Frequently Asked Questions: A Conversation with the Director of Admissions

As the 2017-18 MBA application cycle kicks off, we sat down with Laurel Grodman ’06, director of admissions, analytics, and evaluation for the Yale School of Management’s full-time MBA program, to learn what’s new with this year’s application, and to get answers to some of the most common questions prospective students ask.

July 21, 2017

In an effort to make the application widely accessible, Grodman said, Yale SOM will continue to partner with the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management (CGSM) and to offer a tiered application fee structure and application fee waivers for select categories of applicants, including:

  • Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) MBA Prep Fellows
  • Current or former Forté MBALaunchers
  • Current or former Peace Corps volunteers
  • Current staff or alumni of Teach for America, Teach for China, or Teach for India
  • Active U.S. military or U.S. veterans
  • Current Yale graduate students
  • Yale undergraduate students applying to the Silver Scholars Program


For the first time, Yale SOM will allow recommenders to submit letters of recommendation in Mandarin or Spanish; Yale SOM will shoulder the cost and logistics of translation. This pilot initiative gives applicants the broadest possible choice in recommenders, and removes hurdles for those working or studying outside of the United States. The school aims to expand this option to additional languages in the future.

Other new elements of the application this year include an optional résumé template made available to candidates and a series of video tips embedded in many sections throughout the application. This extra guidance is aimed at making the process of applying a little less daunting and enabling each candidate to demonstrate his or her strengths.

“Every year we reflect on our application process to ensure that what we ask not only assists in our evaluation, but also allows the committee to build a multi-dimensional picture of each candidate,” said Grodman. “Providing more guidance throughout the application, directly from our team, hopefully will send a signal that we really want candidates to do well and put their best selves forward.”

We asked Grodman to answer some of the more common questions from prospective students in order to shed a little light on the committee’s approach to evaluating an incredibly competitive applicant pool—one that has surged by more than 45% in the past four years.

What is the admissions team looking for in a candidate?

I’m glad you didn’t ask me to describe the ideal candidate, because there isn’t one single profile that we’re striving to bring into the class. In a broad sense, we’re looking for people who are intellectually curious (our integrated curriculum rewards this) and who have demonstrated the desire and potential to lead, which we value in our community members during their time at Yale SOM and beyond. There are so many different, highly individual ways in which candidates can demonstrate these qualities, and authenticity is very important to us. Tell us your story, in your voice.

How much weight is given to test scores and GPA?

Applicants tend to focus a lot on scores and grades, which is understandable—they are some of the more concrete aspects of an application that includes a lot of less tangible components. While we know that scores and undergraduate performance are useful indicators of an applicant’s ability to handle the rigorous academic program at Yale SOM, we consider them in tandem with many other elements of the application. They are not assigned a specific weight, and we have no minimum cutoffs. Instead, we look at all components of your application and make every effort to find evidence that you can succeed in the program based on your professional, academic, and personal experiences.

Who are the best choices for recommenders?

Firsthand knowledge of you and your contributions is always more valuable than an impressive title, so focus on recommenders who know you well and can lend perspective based on a close professional relationship. Typically, these will be individuals senior to you, and ideally, one of your recommendations will be from a current supervisor (though there are situations where a former supervisor, co-founder, client, or mentor will make sense). Think about finding two recommenders who can speak to complementary skill sets or strengths or perhaps an area that isn’t well represented elsewhere in your application.

Are the video questions a substitute for the interview? How are they factored into the committee’s evaluation?

The video questions are not a substitute for the interview, though, like the interview, they give you an opportunity to bring a more multi-dimensional quality to your candidacy beyond the written application. The questions allow the admissions committee to assess your spoken language ability (in fact, they’ve allowed us to eliminate the English Language Test requirement for non-native speakers) and to see how well you think on your feet, an important skill in the MBA classroom—and in life. Some of the questions also provide insight into particular competencies that we value in our students. While this is perhaps the most anxiety-producing aspect of the application, I tell candidates to rest assured that the video questions nearly always cast a positive light on the application as a whole.

For more insight, register to attend the live Online Application Tips Panel event August 7 featuring members of the admissions team. The event will be recorded for those who cannot attend live. In addition, the team is currently traveling the world this summer and fall to meet with prospective students in a number of different venues and platforms. Check the events page regularly for new locations and formats.

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