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Yale School of Management Essay Analysis, 2017-2018

by mbaMission

How can you write essays that grab the attention of MBA admissions committees? With this thorough analysis, our friends atmbaMission help you conceptualize your essay ideas and understand how to execute, so that your experiences truly stand out.


The Yale School of Management (SOM) is staying the course this year with its single application essay, joining both Harvard Business School and Columbia Business School in using the same essay queries as last season. The school has made no modifications to its one prompt, whose 500-word limit does not offer a lot of room to make an impression on the admissions committee. Having commented last year in a Yale SOM blog post that the “seemingly simple and straightforward question” was composed with assistance from one of the school’s organizational behavior professors, Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions Bruce DelMonico added in a more recent post that the admissions committee “is interested not just in the commitment itself but also in how you [applicants] approach the commitment and the behaviors that support it.” Clearly, the Yale SOM has invested some truly purposeful effort into constructing a query that will reveal something specific from and about the individuals targeting its MBA program. In our Yale School of Management essay analysis, we explore how you can maximize your opportunity to shine with this forthright prompt…

Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made. (500 words maximum)

You may initially think that this prompt is rather narrow in scope, allowing you the 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 Yale School of Management 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.  

For a thorough exploration of the Yale School of Management 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.

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Yale School of Management MBA Essay Topic Analysis 2017-2018

We continue with our Essay Topic Analysis, as Yale SOM announced their MBA essay question for 2017-2018. For the second year running, Yale MBA hopefuls are required to respond to a 500-word essay about their biggest commitment.  Last year, Admissions Director Bruce DelMonico commented that the Yale MBA adcom developed this “seemingly simple and straightforward question” essay prompt in collaboration with a professor of organizational behavior at SOM.

 

Yale SOM MBA Essay Analysis

Let’s take a closer look at the 2017-2018 Yale SOM essay question:

Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made. (500 words maximum)

With such a broad, open-ended mandate, it’s important to impose a structure on the response.  Consider the main categories of what one can be committed to:

  1. An idea
  2. An organization
  3. A person

An Idea

The benefit of being committed to an idea is that it likely allows for the broadest approach to responding to the prompt, as an idea could be supported in one’s professional and personal lives.  For instance, perhaps you have been most committed to raising awareness of social injustice and have sought to introduce this in your office and community.  Or perhaps you are committed to lessening the environmental impact that humans have on our planet and you have pursued that commitment via volunteer work, initiatives at work, and changes in your personal life.  In short, it’s easy to see how commitment to an idea offers a broad array of possibilities to showcase various aspects of your candidacy.

One important note regarding commitment to an idea is that some individuals may gravitate towards religion or politics.  While these are clearly fair game in light of the question Yale SOM has posed, it’s important to remember that these can be sensitive topics (and that we typically advise candidates to tread carefully when broaching them).  In short, if religion or politics has been your priority, the key will be to focus on your actions and positive results as opposed to ideology.

An Organization

Before we look closely at a response around an organization, we want to remind our readers that organizations can be of a professional or community nature. In addition, because the question originates from a professor of organizational behavior, it likely makes sense to reflect on one’s efforts within a group or in conjunction with groups.  This would also afford the opportunity to showcase one’s leadership and teamwork skills—both desirable skills at MBA programs.  Candidates do not need to feel confined to the professional realm; Yale SOM, after all, does seek to “educate leaders for business and society.”  Perhaps you organized a community fundraiser or launched a community event—the key is to show how you engaged a group and led them to a positive result.

A Person

With regards to a person, it’s understandable that one’s go-to response would be a spouse or child; however, we would like to remind readers that taking this course may present some challenges.  First off, there are likely to be many other applicants following the same path with their essays, and that could make it harder for you to stand out in a crowded applicant pool.  Second, it may be a bit harder to speak to elements of your commitment to a significant other or child in a way that relates to your potential skills as a future business leader and ability to contribute to life at Yale SOM.  Of course, if you truly feel that the biggest commitment you have ever made has indeed been to a loved one, and that you can write about this in a compelling fashion, then by all means give it a shot.  With all that said, we would like to remind you that “a person” doesn’t have to be a loved one.  For instance, perhaps you have maintained a strong mentoring relationship either at work or in your community; detailing the interpersonal challenges of your relationship and ultimate success in achieving goals together could fit well here.  Once again, honesty is the best policy here, as the most compelling descriptions of commitment will stem from something or someone you are passionate about.

Things to Avoid

While we’ve covered what potential topics could be discussed, there are likely a couple of choices to avoid.  Namely, though it may be tempting, this essay should be limited to one commitment.  You may have multiple examples in support of an idea, but the theme should be singular. Additionally, ‘applying to business school’ or ‘pursuing an MBA’ as an answer should probably be avoided.  It is certainly a grueling process to apply to business school–and a big decision to commit to an MBA–but the adcom wants to get to know who you are, not just your passion for an MBA.  Also, remember that everyone applying to Yale SOM is theoretically making a commitment to an MBA, which would make it harder for you to stand out.

Final Thoughts & Structure

Underlying each of the aforementioned categories, consider what it means to be committed: overcoming challenges consistently and staying the course.  A commitment takes work, takes time and can take sacrifice or compromise.  Consider what made achieving your goal difficult (in other words, what made you want to walk away or give up on your commitment), but, ultimately, what made you stick with it (some sign of progress, the impact of the ultimate goal).  Finally, because this should be one’s “biggest” commitment, reflect on the scope and scale of the project.  Your commitment should be worthy of the moniker, “biggest.”

As for structure, 500 words is not a lot of space, so it should be used wisely.  Start with a concise and straightforward explanation of your commitment—ideally in a sentence or two.  Then, move onto the meat of the content, which should include examples that showcase how you are committed to the idea, organization or person you have chosen.  Space permitting, it would be nice to suggest how you would continue to pursue this commitment at Yale SOM and beyond.  The essay can then be wrapped up with a brief reiteration of your biggest commitment and the satisfaction you get from it.

Clear Admit Resources
Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s Yale SOM MBA essay topics. As you work on your SOM MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s Yale offerings:

Posted in: Essay Tips & Advice, Essay Topic Analysis, Essay Topics, Essays

Schools: Yale SOM

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