How to Write the Yale Supplemental Essays

Monday, May 2, 2022

How to Write the Yale Supplemental Essay

With its lengthy history and unparalleled academic rigor, it’s no surprise that Yale tops many students’ best-fit lists, with an acceptance rate that has dipped below 5% in recent years.

Given the competitive nature of Yale’s admissions process, every component of your college application is going to be crucial, including supplemental essays. Like many colleges, Yale has a number of writing prompts that students are required to answer as part of their submission. Keep reading to learn more about the Yale supplemental essay to make sure your writing sets you apart from the pack.

Table of contents:

  • How many supplemental essays does Yale have?
  • How to tackle Yale’s short answer questions?
    • What academic areas fit your interests and goals?
    • Why do these academic areas appeal to you?
    • Why Yale?
  • How to write the Yale supplemental essay?
    • Supplemental essay prompt 1
    • Supplemental essay prompt 2a
    • Supplemental essay prompt 2b
  • Yale Essays the Worked

How Many Supplemental Essays Does Yale Have?

Yale requires several different supplemental essays as well as short answer questions. The questions themselves vary slightly depending on which application platform a student chooses to use. All students answer three short answer questions and each response must be a maximum of 125 words. Students who apply through the Common Application or the Coalition Application must also respond to four additional short answer questions, each with a maximum character count of 200.

Additionally, there are two Yale essays that students must answer. There is one prompt that applicants must respond to and for the second they may choose between two options. Each supplemental essay should be 250 words or fewer.

How to Tackle Yale’s Short Answer Questions

Given Yale’s competitive admissions process, the bar for each supplemental essay is exceptionally high. If you want to learn more about how to get into Yale, keep reading for tips on how to tackle each of their short answer and supplemental essay prompts.

Prompt #1: What academic areas fit your interests and goals? Why do these academic areas appeal to you?

The admissions officers want to get a sense of where each applicant’s genuine academic passion. They want to know why mechanical engineering appeals to a student or why they are drawn to theater. To answer this short answer question successfully, make sure your response makes it clear exactly where your academic interests lie, and, more importantly, why you are interested.

Once you’ve articulated the discipline(s) you want to study and the academic goals you have, you’ll have an opportunity to dive deeper into why you are passionate about these interests. Colleges are always looking for students who are enthusiastic and committed to the subjects they’re focusing on, so make sure your passion for the field you wish to study shines through.

Prompt #2: Why Yale?

Many colleges ask questions along the lines of “why this college?” because it is an ideal opportunity to evaluate a student’s interest level. The best answers should be tailored to the college you’re applying to and convey your expertise in the institution. Don’t be afraid to name specific professors and courses you’re interested in taking, majors you would wish to pursue, and student-run clubs that you would be eager to join. You want to make sure you’re emphasizing what Yale is known for as they relate to your criteria for your undergraduate experience and demonstrate that you’ve done your research.

How to Write the Yale Supplemental Essay

Similarly, here are a few best practices for writing responses to Yale’s supplemental essays:

Supplemental Essay Prompt #1

Yale’s extensive course offerings and vibrant conversations beyond the classroom encourage students to follow their developing intellectual interests wherever they lead. Tell us about your engagement with a topic or idea that excites you. Why are you drawn to it?
In this prompt, admissions officers are looking to learn more about who a student is and what motivates them intellectually, either inside or outside of the classroom. The best strategy for this Yale supplemental essay response is to pick one topic or idea and focus solely on it, rather than trying to highlight a few different interests in the same essay. Since you only have 250 words, make sure each sentence counts and be thoughtful in articulating the “why”!

Supplemental Essay Prompt #2a

Reflect on a community to which you feel connected. Why is it meaningful to you?  You may define community however you like.

Unlike some of the other supplemental essay questions, this query is designed to prompt students to write about something more personal and reflective. Take some time to think about a community that is meaningful to you and pinpoint what makes this group so special – e.g., who comprises the group, what is your role within this community, how has this community shaped you, and vice versa.

Supplemental Essay Prompt #2b

Reflect on something that has given you great satisfaction. Why has it been important to you?

This question gives students another opportunity to talk about what really matters to them and explore why. Remember that the admissions office is eager to get a sense of who you are as a person and a student, so don’t be afraid to talk about an achievement that happened outside of the classroom. Make sure to focus on the why element and explain what made this milestone so important to you.

Yale Essays That Worked 

Looking for some inspiration for your Yale supplemental essays? While it’s important to make sure your own voice shines through, it can be helpful to read through a few successful supplements to get an idea of what to aim for, especially given how competitive Yale admissions stats are.

Here’s one example of a Why Yale? essay that aligns with what admissions officers are looking for.

Actor and math major. Theater geek and football player. Critical and creative thinker. What draws me to Yale most is that they don’t limit one’s mind with “or”s. Instead, they embrace the power of “and” the strength that comes with duality.

Wandering through the Beinecke Library, I would prepare for my multi-disciplinary Energy Studies capstone that explores the correlation between hedonism and climate change, making it my goal to uncover implications in environmental sociology. I would study with Assistant Professor Arielle Baskin-Sommers, who would guide my class as we explored the emotional deficits of depression, utilizing neuroimaging to scrutinize human perception. After class, I would head to Walden Peer Counseling, where I would integrate my peer support and active listening skills to foster an empathetic environment for the Yale community. Combining my interests in psychological and environmental studies is why I am proud to be a Bulldog.

And here’s an example of an essay about community:

I am quiet in the classroom. My hand raises infrequently. My words are few and far between. I always prefer the quiet familiarity of an empty notebook page compared to the sound of my own voice cutting through the classroom air.

Yet, it is when I step out of the fluorescent-lit hallways and into the marley studios that my spirit comes alive. Surrounded by familiar faces dressed in identical uniforms of black leotards and pink tights, I feel at home. When the last notes on the piano echo through the studio and the final bow has been taken, our voices flow freely. The young men and women I dance with are more than colleagues, peers, or competitors. They are my confidants, my inspiration to do better, and the energy that keeps me coming back to the same mirrored room, day in and day out. 

Ace your Yale Supplemental Essay with IvyWise

There’s no doubt that acing the Yale supplemental essays takes effort. Students need to start drafting their responses well in advance to ensure they’re presenting themselves in the best light possible. If you’re looking for personalized college admissions assistance, our team is here to help.

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