How to Get Into Yale SOM [Episode 542]
Are you looking for a mission-driven school that aims to educate leaders for business and society? Would you like to know how to get into that MBA program, which happens to be at the Yale School of Management? Tune in for this interview with its Assistant Dean for Admissions, Bruce DelMonico.
Welcome to the 542nd episode of Admissions Straight Talk, thanks for tuning in. Sometimes I’m asked, “Is the MBA worth it?” And my answer is, “It depends on your individual circumstances.” But I’ve got good news, we’ve developed a tool that will help you evaluate whether an MBA is worth it for you and your individual circumstances and it also estimates by how much. Check out how much you’re likely to benefit, or not, from taking an MBA education. Using the tool won’t set you back even one cent because it’s free.
Don’t miss Linda Abraham’s 2021 interview with Yale SOM Dean, Bruce DelMonico – full transcript below!
It gives me great pleasure to have back on Admissions Straight Talk, Bruce DelMonico, Assistant Dean of Admissions at Yale School of Management. He’s been on the admissions Team at Yale since 2004. He became the director in 2006 and the assistant dean in 2012. He was last on Admissions Straight Talk almost two years ago in November 2021.
Bruce, welcome back to Admissions Straight Talk. [1:44]
Thank you so much, Linda. It’s great to be here
I’m so pleased to have you join me today. Now, let’s start with a basic overview of the Yale SOM MBA program for listeners who may not be that familiar with it, and if you could focus on the more distinctive or perhaps the newer elements of the program. [1:48]
Sure, happy to do that. So just briefly, we’re a two-year, full-time, in-residence MBA on the Yale campus in New Haven, Connecticut. There are some things similar to other programs, some things I think are a little bit distinctive, as you say. So when you join us at Yale for your two years, the first year is primarily our core curriculum. Then you start to take electives in the spring the first year, and your entire second year are all electives. I would say a couple of the distinctive things, first of all, our integrated curriculum in the core I think is a little bit different than what you might experience in other MBA programs, the way the material is organized. A lot of the same concepts and same material, but organized differently and presented differently, and we think it teaches you to learn and think differently.
In addition, I mentioned the electives, you could take those across Yale without limit and there are other features of the program that I think really heightened the connectivity to the larger Yale community. I think that’s one of the nice features of being in an institution like Yale, is taking advantage of all the resources that the entire university has to offer, so I think that’s another distinctive aspect of our program. I think a third thing I would point to is our global footprint. A lot of MBA programs have global programming and I think the way that we’ve assembled our Global Network for Advanced Management and the kind of opportunities that flow from that, I think are rather unique and I think do give our students a rather special global perspective in their two years with us at Yale.
That was a great summary, thank you. Now, you mentioned the Global Network. Yale was a leader in global education for its students, innovating before the pandemic, the Global Network for Advanced Management, which allowed students to take classes around the world from New Haven. It also had several study abroad programs. Now that the pandemic seems to be behind us – we’re hopeful – what are the global study options at Yale? Can you go into that a little bit more? [3:24]
Sure, happy to do that. Knock on wood about the pandemic, of course. So pre-pandemic, we had this sort of portfolio of global opportunities. You mentioned the Global Network for Advanced Management, that was probably the centerpiece of it all, but there were others as well. The pandemic obviously, understandably, caused us to sort of pull back on that. There were still some virtual opportunities that existed that continued, but the in-person pieces had to be put on hold and now those are back. So it’s really, as I mentioned, it’s kind of a menu of opportunities that exist.
We do have what we call our Global Studies requirement. So when you come to Yale for your MBA, you do need to complete at least one Global Studies opportunity that exists. Lots of students will do more than one. The idea is we want our graduates to have that global perspective, that global mindset. So again, many of these opportunities exist through the Global Network for Advanced Management, or GNAM as we call it, which is a network of 30 or so top MBA programs from around the world. We assembled these, it’s been about a decade or so at this point, and it’s now a self-running, self-sustaining entity.
The idea is that through the Global Network there are what we call more modular opportunities to experience learning and business in other countries, other regions, other parts of the world. So the idea is that in certain points in the fall and the spring, there are these week to 10 -day long opportunities to take classes at one of the other Global Network schools with students from all the other participating in Global Network schools. So it could be up to students from 30 other business schools, peer schools. The idea is to really, it’s not a one-to-one relationship like a lot of other business schools have put into place, but it’s many-to-many relationship, and the idea is that really amplifies the connections you’re able to make, the learning that happens, and the ways in which you’re really able to expand your mindset.
So those Global Network weeks are one of the Global Network opportunities. We also have the virtual opportunities through the Global Network, which I mentioned, which are similar. They’re semester-long courses that you will take virtually with students from the other Global Network schools. We also have our own international experience trips that we organize that are run, I think some other schools have this. These are, again, 10-day to two-week trips run by one of our faculty members to one or more different countries around the globe, it’s a group of about 20 or so students. You meet with business leaders, government leaders, heads of nonprofits. Again, the idea is to get a sense of the business, legal, regulatory, cultural context in which business operates in different parts of the world to get a fuller understanding of sensitivity to those differences. Those are very highly rated. Those, again, happen in between the spring, in between during spring break when classes are not in session.
We also have some experiential opportunities that are global in nature. So our Global Social Enterprise or GSE course, Global Social Entrepreneurship in India and others. Those are courses where you are academic in nature, you’re taking classes, but then part of it is consulting to social enterprises in other parts of the world or social entrepreneurs in India or elsewhere. There are other courses as well. So these are more experiential in nature. Then the final thing I would say is we have our semester-long exchanges with some key exchange partners, and that’s if you want a longer, more immersive experience, those opportunities exist as well.
So those are, again, the portfolio, the menu as it were, of options that exist. One thing I would point out is when you come to Yale, these are Global Studies requirements. So you do have to take at least one, but you can take more of these. You actually get a Global Studies account when it comes to Yale that actually helps pay for the cost of these opportunities because we didn’t feel like it made sense to make this requirement and then to not give you the ability to actually undertake them. So when you pay tuition, you actually get several thousand dollars back to be able to pay into an account to help pay for these different possible trips and opportunities.
Just back onto the network? So it is possible, I know you have many different schools, I don’t remember all of them, but let’s say you enroll in a network class, you could be taking students, there could be students from a school in France, a school in Africa, a school in Asia, a school in Canada or South America all taking the same class. [7:44]
Exactly. That’s exactly right. So it’s not just like if you go to Koç University in Turkey, you’re taking courses from faculty at Koç. But yeah, you could have students from EGADE, from FGV in Brazil, from Renmin in China, from Ashesi, from a whole host of business schools from around the world. So that’s part of I think the unique feature, I think part of the compelling aspect of this programming,
I don’t know of any other similar program, so obviously everybody participating in it participated, so it’s not unique to Yale by its nature, but it is a distinctive, if not unique program. Now, I noticed in preparing for the call that throughout the site there is an emphasis on SOM’s mission of educating leaders for business and society. How is that mission manifested in the program and the curriculum? [8:37]
This is the founding mission of the school, as you said, to educate leaders for business and society. It’s a very broad, multi-sector mission. We aspire for our graduates to have impacts, not just in the private sector but the public and nonprofit sectors, I think that’s one piece of it, and to really think about, again, not just the benefits that they can accrue to themselves, but the positive impact they can have on their organizations and their communities and the world more generally, and I think the way that manifests itself, in terms of course-related and on campus, I think the curriculum is part of it. I did touch on the integrated curriculum earlier and that is, again, the first year core curriculum, I think it is quite distinctive and the material, as I said, is organized differently than other schools organize or the traditional MBA curriculum, the way that would be organized.
Again, the idea was to break down functional silos and not teach just according to discipline, but work across functions and across disciplines to have our students think very broadly about the ways that different concepts, different functions of an organization interrelate, even different industries, different sectors. So the idea, as an example, we have sort of the heart of the first year core curriculum are our Organizational Perspectives classes, and they’re organized by key stakeholder perspectives, so the customer, the innovator, the employee, the investor, and others, there are about a dozen of them. As an example, the customer class, for example, in the Yale core curriculum would be most analogous to a marketing class in the traditional MBA curriculum. But in a marketing class, the perspective is very, very narrow. You’re looking to learn the four Ps, you’re learning how to take your product, identify the market space, and get your product in that space. It’s an important set of skills, very narrow.
The customer class includes those marketing concepts, but it really thinks more broadly about all aspects of an organization that influence the customer experience. So it’s thinking about the four Ps, but it’s also thinking about operations and accounting and technology and HR and how all those influence the customer experience, how those are all interrelated, and how you need to think as a leader, how you need to think about them all together. So all the stakeholder classes are taught like that and then we have a capstone class called Executive, where you think about all the perspectives together combined and thinking about as an executive how you need to have all these different pieces in your head and thinking about them collectively as you’re making decisions.
So I think the curriculum is really trying to teach our students to be very interdisciplinary, broad, curious thinkers and leaders, and I can talk more about certain aspects of that, so I think that’s part of it. Again, mentioning the global piece that we just talked about, very mission-aligned. The other thing I would say, again, the connection to Yale speaks to the interdisciplinary nature of the broad-mindedness we expect, the kind of a mindset approach we want our graduates to have. I think that’s all aligned with the mission. It’s very much a service-oriented approach, and as I said, thinking about the kind of positive impact you can have on the world around you and thinking very broadly about what that kind of impact can be. So I think that kind of underlies the things we’re doing both in the classroom and outside of it at Yale.
Let’s turn to the application process and admissions. Yale has an innovative and multifaceted application and it requires the GMAT, the GRE, or the EA, an essay, a resume, a video, behavioral assessment, and an interview, if lucky enough to be invited to interview. Now, the behavioral assessment is fairly new, and again, distinctive on the MBA scene. What’s the format for the behavioral assessment? What’s the reason for it, why, and how can one sign up for it? [12:23]
So the behavioral assessment, one side of clarification. So in terms of the standardized tests, the GMAT, GRE, the EA we accept for the Executive MBA, not for the full-time.
That’s just one small clarification. Behavioral assessment, it’s an additional component, there’s nothing you need to do to sign up for it. When you apply to Yale, after your initial submission, you’ll get access to the behavioral assessment as the next stage. It is part of the initial submission, but it happens after you click submit. Yeah, we’ve been, gosh, developing for probably a decade or more this instrument in conjunction with ETS, which is the organization that runs the GRE, and we’ve had it in place for maybe five or more years. The idea is I think it’s often confused for what would be considered a soft skills test or an emotional intelligence test, it’s not really that. It measures a set of intra and interpersonal competencies that we use to actually evaluate your academic preparation for the program.
Academic preparation? [13:56]
Yeah, it’s not how people think of it, but the idea is actually, and the motivation behind it, is that we have lots of great candidates who apply to Yale and some who, based on their grades and test scores, have shown certain level of academic preparation. Some people who maybe, based on the grades and scores, maybe haven’t shown as much evidence of preparation but have other aspects of their candidacy that we really are very enthusiastic about and would love to bring into the program. The behavioral assessment allows us to have additional information about their academic potential that will give us more comfort about their performance in the program above and beyond grades and scores. So it allows us actually to broaden the range of candidates we can bring into the program beyond just looking at things like grades and scores. So it is actually helping us broaden the base of our evaluation, increase the inputs, so that’s why it’s not specifically like an EQ or a soft skills. It’s actually something that informs our academic evaluation.
What the assessment actually is, it’s interesting, it is a forced choice test, which means you get 130 pairs of statements in sequence and you need to choose which pair of statements most describes you. So there might be two positive statements, two negative statements, those are tougher to say which one’s most like you, but they’re both negative. But it’s just describing behaviors like, “I like to have lots of free time” or “I like to keep a clean desk” or “I’m always on time for meetings,” different qualities. There are different descriptors and you choose which one is more like you of the pair. Then you go through 130 of those pairs, and it’s adaptive and it’ll create a profile that we then use to help, again, inform our evaluation of your academic preparation for the program. So that’s basically how it works.
It sounds almost like it’s more of a professionalism assessment. [15:55]
Well, there are lots of different dimensions that it’s assessing and we look at certain subset of those, assess. It was developed, not to get too far into the background, it was developed actually by the US military for officer development. So to this day it’s used in the professional development context most commonly. We’ve taken it and adapted it with ETS for the high stakes admissions context, but it was mostly developed and still is used in the development context, the professional development context.
Medical schools are increasingly turning towards, they call it a situational judgment test. So it doesn’t sound like it’s identical, but it sounds like it’s somewhat similar. [16:28]
I think that’s right, yeah. Medical schools tend to be, they tend to be a real interesting space for innovation in the admissions process. We talk with med schools and keep an eye on what they’re doing a lot just because it’s an interesting sort of intersection.
I actually interviewed for the podcast Dr. Kelly Dore who’s a co-founder of Acuity Insights, which provides the Casper exam, and that was I think one of the first situational judgment tests. It was fascinating talking to her, just really interesting what they’re trying to do.
What changes have you made to the MBA application process this year? [16:55]
Yeah, we’ve made a few. Probably the biggest one, the one that’s most notable, is we did not completely change, but we expanded our essay question. For the last seven or eight years, we had a single essay question, which was, “Describe your biggest commitment.” We’ve kept that, but we’ve added two other prompts and given candidates the choice to choose which of the three prompts they want to write about. So it’s still just one essay question, but instead of everyone writing about the commitment, we’ve also added an essay question about the most meaningful community you’ve been a part of and the greatest challenge you’ve faced, those are the other two prompts.
So you get to choose which of those three you want to write about, so that’s probably the biggest change and probably the most visible change, and the motivation behind that was really we want to hear from candidates about what matters the most to them, and for some it might be the commitment, but it might be community or challenge. So we wanted to really expand the options for candidates and give them more choice in what to write about so that they can write about the thing that truly is the most meaningful to them instead of having to kind of fit it into the commitment essay and kind of force fit it. You can actually write about something maybe that more naturally aligns with one of the other prompts. So that’s the big thing.
We’ve done a few other things. We do things every year. We expanded the background information section and we asked that to get more information about the context in which you’re applying. So that’s been a thing that’s been evolving over a number of years and we did more work there this year. We continue to get lots of applicants who have some entrepreneurial experience in their background, and so we continue to expand and evolve the questions that speak to entrepreneurial backgrounds in conjunction with Kyle Jensen, who is the executive director of our Entrepreneurship Center. So those are among the things that we’ve done, probably the most notable things we’ve done with this current year application.
I was going through Yale SOM’s application guide, which is excellent. Listeners, those of you who are applying to Yale, that is absolutely mandatory reading. For non applicants to Yale, you’ll still get a lot of good advice out of it, so I recommend it highly.
Now Bruce, it seems that you have an optional information question and a background information question and supplemental detail area. Background information is required. What’s the difference between these three elements? How would you like an applicant to use the three areas? [19:11]
Yeah, no, that’s a great question. The background information isn’t completely required, so it is optional, as is the optional information. So what we did was, and one of the things we did do this year, I guess one of the other big changes, is we did update our instructions and really tried to… I don’t know, Linda, if you’ve had a chance to take a walk through the application yet, but you’ll notice if you do that we start by each section of the application, the first thing we say is why we’re asking, because we want candidates to know why are we asking for this information? I think it’s something that a lot of applications just get straight to do this, do that, do the other thing, but we want to help you understand why we’re actually asking for the information. We did spell out in a little more detail what we’re asking for in each of these sections.
So they’re not necessarily required, but the thing that we did in the background information, the optional information, there’s also the supplemental information in the work experience sections, we try to spell out where to include which pieces of information. So for example, employment gaps and other aspects of your employment that might require additional information, we identified where to put that. Instead of the optional information being kind of a free for all of information, we wanted to divide it. Partly this is for the evaluators, partly it is to elicit information more consistently from applicants so that we’re getting this similar information in the same way, in the same place from all applicants, so to be consistent among applicants so that we can be more consistent in our review of your application, so that we’re looking at the applicants the same way across applications. Knowing where to look, what’s there, making sure we’re getting it consistently makes a big difference. So that’s a lot of why we did update things in this way for the current cycle
Say you were to look back on an application, you wanted to look or check a particular piece of information, and then you would know where to find it. [21:36]
Exactly, exactly. So it used to be just the optional information and we would have to dig into that, and sometimes it was there, sometimes it wasn’t, now we know where to look and we’re more clear about what information we’re seeking from you as an applicant so it’s easier. Hopefully easier for you as an applicant, more straightforward and less of a, what do I put here, what do I put there, do I put anything here? So the idea is to, again, make it a little more transparent, a little clearer, more straightforward.
Sounds like a great, great idea. Any tips for the video component? [22:09]
Yeah, so I guess that’s another somewhat unique, I know there are schools do this aspect of the application, like the behavioral assessment, the video is a component that happens after you click submit. So after your initial submission you get access to both the behavioral assessment and to the video questions. Those are, for those who don’t know, there are three prerecorded questions that we’ve recorded in advance. When you get access to the platform, you can do some test questions, but then you’ll be asked these three questions. They’re drawn from a pool of questions that are randomly assigned to you and you answer the questions using your webcam audio, video. They’re recorded in real time though, so they’re in the moment responses to the prompts that we have prerecorded, and then those responses are saved and added to your file and they’re part of your, again, initial submission. So we don’t start reviewing until after the behavioral assessment and the video questions have been completed, then we will start our review of your application.
In terms of tips for that, I feel like when we first rolled these out, how many ever years ago, I think people were less sure what to expect. I think now some other schools are doing, it’s a little more common, I think certainly post-pandemic I think being on Zoom and engaging by video is not a big deal anymore. So I think they might seem a little more second nature, but the idea here is we’re just trying to get a little bit of a better sense of you beyond your just written submission from the application. The questions themselves are not meant to be trick questions or to stump you, it’s just to get a little bit more of a sense of you, your goals, your interest in the MBA. Well, we change the questions every year or so, so they might be something behavioral in nature.
The key way to prepare is, if you want to prepare, which you don’t need to do much of, but just go back through your resume and think of some successes and failures, the same way you would prepare for an interview. The questions are not necessarily going to be all interview-oriented, but it’s pretty straightforward. I guess the last thing I would say is it takes, like the behavioral assessment, which takes about 20-25 minutes, that’s how long the video questions take to complete, so they don’t take a lot of time. We’re not expecting perfection. We know you’re doing these live in the moment, so they’re extemporaneous responses. You’re not recording a video essay, and so we know that they’re not going to be perfect. We’re just looking to get a little bit of a better sense of you. We use it with a light touch, as we say, I think in the application guide we might even use those words. It’s not going to be a main driver, a heavy driver in the outcome. It’s just to get a little bit of a better sense of you.
What can applicants expect if they’re lucky enough to be invited to interview? [24:51]
Yeah, so as you said, the interview’s by invitation. So everybody completes the video questions, everyone completes the behavioral assessment, and then we begin our review and we will invite, depending on the year, maybe about a third or so of applicants to interview. Interviews either come to campus, you’re invited to come to campus, or you can do a virtual interview. They’re largely with trained second years or very recent alumni who were themselves interviewed as students. Sometimes those of us who are on the admissions team, we will do the interviews, but we do fewer than the students and the recent alums. The interview itself, again, much like the video questions, they’re not stress interviews, they’re not meant to trick you or stump you or be an unpleasant experience. The idea is really to get more of a sense of typically, again, your reasons for wanting to get an MBA, the reasons for Yale, thinking about your post MBA aspirations, a little bit about your experiences to date, successes that you’ve had, maybe some ways in which you engage with others.
So it’s a typical, I think, behavioral interview format that you’ll probably see at other schools and in kind of a job context. So again, the way to prepare… It’s a 30-minute interview, I should say, so it’s pretty brisk, but hopefully we cover a good bit of ground in that, and obviously save room for you to ask questions yourself. But the way to prepare, again, is to go through your application, go through your essay, go through your resume, have examples, again, of things, accomplishments that you’re proud of or ways you’ve engaged on projects. Those are the kinds of things in the behavioral context that we’re asking about. So again, it’s meant to be not difficult, but really more of a conversation is the hope, in a way to get to know us and our community at the same time we’re getting to know you. So that’s a little bit about the interview process.
Now, when you talk about behavioral interviews, it’d be a lot of questions like, “Tell us about a time when you did X, Y, and Z,” right? [26:51]
Exactly, yes. I guess I said behavioral interview, but I didn’t say what that is, so it’s more-
I think most people know what it is, but just in case, I thought I’d clarify. Again, I agree with you, I think most people know what it is. [27:03]
Yeah, but not everybody. That’s why I think to prepare, you can think about examples of times when you did that. So it’s less how would you do this or less theoretical, and more like, “How did you handle it? Tell us about a time when you did X, Y, or Z,” exactly.
Now when we last spoke, it was almost two years ago, it was the middle of the COVID pandemic and that was the environment in which you and I talked at that time. Today’s environment has its own noteworthy developments, specifically AI and ChatGPT. Are you concerned about their impact on the essays? How would you advise applicants to use or not use ChatGPT and AI? [27:24]
Yeah, no, I was going to say $64,000 question, but I think that’s dating myself that that’s the dollar amount that I would reference. It’s still an open question. I know talking in various contexts to other schools and how they’re approaching it, and sort of seeing what’s in the popular press elsewhere, it’ll be interesting to see how it evolves. My personal take, we want to hear from you. So the main thing is hearing from you in your voice about, in the essay specifically, what matters to you, whether it’s commitment, the community, or the challenge. I don’t know. I guess the two things I’m going to say, this isn’t a writing contest, this isn’t a literature program. We want to make sure you can communicate in writing, but we’re not going to be marking you up if you’re a Hemmingway as opposed to, I don’t know what.
Write an MBA essay in Hemmingway’s style or Shakespeare’s style. [28:48]
Exactly. I mean, you could actually do that I guess with the ChatGPT, but that’s not going to earn extra points. So if the point is to have something right for you, that already exists. You could already have, I guess, programs to do that. But if the idea is to tell you what to write about, I don’t know if there’s any benefit from having a computer program tell you what matters to you, and certainly they’re not going to know what matters to you.
I don’t know, I guess I question the utility in this context, even though I’m sure people will… I guess the straightforward answer is we do tell people that the essay should be entirely their own work, so that would suggest don’t use ChatGPT or any other kind of AI enabled functionality. But also, even aside from that, I don’t know the utility of that. We want to hear from you, we care about what you have to say. Again, what some large language model has to say about you, I don’t know how relevant that is. So I guess our instructions say don’t do it, but even if you were to do something with ChatGPT, I don’t know what you would get out of it. But we’ll see, I could be wrong.
It’ll be an interesting cycle. I’ve said this before on the podcast, so listeners, forgive me if I’m repeating myself. I tried it out at one point and got absolute drivel. It was utterly worthless and it was not a reflection of anything other than what they thought people should write. It didn’t reflect anything of me. Then the other thing was one of the consultants, who happens to have a Master’s in Journalism, decided to use it to see if she could write an MBA essay with it. Now, obviously she’s a gifted writer and she knows what a good MBA essay is, and she said it took her longer to use ChatGPT to get it to a point where she’d given it enough information that it could produce an essay than it would’ve taken her to just write the essay herself. [30:07]
Yeah, I could believe that. I mean, obviously the programs are evolving quickly. I don’t know if we’re on ChatGPT 4 and then 5 is coming, and obviously there are other programs being developed elsewhere. But at the same time, yeah, I think that advice and that experience holds. Some of my team have put our essay prompt into it to see what they’ll come up with, and yeah, it requires a lot more work just to get it where you want it to be.
It might be a very good grammar checker, I don’t know, but you already have that in Word. [31:25]
What advice would you give re-applicants to Yale SOM? [31:35]
Yeah, I think the main thing, and I’m trying to remember the percentage. I think it might be about, I want to say it’s the right number, I think it might be about 10% of our applicant pool are reapplicants, so it’s not an uncommon thing. The first thing I would say is there’s no stigma or bias to reapplying. We look at reapplicants the same we look at first time applicants. If anything, you might have a little bit of a leg up because you’ve gone through the process once, you know what to expect, and maybe you’ve had a chance to refine your application from one year to the next.
I guess what I would say in terms of how to approach it is, we’re not inherently going to be looking back at your previous application, but we will have it available. So think about your subsequent application as a bit of a conversation with your previous application, in the sense that you want to build from it. You don’t want what you submit to be exactly the same as the previous one, but you also don’t want it to be so different that it looks like a completely different applicant. So it’s not as though you should… In your previous application, you wanted to be an investment banker and now you want to be a social entrepreneur, you’re going from one extreme to the other, those aren’t extremes necessarily, but going from one thing to another is not necessarily what will serve you well. So think about your previous application, maybe build from that, and think about how you might be able to refine in maybe more subtle ways or more limited ways from what you had previously submitted.
You’ve been doing this for a while. You’ve been in admissions now for almost 20 years, right? [32:59]
What are some common mistakes that you see, you kind of wish, oh gee, are they doing that again? Can’t they not do that? [33:05]
Yeah, I mean, I’ve seen some stuff, I guess that’s true. In my years-
I’m sure you have. [33:17]
…I’ve seen some things and there are definitely some, maybe after this we can compare notes. I guess the mistakes exist on different levels. Obviously there’s the much more fine-grain, the proofreading, the attention to detail that you’ll hear often, make sure you’ve got the right school that you’re referencing in your essay and elsewhere, those are the more straightforward things. In terms of other mistakes, I think there are a few that are more common, and I want to say maybe it gets back to the ChatGPT, I don’t know.
I do feel as though we see less of this, but over my time I still see in admissions, I still see it happening that applicants will present the version of themselves that they think we care about or that we want to see. They’ll say, “Well, this school is really known for this thing, so that’s what I’m going to be to this school, and this other school is known for this other thing, so I’m going to be that thing to that school, and this third school is completely different altogether, so I’ve got this third version of myself that I’m going to present.” I have to say, again, I feel like, not based on any kind of strict analysis, but just kind of intuitively, I feel as though that kind of shading happens less now than it used to, but it still happens. I don’t know that it serves applicants well.
I think the idea behind it is to try and make your application more compelling and to stand out more. The first thing I would say is, if there’s a certain number of candidates who are trying to do that, you’re all just sounding like each other, and so that’s not the way to stand out from a game theory perspective. The other thing is I do believe, and I have a literature background and somewhat of a writing background, I do believe that when you write, you write most compellingly about things that mean something to you, that you care about, and I think that applies to the application more generally. If you’re presenting the version of yourself that is really you and that you most care about, that’s what’s going to come through, regardless of what you say you want to do after you graduate or what your academic background looks like. If you’re really being yourself and presenting what matters to you, that’s the thing that will stand out, so to the extent people deviate from that, I think that’s a big mistake.
Then one other mistake, I don’t want to go on too long, but frankly, one other mistake that people make I think is not in the application, but in not applying. I think people will still sometimes undermatch, and this happens at the undergraduate level, I think it happens at the MBA as well. I think there’s a sense that, gosh, I need to be looking at the class profile, or just thinking independent of that I need to get a perfect score, perfect grades, perfect work experience, otherwise I’m not going to be competitive. Everybody has strengths or weaknesses, and I think there’s no harm if you have a school that you’re interested in, but you’re looking at the class profile like, oh gosh, I’m not above it on every front. Well, nobody is, so that’s one thing, but I think there’s a little bit of self-selection out more than there should be at this stage. So that’s not about a mistake in the application process, but that’s a mistake in not applying.
Why reject yourself? [36:24]
Let you do that. [36:36]
Exactly, that’s what I’m here for.
Right, or you’ll give yourself a chance of acceptance, obviously.
That was a great response. In terms of enthusiasm, I completely agree with you. It’s so much easier to be enthusiastic about something that you feel enthusiastic about, and it does show in all kinds of ways when one is kind of going through the motions, especially if you’ve been doing this for a while. [36:43]
Yeah, I think just, it’s absolutely right., I think I might’ve mentioned this to you before, I might’ve shared this, but one of my favorite admissions, I have an admissions cartoon that’s framed and it’s from the New Yorker, and it’s a father and son outside of a door that says, “Admissions.” The line is the father talking to the son saying, “Now remember, be the yourself we talked about.”
I think you did tell me, but it’s a very good one. One of my first clients ever, she was a lovely young woman, she was actually applying to law school and it was a time before everything was virtual. She actually came to my office and I met her and we were talking, and she says, “I want to talk about my trip to this particular location,” I’m not going to say which one. I said, “Oh, that’s very nice. When did you go there?” She says, “I’ve never been there.” I said, “Well, then how do you want to write about your trip?” She says, “Well, I have nothing interesting to write about.” I said, “Well, how are you going to write about it?” “I know many people who’ve gone there.” She was going on and she saw me looking at her with utter shock and skepticism, and I said, “Do you have a creative writing background?” She said, “No.” I said, “Well, neither do I. Why don’t we talk about what you’ve done instead of what you haven’t done?”
She ended up writing a beautiful essay. This was shortly after, not right after, the 1994 earthquake in LA, and she was in a part of the city that was badly hit by it and she tied it into different experiences. I think it’s still on the site, frankly. It was just an excellent, excellent essay in the end, and she got in where she wanted and was very happy. But I’ll never forget that. I mean, it must be almost 27 years ago that this happened. But I’m like, “Do you have a creative writing background? Well, then let’s talk about what you’ve done.” She did and it ended up being an outstanding essay. I think, again, because it was genuine, because it was from the heart, because she really felt it, again, we had a good structure for it, that’s where I think I was helpful to her, but she did a great job and she didn’t have to make anything up. [37:25]
Yeah, no, that’s a great example. It still sticks with you 27 years later, so I think that’s a sign of how important that is.
What advice do you have for applicants planning ahead for a possible application this fall? [39:22]
I think one thing I would say is just talk to people. Learn about the schools. I guess stepping back, think about what matters to you. Think about what you care about, what you’re hoping to get out of an MBA. Then based on that, think about where you might be able to do that. There are probably a lot of places, but think about the things that matter and the places where you can develop those things or whatever dimensions those are, and then talk to people.
You could talk to admissions officers, you could talk to students. A lot of us, our schools will give you access to our students, the website will have our student ambassadors, other schools do as well. Where you’re working, you might know some MBA alums, talk to them, get a sense of their experience, what mattered to them, what they got out of it. That can help you refine your thinking. I think all these conversations can be helpful as you’re doing your research and thinking about why the MBA, what you’re hoping to accomplish, and how it will help you in your long-term professional path. So that’s the sum of what I would say, and obviously the application itself is a whole nother story, but I think as you’re thinking, as you’re planning, I think those are hopefully helpful exercises and helpful conversations.
I think it’s great advice, thank you. What would you have liked me to ask you? [40:41]
Oh gosh, we covered so much. I feel like you always do such a wonderful, thorough job of getting at lots of different things in the interviews. I don’t know. I mean, I think one thing maybe that we didn’t get to is what’s happening now at Yale or what’s coming down the road. I mean, that’s always a tough question because I don’t always know everything that’s coming down the road, but one thing…
Yeah, what I know about, we are looking to and starting to, and this has been something we’ve been working on for a while, is engage more with our Engineering Department here at Yale. I talked about the ways in which we’re connected to the other parts of the University, and we didn’t talk about things like joint degree programs, which we have with the Law School and the Medical School and Public Health and International Affairs and Drama and Architecture and the Environment School, and all the different wonderful programs here at Yale. But one area that we haven’t had as much engagement with is engineering, and that’s happening. We’re going to be starting a program, starting within Yale itself, but I’m hoping that we’ll expand beyond just the limits of Yale to be able to help our students and our graduates who are really thinking about careers in technology.
A joint MS/MBA? [41:56]
I don’t know. That’s not what it is yet, but I’m hoping that that might be where it leads to. It’s now just a one-year master’s starting internally at Yale. I don’t actually know if it’s been announced yet, so I probably shouldn’t have even said anything, but it will be coming. So just more broadly, maybe independent of the program or anything like that, specific programmatic offerings, more just the relationship with engineering is something that we’re looking to expand more broadly.
That you think will come out of this application cycle or more for the next application cycle, or do you know? [42:27]
I think I’ve already said too much.
All right, I won’t ask anymore. [42:34]
No, maybe I think this cycle is when we will start, so we’ll see how that goes.
Anything else? [42:41]
I think those are the main things. Talking about the joint degrees, it’s consistent with the integration with the University and the ability to take classes elsewhere at Yale, but it’s one specific aspect of it that I think is really can be meaningful to people in their studies, and especially if they’re looking to go in a direction that is interstitial of sorts, that crosses over different disciplines. So that is one thing that was maybe good to touch on in the context of that answer.
Well, I’m really glad you raised it, thank you. Thank you for joining me today. Where can listeners and potential applicants learn more about Yale SOM’s MBA program? [43:13]
I think our website is probably the easiest way, and that’s got lots of information, both generally about the school, but also there’s a section for admissions and for other parts of the organization, so that would be the best place.
- Admissions Directors Reveal the Most Common Mistakes Applicants Make – podcast Episode 538
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- All You Need to Know About the New, Shorter GRE – podcast Episode 531
- Can the Consortium Help You Get Accepted and Fund Your MBA? – podcast Episode 532
What Makes Yale SOM Unique? [Episode 442]
Are you dreaming of a spot at Yale School of Management? [Show summary]
Bruce DelMonico, Yale School of Management’s Assistant Dean of Admissions, returns and shares how the school has endured the pandemic and highlights updates in the admissions process.
What applicants need to know about this mission-driven, case-based MBA program [Show notes]
Welcome to the 442nd episode of Admissions Straight Talk. Thanks for listening. Are you preparing to apply to your dream business schools? Are you competitive at your target programs? Accepted’s MBA admissions calculator can give you a quick reality check. Just go to accepted.com/mbaquiz, complete the quiz, and you’ll not only get an assessment, but tips on how to actually improve your qualifications and your chances of acceptance. Plus, it’s all free!
It gives me great pleasure to have back on Admissions Straight Talk and introduce Bruce DelMonico, Assistant Dean of Admissions at the Yale School of Management. He has been on the admissions team at Yale since 2004, became the Director in 2006, and the Assistant Dean in 2012. He was last on Admissions Straight Talk almost exactly two years ago in October 2019. It seems like a lifetime ago, because that was, of course, before COVID.
Bruce, welcome to Admissions Straight Talk. It’s a pleasure to have you back on the show. So much has changed in the last two years.
We’re going to do some review from the last conversation. I would actually recommend that all listeners also listen to Bruce’s previous interview which is at accepted.com/338 but let’s start here.
Can you please provide a basic overview of the Yale SOM MBA program for listeners who may not be that familiar with it, focusing on its more distinctive elements? [2:17]
Sure, happy to. So here at Yale, we have a full-time, two-year MBA. Hopefully the listeners are familiar with the general structure of the MBA program. I think some of the things that make our program distinctive are the fact that we are very mission oriented. Our founding mission is to educate leaders for business and society. That’s a very broad, multi-sector mission. I think that definitely does animate and influence just about everything that happens here at the School of Management. For students who are here, for those of your listeners who come here to Yale, that means a few things. The first year of your experience, the core curriculum consists of our integrated curriculum, which is different from what you would experience in other business schools. I think that’s one distinctive aspect. And we can go more into that, but I won’t bore you with all the details now. But it’s a very integrated, as the name implies, a multidisciplinary approach, really trying to get our students to think broadly across disciplines and functions.
We also are case-based, but we have our own case writing team, so we use raw cases, as we call them. That’s another distinct feature. Although it’s become more common, we do have a very global orientation, and so many global opportunities exist here. That’s actually a required part of your experience here at Yale. I think that was something that, again, has become more common, but I think we’re the first school to really make that a required part of the experience.
What’s the difference between a raw case and a more traditional case? [4:00]
So a traditional case, or a cooked case, as we call them, involves the case writing team doing the research, gathering all the materials, and then distilling it all down, boiling it all down into a 10 to 12 page document that leads the reader to a single point or the thrust of the case. It’s very linear and makes one culminating point. The idea is that all the things that are irrelevant or extraneous are weeded out and the student doesn’t really need to worry about that.
The insight that the faculty had here at Yale is that that’s really not how you experience information in the real world. All of our listeners here who are in jobs, and at work, and having to find solutions to problems, they’re not given a 10-page document saying “Here’s all that you need to know, go figure out the answer.” Much of what you have to do is find out what’s relevant. You have to figure out what facts you need to know, and try to fill in gaps if they’re missing, or try to reconcile inconsistent pieces of information. That’s how our cases are constructed. Our case writing team came from other schools that have case writing teams, and what they do is they do all the research they would do in the other schools, but then they give all that research to the students. So as a student, you will get all that raw material, all the real world material that you would get in your professional life.
You get earning statements. You get securities filings. You get quarterly reports, your 10Ks, 10Qs. You get media coverage. You get interviews with key stakeholders, all the things that you will experience as a professional. The idea is that that skill is as important if not more important as figuring out the solution, because of how you frame a solution. We actually have had a course called problem framing. How you frame the solution, how you set it up really dictates what the outcome is. We’re trying to teach our students, even in the classroom, we’re trying to give our students those real world skills of learning how to sift through information, learning how to make sense of information, because that’s such a critical skill that you need to learn. That’s how our cases are constructed. That’s what we call the raw versus cooked, or Yale versus traditional.
The class profile for Yale SOM for the entering class of 2023 had some pretty impressive stats: 730 median GMAT, increased diversity across the board. To what do you attribute these developments? [6:52]
Well, I would say I don’t know that our numbers are dramatically different than they have been in the past. I think our median GMAT, you’re right, is 730 and has been in the last few years. But I think the year before, it may have dipped just slightly into 720. The median is typically 730, and the average GRE I think was 165 and GPA is 3.6.
I think the diversity numbers are pretty consistent with where they have been in the past to the extent they are increasing on all those dimensions. They have varied a little bit, I think that’s right. Not dramatically, but definitely up a little bit. It’s a factor of a few things. I think it’s partly attributable, and I don’t know what other admissions professionals are saying, but I think that the year was a very competitive year. We had one of, I think, the top three application years in terms of application volume which I think played a factor. We are trying to really focus on having a well represented class across all dimensions. I think that is reflected in some of the numbers, and not just in terms of the…diversity numbers you mentioned: underrepresented students of color, grad students in terms of citizenship, and in terms of gender, in terms of professional backgrounds. We’ve always focused on this, but we’re really wanting to make sure that we’re paying particular attention, and I think that’s hopefully reflected in the numbers.
In terms of the GMAT score, certainly over time, there has been a tremendous increase in GMAT score. I don’t just mean in the last two or three years. Not just for Yale, but in general terms. I can easily remember 20 years ago that a 700 was a great score. I don’t know if the students have gotten smarter, the prep has gotten better, the test has gotten easier. [8:45]
I think there are a number of factors at play. I don’t think the test has really changed. I think the preparation has gotten better. There are other things in terms of the score reporting and cancellation policies, that I think people can cancel whatever they want so they’re only really getting their high… They can keep taking, taking, taking till they get that score that they want, and then we don’t see any of the other scores. I think that’s pushing things up a little bit.
This might be a little bit of a tangent, it’s been quieter more recently, but there was a period of time where we were pushing quite strongly for GMAC to rescale the GMAT, because the score inflation had gotten really out of control. I think there is, actually quite frankly, a good bit of score compression, especially on the quant side, that makes it very difficult for us to really get the kind of variants we need to be able to distinguish candidates in a useful way. So, that is an area where I think it would be frankly helpful for some rescaling and to decompress some of the scores. That would help us in our jobs, and I think would be more meaningful. That could be a whole other conversation but I think there are a number of factors that play into it, both the preparation and the reporting policies.
I’m sure there were tons of COVID adaptations at Yale. Which ones are Yale planning to keep? What has been the silver lining in this situation? [11:02]
It’s funny to think back. Funny is not necessarily the word. I was in China with a colleague in November of 2019. And it was just a couple weeks after we got back that we started to hear. Actually, while we were on the trip, people were starting to hear about it and then to hear when all the things that have happened, all the changes.
As with other schools, we’ve had to adapt. At Yale, we consider ourselves a residential program. Being here on campus is an important part of the experience so, this past year plus has been very difficult for students, for faculty, for really everybody. I think that’s the case across the board. We’re back on campus. I’m on campus now. My office just returned. Students have been on campus all semester. Knock on wood, Yale has a very low incidence rate. It’s doing well, and did have to pivot and make some major changes over the last year and a half.
To your question, it will be interesting to see what sticks. This faculty has developed some expertise now with online courses, and there’s talk about having some of those extended beyond the pandemic, and thinking about different modes of delivery. We continue to, even though students are fully in class now, we’re obviously still, for example, recording classes and having hybrid options for students who are either feeling under the weather, or who can’t make it to classwork for various reasons. I think those things might endure. I think more broadly, this predates the pandemic, but the faculty is actually currently undergoing or undertaking a curriculum review. This was conceived of and planned independently and prior to the pandemic, but I’m sure that that will inform some of the things that come out of it. Beyond the different modes of delivery and the online coursework, I think there could be some even greater experimentation that comes out of it that is maybe inspired by this last year and a half.
One of the things that we’ve heard from many of your colleagues is that the ability to have visiting speakers has been enhanced, because they don’t have to physically show up. They can virtually show up and talk to students. [13:17]
We definitely had that. I think in particular, Jeff Sonnenfeld, who’s one of our prominent faculty members, had a course that’s Basic Leadership Across Sectors and it basically was a class where they would have basically two CEOs or two heads of organizations come and talk to a class, and it was laptops closed, books down, it was a very confidential conversation with these luminaries of the business and nonprofit and public sectors. Oftentimes, they would be here in person in New Haven, but sometimes they would be beamed in. And that happened pre-pandemic. That kind of thing already happened to some degree. I’m sure that happened elsewhere too. But I think the difference is the degree of acceptance, and the feeling that this is not unusual. I think it’s only heightened the opportunities that exist. I think that’s right.
I think that does open the door to more of these kinds of guest speakers, as you say. And not to turn it on admissions, but the past year and a half has been entirely virtual, and we’re still virtual in terms of recruiting. Even when travel resumes, we will still, I think, be heavily virtual in terms of how we do things. I don’t know what the right, ultimate balance will be, but it’s been wonderful to really speak to and connect with people who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to get to an event in Beijing, or Mumbai, or London or wherever you are. It’s really opened up a lot of doors for candidates too. So, anyway, I think that’s a bit of an aside. But that is one of the changes that I’m sure will endure.
Do you think admissions will, in terms of recruiting and also in terms of job recruiting, become a hybrid balance where you’ll have some events, but also offer online events? [15:21]
I certainly hope so. I think it’s been a healthier balance. For the admissions, and as you say, for career recruiting, this year is continuing to be virtual for us. That was what the recruiters wanted. They thought that that worked well, and that was beneficial to them. I think it hopefully will continue to open up access and level the playing field in lots of ways on both the incoming student side and the career side. The tough thing is, it’s a little bit of a collective action issue. We know we intend to do more, we’re hoping to, but then to the extent another school says, “Well, we need to really be in person to be effective,” and then everyone else is, well, okay, if they’re in person, we’re going to be in person too. So, it can be a little bit of a race to the bottom. I’m hoping we’ll settle on a healthy balance between in person and virtual going forward.
Pre COVID, Yale gave students a lot of opportunity for global study. It also participated in and co-founded the Global Studies Network, which allowed for online classes globally. I’m guessing that COVID put a damper on some of the physical travel. Perhaps it made the Global Studies Network more valuable. Where is Yale at now, or hopes to be even in the upcoming year? [16:33]
That’s exactly right, that, obviously, the travel didn’t happen. One of the global studies requirements and one of the global studies opportunities are these global network weeks, which happen through the Global Network for Advanced Management. This is the network of 30 schools that you mentioned. Our pivot in March of 2020 to going hybrid happened and we were really within hours of people getting on planes to do these global studies trips. So, it was very close to that time. It was very, very close. Since then, all these opportunities have happened virtually and we’ve been able to do that. Some of them were already virtual. So, we affectionately call it, a Ted Snyder term, SNOCs. He loves that term, Small Network Online Courses. Those always existed. Those were semester-long courses that were virtual through the global network, and then as a Yale student, you’ll be taking courses with students from the other global network schools. Those have continued throughout, and they’ve expanded, because those have been filling the void that some of the other opportunities have left.
There have been these global network weeks that have happened virtually in the last year and a half. So, instead of traveling to Koc University in Turkey or FGV in Brazil, these opportunities were happening virtually instead and that will continue this fall. Then in March, the plan is to start to resume travel. I don’t know if it will be fully resuming or again, some hybrid or mixed, in person or virtual. My understanding is there are intentions to resume some of those trips then. For our current students who were affected by this disruption, the lack of opportunity to travel, the school has invited them to participate in future trips as alumni because it’s a really highly rated and a special part of the experience that people really do regard well and would like, I think, to participate in to the extent that people or the students haven’t had a chance to.
Is there anything that you’d like people to know about Yale SOM? Maybe a common misconception that you’d like to dispel? [19:17]
I’m sure there’s more than one but I think the one that I hear, I don’t know most frequently, but I still hear frequently is that we’re “the non-profit school.” It’s always difficult to dispel that, because I don’t think it’s wrong that we are incredibly strong in the non-profit space. We have lots of students, about a quarter of our class, who come from the non-profit and public sectors. We have lots of students who then go back into those sectors or who came from the private sector and go into the non-profit or public sector. We’re very proud of that. I don’t want to say that we’re not. I would say that we’re not just “the non-profit school,” and make it an “and,” an ampersand. We’re very big on the ampersand here. I think we are all the sectors. It’s not about one versus the other. But then we have lots of graduates who… I like to think of the SOM story, who have success in careers that span the sectors, and will do well and understand the interconnection and intersection of the sectors.
I think that’s a myth that still lingers, even though I think people know more about the school now than they did when I started. We really consider ourselves to be a general management school and we really look to prepare our graduates to be successful in every sector, every industry when it regards to what they want to do. I guess it’s an ancillary myth that I also hear a good bit of, is that we’re not a finance school. I think frankly, when you look at SOM, and you consider the people who have been and who are currently here, and think about Sir Andrew Metrick and Gary Gorton from Wharton, and I work with Toby Moskowitz, and others who came from Chicago, and just all the luminaries who are here, I think it’s Anjani Jain, who runs the MBA program, says fairly consistently, we’re more broadly in the top five finance schools. I think that’s right, probably higher than that, but certainly as good as any school in finance.
And you said a good percentage of your grads go into Wall Street, right? [21:52]
That’s right. About a third of our students go into consulting, and about 20-25% go into finance, generally. It tends to be mostly investment banking or PE, VC, investment management, and then sometimes diversified financial services.
Yale SOM requires the GMAT or the GRE. Obviously, there’s been enormous change in that field in the last two years. Any plans to either expand the number of tests that you accept, or issue test waivers, or go test optional? [22:33]
We don’t. That’s a great question. We have seen other schools who are making moves in these directions and we have not done that, and we don’t have plans to do that right now. I can’t remember if we talked about this two years ago. We’re always looking and experimenting with different ways to evaluate candidates and have tried to broaden the base, and look at different instruments to evaluate different competencies.
Really, the GMAT and the GRE are predictive of performance, midpoint performance here in the program, but that’s obviously a short term metric. They’re very blunt instruments. There are sometimes people who score well who don’t do well here at the campus, people who score modestly who do do well. So, we’ve looked for years, been trying to find ways to gauge or do a better job of gauging or finding secondary or tertiary indicators that will predict performance here, and then obviously, looking at performance beyond school as well.
We have other things. We have a behavioral assessment that we’ve had in place for a number of years. We use our video questions. We have other instruments that we’re using that are trying to gauge things other than testing and looking at us, things other than non-cognitive traits. So, we’ll continue to do that. Those right now are supplementing. They’re additive. We’re looking at ways we can make them substitutes for. And we’re still investigating that. I personally don’t feel comfortable, because grades and scores and I would say actually, grades are frankly more predictive than scores when we analyze between the two. But to the extent that those are doing work and adding value in the evaluative process, I’m reluctant to take those away without having confidence that there’s no loss of fidelity in our evaluations. I don’t know if other schools feel like they’ve cracked the code. I feel like we don’t feel comfortable just taking them away without having anything else in their stead. So, we’re continuing to look.
We were careful. We did monitor during the pandemic test taking behaviors and test taking availability and that’s why we, for example, extended the deadline at Yale. Everyone did that, because test centers were closing, and people, before the online options came around, there was concern about what people would be able to do. So, we wanted to make sure there was no gap, and people were able to take tests.
But the value of a test, there are two interrelated issues. There’s test access, and there’s the predictive nature. There are issues of fairness and equity that go into the test. And so, we have to balance all those things. That’s what we’re constantly doing. We don’t plan to wholesale waive tests or go test optional, but we are looking to see if there are ways we can build out an infrastructure that supports the test, and gives us greater context and a fuller picture of candidates than just those single data points.
When the applicant hits submit, what happens? How is an application processed? Who looks at it? What do you personally look at first? [26:16]
It’s interesting, everyone has their own thing that they go to first. The elements are presented in a certain order, and you could just go straight through, and a lot of times, that’s the way people go through them. I tend sometimes to jump to the resume first, because that’s a snapshot. To extend it, and this, obviously, this conversation is about application tips but I think there’s an aspect of people’s candidacies that they maybe spend less time on. I think the resume is an often underappreciated and underused element, because that’s really just a one page where you give us a snapshot of you as a candidate, your academic, your professional background, your interests. I think that often gives a good sense of someone.
After you’ve clicked submit, one thing I would say is we actually wait until after the deadline before we start our review process. There’s no benefit to submitting a month early. Obviously, you don’t want to wait till the very last second, because that can be stressful for you. Maybe the day before. But we will wait after the deadline till we have all the applications. We start cleaning them up, make sure all the materials are in, and the recommendations and other aspects of application are in. And then we tend to do a quick overview of the whole pool. We do a quick triage, is what we call it, just to see what the pool looks like, the overall profile of the round. Then we will start to go right into reading. We’ll send out some interview invitations, and we’ll just start digging into it. We make sure every application has two independent views. So, two different people are looking at it. I would say, the majority of applications will come to the committee multiple times. We have an interview committee. It’s a subset of the overall admissions committee that makes decisions on whether to invite people to interview. Then once people have been invited to interview, the number depends year to year but I would say maybe a quarter to a third of candidates.
Then people at the end of the round will come to a decision committee, and that’s the full committee of about a dozen, 12 to 15 people, who are in the admissions committee making decisions on the candidates, and that’s post interview, people who will come for an ultimate decision. I think consistently, we look at the video questions, for example, last. We have to be careful about that, because that’s where we’re actually seeing the candidate, and we don’t want that to unduly influence or skew our perception of the candidates. We’ve talked about ways we can even suppress so that we are not skewed or biased by that. We talk about ways we can even suppress more to make it less identifying so that we’re not imposing or bringing any biases to the process or trying to minimize that actual process.
What are you looking for in your scan of the applicant pool? [30:03]
We don’t reduce it to any single data point or set of data points. We actually get, not surprisingly, a dashboard or snapshot. So, it’s just a quick look to see how it summarizes all key information in terms of grades, and scores, and work experience, and recommendation, and all those data points, just to get a sense. We don’t put our thumb on the scale in terms of things like demographics. That’s something that obviously, we will run the numbers to see what they look like, just to get a sense of what the pool looks like. But it doesn’t inform in a major way what the decision is going to look like going forward.
There’s a sense that there’s a single bucket that people fall into, and you have to be one or the other. And there are people at Yale, and it sits in there a lot. We have lots of candidates who are from India, for example, but studied in the States, or from other parts of the world, just studied here, or sometimes US citizens who studied elsewhere. More commonly, studying in the States. We’re not reducing to a profile in that reductive way.
I think that obviously, the related question which we get a lot is just the, “I’m an Indian male engineer, how am I going to distinguish myself?” I think that’s the challenge for everybody – regardless of what your background is, or what your profile is, how do you set yourself apart?
We have a lot of applicants. If we have a lot of applicants who are female engineers, we also take a good number. I think there’s a sense of where, if some people have a background that they feel is well represented, that we will therefore take people who are not from that background.
You have to look at what the denominator is relative to the numerator. I don’t know if we’re overrepresented, underrepresented, but certainly, we’re taking a good number of students from various backgrounds who are well represented in the pool, because they’re well represented in the pool.
If somebody is lucky enough to be invited to interview, what can they expect on interview day? [33:39]
It’s virtual right now. It will be for this first round. I’m trying to think for the rest of the year, we’re planning on being virtual, but we’ll see how things, what the university guidelines look like in the new year, in 2022. We always do some virtual interviews, even when people come to campus. We do have a day put together for people on campus, though, to sit in on a class, and have lunch with students, and do those things. We’re trying to replicate that as much as possible, because I think it is important for them to get a sense of the community, and get a sense of what the experience is like, and who their peers would be.
But to the question, the interview itself is conducted almost exclusively by trained second year students. We just did a training recently. Some of it is done ourselves, but we actually bring in people. We have David Caruso from the Yale College Dean’s office, who has done this for a number of years and is fantastic. He’s actually an expert on emotional intelligence, and wrote the MSCEIT, which is the Mayer Salovey Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test. He dealt with Peter Salovey, who is the president of Yale and so he comes in and helps train our students and does a great job. We have other training that we go through to make sure that our students are as well calibrated as possible, try and minimize bias, and actually, they’re having a follow up session today to make sure to get feedback and make sure that they’re comfortable with the interview process.
Anyway, it’s trained second-year students. They are 30-minute interviews. They’ve seen your resume, they haven’t seen the other part of the application. We do use a structured interview process. Everybody receives the same questions in the same order and the same way. I think that people are sometimes concerned that may feel less personal, but I think we feel it’s really important for the evaluation purposes, for the predictive purposes for there to be structure. Unstructured interviews really have no predictive value.
To the extent that we want this interview to be a meaningful part of the evaluation process, having it structured is really the only way to go. They’re pretty straightforward questions. We’re not trying to trick you. We’re not trying to ask about any sort of market sizing, or how many quarters are in the Empire State Building, or any number of things, or how many golf balls can fit in a 747. It’s really about your graduate management plans, your post MBA plans, some basic questions that I think you should be expecting, those kinds of questions you expect on a job interview. We’re really not trying to trick you. We’re really just trying to get a better sense of you. Then obviously we give you a chance to ask questions and learn more about us. So, it tends to be a two way conversation in the end when there’s a chance to ask questions.
Talking about the application, what’s the most common applicant mistake that you see? [36:47]
That’s a good question. There are many different ways to answer that. I think you could focus on some of the more technical aspects of things that people do wrong, or silly mistakes that people make that easily proofreading or just simply passing our eyes over would catch. I think a higher level piece of feedback I would give, I’d give another context to, and I think other people probably do as well, it’s the be yourself flavor of advice. I don’t want to make it sound like platitude, but I think people do, and I guess it touches on some of the other things we’re talking about in terms of coming from what you feel is an overrepresented, potentially, demographic in the applicant pool, or applying to a school that you feel has a certain personality.
I think there is a tendency in different ways to try to shade your candidacy either to fit the school, like “Yale’s a non-profit school, so I’m going to be a non-profit candidate,” or, “this other school is the finance school, so I’m going to be a finance candidate there, or an operations, or marketing, or whatever it is.” Try to distinguish yourself in maybe some non-organic ways, like to try to create some point of differentiation. I don’t think it’s possible to do that out of thin air and I think that comes across as hollow.
I think it’s important not to deviate from who you are, and not try to get in our heads and predict what we’re looking for and what we’re thinking. Because we’re not. At this point, on average, there is no finance school, there’s no marketing school. Every school, any top school is going to be strong in a number of different areas, and they’re not looking for any one kind of candidate. I think one of the things we talk about quite a bit is the strength in diversity, and how we want to have a very diverse student body across a range of dimensions, and how that informs and influences the classroom experience, how it enriches discussion, it expands perspectives and expands people’s minds. You learn and think differently. If you’re in an organization where everybody already thinks and feels the same way, that doesn’t help you grow.
I have a picture framed in my office of a New Yorker cartoon, where it’s parents and a child outside the door that says admissions, and there’s a little child there, and the father’s speaking to the child, he says, “Now remember, be the yourself we talked about.” That’s kind of how a lot of admissions is. It’s a very artificial process. We get little insight into you and very discrete pieces of you. There is an opportunity for you to present those pieces that you think make the most sense based on who we are, what part of you that you want to present. I think we work very hard at Yale to broaden the base of information we get, so even though it’s discrete pieces, they’re very balanced pieces and we work very hard in terms of crafting the application and the information we’re trying to receive to make it be complementary and hopefully, not over indexed in any one area. It’s not just about grades, or scores, or these few things. But it’s really as much about, and I’m sorry, I know the word holistic is overused, but in as holistic a sense as possible.
To your point, I think there is some room for candidates to say, I think I know a little bit about what Yale’s about, so I can present these examples that maybe are a little bit more consistent. But I think you definitely want to be led by, I guess, the logic and you want to be led by what the school is asking. Don’t try to shoehorn in this anecdote or this point you want to get. If the school is asking for something else, or the school is looking for other information, you have to meet the school where it is, and what we’re asking for, and what we care about. Because we all have largely overlapping applications in some ways, but they’re all different in other ways.
Well Yale has a very distinctive application. The one essay question is distinctive. You do have the video essay, which some schools have, but most don’t. You also have a situational judgment test. So, you have a very distinctive application. [42:17]
Yeah, and I think we’ve constructed it very intentionally, again, to draw out different complementary aspects of a candidate’s profile so that we do have a very balanced perspective. I guess the mistake is trying to work against that too much. Understand what the schools are asking and go with it. Obviously, that’s part of what an application is. But don’t be an investment banker, who says, “Oh, Yale’s a non-profit school, so I’m going to say my post MBA goals are in the nonprofit space.” That’s not going to help you. It’s just going to look like the application is disjointed.
How do you view applicants who had a dip in grades, or perhaps a period of unemployment due to depression or emotional illness? [45:22]
I think, obviously, the caveat I make for every and any comment is that we look at every application individually based on the overall profile. It’s tough to pull out any one element and talk about it in isolation, because it really only derives meaning in the context of the overall application. But in those instances, if there was a mental illness, or some emotional challenge that caused a period of unemployment or different grades, you should, if you feel comfortable, put that in your optional essay. I think that’s a place to explain it, because it’s not something we would see elsewhere. Unless you made that your essay itself, it might be something you talk about there.
We will see, obviously, the gap in employment if that’s what it is. We will see the different grades if that’s what it is. And we do look in the transcript. We don’t just look at the overall GPA, but we go semester by semester, look at the courses, and we’ll look at the trends. And if there’s a discrete period of low grades or unemployment, if there’s a certain abnormality, or something that is atypical for your overall profile, we will notice it. It’s helpful to have that context and have that explanation. The question is really asking whether it’s okay to share that, or whether there could be people who are concerned about the stigma of surmounted mental illness, but I think it’s something that happens with people all the time. If you’re showing that it’s so transient, and that you’ve been able to overcome it and tackle it, I think that’s something that speaks to other values. It helps to know the reason behind it, again, if you feel comfortable sharing that so that we can understand the context behind that abnormality, and if it is in terms of your employment or your academic performance. If it is transient, we have to obviously take that into context to understand that.
What about an institutional action, let’s say an academic infraction, or maybe a misdemeanor? If somebody has that on their record, is that going to be an application killer? [47:51]
It’s intriguing you asked that question, because that’s something, actually this year, we’ve made changes on that front. We did this at the start of last year, and actually really more fully this year, because that’s an area where we are concerned that the application review people have their own values, their own judgments they bring towards a DUI, or any number of other infractions, academic or otherwise. We found that it’s very inconsistent in terms of how your application readers approach it. It’s really not based on anything other than their own views on this.
I believe the College Board has moved to suppress this information from the Common App. I think they’re looking at moving towards not asking. So, actually, that’s what we’ve done, and we’ve been benchmarking with Yale College. We’re close with them and other schools here at Yale to see what their best practices are. We suppress that information, any academic infraction or criminal record. The readers don’t see that, and that would only become an issue after a decision is made on the application, because we don’t want that to influence the outcome of the application. That’s an area we don’t advertise. I don’t know if that’s a little bit too insider baseball, maybe I shouldn’t be sharing that. But I think we think that’s a smarter way. We’re trying. Again, that’s one aspect I talked about earlier about suppressing certain information in a scenario where we don’t feel like that’s relevant to the application decision. It’s only needlessly influencing. I think it’s unduly influencing or can unduly influence. We try to make sure that it doesn’t do that, but we worry that it could. That’s why we’re trying to take it out of the review process and have it be a separate thing.
Where would a criminal record come in if it’s suppressed from readers? [49:59]
This is a change this year, a small committee would review it before any final decision but we don’t want it to inform the general review process. We found, actually, what we understand in doing research is that even applicants who have an academic infraction or criminal record who are seeing that being asked are less likely to apply. They’re less likely to follow through in the application process. That tends to be a deterrent to applying. I think that was a reason behind the College Board moving toward suppressing that information. I don’t want to speak out of something I don’t know if that’s not right. But I think that that’s where they’re going. Part of the reason too is we don’t want to chill people from applying for something that wouldn’t really influence their outcome anyway.
What advice do you have for applicants, either applying this cycle or thinking ahead to an application next cycle? [51:14]
There’s so much advice. Last year was a very abnormal, atypical year in a lot of fronts, in a lot of regards and I think there’ll be a turn, knock on wood, more to normalcy this year in terms of the application pool and the application process. To the extent last year and the year before were so atypical, I think this will be, hopefully, a better year to apply in terms of those seeking normalcy. I think hopefully, again, knock on wood, that the academic experience will be even more back to normal next year. The message from that is, I think this is probably a good year to apply. And next year, hopefully, will be as well for people thinking about getting an MBA.
The other thing is hearkening back to an earlier comment, we don’t have, for example campus to campus tours. We don’t have campus visitors. We’re not doing on campus interviews. But we’ve built out all sorts of tools for people to be able to engage with us virtually at the admissions office. These are things we’ve done even previously in terms of application guide, and other tools we have coming out with a virtual tour. There are ways to connect with students. I think these are all great ways to learn more about the program. I would encourage people to take advantage of them. Campus visits are great, but I always caution people not to put too much stock in them because only certain subsets of people can actually come to campus. They’re close enough, they can afford to, and we don’t want to disadvantage people who live far away, and they can’t make it to campus. That has no influence in the evaluation process. I’m hoping that because no one could visit campus, that’s even more of a level set or an equalizer in terms of people’s access to information and learning about the program and actually expanding the scope of what people can experience here at Yale, even if it’s not in person. So, I’d say take advantage of those resources.
Is there anything you would have liked me to ask you? [53:55]
Nothing comes to mind. I think we’ve covered a good bit of ground and it’s always great to talk to you. I really appreciate the opportunity and certainly look forward to sharing more information another time as well.
Where can listeners and potential applicants learn more about Yale SOM’s MBA program? [54:18]
Our website is som.yale.edu. That’s probably the best starting point. If you have specific questions, you can always email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s our direct email address. Our website has all the information about the application process, upcoming events, student profiles, information about the curriculum, so that’s really the place to go.
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