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 email@example.com. 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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