MBA申請者心中“夢想學校”之一的麻省理工學院斯隆商學院（MIT Sloan）究竟偏愛什麽樣的申請人？MIT Sloan招生辦主任Dawna Levenson近日在Sloan辦公室接受了華爾街見聞副總編輯嚴婷的獨家專訪。
Dawna Levenson強調，MIT Sloan最看重申請者擁有的五種特質：領導力、建立關系的能力、獨立思考、不懈追求目標、以及創新能力。Sloan認為，過去的表現是未來成功的最佳指標。通常他們會從兩個維度上評估申請：一個是所謂的“已證明的成功”（Demonstrated Success），另一個是“個人屬性”（Personal Attribution）。
嚴婷： 今年第一輪申請截止日期剛過（9月23日），你們一定收到了大量的申請，你能和我們分享一下去年MIT SloanMBA的申請和錄取情況和數據嗎？
嚴婷：每一個學校都有它自己給外界的固有印象，而這些印象並不總是正確的。一些人說“MIT Sloan是主要針對想要創業的工程師”。你怎麽看待這種印象？你希望申請者在聽到MIT Sloan這個名字的時候會怎麽想？
Dawna Levenson: 我們現在坐在這個咖啡廳（Sloan商學院咖啡廳），看到了自很多不同項目的人。事實上你可以在Sloan獲得本科學位。我們也有一年的金融碩士項目，一年的管理科學項目，兩年的MBA——這是我們Sloan最大、也許也是最知名的項目。我們還有一個非全日制的EMBA（高級管理人員行政管理）項目。此外，還有Sloan Fellow項目和博士（Phd）項目。很多不同的項目會帶來巨大好處，那就是這會吸引到有著各種各樣經歷的人，所以教室內的討論和社交互動是相當豐富和多元的。
嚴婷： 過去你們曾要求申請者提交一封Cover Letter，後來為什麽不要求了？
Dawna Levenson: 我認為最大的改變時我們的第二篇短文。去年申請了的同學，應該會記得去年我們第二篇短文的題目是“告訴我們你曾走出自己舒適區的一次經歷。”但今年我們的第二篇短文是要求申請者自己給自己寫一封推薦信，就像把自己當做自己現在的推薦人。我們在推薦信中提出的問題與我們給推薦人提的問題是一樣的。這很有趣，我們團隊對這一改變很興奮。
Dawna Levenson: 是的，我們的整個錄取程序都是基於一個行為模型，通過這個模型來尋找我們想要的某些能力。很多年以前，我們與咨詢師一起確認了這四到五種特質，這些特質在很多成功的學生和校友身上都得到了集中體現。我們設計的短文、推薦信以及面試問題就是要獲取能反映這些能力的數據。例如領導力，我們希望（在申請者身上）尋找體現領導能力的證據，我們也在尋找建立關系能力的證據，這里只是幾個例子。
沒有哪一個部分是一定比另一部分更重要的，我們會參考申請的每一個部分，我們會從中讀取特定的數據。我們事實上從兩個維度上評估我們收到的申請。一個是我們所謂的“已證明的成功”（Demonstrated Success），另一個是“個人屬性”（Personal Attribution）。已證明的成功包括你工作上的成就、你的GMAT或GRE成績和你的GPA。很多這樣的信息都是個人披露的，一些來自於你的簡歷，一些是來自你的推薦信。另一方面，我們在尋找我們稱作“個人屬性”的東西，這些特質正是我們之前提到的：領導力、關系建立能力等等。
我們鼓勵在等待名單中的人在開放窗口期中（Open Window Period）告知我們的發生的任何新的情況。這並不意味著他們需要每天給我們寫電子郵件，但當比如他們得到了晉升或是換了工作等重大事情的發生的時候，請給我們發郵件，讓我們知曉，我們將會把信息加入你的檔案。
Dawna Levenson: 不，我的建議對每一個人來說都是一樣的，做你自己，在你的申請上花一些時間，面試是MIT Sloan對你的第一印象。盡量通過各種可能的方式來接觸我們，通過我們在你的國家舉辦的活動了解我們，或者你有機會直接來到學校參觀。
（實習編輯 戴博 對本文亦有貢獻）
Interview with Dawna Levenson, director of the MBA & MFin admissions office at MIT Sloan School of Management
（By Ting Yan, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Wallstreetcn）
Ting Yan: We have just passed the round 1 application deadline (on Sep 23). You must have received tons of applications. Could you share some data on last year’s application and acceptance?
Yeah, we did. So our current class is 406 students that made up of 50 Leaders for Global Operations (LGO) students, 356 2-year MBA students, a little under 40% female (39.4%), 60% US and 40% international. It is from 60 different countries around the world, so it is an incredibly diverse class. The years of working experience range goes from 0 to about 12 or so, and the average working experience is a little bit under 5. We have people coming from all different industries. So we get people from consulting, we get people from financial services and banking, but we also get people from the arts, we get people who are entrepreneurs starting their own companies. It really varies significantly.
Ting Yan: Every school has its stereotypes, and we know that these are not always accurate. Some say “MIT is for engineers who want to start-up businesses”. What do you think of this mindset? What do you want applicants to think of when they hear the name MIT Sloan?
MIT Sloan is definitely a part of MIT, in terms of the students, the people who are successful here, they really come from all different back grounds. Yes people who have science and engineering are more aware of MIT and therefore they tend to apply to our program. But we are not specifically seeking out just people with science engineering backgrounds, not at all.
Ting Yan: You are in charge of different programs in Sloan, are there any unique aspects of Sloan compared to other schools?
We are sitting in this cafeteria with people from many different programs. You actually can get an undergraduate degree here at Sloan. We also have our one year Master of Finance program, one year Master of Science in Management Studies, two-year MBA that are largest and probably best-known program at Sloan. We have an executive MBA which is a part-time MBA program. We also have a Sloan fellows program and we also have a PhD program. So this is a variety of programs. What’s great about that is it attracts people with very different experience levels, so the classroom conversation and the networking in the community is really very rich and diverse.
Ting Yan: Regarding the application, could you briefly summerize the process first?
Dawna Levenson: Our application process is extremely straight forward. I will focus on MBA, but we tried very hard to standardize the process of different programs, so it is not that different for other programs. For the MBA, there are two required essays. We also ask for resume and we provide a resume template for you. We ask for two letters of professional recommendation. We ask for transcripts from all universities where you received a degree. And if you by chance did any kind of exchange, we want those grades too. And GMAT or GRE, and no TOEFL requirement at all, we then review all of our applications.
Ting Yan: Even for non-English speaking students?
No, because the next step in the process, after you submit your application, is to be invited for an interview. The interviews are face to face, they are by invitation only, that are required next step. And we really feel strongly we rely on the interview to help us assess one’s English proficiency.
Ting Yan: I remember you used to ask for a cover letter, why was the change?
Dawna Levenson: No more, we are constantly looking to change things. Some of them are simply because we want to experiment different things. You know, we found that it was a little bit redundancy in what people put in their cover letter and then put in their essay. So we decide to strip that out.
Ting Yan: What are the major changes in MBA application process this year?
Dawna Levenson: So I would say the biggest change is our second essay. To those of you who applied a year ago, you would remember that our second essay was “tell us about a time when you went beyond your comfort zone.” Our second essay this year is actually to ask our candidates to write a letter of recommendation on behalf of themselves, as if they were their current supervisor and we provide them the exactly same set of questions that we send to our recommenders. It is fun. We are excited.
Ting Yan: What’s the rationale behind this change?
Dawna Levenson: So there are several factors, one was simply we wanted to change it up to mirror what industry does. So in industry, people are asked to do self-assessment now more than in the past. Also the data, the way we structure our questions, and the data we are asking, the recommenders form is very much the data we are looking for in terms of people’s different competencies. So we thought why not ask somebody to write their own recommendation. I think it is very thought-provoking for the individuals.
Ting Yan: It also helps you to assess the competencies. I know you use a score system during selection. Do you still use it?
Dawna Levenson: So we do, our entire admission process is based on a behaviourial model where we are looking for certain competencies. Many years ago we worked with consultants to identify those four or five qualities that were prevalent in many successful both students as well as alumni. And we structure our essay questions as well as our recommender’s questions as well as our interviews to be able to garner data that support these competencies, for example leadership. So we are looking for evidence of leadership skills, and we look for evidence of relationship building just to give you a couple of examples.
Ting Yan: What are the other qualities?
Dawna Levenson: Besides leadership and relationship building, we want to see independence of thought, i.e. the ability of thinking outside of a box. And the persuit of goals, i.e. the ability to set and define goals, and actually go after them even if obstacles get in your way. And finally there is innovation. You know, we are MIT Sloan, and we’re always looking for people who are pursuing innovative ideas and thoughts, that’s something else that we evaluating.
Ting Yan: Interestingly, you don’t really ask for applicants’ career goals or future plans, why?
Dawna Levenson: We have found that a very large percentage of our two-year MBA students, once they come here, meet other people, see other opportunities get a feel for other industries, they change their minds. So it is not your career interests that make you successful here, but these other qualities we’ve talked about. They are the real key indicators for us, of success.
Ting Yan: Then how do you evaluate the candidates' potentials?
Dawna Levenson: There is a school of mind that says past performance is the best indicator of future success. That’s where we are lying on. We are looking for, in your past, evidence of relationship building. To me it is a great example, because it is so important to us. Mentoring, teambuilding, teaching, coaching, and these qualities don’t go away if it is something you were inheritably good at doing in the past three years, most likely you will continue to do it moving forward.
Ting Yan: In the application packages you actually receive a lot of things, the data, recommenders, extracurricular activities, essays. How do all the little pieces fit together for you？
Dawna Levenson: No part is more important than the other, we really look at all of the components of the application, we are pulling out certain data. We are actually evaluating all of our applicants on two dimensions. One is what we called demonstrated success, and the other is personal attributes. Demonstrated success includes your work success, your GMAT or GRE and your GPA. A lot of that information are self-reported, some of them come from your resume, some of them also come from your recommendation. On the other hand, we are looking at what we call personal attributes, these are the qualities that I talked about before, leadership, relationship building, etc. that come into play.
Ting Yan: What are the common mistakes that applicants should avoid?
Dawna Levenson: A common mistake or challenge that people are faced with are something we called “we vs. I” factor. We very much want to know what you as an individual did, on the other hand, we also want to know that you work well in teams. So striking the right balance in your essay using the word “we” versus the word “I”, is a very important thing to do. We encourage people to simply following the directions. We provide word limits, so you want to stay within the limits. We ask for two recommendations, we are sure that everybody is capable of getting five recommendations if you really want to. So you know, not following the guidelines is not something we recommend. We understand that everybody wants to stand out, but there are ways to stand out that are good, and there are ways that are not so good.
Ting Yan: Every decision you make may change one’s life. Is there a time when you have to make a very difficult choice?
Dawna Levenson: We definitely realize that the work that we do as you mentioned is life changing, I actually really like that, I remind people in my office, and I remind people who read our applications about this all the time, because it really is life changing. It is a great privilege of my job to be able to call people and tell them if they get admitted to MIT Sloan, and at times it is challenging to have some different conversations with somebody to let them know that perhaps this is not the best place for them, we don’t have a spot for them. It is all part of the job, and they are certainly parts that I enjoy more than others, but I recognize that there are both sides to it.
Ting Yan: Some people get rejected but they may have a second chance and reapply.
Yeah, absolutely, we encourage people to reapply, we do. Re-applicants do very well in our program. It is an incredibly competitive pool, and there may not be a space for an individual. But somebody may have improved their candidacy in their profile over the past year. Reapplying certainly shows persistence, it shows your interest it shows your pursuit of goal, your ability to find goals and pursue them even if they don’t work out for the first time. So we do admit people who are reapplicants, and they do very well in our program.
Ting Yan: What are your common reasons to waitlist an applicant? What can they do to get off the wait list and get admitted?
Dawna Levenson: so people on the waitlist are encouraged to keep us informed of any changes that may happened during the open window period. It does not mean that they have to email us every day, but to the extent that if they get promotion, change of job, something significant happened. Please send us an email and let us know, we will add it to your file.
Ting Yan: What is your general impression of Chinese applicants and students?
Dawna Levenson: We receive a healthy number of applicants from China every year, it is a large number, definitely significant. We just had our round one deadline, again we received a healthy number of applications from China. I think that the class we are trying to create here is in incredibly diverse global class. I think students in China are doing very well here, so that’s great, we would love to see even more people from China to apply.
Ting Yan: How do you conduct interviews for Chinese students?
Dawna Levenson: When it comes to the interview, we travel globally. So we come to China, we come to Beijing, Shanghai, depending on the number of interviews, we go to both of these cities. From me personally, the very first responsibility as the interviewer I have is trying to make the applicant feel relaxed, because again it is all about getting to one another. I have been interviewed many many applicants in China, with multiple programs here, they do very well.
Ting Yan: Do you have any specific advice for Chinese applicants?
Dawna Levenson: No, I think it is the same for everybody, be yourself, spend some time on your application. It is actually your first impression to MIT Sloan school. Reach out to us however you can, get to know people whether through the event we are holding in your country or if you have an opportunity to come here.
Ting Yan: A more industry-level questions is, how has the MBA education changed before and after this financial crisis?
Dawna Levenson: We definitely have seen less interest of people in pursuing a career in finance. We have seen that. We have people coming from finance coming here, but many of them are career changers.
Ting Yan: Talking of career change, you spent 18 years working for Accenture but decided to shift your career to a completely new and different path. Why did you make that decision? What are you advice to many career changers?
Dawna Levenson: Yes, it is interesting because I understand why somebody from outside would think it is a huge career change. For me personally, based on the strengths that I think I have, the type of work that I find interesting, it wasn’t such a big change. I knew that, at some point I would leave Accenture to do something else, and actually I had known for a very long time that I would want to work in an academic environment. I have always longed being in a university campus. So I was very focused at that time, when I decide to leave Accenture and work at MIT. I felt I brought a lot of very transferable skills with me. So I feel my work at Accenture I learned a lot about program and project management, about business development, personal development, and relationship management. These are all different skills that I continue to rely upon every day to do my job here. So not that different. The other thing I would like to say is that I found out about myself that I love to be in an environment with a very strong culture. And clearly both Accenture and MIT Sloan have very strong cultures that I also want to be in part of.
Ting Yan: Do you have any advice for those career changers at MIT Sloan and beyond?
Dawna Levenson: It is easier said than done. It’s easier to say now because I am on the other side. Follow your instincts. Figure out the intersection of what you are good at doing, what you are interested in doing and where there is a need. And at that point, really be focused and go for it, and you know you will find your next career. That’s exactly what I have ended up in. To be honest, five years ago it would be hard for me to imagine that I would be where I am today. And very fortunate that I am where I am. I encourage others to do similar things with their lives.
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