How to Write the Yale Supplemental Essays

Friday, August 26, 2022

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?

Yale University 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 that ask about your academic interests and why you have decided to apply for Yale. 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 400 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: Tell us about a topic or idea that excites you and is related to one or more academic areas you selected above. Why are you drawn to it?

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: What is it about Yale that has led you to apply?

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 carries out its mission “through the free exchange of ideas in an ethical, interdependent, and diverse community.” Reflect on a time when you exchanged ideas about an important issue with someone holding an opposing view. How did the experience lead you either to change your opinion or to sharpen your reasons for holding onto it?

This question is asking you to demonstrate your ability to work with people you may disagree with and genuinely consider opinions that differ from your own. Think of an example that shows your willingness to listen and hold important conversations with other people in a respectful way. The trick here is to balance your own convictions with the understanding that you are not always right about everything and are excited about the opportunity to embrace others’ perspectives, whether or not you end up changing your own mind in the ed.

Supplemental Essay Prompt #2

Reflect on a time when you have worked to enhance a community to which you feel connected. Why have these efforts been 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 how you have made a positive impact on that community and its members. Remember to be as specific as possible in the small amount of space you have to work with, and don’t be afraid to toot your own horn in the process!

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.

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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