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2024-2025 Application Guide

Thank you for taking the first step to join the Yale SOM community.

Applying to MBA programs can be a daunting process. There are lots of tasks to prioritize, manage, and complete, and sometimes it can feel overwhelming. Our hope is that this Application Guide will provide useful insights and advice as you prepare for your Yale SOM application. Please use this guide as a resource to help you think through the overall application process; specific instructions for each section of the application are found in the Yale SOM application itself. Between this guide and the application instructions, you should have everything you need to complete the Yale SOM application. Good luck!

Bruce Delmonico

Bruce DelMonico 
Assistant Dean for Admissions

Overview

Before we dive into the Yale SOM application itself, it may help to step back and take a moment to share a little about how we as a school view the application process generally. We put a lot of thought into how our application is constructed. Our guiding principle is to be thoughtful and economical in the information we ask of you – to only ask questions that are relevant to evaluating your candidacy, while still giving you ample opportunity to share who you are and what matters to you.

We also very much subscribe to the idea of holistic review. We know that the admissions process is a partial and incomplete glimpse into who you are. No one can truly summarize themselves in such a succinct format—test scores alone don’t tell the whole story, nor do your transcript, work history, essay, recommendations, or extracurricular activities. We don’t believe that you can or should be defined by a limited set of reductive data points, which is why we look at all the information available to us across your entire application in a careful and nuanced way to get the best sense of your individual candidacy.

Finally, we work hard to make sure our application is not only thoughtful, economical, nuanced, and holistic, but also that it is structured to heighten consistency and reduce bias. You’ll notice, for example, that we limit the number of activities you can list in the Activities section of the application to two. We do this to level the playing field among applicants and limit the role “activity collecting” plays in the review process. This is one example of our attempts to create a fair and consistent application process.

We know that applying to MBA programs can be time-consuming and challenging. As you embark upon this process, we encourage you to approach it in the spirit of reflection and self-discovery, looking to know more about yourself at the end of the journey than you did when it began. This is the start of a lifelong process of personal and professional growth, and we’re excited to begin it with you!

We have three application deadlines (September 10, 2024; January 7, 2025; and April 8, 2025), and also accept applications through The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management and QuestBridge Graduate School Match, using their respective deadlines. So, your first question may well be: which round should I apply in?

If you were a QuestBridge Scholar in college or align with the mission of The Consortium, you may want to consider applying to us through those organizations. Regardless of whether you apply through QuestBridge, The Consortium, or directly to Yale SOM, the advice we invariably give is that you should apply when you feel you have your strongest application prepared. This means that if you need more time – for example, to take (or re-take) a standardized test, or gain more work experience, or secure your recommendations – you should take the time to do so. We model the application cycle so that the same application has a comparable chance of being admitted regardless of the round in which you apply. Obviously there can be benefits to applying early (for example, you’ll get your decision sooner), and if you’re ready to apply in time for an earlier round there’s no need to wait until a later one to do so. But don’t feel as though you need to rush to submit your application if you could make it materially stronger by taking the time to improve it in a meaningful way.

Once you’ve settled on an application round, your next question might be some variation of: OK, what’s next? Below are a few considerations to help you get started on the application process. Also, if you haven’t done so yet, consider signing up for our MBA newsletter, which includes our Inbox Application Insights – a series of application advice delivered to you as you need it in the weeks leading up to our application deadline.

1. Standardized Test – We accept both the GMAT and the GRE (past and current versions). Explore both options to see which is best for you, and then give yourself a few months before the application deadline for unrushed study and test-taking – you want to give yourself ample time to feel prepared, and also to be able to re-take the test before the deadline if desired.

2. Transcripts – We don’t require official academic transcripts when you apply (only if you’re admitted and enroll), so you just need to make sure you have unofficial copies of all of your undergraduate and, as relevant, graduate transcripts (including transfer credits, summer school, study abroad, and others) that you can upload to your application.

3. Recommendations – We require two professional recommendations (for current college seniors who apply through the Silver Scholars Program, it’s one professional and one academic recommendation). Your recommenders are usually busy people with many competing priorities, so be sure to give them time to write your recommendation. Ideally, you should identify who you want to write your recommendations and ask them to do so at least a month before the application deadline, so that they have plenty of time to get their recommendations to us.

4. Resume – In connection with securing your recommendations, you may want to work on updating your resume with an eye toward MBA applications. Your resume is a valuable summation of your academic and professional backgrounds and achievements. You’ll want to make sure it’s updated and captures your key accomplishments, and it can be helpful to do that at the same time you’re speaking to your recommenders about their recommendations. And even though we recommend you not share any of your written application materials (such as your essays) with your recommenders, you may want to show them your resume to help remind them of those accomplishments as they write on your behalf.

5. Essay – The essay may be one of the last things you complete before submitting your application. That’s OK, but be sure to spend time thinking about what you’ll write and work through the writing process far enough in advance of the deadline that you’re not scrambling to put your ideas into words as the deadline’s approaching. This isn’t a creative writing program, so you don’t need to spend an excessive amount of time stressing over the finer points of every linguistic turn of phrase, but as with the other elements of the application, you don’t want to feel rushed.

One final question you may have as you explore your MBA options is: how can I learn more? We’ve put together a range of resources to help you learn more about Yale SOM and navigate the MBA application process. We have a host of in-person and online events, Student Ambassadors, a blog series, and even the opportunity to visit campus should you find yourself in the Northeast United States. And, as noted above, our MBA newsletter contains lots of information about the school as well as a just-in-time series of tips and advice for you as you’re preparing your MBA application. And of course, if you still have questions, you can always contact us directly.

Inside the Application Itself

Your academic record, in combination with other elements of your application, helps us understand your preparation to thrive in the MBA classroom. But you’re more than just your GPA; we seek to understand all aspects of your academic path, from the courses you took to the ways in which your performance may have changed over the span of your education. Although we ask some questions to understand your exposure to quantitative coursework, we welcome students from all academic backgrounds and disciplines; quantitative coursework is not a prerequisite for the program.

At this point, unless you’re a college senior applying to our Silver Scholars Program, your academic record is likely complete, and your focus now is on sharing your transcripts with us as part of your application. The application instructions have more detailed information on the process for uploading your transcripts, but it’s worth noting a few things now as you start gathering materials:

First, we don’t need your official university transcripts at this point. To apply, you can submit either a copy of a physical transcript or a comprehensive electronic transcript; we’ll require your official transcript only when you enroll.

Second, in addition to your degree-granting institution’s transcript, we require transcripts for every course you took for degree credit – study abroad, transfer credits, community college courses, summer courses, etc. – at other institutions (unless those courses and grades are reflected in your degree-granting institution’s transcript). Missing and incomplete transcripts are the number one reason for delays in application review once we begin reading your file, so it makes sense to gather together all your transcripts now to make sure they’re complete and ready to upload when you apply.

Of note, although your academic record is largely fixed by now, sometimes applicants will take a one or more quantitative courses to help demonstrate their quantitative exposure and preparation if they didn’t have those courses as an undergraduate and their test scores do not give sufficient evidence of quantitative preparation. So, for example, if you didn’t have any quantitative exposure as an undergraduate and your standardized test quantitative subsection score does not sufficiently showcase your quantitative abilities (for example, it’s outside of our mid-80% range), you may want to take statistics or microeconomics (or both) to give more confidence about your quantitative preparation for the program. (Those courses are also worth taking if you haven’t done so before, even independent of the admissions process, because they are very helpful foundations for your MBA coursework.)
 

MBA applicants tend to put a lot of emphasis on test scores, but remember that they’re just one piece of a larger picture, and they’re used for a limited purpose: to give us some sense of your level of preparation for the core curriculum, which is all they’re validated to predict. And even for this limited purpose, they’re only one of several indicators – including your academic history and your Behavioral Assessment – that helps us determine your classroom readiness. We consider all parts of your application when considering your candidacy.

We accept both the GMAT and the GRE, including the online and newer, shorter versions of the exams. The Admissions Committee has no preference between the exams, and we’re well versed in evaluating scores from each. As you consider which one to take, it may make sense to try practice questions from each (or even an entire test!) to see which one feels better to you. Much like the SAT and ACT for those of you who decided between those two tests when applying for college, the GMAT and GRE have some similarities and some differences, so you may feel more comfortable taking one over the other.

Once you decide which exam to take, give yourself time to study. Even in their shorter and more streamlined versions, these are exams that take time to prepare for. Usually you’ll want to spend two to three months studying and preparing, depending on the number of hours available to you each week. And you should try if possible to take the exam far enough in advance of the application deadline to be able to re-take it if necessary – it’s not uncommon for applicants to take the test more than once, although of course there’s no need to do so if you achieved a score you’re happy with on the first try! (If you do end up re-taking a test after the application deadline, get your new score to us as soon as you can so that we can try to incorporate it into our review – you’ll be able to enter the new score on your applicant status page.)

In thinking about your test score and whether to re-take the exam, know that we look not just at your overall score but the subsections as well. We also consider your scores not just in isolation but in the context of your academic and professional backgrounds. In other words, a test score has no fixed weight within our application review but is considered relative to other relevant aspects of your application in assessing your academic preparation. We don’t have any baseline or minimum scores – either for the total score or subsections – below which we won’t consider an applicant, but we do want to make sure the subsections aren’t too far out of alignment; that is, you should show some degree of competency in each subsection, even if your overall score is competitive (for example, a score in the 99th percentile in one subsection doesn’t counterbalance a score in the 9th percentile in another).

Unlike your academic transcripts, you do need to send us your official test scores when you apply.

Also, note that we do not require non-native English speakers to submit an English language test such as the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE. One of the reasons we introduced our video questions component years ago was to eliminate the English testing requirement and make the process simpler and less expensive for applicants. 
 

In evaluating your candidacy for Yale SOM, we look at not just your potential to perform academically, but also your potential for professional success and impact. Your past professional experience – as evidenced through the Work Experience section of the application and your resume – is a way to highlight the positive impact you’ve had in your career so far, and in turn, the likelihood that you’ll continue to have meaningful impact after Yale SOM.

Your resume is an opportunity to give us a concise overview of your professional experience, academic background, and any volunteer work, activities, or other interests that help to tell your story. Unless you have more than ten years of work experience, your resume should be limited to one page. (If you do have more than ten years of work experience, feel free to take the additional space needed to cover all of your individual experiences, even the ones that took place at the start of your career.) You’re welcome to use any resume format of your choosing, or you can use the Yale SOM resume template that’s provided in our application, which is what our students use when applying for internships and post-MBA jobs.

In the past, you may have used a resume designed to highlight your essential job functions and key responsibilities. The most helpful resume for your MBA application will mirror the type of resume you’ll use for applying to jobs coming out an MBA program: one that focuses on your accomplishments, achievements, and the value you add. In other words, this is not the time to be modest (although you’ll want to avoid exaggeration)! When describing your experiences, begin bullets with active verbs such as “led” or “created,” highlighting the impact and results you drove in each of your roles. In particular, you may want to highlight leadership experience, quantitative experience, and evidence of strategic thinking.

Speaking of quantitative, when possible, resume bullets should quantify results; be specific in highlighting the percentage sales increase, dollar cost savings, increased operational efficiency, and other quantifiable metrics. But when you can’t quantify, qualify. For example, sharing that you “Championed a quarterly learning seminar that increased collaboration between sales, marketing and finance” or “Developed a proposal to refocus traditional media spend on a social media strategy; recommendation was supported by senior leadership” give the Admissions Committee a clear sense of results that can’t necessarily be described in numbers.

If you work for a small company, a company that may not be well known outside of your region, or have started your own company, it’s helpful to include a brief description of that company on your resume to give the Admissions Committee additional information about your experience. The Work Experience section of the application also contains space for you to provide contextual information about your professional experience, including descriptions about your company, your role, your reasons for leaving, gaps in experience, and other information. Use this section to your advantage, because the more information you can provide, the more comfort the Admissions Committee will have about your professional path.

It’s worth noting that while the Work Experience section of your application should only include full-time, post-undergraduate professional experience, feel free to include internships, work during college or part-time work in your resume. If you are a current college student or recent graduate applying for the Silver Scholars Program, you will have the opportunity to detail your internships, research, and part-time work on the Work Experience section of the application. Just be sure you properly filled in the “College Seniors” questions in the Academic Record section. You can read more about applying to the Silver Scholars Program here.

Also of particular note, especially given the unsettled employment landscape of the past few years, we know that some of you have gaps in your employment history or may not currently be working. You might be concerned that the Admissions Committee will view these career disruptions negatively. We want to emphasize that we understand the tremendous professional upheavals of the last several years and will view work histories with those disruptions very much in mind. The best thing you can do is help us understand your career path, including gaps in employment, both on your resume and in the application. The application has space for you to explain your career transitions and gaps of greater than three months. Making sure your resume is clear, complete, and accurate is critical as well.

Most students who come to Yale SOM are looking to explore new possibilities for their careers, whether that means pivoting to a new industry or function, changing geographic focus, or accelerating a current career path. You’re not expected to have it all figured out before coming to school. And in identifying your post-MBA goals, you don’t need to pretend that you’re more certain than you actually are. But it is important to have developed some ideas about your career interests and goals, and how to best position yourself to pursue those interests.

Whatever your post-MBA goals, we promise we won’t hold you to it! We don’t have quotas by industry, nor do we craft a class with a particular mix of industries in mind. In fact, we care more about your thought process around your career interests (including where they came from, how you’re thinking about them, what you’ve done already to explore them, and what you’ll do in the future to pursue them) than we do what the interests actually are. Hopefully you can breathe easier knowing that you don’t need to have the entire course of your professional life mapped out right now!

Recommendations are an important window into understanding your professional impact and how you lead and collaborate within an organizational setting. They’re a way for us to gain additional perspective on your candidacy from people who have worked with you and who know you well.

Unless you’re applying as an undergraduate student (Silver Scholars can find more info on selecting their recommenders here), your two recommendations should be professional in nature. Many candidates ask us who the best people are to write their recommendations. We strongly recommend that, if possible, one of your recommendations comes from a current supervisor. More generally, your recommendations should come from people who know your work well and who are senior to you, not peers or subordinates. We care more about the quality of the recommendation than the title of the recommender, so you should be guided by the substance of the work relationship rather than the seniority of the position.

While we recommend that one of your recommendations comes from a current supervisor, we know that sometimes this is not possible. You will have an opportunity in the application to explain your choice of recommenders if neither of them is someone who currently supervises you. Maybe that person is a family member, or maybe you’re an entrepreneur, or maybe you haven’t told your supervisor you're considering leaving to earn your MBA. In these cases, we would suggest you look to your most recent former supervisor. For family businesses, think about vendors or suppliers. Entrepreneurs may consider getting recommendations from board members or VC funders.

In terms of securing your recommendations, we encourage you to reach out to your recommenders in advance and schedule some time to talk with them about your desire to earn an MBA – maybe even reflect together on some of the growth experiences you’ve had and how you expect to add value to an MBA community. It may be helpful for you to walk through your resume together, since it will likely contain – and may remind them of – the many accomplishments you achieved that can inform the substance of their recommendation.

We do suggest, however, that you not send your recommenders your essays or other written application materials because they may incorporate them into their recommendations. Seeing the same language in your essays and recommendations may raise concerns to us about the independence of the recommendations, even if you were only trying to be helpful to your recommenders.

Also, you can have no role in the drafting or submission of your recommendations. We know that your recommenders are busy, and they may ask your assistance in drafting a letter for their review. Please resist this pressure and ask someone else instead. An authentic letter coming from an individual who is familiar with your work will always be the better option than a letter that was not wholly written by an independent source, even if that person is your current supervisor.

Finally, while all letters must be written in English, we encourage you to find recommenders who can best speak to your past experiences, regardless of their English language fluency. We will evaluate only the substance of the recommendations, not the proficiency of the language used. Your recommenders may choose either to write their letters in English or to write in their native language and use one of the many free translation programs available.

We want to know what matters to you, and our essay question is designed to help us gain insight into your background, passions, motivations, responsibilities, ideals, identities, challenges, or aspirations, depending on where you take your response. To ensure that you’re able to write about something important to you, we offer you three essay prompts from which to choose:

1) Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made. Why is this commitment meaningful to you and what actions have you taken to support it?

2) Describe the community that has been most meaningful to you. What is the most valuable thing you have gained from being a part of this community and what is the most important thing you have contributed to this community?

3) Describe the most significant challenge you have faced. How have you confronted this challenge and how has it shaped you as a person?

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 that have been most meaningful to you and that you most want to communicate to the committee, and pick the question that will best allow you to express that aspect of yourself. We find that the most compelling essays are the ones that are truly important to you, so make sure that’s 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. Importantly, regardless of which prompt you choose, you’ll want to support your essay with concrete examples.

The word limit (though not necessarily the goal) is 500 words.

The Optional Information section is truly optional. It’s not an additional required essay – if no aspect of your application requires further explanation, you should leave this section blank. In most cases, we get all the information we need from the various components of your application and there is no need to complete this section.

However, if you think the Admissions Committee would benefit from a brief explanation regarding any aspect of your application, you may provide it in the Optional Information section. Your general approach should be that if there is something you feel is material to your candidacy that you are not able to include in another section of the application, put it here.

Here are some examples: Consider providing additional context if it will allow us to better understand your academic performance, promotions or recognitions, or other information that is not apparent from the rest of your application. If you’ve taken concrete steps to mitigate a weaker element of your application or have an accomplishment that does not fit anywhere else in the application, you might include that here. Note that you should use the specific prompts provided in the Work Experience section to address gaps in work experience or choice of recommender. And if you would like to provide additional details to expand on any information provided in the Background Information section, you’re encouraged to do so in the “Supplemental Detail” area within that section.

To get a fuller picture of you and your interests, we ask about the commitments outside of the classroom and your day-to-day employment that are most meaningful to you. When it comes to activities, more isn’t always better. We ask for no more than two activities per timeframe because we want you to focus on what’s most significant and where you’ve engaged most deeply. We know that for some of you, the activities you pursue outside of school or work can be what’s most aligned with your true interests and passions. On the other hand, we also recognize that different jobs, courses of study, and life circumstances can limit your capacity to take on additional activities. Wherever you are within this range, this section presents another opportunity to share something that matters to you.

We encourage you to think broadly about the activities in which you have engaged. This could include extracurricular activities, sports, volunteer work, research/academic activities, employment or work-study during school, familial roles or responsibilities, professional affiliations, or hobbies.

We’ve worked hard to create an application that gives you an opportunity to share who you are and what matters most to you, but recognize the application process is an inherently artificial framework for learning about any individual. As recognized elsewhere, it gives us only a partial and incomplete glimpse into who you are. No single data point is determinative in this process, and in fact, the same data point can have different meaning based on the other elements of your application and the overall context surrounding your candidacy.

Because of these realities, the Admissions Committee seeks to gain the fullest understanding of you possible within the structure of the application process. Elements of your personal background may provide crucial insights into the choices and opportunities that have shaped your academic, professional, and personal experiences. We welcome whatever aspects of this background you’re comfortable sharing with us. And, as noted elsewhere, if you would like to provide additional details to expand on any information provided in the Background Information section, you’re encouraged to do so in the “Supplemental Detail” area within the section.

Yale SOM is committed to continuous innovation in the ways we identify future members of our community. The Behavioral Assessment might be the most unique of these innovations.

The Behavioral Assessment is an online exercise administered by ETS, the testing service behind the GRE. But unlike the GMAT and the GRE, which are tests of certain cognitive abilities, the Behavioral Assessment is a non-cognitive instrument that measures a set of inter- and intrapersonal competencies that are associated with academic success in business school. We look at it alongside, and sometimes as a counterpoint to, traditional academic metrics. And much like any other piece of the application, the Behavioral Assessment will never be the deciding factor for admission but will instead be used in combination with the rest of a candidate’s profile.

The exercise itself should take about 25 minutes to complete. You will receive 130 pairs of statements, one pair at a time, from which you’re asked to select the statement that best aligns with your own behaviors. The assessment is adaptive, so no two candidates will receive the exact same set of statements. No preparation is necessary to take the assessment, and no special knowledge is required.

Know that our use of this assessment is meant to be additive – it’s geared towards allowing the Admissions Committee to take more chances on candidates whose traditional metrics may not be the best predictors of success. To truly fulfill Yale SOM’s mission of educating leaders for business and society, we need a community of students whose backgrounds, experiences, and interests are diverse and expansive. If we limit ourselves only to applicants who perform best on traditional academic measures like the GMAT, the GRE, or undergraduate GPA, we may miss out on candidates with extraordinary professional experience or personal backgrounds that would add vital perspectives to the classroom. At the same time, it’s our responsibility to ensure we bring students into the program who will succeed in the classroom—we don’t want to set up students for failure. The Behavioral Assessment gives us an additional piece of information to use in assessing who will perform effectively in the curriculum, specifically by helping us predict who will perform better than their academic history would suggest.

Like the Behavioral Assessment, you’ll complete the video questions after you submit your application and pay the application fee. The video questions are not a substitute for the interview. Instead, they provide a unique way for us to assess your communication and English language skills, and enable us to create a more dynamic, multi-dimensional portrait of your candidacy.

To complete the video questions, you will receive a set of three previously recorded questions asked by admissions team members. The questions are similar to typical interview questions. There are no “trick questions;” we’re not trying to stump you. After receiving each question, you will have 20-30 seconds to gather your thoughts and 60-90 seconds, depending on the question, for your response. The responses do not require any specific knowledge or preparation beyond the practice tool you can use before answering the questions, and your responses will be used with a “light touch,” as we say – they won’t make or break your application.

To prepare for the video questions, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with the 60-90 second time frame for delivering your response. You don’t want to feel rushed, and you don’t want to run out of time getting to the heart of your answer. Also, be sure you have a good internet connection and are in a quiet, private space. While it is fun for the Admissions Committee when the unexpected colleague, partner, or pet joins your session, you will undoubtedly feel better about the exercise if you eliminate any potential for surprises!

Interviews are offered by invitation on a rolling basis throughout each round. Don’t be concerned if your invitation to interview does not come until later in the round; it takes a considerable amount of time for the Admissions Committee to review all of the applications we receive, and we don’t begin our review until after each application deadline.

If you receive an invitation, it will be an offer to participate in a 30-minute interview conducted by a current second-year student, recent alum, or an Admissions Committee member. The interview is "blind," meaning your interviewer will only know what they see on your resume and will not have reviewed the rest of your application. The questions are largely behavioral in nature – how you handled certain situations – as well as focused on your MBA and post-MBA plans. The best way to prepare is to review your Yale SOM application, resume, and essay to refresh yourself on what you wrote, and be ready with answers to typical behavioral interview questions.

It’s worth noting that even if you’re not invited to interview in the round in which you applied, it doesn’t mean you’ll be denied admission. It’s not uncommon to be placed on the waitlist without having been interviewed. We will review your candidacy again in the next round, in conjunction with the applicants who apply in that round. You may be offered an interview – and subsequently admitted – at any point in the cycle. So please be patient and resist the urge to check in with the Admissions Office on your interview status!

Final Thoughts

Once you submit your application and complete the Behavioral Assessment and video questions, your application is complete and we’ll begin our review of your candidacy after the application deadline.

We know that the process to get to this point is a long one, involving a lot of time, effort, money, and energy. Regardless of the outcome of your candidacy, you should congratulate yourself on getting to this point! Hopefully just completing this part of the process has yielded important benefits in terms of helping clarify the values, priorities, and aspirations that will guide you through business school and beyond.

Know that we will treat your application during the review process with the same care that you put into preparing it. The process itself is highly individualized: what makes someone stand out can be vastly different from candidate to candidate. Therefore, as you think about your application, the key is to remain your true self throughout the process. What the Admissions Committee is looking to learn about in your application is...you! We look forward to learning more about you, what makes you unique, and what special contributions you’ll bring to our community.

Virtual Campus Tour

Highlights from the MBA Admissions Blog

Bruce DelMonico
June 27, 2024

Introducing the Application for the MBA Class of 2027

Bruce DelMonico, assistant dean for admissions, outlines what has changed and what hasn’t in the new application, which is now live.

Austin Cai ’25 introducing panelists at a winter social in Beijing
January 25, 2024

Introducing Our Community to Prospective Students in Beijing

During winter recess, Austin Cai ’25 hosted a panel discussion in his home city of Beijing, creating an opportunity for prospective students to get to know more about Yale SOM and what makes the community unique.

Bruce DelMonico
December 19, 2023

From the Assistant Dean for Admissions: Insights for Applicants

Bruce DelMonico shares advice on how to approach the application process—and what the Admissions Committee is really looking for.