With the 2022-2023 application cycle ramping up, you’re likely starting to hear lots of advice about how best to position yourself for admission to an MBA program. And to be sure, we here at SOM have lots of resources that we’ve put together to guide you through the application process, as well as upcoming events that will help in that regard. I don’t want to repeat the advice in those tools, but instead want to offer a higher-level opinion that may run counter to accepted admissions doctrine but that I hope will be even slightly liberating as you work through your application. And it’s this: don’t worry about fit or passion in preparing your MBA application.
This advice may be contrary to what you hear from other people, so let me explain what I mean. In terms of fit, I am decidedly not saying that you should not take “fit” (however you define it) into account when deciding which MBA program to attend—you definitely should do that. The application process is bi-directional: just as we are evaluating you, you are evaluating us. And as you evaluate schools, you should very much think of where you will get the most out of the experience—whether it’s though the school‘s pedagogy or size or location or culture, or any number of other dimensions upon which you choose to orient your decision-making process.
Rather, when I say don’t worry about fit, I mean don’t change who you are to suit what you think each school cares about. We at Yale (and I can only speak for Yale) don’t sort candidates based on who will be the best “fit” at the school—in large part because fit is such a subjective concept that making decisions based on it allows for bias to creep into the process and results in poorly correlated evaluations across reviewers. Again, this does not mean that we don’t look at qualitative dimensions in our evaluation or that we don’t care about the qualities that our community members possess—we very much do. But it does mean that we evaluate them based on structured rubrics that identify specific behaviors we care about rather than conclusory assertions of “fit.” So this is all to say, don’t be overly focused on fit when applying; we aren’t.
To the second point, I think the idea that MBA applicants must have identified a “passion” they’re planning to pursue even before they enter an MBA program is a highly corrosive concept and just plain wrong. Sadly, I also think it’s very common advice. But I think it’s unrealistic to expect early-career professionals to have their entire professional lives figured out; it puts too much pressure on you and simply does not reflect reality. Upwards of three-quarters of MBA students do something different with their MBA than they thought they were going to when they applied. And one of the great powers of the MBA is that it is the ultimate generalist degree: you can do almost anything with it, and it opens innumerable doors to those who attain it. If you’re smart and ambitious and have a general sense of how you might want to have positive impact in the world, then the MBA is the degree for you.
To be clear, being passionate and having found your passion are two different things. You should be passionate about the things you choose to pursue in your life, and our students here at Yale SOM very much bring their full selves to the things they pursue, have a bias toward action, and are strongly committed to the endeavors in which they’re engaged. Those qualities are very important to us. But we don’t require applicants to have a fully formed sense of how their career will unfold over their entire professional lives. Telling MBA aspirants that they need to follow their “passion” is highly unrealistic and frankly undermines one of the main values of the degree.
I hope this advice is helpful as you begin your path down the application process. As I noted above, we have lots of resources and events to help you as you work your way through it, including a series of Office Hours that I will be hosting to answer any questions you have on your mind.
Assistant Dean for Admissions
Yale School of Management
165 Whitney Avenue
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
203.432.5635, Admissions Office
203.432.6380, Visitor Center