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Application Guide

Thank you for taking the first step to join our 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 guidance for completing our application as well as what the Admissions Committee is looking for in the various elements of the application.

Insider Tips on Our Application

Our Admissions Committee members have provided the following information, recorded videos, and targeted advice to help you best navigate the Yale SOM application. We invite you to review the information, view a recently recorded Application Tips Panel, and follow our blog for additional advice throughout the 2021-2022 application cycle.

Personal Information: Where your story begins

The Admissions Committee seeks to understand elements of your personal background that may provide context for the choices and opportunities that have shaped your academic, professional, and personal experiences. All questions in this section are optional. If you would like to provide additional information to expand on your responses to any of these questions, please do so in the “Optional Information” section under the “Essay” menu.

Test Scores: One piece of a larger picture

MBA applicants tend to put a lot of emphasis on test scores, but remember that they are just one piece of a larger picture. They give us some sense of your level of preparation for the core curriculum, but we consider all parts of your application when evaluating your candidacy.

We accept both the GMAT and the GRE. This includes the online versions of the exams. The Admissions Committee has no preference between the two exams, and we’re well versed in evaluating scores from each. When completing this section of your application, you only need to list your two highest scores to-date. You will self-report your scores within the application. Should you be admitted, we will ask you to send us official test scores from ETS or GMAC to verify and match your self-reported scores. Please complete this section carefully by entering the correct sub-scores and percentages. Only report official scores you have achieved in a full exam. Do not report practice exam scores. We do not require non-native English speakers to submit an English language test such as the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE.

All test scores (online or in-person GMAT and GRE) must be less than five years old, measured from the date you submit your application. For example, if you are applying with a test score from December 15, 2016, you can submit your application using this test score until December 14, 2021, but you also need to order those official scores to be sent to SOM before December 14, 2021. If you took the exam within the past five years and have designated Yale SOM as a score report recipient, we will have access to all of your GMAT and/or GRE scores from that period. If your score will soon become five years old, you may not be able to send your scores to us after you are admitted. If you fall into this case, please send your scores to us well before your scores become five years old using the codes below.  

You are welcome to send your official GMAT scores  anytime through www.mba.com (code 3TJ-BX-45). Send your official GRE scores through www.ets.org (code 3986). Note: Yale SOM has multiple GMAT and GRE codes. Be sure to send your scores to the codes above, which correspond to the Yale SOM full-time MBA program.

GMAC now allows you to only share one score rather than  your entire test score history. Nevertheless, we encourage you to share your test score history. Although we evaluate your candidacy based on the highest achieved, it’s helpful to see previous scores as they may include higher sub section scores, and they give us a sense of your commitment to the test.

Sometimes applicants have a scheduled GMAT or GRE exam very near or just after an application deadline. We can’t guarantee that we will be able to review scores from exams taken after the application date, so plan to have all of your testing done in advance of the application deadline. If you do end up retaking a test after the application deadline, you will be able to enter the new score on your applicant status page. 


When we say we have no preference between the GMAT and GRE, we really mean it. Take whatever exam you feel most comfortable with. I also recommend being a bit strategic. If you know you’ll want to apply for a joint degree, maybe the GRE would be best for you since you can likely use that score to apply to both programs. If you’re thinking about a career in consulting or investment banking, keep in mind some firms are generally looking for a GMAT score on candidates’ resumes. If you’ve tried taking one of the exams a couple of times and aren’t attaining the score you’re hoping for, maybe it would be a good idea to try the other exam to see if that’s a better test for you.” 

—Amy Voth, Senior Associate Director of Admissions

Academic Record: You are more than your overall GPA

As with your entire application, we are very interested in the whole picture. What was the progression? Did you have an opportunity to take courses outside of your major? Were you working a job in undergrad to pay for your education? There are so many other factors that weigh into this picture.”

—Kate Botelho, Associate Director of Admissions
 

Resume: How to showcase your experiences

Your resume is a great place to ground your application. It’s a quick and easy way for the committee to see what you’ve been doing throughout your life and career in a chronological way. Simple stuff: Proof-read it and spell-check it!”

—Rebekah Melville, Director of Financial Aid and Admissions Committee member

Post-MBA Interests: How to best communicate your career goals

Recommendations: The who, what, and when

We ask for two letters of recommendation. Recommendations are a way for us to get a different perspective on your candidacy from people who have worked with you and who know you well.

Unless you are applying as an undergraduate student, your two recommendations should be professional in nature. Many candidates ask us who the best people are to write their recommendations. Our answer is that they should be people who know your work well and preferably who are senior to you, not peers or subordinates.

Ideally one of your recommendations will be from your current supervisor. However, sometimes this is not possible. Maybe that person is a family member, or maybe you’re an entrepreneur, or maybe you haven’t told your supervisor you are considering leaving to earn your MBA. In these cases, we would suggest you look to your most recent former supervisor. In general, we care about the quality of the recommendation, not the title of the recommender.

The more insight your recommenders can provide in their evaluations, the better we’re able to understand your story and gauge your potential. You may also want to think about finding two recommenders who can speak to different strengths and skills sets.

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. This can be great preparation for them to write you a thoughtful and comprehensive recommendation.

We do suggest, however, that you do not send your recommenders your essays or other written 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.

Finally, please note that we are allowing recommenders to submit their recommendations in Mandarin or Spanish. Our hope is that this change will make the process easier for recommenders who do not speak English and will give you more options in your choice of recommenders.

Essay: What we’re looking for

We have one essay question: “Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made.” We developed this question in collaboration with Amy Wrzesniewski, a professor of organizational behavior at Yale SOM. Your time in business school, and the choices you make thereafter, represent significant commitments. In asking this question, the Admissions Committee is seeking to learn about how you have approached a commitment of importance in your life.

When it comes to choosing a topic, be genuine. We want to hear about something that is meaningful and distinctive to you in your own voice. Your commitment can be personal, specific or expansive. We receive outstanding, insightful essays covering a wide range of topics.

The content of your essay is every bit as important as the topic. Regardless of the commitment that you choose, the most effective essays do a great job of describing your approach to commitment. Point to the specific actions that you have taken over time to bolster your commitment. This is especially important if you have chosen a broad topic, such as an ideal or a belief. Don’t just explain why a commitment is important to you; we want to understand how your behaviors have demonstrated and supported your commitment.


The first thing that may come to mind about our essay question is, ‘Why is it phrased so broadly?’ That’s intentional. We don’t want candidates to think that we are trying to steer them towards a particular kind of commitment, either in nature or scope. The question is meant to elicit self-reflection and result in you describing a commitment that is truly meaningful to you.”

—Maria Derlipanska, Senior Associate Director of Admissions

Optional Information: It is truly optional

The optional information section is not an additional essay, and most candidates do not need to complete this section. This is a space where you can address any questions you think the Admissions Committee may have about your application.  For example, if there’s a gap on your resume or you’ve chosen an unconventional recommender, this is the appropriate place to provide clarification.

Activities: Focus on the most meaningful

Behavioral Assessment: We’re going beyond the academic record

Yale SOM is committed to continuous innovation in the ways we identify future members of our community.  We look for broadminded, intellectually curious students that represent a diversity of backgrounds and interests.  The newest component of our application process is the Behavioral Assessment, although we’ve been working on it behind the scenes for many years. 

The Behavioral Assessment is an online admissions tool administered by the research division of ETS. It measures a set of interpersonal and intrapersonal competencies associated with business school success.  It is a forced-choice module that takes about 20 minutes to complete and should be completed in a single sitting. You do not need to do anything in advance to prepare for the assessment, nor does it require any specialized knowledge or background. While the assessment alone will not be the deciding factor for admission, it can provide valuable information when used in context with other elements of an application. You will receive access to the Behavioral Assessment after you submit your application and pay your application fee.


I hope it will put applicants at ease to know that our use of this assessment is geared towards allowing the 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 to applicants who perform best on traditional academic measures like GMAT, 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. So, it will allow us to take more chances on candidates without the strongest academic or testing profiles, but who nonetheless have what it takes to succeed in the classroom and who undoubtedly will make significant contributions to our community because of their experience and perspective.”

—Laurel Grodman, Managing Director of Admissions

Video Questions: Designed to set you up for success

You will receive access to the video questions after you submit your application and pay your application fee. The video questions are not a substitute for the interview; they are a component of your MBA application.

Every candidate will receive a set of randomized, previously recorded questions asked by an admissions team member. No two applicants will have the same set of questions. The questions asked are similar to typical interview questions, and there are no “trick questions.” We are not trying to stump you.


Here are a few tips on the video exercise. First, know you’re going to be great! This is not a deal breaker or maker. It doesn’t require any preparation beyond the practice tool you can access before you start your recordings. Don’t stress; we aim to set you up for success. One piece of advice for the recorded responses is to familiarize yourself with the 60-90 second time frame. You don’t want to feel rushed in your answer, and you also don’t want to only utilize 10 seconds. And finally, be sure you have a good internet connection and a quiet, private space. You’d be surprised how many ‘bloopers’ we see in the video questions due to an unexpected colleague, partner, or pet joining your session!”

—Kristen Mercuri, Deputy Director of Admissions

Interview: Our approach

The interviews are offered by invitation on a rolling basis throughout each round. The email invitations are not sent out by region, so if you have a friend in your area who has received an invitation but you haven’t yet, it is not a signal about your chances of receiving an invitation.

If you receive an invitation, it will be an offer to participate in a 30-minute interview conducted by a second-year student or an Admissions Officer. The interview is blind, meaning your interviewer will only know what they see on your resume.

You may be placed on the waitlist without having been interviewed. As the Admissions Committee revisits waitlisted candidates throughout the application cycle, an invitation to interview can be offered at any time. 

Answers to the most-asked questions

What is the Admissions Committee looking for in an applicant?

What makes someone stand out can be vastly different from candidate to candidate. Therefore, the key is to remain your true self throughout the process, because what the Admissions Committee is looking to learn about in your application is...you! You should focus less on what you think we want to hear and more on what you want to tell us as you prepare your application.

We’re interested in understanding the impact you have had in your personal and professional life, how you hope to lead, and your ability to collaborate. We are also interested in finding students who will be engaged community members both here at Yale and in their future organizations.

In addition, we want to ensure that the students we admit are academically prepared for our rigorous program.

Which Round should I apply in?

Candidates should apply when they feel they can submit their best application. There is no difference in your individual chances of being admitted in Round 1 versus Round 2. There are fewer spaces available for Round 3 applicants than there are in the first two rounds, but we do model for admitting students in Round 3.

How can I be considered for a scholarship?

All applicants are automatically considered for a merit scholarship. There is no need to take any additional steps to be considered. If you are awarded a scholarship, you will be notified at the same time you learn of your admission to the program. If you do not receive a merit scholarship, there are other means of financing your MBA studies, including outside scholarships for which you may be eligible. Please visit the Affording Your MBA page for more information.

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