Normally when BSers send in an essay for hopes of a freebie review here on the blahg right before deadlines, we have to let it languish while we’re fighting the good fight alongside those who are paying us to return feedback on their drafts super fast. Today is an exception! We got this Yale SOM draft from a hopeful BSer last week, and here we are, offering comments on it! In time for them to potentially read these remarks and incorporate them into their revision process. Woo-hoo!
Yale SOM has but one essay, and their essay question is:
Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made.
And what did this BSer offer as the opening of their draft?
The biggest commitment I ever made was trading my salaried job in [industry] for a riskier, commission-only role in [new industry].
Celebration! A clear and direct answer to the question as the very first sentence! This gives us hope straight out of the gate. The one caution flag that goes up for us is, typically personal stories rather than professional stories work best for this question, because most people simply don’t make “biggest” commitments to anything in career. Yes, every job you take is a commitment, but they’re also paying you for that job, so it’s not quite the level of sacrifice or risk or skin-in-the-game commitment as what some personal topics can offer. That being said, this BSer did describe this as “riskier” so perhaps they’re attuned to that? Let’s continue! What do they say in the next paragraph?
I began my career working at the [industry] firm [name], doing [redacted basic job description]. I regularly liaised with [more basic job description stuff]. But I was most intrigued by the [thing that they were interested in]. After some research, a [new industry] role soon became my dream job – it incorporated my interest in [function] while leveraging my interpersonal skills.
Well hm. This is just a recap of what the first job was, and a fairly surface-level one at that. Not convinced that this is the best way to continue the essay. Is this foundation information important? Yeah maybe: It captures the initial state or origins for the BSer, before making the commitment. Is it impactful to the essay and/or the overall application? Not sure yet. Is it written in a truly compelling way? Nope. It brings the forward momentum of the essay to a screeching halt.
The most compelling question that we had as reader as we started reading that second paragraph is, what actually was the “commitment” in moving to a new career, and especially, why did this person make it? And, how was it “risky”?
We sort of get some of that in this paragraph, but not really. It just is describing this person’s interest in making a career change. Does that truly fit the essence of this essay prompt? 😕
It’s only a 500-word essay. We’re nervous that this second paragraph isn’t working hard enough, either to answer those basic questions that the reader will have at the outset to the story, nor to illuminate something meaningful about the profile that the BSer can’t otherwise present elsewhere in the app. Mostly we’re concerned about how this story is this person’s “biggest” commitment ever, in all of their life — if you’re writing for this question for Yale, you must be able to satisfy that part of the question in what you present.
The jury is still out, so let’s keep going.
I was determined to make that transition. I spent more than a year interviewing for [new industry] positions, repeatedly hearing “you don’t have enough experience”.
Aha! Now we’re starting to see some true potential.
So this is actually turning into a decent to good essay, and we don’t typically review good essays publicly here on the blahg, so we’re not going to include more of the actual draft.
Why do we say that this is an essay that has potential?
Because after that paragraph, which has a hint of the commitment — spending a year doing it even when they kept being told “no” — the BSer went on to give even more concrete and specific details about literally what comprised the commitment for them. This was demonstrated through statements of the steps taken to pursue this goal — which, in the face of the opposition cited, especially in light of how long they persevered, totally gives evidence of being “committed” to this.
We will just note here separately: There are actually at least two different ways to interpret this question asking for a “commitment” and sometimes it works to do it as this BSer has done — and sometimes it doesn’t. In this case, we’re seeing that possibly it does.
If you want to use this prompt to talk about how you were “committed to a goal” then what you need to do is really come through with evidence of that commitment, as this person has done.
Even more so, what works in the remainder of this draft (which we’re not posting) is direct evidence for the actual commitment made to the job that they eventually landed — including the terms that this person agreed to, and the sacrifice made. This shows the conviction that was driving it. This person not only decided to go after this goal, they went after it despite headwinds, they kept going, and when they got an offer, the terms of that offer were not what everyone would agree to.
So the “commitment” is demonstrated to be not just the actual decision, but evidence of the follow-through and determination, AND — what works really the best in this case — making the commitment to the career itself
This may seem like a very nuanced discussion (and it is), and we’re not trying to imply that every good essay for this SOM question will have all of this. Often, a “commitment” essay works the best for Yale when someone talks about something that they believe in, that they put themselves on the line for in some personal way, and stayed true to those values. We talk in depth about answering with this type of “commitment” story in the Yale essay guide (such stories often really show a lot about the person, BTW!). This essay isn’t answering in that way at all, at least not on the surface. Yet it’s still revealing values for the BSer.
What we recommend though is this person might want to re-examine that second paragraph, to see if it’s working as hard as it could be in terms of both the position of that content in the flow of the essay, and also given the questions we identified above, that were surfacing in the head as we read the first statement of the essay and were continuing on. If you’re committed to including it (ha see what we did there! chortle) then at minimum, we’d suggest using that paragraph to show the reader something. That whole section is pure “telling” right now: The statements are high-level, generic descriptors. They’re not conveying meaning beyond what we’d expect from a glance at the resume. You can be leveraging that position of the essay to greater effect!!
We have some high hopes that this BSer is going to see an admit or two this season, based on the quality of this draft. This is one of the rare cases where we’re not going to do the whole you really should get this fully decimated upsell pitch. They don’t need it. They’re doing a good job of navigating this difficult process of figuring out essay-writing and content-strategy execution on their own (or perhaps with the guidance of a qualified admissions consultant; if so, they’re getting decent advice, and if no consultant is involved, then even stronger kudos to the BSer).
If they’re also trying for a school like Harvard, then sure, everybody could benefit from getting their HBS essay decimated. But this one for Yale? Looks like they’re headed in a good direction.
(Though this draft would clearly not work in any way for a Stanford GSB Essay A — whereas in the case of a personal answer to the “biggest commitment” question, often it would.)
Oh yeah one final point for this BSer: Please insert a timeframe! The reader needs to know when you did all of this. This should come in that very first sentence — you might even do more to show why this commitment was such a big deal in how you’re starting the essay there. The riskier etc statement is a start but you could even capture more aspects or angles to it, per some of the reactions we have offered here. Though we also dn’t want you to do much tinkering; there’s a real chance that a good essay becomes a not-so-great essay when the BSer tries to incorporate too much at once. So just be careful on where you go from here. And probably be conservative on how many other opinions you solicit. Just ‘cuz you know, other people may have the best of intentions but could take you astray from the quality beginning you’ve got going already.
And we do hope you’ll stay in touch and let us know how it goes for you! You’ve got a lot going for you, and we are looking forward to hearing of your successes for Round 2.
You may also be interested in:
- another Yale “biggest commitment” essay reviewed here! (from 2018 but same principles apply!)
- more essay critique posts here! (119 and counting!)
- Want to see essays for a specific school? Try searching the blahg for “essay critique” “school name” like here! (with an actual school name!)