Is Yale for Me? And tips on how to avoid having to go to Chicago Booth.

Is Yale for me? 

Hi all, my name is Gustav Martinsson and I am currently studying at the Yale School of Management. This time last year I was working hard to make this exchange possible, without really having a good understanding of what Yale could offer me in comparison to the wealth exchange options that the LSE provides for the GMiM programme. Hopefully, this piece can give you some insight into why (or why not) Yale is the place for you, some general information, and how you should go about securing your place here so that you can avoid going to Chicago Booth (a.k.a. the place where fun goes to die).

Should you be accepted to attend Yale most of your time will be spent at the School of Management. In contrast to much of the campus (which is very Oxford’esque in my opinion), the SOM is a very modern building largely made of glass. Overall, the facilities are world class and my fellow exchange students and I all fear the day that we must return to studying at the NAB. There is also an abundance of food, meaning that vast amounts of cookies, pizza, and other delicious things are only a short sprint away (you must get there before all the other student vultures eat it all – trust me they strike fast). The building hosts several graduate programmes, but the main focus lies on the MBA programme. In contrast to rival programmes like at Harvard Business School and Wharton, the class size is considerably smaller at 300 (vs. 800-900). As such you really can immerse yourself fully into the programme and get to know a large part of your cohort well. This process is helped immensely by the fact that on most Thursdays there is a Closing Bell, which is an end of the week event for all the SOM students to come together and network/socialise over some food and bad American beer (seriously it tastes like water). Think of it as Yale’s version of GMS Mixers. As a result, soon after arriving you will start to realise that you have parties and trips planned for every weekend, especially if you decide to involve yourself in one of many sports teams (described below).

Career focus

The SOM is known in the U.S. as a target school for those seeking a career in the non-profit sector. However, my experience thus far has been that most people are pursuing a career in consulting. Seemingly daily I am asking someone how their MBB interview went. The SOM has several resources to help with these pursuits, including a top-notch careers service, mentorship schemes (including my favourite Donut Buddies), and a very active Consulting Club. Many 2ndyears have undertaken MBB internships during the summer and they are all incredibly helpful, providing case sessions, coffee chats, and general information presentations. This really gives you a great insight into the various consulting firms and what they are looking for when recruiting. For those of you seeking careers in finance, venture capital or private equity there are similar career resources, however, the portion of the cohort with experience/interest in these industries is smaller. Furthermore, as a result of the school’s focus, the number of finance-related courses is limited and often quite tough to be accepted to.

New Haven

Before coming to Yale I had no idea about the town itself. I came here imagining an environment similar to that seen in American movies, but oh how I was wrong. Whilst New Haven has its charm, one should know some parts are quite rough, and the crime rate is quite high. Whilst I have yet to feel threatened, there are areas that I avoid going to, and I often find myself using some form of transport rather than walking late at night. Luckily Yale has several services that can be used free of charge, including several bus lines, as well as a taxi service known as TapRide that is active from 6PM until 6AM (but do not expect to get one within 45 min during peak times).

Despite these issues New Haven does have some great things to offer. In the city there are several great restaurants, including Geronimo’s (drink their Mexican Car bombs with caution, I am speaking from experience), Barcelona, and the famous Frank Pepe’s. New Haven is known for their pizza and it is ranked top 5 in the country. In terms of nightlife places like Toad’s and GPSCY will allow you to relive your disco days during your undergrad and they are in general a great time. Whilst there is a clear lack of fraternity parties to attend,there isa wealth of house parties and other fun activities. In two weeks Yale is playing Harvard in American Football at Fenway Stadium in Boston and all of us will be going down there to party with HBS.

If you do ever get tired of New Haven, New York is only two hours away and the trains go back and forth regularly and at a low cost.

Sports clubs & extracurriculars

As previously mentioned Yale SOM has a wealth of different sports clubs to join. Doing so is something I strongly recommend as it really allows you to get as many people as possible. I cannot stress enough how important networking is here, and it is really at the core of the MBA offering. Sports available include ice hockey, football, rugby, and horse polo. Personally, I play football and ice hockey. The ice hockey club is SOM’s largest club and each practice has 75-100 people attending. Do not worry if you have never stood on a pair of skates before because neither have most participants. Whilst the ice hockey is expensive, I cannot recommend it enough. For an additional $20 you get unlimited beers DURING practice, and after every practice, everyone heads to a bar for food and more drinks. If you are looking for a cheaper option then football is also a lot of fun, with weekly practices and games + Yale SOM cup with teams from the nation’s top MBA schools like Wharton, HBS, Tuck, and Chicago Booth (only kidding about that last one of course – those guys never leave the library).

Housing

One of the key concerns for me before getting here was trying to sort out my accommodation. Yale provides little, if any, help in regard to this. As such, it is up to you to find somewhere yourself and this can be quite daunting. However, there are several Facebook pages (I can provide links if needed) where people post listings. Many of the landlords in the area are quite hesitant to let out for the short period that you will be here, therefore you will likely have to contact quite a few landlords before you hit the jackpot. I would strongly recommend that you talk to the students attending the school this year, as they may be able to put you in touch with their landlords. I would also contact Yale to see if any of the students coming to LSE on exchange are looking to let out their apartments. Overall, many of the apartments become available quite late, so do not stress if you have not sorted something in June/July. Personally, I sorted my place late July.

Grades – Who cares?

Well, the MBA students here certainly do not. Many are much to concerned with recruitment (or have already secured a full-time offer and care even less) to focus on their studies. As a result, you will likely find that the majority of those that care about a group work are those that come from the LSE. This is important to note before you get into a group for an assignment. If you want to strive for the highest marks you will likely need to shoulder most of the work. Luckily the quality of the submissions is substantially lower here, so despite this your time should be considerably easier at Yale than at the LSE. However, to avoid frustration my tip would be to consider working a lot with other LSE/exchange students when possible. I would also recommend that you are quite open with your ambitions when forming a group, as some may then recommend that you find other people to work with as there is a misalignment of ambition.

To receive a Distinction for your exchange at Yale you will need to achieve the highest grade, which is High Honors. This is only given to the top 10% of the class, with all grades bell curved. This may sound daunting but do remember that many do not care so putting a little bit of effort into your assignments goes a long way.

Application tips

If I remember correctly we had at this stage of the term not been informed about the application process for the exchange. To enlighten you a little bit I thought I would just run you through some key points.

The application process

The application process will commence in term two. As a part of this, you will submit your preferences in terms of exchange schools, a personal statement, and an interview. You will be scored in relation to three things:

  1. Your personal statement
  2. Your interview
  3. The grades you have received thus far + your undergraduate degree grades

Get to know the schools!

It is crucial that you highlight why you want to attend a specific school in your statement and interview, and as such you need to garner as much information about your preferred destination as possible. My strong recommendation is that you contact the students returning from your school of choice to gain further insight into their experience. Most, if not all of us, will be happy to help (especially if you offer us, tired students, a cup of coffee). If you want to get a head start I would recommend that you talk to the 2ndyear students currently at the LSE, as they will know exactly who is attending which University.

Your grades and DoM reputation matters

One of the metrics used to determine where you will be headed is your grades. Last year the only relevant grades were those from Foundation of Management 1 and Quants, as well as from your undergraduate degree. Make sure to check early on which grades are applicable to you, as it may be worth putting in that extra bit of effort to ensure that you excel in those subjects. Furthermore, I really want to stress the importance of your reputation at the LSE. The interview that you will be completing as part of your application is important, but many of the people that will be interviewing you will be members of the Department of Management staff. Hence, they will likely already have an opinion about you, and if your reputation is subpar, they may hesitate to send you to one of the more popular destinations. The importance of this is further highlighted by the fact that it is the Department of Management, rather than the exchange schools, that decides whom to send where.

Concluding remarks

I hope that this short insight has given you a better understanding of Yale, and of the process in general. Yale has thus far been an amazing experience, and it is worth it to put some extra effort into your first term and the application process to make sure you get in (one wouldn’t want to be forced to go to Booth).

Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions. I am always happy to help.

Gustav