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

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We are happy to welcome back Bruce DelMonico, Assistant Dean for Admissions at the Yale School of Management, for our MBA Admissions Director Q&A series. Bruce joined Yale SOM in October 2004 and has led the Admissions Office since November 2006. Before joining Yale, Bruce was an attorney focused on First Amendment, white collar, and commercial litigation. Bruce holds a BA in Honors English from Brown University, an MA in Literature from the University of Texas at Austin, and a JD from the University of Virginia School of Law.

Read on for his insights into MBA admissions at Yale SOM, what to expect in the interview and more.

Bruce DelMonico, Assistant Dean for Admissions at the Yale School of Management

Clear Admit: What is the one aspect of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?
Bruce DelMonico: There are many aspects of the program that I wish applicants knew more about, and in past Q&As I’ve highlighted things like our mission-oriented approach to management, our innovative integrated curriculum, the breadth of our academic strength, and the unique “raw case” component of the classroom experience. All of these elements, and others, helps position our students to fulfill the school’s mission of educating leaders for business and society. What I would highlight now – which is also in support of the mission – is our distinctive global orientation. A core aspect of the Yale SOM experience is the Global Studies Requirement, which means that every MBA student must have at least one global experience during their time at SOM. We believe that business is inherently global in nature and that to be a true leader for business and society you need to have an understanding of and sensitivity to the nuance of the different business, cultural, legal, and regulatory environments in which organizations operate. We offer a menu of opportunities to fulfill this requirement, including experiential courses like Global Social Enterprise and Global Social Entrepreneurship in India, as well as many opportunities anchored around the Global Network for Advanced Management, that give our students exposure to this critical competency for modern leaders. And what’s better, when you come to Yale you get a Global Studies Account to help pay for the travel associated with these experiences.

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?
BD: After the deadline passes (and as an aside, we don’t begin reviewing until the deadline has passed), the first thing we do is to sit down as a committee – there are roughly 15 of us – to do a quick pass through the entire pool to level-set. We then begin reading files and sending out interview invitations almost immediately. Applications are reviewed by at least two different members of the admissions committee. A subset of the full committee will meet early in the round to make interview decisions, and then the entire committee will meet at the end of the round to make decisions on candidates who have been interviewed. Candidates can take different paths through the process – we try to make sure we’re moving people through the review process as expeditiously as possible, which means we at times have parallel processes at work to enable that to happen. Everyone receives a thorough review, and we actually have some redundancies built into the process to ensure that we’re being fair, consistent, and well-calibrated in our evaluation and decisions.

CA: How does your team approach the essay portion of the application specifically? What are you looking for as you read an essay? 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: We actually changed our essay prompt this year to give applicants the choice to write about one of three possible topics: (1) the biggest commitment you’ve made; (2) the community that has been most meaningful to you; or (3) the most significant challenge you have faced. We’ve given you a choice of prompts because we want to know what matters to you and this choice helps ensure you’re able to write about something important to you.

My first piece of advice is to choose the prompt that speaks most strongly to you and about which you have the most enthusiasm. In answering the prompt – whichever one it is – you should think about the life experiences most meaningful to you and that you most want to communicate to the committee. Pick the question that will best allow you to express that aspect of yourself.

Regardless of what topic you choose, the most important aspect of the essay to us is that you describe in detail the behaviors that demonstrate support for that topic. We care most about how you’ve approached this thing that matters deeply to you.

Remember, the goal is not to stand out or be unique. The goal is to be genuine and sincere. We find that the most compelling essays are the ones that share what is truly most important to you, so use that as your guide in choosing what to write about. Don’t try to guess what we’re looking for or what you think we want to hear.

I would also note that you do not need to connect your essay to the MBA degree – you don’t need to explain how the topic you choose supports why you want to get an MBA, either in general or at Yale. We ask those questions elsewhere in the application process, so don’t spend your limited words on those areas here. And of course, as always, remember to proofread!

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 (resume-based, application-based, behavioral)? Will your admissions interviews be in-person or virtual for the 2023-2024 admissions season?
BD: Depending on the year, we interview roughly a quarter to a third of the applicant pool. Interviews are conducted primarily by trained second-year students and recent alumni who were interviewers as students, although members of the Admissions Committee do conduct some as well. Our interviews are “blind,” meaning that the interviewer has reviewed your resume, but has not seen the rest of your application. The idea is for this input to be as independent of the other reviews as possible. The interviews themselves are 30 minutes in length and structured in format – every interviewee receives the same questions in the same order. Research consistently shows that structured interviews are far more predictive than unstructured ones, which is why we adopted this format many years ago. Interviewers also use a highly structured rubric in evaluating candidates, to heighten inter-rater consistency, decrease bias, and increase the fairness of the process.

The questions themselves are largely behavioral in nature – we ask about past experiences and how you handled certain situations, as well as about your MBA aspirations. The goal, as with the rest of our application, is to elicit the information that is most helpful at that time and in that format, and that complements the rest of the application. I would note that although the interview is the last thing you will do as an applicant, that does not mean that it is the most important aspect of your candidacy or that it will determine the outcome of your application. It is just one more data point, and the one piece of advice I would give to applicants is not to put too much emphasis on it, as you shouldn’t any single element of your application – nothing by itself will make or break your candidacy.

In terms of in-person versus virtual, we returned to in-person interviews last year, so applicants have the option to come to campus to interview in person or to interview virtually. There is no difference between the two in terms of your chances of being admitted, it’s really just a matter of your preference.

CA: What is your testing policy? Do you offer exam waivers? Why or why not?
BD: We accept either the GMAT or the GRE as part of the Yale SOM application. We accept both tests and do not have a preference for either – in fact, our admission rate is roughly the same for applicants regardless of which test they took, which I think is an important proof point that we do not have a preference.

Our testing policy has not changed in recent years – we continue to require a standardized test as part of the application process. We know that some schools have gone test-optional or started to offer test waivers during and after the pandemic, but we haven’t followed that path. Research consistently shows that standardized tests are highly predictive of first-year MBA grades, which are an important (although by no means the only meaningful) outcome. Test scores aren’t the most predictive element, but they provide important incremental validity and consistency to our application process, and we have yet to find a replacement – or combination of replacements – that represents an adequate substitute. We continue to work toward finding this substitute, and when we do, we will consider loosening or eliminating the testing requirement. But we don’t want to jeopardize the integrity of our application process by doing so prematurely or without fully researching and understanding the situation.

CA: Could you tell us about the waitlist? What can waitlisted applicants do to maximize their chances of being accepted to your program? Does your office allow for waitlisted applicants to submit additional materials (e.g. letters of support, job updates, new test scores, etc.)?
BD: Being on the waitlist can be one of the most challenging parts of the application process!  We don’t waitlist candidates casually because we know how difficult it can be to be on the waitlist. We want to make sure the applicants we waitlist have a realistic chance of being admitted, and we do admit a decent number of applicants from the waitlist each year. The numbers vary from year to year, but the waitlist is typically quite active and is one way to calibrate the class and make sure we’re being consistent in our admissions decisions across our three application rounds.

We waitlist applicants for different reasons. Sometimes there is a specific aspect of someone’s candidacy that we have feedback on and would like to see them work on. Other times it’s simply a matter of the overall strength of the pool and we waitlist someone to see how they compare to applicants in subsequent rounds. We do offer feedback to applicants while they’re one the waitlist – in fact, if you’re waitlisted, you’ll receive a FAQ document as part of the waitlist decision that gives you guidance on next steps and how to navigate the waitlist process. We welcome you to reach out to us on the waitlist, and if we have specific advice for you in terms of how to strengthen your candidacy, we will share it. We want to give applicants every opportunity to present their strongest candidacy possible, and the waitlist is often a very good way to do that.

I would also note that we will waitlist some applicants with an interview but will also waitlist some applicants without an interview. So not being interviewed is not a sign that you will be denied. We review waitlisted applicants from a previous round at the same time we review applicants from subsequent rounds, and it is not uncommon for someone waitlisted in a previous round without an interview to be invited to interview in a subsequent round and ultimately admitted. It can be a long process and requires a good deal of patience, but it can be worth it!

CA: Tell us briefly about two popular courses at your institution.
BD: The first course I would point to is actually in the core curriculum, so I suppose it’s popular in the sense that everyone MBA student takes it!  But it is very highly regarded and it is a uniquely SOM course in my mind. It’s called Modeling Managerial Decisions, and it’s co-taught by Anjani Jain, who leads the MBA program and approaches the course from an operations perspective, and Nathan Novemsky, who’s an expert in the psychology of judgment and decision-making. They teach the course from these dual perspectives – how to use algorithms and mathematical modeling to optimize decision-making on one hand, and the psychological aspects of decision-making on the other. Melding these two diverse perspectives into a single course is emblematic of the integrated way management is taught here at Yale. The other course I would highlight is Global Financial Crises, co-taught by Andrew Metrick, Director of the Yale Program on Financial Stability (“YPFS”), and Timothy Geithner, former U.S. Treasury Secretary. The course aims to shed light on the causes of financial crises and how they’re addressed and managed. It’s one of a number of offerings emanating from the YPFS, and it highlights the way in which Yale SOM aims to educate its students to be leaders who have broad, positive impact not just in their communities and organizations but in the world more generally.

CA: Is there anything else you’d like to highlight about your MBA program or admissions process?
BD: I would just add that we know applying to business school is a long process and that a lot of time and energy goes into it. Just know that we put as much care and attention into evaluating your application as you put into preparing it. We’re rooting for you and are hoping to help you take this next step in your professional journey. I truly believe in the transformative value of the MBA and its ability to help you unlock your personal and professional potential, and we’re excited for students to take that journey here at Yale.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.