Yale Application Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Yale University campus surrounding with students walking in every direction.

Yale Application Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs

When applying to top schools in the United States, such as Yale University, students who are looking to beat the odds of the acceptance rates and get in need to know what they are up against. Not only does it take an incredible resume that is built on a foundation of great grades, strong standardized testing scores, extracurriculars, and much more. It also takes an incredibly strong application and knowing the common Yale application mistakes.

Part of that is simply knowing about the top Yale application mistakes that every student should avoid. And that is why we are here!

At AdmissionSight, we make it our number one priority to help all of our students that we work with to get into the schools at the top of their lists. That is true whether their dream schools at Ivy League programs such as Yale, top liberal arts schools, or public universities.

Aerial view of Yale University's historical building at sunset.

And for every school that a high school student is trying to get into, the application process is crucial. Students need to make sure that they are representing themselves in a positive way while also being fully honest about themselves and their experiences in high school.

When it comes to making a mistake on the Yale application, a real mistake can end up having hugely negative impacts on a student’s entire goal of getting into the school.

Which is why we thought it would be a good idea to break down some of those top Yale application mistakes now, so that any student thinking about applying can know these early on and be conscious about avoiding them when the application process begins.

Yale University basics

Before we go into the many different types of mistakes on Yale applications to avoid, we thought that it would be a good idea to break down some of the basic facts regarding Yale University and applying to Yale.

Let’s get started!

Yale acceptance rate

When it comes to getting into Yale, the school is widely known as one of the most prestigious and competitive schools in the United States. In fact, it is part of what is known as the “Big Three” within the Ivy League.

The “Big Three” refers to the three schools that are thought of as the best schools in the ivy League. Along with Yale, the “Big Three” is made up of Harvard University and Princeton University. These three schools are considered to be the hardest schools to get into in the Ivy League as well.

For the graduating class of 2025 – or the students who applied to Yale in 2021 – they had the hardest time for any students ever applying to the school. Yale accepted just 4.62 percent of the students that applied. That low acceptance rate came out of 46,905 applicants – a record pool of applicants in the history of the school.

It is even more important to note that the acceptance rate took a major hit compared to the previous year. The graduating class of 2024 – meaning students that were applying in 2020 – saw an acceptance rate of 6.54 percent.

Of course, there are many factors that have led to this year’s acceptance rate being so low, there is no doubt that it is also a sustainable trend of an ever-decreasing acceptance rate and an ever-increasing level of difficulty.

When it comes to the other Ivy League schools and their acceptance rate, take a look at the graph below to see where Yale University stacks up.

Table with information about different universities.

So, as you can see, Yale certainly deserves its reputation as being one of the hardest schools to get into in the United States. After all, it is one of the hardest schools to get into in the Ivy League!

Before we move on from the acceptance rate bit of this breakdown, it is important to mention that for students who are truly dedicated to getting into Yale, they can always use the power that comes with applying Early Action to Yale.

Believe it or not, the acceptance rate for high school students who applied to Yale University Early Action last year was a favorable 10.5 percent!

That means that students who are sure that they will absolutely want to go to Yale if they are able to get in can more than double their chances of getting in if they are able to apply early and get their application in on time.

Yale average GPA and standardized test scores

The final thing that we will be breaking down here is the average grade point average and standardized test scores that students who are accepted to Yale earn when they are in high school.

Even though standardized tests have been made optional now due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there is little doubt that they will be made required again in the future. Beyond that, we believe that it is important that students take every opportunity to prove that they are worthy of Yale to the admissions officers.

Shaded test paper with a pencil laying on top of it.

So, for that reason, we advise that students take either the SAT or ACT if they can do so safely amidst the pandemic and believe that their score will help argue their case to getting into the school.

So, with that out of the way, here is the breakdown of the SAT and ACT scores for high school students who get into Yale.

Table with information about college acceptance rates.

Moreover, the average GPA for students that get into Yale is an incredibly high 4.14 weighted grade point average. That is good for one of the highest average GPAs in the entire country.

Between the incredibly high average GPA as well as the incredibly high average SAT and ACT scores, anyone should be able to recognize just how difficult this school is to get into.

Yale admissions deadlines and requirements

Here are the crucial dates and requirements to keep in mind for your application:

  • Since-Choice Early Action Deadline: November 1
  • QuestBridge National College Match Deadline: November 1
  • Regular Decision Deadline: January 2
  • Financial Aid Application for Single-Choice Early Action Deadline: November 10
  • Financial Aid Application for Regular Decision: March 15

As for the application requirements, those are:

All applicants for first-year admission must submit one of the following:

  • The Coalition Application with Yale-Specific Questions
  • The Common Application with Yale-Specific Questions
  • The QuestBridge Application with Yale QuestBridge Questionnaire

Yale will accept any one of these applications, without preference for one over another. Students should submit one—and only one—application per admissions cycle.

Additional requirements for all first-year applicants:

  • $80 application fee or fee waiver
  • Recommendations from two teachers and one counselor
  • School Report with transcript
  • Standardized test results (ACT or SAT) – not required for fall 2021 or 2022 admission. See below.
  • Mid-Year Report (due when first semester/term senior grades are available at your school)

Okay! There are the basic facts that AdmissionSight wanted to quickly go over before we get into the nitty gritty of this important breakdown. Without further delay, let’s get into the Yale application mistakes that any student who is looking to get into the school should avoid.

Yale application mistakes to avoid at all costs

When it comes to the most important part of any college application essay, there is very little doubt that the most important aspect of the application is the student’s personal essay.

In fact, there are many experts within the university application world who believe that the essay aspect of the application process is the second most important part of the application behind a student’s four-year high school GPA.

Because this is what we will be focusing on for the remainder of this breakdown, we think it is also important that students get a feel for what kinds of questions Yale tends to ask its applicants.

To help, we gathered the essay questions that Yale asked its applicants to answer for the 2021 application cycle. While questions change year to year, there is also a fair amount of crossover that happens each year.

The questions for 2021 were:

Short Answer Questions

Applicants submitting the Coalition Application, Common Application, or QuestBridge Application will respond to the following short answer questions:

  • Students at Yale have time to explore their academic interests before committing to one or more major fields of study. Many students either modify their original academic direction or change their minds entirely. As of this moment, what academic areas seem to fit your interests or goals most comfortably? Please indicate up to three from the list provided.
  • Why do these areas appeal to you? (125 words or fewer)
  • What is it about Yale that has led you to apply? (125 words or fewer)

Applicants applying with the QuestBridge Application will complete the questions above via the Yale QuestBridge Questionnaire, available on the Yale Admissions Status Portal after an application has been received.

Applicants submitting the Coalition Application or Common Application will also respond to the following short answer questions, in no more than 200 characters (approximately 35 words):

  • What inspires you?
  • Yale’s residential colleges regularly host conversations with guests representing a wide range of experiences and accomplishments. What person, past or present, would you invite to speak? What would you ask them to discuss?
  • You are teaching a new Yale course. What is it called?
  • Yale students embrace the concept of “and” rather than “or,” pursuing arts and sciences, tradition, and innovation, defined goals and surprising detours. What is an example of an “and” that you embrace?


Applicants submitting the Coalition Application or Common Application: use the two short essays (250 words or fewer) below to reflect on topics and personal experiences that will help the Admissions Committee learn more about you.

  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?
  2. Respond to one of the following prompts:
  • 2A. Reflect on a community to which you feel connected. Why is it meaningful to you?  You may define community however you like.
  • 2B. Reflect on something that has given you great satisfaction. Why has it been important to you?

Considering that it takes any student four years to compile their GPA in high school, you can tell just how impactful and important a student’s application essays are. That is why the mistakes that we go over here will deal specifically with the essay section. So let’s get into it.

Leaving out vital personal information

Without a doubt, this tip applies most to students who come from circumstances that are less than ideal. For students who overcame issues at home, low socio-economic backgrounds, or if a student is a first-generation college applicant, they should be sure to include this information into their student essays.

While this will not necessarily give you a strong upper hand in the application process, schools like Yale are now more committed than ever to give students the opportunities that they deserve.

Reflect on your own circumstances growing up and try to see it all from as objective a point of view as possible. What is your community like?

What kind of responsibilities have you had to shoulder throughout your life? What kind of home life do you have? Let college admissions officers know and offer related context in as rich and full a way as humanly possible.

Lacking a clear description of your ambition and goals

Top schools like Yale love to see that students that are applying have goals set out for themselves both for their undergraduate education and everything that can and will come after that.

In fact, schools these days are looking for students who have specialized skills and interests related to a certain part of a career path.

This does not mean, however, that Yale is only accepting students who know exactly what they want to do in college or in their career, but having an ability to clearly reveal and discuss your passions and goals will help admissions officers get a better sense of how well you will fit in on campus.

No showing your familiarity with and interest in the school

Schools that are highly desirable for students to attend – such as Yale – love it when they feel as though a student who is applying already has a connection to the school itself. Sure, this is not a dealbreaker, but it can really help a student improve their chances of gaining acceptance.

Whether you have just researched the school and its history online, have met and spoken with members of the school’s proud alumnus, or have even attended an official or unofficial visit, going into this will look great on your college application.

Talk about what you love about the school, where you think you might fit in and what you will want to get involved in once you actually get to campus.

Not making clear that you are a leader

To put it simply: Top colleges and universities in the United States love accepting leaders into their student body. The reason why is because schools are hoping that the impact and influence young people have in their lives will positively impact the school’s reputation for many years to come.

There are reasons why Yale is so proud of former students like Jodie Foster, Angela Bassett, George H.W. Bush, Paul Krugman, Bob Woodward, Hillary Clinton, Meryl Streep. Simply, it makes the school look great!

While being a leader is not the only path to success, students who assumed a role of impact and leadership during their high school years, whether in their school community, in the clubs and teams that they were a part of, or in their hometown at large, should find a way to discuss that in their application essays.

Talk about why you care about being a leader, what you gain from it, what you hope to give others from your leadership, and more! It will certainly make you look great in the eyes of admissions officers.

Not giving yourself the time, you need to proofread and improve

The final mistake that students absolutely have to avoid when they are crafting their Yale application essays is to not give themselves the time they need to edit and improve their essays. This is especially true for students who are applying Early Action, as their entire application is due quite a bit sooner than Regular Decision applicants.

A proofread document with a red pen laying on top of it.

Starting your essay so that you have enough time to read, proofread, edit and improve all of your essays is crucial to making sure that you are giving yourself the best chance possible to get accepted.

After all, you would never want to risk possibly getting rejected by your dream school simply because you did not give yourself the time needed to write the very best application essays possible.

Get more Yale admission advice

At AdmissionSight, we make it our number one goal to help the students get into the schools of their dreams. That’s why we broke down these Yale application mistakes to avoid and it’s also why we’re so proud of our 75 percent success rate when it comes to our students getting into Ivy League schools or other top 10 schools in the United States.

If you are interested in learning about our process and how we help our students, contact us today to set up a free consultation.

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