Interview with Bruce DelMonico, Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions at Yale School of Management [Show Summary]
Bruce DelMonico, Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions at Yale School of Management, shares the school’s unique approach to admissions. Yale SOM tries through its application process to gain a 360-degree view of a candidate and is constantly working to refine the formula for admitting the best candidates to Yale.
Bruce DelMonico discusses the unique features of Yale SOM’s curriculum and the value of the Yale MBA [Show Notes]
It gives me great pleasure to have back on Admissions Straight Talk and introduce Bruce DelMonico, Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions at Yale School of Management. He has been on the admissions team at Yale since 2004, becoming the Director in 2006 and the Assistant Dean in 2012.
Let’s start with the basics. Can you give me a brief overview of the distinctive elements of Yale SOM’s full-time program? [2:09]
There are three things I would point to. Among U.S. business schools I think we are the most integrated with our home university. Students truly can take advantage of all Yale has to offer and be involved in the whole university community. We are also the most global business school in the U.S., really focused on creating a global mindset. It is built into our curriculum, and with 45% of our students being non-U.S. citizens, that permeates the community. Last, we are the best source of elevated leaders across all regions and sectors. You will get accounting, finance, and marketing just like every business school, but we teach in a different way. It is very interdisciplinary. Your career will not be functionally siloed like the past, so we teach subjects in a way that reflects that. We utilize a lot of raw cases, so even in the classroom students are learning real world skills, since other people will not be making decisions for you in your future jobs.
What’s new at Yale SOM? [5:15]
The biggest thing is we have a new dean who started July 1st. Kerwin Charles joined us from the University of Chicago. He is a labor economist. So far he has had lots of town halls, and has been thoughtful, diligent, and caring about the school and understanding of its mission and values. He is doing a wonderful job of listening and learning at this point, and we are very excited to have him. We also have a new one- year master’s program – an MMS in Asset Management that complements our other one year master’s programs. It takes advantage of being in the hedge fund corridor. With our one-year programs we are building out a portfolio of courses and more advanced curriculum that business school students can take advantage of.
There seems to be increasing interest in deferred admission programs. Yale has one of the older ones. Can you tell us about the Silver Scholars program? What are you looking for in applicants to this program? [10:08]
You start at Yale the fall after you finish college. It is a three-year program including the internship. Student do their first-year, core MBA courses and then do an extended one year internship. They then come back for the second academic year, which is entirely electives. The idea is that students learn what their gaps are during that year, and then can address them with the electives to become a more complete leader. It is more accelerated that most deferred programs, and for us makes more sense in terms of what you are able to accomplish and optimize at certain points in your career. In terms of what we are looking for, the application is the same for non-Silver Scholar applicants. We tend to weight academics and test scores more heavily since they don’t have fulltime work experience. We do look at internships as well, but more as markers for what an applicant is able to accomplish in a limited time and the propensity to lead and take on potential roles. It is important to have some sense of direction career-wise, as well, as there should be some reason to justify choosing the accelerated program.
How do Silver Scholars do in terms of job placement? [13:41]
They get the same jobs as MBAs after they graduate. The internship is more of an analyst position, but by the time they graduate they are getting the same jobs as a non-Silver Scholar.
Is there any flexibility in the one-year internship – can they do it for longer? [15:04]
We are quite flexible with leaves of absence so that is not a problem. It also doesn’t have to be one one-year internship, it could be two six-month internships, four three-month internships, etc.
You have written:
“We put a lot of thought into how our application is constructed. Our guiding principle is to only ask questions that are relevant to evaluating an applicant’s candidacy, and as a result our application tends to be shorter than that of many other schools.
“We also try to get the fullest picture of you possible. “
Can you go into the purpose of some of the different elements of the application? [18:16]
- the resume,
- Yale’s single essay,
- the video component,
- the behavioral assessment
- two professional recommendations, and
- the interview.
We try not to be redundant and to be more three dimensional with our process. We are not just using the written word, but also different modes of information gathering to be more intentional about how we learn things about you.
- The resume speaks to past work experience, the idea being that past performance is predictive of future performance.
- We also ask for transcripts, again with the idea being that it will be predictive of performance here via past academic performance. Every year we do analyze outcomes through regression models to predict success.
- We look at test scores, and accept both the GMAT and GRE.
- We used to have three essays and we are down to one essay now to make space for other elements of the application. The single essay asks to describe your biggest commitment. The idea is that to be successful you need to be action-oriented – what have you done in support of your commitment, what behaviors have you demonstrated.
- We also have video questions, which are three 60-90 second answers. One is about our mission, one is behavioral about the MBA, and one is about thought process. We have a light touch with the video element, but we want to get more of a sense of you beyond the paper application. It came about initially to use instead of the TOEFL, since there were applicants who had high scores but poor spoken English or vice versa. Making this change has made it much more efficient in terms of whom we invite to the interview stage, and has helped operationally as well.
- The behavioral assessment was originally developed by the military and is now owned by ETS (Educational Testing Service) and used for professional development. It is a pilot for ETS and us, and the first time used in a high-stakes context. It is a series of 120 statement pairs and you have to decide which are akin to you. It is adaptive and takes about 20 minutes to complete. It shows behavioral and interpersonal dimensions. The idea is to get a picture of you that is different from any other aspect of the application. We are hoping it is more objective and consistent as opposed to subjective like an essay. The motivation is like with the TOEFL, where while generally predictive, we see plenty of people who score high on the test but can’t speak English well. So, what are other qualities that will help us identify high score underperformers and low score overperformers. The hope is that we can be more open to candidates who have more modest scores and grades, but who will do well in the program.
- Interviews are conducted primarily by students who have not seen the entire application. 1/3 of applicants are interviewed, and about 2/3 of interviewees are admitted. We do recognize it can be subjective so that is not the make or break aspect.
- Recommendations are challenging because we don’t want candidate evaluations to hinge on the recommender’s expansiveness, so we have a structured grid we ask them to use with behavioral cues. We try and control for variables and standardize across recommenders, as we do across all elements of the application.
I want to stress that no single piece of an application will make or break an individual’s candidacy.
For the class of 2021, the middle 80% GMAT range was 680 -760 and the middle 80% GPA ranges was 3.34 – 3.92. The medians were 720 for the GMAT, 330 for the GRE, and 3.66 for the undergrad GPA. What do you look for besides stats? How does one get in with below average stats? [38:30]
We are not looking for one thing, and we do value diversity, which means many different things – race, gender, citizenship, political thoughts, etc. We are interested in putting together a class that is not identical. They can have other things that make them stand out. Essentially, show qualities that we value that would not appear in the academics or testing but speak to the strength of your candidacy in other ways.
Recently there has been a lot of talk about “the sky is falling” with regard to MBA programs, and reached a crescendo with the “Is the MBA Worth It?” article in the WSJ, where their answer was no. How would you address this thinking? [41:51]
The refrain definitely has picked up. I am obviously an interested party, but really feel that the value of the MBA has not diminished. It still has the same benefits to its graduates that it always did. You can look at ROI, and it’s maybe even stronger when you look at how salaries keep going up. There are many things contributing to the decline in applications. For non-U.S. candidates, there are visa issues and the political climates. For U.S. candidates, it is a strong job market, and folks wanting to stay in jobs because of the tight market. Eventually that will change. One other variable is the growth in one-year masters programs – they have taken some people out of the MBA pipeline. To me they are technical degrees and don’t have the same upside, like the learning about being a leader. The MBA gives you choice and flexibility to do whatever you want in a professional context, and I think that is underappreciated still. So yes, application numbers have gone down but I don’t think the value has gone down at all. When conditions change it will return to a different equilibrium. One other aspect is that alumni are overwhelmingly satisfied with their degrees.
What is the biggest challenge applicants face in presenting a compelling case for acceptance? [47:42]
On a macro scale, one is that candidates will try to shape their candidacy based on what the school is known for. “I am the marketing candidate for the marketing school,” for example. There may have been a time when schools were known for one thing, but those days are gone. Every top school is strong in a range of areas and looking for students who are diverse. It makes you look less strong if you try to shade your candidacy to your perception of what the school is interested in. You aren’t differentiating yourself. The other is that you want to put your best foot forward. Those who are successful don’t ignore their weaknesses or run away from them. There is no such thing as a perfect candidate and acknowledging and incorporating weaknesses into your candidacy is helpful – we will see them, so contextualize and address them on your terms as opposed to ours. Doing so also shows self-awareness and humility, which is important. If you ignore them it shows you don’t have perspective and makes other aspects of your candidacy less strong.
What would you have liked me to ask you? [52:33]
I’d turn the question around and ask what is your take on the value of the MBA?
Linda: The irony is I was in the process of writing an article when the Wall Street Journal article came out, but I think my answer would be more nuanced. I am a big fan of the MBA, have one myself, and recognize it has done a lot for me. I do feel that the sticker price is a problem – tuition increases have vastly outpaced inflation. At the same time, I think now is a fantastic time to apply.
Applications are down, which makes it a little easier to get into a top school, and there is less competition for financial aid. Fearing the sticker price means potentially missing out on life changing opportunities. Obivously you need to make a decision based on where you’re at and where you want to go with your career. Then you need to ask “Is the benefit of getting where you want to go worth the cost?” There are some people for whom the MBA isn’t worth it if they don’t get into a certain program, but the idea that the sky is falling and it’s a terrible time is just wrong in my opinion. Again, GMAC data shows overwhelmingly positive responses from alums, and salaries are good. Be thoughtful and purposeful about your MBA decision, and it can be a tremendous benefit to one’s career and life.
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