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Admissions Director Q&A: Bruce DelMonico of the Yale School of Management

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We continue our Admissions Director Q&A series with the Assistant Dean for Admissions at the Yale School of Management, Bruce DelMonico. He has been at the school for close to 15 years, and has been running the Admissions Office for roughly 13 of those years.

During that time, he has seen the school grow both in size and in stature, and looks forward to its continued momentum under the leadership of incoming Dean Charles. DelMonico says he was drawn to Yale because of its mission to educate leaders for business and society and has stayed because the school is one where the mission really matters, which is an uplifting and inspiring place to be.

If you are pursuing your MBA at Yale, you will want the scoop from DelMonico on the new Dean Kerwin Charles, the integrated curriculum, the role essays play in admissions, and more.  Happy reading!

Clear Admit: What’s the single most exciting development, change, or event happening at Yale in the coming year?

Bruce DelMonico, Assistant Dean for Admissions at Yale SOM

Bruce DelMonico: We have a number of very exciting developments here at Yale.  Most notable among them is that we have a new Dean at the school as of July 1. Kerwin Charles joins us from the University of Chicago, from which his predecessor Ted Snyder joined us eight years ago as well.

Dean Snyder did many great things in his time here (and he will stay on as a faculty member), including enhancing our position as the most global US business school; the business school that is most connected to our home university; and the business school that, through our distinctive integrated curriculum, is the best source of elevated leaders across all regions and sectors.

Dean Charles is a labor economist by training and has an interest in issues like income disparity, so our expectation is that he will align very well with our founding mission to educate leaders for business and society and will help us extend the scope and impact of Dean Snyder’s many impressive accomplishments, as well as implement many new ones of his own.

In addition, one other development that I would highlight is that we are launching a new one-year master’s program in asset management to join our existing portfolio of master’s programs.

The MMS in Asset Management taps into our singular strength in this area, and will draw not only from the distinguished finance faculty who have joined us here at Yale over the past several years from Wharton, the University of Chicago, and elsewhere, but also from David Swensen at the Yale Endowment Office, who will be an active contributor to the program.

One great thing for MBA students is that they will be able to take these classes as well, which will even further enhance the opportunities for students interested in careers in finance generally and asset management in particular.

CA: What is the one aspect of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?

BD: There are many aspects of the Yale SOM experience that I wish people know more about!  If I had to choose one, I would focus on our integrated curriculum.  Even people who know what it is I don’t think fully appreciate how different it is from other schools’ curricula and how effectively it prepares our students to tackle the current challenges leaders face.

At core, what our faculty did was to discard the traditional MBA curriculum that other schools teach, where courses are structured by function, and replace it with a curriculum that is organized according to the key stakeholders that leaders must engage to be successful.  Much of the material is the same, but by cutting across functional silos our students learn how to think in a broader, more interconnected, and more interdisciplinary way, which is how the world increasingly is structured.

Given this interdisciplinary approach, there is a good deal of team teaching, drawn from faculty across Yale to help students learn the relevance not just of business concepts but of law, medicine, political science, psychology, sociology, the environment, and other disciplines to their learnings.

In addition, much of the material is taught by the case method, but the cases are developed by our own Yale case writing team and are different than traditional “cooked” cases where students are given a 10-12 page document that contains all the facts you need to know. Our cases are “raw” in that students work through all the primary materials you would interact with in the real world – earnings statements, regulatory filings, media reports, interviews with key stakeholders, etc. – rather than have that information interpreted for them.

So in this sense we aim to give you deeper, real-world experience here at Yale even in the classroom setting. Finally, I would note that when you take electives here at SOM you can take them anywhere at Yale without limit, which really allows you to customize your education to fit your individual interests. Tapping in to all the University has to offer is a real strength of the program.

CA: Walk us through the life of an 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 (e.g. how many “reads” does it get, how long is each “read,” who reads it, does the committee convene to discuss it as a group, etc.)?

BD: Our admissions committee consists of roughly a dozen admissions officers plus a small handful of additional readers whom we’ve used for a number of years. After each application deadline passes, we meet as a committee and do a quick review of all the applications to get a sense of the overall pool.

We begin to send out interview invitations soon after this meeting. Each application is reviewed twice by different members of the admissions committee. A typical read can vary in time based on the specific file, but tends to average around 20 minutes. Once files are read and interviews are complete, we meet again as a full committee to make decisions on candidates.

Decisions are based on the entire application, and the process is deliberative – we discuss each candidate as a committee and aim to achieve consensus among the committee on each candidate. This final, decision-making process can take many days – usually two weeks – so once we’ve made decisions on all applications we will go back through and calibrate these decisions to make sure we’re being consistent across the various decision days.

We want to be careful that our decisions are not influenced by the specific context in which they were made and that we’re being as fair to every candidate as possible.  Once we have completed this final calibration, we will release the decisions.

CA: How does your team approach the essay portion of the application specifically? What are you looking for as you read the essays? 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?

BD: Our essay at Yale SOM is very direct and seemingly simple: Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made.  Despite the short prompt, applicants find that crafting a response requires a good deal of introspection, which is a good thing.

We believe that the application process should be one of self-reflection and that you should know more about yourself after going through it than you did before.  In the case of our essay specifically, we want you to think about what it means to you to be committed to something, and what behaviors you have engaged in that demonstrate this commitment.

In writing the response, we really are only looking for a single commitment.

Some applicants try to incorporate multiple commitments into their essay, and also will try to connect the commitment to why they want to get an MBA or why they want to come to Yale. You should not do either – there are other sections of the application process to discuss these things.

In the essay, we really just want you to discuss a single commitment and to talk in detail about what’s you’ve done in support of that commitment. Successful essays are ones that stick to this guideline. Also, please note that the commitment can be either personal or professional – we don’t prioritize one over the other – and that we are not making value judgments about the commitment you choose but are really more focused on how you’ve supported that commitment.

CA: How many essays would you wager you’ve read in your tenure at [school]? Thinking about the essays that have been the most memorable, is there something they have in common?

BD: Since I’ve been at Yale, I’ve presided over the review of tens of thousands of essays.  And I have personally read thousands myself in my 15 years here. There are certainly essays that are memorable because of the topic they discuss, but in terms of subject matter there’s no single area that’s inherently successful or not

Essays have been memorable across a range of areas. To me, the more important key to a memorable (that is, successful) essay is that it be written about something that really matters to you. Too many times, applicants will write about something because they think they should or because they think it’s what we want to hear.

We are very open to all kinds of topics when it comes to essays. I firmly believe that your essay will be more powerful and compelling – and therefore more memorable – if you write about something you truly care about.  So don’t worry about what you think we’re looking for, write about what’s meaningful to you.

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 (blind, non-blind)?

BD: We interview roughly 25 percent of the applicant pool each year. An interview is required for admission, but not being invited to interview does not mean you will be denied – we waitlist many people without interviewing them. Most of our interviews are conducted by trained second-year students, although the admissions staff conducts a number of them as well.

We invite candidates to come to campus for their interview, but if you’re not able to do that, we do virtual interviews and also travel to meet people who live farther away from New Haven. Interviewers will have seen the applicant’s resume before the interview but will not have read the entire application – we want the interview to be as independent as possible and to reflect a fresh perspective on the candidate.

The interview itself is structured – everyone is asked the same questions in the same order. Doing so enhances both the fairness and the predictive validity of the interview. Applicants think that if the interview goes well they’ll be admitted and that if it doesn’t they won’t, but it isn’t at all that simple. After the interview, we discuss the entire application as a committee. The interview is one piece of that discussion, but just one. Often, we will use it to help inform the rest of the application – perhaps help answer questions we may have from other parts of the application or confirm things we’re seeing elsewhere. So the interview plays an important role in the application process, but as an applicant you should not overly fixate on it. It’s one piece of the process.

CA: Anything else you would like to add?

BD: In my time at Yale SOM I’ve seen a lot of changes at the school – we’ve grown in our global perspective, our integration with the greater Yale community, and distinctive way of teaching business disciplines. The school has traveled a long way in that time and I feel is poised to continue the strong positive momentum we’ve built over the past decade. I look forward to this continued growth and welcoming more wonderful students to be part of the Yale community.

Jonathan Pfeffer
Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as Contributing Writer at MetroMBA and Contributing Editor at Clear Admit, he was also a co-founder of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.