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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. 

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been sharing application advice with potential applicants through our Inbox Application Insights (“IAI”) email series. With a few weeks left before our January 4, 2024, Round 2 application deadline, I’ve compiled a “greatest hits” summary of past IAI advice for those of you who don’t receive the emails or who would like a refresher. (To make sure you don’t miss any future tips, be sure to introduce yourself.)

I hope you find these resources and insights helpful. We look forward to reading your application!

Letters of Recommendation

If you haven’t done so yet, now is a good time to speak to your recommenders about writing a recommendation on your behalf. 

My advice:

  • We care more about the quality of the relationship you have with your recommender than the title they hold. A supervisor who knows you well will provide us with the most meaningful perspective on your accomplishments, experiences, and professional background. (Note that we allow recommenders to submit their recommendations in Spanish or Mandarin.)
  • It’s usually a good idea to have a conversation with your chosen recommenders to prepare them and to reflect on some of the experiences you have had while working with them.
  • We encourage applicants to have at least one recommendation from a current supervisor. However, there are several reasons why you might not be able to secure a current supervisor recommender. In this case, you should mention this fact in the application (there’s a space to do so), and we would suggest you look to your most recent former supervisor as the next best option.
  • Entrepreneurs and employees of family businesses may want to consider getting recommendations from clients, vendors, suppliers, board members, or VC funders.
Your Academic Profile

One of the things the Admissions Committee is assessing in your MBA application is your preparation for the Yale SOM classroom. We make this assessment by looking at a combination of application elements, most notably your undergraduate (and, if applicable, graduate school) transcripts and your standardized test scores, as well as to a lesser extent our Behavioral Assessment.

My advice:

  • Your undergraduate record and standardized test scores are both strong predictors of your performance in the MBA classroom, but those are just two data points. We look at your entire application in combination and don’t assign a fixed weight to any element.
  • We encourage applicants to focus less on the median GMAT or GRE score of our enrolled students and look instead at the range of scores represented across each class. By definition, half the class is below the median, so using it as a benchmark can be misleading.
  • We don’t have a preference between the GMAT and GRE.
  • When evaluating academics, how well you performed in college is much more predictive than where you went to school. We also look at far more than just your overall GPA and will spend a good deal of time going semester by semester, looking at each of the courses you’ve taken and your performance in them.
  • After submitting your application, all applicants complete our Behavioral Assessment, a non-cognitive instrument that measures a set of intra- and interpersonal competencies related to success in business school. We introduced this assessment to better predict academic success for applicants who may not demonstrate academic preparation based on traditional metrics such as grades and scores but who would make strong contributions to the classroom. It’s meant to give the Admissions Committee a fuller picture of each applicant and helps us broaden the scope of our evaluation and expand the range of candidates whom we can admit.
Your Work Experience

Just as we look at your past academic performance to get a sense of your preparation for the Yale SOM classroom, we look at your past work experience to gauge your professional potential.

My advice:

  • Your résumé is an excellent one-page encapsulation of your candidacy, especially your professional experiences. Take time to make sure it highlights not just your roles and responsibilities but also your impact and achievements, and as much as possible, try to quantify what those are.
  • If you’ve worked at a smaller, less well-known organization—including as an entrepreneur or in a family business—give a brief description of the organization in your résumé to help us understand the context of your professional experience.
  • The “Work Experience” section of the application is another great place to help educate us on your professional impact and career progression. In particular, the “Reason for Leaving” is an opportunity to highlight the thoughtfulness and intentionality with which you’ve approached your career (just writing “more money” or “better job” usually isn’t terribly compelling).
  • If you are a Silver Scholar applying as an undergraduate student, you won’t have full-time work experience, but do still include internships and other professionally oriented opportunities in your résumé to give us a sense of your professional exposure to date.
Career Interests

We also ask about your post-MBA career interests, but don’t worry—we’re not making admission decisions based on what you say you want to do after you get your MBA. The Admissions Committee is well aware that many (in fact, most) MBA students pursue something different professionally from what they expressed in their application; these goals are highly variable and very fluid.

My advice:

  • We don’t need a detailed roadmap of your future professional life, but we do hope that you’ve thought directionally about how your graduate management studies will launch you into your desired post-MBA career.
  • A good “Career Interests” response will focus not just on what your post-MBA goals are, but on where they came from, how you’ve developed them, and how you’re positioning yourself to achieve them. The key is reflection and strong self-awareness.
  • Your career interests will likely come up again in your interview. Your interviewer will ask you more about your interests in an MBA and what you hope to accomplish post-MBA, so you will have another chance to expand on some details that you might not have been able to include in the written parts of the application.
The Essay

Our one required essay question gives you the option to choose among three prompts: (1) Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made; (2) Describe the community that has been most meaningful to you; or (3) Describe the most significant challenge you have faced.

My advice:

  • We give you a choice of three prompts to ensure that you’re able to write about the topic that is most important to you. We don’t give preference to any of the three prompts, and importantly, what you write about can be either personal or professional in nature.
  • Regardless of what topic you choose, the most important aspect of the essay is to describe in detail the behaviors underlying the topic. Point to the specific actions that you have taken relating to your chosen commitment, community, or challenge.
  • You don’t need to explain how the topic connects with why you want to get an MBA, either in general or at Yale; there are other places to do that.
  • Don’t forget to proofread!

You may also want to check out some of our additional applications resources, including our Application Guide and our recently recorded events, Our Best Application Advice and Inside the Application, Literally.

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