Visiting the Yale School of Management as a prospective student

Schedule for the day

My day spent visiting Yale’s School of Management was very interesting; to start, I will give you the brief rundown of my experiences.  I arrived on the early side, having gotten a ride over from a friend rather than walking over the hill in dress clothes when it was warm out (thanks again, Rachel!!), and introduced myself to the Admissions staff working there.  As people filtered in, we went from an initial stand-off type of situation to me breaking the ice by rising and shaking hands with other folks, which set the tone for the rest of the day: jovial and warm, which really made this great experience even better. Yale’s School of Management (hereafter SOM) is strongly interested in a diverse set of backgrounds among their student body, and this was reflected in the breakdown of career interests with the other 12 prospective visitors with me: from petroleum process management to pharmaceutical brand management to IT product management to meeting facilitation to my personal interests in some kind of ethical chaplaincy in international development work, we definitely had a lot to talk about with each other.  It was cool to hear how other people with those different outlooks brought such different strengths to our conversations; it was clear that this principle was carefully cultivated and intended to happen constantly in classrooms (as we will see in a moment, held true via my experiences).  Thereafter, we got to visit our first class; in my case, I chose to sit in on a course entitled “Insight to Outcome” which examined the difficulty in actually breaking down the unending details of corporate acquisitions and mergers that can (and do) go wrong.  It turns out that the first year of school at SOM is actually split into quarters, and our visit day had fallen on the last day of classes for this first fall quarter.  As such, the class was a review session for the upcoming final exam; the basic setup was to have 2 of the 4 groups of students in the room do a presentation of any style to capture the content of the course in a helpful way.  For those of us visiting, this was actually powerfully helpful for sensing how the dynamics of peer interaction among students and then with professors actually functioned in class.  The first group decided on an activity-based approach, putting each of the groups in the room into a situation where they had to decide on an approach for their hypothetical company given specific details to work with.  The unspoken goal was to see how many students actually brought out frameworks learned in the course in the pressured situation, versus how many went with their gut reactions, so to speak (which I find fascinating).  The second group decided to go with a content-heavy review on the board (I snapped a quick photo of the one board, as I have never seen so much work put into a chart on a blackboard ever), and was actually quite informative to us in the visiting section.  The potentially good news out of all of this: the visitors ended up being invited to participate in the first group’s exercise, and I was given the role of CEO; as such, I ended up deciding on the correct course of action that the exercise was supposed to elicit.  If this isn’t a good sign for my fitting in at SOM, I don’t know what would be 😉

After this, we had a tour of the majority of the main building (which, as you’ll see in the photo section, is an 1800’s mansion, and quite gorgeous) and got to ask questions over lunch.  One of the more odd aspects of my visit was that in that first class and the one after lunch, no student was using a laptop.  I inquired about this, and found out that especially for first year MBA students, laptop use is mostly prohibited in class, to keep people from getting distracted (and as someone who thrives on being able to type notes, disappointing to me).  Something to deal with if and when I encounter it, I suppose.  That said, it was a very interesting tour, and lunch was also excellent.  For my second class visit of the day, I sat in on a course called “Risk Management,” which was not quite what I was expecting; I understood that to mean something along the lines of “keeping businesses running safely from a managerial perspective” whereas it actually meant the financial sense: more along the lines of “managing the financial volatility of a business via hedging.”  The professor was extremely intelligent, but the fact that his slides were at least half differential equations was not conducive to our sitting-in on the class as visitors.  I was able to follow some of it, but let me be the first to reiterate: money is not my thing.  I desire to understand how it works better in order to better enable my intended work in international development, and I would get that from an SOM education, but I will not look forward to something like Risk Management if/when I enroll.

The day ended with a group Q&A session with a member of the Admissions staff, which was very interesting.  I think the best moment of any visit I have ever done to any school, however, was when a gentleman from Thailand asked about the buildings and learned that they are from the mid-1800’s.  He then followed up by asking “well, are there any ghosts here,” in a way that I still cannot clearly figure out to be serious or joking.  He smiled as he asked it (so a joke??!?) but he genuinely looked relieved when the Admissions staffer, without missing (much) of a beat, responded “well in my 10 years of working here, I have not yet been introduced to any.”  To be sure: that is a REAL commitment to thoroughness in a prospective student setting!  For me personally, I stayed and asked several questions of that lady as well, on the subject of specifics as an intended joint degree student (MDiv/MBA); as far as I can tell, I made a very positive impression while also getting some of the specific information I hadn’t been able to find online previously.  All in all, an excellent day; now, I am going to turn to a bit of considering and analyzing the above.

Main reasons I want to attend SOM

In list form, I am now better-informed to be able to give the top 5 reasons why I so deeply want to do the dual degree and attend Yale’s School of Management:

1) the outlook of the school: armed with the mission to “educate leaders for business and society,” SOM has picked up three major student traits that are extremely compelling to me as a prospective student. The school is intentionally small (no more than 230 students per class year) and does this to facilitate a personal feel; this community focus extends to professors and staff (the ratio is approximately 6 students per faculty, which is an amazing figure) and so learning is nearly impossible to avoid; and finally it is a collaborative environment, with students being put into cohorts which focus on shoring up the individuals with the differing skills and backgrounds represented.
2) the SOM core curriculum: as a school of management (and not a traditional business school), Yale’s SOM is able to be much more innovative in its teaching style, and thus their unique and powerfully well-implemented Core Curriculum (if you’re at all interested, I strongly encourage you to check out their PDF which explains the whole thing)
3) their reputation and skill at educating non-profit career students amongst their majority of for-profit peers: SOM is #1 in the nation (and according to some, in the world) for non-profit Masters of Business Administration education, and this is also related to their existence as a non-traditional school of management.  For me, this translates into an unstoppable educational force towards eventually actually getting a job doing what I want for my career (because lets face it, not everyone is willing to hire someone with an ethical background only; being able to bring a commanding use of the language of business to the table is powerfully valuable), and is therefore worth working VERY hard for in the here and now
4) their unparalleled and generous Loan Forgiveness Program: taking seriously its mission to educate leaders for society AND business, SOM will actually watch out for its students who go into non-profit and/or public careers; they will actually make your loan payments for you entirely, if you’re making less than your graduating class’ average starting salary (which, given Yale’s clout, means a large average indeed for the for-profit graduates).  This is an opportunity I will have from no other institution.
5) The ability to interweave my divinity and secular education even further: the joint degree program is specifically intended to go back and forth between classes, to make the specific content of each interwoven with other concepts from your other degree.  For me, an intention towards an ethical chaplaincy in development work means that I need to be equally able to present an ethical point of view (this effort should employ more local laborers to give their community an extra boost) while also being able to convey these intentions in business language (your perceived corporate social responsibility level will improve greatly if you accept slightly lower margins by employing more workers with lower tech and thus spread the benefits to more individuals).

The schedule ahead of me to apply

The above is a lot of content; how does this exactly translate into a specific plan of action?  MBA programs usually have 3 rounds of application per year; to make a long story short, I didn’t have the time to apply to Round 1 (October 5th deadline) and I am familiar that Round 3 is HYPER-competitive (deadline in April 2012), so I am comfortably shooting for Round 2, with a deadline of January 5 to submit all parts of my application.  Speaking of that app, I am currently something like 60% done with it: I have all my information and work experience and academics put in and the like, and my letter of recommendation writers are standing by to help me out.  At this point, my final bits of work will be the short answers and essays on the application; signing up and studying for the GMAT and then taking it; and finally submitting it on time for the deadline (without losing TOO much sleep over worrying about it).  To be entirely forthcoming: this is going to be by far the most selective program I have ever applied for in my life, and so there is no guarantee here; that said, as you very well may know, I thrive on the challenge, and so am looking forward to this quite a bit.  More will be posted here on the blog as it develops.

Photos from my visit (note: SOM is located on the corner of Hillhouse Avenue, New Haven – this was described by both Charles Dickens and Mark Twain as “the most beautiful street in America)

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