Meet The Team: Dawna Levenson, MIT Sloan's Admissions Director

MIT Sloan’s MBA is one of the most competitive programs in the US. Director of admissions Dawna Levenson reveals how you can nail that all-important application

MBA admissions directors hold the fate of your application in their hands. Luckily, though, they’re a loquacious bunch, always on hand to offer you advice on how best to meander the treacherous waters of an MBA application journey.

The MIT Sloan School of Management MBA program is among the most competitive of all the elite US MBA programs—the acceptance rate is roughly around 15%.

BusinessBecause caught up with Dawna Levenson, director of admissions at MIT Sloan School of Management, who offers her insight into how you can tick all the boxes required of a Sloan MBA, and how to stand out from the crowd.

What do you look for from your MBA applicants? mit-sloan-admissions

At the end of the day, it’s all about impact. What impact has an applicant made on a group, an organization, or the company they work for? This is really what we’re trying to assess. The more significant the impact, the better.

For us, leadership is embodied by a candidate’s ability to influence and convince others in a constructive, meaningful, and respectful way. While the term ‘vision’ isn’t something that we use very much, we are a mission-driven school.

Our mission is concerned with tackling the world’s biggest problems. So, to the extent that a candidate shares in our mission, this shows vision because it’s about looking forward and improving the state of the world.

What is the most common mistake you see people make when they apply?

There really is no right or wrong answer to an application question. That being said, we look for a candidate to apply good judgement and common sense.

We’re also looking for professionalism in the way they conduct themselves and respond to questions. We completely understand how competitive the MBA landscape is, and that everybody has a desire to stand out. For the most part, candidates approach this in the right way. But trying to do so in an unprofessional manner is the wrong way to go. For example, don’t use inappropriate language in the cover letter, essay, or interview.

What advice do you have for candidates who can’t physically visit MIT Sloan beforehand?

There are several ways to engage. As we have for many, many years, we travel the world hosting events called ‘Sloan on the Road.’

This includes an information session, and we encourage alumni to share their Sloan experience with prospective students. This year we began live-streaming our on-campus info sessions, so people all over the globe can connect with us on a monthly basis. It’s really a great way to get to know Sloan and the student experience, from students who are living it right now.

In addition, we continue to host our monthly online chats, which are a very easy way get your questions answered and to see the questions others are asking. We’re also offering a host of webinars on a variety of topics and continue to expand that series on a regular basis.

What should an applicant do if they’re waitlisted?

If you are waitlisted, you can choose to remain on our waitlist; that’s a start. Then, relatively soon after the end of an application round, we host a waitlist chat where admissions staff provide guidance. At that point, we do want to receive relevant updates from you. We’re not telling you how often, but you shouldn’t cross the line by stalking us or bombarding us with information. We want to know the best information about you and that you continue to be interested in Sloan--as long as that doesn’t go too far.

What is the best thing about working in admissions?

I love what MIT and MIT Sloan stand for. It’s about excellence and about making the world a better place. And I find a tremendous amount of purpose in playing a small part in that, by taking on the work that we do in admissions.

Also, it’s the people. I intentionally use the word people because the faculty, staff, and students are an incredible community. When I hear students tell their stories, I feel very fortunate to be part of that community. This is a very special place.

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