that many Marketing and non-Marketing students take) and our core Business Communications course.

Advanced Marketing Strategy is a semester-long simulation that extends concepts related to strategic marketing decisions about R&D, production, pricing, product, advertising, and channels.  Students also learn frameworks related to negotiations and crisis management, while more deeply exploring their individual strengths and weaknesses as they learn to work effectively within a team environment.

The Business Communications is a core course sequence that routinely is rated one of the most valuable classes in the MBA program.  The two-course sequence emphasizes Professional Communication: Keys to Persuasion in Business Relationships and Interpersonal Persuasion: Influence in Dynamic Interaction.  The course reinforces practice that shapes students into exceptional communicators both for their internship and the workplace post-MBA.

CA: As we learn to live with COVID-19, campuses have opened up and students are back. What about prospective students? Will they have the opportunity to visit campus? Will University of Rochester Simon admissions interviews be conducted virtually?
RL: During the 2021-22 academic year, we hosted our Diversity and Women’s Conferences in person with prospective students in attendance. For 2022-23, we expect to again offer these conferences to prospective students, along with our Experience Simon Weekend events and individual campus visits. Admissions interviews will be conducted both virtually and in person, depending on location and availability. We strongly encourage participation in an on-campus event, as this is an excellent way to meet current students and alumni, and to also engage with other prospective students more fully.

CA: Is there anything else you’d like to highlight about the University of Rochester Simon MBA program or admissions process?
RL: The Admissions Committee encourages you to “Check Your Eligibility!” This process allows a candidate to share information prior to applying—include their résumé and test scores (if they’ve taken a standardized test)—and get feedback from the Admissions Committee on what/how to best prepare for the application process.

In addition, please connect with us! During the academic year current students love engaging with prospective students, and in the meantime, you can check out upcoming virtual events, request information, explore the Simon Admissions Blog, and more. As always, our team is available to assist with any questions you have—don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

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.