Posted on November 13, 2020

Yale SOM Essay Analysis and Deadlines: 2020-2021

Yale_Essay Analysis

The mission of Yale School of Management  is “to educate leaders for business and society” Yale seeks “students who care deeply about the problems afflicting our world" and “equips them with the knowledge, the resources, and the networks to pursue positive and ambitious change.

Yale SOM asks applicants to write only one essay. The essay remains unchanged for the last four years.

Application Deadlines:

Round Application Due By Decision Date
Round 1 September 15, 2020 December 8, 2020
Round 2 January 7, 2021 March 26, 2021
Round 3 April 13, 2021 May 18, 2021

Essay Question:

Let’s look at the essay question:

Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made. (500 words max.)

This is a broad question that appears simple at the outset. But it is not. It requires a significant amount of self-reflection and soul searching. You will have to make the most of the single essay question to talk about yourself, your values, and beliefs. The Yale admission committee places a lot of emphasis on values and is keen to understand the choices you have made to learn about your value system. You can choose an example from personal or professional experiences where you made a commitment to a person, job, or organization. What was the situation that motivated your decisions? Sift reasons in your mind as to why this experience qualifies as the most significant commitment. Give specific details of the challenges you faced and the actions you took.

It’s vital to share your thought process to make the reader understand your values and motivation that drove you to make those decisions. Your commitment should highlight your values, motivations, and impact on your family, community, or organization. For example, you might have made a commitment to your family for which you had to sacrifice your career or personal comforts. Explain what prompted you to make that sacrifice?  You may also have made the biggest commitment of your life to a voluntary organization that required you to devote years of your personal time without any financial gain. Discuss your motivation to contribute to that cause and the actions you took to make a difference in society. Your commitment may not necessarily be personal or community involvement; it can also be in your professional life – share your thoughts and behavior to explain why that commitment qualifies as the most significant commitment of your life.

From the Yale website:  “We developed this question in collaboration with Amy Wrzesniewski, a professor of organizational behavior at Yale SOM. Your time in business school, and the choices you make thereafter, represent significant commitments. In asking this question, the Admissions Committee is seeking to learn about how you have approached a commitment of importance in your life. When it comes to choosing a topic, be genuine. We want to hear about something meaningful and distinctive to you, in your voice. Your commitment can be personal, specific, or expansive. We receive outstanding, insightful essays covering a wide range of topics.

The content of your essay is every bit as important as the topic. Regardless of the commitment that you choose, the most effective essays do a great job of describing your approach to commitment. Point to the specific actions that you have taken, over time, to bolster your commitment. This is especially important if you have chosen a broad topic, such as an ideal or a belief. Don’t just explain why a commitment is important to you; we want to understand how your behaviors have demonstrated and supported your commitment.”

Maria Derlipanska, Senior Associate Director of Admissions, explains why the question is so broad.

The first thing that may come to mind about our essay question is, ‘Why is it phrased so broadly?' That’s intentional. We don’t want candidates to think that we are trying to steer them towards a particular kind of commitment, either in nature or scope. The question is meant to elicit self-reflection and result in you describing a commitment that is truly meaningful to you.”

To meet the stringent word limit of 500 words, you need to be extremely precise in presenting your case and make every word count. For strategy tips on saying ‘more in less’, click here:

Helpful Tips to Meet Word Limits in MBA Essays

Yale SOM application video component:

From the Yale website, “You will receive access to the video questions after you submit your application and pay your application fee. The video questions are not a substitute for the interview; they are a component of your MBA application.

Every candidate will receive three randomized, previously recorded questions asked by an admissions team member. No two applicants will have the same set of questions. The questions asked are similar to typical interview questions, and there are no “trick questions.” We are not trying to stump you.

After the question has been asked, two of the questions will allow for 20 seconds to gather your thoughts and 60 seconds to deliver an answer. The third question asked will allow for 30 seconds to prepare your response and 90 seconds to respond. You do not need to fill the entire response time. You can complete your answer and end the recording.”

The important thing to do here is practice, though it is natural to feel a little intimidated, don’t stress; be spontaneous. Practice talking to the webcam for 60-90 seconds to familiarize yourself with the 60-90 second time frame. Answer the questions the way you would in an interview. Use the STAR method (Situation-Task-Action-Result) for answering behavioral questions. Also, make sure you have a good internet connection and a quiet, private space without any distractions. Please note that video essays are part of your application, so you need to ensure that your responses align with your essay’s overall themes /stories.

The Assistant Dean of Admission Bruce Delmonico offers four Pointers to help you master the MBA Application Video questions:

Video Questions Tips from the Assistant Dean Delmonico

Behavioral Assessment: This application component is a unique feature of the Yale SOM application. They introduced it last year to evaluate candidates’ soft skills and are continuing with it this year.

From the Yale website: SOM is committed to continuous innovation in the ways we identify future members of our community.  We look for broadminded, intellectually curious students that represent a diversity of backgrounds and interests.  The newest component of our application process is the Behavioral Assessment, although we’ve been working on it behind the scenes for more than six years. 

The Behavioral Assessment is an online admissions tool administered by the research division of ETS. It measures a set of interpersonal and intrapersonal competencies associated with business school success.  It is a forced-choice module that takes about 20 minutes to complete and should be completed in a single sitting.  You do not need to do anything in advance to prepare for the assessment, nor does it require any specialized knowledge or background.   While the assessment alone will not be the deciding factor for admission, it can provide valuable information when used in context with other elements of an application.

Optional Information: It is truly optional:

The optional information section is not an additional essay, and most candidates do not need to complete this section. This is a space where you can address any questions you think the admissions committee may have about your application.  For example, if there’s a gap on your resume or you’ve chosen an unconventional recommender, this is the appropriate place to provide clarification.

An optional essay is an opportunity for you to give relevant information to the Ad Com that you could not provide in other parts of your application, essays, and resume. For example, if you have a lower than average GMAT score, any grades below a C on your transcript, academic probation, or a significant employment gap, you can explain in this essay. To provide a context for a weakness in your profile, make sure your reason is genuine to convince the Ad Com that your low grades or employment gap occurred due to unforeseen circumstances beyond your control. Your response should be positive, straightforward, and fact-focused and should not sound like you are making excuses for a weakness in your profile. Also, if you cannot get your recommendation letter from your current supervisor, please explain that in the optional statement.

Free Resources:

10 Key Essay Tips with Examples

Essay Analysis of  Top Programs-2020-21

MER Students Share their success Stories

Case Studies

Since 2011, MER (myEssayReview) has helped many applicants get accepted into the top 20 MBA programs, including Yale. (Poonam is one of the top 5 most reviewed consultants on the GMAT Club.)

Do you have questions about your Yale application? E-mail Poonam at or sign up here for a free consultation.