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Following up on last week’s announcement of Yale SOM’s essay topics for the coming admissions season, we wanted to take some time to reflect on the program’s prompts and offer some guidance for candidates in approaching this application.
Yale has retained the same general format as it used last year, with four career- and MBA-focused prompts of 150 words each, followed by two 500-word responses chosen from four options (down from five last year). While two of these prompts are new additions for this season, the program’s essays retain an overall focus on leadership, self-awareness, and contribution to the SOM community.
Let’s look at each of Yale’s essays a bit more closely:
Please answer each of the four (4) questions below with a short paragraph of no more than 150 words. This is an opportunity to distill your core ideas, values, goals and motivations into a set of snapshots that help tell us who you are, where you are going professionally, and why. (600 words total)
1. What are your professional goals immediately after you receive your MBA?
2. What are your long‐term career aspirations?
3. Why are you choosing to pursue an MBA? (If you plan to use your Yale MBA to make a significant change in the nature of your career, please tell us what you have done to prepare for this transition.)
4. The intentions of our students to engage in a broad-minded business school community and to connect to an eminent and purposeful university greatly influences the Yale MBA experience. How do you plan to be involved in the Yale SOM and greater Yale communities?
Like last year, Yale uses four compartmental prompts to poll candidates about their professional plans and interest in the SOM. At its heart, this is a fairly standard career goals/why MBA essay broken into sections of equal length – suggesting that the adcom is just as interested in the timing of a candidate’s application as it is in the reasons for his or her interest in Yale.
This structure does pose some challenges, as candidates will need to unpack in 150 words a topic that they might have covered in a single sentence in their applications for other schools (i.e. the “why now” issue), while distilling their discussion of their interest in Yale’s program to the same length.
As is the case with most schools, demonstrating an understanding of the unique merits of Yale’s program is crucial to an effective response to this question. Taking the time to learn about the school’s curriculum, special programs and extracurricular activities – whether through a visit to campus, conversation with alumni or reading the Clear Admit School Guide to Yale SOM – will pay dividends here.
Choose two (2) of the following topics and answer them in essay form. Please indicate the topic number at the beginning of your essay. (500 words maximum)
Essay 1: At the Yale School of Management, we believe the world needs leaders who:
– Understand organizations, teams, networks and the complex nature of leadership;
– Understand markets and competition in different contexts; and
– Understand the diversity of economies throughout the world and the relationships between business and society.
What experiences have you had that demonstrate your strength in one or more of these areas?
A new prompt for this admissions season, this essay centers on three broad characteristics of the leaders Yale seeks to train, and asks applicants to share examples from their backgrounds that illustrates how they fit this model. The areas outlined include a wide array of skills and sorts of knowledge – from the global scope of industries, markets and countries, to insights gained from smaller-scale experiences within teams and organizations – which means that applicants can think creatively about how to showcase their skills and demonstrate their leadership proficiency. The wording of the question seems to invite an inventory of all relevant experiences in the candidate’s arsenal, though effective essays will likely center on a few rather fully developed anecdotes that show how the understanding in question has translated into actions and results in one or more situations. Given the use of phrases like “diversity of economies” and “different contexts,” selecting two contrasting stories might be a particularly effective approach to this response.
Essay 2: What is the most difficult feedback you have received from another person or the most significant weakness you perceive in yourself? What steps have you taken to address it and how will business school contribute to this process?
Moving from the focus on accomplishment in the previous question to one of improvement, this question pushes applicants to recount an anecdote detailing a growth and learning process. This learning process is important because it can reflect maturity, flexibility, adaptability, and humility – all important qualities needed to work effectively in a team. In answering this question, you should identify and explain the issue while also addressing how you reacted to it. Demonstrating a mature response and desire to improve is important, and effectiveness in facilitating this improvement should be apparent. This learning process needs to not only be something that you underwent but something that you can continue to build upon through Yale’s MBA program. Once again, knowledge of Yale’s specific programs will be helpful, as you can pinpoint classes or extracurriculars that will contribute to your ongoing growth.
Essay 3: Imagine yourself meeting your learning team members for the first time in Orientation. What is the most important thing your teammates should know about you?
This question, another new addition for this year, invites applicants to highlight one attribute or element of their backgrounds that they expect to be important or useful in their work with members of their SOM learning teams. While it may be tempting to run through an extensive list of selling points, the wording of this question does seem to limit the applicant to a single topic. Of course, with 500 words to work with, candidates have a good amount of room to explain why they’ve selected this aspect of their backgrounds, and so share some additional information. Applicants might discuss a few experiences that were instrumental in developing a certain skill, discuss the reasons they are passionate about a certain personal or academic interest, or share a few examples that illustrate ways a certain quality of theirs has benefited teams in the past. Whatever the approach, it would also be ideal to demonstrate some understanding of the role of learning teams in the Yale MBA program, and to offer some forward-looking remarks about how they see themselves contributing to learning team activities over the first year at SOM.
Essay 4: Required for reapplicants: What steps have you taken to improve your candidacy since your last application?
This is a standard essay of the kind that many programs require of reapplicants, asking them to identify the ways they have progressed over the past year and strengthened their candidacy. This might include refining career objectives, retaking the GMAT or enrolling in additional quantitative coursework, gaining further professional experience, or deepening involvement in activities outside of work.
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