The MBA Gatekeeper To Yale’s School of Management

What’s new in MBA admissions at Yale? What has changed in terms of what kind of people you are looking for as a result of the arrival of Ted Snyder as Dean? 

He’s actually been very clear that he does not want to us to change dramatically. He is pleased with the quality of students we’re getting and the type of students we’re getting. We have tried to shade things a little bit in the sense that he does want to emphasis our global initiatives and the global network. He did notice that the percentage of students from outside the U.S. is lower at Yale relative to some of our peer schools. So he wanted to make sure we have somewhat higher representation of international students. So for the incoming class, we went from  27% to 32%. I think we are still on the low end of our peers but not by much. More importantly, we’ve expanded our international outreach. We were up 10% in applications last year and the increase was evenly distributed between domestic and international applications so it wasn’t bunched in any region.

What do you think accounted for your double-digit rise in applications?

It has to do with the momentum of the school. With Dean Snyder’s initiatives, he has been very good with the global network and aligning ourselves more closely with the university. He is also very good at helping up articulate what we are doing. The school for a long time has been very good about doing things but we haven’t been all that good about promoting ourselves. He has been very good about sharpening the message and that makes a difference. The new building, too, plays into it. It is getting closer and closer. It’s physically taking shape and people can now see it. I think that can make a difference. We did do some things on our end to sharpen our outreach and make sure we were helping people move through the process more easily.

Yale is one of the world’s best educational brands so it must help the School of Management immensely, right?

I think that’s right. Globally, there are certain countries, including China, where Yale is among the top brands.

What is the size of the incoming class now?

The class that just started earlier this month is at 291 and the second-year, rising class is 249. We are scaling up in anticipation of the move to the new building.

You were at a 21.3% acceptance rate in the previous year. What did the increase do to your selectivity?

It’s pretty much the same, given the increase in applications and we also increased our yield a little bit.

And how many are you looking for this next year?

The ultimate goal was to proceed in a stepwise manner from the low 200s up to 300 over a number of years. Actually, the goal this past year started out at 260 to 265. But we had such a good applicant pool that we were able to get to 290 easily. So I think we’re looking to go straight to 300 this year. We would like to at least stay at 290 and maybe add that last ten or so to get up to 300.

When you started as admissions director nine years ago what was the size of the entering class?

We were in the low 200s, about 220 I believe. When the integrated curriculum was introduced, we dropped a cohort, going from four to three cohorts in 2006. That was the Class of 2008 when we went below 200 to 190 or so. The idea was to create some additional faculty slack because there was the feeling that early on there would be  more effort required to perfect the teaching. Once the school felt comfortable that everything was working well, we introduced the fourth cohort again.

So who makes for the ideal Yale MBA candidate?

A lot of what we are looking for is overlapping. We are all looking for people who are academically strong, with great work experience. We tend to define that very similarly to a large degree. A high test score is always better than a low test score. We are all looking at those dimensions. When candidates ask how can I stand out, one of the things I point to is tying into the integrated curriculum and the way the school is trying to be distinctively global. We have a model of leadership and a multi-sector mission for business and society. We tend to want people who have a broader perspective, who are not narrowly focused but can make connections across functions and disciplines. It’s not to the exclusion of people who have achieved excellent in a very narrow area. But even if they have done that, they have a broad mindedness that will allow them to have an elevated leadership approach.

How does an applicant demonstrate that broader perspective in an application?

You can signal that in your essays but in your transcripts as well. For example, someone who has taken all their classes in one area tends to signal something different than someone who has tried to stretch themselves and take classes outside of their comfort areas. Their work experience is also an indicator. You can tell what functions they’ve worked in and how they have approached them. We can see if they have been successful in branching out of a narrow role. We know that depending on the organization that might not be possible.

There is an impression, largely by admission consultants, that Yale puts more weight than many top business schools on GMAT scores. Is that true?

I don’t think so. We have gotten that rap. If you look at our scores, they have been among the top handful of schools. We probably were higher than many schools at some point but when you look now we are in the range of all the top schools. Knowing the process and how we look at applicants i would say it’s an important element but I don’t know we overly emphasize it. It’s certainly not to the exclusion of other aspects of the application.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.