Yale SOM application tips: How to pass one of the world’s toughest admissions processes

Planning on applying to Yale School of Management at one of their upcoming intakes? MBAGRADSCHOOLS has got you covered. In this article, we take a deep dive into the process to give you our top Yale SOM application tips on how to approach one of the world’s toughest business schools to get into.

In short

What areas does Yale SOM’s application process look at?

Yale School of Management looks at seven areas when considering an application:

  1. Academic profile
  2. Professional experience
  3. Essay
  4. Video questions
  5. Behavioral assessment
  6. In-person interviews
  7. Scholarships and financial aid

Let’s take a closer look at each component…

1. Academic profile

Yale School of Management looks into every applicant’s academic profile to get an idea of their future potential for success. The evidence they work with is academic transcripts as well as GMAT or GRE scores. 

Showing transcripts can come as a shock to some students who, for whatever reason, have ended up with a relatively low GPA. However, Yale investigates further than just your overall GPA. As Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions, Bruce DelMonico, says, “We look at all elements of your academic background to get a sense of how academically prepared we feel you are for the program.” (17:08)

Similarly, there’s no problem if you’re coming from a non-US background. Yale SOM’s admission process understands how every international system works, so foreign students are not at a disadvantage.

2. Professional experience

Yale analyzes your professional experience for much the same reasons as your academic profile. They can get a rough idea of your future professional performance based on indicators from your career until now. They do this by reviewing your resume and letters of recommendation:


One main takeaway from the professional experience section is to not rush your resume. Bruce went into detail, saying, “I think you want to be very careful and very thoughtful about how you prepare and how you present your resume.” (20:55

Here are our top Yale SOM application tips for your CV:

  • Keep it to one page.
  • Highlight tangible accomplishments.
  • Focus on strategic or leadership opportunities.
  • Briefly describe the organizations you worked for and include a link to their website.
  • Include a short section on interests and activities.

Two letters of recommendation

The second part of the professional experience section requires two letters of recommendation. Yale SOM is only interested in those above you professionally, unlike other business schools that often ask for character references from an individual who is more junior than you. Bruce DelMonico says, “We ask that one be from your current supervisor and another be from another individual who’s more senior to you, whether at your current work or previous work.” (23:12)

Don’t worry if you’re in a position where you can’t ask for a recommendation from your supervisor – for example, if you haven’t announced your decision to leave a job. You can explain that in the personal essay section, which we’ll look at shortly. 

3. Essay

Writing a personal essay is a key part of your application as it shows an aspect of your character in-depth. It reveals an essential part of you as a person and gives Yale an insight into how you react in a given situation. 

The question varies from year to year, but we’ll focus on the current essay question at the time of this writing: “Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made.” Based on his past experience, DelMonico explains, “I think people find it to be…challenging because it is very open-ended, but also thought-provoking and it really requires you to reflect and self-assess and think deeply about what that commitment is, but more importantly, how you’ve demonstrated that commitment.” (24:56)

While the question may be different when you come to apply, our Yale SOM application tips can be contextualized as a guide:

  • Concentrate on one commitment, not a group.
  • Choose either personal or professional.
  • Describe efforts toward your commitment, not the commitment itself.

All essay questions relate to the values held at Yale. Knowing this can work as a guide as you structure your piece.

4. Video questions

Originally designed as an English language test, video questions are now also a way to demonstrate you have even more strings in your bow. You receive three randomized, previously recorded questions from an admissions team member which are similar to regular interview questions.  

For applicants who don’t have experience talking on video calls, this section of the application can be quite daunting. To put you at ease, Associate Director of Admissions Kayla says, “The questions you will be asked are not trick questions, nor are they meant to stump you. Overall we’re just trying to create a more three-dimensional picture of who you are as a candidate.” (17:02

Here are our Yale SOM application tips for what to expect and how to tackle video questions:

  • You receive three pre-recorded questions.
  • You get 20 seconds of thinking time.
  • You have 60-90 seconds to respond.
  • There are no retakes, so use Yale’s practice tool beforehand.
  • Practice speaking for the allotted time frame.
  • Run rehearsals on a video call with a friend.

Regarding video call etiquette, Kayla suggests, “Check your internet connection, your microphone, your camera, your audio, and try to record the video questions in a private, quiet place.” (29:02)

5. Behavioral assessment

Unique to Yale School of Management, the behavioral assessment analyzes your interpersonal and interpersonal skills, matching them with common competencies linked to success at a business school. 

The good news here is there’s nothing you need to prepare beforehand. This section looks at your natural disposition. Bruce describes the aim of this section as, “To not be guided so much simply by things like grades and scores and resumes, but really to think more broadly about the traits that you would bring to the community.” (13:18)

Here are our Yale SOM application tips for what to expect:

  • No preparation is needed.
  • Around 20 minutes in total.
  • All within an online admissions tool.
  • Forced-choice format.
  • Should be completed in one sitting.

6. In-person interviews

If you have performed well in the previous sections, you will receive an invitation to an in-person interview. Director of Financial Aid Rebekah Melville says, “Most of our interviews are done on campus. In fact, this is a great opportunity for you to really get to know and spend the day with us. During that day you’ll also be able to interact with current students…as well as go to a couple of different class experiences as well.” (30:35)

Don’t worry if you can’t make it to Yale for the interview. The admissions team travels to hub cities to carry out interviews abroad. Failing that, video interviews are always a possibility. 

Interviewers will have no information about you other than your resume, so limit your preparation to knowing it inside out. If you need a confidence boost, remember that you’ve already come this far, so you’re certainly doing something right. 

Our Yale SOM application tips for interviews are much the same as with a job interview:

  • Be on time.
  • Dress professionally.
  • Re-familiarize yourself with your resume.
  • Prepare questions for interviewers.
  • Follow up with your interviewer via email.
  • Act in a professional manner at all times.

7. Scholarships and financial aid

One of the most important factors in studying for an MBA is the amount of time and money it takes. Although the return on investment is great, generating the initial funds can be a hindrance.

For that reason, Yale and other financial institutions offer scholarships and financial aid in a range of instances. Here is a sample:

  • Government or employer funding.
  • Organizations promoting underrepresented demographics.
  • Military education schemes.
  • Educational foundations.

There is a range of scholarships, loans, and fellowships available during your studies at Yale. Melville confirms, “There are opportunities to obtain financial assistance to pursue your entrepreneurial ventures.” (37:57

After graduation, the support continues. For students who go on to work with nonprofits or government bodies, Yale assists by paying off your need-based loans. Regarding the program, Rebekah says, “It is a program that we are exceptionally proud of. It has provided more than $8 million in support to our graduates.” (39:12)

A final note

We hope our Yale SOM application tips have given you a clearer picture of what to expect when going through the admissions process. As a final piece of advice, we recommend being strict with your own timing. 

Make sure to get your application in at least one week before the deadline. If possible, aim for a whole month in advance and you’ll have ample time to overcome any surprises or hiccups along the way. 

Create an application schedule – two hours a day or seven hours a day, whatever is realistic and productive. Stick to this to reduce stress, ensure everything gets done, and produce your best work. 

Good luck!

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