Yale School of Management Essay Analysis, 2011–2012

At the end of the day, you will write only three essays for your Yale School of Management application, but you may very well answer as many as eight questions. Yale’s first essay question involves a number of requirements, and among its various essay choices, one option includes three additional choices. So, before you start writing, take a step back and think about what differentiates you as an applicant and what message you want to send to the admissions committee. If you then move forward with a few key stories and attributes in mind, completing these essays should be a lot easier.

Short Answers
Please answer each of the four (4) questions below with a short paragraph of no more than 150 words. This is an opportunity to distill your core ideas, values, goals and motivations into a set of snapshots that help tell us who you are, where you are going professionally, and why. (600 words total)

1. What are your professional goals immediately after you receive your MBA?
2. What are your long?term career aspirations?
3. Why are you choosing to pursue an MBA? (If you plan to use your Yale MBA to make a significant change in the nature of your career, please tell us what you have done to prepare for this transition.)
4. The intentions of our students to engage in a broad-minded business school community and to connect to an eminent and purposeful university greatly influence the Yale MBA experience. How do you plan to be involved in the Yale SOM and greater Yale communities?

These four questions encompass the primary elements of a classic Personal Statement essay question—short-term goals, long-term goals, why you want or need an MBA and “why us”—so we encourage you to consult our mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which helps applicants address these topics in their essay(s) for any school. We offer this guide to candidates free of charge, via our online store. Please feel free to download your copy today.

The only anomaly in these four mini questions is the last, which requires you to explain how you will engage with the Yale SOM and larger Yale University communities. So, your first order of business is to think about the experience you want to have at the school while also considering the areas where you can contribute (and ideally, contribute something unique!). Then, do your homework on the school, perhaps by reading the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Yale School of Management or by chatting with SOM students or alumni or with those of other schools within the university. A brief list of clubs or activities will not constitute a solid answer to this essay question. Instead, make sure to reveal that you truly understand how a particular club (for example) functions and that you have a clear vision for how you would contribute to the organization.

Personal Statements

Choose two (2) of the following topics and answer them in essay form. Please indicate the topic number at the beginning of your essay. (500 words maximum)

1. At the Yale School of Management, we believe the world needs leaders who:

  • understand organizations, teams, networks and the complex nature of leadership;
  • understand markets and competition in different contexts; and
  • understand the diversity of economies throughout the world and the relationships between business and society.

What experiences have you had that demonstrate your strength in one or more of these areas?

This essay question may seem confusing at first, but try not to be daunted by the bevy of options it involves. The Yale SOM admissions committee is basically posing a very open-ended question about your experiences in the business world, and you should—simply by virtue of being a professional—have a variety of stories that fit the broad parameters of the question.

The first option within this question offers you the opportunity to discuss your ability to navigate complex team interactions, or even interactions that extend beyond your team—for example, your team’s relationship with a client. Resist the urge to simply copy and paste an essay that pertains to teams from another application, however, and instead truly contemplate the thoughtful manner in which you navigated a sensitive situation and optimized results. “Optimized” may be the key word here. If you can offer a story about an instance in which you “hit a home run,” so to speak, that is of course fantastic, but Yale appears to be acknowledging how “complex” leadership can be. Therefore, highlighting your success as a diplomat who “optimized” a delicate situation may better reveal your leadership skills (and make for a more interesting essay).

The second option, which asks you to reveal that you understand markets and competition, is not just for those who are engaged in the financial markets. Rather, it essentially asks how you have helped your firm keep pace or even how you have tried in vain to ensure that your firm stays competitive—which can apply to any industry or field. In your response, you might discuss approaches that you considered, tactics you deployed, a vision you possessed or other similar elements. Remember, this is not meant to be an academic paper on competition and/or markets, but a window into your personal experiences and how you have come to understand their complexities.

Similarly, be sure to insert yourself and your unique experiences into the final essay choice on world economies and their relation to societies. Again, the school is not asking you to write a paper on world economies, but to share what you have personally witnessed and learned about economies and how they affect people. Remember that the committee wants to understand the experiences you have had—and the more particular the experience, the better, because you need to own this essay. No environment or industry is the “right” one for this essay—some applicants may have worked in an emerging market, others on Wall Street, and a candidate from either background could write a successful essay for this question option. The key is that you have clear insight into the impact of decisions—particularly, the decisions’ effect on others. This is the place to reveal that you have balanced and intimate knowledge of an issue and its possible solutions, not to share that you have an axe to grind with certain global players or institutions.

Of course, you are not required to stick with just one theme. So, you can choose the most appropriate options for your personal history to show, for example, that you not only “understand markets and competition” but also “understand the diversity of economies throughout the world.”

2. What is the most difficult feedback you have received from another person or the most significant weakness you perceive in yourself? What steps have you taken to address it and how will business school contribute to this process?

This question is a holdover from past years—clearly being a question that rewards the admissions committee with its desired insight into candidates’ personalities and experiences. Although explaining the feedback you received or the soul searching you underwent is certainly important, the committee is particularly interested in hearing about what you have done in response to the critique/weakness and how this process of improvement will continue when you are at business school. In addition to learning how candidates react to the revelation of a shortcoming, the school wants to see that applicants are willing to take responsibility and to act on, not just learn from, such experiences—to use them as a trigger for active personal or professional growth.

In addition, responding well to negative feedback or a weakness shows maturity, flexibility and a willingness to learn from others—all good leadership and teamwork qualities. With regard to which instance of feedback or which weakness you discuss, make sure to select one that is consistent with Yale’s values and atmosphere. For example, saying, “My boss criticized me for being lazy” would not be advised, given the school’s preference for highly motivated and proactive candidates. Likewise, avoid “empty” criticisms, such as “My supervisor claims I always work too hard and do too much.” Trying to disguise a strength as a weakness will definitely not impress—and might even annoy—the admissions committee and does not indicate an appropriate level of self-awareness and honesty. In short, the feedback or weakness you reveal should leave you exposed—it should be honest, so admitting it should therefore hurt a bit. The school wants to know you are human, so do not try to avoid revealing yourself as such.

3. Imagine yourself meeting your learning team members for the first time in Orientation.  What is the most important thing your teammates should know about you?

At last, an essay option that is a little more fun to write! Our guess is that candidates will gravitate toward this personality piece, in hopes of avoiding the first essay choice, which may seem overwhelming, or the second, which may seem risky. In contrast, this is a pretty safe question.

Before responding to this question, take time to really reflect on your primary personality traits and consider not only which one you deem most important, but also which one your teammates would most likely find compelling. To offer an extreme example, your team would probably not want to hear about your fiercely independent streak, but might be interested to know that you are doggedly determined.

Whichever characteristic you choose to reveal, be sure that you present fitting anecdotal evidence to back up your claim. Writing an extended “tell” in which you simply state that you possess certain skills and talents—yet offer no proof—will ultimately reveal very little about you. The anecdotes you share to support your claims of the “most important” thing about you are what will most effectively demonstrate who you are to the admissions committee.

4.  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 success with 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 you feel a Yale MBA is vital to your future success. This essay question will vary greatly from one candidate to the next, because each person’s needs and experiences differ. We are more than happy to provide one-on-one assistance with this highly personal essay to ensure that your efforts over the past year are presented in the best light possible.

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