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How to Apply Successfully to the Yale Silver Scholars Program

In May, Yale’s Silver Scholars program celebrated its 15th year and its 100th graduate. Silver Scholars is a way for graduating seniors to apply to Yale School of Management’s MBA program straight out of college.

Unlike Harvard 2+2 and Stanford’s deferred enrollment program for college seniors, Silver Scholars brings admitted students to campus to begin their studies immediately.

Instead of deferring enrollment to gain work experience, Silver Scholars take a year off to work on an internship in between their two years of MBA coursework. Therefore, Yale Silver Scholars is a three-year program altogether:

– Year 1: Core curriculum

– Year 2: Internship

– Year 3: Electives

Besides the year spent on an internship, Yale Silver Scholars have largely the same experience as traditional Yale MBA students. They complete the same application, do the same coursework, and get the same degree.

How to Apply Successfully to the Yale Silver Scholars Program

Because Silver Scholars’s format replaces traditional pre-MBA work experience with a one-year internship and makes it possible to get an MBA within three years of finishing college, Yale often points out that the program can be a way to accelerate your career.

If you have a solid sense of where you want your future to go and already have experiences that demonstrate strong leadership potential, Silver Scholars might be a good fit that lets you move decisively toward your goals.

Who Do They Want?

Yale only accepts a handful of Silver Scholars each year – recall that after 15 years, they’ve just celebrated their 100th graduate!

Based on the size of the program, its safe to say Yale Silver Scholars is probably even more selective than Yale’s traditional MBA. Some of the qualities Yale looks for in applicants are:

– Strong academics. The average Yale SOM student has a 3.63 undergrad GPA and 720 GMAT. Although Yale doesn’t release separate stats for Silver Scholars, it’s a good bet that the standards are even higher.

– Leadership in one’s college or community. Because Silver Scholars takes applicants right out of college, the bar is that much higher to establish evidence of strong leadership early.

– Work experience. Of course, Yale expects less in this regard from Silver Scholars than from traditional MBA applicants. But because there are fewer data points for adcoms to use, internships and part-time work experience that you do have will take on more significance.

– Specific interests. Silver Scholars go on to work in many different sectors, but they all enter the program with clear areas of interest in which they have distinguished themselves.

– Reasons for doing an MBA now. Doing a program like Silver Scholars right out of college is the path less taken, so adcoms will be looking to see whether you have a good reason for starting an MBA immediately rather than taking the more conventional route of gaining work experience, then applying. This also means having a clear vision of your future.

– Both domestic and international students.

Applying to the Yale Silver Scholars Program 

Silver Scholar applicants complete the same application as all Yale MBA applicants. However, because of Silver Scholars’s unique structure, there are a few tweaks to the application process.

The first, of course, is that only graduating college seniors can apply to Silver Scholars. Winter graduates or international students from countries that follow slightly different systems are also eligible.

Since Silver Scholar applicants generally have less work experience than traditional MBA applicants, Yale asks for one academic academic recommendation and one employer recommendation rather than two professional recommendations.

Yale anticipates that some applicants won’t have any work experience, in which case a letter from a volunteer organization or extracurricular activity can take the place of the employer recommendation.

Finally, applicants who move on to the next round will be invited to do an interview with at least one member of the Silver Scholars Committee. The interview will cover your goals, interests and academic experiences.

Possible Drawbacks

Yale Silver Scholars is a unique opportunity, but it’s not for everyone.

The most obvious downside is that you arrive on campus with no pre-MBA work experience and leave with only a one-year internship under your belt.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it means you should reflect on the specific industry you’re going into and your work experience so far. Try to get a sense of whether more extensive work experience or the abbreviated path of Silver Scholars is the best fit for your situation.

Also keep in mind that because Silver Scholars spend the middle year of the three-year program on internships, you’ll spend your first and second years of actual MBA studies as part of different cohorts. Once again, this isn’t inherently negative, but it’s something to remember.

Advantages of Applying to Yale Silver Scholars

OK, so those are the potential disadvantages of Silver Scholar, but let’s get to the good stuff.

Some of the advantages are just the disadvantages viewed from a different perspective. For example, it’s true that you’ll get less work experience overall, but if you have a strong vision of where you’re headed, this can be a great way of fast-tracking your career.

The Silver Scholars program also includes resources like career advisers that help students build their professional game plans. The selectivity of the program allows for a very individualized experience.

Being part of two different full-time MBA cohorts isn’t all downside either. It’s an opportunity to network with more people, and the small group of Silver Scholars forms a tight-knit cohort all to itself.

Maybe the biggest advantage of Silver Scholars is that it’s an opportunity to get your MBA plans sorted out right away rather working for a while, then sending out applications and taking the GMAT after you’ve been out of school for a while.

And unlike other programs for college seniors such as Harvard 2+2 and Stanford deferred enrollment, you don’t just get your MBA plans lined up – you actually get to jump headfirst into your MBA studies without delay.

Final Thoughts

Over its fifteen years, Yale’s Silver Scholars program has evolved considerably. For one thing, it’s gone from being a program specifically for Yale graduating seniors to one open to students from all schools.

In recent years, Yale has also been gradually increasing the size of the incoming class although the program remains small and highly selective. Overall, Yale SOM has been on the up-and-up lately, rising in the U.S. News rankings this year.

Silver Scholars can be a pretty good two-for-one deal if you get in: you get your MBA studies underway and you get to skip over the entry-level work that can come with the pre-MBA territory.

On the other hand, there’s not much downside if you don’t get in. Being rejected from the tiny Silver Scholars program doesn’t disqualify you from applying to Yale in the future, so you can just move along like nothing happened, then reevaluate your options once you have more work experience.

Yale Silver Scholars is a one-of-a-kind program, so if you’re a graduating senior who’s confident in your career goals and are ready to get on with things, it’s definitely worth looking into.

See Yale’s Silver Scholars page for more information.