An Interview With Yale SOM’s Admissions Gatekeeper

Yale SOM’s relatively new ultra-modern home has played a role in the boom

Byrne: Interesting. So how does the dual mission of the school to produce leaders for both the private and the public sector impact the MBA experience?

DelMonico: I think a lot of different ways. That founding mission informs pretty much everything we do, and it speaks not just to the kinds of careers people have, but also to the people we admit.  Like a lot of business schools, most of our graduates, about a third, go into consulting, about 20% go into finance, investment banking, investment management, and technology and elsewhere down the line. We have a significant number that go into the social sector, the public sector, I think higher than other schools. So there’s that piece of it.

But I think it affects the experience itself. I think people who are mission-oriented, they’re thinking not just about the private sector but the public sector, the non-profit sector, and how they’re interrelated. Our cases are structured in a multi-sector way. They’re also very global in nature, so we’re trying to teach our students to be very broad-minded about how they approach things. I think that that spirit informs how our students engage with each other and how they think about their careers. It’s not just about what kind of benefits can I gain for myself, but what kind of impact I can have.

Even people who are going into the private sector, going into consulting, they might be doing social sector consulting, but they might be doing management consulting but thinking about it in a different way. They might be going into investment banking but thinking about it in a different way because of the things they learned, the values that they acquired or were able to accentuate at Yale.

Byrne: So, Bruce, for someone who wants to take advantage of applying and getting into Yale SOM, can you give me three things that they should do to prepare a good application?

DelMonico: I would start by saying is that we have such a diverse student body. We’re not looking for any one thing in an application in terms of you have to have this background or this experience or this aspect to your profile, and lost of people, they’re attracted to us for different reasons. But the three things would include my advice to “be yourself” which I think sounds like a platitude. It sounds very trite. But it’s true.

Byrne: In other words, don’t create a false persona for the admissions people reading your application or interviewing you.

DelMonico: Exactly.

Byrne: Be who you are.

DelMonico: And not just for us but for any school. I think there’s a sense that some schools fall into a category like finance, marketing, or operations and applicants think they need to present themselves a different way to different schools. That might’ve been the case years ago, but at this point, every school is looking for diversity, looking for different backgrounds they bring together so that people can learn from each other. So I think presenting who you are in a various or genuine way is key. Don’t try and shade it one way or the other, depending on what you think the school wants to see.

There’s a game-theory component to this in the sense that if you think that you need to present yourself one way to one school, other people are probably doing the same thing and you end up looking less like yourself and more like everybody else, so it’s not a great strategy.

Another thing I would say is don’t hide from your weaknesses. Obviously, you want to accentuate your strengths and the reasons why we should accept you, but we know that nobody’s perfect. We know there’s no such thing as an ideal candidate who has no flaws. If you didn’t have any flaws, you wouldn’t be trying to go to business school. You wouldn’t have anything to gain from it.

It’s not as though you should lead with your weaknesses, but I think if there are things that you think we might have questions about if it’s work gaps or transitions or at your academic background, you should be upfront about them. We see lots of applications, we read thousands every year. We’ll see it and we’ll come up with some probably less charitable explanation for it if you don’t explain it yourself. So helping us contextualize it, helping to explain it and maybe having it be a reason why you want to go to business school can be an important aspect of the process.

Byrne: And number three?

DelMonico: It sounds very simple, very straightforward, but follow the directions. Every school is looking for a lot of the same things but some different things and asking somewhat different questions. Repurposing an essay for one school and submitting it for another, schools can see that, as an example.

It’s an involved process. It’s a challenging process to apply to business schools, but hopefully, it will be a process that’ll be one of thoughtfulness, one of self-reflection and hopefully you will learn more about yourself through the process and know more about yourself after the process than you did beforehand.

Investing in the process, really giving into the process and spending the time to do it the right way, as opposed to trying to cut corners. I think that does make a big difference.

Byrne: All good ideas. Bruce, thank you.

DelMonico: Thank you.


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