It started with a self-confessed “rant” from an international applicant who says he turned down Wharton to accept an offer of admission from MIT’s Sloan School of Management. The headline? “My school MBA tuition is highest in the world but the admissions office is a circus.”
The anonymous Reddit poster then goes on to explain in a lengthy obscenity-laced post that Sloan was refusing him and other international admits a deferral even if they are unable to obtain student visas in time to attend the start of the fall semester, that the school has yet to send international admits a crucial document, an I-20, needed to apply for a visa, and–in contrast to Stanford, Booth, and Kellogg–MIT has failed to make a summer internship a requirement so that international students are more likely to secure an internship in the U.S.
After attending a group chat with more than 100 international candidates admitted to the school, he swore that “it’s the saddest MBA cohort chat you’ll ever see. Everyone is fighting, everyone is anxious, everyone doesn’t know what the f…k to do, because we are all f..king confused by what’s happening. The school said nothing, no updates, zero. To the point we had to submit a petition to the school and guess what the reply is? ‘Successful leaders require adaptability.’ I JUST DIED, LITERALLY. HOW ABOUT MAKING YOUR DAMN TUITION ADAPTABLE? OR THE RESPONSE AND ACTION FROM YOUR OFFICE ADAPTABLE?”
‘SLOAN IS AWARE OF THE UNDERSTANDABLE ANXIETY OF ITS INTERNATIONAL ADMITTED STUDENTS’
Clearly alarmed by the extent of the highly derogatory comments on the social media site, MIT Sloan has organized a town hall with international admits to respond to the complaints. “MIT Sloan is aware of the understandable anxiety of its international admitted students and the school has been in communication with them as we continue with our evolving planning for the fall,” Assistant Dean of Admissions Rod Garcia told Poets&Quants.
“A group of students has asked us about deferrals and I-20s and we have scheduled a town hall next week to address their concerns,” added Garcia. “Contrary to this writer’s assertion, MIT has in fact mailed I-20s and we are reviewing deferrals on a case by case basis. To date, we have approved more than we have denied.”
Sloan’s admissions office has had unusually stable leadership. Garcia, who originally joined Sloan admissions in 1988, has been a fixture in MBA admissions at Sloan for a quarter of a century. He co-leads the admissions group with Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions Dawna Levenson, a former Accenture partner and MIT alum, who has been on Sloan’s adcom team for the past eight years. Pam Spencer, an associate director of admissions, has been with Sloan for 16 years.
‘THOSE PEOPLE AT THE ADMISSIONS OFFICE ARE SIMPLY NASTY AND DON’T GIVE A SQUAT’
In just five days, the post by the pseudonym ‘MBA2020sadreact,” has attracted nearly 250 upvotes and well over 70 comments. Most striking is that the vast majority of commenters confirm and reinforce the view that Sloan’s admissions office is off-putting, arrogant, and out of touch with the candidates who apply to the school. One applicant who had driven to Boston from New York for a day-long info session at the school said he walked out after two hours. “Man, those people at (the) admission office are simply nasty and don’t give a squat,” wrote another prospective student.
While the collected outrage is occurring at a time when many applicants, admits and students are frustrated and disappointed with the pandemic and a recession, earlier surveys of MBA candidates reinforce the view that Sloan’s admissions office is not among the most favored by applicants. Last year, when applicants overall were asked to rate schools on how well they got to know them, MIT Sloan’s admissions office scored near the bottom of 23 schools.
The survey by the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) gave MIT a score of 2.55 on a five-point scale, with five the highest score possible. Only two other schools out of the 23 fared worse: Harvard Business School, which after all rejects more than 8,000 MBA applicants a year, and Stanford, which turns away nearly 7,000 applicants annually. Harvard was given a score of 2.27, while Stanford managed a 2.39. The findings were not an aberration. A year earlier, when AIGAC asked the same question of applicants, MIT Sloan also was near the bottom of 27 schools.
‘THEY CAME ACROSS AS PRETTY COLD AND NON-ENGAGED DURING A VISIT’
What also clearly aggravated the person who started the thread was that he was registering his disappointment at a school that charges more money for its MBA than any other in the world. The total cost to attend Sloan’s two-year MBA program is now $237,636. A Poets&Quants‘ analysis showed that those costs have risen by 18% in the past three years, the largest single increase put through by any prominent business school. During that same three-year timeframe, the cost of an MBA at nearby Harvard in Boston rose only 3.7%.
MIT Sloan, of course, remains one of the most prestigious and selective business schools in the world. In the 2018-2019 admissions cycle, Sloan admitted just 14.6% of its applicant pool, lower than any other U.S. MBA program than Stanford or Harvard. In the past two years, Sloan’s MBA program ranks sixth-best in the U.S., according to Poets&Quants‘ composite ranking, just behind Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and just ahead of Columbia Business School. So however disgruntled an admitted student might be, he or she is likely to attend the program. “At the end of the day, I’d still enroll,” concedes the commenter. “But instead of the excitement of joining a supposedly ‘amazing’ school, most of us now enter with the ‘this is our only choice’ mentality. We have to, not we chose to. It really sucks.”
In common with most other schools, MIT will likely open this fall with a hybrid model. The university has said that it is exploring a blended academic model consisting of online education and in-person education with physical distancing.
Few posters came to the school’s defense on the Reddit thread, but one person identifying himself as a Sloan admit complained that the original poster had “substantially exaggerated” some points. “Sloan has not ‘not given a sh-t’ about this issue,” responded MBAthrowaqay2020. “The international students received a very long letter from the ISO (International Student Organization) that hit on all of their concerns and explained the variety of things happening behind the scenes to address the issues raised (especially issues regarding international students getting internships, starting online, etc. with clear indications on how they’re thinking about these problems and showing that they’re figuring it out).”
It did nothing to silence the complaints. “I didn’t get in but didn’t get a great vibe from admissions either and that has been the consistent feedback I have heard across the board,” added another commenter who went by the name of MBACandidate2022. “They came across as pretty cold and non-engaged during the class visit and were not responsive to questions.”