2012-2013 Yale SOM Essay Analysis
1. What prompted your decision to get an MBA? When did you realize that this was a step you wanted – or needed – to take? (150 words maximum)
Gotta love the 150-word prompt. It’s such a clear message from Yale to FOCUS your answer here on exactly what they’re looking for. If you knew you needed an MBA from an early age… there’s something weak about it. Many successful folks have achieved ludicrously huge things without an MBA. It’s MUCH cooler for you to have forged a path along which you realized the need for this crucial piece.
Key ingredients here:
- We need a HINT of your overall goal.
- We need a sense that you were proceeding along a path that didn’t necessarily lead straight to an MBA.
- We need a specific moment when you noticed a “glass ceiling” along your trajectory—a moment that made you realize that not only was an MBA necessary, but a means to an even BETTER version of what you had ever intended.
150 words is no joke. You’re gonna need to be insanely accurate and to the point. Two lean paragraphs most likely.
2. Describe a difficult professional decision you had to make. What were the consequences, and what, if anything, did you learn? Would you make the same decision again? (300 words maximum)
What makes a decision difficult? Well, the blurriness between the multiple OUTCOMES. The classic example is the President’s dilemma of sacrificing a small group of innocents in order to protect a much larger group of innocents. The choices may be clear and simple enough to distinguish, but the OUTCOMES and the CONSEQUENCES of those outcomes is where the dilemma is truly born. If in your example, there was only ever one choice—it’s not really a difficult decision. There needs to be some kind of pros-and-cons debate that plagued your brain. The key to this question is bringing us into that exact conversation. Give us the pros of Choice A along with the cons. And then contrast that with the pros of Choice B and the cons of Choice B. What made it a difficult choice to begin with? We need this in a big way to appreciate the DECISION you made, which led to XX consequences. Three part structure here (important):
- The situation—walking us through the various OUTCOMES. [75-100 words]
- The internal DEBATE—walking us through how YOU were weighing the various choices and showing us how you THINK. [100-125 words]
- The decision—the consequences and what you learned. [100 words]
3. The Yale School of Management provides a leadership education characterized by broad-minded 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 will you contribute to the Yale SOM community, and how will being part of it help you extend your professional vision? (300 words maximum)
Hmm, this is a fancy (roundabout) way of asking “define your value” and “show us how the collision of your value + Yale = improved success in your future.” Really, this is a chemistry equation. We wanna know about a particular substance (you) and what happens when you drop that substance into a particular environment (Yale). What’s the outcome? Well, we know the outcome already, and can work backwards from there. The outcome is this: a BETTER version of your future success than it would have been WITHOUT a Yale MBA.
So, let’s now move to the constant: you. You and your value are fixed. Let’s define it. What is it? Where do we see it? How does it manifest itself in the work place? How is it uniquely yours? Now, once we identify it, we’re gonna present it by describing its value in the CONTEXT of the Yale community. So, it isn’t just describing the value in a vacuum… now we’re gonna show how it (you) enriches the community at Yale. Show us how. Paint us a picture. Sell us on that idea.
Now, the variable in the equation is the environment you’re dropped into. Presumably, you’re gonna be successful no matter what. But we need to imagine that you’re gonna be an 8 at School A, a 9 at School B, a 7 at School C, and a perfect 10 at YALE. What is it about the collision of YOU and YALE that enables you to achieve a greater version of success? What’s the Yale-specific stuff that promotes you further along your pathway?
Let’s consider a three part structure here:
- VERY brief snapshot of your future goals. More importantly, what type of environment (MBA environment) is necessary for you to bring out your VALUE. Establish this by way of showing us evidence in your past that you flourish in an A, B, C type of environment.
- NOW walk us through the ways in which YALE embodies these qualities, and how it’s gonna bring out those qualities in you.
- Finally, explain that synergy further, by indicating what happens when you are introduced TO that environment.
There are three parts here, and frankly, they are somewhat interchangeable. Play around with it, try to include those elements, and figure out which structure leads to the strongest overall effect.
4. What do you consider to be your most significant accomplishment? Why? (300 words maximum)
Do not give the “why” short shrift here. How come? Because there’s something to learn about your “might” in the way you introspect and self-assess. It’s important ALSO because it gives us the sense that you made a choice here… among many accomplishments. For there to have been some thought into what was most significant implies that you’re a badass. If you allude to it in one measly sentence at the end, we may conclude that you had only one thing to talk about… oh, no.
So, here’s how we’re gonna approach this sucker. Not by choosing one, but by seriously listing three to five viable contenders first. Indicating for each one, what made them NOTEWORTHY. Go through this exercise. Think through what made each accomplishment that makes this list special and impressive. Yeah… impressive. At this stage, we are absolutely thinking along those lines. You’re trying to demonstrate your MIGHT to someone, which three to five accomplishments do you bring up?
Okay, now choose the one that is somehow the MOST SIGNIFICANT of those choices. Without giving it much thought, explain why you chose it—in fact, write it down immediately. Unfiltered, sloppy grammar and all, scribble it down if you have to… but quickly explain WHY you chose the one you chose. Study your response—does that capture it? Close enough? This is the germ of your essay.
The trick to this one is to FIRST identify the value of the accomplishment beyond the intrinsic value. What did it mean in a bigger sense with respect to your growth, your confidence, the way it shaped/defined your goals, etc? Yes, of course, walk us through the challenges and the “what you did” piece as you would normally, but only do so AFTER you’ve identified the other stuff, ‘cuz it’s all gonna be related.
- One interesting way to open… give us a hint of a FEW accomplishments. Or at least give us a sense of the TYPES of choices you had. Then land on one. This is setup—and it’s important as you’ll see in a second. [75-100 words]
- Walk us through the challenge, the objective, and the things you did to achieve what you achieved. Remembering (always) to indicate how YOU brought something special to the table. [100-125 words]
- Now, explain why you chose this one, and how it fits into a bigger story about what kind of “accomplisher” you are. Why talk about this one, what does this mean for your future? [75 words]
Reapplicants to Yale SOM must respond to Question 1 and Question 4, and then compose a response to the following question:
What steps have you taken to improve your candidacy since your last application? (300 words maximum).
Ah, the Reapplicant Essay. We’ve already covered this one in great detail, so check it out here.