Yale (SOM) Essay Analysis, 2008-2009

 1: Why a Yale MBA? What is the impact that you wish to have on the world? How will your previous experiences and a Yale MBA enhance your ability, in the short-term and long-term, to pursue a career that will allow you to achieve this impact? (500 words maximum)

Because Personal Statements are similar from one application to the next, we have produced the “MBA Mission Personal Statement Guide.” We offer this guide to candidates free of charge, via our online store.  Please feel free to download your copy today. 

2: Leadership Example
Describe a professional accomplishment that exhibits your leadership style. The accomplishment should include evidence of your leadership skills, a description of the actions you took, as well as the impact you had on your organization. (500 words maximum)

The phrasing of this question emphasizes the need to create a narrative. You should not just tell the reader that you led and that you were successful, but you should tell the story of how you led. As you explain your actions, there should be a clear cause and effect relationship—your actions leading to the overall success and the desired impact. Remember, impact suggests that your actions had an enduring effect, that there was a before and after. So, you should be careful to reflect on this change and your personal learning.

3: Personal Statement 1

Choose one (1) of the following topics and answer it in essay form. Please indicate the topic number at the beginning of your essay. (500 words maximum)

(1) A central premise of our teaching about leadership at the Yale School of Management is that true leadership—leadership that helps to address a significant problem in a new way—is necessarily personal. It is only when personal passion aligns with meaningful aspirations that individuals are able to inspire others to act in support of an important goal or cause. What are you most passionate about, and how have you demonstrated a commitment to this passion?

This question is a bit convoluted in nature, but the end result of the lead-in is that the committee wants to know about a passion of yours. So, this is not the place to discuss a hobby or an interest, but something you have taken to an extreme or in which you have shown an inordinate interest, in relative terms. The individual who cooks regularly is not passionate. The individual who spends an entire day combing through a dozen farmer’s markets looking for a unique vegetable for a soup is indeed passionate. As you can tell from the example in the previous sentence, creating a sense of how the passion is manifest is crucial—and so are the results of it.

(2) What personal achievement are you most proud of and why?

This essay question could result in some conceptual overlap with the last one. So, you would be wise to weigh which question you want to answer—which one lends itself to a more powerful showcasing of your story. In this essay, you will clearly need to identify a standout accomplishment and again, create a narrative that reveals it. Many candidates state the achievement first and then tell the story. While in certain instances this approach can be effective, we generally advise candidates not to kill the mystery. By creating a narrative and letting the reader follow the progression of your story, the reader will naturally want to read on, arriving at the climax only to discover your remarkable feat. 

(3) Describe a situation in which your values were challenged. How did you respond to the situation and what did you learn from it?

For your values to have been challenged, you need to have identified a time when you were weighing something—something was hanging in the balance. If your boss asked you to do something that was flagrantly wrong, then your values would not have been challenged and the situation at hand would have been quite simple to resolve (nothing was weighed). To create a strong essay, you will need to identify a time when there was internal struggle with regard to the right course and then explain your reasoning in choosing one side.

(4) A phrase often heard among SOM graduates is that they aspire to lead a life that is an “SOM Story”—that of a broadly engaged, values-based leader who owns and solves hard problems that matter. How will you create your own SOM Story? Describe a situation in which you devised and implemented a creative or innovative solution to a difficult problem. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?

The phrasing of this question necessitates a discussion of the past and the future. You need to create a narrative about how you encountered a problem and solved it in a novel or unique way, which is a challenge in itself. Beyond this, you need to adapt this anecdote or the skills revealed in the resolution of this problem to a future situation (“How will you create your own SOM story?”). The “adaptation” aspect of the question will allow you to creatively delve into your future and discuss potential problems that you expect to resolve in a moral, ethical and creative way—a tall order for 500 words, but certainly possible.

(5) The Yale School of Management is a community of individuals with diverse backgrounds and interests. What unique attributes would you bring to the Class of 2011?

Again, Yale gives you the opportunity to differentiate, but in this essay, you can pick your experiences: personal, professional, entrepreneurial, academic, etc. In writing this essay, you can showcase more than one distinct attribute and should do so anecdotally. Don’t tell the reader that you have “attribute X,” but create a story that reveals this attribute. Here, you will also have the opportunity to reveal fit with Yale by applying your attributes to the Yale experience. Your attributes should not exist in a vacuum; you should reveal how you intend to “bring” them to the SOM.

(6) What is the most difficult feedback you have received and how did you address it? Looking forward, what skills are you most eager to build or improve upon in business school?

As you consider the feedback that you have received, you should be cautious and ensure that you are not inadvertently displaying behavior that is inconsistent with Yale’s values. An embellished example of what not to do follows: “My boss gave me tough feedback, stating that I am ‘lazy’….” By displaying laziness, you are undermining your candidacy, because Yale tries to recruit highly motivated students. Another misguided approach would be to offer a false critique—a negative that is actually a positive: “My boss told me that I work too hard and need to relax and take a vacation; it was hard to hear that…” These answers are transparent and only annoy the Admissions Committees.
When dealing with difficult feedback, it is important to approach the matter at hand in a straightforward manner. You should work to show that you were bold in an attempt but had a human failing and learned from it. After all, Yale is interested in remedying the “problem” via their resources.  

(7) Required for reapplicants: What steps have you taken to improve your candidacy since your last application?

Whether you have improved your academic record, received a promotion, begun a new and exciting project, increased your community involvement or taken on a personal challenge of sorts, the key to this essay is conveying a very deliberate path of achievement. Yale wants to know that you have been actively striving to improve, and that you have seized opportunities during the previous year to do so, because a Yale MBA is vital to you. This essay question will vary greatly from one candidate to the next, as each person’s needs and experiences will differ. We are more than happy to provide one-on-one assistance with this highly personal essay to ensure that the above requirements are met. 

4: Personal Statement 2
Choose one (1) of the remaining topics listed in Personal Statement 1, or create a topic of your own about a subject that is meaningful to you, and answer it in essay form. Please indicate the topic number (or state the topic if it is not one of the ones listed) at the beginning of your essay. (500 words maximum)

At this point, you should have ample opportunities to reveal your distinctiveness. If an aspect of your experiences has not been showcased and cannot be via the essay questions above, then you can pose your own question and answer it. However, candidates should not just take their best essay from another school and insert it into this space. You need to be strategic and think about your broad candidacy as you respond to this question.

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