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Category: Guest Blogs

Q&A with Rebekah Lewin, Senior Assistant Dean of Admissions and Programs

The following post is a Q&A with Rebekah Lewin titled Admissions Director Q&A: Rebekah Lewin of the University of Rochester, Simon Business School, that was originally conducted by Lauren Wakal from Clear Admit for its Admissions Director Q&A series. Read it here.

Rebekah Lewin, Senior Assistant Dean of Admissions and Programs at the University of Rochester, Simon Business School, 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.

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!

How I Chose My MBA “Village”

The following blog post was written by Gavin Hall, a rising second-year MBA student interning at Cognizant as a summer associate for CDB Digital Strategy. He is an MLT Professional Development Fellow and is president of Simon Consulting Club and managing director of Simon Vision Consultants. This post originally appeared on the MLT Blog.

Gavin_diversity conference“It takes a village to raise a child.” That is a traditional proverb about how one’s community aids in their development and readiness for success. While the sentiment pertains to children, it has proved to hold true throughout my early career. I like to think that the community around me created a nurturing environment that guided me to the place I am now.

Thus, the main criteria I used to assess MBA programs during the application process was the culture of the community and my fit into it. It was important to me not only because you engage with your classmates six to seven days a week for up to 10–12 hours some days, but these individuals will be forever connected to you through the name of the institution on your résumé, for better or worse. I wanted to ensure that I surrounded myself with people I could forge meaningful, lasting, and diverse relationships with in an environment that allowed me to be the best version of myself.

Gavin_habitat for humanity_cropFor this reason, Simon Business School at the University of Rochester was my first choice, and it has been the most rewarding experience I could have imagined. The diversity at Simon is unmatched: the School is among the top 10 US MBAs for diversity and top 15 US MBAs for women. However, numbers are nothing without context. Business school teaches us to become leaders in the management ranks, which will become increasingly diverse, and Simon has cultivated an environment to experience that paradigm shift now.

The majority of the incoming members of the Simon Graduate Business Council are underrepresented minorities or international students (including the president, who originates from Ethiopia), and half are women. In addition, Simon’s Consortium fellows hold numerous leadership positions throughout the school. This is vital because we are in the conversations that matter and ignite change students want to see in faculty, staff, and alumni. Simon is not a place where you are Student No. 9,156; your voice is heard. And for an African American kid from Brooklyn, the opportunity to engage with people from all walks of life in graduate school has been invaluable.

The minute I stepped on campus in Rochester, something about the program at Simon felt comfortable, like this is where I should be. This was the village that was going to raise me to the next level.

If you’re an MLT Fellow attending Summer Seminar this weekend, Andrew Brayda, senior associate director of admissions, would love to speak with you! He’ll be offering application tips during the “Demystifying the Application Process” panels tomorrow, and you can also find him at Simon’s table during the fair from 9-10 a.m. on Sunday.

Three Most-Asked Questions about Simon’s MS in Business Analytics Program

The following blog post was written by Jen Park, MS in Business Analytics Class of 2018

Choosing a graduate program is as hard a decision as choosing the right b-school. Thus, I want to address the three most-asked questions I receive as an MS in Business Analytics student at Simon.

  1. Do you need programming background? No! In fact, I didn’t have programming experience before coming to Simon. However, as you might have guessed from our admission process, which does not require you to take computer science or tech-related classes, our program is designed to train students from “ground zero” to professional level by the time of graduation. During our first term, we took classes on R programming, stats, economics, and marketing. Once we became more familiar with programming, we were ready to tackle the next introductory classes on business analytics. Essentially, our classes build upon each other, and in winter and spring, we will work on a project with professors and companies to apply the skills we acquired in classes to real-world business situations.
  2. Do you nJen Parkeed an undergraduate degree in business? Some prospective students worry that they are unqualified to apply because they do not have an undergraduate business major, such as economics or marketing. Rest assured that you do not need a business major in order to apply. My classmates come from various academic backgrounds, including physics, biology, mathematics, and engineering. And, similar to my previous answer, there are introductory business classes in the program to help all students get on the same page. The most important thing is not where you are coming from, but your passion for data analytics!
  3. What do you like about your business analytics classes? First off, Simon has always been big on data, even before it became a trend – Simon professors are very knowledgeable and experienced working in this area. Secondly, I like how we are learning the most important skills to become a data analyst: R, Python, SQL, and Tableau. They are not only interesting subjects to learn, but also the most wanted skills in the industry. Lastly, taking business classes is advantageous. Since Simon is a business school, we have the advantage of taking both data analytics classes and business classes! The majority of my classmates will be looking for full-time work after graduation so understanding the business landscape is another crucial asset.

If you’re considering applying to Simon’s MS in Business Analytics program, I hope you found this blog post helpful! Please feel free to contact the Admission Office or a Simon Admissions Ambassador if you have questions.

Taking Risks and Reaping Rewards

The following blog post was written by Koji Takagi, MBA Class of 2019

I recently took a big risk. I left my comfortable job. I left a familiar place. Most difficult of all, I moved 6 hours and 36 minutes away (by plane) from my wife. I did these things so I could further develop myself by earning an MBA at Simon. Several times a week, I mutter to myself: “why in the world did I do this? My life was so comfortable.” True, my life was comfortable, but that does not mean that I was living up to my potential.

To remind myself that this risk was worthwhile, I want to take some time to number several of the rewards that have resulted from taking this risk:

Koji1) I gained a network of brilliant, kind individuals. I haven’t met someone yet who would not be willing to help me. I have a classmate who took the time to teach me some calculus just because he wanted to help. I have a classmate who, hopefully, will become a business partner someday. I have also met a number of alumni who have taken the time to get to know me and have shared their experiences. These interactions have helped me realize that what I am doing will help me get to where I want to go.

2) I am learning so much. Simon wants everyone to be aware of its reputation: a program that is unabashedly analytical. I can vouch for this 100 percent. Every class takes an analytical approach to learning, which is shoring up my skills in this area. Simon also has world-class faculty. Lectures are engaging, even subjects that I am indifferent to, like accounting.

3) I am having new experiences. I did a ropes course and I went zip lining during Orientation, two things that I would never have done before. By the way, I probably won’t do either again. But, I am happy I tried. I went to New York City for networking events and Philadelphia for a networking conference. So much happens during an MBA.

This list could easily go on for a while, but I think you get the idea. Sometimes it is good to get out of your comfort zone and take a risk. A wild ride and some unexpected rewards are likely waiting for you.