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Admissions Director Q&A: Bruce DelMonico of the Yale School of Management

In our continuing series of interviews with admissions directors at top MBA programs, we recently caught up with Yale School of Management (SOM) Admissions Director Bruce DelMonico. A lawyer by training, DelMonico grew tired of sleeping in his office and traveling for weeks on end, so in October 2004 he joined Yale SOM as deputy director of admissions in his native New Haven, Connecticut. He assumed the role of admissions director in November 2006.

There are lots of things to be excited about in the coming year at Yale SOM, DelMonico tells us. Of particular note: the arrival of a new dean in July and the construction of a new state-of-the-art campus. And then, just in the week since we reconnected with DelMonico, there’s also been the tidbit of news about a $10 million gift from investor Wilbur Ross, which will fund the new campus library.

Read on to learn more about what DelMonico is looking forward to most, as well as his advice on how best to tackle the Yale SOM essays. One tip: “Simpler is better,” he says.

Clear Admit: What is the single most exciting development, change or event happening at Yale SOM this coming year?Bruce DelMonico: Not to be cliché, but there truly are so many exciting things happening here at Yale SOM right now that it’s tough to choose. If I can take a slight liberty and mention two things, I would say that the most exciting developments right now are the arrival of Ted Snyder this upcoming July as our new dean and the construction of our new campus just a block or so away from our current location.

We’ve been very fortunate to have Dean Oster lead us for the past few years – and are even more fortunate that she will continue her first love of teaching here at SOM after her term concludes at the end of June. The school has maintained a strong upward trajectory under her leadership, and we look forward to Dean Snyder bringing his considerable skills to bear in continuing – and even accelerating – this trajectory.

At the same time, construction has begun on our new state-of-the-art campus that was designed by the firm of Yale School of Architecture graduate Lord Norman Foster. Although we are very fond of our current home among the stately mansions here on leafy Hillhouse Avenue, the new building is incredibly impressive and we think will only heighten the classroom and community experiences here at Yale. So those are two big developments happening right now at Yale.

CA: Walk us through the life of an application in your office from an operational standpoint. What happens between the time an applicant clicks “submit” and the time the committee offers a final decision (e.g. how many “reads” does it get, how long is each “read,” who reads it, does the committee convene to discuss it as a group, etc.).

BD: After an applicant submits an application, we make sure it is complete by adding to it any supplemental materials that were submitted separately. Once it’s complete, we send it out to read. Most applications receive two independent reads by different members of the Admissions Committee.

Applications are read in random order and, as a result, applicants can be invited to interview at any time in the round. Applicants also can be invited to interview at any point in the admissions process – whether early in the round after a preliminary review of the file or later in the round after a first or second read (or, in some instances, after coming before the Admissions Committee).

Once an application receives two reads and, if applicable, an interview, it comes to the Admissions Committee for a decision. The Admissions Committee meets regularly throughout the year to make decisions. Admissions decisions are made collectively by the Admissions Committee using a consensus decision-making model – all members of the committee must agree on the decision.

Although we try to release decisions as soon as possible and may release some decisions before the posted decision deadline, the majority of candidates will learn the outcome of their application on or a little before the deadline date. Because applications are reviewed in random order, the timing of an admissions decision is not an indication of the final outcome.

CA: How does your team approach the essay portion of the application specifically? What are you looking for as you read the essays? Are there common mistakes that applicants should try to avoid? One key thing they should keep in mind as they sit down to write them?

BD: The essay portion of the application is certainly an important one because other than the interview, it is the main place where an applicant speaks directly to us in their own voice. It is also the one element over which an applicant has the most control during the application process – their GMAT and undergraduate records are already in place by the time they apply, as is their work experience. And once they select their recommenders and send them the recommendation form, that is out of the applicant’s hands as well. Applicants therefore often feel that spending more time on their essays is the main way they can improve their application. As a result, essays tend to cause applicants a lot of stress. But they really shouldn’t, and I think if applicants took the approach that less is more – or, perhaps, simpler is better – they would be far better off.

To this end, the main piece of advice I would give applicants on essays is very simple: answer the question. Too often, we will read essays in which the applicant has something to say, but it bears no relation – or just tangential relation – to the essay question. We give applicants a good bit of leeway in terms of essay topics, but we do expect them to stick to the topic.

A related piece of advice is not just to answer the question, but to do it clearly and concisely. Don’t feel as though more is better. Beyond the substance of what you write, we are looking to make sure you can articulate yourself clearly and directly in writing, so keeping it simple is a good thing. We know this isn’t an essay-writing contest, so we’re not going to get hung up on stylistic niceties. Just tell us what you want to say.

Which brings me to the last piece of advice, which is to write what’s important to you. Many times, applicants will write what they think we want to hear. It’s clear when this is the case. We care about sincerity and are not looking for you to tell us what you think we want to hear; we want to hear what’s most important to you. If you write about what matters to you, your essays will not only be more compelling, but they will likely be written more clearly as well because it’s easier to write about things that matter to you.

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Posted in: Admissions Director Q&A

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