Essay: Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made. (500 words maximum)
Identify the commitment. Yale SOM requires just one essay, and for that essay the School of Management has chosen a topic that focuses on one key trait of a successful graduate: your ability to commit—to an organization, a specific role, a person, or even an idea. The best MBA graduates understand that a dedicated level of commitment is necessary in mastering the intricacies of any role, whether it be in marketing, management, finance, etc. The admissions committee is trying to understand your ability and willingness to work hard and dedicate yourself to success.
Show your passion. The best answer to this question will not attempt to tell the admissions committee what you think they want to hear; rather, it will genuinely describe the biggest commitment you’ve ever made and what it means to you. It’s important that your response be around a commitment that was authentic. After all, this is the biggest commitment you’ve ever made, right? So make sure you’ve zeroed in on that one piece of your life that truly demanded your complete diligence and resolve. You have your resume and online application to showcase your achievements to the admissions committee. Here, you want to show them what motivates you, what you’re passionate about, and what gets you up in the morning. After reading this essay, the admissions officer should feel like they’ve really gotten to know you as a person—not merely as a list of accomplishments.
Get beyond the what, and focus on why and how. For this essay you can use the classic SAR (Situation–Action–Result) format: Describe the commitment you identified, explain in detail what you did to demonstrate that commitment, and then spell out exactly how your actions helped you grow and/or positively influenced those around you. Remember that this is Yale’s one and only essay, so make sure the focus is less on the what the commitment actually was, and more on how you committed, and why it is important to you. It’s not about trying impress the admissions committee with the actual commitment example, so don’t stress if your example seems small. The point is to write about what you took away and learned from the experience.
Professional or personal. The admissions committee leaves the subject of your commitment undefined. As such, you may choose a personal or professional example. Just as your commitment doesn’t have be anything monumental in scope, keep in mind that “commitment” isn’t necessarily about sacrifice either. Many candidates who have had to overcome significant struggles—the death of a loved one or a personal illness, for instance—are tempted to write a long sob story about their travails. If your commitment involves sacrifices or challenges, you may address those circumstances, but you should focus on your positive efforts and outcomes. In the end, your chosen commitment should equate to dedication, focus, and growth.
Results are more than numbers. Remember that Yale is looking for candidates whose actions stand out among their peers, so be careful not to be so generic that you say, “I’ve been committed to helping my company succeed!” without offering any specifics on how that commitment led to tangible results. Take time to think about which anecdote will showcase your passions and dedication the best, and be willing to try out different stories among several drafts. Admissions officers will be interested in hearing about any positive impact of your commitment—on an organization, a coworker or friend, and especially yourself.
Optional Information: If any aspect of your candidacy needs further explanation (unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, academic performance, promotions or recognitions, etc.), please provide a brief description here. (200 words maximum)
Yes, it’s really optional. As we always tell applicants with these optional essays: Only answer this essay prompt if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any. If you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it is entirely okay to skip this essay.
Choice of recommenders. As we discuss in the next section, SOM prefers to have a recommendation from your current supervisor or manager. If you do not include a recommendation from this person, briefly explain it here. Many applicants have not yet told their current supervisor there is a chance they will be leaving the company to go to business school. This can be explained with a line as simple as “I have not yet informed my current supervisor that I may leave the company to pursue a business education, as this may affect my project assignments and upcoming bonuses. Therefore, I have selected a professional mentor of three years, John Doe, who serves in a senior-management capacity at our company and can speak to my professional potential from firsthand experience.”
Required for Reapplicants Only: Since your last application, please discuss any updates to your candidacy, including changes in your personal or professional life, additional coursework, or extracurricular/volunteer activities. (200 words maximum)
Focus on improvement. Re-applicants are often admitted at higher rates than first-time applicants, so don’t be afraid that you’ll be “tainted goods” if you choose to apply to Yale SOM a second time. However, you must show some kind of improvement in your profile since your last application, as both applications will be viewed side-by-side. If you had a middling GMAT score, this is a great area to focus on. If your undergraduate performance was less than stellar, you might think about taking a course from a local community college or accredited online program. Perhaps your career goals were not perfectly clear and your “mini essay” in the application revealed a lack of direction. You might speak with people currently working in your desired industry, position, or company about the likelihood that you would be able to make a career switch. Feel free to discuss the process you went through to refine your goals.
Remember that re-applicants must complete both the “required essay” and the “required for re-applicants only” essay.