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How Yale SOM Crashed The M7 Party

Yale University’s School of Management

For Amy Saltzman, it really came down to three business schools: Wharton, Dartmouth Tuck, and Yale University’s School of Management. When she was mulling over those choices, at least seven out of ten people urged her to go to Wharton. After all, it was the higher ranked school with the most well-known MBA program.

“I got a lot of opinions,” recalls the 29-year-old Saltzman. “The whole process is filled with self-doubt and self-reflection, and my initial gut instinct said it had to be Wharton. Was that even a question? Besides, Yale had not been on my radar before. But I visited the program, saw how global and diverse it was. It was such an eclectic group of students that I felt it was really unique.”

She turned down both Wharton and Tuck and has never looked back. After spending four and one-half years in international development in China and two years at a nonprofit in New York, Saltzman became part of SOM’s Class of 2018. “It really came down to what kind of people did I want to shape and inform my opinions about business and the world and what kind of person I wanted to be coming out of school,” she says.

SOM HAS MORE APPLICANTS PER SEAT THAN MOST PEER SCHOOLS

It’s a sign of the times. The top three undergraduate universities have long been known by the shorthand HYP (Harvard, Yale and Princeton), while the top three business schools have gone by the acronym HSW, obviously meaning Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton. In recent years, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business has come on so strong that many think the W has fallen off the acronym. Given the momentum of Yale’s School of Management, however, it could very well become HSY in the not too distant future.At the very least, SOM has crashed the M7 party, the term used to describe the magnificent seven best MBA programs in the world.

True, Yale only solidly broke into the Top Ten of U.S. MBA programs a year ago when it placed ninth. But the school has formidable momentum. Regardless of the rankings–which consider a wide variety of metrics, including those that hardly measure changes in quality–all indications are that SOM has decisively turned a corner under Dean Edward ‘Ted’ Snyder. Since his arrival in July of 2011, applications to the school’s MBA program are up a whopping 46%, more than any other peer school, at a time when applications to two-year MBA programs have generally declined.

With a 13% increase in the latest admissions cycle, Yale SOM has for the first time received more than 4,000 applications, or roughly 4,114 applicants, for its 340 seats. There are now more applicants per classroom seat at Yale, 12.3 candidates for every available classroom slot, than Harvard (10.4), Columbia (9.9), Kellogg (9.6), Wharton (7.8), or Chicago Booth (7.0).

THE ACADEMIC QUALITY OF ITS LATEST INCOMING CLASS WAS JUDGED SECOND BEST

But it’s not merely a numbers game. The overall quality of Yale’s applicant pool has shown steady and remarkable improvement, from visible and less visible metrics. The average GMAT of the entire applicant pool this year exceeded 700 for the first time at 702, a 14-point improvement over the 688 five years earlier in 2012. The average undergraduate GPA for the entire pool hit 3.49 last year, up from the 3.40 in 2012. Meantime, the average GMAT for the enrolled class hit a record 725 last year, up from 720 in 2012, while the average GPA for incoming students was 3.63, better than 3.54 in 2012 (see table on next page).

“We’ve always attracted top candidates to Yale SOM, but what has struck me over the past several years is the depth of the applicant pool, which means that there really is no ‘tail’ to the class anymore,” says Bruce DelMonico, director of MBA admissions. “Deciding who to admit among this deep pool of candidates has been an increasingly difficult task, but it is certainly a good problem to have and one we take very seriously.”

When U.S. News published its latest MBA ranking earlier this year, in fact, the magazine informed the school that it ranked second (behind only Stanford) in the academic quality of its students on a composite GMAT/GRE score, which is used in U.S. News‘ ranking calculations (this data is only disclosed to the schools and not publicly available but Poets&Quants has confirmed the U.S. News calculation.) That’s especially significant because Yale SOM boasts among the highest percentages of enrolled students who take the GRE, 22%. That’s more than three times Columbia Business School (7%) or more than twice as many as Wharton (9%), a testament to the broader range of intellectual interests and academic backgrounds that make up SOM’s student body.

TOTAL MEDIAN PAY FOR SOM GRADS NOW EXCEEDS THOSE AT COLUMBIA, MIT & CHICAGO

Current students say they can actually see the improvement in their classmates and the responses they’re getting from potential employers. “In my two years here, people really feel that the quality of the class has consistently improved,” says Bernier Lauredan Jr., a second-year MBA who will graduate this month. Recruiters are telling us they are more and more interested in SOM talent. You feel it. Every class seems to be raising the bar.”

And even though SOM places 6% of its class into non-profit and public sector jobs where the pay is significantly lower, the total median compensation packages of $148,761 landed by SOM graduates last year was roughly equal to those achieved by graduates of Wharton where just 2.3% go into social impact jobs and more than MBAs from many other prestige schools, including Columbia, MIT Sloan, Chicago Booth, and UC-Berkeley Haas.

Some admitted SOM applicants, concedes Lauredan, will sometimes ask him why so few graduates are hired by a specific gold-plated company, not taking into account the fact that the size of Yale’s graduating 340-student class is little more than a third of Harvard (930) and less than half of Wharton (850), or Columbia (780). “Our interests are much more diverse and our class size is much smaller,” says Lauredan, who helped to organize SOM’s Welcome Weekend as admissions chair of the student government group. “I never felt like I was at a disadvantage by not being at another school. SOM is becoming a much bigger part of the success of Yale as an institution. So you can tap into Yale College and Yale Law School We’re right up there in terms of what you can achieve and what you can get.”

Meet the Dean of Yale SOM, Ted Snyder, at the CentreCourt MBA Festival in New York on May 20