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Yale SOM Essay Topic Analysis 2010-2011

Following the recent release of Yale SOM’s application essay topics for the coming admissions season, we wanted to take some time today to offer our commentary on the school’s questions.

Yale has made several changes from last year’s application.  Although candidates are still required to respond to the multi-prompt question on career goals, the school has made changes to the Personal Statements, as Question 4 is new to the application and Question 3, which was required last year, is now optional.  In choosing two of the four possible Personal Statements, applicants should note topic overlaps: Questions 1 and 3 inquire about candidates’ accomplishments, while Questions 3 and 4 ask about applicants’ leadership abilities.  Let’s take a look at each of these essays and consider how one might approach them when applying this season.

Short Answers

Please answer each of the four questions below with a short paragraph of no more than 150 words. This is an opportunity to distill your core ideas, values, goals and motivations into a set of snapshots that help tell us who you are, where you are headed, and why. (150 words maximum per question)

1. What are your professional goals immediately after you receive your MBA?
2. What are your long-term career aspirations?
3. Why are you choosing to pursue an MBA and why now? (If you plan to use your MBA experience to make a significant change in the field or nature of your career, please tell us what you have done to prepare for this transition.)
4. What attracts you specifically to the Yale School of Management’s MBA program?

Like last year, Yale uses four compartmental prompts to poll candidates about their professional plans and interest in the SOM.  At its heart, this is a fairly standard career goals/why MBA essay broken into sections of equal length – suggesting that the adcom is just as interested in the timing of a candidate’s application as it is in the reasons for his or her interest in Yale.

This structure does pose some challenges, as candidates will need to unpack in 150 words a topic that they might have covered in a single sentence in their applications for other schools (i.e. the “why now” issue), while distilling their discussion of their interest in Yale’s program to the same length.

As is the case with most schools, demonstrating an understanding of the unique merits of Yale’s program is crucial to an effective response to this question.  Taking the time to learn about the school’s curriculum, special programs and extracurricular activities – whether through a visit to campus, conversation with alumni or reading the Clear Admit School Guide to Yale SOM – will pay dividends here.

Personal Statements

Choose two (2) of the following topics and answer them in essay form. Please indicate the topic numbers at the beginning of your essays. (500 words maximum per essay)

1. What achievement are you most proud of and why?
This question leaves the door open for a wide range of examples; an applicant might discuss a major professional accomplishment or a more personal triumph.  The “why?” element of the question is a reminder that the adcom is not just interested in what was done, but the reason it is a source of ongoing pride for the candidate, so when selecting a subject for this essay, its significance will be a key element to keep in mind.  An example from the workplace could be a great topic if there was some important lesson learned, skill gained or impact made.  Meanwhile, a more personal anecdote could be quite beneficial if a candidate has some meaningful experience that could help him or her stand out from others and demonstrate distinguishing qualities that might not be evident elsewhere in the application.

2. What is the most difficult feedback you have received from another person or the most significant weakness you have perceived in yourself? What steps have you taken to address it and how will business school contribute to this process?
Moving from the focus on accomplishment in the previous question to one of improvement, this question pushes applicants to recount an anecdote detailing a growth and learning process.  This learning process is important because it can reflect maturity, flexibility, adaptability, and humility – all important qualities needed to work effectively in a team.  In answering this question, you should identify and explain the issue while also addressing how you reacted to it.  Demonstrating a mature response and desire to improve is important, and effectiveness in facilitating this improvement should be apparent.  This learning process needs to not only be something that you underwent but something that you can continue to build upon through Yale’s MBA program.  Once again, knowledge of Yale’s specific programs will be helpful, as you can pinpoint classes or extracurriculars that will contribute to your ongoing growth.

3. Describe an accomplishment that exhibits your leadership style. The description should include evidence of your leadership skills, the actions you took, and the impact you had on your organization.
This leadership-themed essay topic features an explicit focus on the individual and his or her unique approach. The follow-up prompt asking for evidence of one’s leadership skills and the specifics of the approach means that the key here is to show and not tell.  The accomplishment would ideally be one that highlights your initiative and drive, emphasizing your personal role while also placing the anecdote in the context of the big picture of a team effort. As the question also asks about overall impact, it will be important to provide a clear “after” picture, pinpointing what changes resulted or what organization elements improved.

4. An effective leader for business and society is one who is able to hear, understand and communicate with people from all segments of society. In order to educate such leaders, Yale SOM is committed to promoting diversity and creating a community that cultivates a wealth of perspectives. In this spirit, describe an instance when, as part of a team, you played a role in bringing together individuals with different values or viewpoints to achieve a common goal.

The question is new to Yale’s application this year and signals the adcom’s interest in how candidates may thrive not only within the diversity of Yale’s MBA class, but also within increasingly global business interactions.  When answering this prompt, candidates should highlight their ability to lead with an adaptable, empathetic, and/or open-minded nature.  It’s important that you are able to show how you worked with diverse individuals to find common ground, effectively move forward, and ultimately achieve your goal.  Although the last part of the prompt states that applicants should describe a time they were “part of a team,” the first sentence of the prompt implies that this essay is intended to gauge applicants’ leadership potential.  Therefore whether you were or were not the designated leader of the team, you should strive to highlight your leadership abilities in describing your work with the team.

5. For Reapplicants (answer this topic plus one of the other topics): What steps have you taken to improve your candidacy since your last application?
This is a standard essay asking reapplicants to identify how they have progressed over the past year and strengthened their candidacy (through refining career objectives, solidifying their academic performance, gaining further professional experience, etc.).

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Posted in: Essay Topic Analysis

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