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From the Assistant Dean for Admissions: Tips for Using the Application to Tell Your Story

Bruce DelMonico offers tips for assembling the best possible candidacy—which starts with leveraging each piece of the application to present your truest self.

Last summer, in preparation for the 2019-2020 application cycle, our team worked hard to create an Application Guide, which is meant to do exactly as the title suggests—guide you through the Yale SOM application. It is filled with tips and advice to help you present your best possible candidacy, which is the goal of anyone undertaking this process.

Many applicants translate “best possible candidacy” as finding a “hook” that will allow them to stand out, but that is not how I would recommend you approach the process.

Instead, you should think about how each element of the application helps you tell your particular story. We have carefully and intentionally built our application so that each component seeks complementary pieces of information, and in this way it is streamlined to help you communicate with us most effectively. Each of you has your own unique and complex identity; you will stand out by using the application to share that identity with us.

The Admissions Committee thoroughly reviews each application with the goal of understanding who you are and what you value, how you have influenced the organizations of which you have been a part, why you want an MBA and why now is the right time, and ultimately what you hope to accomplish in the world with the degree. This process requires a good deal of reflection and introspection, and your time is best spent in leveraging each piece of the application to present your truest self.

As you continue on your business school journey, I hope you will use all of the tools at your disposal, including our Application Guide, previous blog posts on the application, and our Application Tips Panel, an online event on August 7. For good measure, here are some additional tips for you to keep in mind as you prepare your application.

Letters of Recommendation

Your recommendations help us understand a few core things: the relationship between you and your recommender, their assessment of the work you have done for them, and ongoing opportunities for growth. You are best served by seeking recommenders who know your work in detail and can give concrete examples of your accomplishments, not simply someone with an impressive-sounding title. As you solicit recommendations, don’t forget to give your recommenders plenty of time to write their recommendations, and be sure to schedule a call with them to talk through your motivations for pursuing an MBA and remind them of all the projects you worked on, including your impacts and contributions.


As we’ve already announced, our essay question (“Describe your biggest commitment”) will remain the same this year. My advice on how to approach the essay is also similar to what I’ve said in past years. The Admissions Committee cares less about the commitment you choose and more about the behaviors surrounding the commitment. You can choose a commitment from either your personal or work life—and each year there are many excellent essays on varied topics—but what makes them all great is that we come away learning something new about you as a person that helps us understand your values and motivations.

Behavioral Assessment

Though we have spent several years developing the Behavioral Assessment for use in the admissions process, last year was the first time we included it as a required component for all our applicants. The assessment, which is unique to Yale SOM’s application, supports our ongoing efforts to create a community of broadminded, intellectually curious students who represent a diversity of backgrounds and interests. Specifically, it allows us to look beyond traditional metrics such as standardized testing and academic performance to better predict who will thrive in the Yale SOM classroom. We are excited to continue our use of this tool in the coming year, and we hope you’ll find the experience of taking the assessment to be straightforward (and maybe even enjoyable!).

The assessment is a forced-choice module, in which you are given 120 pairs of statements and asked to choose the statement that is more like your own behavior. While you may, at times, feel that neither of the two answers you are presented with is a perfect fit, rest assured that no one response will determine your results. Just choose the one that fits best and move on to the next question.

Video Questions

Like the Behavioral Assessment, the Video Question component of the application takes place after you hit the “Submit” button. This component consists of three pre-recorded questions that are randomly drawn from three different tranches. You provide extemporaneous responses to these questions, which are added to your file for review with the rest of the application. We have been using this tool for a number of years and find it a useful way of getting to know you, your experiences, and how you think through challenges. As with other pieces of the application, we are not trying to stump you, nor will these questions be the deciding factor in your candidacy. If anything, they can be a positive factor in an application. And in this increasingly virtual world, I have seen students over the years become more comfortable with this platform. My advice is just to relax and be yourself!

Bruce DelMonico
Assistant Dean for Admissions
Admissions Office
Yale School of Management
165 Whitney Avenue
Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
203.432.5635, Admissions Office
203.432.6380, Visitor Center
fax 203.432.7004