Tuesday Tips: Yale MBA Essay Tips for 2023-2024

The Yale School of Management has published its required MBA essay questions for the 2023-2024 admissions season. Today, we’re sharing our Yale MBA essay tips to help you create a positive impression through your application materials.  Consider the essay question carefully and research the Yale MBA admissions criteria. Yale’s MBA admissions blog is an excellent resource.

According to Bruce DelMonico and Laurel Grodman, Yale SOM’s assistant deans for admission, “Don’t try and predict what we’re looking for because we’re looking for so many different things, and it’s not any one thing. Don’t try and game it by thinking to yourself that you will stand a better chance if you present this profile or this background. Stick to who you are.”

Therefore, the required Yale MBA essay should clearly highlight your personal qualities and leadership qualities. In addition, you will need to make sure your resume and recommendations can answer any questions about your career and accomplishments. The optional essay is a place to add any additional context that would help to evaluate your application.

Stacy Blackman’s consulting team consists of consultants from every top school, including Yale SOM. Meet Kevin, who has served on the admissions committee at Yale School of Management.

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Yale MBA Essay Tips for 2023-2024

Essay: Sharing What Matters to You

We want to know what matters to you, and our essay question is designed to help us gain insight into your background, passions, motivations, responsibilities, ideals, identities, challenges, or aspirations, depending on where you take your response. To ensure that you’re able to write about something important to you, we offer you three essay prompts from which to choose:

This year Yale has offered three choices for the one required essay question. Each of the options is a behavioral essay question (tip-off word: “describe”). These essays require you to describe how you act in specific situations to predict your future behavior. One way to approach a behavioral essay question (or interview question) is to use the STAR framework. In short, you can set up your answer by first describing the Situation, explaining the Task that you needed to accomplish, describing the Action you took, and finally, the Result.

When choosing a topic for this essay, keep in mind Yale’s advice: “We find that the most compelling essays are the ones that are truly most important to you, so make sure that’s your guide in choosing what to write about; don’t try to guess what we’re looking for or what you think we want to hear.” If what is most important to you does not come immediately to mind, ask your friends and family. Another tip is to keep a notebook with you, and jot down ideas as you go about your day. Sometimes an idea will strike at unlikely times.

1) Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made. Why is this commitment meaningful to you and what actions have you taken to support it?

When you have determined what is most important to you, and it includes a commitment to a cause, organization, or person, this could be the right essay prompt.

Think about your past experiences, and think about what a commitment meant to you. Was it a job or an organization that you were involved in? Or, maybe your commitment relates to a value or a person. Using the STAR framework, what was your situation and what did you need to accomplish?

Provide detailed specifics about your commitment and why it qualifies as the biggest one you have ever made. What did you think or say? Describe the actions you took. How did you feel about the result? The commitment should be large enough to show the admissions committee at Yale SOM who you are and what motivates you.

Solo commitments might be appropriate since many MBA applicants are individual contributors. However, ideally, you will demonstrate how you work with others as a leader and team member. Leadership and commitment often go hand-in-hand because the best leaders commit to making the team and organization better.

Remember, Yale SOM students focus on making a difference in the world. The topic of this question demonstrates your values. Therefore, those values ideally include actions that impact the greater community. Regardless of whether you choose an individual or team commitment, make sure you show how it made a significant positive impact. Also, keep in mind the Yale SOM’s mission while writing this essay.

2) Describe the community that has been most meaningful to you. What is the most valuable thing you have gained from being a part of this community and what is the most important thing you have contributed to this community?

Contribution and personal growth are a theme of this essay prompt. If you have decided that a group or community means the most to you, choose this option. Your community could be where you grew up and formed your character. Or, you have found a community through shared interests or identities. A community could be centered at school or work.

Again, remember that making a difference is important to the Yale community. How did you do that for your community? And, what did you learn in turn? Ideally, you can describe a transformative moment or key character development.

3) Describe the most significant challenge you have faced. How have you confronted this challenge and how has it shaped you as a person?

Challenges are leadership crucibles and often shape your character going forward. Think about a time when you truly rose to the challenge and took on a leadership role. Of course, there is vast uncertainty in any challenge, and you were likely confused, discouraged, or frustrated. While that is perfectly normal, it is important to discuss how you turned those negative emotions into positive actions.

As with the other essay prompts, consider the STAR method. What was the Situation? And what Tasks were you expected to accomplish? What Action did you actually take, and how was the Result? Use concrete examples in each case to illustrate for the reader what you thought, felt, and did.

The challenge used in this essay should be significant, and the story should show growth for you. If the result was not entirely what you wanted, that’s completely fine. In that case, perhaps you learned something that was applied in a more successful result later. Remember that being yourself and sincerely describing who you are and what matters to you is the goal of this essay.

As former dean Edward A. Snyder once explained: “Yale SOM is persistent and disciplined in our efforts to connect to big issues, to integrate with Yale, to be distinctively global, and to work across all sectors. All of our efforts are guided by a strategy that accounts for how the world has changed over the last several decades and the implications for leadership. The success of our efforts depends entirely on extraordinary alignment and superior teamwork—internally and externally.”

Optional Information: It truly is optional

The Optional Information section is truly optional. It’s not an additional required essay – if no aspect of your application requires further explanation, you should leave this section blank. In most cases, we get all the information we need from the various components of your application and there is no need to complete this section.

However, if you think the Admissions Committee would benefit from a brief explanation regarding any aspect of your application, you may provide it in the Optional Information section. Your general approach should be that if there is something you feel is material to your candidacy that you are not able to include in another section of the application, put it here.

Here are some examples: Consider providing additional context if it will allow us to better understand your academic performance, promotions or recognitions, or other information that is not apparent from the rest of your application. If you’ve taken concrete steps to mitigate a weaker element of your application or have an accomplishment that does not fit anywhere else in the application, you might include that here. Note that you should use the specific prompts provided in the Work Experience section to address gaps in work experience or choice of recommender. And if you would like to provide additional details to expand on any information provided in the Background Information section, you’re encouraged to do so in the “Supplemental Detail” area within that section.

The Yale MBA optional essay is truly optional, and can help round out your profile if necessary. Note that Yale is not limiting the optional essay to only the typical issues that MBA programs are concerned about. Along with academics, and overall profile questions, you can highlight an accomplishment or recognition that did not appear elsewhere.

If you do answer this essay question, keep it factual and focused. Make sure you are not making excuses for any perceived weaknesses. Rather, proactively address them with concrete examples of action you have taken to mitigate them.

A note on word counts

The 500-word limit can be daunting. Don’t censor yourself on the first draft and limit what you write. Instead, start by describing each step of your accomplishment in detail. Describe what you did, the reaction of others, and your feelings. From there, cut out anything too detailed or superfluous to the story.

Once you have done that, you’ll find you can work within that 500-word maximum. Another great tactic is to use an outside reader because a new set of eyes can see what is most important to the story and streamline your essay.

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Stacy Blackman Consulting offers multiple services to meet your MBA application needs, from our All-In Partnership to test prep to hourly help with targeted tasks. Contact us today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant. Here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team.

With deadlines around the corner, you may be interested in the world-famous SBC Flight Test. Once a full set of application materials for your initial school have been drafted, but not finalized, the application will be sent to a former admissions committee member for a one-time review, adcomm style. You’ll have the benefit of a true admissions committee review while still having the ability to tinker and change.  You will receive written feedback within two business days after submitting.

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