The MBA Gatekeeper At Yale SOM

Bruce DelMonico runs MBA admissions at Yale SOM

Here are three important rules to follow in an admissions interview for the Yale University School of Management MBA program:

1. Sit up straight

2. Be yourself

3. Don’t throw pencils at the interviewer

Easy, yes? Maybe not.

But there’s no need to worry, necessarily, about a little misstep in the application process. Maybe you slouched during the interview, or asked a dumb question. Maybe in your essays you didn’t articulate your goals well. Maybe, in the interview, that pencil somehow got away from you. Yale SOM admission officers will likely notice your mistakes (definitely, in the event of a flying pencil), but unless the problem is egregious, instead of heading to the shredder with your application, they’ll probably ask this question: ‘Can you be fixed?’

“We talk about coachable versus non-coachable errors,” says Bruce DelMonico, assistant dean and director of SOM admissions. “We might have discussion in the committee room and it might depend on the specifics of the individual candidate. It might depend on their profile, it might have to do with some cultural norms. It’s not that single data point in the abstract. Does it support other things we’re seeing and other reservations we have? Or is it something we would see as an outlier? A single data point might be viewed differently depending on the rest of the overall profile.”

THE UGLY DUCKLING APPLICATION

Still, the fact that most applications are fairly pristine makes those that are not stand out, DelMonico says.

Endeavoring to avoid making mistakes in the application process is undoubtedly a good idea. But when it comes to presenting yourself as a whole, you need to reveal the flaws. “You’re applying to business school for a reason – what are you trying to get out of it?” DelMonico says. “What are you trying to improve? We recognize that there’s no such thing as a perfect candidate, and I think applicants try to compare themselves to that perfect candidate, and think that, ‘If I show any weakness, if I’m not perfect in every way, I’m not going to be admitted.’”

To be sure, it’s getting harder to get into the Yale MBA program. The most recent application cycle, for the Class of 2017, saw a 25% increase in submissions over the previous cycle, while enrollment increased by only three students.

Yale SOM Metrics from classes of 2015-2017

ClassClass of ’17Class of ’16Class of ’15
Students326323291
Women40%37%39%
International students40%39%32%
Median GMAT720720720
Middle 80% GMAT range690-760680-760690-740
Median undergrad GPA3.63.563.6
80% undergrad GPA range3.23-3.883.17-3.873.36-3.8

Source: Yale School of Management

The SOM has also boosted its percentage of international students over the past two years, from 32% for the Class of 2015 to 39% for the Class of 2016, to 40% for the Class of 2017. “We feel that we are the most global U.S. business school, and it’s not possible to be global when you don’t have a global student body,” DelMonico says, attributing the emphasis on international diversity to Dean Edward Snyder, who came to Yale in 2011 from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. “It’s been a concerted effort under Dean Snyder’s leadership to really increase our global footprint, our global composition.”

NO ‘MAGIC REASONS’ THAT IMPRESS THE ADCOM

DelMonico, who has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from Brown University and the University of Texas-Austin, respectively, worked as a lawyer for seven-and-a-half years before coming to Yale. He has spent almost a dozen years in the SOM admissions office, holding the position of director since 2006. And although autocorrect changes his name to “Demonic,” he’s actually quite amiable, and generous with advice. In the Q&A that follows, DelMonico describes how closely application materials are analyzed, and reveals the “wrinkles” applicants must be able to explain. He provides a simple tip to help ensure application essays don’t contain typos. He explains how certain metrics, a GMAT quant score, for example, may be looked at differently depending on the background of the applicant. He advises that he’s quite tickled to receive a letter addressed to himself from a former U.S

. president, but if that former leader of the free world is writing a recommendation letter for you, and doesn’t know you well, the words will mean little. And DelMonico reveals whether the school will continue to expand the number of MBA students.

DelMonico isn’t looking for “magic reasons” why an applicant wants to come to the Yale SOM. He wants a diverse group of highly intelligent, interesting people who believe in the school’s mission to educate leaders for business and society, people who can show themselves for who they are – and hold onto the pencil.

Next page: Q&A with Bruce DelMonico, head of admissions at the Yale School of Management