I was fortunate enough to sit down with Jeff Carbone, Associate Director of MIT Sloan MBA Admissions, to learn how he is thinking about this upcoming application season. See below for a transcript of our interview. Sloan has not released their essay questions yet for the 2016-2017 application season, but stay tuned as they will come out soon.
MIT Sloan Admissions Interview
Jeff Carbone: Associate Director, MIT Sloan MBA Admissions
How did you first get involved in admissions?
When I was an undergraduate, I worked in admissions managing the student visit program. The student and prospective student interaction was exciting and I found myself wanting more. In lieu of taking other positions at various corporations, I decided to stay in admissions and worked in the undergraduate admissions office at Babson College.
What excites you most about your work?
Meeting prospective students and working with current students. MIT Sloan attracts smart, driven and most importantly grounded students. The class has such a breadth and depth of interests that it is exciting to see what is going on and stay close to what students are doing on campus. MIT has various resources that help bring students together across disciplines, including the MIT Media Lab and the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, among others. The students contribute to making MIT Sloan a dynamic place and an energizing environment. Every day I learn something new from my interactions with prospective and current students. It is one of the reasons that I am excited to come to work every day.
How has the volume of applications changed over the last couple years?
It has increased. A lot! As an admissions team, we are being more vocal about what MIT Sloan has to offer students of all backgrounds and not being just a place where engineers come to study. We are traveling more and holding additional recruiting events in order connect with as many prospective students as we can. We are seeking a globally diverse class and in order to do that, we are finding new ways to reach out to this audience. In addition, MIT Sloan has an increasing number of programs such as new action learning labs and our MBAn analytics degree, that students are interested in taking advantage of.
Why do you think more applicants are applying to Sloan?
MIT Sloan is attracting a more diverse well-rounded class today than ever before. I think today’s applicants are informed and extremely self-aware. They see the value of being at a school that is conducting cutting-edge research and understand how this will have a positive impact on their ROI and career options. Our applicants aspire for careers that matter and to make a difference in the world. Self-awareness comes into play, as applicants are asking themselves questions such as, how do I learn best? And what community and culture will thrive in? The variety of teaching styles offered through our program is very attractive to candidates especially those who like to roll up their sleeves and who learn by doing. A tight knit community, MIT Sloan is just over 400 students, and a collaborative learning environment are also appealing characteristics that applicants are looking for in an MBA community.
What are some trends you saw in applicants this past year?
We have seen an increase in more applicants with an interest in Fintech, sustainability and healthcare this year. This is an exciting time for innovation, technology, analytics and management in these industries. MIT Sloan has a strong reputation as being a home for innovation.
What % of students fill out the optional question? Do you think it is over / under utilized?
Initially students used the optional question to explain extenuating circumstances on their application. Now, more applicants are now using the optional question as an opportunity to share additional stories and to demonstrate their creativity. I would say around 50% of applicants take advantage of the optional questions. It shows the human side and reveals what else is interesting about the applicant. I find this to be one of the best pieces of our application.
What do you wish applicants would do differently when applying?
Be yourself. Don’t try to fit a mold because there is no mold we are looking to accept.
Answer our question. Don’t try to repurpose an essay from another school.
Visit if you can. Every school is unique and to be on campus and see what is going on provides the applicant an opportunity to understand our culture, community and diversity.
Sloan has changed quite a bit over the last few years (and even more so since I was an undergrad at Sloan 15 years ago). What changes were you most excited to see?
It has been exciting to see how easy it is to collaborate across the institute. Many centers across campus are bringing students, faculty and alumni together in increasing ways every year.
Sustainability has grown quite a bit and the sustainability certificate has helped. More than 40 people will graduate this year with the certificate. The sustainability focus on campus covers a wide range of players including small and large companies.
Business analytics is exciting and we are all looking forward to seeing the program evolve.
What changes are you looking forward to at Sloan?
We are excited to welcome the first class of Master of Business Analytics MBAn students this fall. Our student benefit from their own particular program and from the interconnectivity between programs. This will be a new group of students to collaborate and network with. Action learning continues to remain a priority for our school. We will continue to add new action learning classes and projects to enhance the student experience.
What is a common misconception about MIT Sloan?
That we are a technology school and applicants have to be quant geniuses to apply. We are looking for the intellectually curious leaders from all backgrounds.
How do you think the admissions process will evolve over time?
We are increasingly inhibiting roadblocks to applications. With fewer essays than in years past, applicants are able to focus on what is really important and put their best foot forward.
At MIT Sloan, our model relies heavily on the interview, and this will stay the same going forward. It is important to meet students in person to better understand their strengths and interests.
We have always thought, and will continue to believe that the past is one of the best predictors of future success. This is why we like to see concrete examples of what applicants have done in their careers thus far.
What advice do you have for an applicant eager to attend Sloan that is not posted on the MIT website or usually discussed?
Be yourself. We are looking for authentic! Show how you have made and impact and how you are unique.
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