When I graduated from college, I was expecting, and even looking forward to, a very traditional career path. I had just earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and had an analyst job at Deloitte Consulting. Three months later, I was accepted into the Silver Scholars Program, and my future completely changed.
The Silver Scholars Program at the Yale School of Management is unique. It allows undergraduates to enter the MBA program without any work experience. Scholars then take a “gap period” between their first and second year of studies to gain valuable work experience. The first year is a “boost,” where students learn a huge amount of practical business knowledge in their MBA classes, and get to take advantage of the Yale brand for professional networking (a yale.edu email address goes very far when reaching out to recruiters). After the first year at Yale, students then leave to gain the work experience they previously postponed. This gap period traditionally lasts one year, but many students (including myself) extend the period to two or three years to take fuller advantage of the excellent career opportunities during this time.
I cannot emphasize enough how much the Silver Scholars Program has accelerated my career during this gap period. At the outset of my first year, I was promoted to a consultant position at Deloitte Consulting. Later, I was offered a position at Citibank in New York City. Within a year of starting at Citibank, I was promoted to the role of vice president/digital product manager—a position that typically requires an MBA and seven years of work experience. At the time I was offered this role, I had just more than two years of work experience. I am one of many examples of how the Silver Scholars Program acts as a major career accelerator for its participants. I know of other scholars who worked at major companies like Google, McKinsey, and the Boston Consulting Group, to name just a few.
Speaking honestly, the Silver Scholars Program is a challenge. Going directly into an Ivy League MBA program as a recent college graduate is not easy. In the classroom, there is a steep learning curve. During gap-year recruitment, there are also challenges: Silver Scholars offer more to employers than undergraduates, but don’t have the three to five years of work experience of a traditional MBA student. They aren’t on a “traditional” career path, so they must work even harder than their classmates to forge their own path. However, this challenge also presents an amazing opportunity: the chance to shape your own career. You can approach companies from a unique angle, and create your own opportunities for internships, co-ops, and full-time jobs. Plus, with the “golden safety net” of returning to Yale, Scholars can take career risks that otherwise might not be feasible to them. The end result is an incredibly wide range of career opportunities with virtually no limits.
When I entered the Silver Scholars Program, I was still trying to have a “traditional” career. I was comfortable with a career path that would be stable and predictable. But being a Silver Scholar let me realize the endless opportunities that a non-traditional path offers. I’m not at all where I thought I would be five years ago—I’m in a far better place. I’m in a management role that I love and working with wonderful people. I’m doing more, learning more and achieving more than I ever would have been able to at this stage in my career without the program. I cannot recommend this program enough to anyone who wants to truly make an impact on their own lives and on the world.
Hannah Webb is the recipient of the Roberts W. Brokaw (YC ’72, GRD ’72) Free-Enterprise Scholarship.