Yale School of Management Essay Analysis, 2013–2014

As we have seen several top MBA programs do this year, the Yale School of Management (SOM) has reduced its essay requirements for the current round of applicants. During the 2011–2012 application season, the school asked candidates to respond to six questions using 1,600 words; in 2012–2013, this was condensed to four questions and 1,050 words; this season, the SOM poses just two questions, for which it allots only 750 words (300 for Essay 1 and 450 for Essay 2). This reduction should not be taken as an indication that the admissions committee is less interested in what applicants have to say, however. Instead, the school is in the process of incorporating a video component into its application in which candidates will respond orally to typical essay-style questions in a spontaneous manner, without knowing the questions in advance. We therefore encourage you to make the most of your essays, for which you will be able to take your time and carefully plan and craft your responses.

Yale School of ManagementEssay 1: What motivates your decision to pursue an MBA? (300 words maximum)

Yale’s first essay question for this season is very similar to the one it posed last year, but the school has doubled the word count and removed the query “When did you realize that this was a step you wanted—or needed—to take?” The focus and tone have also changed, in that the SOM had previously asked candidates what “prompted [their] decision to get an MBA,” which essentially emphasized a past event—in other words, what happened in the past to make you realize your need for this degree. This year, however, the school’s use of the word “motivates” carries with it a sense of positive, forward momentum and progression toward a goal—people are motivated to accomplish or attain things. You should therefore keep your focus forward as well and center your response on what you hope to gain from the MBA experience/education and what you plan to pursue after graduation. Identify the skills, guidance, experience and/or other factors that are key to enabling you to achieve your goals and that business school can provide. Then explain how gaining these will prepare you to succeed in your desired post-MBA position and industry.

To be most effective, you will need to provide some level of context/background for your goals to build on and to help illustrate the gaps in your skills or knowledge base that you want business school to correct. Because you have such a limited amount of space with which to work, be sure to not devote too much of the allotted word count to accomplishing this, but strive to make sure the admissions committee walks away with a solid understanding of where you are coming from in the context of where you are hoping to go.

Avoid the temptation to tie your answer specifically to the SOM in this essay, because the school asks for that information in its Essay 2 question. Commit 100% of the minimal word count for Essay 1 to clearly conveying what you need from an MBA education and why earning the degree is an essential next step in your career progression.

In many ways, this query encompasses the general spirit of a traditional personal statement essay, and because personal statements are similar from one application to the next, we have produced the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide , which helps applicants write this style of essay for any school. We offer this guide to candidates free of charge. Please feel free to download your copy today.

Essay 2: The Yale School of Management provides leadership education for broad-minded, rigorous, and intellectually curious students with diverse backgrounds; a distinctive integrated curriculum; connections to one of the great research universities in the world; and the broad reach of an innovative and expanding global network of top business schools.

What motivates you to apply to the Yale School of Management for your MBA? What will you contribute to Yale and Yale SOM? (450 words maximum)

Although the introductory sentence in the SOM’s Essay 2 question is the same as it was last season, the central query has been skewed slightly to focus more overtly on what the school can provide the applicant in addition to what the candidate can bring to the school. Note that the SOM again uses the word “motivates,” this time in relation to its MBA program, asking what it offers that is particularly fitting for your needs and interests—in other words, “Why Yale?” Successfully responding to this part of the school’s prompt requires a true understanding of what the SOM has to offer, so you will need, if you have not already done so, to fully research its resources, from faculty and courses to clubs, research centers, experiential opportunities, facilities, events, initiatives and everything else specific to Yale. Remember that as an SOM student, you will also have access to the resources available in other parts of the greater university (the query itself even refers to this, saying, “Yale and the Yale SOM”), so you do not need to limit your research to the business school alone. Once your research is complete, pinpoint which offerings excite you. When you envision yourself as a student at the school, what are you most interested in experiencing and being a part of? Showing your knowledge of the school, specifying components of its program that fit your personal and professional needs and conveying a sense of enthusiasm will ensure that this portion of your essay is compelling.

The second question in the prompt asks what you, in turn, will contribute to the school. Keep in mind that although the SOM wants to assemble a certain kind of incoming class overall—meaning, for example, one that is diverse, mirrors the school’s values, is intelligent and accomplished and so on—it is not looking for individual candidates that fit a specific mold. There is no “right” contribution, in other words, so the key here is to be honest. What strengths do you possess that would prove valuable in a business school setting? What is special about you or your background that could add a unique element to the SOM’s community?

Think carefully about your distinctiveness, and ask yourself, “In what instances and in what ways have I contributed in the past?” This surprisingly simple question should unlock a few possible answers. And in addition to skills and experience, consider character traits, such as a sense of humor, honesty, dependability and the like. Showing that you understand your own abilities and strengths is key, but to be most effective, tie these components of your profile to aspects of the SOM experience, explaining that you can make unique contributions in specific classes, clubs, events, etc. Given that you have only 450 words in which to respond to both this question and the “why Yale” query, showing that your contribution would relate directly to an element of the school’s program that you have already pinpointed in the first part of your essay would make adhering to the allotted word count more manageable and your final essay more cohesive.

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