Yale SOM's 2015 Essays - Read the Fine Print

Today we are analyzing Yale SOM's 2015 Essays ... sort of.  

What we are really doing is taking a look at them and using this essay set as a way to remind everyone to read the fine print when it comes to dealing with applications and even schools in general.  I'm not blowing the whistle on some grand conspiracy or anything like that, but just illustrating that you can't take everything at face value.  This is especially relevant at a time when applicants are killing themselves to try to hit Round 1 deadlines because an admissions officer "told them to," or when candidates make horrible errors in judgement based on the same logic.  The truth of the matter is you have to keep your eyes open and use your own common sense when navigating this process. 

Okay, why am I picking on Yale SOM here?  

It's not a big deal, but I just created our firm's internal Strategy Memo for the school and in doing so, found basically misleading information on the admissions website about the nature of this year essays's - information that is being recycled on blogs and websites out there (I don't want to link to competitors and help them, but rest assured, there is a lot of egg on a lot of faces right now, which a simple Google search can reveal).  Basically, in a letter "from the director" (boy, schools really love these) on its website, Yale says that they are going from two essays to one and that they are doing so to give candidates the chance to "write more" about the true mission of Yale SOM.  Here is the website language: 

We chose to require a single, longer essay, rather than two shorter essays, in order to give you more space to address this question—which is at the core of what an MBA education at the Yale School of Management is all about. We look forward to reading your answers!

The problem is that part of the information is not true (they do require two essays) and part of the information is barely true (last year the non-goals essay was 450 words, this year it is 500 - take advantage of all that extra space, folks!).

In fact, consider the following:   

  1. Last year, Yale required a first essay question asking for the motivation behind your MBA pursuit, and it was 300 words in length, found in the "essays" section. 
  2. This year, Yale requires a question asking for the motivation behind your MBA pursuit, and it is 250 words and it is found in the app itself, right under the pull-down menus for your industry of interest.  
  3. Last year, Yale asked a second essay question that was 450 words in length. 
  4. This year, Yale asks its "essay question" that is 500 words in length. 

Therefore, all told, Yale is, for the second straight year, asking two questions - one about your goals and one other question - totaling 750 words.  

How is this any different?  How is this reducing the number of essays?  

It's not. 

It's either a mistake, or it's a marketing exercise - an attempt by the school to give candidates the sense that they only have to do one essay question, thus, perhaps, making it easier to dive in and start the app (and, the thinking would go, finish and submit it). 

The reason I point all this out is not to put Yale SOM on blast or even have a laugh at some of our competitors who are are writing things like "Yale only has ONE essay this year so you had better make it count!" but instead to remind you - really, truly remind you - not to take everything you read and hear at face value.  Misinformation is rampant in this space.  If you read it on a forum, it does not make it true.  If an admissions officer tells you something at an info session, that does not necessarily mean it's gospel.  

A quick story if I may: 

About three years ago, I had a client who was freaking out about hitting the Booth Round 1 deadline.  Why?  Because an admissions officer had told him it was "the best round to apply." Now, there is zero statistical evidence to support this, but he was convinced.  I assured him that they were just saying that to get his app - after all, an app in the door in Round 1 means an app in the door.  No chance my guy gets hit by a bus, decides not to go to business school, or gets in somewhere else.  I'm not even saying it's bad, but I used to work in admissions and so I know the rule: always get the app now.  Nobody in this industry seems to get that and it proves to me that most of my peers did not work in admissions - they did not experience life under a mandate of "get X number of apps this year."  

Anyway, the point is that my client simply did not have time to submit, so he did not.  Two months later he went to another info session (he was the nervous type, which even he would admit) and lo and behold, they told him "you should apply Round 2 because it's our most popular round."  You will note that the language was different enough to avoid any issues of deceit, and maybe these people both believed the things they were saying, but to me, that kind of proves the whole point.  So much of what you hear as a candidate is being fed to you with the aim of GETTING YOUR APP.  It's not right or wrong, good or bad, it just is the way things are - so just be aware.  (Note: my guy got into Booth, FYI.)

The point here is not to take a shot at Booth (a school I truly love) or make you fearful. My point is that you have to read the fine print, be a critical thinker, use common sense, and separate fact from fiction in this process. 

Fiction: "Yale has one essay this year."  Source: Yale, countless "experts," and message boards. 

Fact: Yale has two essays this year. Source: the application. 

Now, go knock out these two essays. 

If you need help on Yale SOM or any other school, hit us up at mba@amerasiaconsulting.com.