The MBA Gatekeeper At MIT Sloan

How has the admissions process changed from your perspective?

I am not sure that the process itself has changed so much. From our perspective, we’re benefiting from the new technology that has been put in place to make the work more efficient like reading online and doing our write-ups online. As long as i have been reading for MIT Sloan, our process has been the same. There has been a slight shift recently, with a little more emphasis on the interview just because of the challenges in determining the authenticity of the written part of the application. Overall, what we are looking for has not changed.

And what exactly are you looking for in a candidate?

We assess applicants on a scorecard that has two basic dimensions: promotions and performance and promotions in the workplace and personal attributes, including such things as evidence of leadership skills, building meaningful relationships and accomplishing work in a productive environment with others.

Relationship building for us is so important as an indicator of success both in our classroom and at work. The reality is we live in a world where there are other people involved. Being able to prove you are a productive member of a team and realizing that what you do is one piece of doing something bigger is important to us. We want to make sure that the people who we bring into the program are comfortable working in a team environment and are able to build meaningful relationships. In the first semester, every student is assigned to a team of six or seven and the majority of your coursework is done in teams.

Can you be more specific about your ideal applicant for MIT Sloan?

The ideal candidate thrives in ambiguity and is willing to challenge him or herself outside their comfort zone. They are academically successful and can show a pattern of accomplishments.  MIT Sloan is a collaborative environment, so they must show an ability to be able to work with people from diverse backgrounds and an open attitude to multiple perspectives. Since we are a mission-driven school focused on innovation and making an impact, we look for candidates who are passionate and have a history of innovation and innovative thinking.  It is important that the fit with our mission, values and culture are aligned.

There’s a sense that there is an engineering bias at MIT Sloan, that if you have an engineering background you are more likely to be a fit. Is that a fair assessment?

It’s just not true. Clearly, MIT Sloan is part of MIT so people feel that. But that is certainly not what we are looking for. Do we attract a fair number of engineers who apply to Sloan? Absolutely. But that is not one of the criteria we look for in applicants. On the application, the two academic courses we ask people to pull out are calculus and microeconomics. They need to have those courses to hit the ground running in the fall. But you certainly don’t have to have an engineering background.

What’s new in MIT’s application process this year?

One of my personal goals for the admissions team at MIT Sloan is for our team to get to know each applicant extremely well throughout the application process. I think our behavioral-based questions and competency matrix for evaluation help us do this.  The optional question is something that we tried last year and really liked. We chose this year to make it even more open-ended – because the applicants never cease to amaze us with their innovative approaches. This year a lot more people have taken us up on it. They’re sending in a variety of different formats that allow them to stand out and distinguish themselves. So we are getting a lot more videos and interesting presentations.

We encourage people to treat all parts of the application as an opportunity for us to get to know them better. While we do not require the optional essay, I feel it is a great chance for applicants to share something that maybe they would not include in a standard essay- for example, on our essays, we ask for examples within the past three years, but the optional question has no specific time limitations.

Also, I tell applicants to imagine that they are reading their application with me and if we were sitting together. They might say, “Oh, I want you to make sure you get a better understanding of this side of me.” Since they are not there with us reading, this is their chance to point out or highlight characteristics about themselves.

A recent survey showed that a large percentage of candidates are asked to write their own letters of recommendation by their recommenders. Is this a problem or understandable? And how does it change the way you view a recommendation letter?

We encourage applicants to stay true to the process and to choose recommenders who know them well. It is great if an applicant wants to meet with their recommender and share their application or discuss past work and future goals. It is a disservice for candidates to write their own letters of recommendation and honestly, often it becomes very obvious when they have done so. The point is to provide an additional data point and a varied perspective. Great recommendation letters do this.