A Yale MBA applicant writes her essay

Everything You Need To Know About The Yale MBA Essay

December 11, 2021
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Part 1. IntroductionPart 2. Purpose of the Yale MBA EssayPart 3. What is the Yale MBA Essay?Part 4. Top Tips for Crafting the Yale MBA EssayPart 5. Yale MBA Essays Example Part 6. FAQsPart 7. Conclusion


The Yale School of Management (SOM) is one of the top business schools in the world, and it has been ranked as such for many years. This prestigious ivy league school offers a two-year full-time MBA that features “a distinctive integrated curriculum, Yale-authored ‘raw’ cases, and international study, as well as close engagement in the intellectual life of Yale University.” They also have an MBA for executives that “combines the rigor of [their] integrated core curriculum and leadership development program with advanced study in a chosen area at the nexus of business and society: asset management, healthcare, or sustainability.”

Partaking in an MBA at Yale SOM means going “to a business school with a mission that goes beyond business;” their mission is to “educate leaders” and “make a real difference” in the world. Yale SOM is very focused on the big picture and, if you are too, this might be the right place to pursue your MBA. This school is full of opportunities to challenge yourself, engage with a vast network of brilliant minds, and pursue personal and professional growth.

If you want to join Yale SOM’s next cohort and become part of their tight-knit community, you must secure a coveted spot in the program first by impressing their admissions committee and passing the application process. Yale has a reasonably standard application process. Of all the Yale SOM application components, it can be said that the essay is the most vitally important. Consequently, you should pay careful attention to details and make calculated decisions during the writing process.

Unlike many other business schools, Yale SOM’s admissions committee has only one essay question for applicants, and they’ve been asking the same question for several years now. They adopted this approach back in 2014 “to put more emphasis on what the school considers most important in assessing candidates.” This essay should be viewed as your single most important opportunity to impress the admissions committee and show them exactly why you are a good fit for their program.

A well-written essay could very well be the key to guaranteeing yourself a spot in a future Yale SOM cohort. If you’re interested in learning more about the Yale MBA Essay, what it includes, and how you should approach the crafting of it to improve your chances of acceptance, read on.

Purpose of the Yale MBA Essay

The Yale MBA Essay is a required component of the application process to their full-time MBA program. In addition to the essay, you must also submit your official GMAT or GRE scores, academic transcripts, a professional business resume, two letters of recommendation, and an online behavioral assessment. A face-to-face interview is also a necessary part of the application process. However, this is a secondary component that is only “offered by invitation on a rolling basis.”

Yale SOM’s essay question is “meant to elicit self-reflection.” The admissions committee is looking for genuine responses to their prompt so that they can get a sense of who you are. If you allow them to familiarize themselves with you, it will make it easier for them to decide if you’re the kind of person they would like to add to their next cohort or not. Essentially, your essay is a way for you to sell yourself, which is why it requires extra caution when you decide what to include and leave out.

What is the Yale MBA Essay?

The Yale MBA essay asks you to “describe the biggest commitment you have ever made.” The school’s admissions committee collaborated with Amy Wrzesniewski, a professor of organizational behavior at Yale SOM, to create this question.

It was designed to help the admissions committee “to learn about how you have approached a commitment of importance in your life,” since “your time in business school, and the choices you make thereafter, represent significant commitments.” The essay has a 500-word maximum word requirement.

Yale SOM’s essay is intentionally phrased in a broad manner to allow for creative free-range on your behalf. The admissions committee does not want “candidates to think that [they] are trying to steer them towards a particular kind of commitment, either in nature or scope.” It is truly up to you to decide what direction to take the essay in and what topics you’d like to cover, as long as you can tie everything back to the general theme of commitment.

Top Tips for Crafting the Yale MBA Essay

Stay True to Yourself

You have the freedom to choose the topic you’d like to focus on for your essay primarily. However, the admissions committee is seeking genuine responses to their prompt, so you must keep this in mind when deciding how to approach your writing. The commitment that you choose to discuss can be “personal, specific or expansive,” but Yale SOM’s admissions committee “want[s] to hear about something that is meaningful and distinctive to you, in your own voice.” The Managing Director of Admissions at Yale SOM, Laurel Grodman, has expressed that “one type of commitment is not inherently better than another,” and, in the past, the admissions committee has “received strong, compelling essays” covering a huge variety of types of commitments.

It is a natural inclination to want to choose a theme or an approach that you believe has never been taken before in an attempt to make yourself stand out. Standing out is necessary given the size of Yale SOM’s applicant pool. However, picking a topic that is too abstract or difficult to solidify will hurt your chances of acceptance rather than helping them.

Your priority should be writing an essay that leaves no room for doubts about your candidacy for the program because it is genuine, well-executed, and relevant.

Show Don’t Tell

It is essential to consider that “regardless of the commitment that you choose, the most effective essays do a great job of describing your approach to commitment.” You should “[p]oint to the specific actions that you have taken, over time, to bolster your commitment,” since the admissions committee “cares less about the commitment you choose and more about the behaviors surrounding the commitment.” They are more interested in the specific details relating to how you have gone about doing whatever you set out to do when you made your commitment.

Refrain from spending too much time explaining why the commitment you’ve chosen to speak about is important to you. Instead, you can show the admissions committee exactly how much a cause means to you by providing concrete examples that back this up.

The stories or examples you choose to discuss should relate directly to your commitment, and they should make the justification behind your commitment apparent, as well as the various ways that you achieved results along the way.

Choose Your Theme Wisely & Connect With the School

If you choose to speak about a single story or experience, make sure that it has the span to encompass broader themes. The themes should relate to ideas or values that you possess to provide the admissions committee with a clearer insight into who you are and what you bring to the table.

The Yale MBA essay is a way for the admissions committee to gauge your values and motivations. But, if you can align some of your values and motivations with those held by the school, it will frame you as the ideal candidate. Since the admissions committee is more focused on the sorts of behaviors that presuppose the commitment you’ve chosen to speak about, it will be well worth your time to do some background research into the kinds of behavior that are valued at Yale SOM.

Once you know more about the school’s values, goals, and missions, it will be much easier to figure out what Yale SOM is looking for when piecing together their next cohort.

For example, the Yale SOM website states that they “seek students who care deeply about the problems afflicting our world.” It also mentions that their goal is to help their students to eventually “pursue positive and ambitious change—whether that takes the form of launching a business that can refashion its market, advancing far-reaching and rigorously considered policy initiatives, or steering a multinational corporation with keen awareness of and respect for its impact on workers, communities, and the environment.”

If you have any personal experiences closely related to these objectives, then you could make them a focal point of your essay. Even if you have never personally launched a business or advanced policy initiatives, you can still hit upon the overarching theme of leadership by detailing a story that highlights some specific initiatives you’ve taken to lead, either at work or in your personal life.

Prove that You’re a Leader

Leadership can have many different facets and be tied into many different values, so there is no black and white or right and wrong way to demonstrate that you have the traits of a good leader. Sometimes leadership and innovation go hand in hand. If you can think of a time when you came up with a creative solution to a problem that your company was facing, came up with a new product, or developed a new idea for a business, it will illustrate your connection to these sought-after attributes.

Leadership is also often closely connected to helping others. If you decide to take this approach, you have an even wider array of potential stories that you can reference since you can apply this theme to both personal and professional situations. You can reference a time when you had to step up to financially or emotionally support a family member or friend.

Alternatively, you can discuss how you’ve helped or guided a colleague through a task they were struggling to manage on their own. In either case, you will come across as having recognized a problem and taken the initiative to do something about it.

Leadership can also be demonstrated through teamwork, and can be illustrated even in stories focused on group achievement. In fact, scenarios involving group, community, or team initiatives often present the best opportunities for displaying your role as a leader. Leaders are necessary to proactively solve problems and raise new ideas so that collective success is possible. If you’ve taken on this kind of role in the past, it could be another potential reference point in your essay.

The specifics of your anecdotal story aren’t important, as long as you show the Yale SOM admissions committee that you have a proven track record of leadership. By doing so, it leaves the impression that you will actively pursue similar roles in the future, which is what they want to see.

How Does Yale SOM Fit Into the Picture

Although the main focus of your essay should be on something that you have done, which proves your commitment, the school is also interested in what your goals are for the future. They are eager to know what direction you plan to take regarding your commitment, whether this involves branching off or keeping right on track with wherever your story has left off.

It is also vitally important to show the Yale SOM admissions committee why you have specifically chosen their school to help advance you even further towards your goals. They want to know why an MBA at Yale SOM is an essential component of your future plans and why you feel that it is the best fit for getting you where you want to go.

This is another reason why it is necessary to conduct ample background research into the school. If you can reference specific courses that you’re interested in, faculty that you look forward to working with, or international exchange opportunities that will allow for you to commit to your goals even further, it will let the admissions committee know that you also have a commitment to their school.

What to Avoid

Take your time when deciding what to evaluate as your biggest commitment. You may feel like discussing your commitment to a person, such as your spouse or your parent. However, while this may highlight certain values, it will limit your ability to flesh out your leadership capabilities, which is what Yale SOM is primarily interested in. On the other hand, if you choose to discuss a cause that you believe in or have actively supported, you will have more potential to show how you have made a larger impact.

Since the essay has a 500-word limit, don’t waste any time restating things that can be found in other parts of your application. If you have worked for an impressive company, or you have scored high on the GMAT or GRE, it will undoubtedly help your chances of getting accepted into the program, but that does not mean that you must remind the admissions committee of these accomplishments in your essay.

They can find this kind of information when they look through your resume or transcripts.

Yale MBA Essays Example

Sample Introduction:

During sophomore year of college, I got involved in the management of my family’s trust. I was spearheading an effort to allocate funding across NGOs in my home state of [State]. Five of us traveled across the state to assess our funding’s impact. We had just arrived in a tiny village, where we learned that a farmer had recently committed suicide. He was a father, husband, brother, and son, unable to carry on after defaulting on his debt due to failed rains. The farmer’s family mourned his loss while at the same time, fearing boycott from the village.

This incident affected me deeply. Across the next few months, I read extensively about government sponsored financial inclusion programs for people like that farmer. I learned that although several programs existed, poor implementation and lack of infrastructure rendered them highly ineffective. The more I learned, the more passionate I felt about playing a role in enabling greater financial inclusion for the millions of [Nationality] who live below the poverty line.

Sample Body Paragraphs:

I was nearing graduation, and it was time to decide between two career paths – joining a rapidly growing family business, or committing to my passion of creating and implementing fin tech solutions to promote financial inclusion. I chose the later and eight gruelling months later, landed a job at [Name] Consulting. This commitment turned into an extremely meaningful experience. I convinced my manager to fill out an application when I came across a tender from the [Corporation] focused on large scale micro finance restructuring in [Country]. We won the project against all odds and I was assigned the role of project leader.

My team and I started off by visiting over 50 micro finance institutions to learn more about existing processes and pain points. I was able to quickly pinpoint several areas where their approach created too much operational complexity. We needed to think of a solution from the ground up and ended up designing a digitization model that focused on simplifying processes. After a successful pilot across five states, [Corporation] decided to roll it out to 20 million individuals. This turned into one of the most successful micro finance program implementations in [Country’s] history and our best practices were codified in the [Bank of Country] ’s standard operating procedures.

I realized that greater global exposure and networks will be instrumental in helping me take my management skills to the next level. Most importantly, this helped reaffirm that promoting financial inclusion is a cause I am committed to for the rest of my life, and one that energizes me when I wake up every morning.

Sample Conclusion:

With its core curriculum focusing on ‘Globe & Society’, Yale SOM will be the perfect next step in helping me fulfillment my commitment. I am excited to organize events for the International Center for Finance and collaborate with Professor [Name] on his micro finance research. Nothing excites me more than the prospect of learning from and giving back to the Yale community, which consists of accomplished and inspiring individuals from around the world. Standing at this critical juncture in my career, I am excited to collaborate with them, realize my true potential, and play my role in promoting the growth of microfinance in [Country]. For that, I see no better platform than a Yale MBA.

Why it Works:

This is a very strong example of the kind of essay that the Yale SOM admissions committee would be interested in reading. The applicant wastes no time and immediately begins with a story that highlights their role as a leader. The commitment they’ve chosen to speak about is clear, and it is well-chosen since it is connected to a larger cause.

As the story goes on, their leadership potential is amplified further and further because they are shown to recognize problems and take the initiative to solve them in incredibly innovative ways. They spend an appropriate amount of time elaborating on the inspiration behind their commitment before moving on to show how they were hugely successful with their results.

They also go on to discuss how and why Yale SOM is the most logical next step for them, and they prove that they have done their research and are interested and excited about the prospect of joining a future cohort at Yale.


1. Is the essay question the same for Yale SOM’s full-time MBA and executive MBA programs?

No. The Executive MBA program at Yale SOM has different application requirements than the full-time MBA program. Applicants to the executive MBA program must complete two essays that each have a 500-word maximum. These essays have prompts that are different from the full-time one. The executive MBA essay prompts provide an opportunity for you to “share more about your life, professional and personal goals, and your alignment with your chosen focus area.”

2. What are the other requirements for applying to an MBA at Yale SOM?

All applicants must have earned a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited U.S. institution or an international equivalent. Applicants must also submit transcripts from every college or university they’ve attended, two professional recommendations, completed responses to the behavioral assessment video questions, and official GMAT or GRE scores with their online application.

3. Is an interview required for admission to Yale SOM’s MBA programs?

Yes. Interviews are a necessary part of the admission process to Yale SOM. However, interviews are conducted on an invitation-only basis. If you receive an invitation, it will be an offer to come to the Yale SOM campus for a 30-minute interview conducted by a second-year student. If visiting the campus is not possible for you, virtual interviews or interviews with members of the admissions team in major international cities can be arranged.

4. In which round should I apply?

You should apply when you feel you can submit your best application. There is no difference in your chances of being admitted in round 1 versus round 2. However, there are typically fewer spaces available for round 3 applicants than there are in the first two rounds, which may affect your chances of being admitted.

5. Are there additional application requirements for international students?

Unlike most business schools, Yale SOM does not require international applicants to submit TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE Academic English proficiency exam scores with their application. However, non-English transcripts should be translated into English and provided along with a copy of your transcript in its original language.

6. How can I experience life at Yale SOM firsthand before applying to the MBA program?

Visiting campus is the best way to get a real sense of what student life is like at Yale SOM. Yale SOM has a visitation program that usually begins in mid-September and runs Monday through Thursday during the academic year. You can learn more about what this visit entails and plan your visit on the Yale SOM website.


Yale SOM fosters the kind of community that is “committed to understanding how to address the most meaningful challenges facing our society.” They do this by providing opportunities for their students to “[connect] with likeminded, motivated colleagues, [explore] the latest ideas from academic scholarship, and [engage] with problems both on [their] doorstep and on far continents.” The MBA programs offered at this school are “focused on issues that lie at the intersection of business and society.”

If this is the kind of school that sounds like it would be a good fit for you, then you should apply to Yale SOM in a future application cycle. If you do, you will have to take on the Yale MBA essay. Use this as a chance to make yourself stand out and write about a commitment you have made that shares your unique and complex identity with the admissions committee.

Show them detailed examples of how you have made strides towards your chosen commitment, and make sure that you spend enough time expanding upon your motivations as well as your results.

It's essential that you use your Yale MBA essay to show the admissions committee that you possess the traits they are seeking. Knowing that Yale values leadership above all else, you must prove to them that you are a true leader. If you do, they will have a hard time turning your application down, and you will have a higher chance of being admitted to a future Yale SOM cohort.

About Inspira Futures

At Inspira Futures, our sole focus is to get you accepted at your dream business school. Our team of experts consists of former admission committee members and alums from Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, and other M7 schools. Our goal is to help you write great essays, ace interviews, and win scholarships. Without any stress or hassle. Our clients have gone on to secure admits at the world's top business schools while also being winners of some of the most prestigious scholarships like Stanford Knight Hennessy, HBS Baker Scholars, and many others.
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