A Tighter Fit At Yale

A backlog of deferrals is making it tougher to get into Yale's MBA program. Admissions Director Bruce DelMonico tells how to raise your profile

So far, the new curriculum at Yale School of Management has been a hit (see BusinessWeek.com, 9/12/06, "Breaking Down Silos at Yale"). With B-school applications up across the board and a smaller-than-average target class size, this year might be an unusually competitive one at Yale's SOM. How to stand out from the pack? "Passion," says Admissions Director Bruce DelMonico. He spoke recently with BusinessWeek.com reporter Kerry Miller about some of the changes the new curriculum has brought, as well as what he's looking for in candidates for the Class of 2009. An edited transcript follows:

Last year the admissions office ended up granting a large number of deferrals after an unexpectedly large number of candidates accepted offers of admission. Will this year's class size be smaller as a result?

The current first-year class is 208 students, which was larger than the target class we were shooting for because the yield was so unexpectedly high. This year we're trying to get a little bit under 200. I think the target we're shooting for is 195, and that would include 30 to 40 defers from last year. I know some people have heard about the high number of deferrals and the fact that that the target class size is a little smaller than in the past and are worried about space issues. But there's still plenty of space in the class, and they shouldn't be concerned that all the space is already filled up. Although this year we have a bit of a running start because of the number of defers from last year, we still have plenty of spaces, and strong candidates still have a very good chance at SOM.

What is application volume looking like after Round One?

It's looking very healthy.We're up by quite a bit—between a third and a half—which is nice. From talking to our peer institutions I think that's in line with some of them. So it seems like the marketplace is pretty strong for MBA applications this year.

Do you have any changes in mind now that you've taken over in the admissions office, in terms of processes or guiding philosophy?

In terms of the internal processes there are no major changes. I was deputy director here for two years before taking over as director, and I was in charge of internal operations of the office, so procedurally I think the process will remain pretty much as it is. In terms of our philosophy, I think it will remain largely the way it has been in the past. But one thing that I'm putting more of an emphasis on this year is authenticity. I'm looking for people who are passionate about what they're doing, very accountable in the way they do it, and have a vision for where they're going. Obviously, we've always wanted people who were smart and very capable, but I also want to emphasize that we're looking for more than that.

On the overall spectrum of more theoretical to more practical, Yale has the reputation of being a more theoretically oriented school. Do you think that's true?

I think that in the past it probably has been considered, and probably rightly so, a little bit more theoretical than other schools. I think it's true that SOM is a thinking person's business school. It is a professional school in the sense that we are training people for a profession. But we want people who are broad thinkers and who are curious and who ask questions and think about the answers, and I think the new curriculum reflects this. I think the new curriculum has also brought it back from the theoretical realm more toward the practical. The learning is more case-based, for example, and often students will be given raw data and asked to work with that information as opposed to having a canned case that's already presented to them. The school wants students to think about real-world problems and try and come up with real-world solutions.

For example, one of the new aspects of the core curriculum is...

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