We posed questions to admissions officials at the Yale University School of Management regarding the application process, what they look for in applicants, and what sets their school apart. These are their responses:
1. What can applicants do to set themselves apart from their peers?
It may sound like a platitude, but being yourself is perhaps the best way to stand out in the applicant pool. Tell us about what motivates you and what unique qualities you'll bring to Yale. What perspective will you add to classroom discussions? Examples of leadership under difficult circumstances, or moments when you learned something important about yourself, can have a big impact.
[Discover more insights on how to gain admissions to the country's top business schools.]
2. What do you look for in the application essays? What do the essays tell you about a candidate?
Essays are an important way for us to learn more about applicants beyond just what's captured in numbers and a résumé. They help us understand what's important to applicants, what motivates and drives them, and what they can contribute to our community. They are just one element of the application, though, and do not generally make or break an application.
3. How important is the applicant's GMAT score? How do you weigh it against undergraduate GPA and work experience? Which of these carry the most weight? The least?
We review each applicant's unique characteristics and profile holistically in making decisions; no single element is determinative, and no element inherently carries more or less weight than any other. Although the GMAT score has been shown to be predictive of how a student will perform in the core curriculum, it's by no means the only consideration, and does not predict performance in the second year or beyond. We also accept the GRE. We look at all elements of the application to evaluate how well we feel an applicant will do not only in the classroom, but outside of it and over the course of their career as well.
4. How much does prior work/internship experience weigh into your decision making? What's the typical or expected amount of work experience from an applicant?
Past success in the workplace can be an excellent predictor of future workplace performance. For this reason, during the application review process, we're focused on the quality of a candidate's work experience, not just the length. The average amount of work experience is about three to five years, but we have had successful candidates with more and less.
At Yale, we also accept a small number of extraordinary students each year directly from their undergraduate studies. The Silver Scholars Program is a three-year commitment that includes the opportunity to gain full-time work experience between the first and second years of graduate study.
5. What sets you apart from other schools? What can students gain from your school that they might not be able to find anywhere else?
Yale SOM strives to educate leaders for business and society: Yale M.B.A.'s are well prepared to understand the increasingly complex global context and the interrelations between firms, governments, markets, NGOs, and other parties, and to lead effectively in all regions and sectors. That mission, combined with our close integration with other schools and departments across Yale, typically attracts students who are broad minded, intellectually curious, and globally aware.
When students come to Yale SOM, they experience all of Yale, one of the most eminent universities in the world. They have the ability to take courses throughout the university and the diversity of that learning expands their understanding of business. They also have access to Yale's vast alumni network. Yale SOM's integrated, multidisciplinary core curriculum and multimedia "raw cases" provide students not only with highly refined technical skills, but also the critical ability to assimilate information from multiple sources, functional areas, and points of view.
6. What do you look for in recommendation letters? How important is it that the letter's writer has worked regularly with the candidate in an office or school setting? Do you put much weight on letters from prominent public figures who may not know the applicant well?
We look for two professional recommendations from individuals who know that candidate's work well. We want recommenders who can speak concretely and in detail about the candidate's qualities and performance.
The best person to ask to write a recommendation is an immediate manager, a client, or a senior colleague you've worked with closely. We want to hear about projects you've worked on and specific examples of leadership and innovation. While some candidates may be tempted to ask a prominent public figure, if that person doesn't know you very well, it's a missed opportunity to add valuable depth to your application.
7. Can you give a brief description of the life cycle of an application? What's the timeline applicants should expect?
Each application is reviewed by two members of the admissions committee. Most applications are then brought to the entire committee and decided upon as a group. We don't select files to read in any particular order, so your application may be reviewed at any point in the round.
Interview invitations typically begin going out shortly after the application deadline and continue until the end of the round. While we try to release decisions as soon as possible, most applicants will hear on or around the decision deadline.
8. Which firms recruit heavily from your school? Which firms hire the highest percentage of your graduates?
The diversity of firms that recruit at the school match the diverse career interests of our students. The highest percentages of our students take jobs in finance, consulting, and general management. For the class of 2011, the top 10 recruiters were Barclays Capital, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Boston Consulting Group, Citi, Deloitte, Credit Suisse, General Electric, McKinsey & Co., and UBS.
9. What are some of the most common mistakes that applicants make that hurt their chances of being accepted?
Applying to business school is a very personal and reflective process. It's an opportunity to assess your strengths and areas of growth. Most applicants understandably shy away from identifying growth areas (or, more concretely, weaknesses) in their application for fear of looking less attractive to us. In many ways, the opposite can be true. Although it certainly isn't a mistake not to mention weaknesses, it can also make your application much stronger if you show that you have a realistic and balanced sense of yourself and compelling reasons for wanting to get an M.B.A.
10. Can you describe the archetypal student for your school?
Because diversity is one of the hallmarks of the Yale SOM experience, there is no archetypal student. Our students come from many different industries and backgrounds from around the world, and each brings something unique to the community. The things that unite them are their broad-mindedness, intellectual curiosity, and support for the mission of the school, which is to educate leaders for business and society.
Searching for a business school? Get our complete rankings of Best Business Schools.