Yale Essay: “Influence” Breakdown

If you decide to apply to Yale SOM, one of the essays (in addition to the video essays) that you will be required to submit is an essay focusing on how you have influenced an organization.  Specifically, the essay states,

“The Yale School of Management educates individuals who will have deep and lasting impact on the organizations they lead. Describe how you have positively influenced an organization as an employee, a member, or an outside constituent.”

An anecdote would serve you well with this essay, especially one that focuses in on a triumph or the overcoming of an obstacle to reach your goal.  The essay only allows for 500 words, so let’s look at how you can ensure that this anecdote does as much for your application as possible.

1. Set the stage/problem (~150 words)

  • Give the admissions officers some context here.  What organization was it?  What is your typical role in the organization?  If your influence came in the form of a specific action you can point to, was there a situation in the organization that surrounded that action?  In my essay I spoke of a project I worked on throughout the summer of one of my internships.  Your influence can be broader or narrower than that, but my examples will focus on this kind of intermediate length.

“When I arrived for my first day of work in the Personal Care Division at The 3M Company this summer, I was given my assignments. As I spoke with my supervisor about the scope and expectations of each project, I couldn’t help but notice that her office was flooded with product samples. I inquired about this and she noted that the division had been so busy that they hadn’t had time to organize the samples in years.

After the meeting, I strolled around the floor to meet my new coworkers and noticed more instances of product samples hogging space. Offices, cubicles, drawers, and cabinets were all overflowing with tattered, unlabeled samples. It was then that I resolved that someone had to do something. I informed my supervisor that I had a method for remedying the issue and asked if I might take action. She unreservedly approved.”


2. Steps taken and hurdles overcome (~150 words)

  • Here, you can mention exactly what you did.  Be sure to show how you took initiative.  That is, reference things you did on your own, not things you did because they were delegated to you.  If you faced some obstacles along the way, mention how you overcame them.  Show your resolve and ability to stay the course even when things got difficult.

During downtime, I interviewed stakeholders about their searching processes. I brought gargantuan recycling bins up to our floor and scheduled a division-wide cleanout project. After a week, only the most important samples were left, but they lacked information. I researched the essential product data for each of the hundreds of samples and placed all of this information, along with an image of each sample, into a database that I’d created.

 I soon reasoned that it would be necessary for the database to be searchable by multiple criteria, and so created a virtual archive that could be used to find samples quickly. I developed and integrated a cataloging system and notation to correspond with empty cabinets in the back of the office that I then labeled for continuity. This was the most arduous part of the process; at times I would spend an hour writing a formula only for it to not work. However, I pressed onward with thoughts of the potential business value.

After building the archive, it was time to populate it. I uploaded the product information for hundreds of products and placed them in their corresponding spots in the cabinets. What was once a hodgepodge of loose, unidentified samples was now two neat shelves of cataloged, searchable folders.”


3. Finished product/result (~50 words)

  • Here, you can briefly describe the result of your efforts.  Did you meet your goal?  Exceed it?  What was the finished product like?  If you implemented a solution that is still in place, this is a great place to mention that fact

“During my final presentation to the marketing team, I revealed the system and watched everyone’s expression shift from curiosity to elation. Everybody wanted to access and utilize the system. According to an update from my supervisor, the system is now firmly in place and is a staple of efficiency within the division.


4. Why? (~50 words)

  • At some point in the essay (I did it here), you may want to include why you did what you did that had such an influence on the organization.  Letting the admissions officers see what was driving you can provide insight into your passion, virtues, and ambition.  It can also teach them a bit more about you, so I’d highly recommend detailing why you decided to go above and beyond the call of duty.
  • “Nobody expected me to fix this problem of a lack of product organization. This was never my assignment and I didn’t have to get involved, but I wanted to. I envisioned the innumerable benefits that the system would provide, and I wanted to make them a reality.”

5. Bring it back to Yale (~50 words)

  • Lastly, you’ll want to tie it back to Yale and its culture.  Yale is committed to having lasting impacts on organizations, others, and the world (verbatim from my essay), and you want to make it clear that you are, too.

    “Yale’s culture is one full of a commitment to having lasting impacts on organizations, on others, and on the world. I am of the class that embraces this culture, and I aim to use my experiences, knowledge, and ambition to further it.”

As always, I’ve left a bit of wiggle room with the word count so you can tailor your essay to your own personal experiences.  If you take the necessary time to think the essay through, it’ll be that much easier for you to pick an influence that allows you to write a compelling piece, gets the attention of the admissions officers, and speaks to who you truly are as a person.

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