(Updated for 2020-2021)
Yale SOM wants to know who you are beyond the application, what makes you tick and to what you are devoted. The best way to understand this is by asking about your biggest commitment.
The Yale SOM essay prompt, “Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made” is a great platform to unveil to the admissions committee who you are. This will be the third year asking this question; a question which was developed in collaboration with Amy Wrzesniewski, a professor of organizational behavior at SOM. In asking this question, the Admissions Committee is interested not just in the commitment itself but also in how you approach the commitment and the behaviors that support it. The underpinning of “commitment” includes four elements: being genuine, identifying a passion, explaining the challenges you faced, and what you learned.
So as you look to structure your essay, here are the four points to remember:
1. Be Genuine
Commitments can come in many forms. While “saving mankind” might be the ultimate commitment, few of us actually spend time doing this. Instead think “smaller” and more authentic; maybe your biggest commitment is playing the piano, improving your spoken English, helping your parents as they age. Don’t be afraid to share this.
2. Identify an interest or passion
Think about the biggest endeavors you have embarked on and why you have remained steadfast to them. Think about what excites you and what your passion is. Remember, the admissions committee admits individuals, not accomplishments, so how has this commitment shaped who you are as a professional and as a person.
3. Capture the Challenge
Ask yourself why was this commitment made? What were the challenges you may have faced? How has this commitment evolved over time? What challenges were the most difficult for you? Why?
4. Share the lessons learned
What were the developmental takeaways from the experience? What learnings have you gained from making this commitment? What learnings can you share with your classmates? Commitment implies growth over time, how did you grow?
You have a mere 500 words to share a passion and tell how it has shaped you into who you are. Only then will the admissions committee will be able to see you as a person, not as a resume.