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In a blog post announcing this year’s admissions essay question, Yale School of Management (SOM) Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions Bruce DelMonico remarked that the school was pleased with the question it used last year and would therefore be posing it to this season’s applicants as well.
Our essay analysis will likewise have few changes, for obvious reasons. As we noted last year, the Yale SOM’s single essay approach is rather restrictive. So if you are thinking about applying, you had better make sure your resume is clear and compelling, your recommendations are replete with examples and exhibit your distinctiveness, you offer your best and most comprehensive self via your interview, and you carefully consider each of the school’s short-answer questions. These are all important tasks with any application, of course, but they merit extra attention with respect to Yale, because 500 words is simply not enough room to reveal your diverse achievements. In writing your one essay, you have a very important choice to make, because those few words will shape much of your initial qualitative impression. Our analysis follows…
Yale School of Management Essay 1: The Yale School of Management educates individuals who will have deep and lasting impact on the organizations they lead. Describe how you have positively influenced an organization as an employee, a member, or an outside constituent. (500 words maximum)
As we have noted, you are quite limited with the Yale SOM application essay, so you will have to think very carefully about which experience to showcase. As the question makes clear, you must provide evidence of positive influence and enduring impact. This does not mean, however, that you must have reshaped an entire organization. If you helped revamp your firm’s hiring function, thereby influencing future hiring, or shifted a key thinker’s strategy, thereby triggering a ripple effect that yielded positive results, or added an important feature to a product, thereby making it a revenue driver, then you have doubtlessly had an impact. In other words, Yale is not expecting CEO-level influence from you, but it is expecting that you have made a mark of some kind within your sphere. Of course, if you actually have led the overhaul of an entire organization, that is great—but, again, it is not a requirement.
To create a strong essay, put your reader in the middle of the action quickly. With just 500 words, you will not have enough room to expound on your organization’s background and its failures or needs. Instead, launch immediately into your narrative, presenting the problem you worked to solve or the opportunity you tried to seize. Then focus on how you conducted yourself on your way to positively influencing affairs and making an enduring impact—how you ultimately solved that problem or seized that opportunity. And, as regular readers of our essay analyses know, you must show that the path to your victory was a bumpy one, because if the whole thing was a slam dunk from the beginning, your story will lack dramatic tension—your reader will finish with a “big deal” shrug.
You must very clearly show “lasting impact,” which means you should not be afraid to carry your story through to its end. For example, revamping a firm’s hiring can have many ripple effects in terms of attracting employees who are better fits and leading to improved performance for both a team and the firm overall. Do not brag, but do not be too modest, either. Be fair to yourself and present the full story of your accomplishment, all the way to its logical conclusion. If your essay is humble (because of its narrative approach, it has to be!), your reader will gladly follow you there.
For a thorough exploration of the Yale SOM’s academic program, merits, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, and other valuable resources, please check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Yale School of Management.
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