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We hosted a question-and-answer session with several leading admissions officers earlier this year that featured Yale School of Management (SOM) Assistant Dean for Admissions Bruce DelMonico. Ever the straight shooter, Bruce told us that the SOM would not be changing its application essay prompt for this season. We likely should have just taken him at his word, but just to be sure, we waited to see whether Yale would indeed officially recommit to its single essay, and… it did! The school has made no modifications to its prompt. So, you have one 500-word essay with which to make an impression on the admissions committee. Here it is. . .
Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made. (500 words maximum)
Interested in learning how to tackle this year’s Yale SOM application essay? Watch the short video below before you continue reading the full analysis!
In a Yale SOM blog post about the school’s essay prompt, Bruce noted that this “seemingly simple and straightforward question” was composed with assistance from one of the program’s organizational behavior professors. Yale’s admissions committee clearly takes the application essay seriously and is being thoughtful about the types of behaviors it wants to see in the school’s students. In our online event, Bruce declared himself “agnostic” about whether applicants should discuss a personal commitment or a professional one. He notes that he is simply trying to gauge the level to which candidates commit themselves, rather than the context of the engagement: “We don’t have a preference for professional or personal accomplishments. . . . We are not making value judgments about what that commitment is, but it is more about how you approach that commitment, how you have demonstrated that commitment, and what sorts of behaviors underlie that commitment.”
You may initially think that this prompt is rather narrow in scope, allowing you space to share the story of just a single professional or community project and nothing more. Although you can certainly discuss your dedication to a particular project or cause, you are definitely not restricted to this approach. Consider this: you can also be committed to an idea (e.g., personal liberty) or a value (e.g., creating opportunity for others), and approaching your essay from this angle instead could enable you to share much more of and about yourself with the SOM admissions committee. For example, you might relate a few anecdotes that on the surface seem unrelated—drawing from different parts of your life—but that all support and illustrate how you are guided by a particular value. Or, to return to the example of personal liberty as a theme, you could show how you take control of your academic and professional paths, adhering steadfastly to your values and vision. Whatever you choose to feature as the focus of your commitment, your actions and decisions, manifest via a variety of experiences, must allow you to own it as a genuine part of who you are as an individual. Identifying a theme that you think no one else will ever use is not your goal here; presenting authentic anecdotes that powerfully support your selected theme is what is important.
However, if you prefer to focus on a single anecdote, the commitment you claim must be truly inordinate. Being particularly proud of an accomplishment is not enough to make it an effective topic for this essay. You need to demonstrate your constancy and dedication in the face of challenges or resistance, revealing that your connection to the experience was hard won. Strive to show that you have been resolute in following a sometimes difficult path and have doggedly stayed on course, citing clear examples to illustrate your steadfastness. Nothing commonplace will work here—you must make your reader truly understand your journey and leave him or her more impressed by your effort than the outcome.
Within its application, the Yale SOM also poses the following question:
How did you arrive at these career interests? How have you or how will you position yourself to pursue them? (250 words maximum)
Although this is not presented by the school as an official essay question, its length (at 250 words) and topic lead us to feel some guidance might be helpful with this submission. With this question, the admissions committee is essentially asking for some context for your professional aspirations, which typically involves some level of information about your work history, and wants to learn how you expect to use the Yale SOM experience and degree to move your forward on your path to achieving your goals.
Keep in mind that the admissions committee will already have your resume on hand to review, and this should provide the basic information as far as your previous positions/titles, responsibilities, and accomplishments. What the school is looking for here is the more personal side of the story—what has motivated you along the way and is motivating you still, prodding you to pursue an MBA as part of your efforts to continue on your chosen professional path. Kate Bothelho, associate director of admissions at the Yale SOM, offers this advice when considering your response: “You may want to think about the answers to questions such as ‘How did these interests develop?’ ‘What kind of exposure have you had to them?’ ‘What steps have you already taken to explore these interests?’ ‘What enables you to pursue them successfully?’”
Given that this prompt essentially covers some of the elements found in a typical traditional personal statement essay, we encourage you to download a free copy of the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which offers in-depth advice on how to address these sorts of topics and provides examples.
For a thorough exploration of the Yale SOM academic program/merits, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, academic environment, and other key features, check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Yale School of Management.
The Next Step—Mastering Your Yale SOM Interview: Many MBA candidates find admissions interviews stressful and intimidating, but mastering this important element of the application process is definitely possible—the key is informed preparation. To help you on your way to this high level of preparation, we offer our free Interview Primers. Download your free copy of the Yale School of Management Interview Primer today.