Yale Supplemental Essays

October 30, 2020
By AdmissionSight

The Ultimate Guide to Writing the Yale Supplemental Essays

When applying to Yale, students want to put their best foot forward in order to increase their chances of admittance to this revered university. While most of the application revolves around standard questions regarding academic performance, standardized test grades, extracurriculars, and other fairly dry information, the Yale supplemental essays offer students a chance to really let their personalities shine through. However, the openness and vagueness of some of these prompts can make the Yale supplemental essays the most stress-inducing part of the application. Luckily for you, AdmissionSight has already helped a number of students get into Yale by nailing their applications. Let’s take a deeper look at the prompts you’ll see on the Yale supplemental essays and how you can write the best response possible.

You can make it into Yale…with the right strategy.

As one of the most sought after Ivy League Colleges in the world, it’s clear why so many students have a dream of gracing the classrooms of this elite institution – to receive a great education and improve their prospects for the future. One look at Yale’s acceptance rate of 6.9%, though, is enough to even make the most confident students break a sweat. At AdmissionSight, we’re here to tell you that you can make it into Yale! You just have to have the right strategy.

A pristine application is an integral component of that strategy. Not only is this your ticket into consideration for acceptance, but the Yale application is the sole method you have for communicating to the admission officers – the people in charge of deciding who’s accepted and who’s refused. It has to be equal parts captivating, well-written, personalized, honest, succinct, and on-topic. As you might expect with an Ivy League School like Yale, getting accepted takes some due diligence and hard work, but it’s very possible.

college students taking an exam

What are the Yale Supplemental Essays?

All applicants at Yale have a series of essay questions to answer as part of their application. Interestingly, the Yale supplemental essays have some very short prompts, giving students less than 100 words to answer in some cases. In response, you’ll need to focus on being to the point and choosing your words carefully as any fluff will surely stick out. When filling out your application, pay particular attention to the prompts you’re required to answer since some only correspond to certain applications. Below, we’ve broken down the prompts for the Yale supplemental essays to give you a better idea of what the college admission specialists are expecting and how you can increase your chances of standing out.

Yale Questions

Students at Yale have plenty of 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.

Honest and up-front are the best ways to approach this subject. In the question, it’s already acknowledged that most students at Yale either modify their area of study slightly or make a complete 180. The point being – you shouldn’t feel pressured to seem overly interested in one area just to impress the admission board. You’ll come off much more genuine by writing about academic areas in which you have a genuine interest. If you’re dead set on biology, don’t be afraid to let that passion shine through. However, don’t shy away if you’re still undecided. Talk earnestly about some areas of study that pique your interest and why. Refrain from talking about extracurriculars. You’ll be asked to choose a few specific areas of study, so you’ll want to try to pick a few that relate in some way. You’ll see why in the next question.

Why do these areas appeal to you? (Length = 100 words or less)

Like we mentioned before, you’ll want to choose subjects that are relatively similar in the first Yale supplemental essay to make it easier to answer this one. If you gave a well-thought-out answer to the previous question, all you have to do is go a little more in-depth and expand on that point in this question. Essentially, you want to piece together a story of your academic interests and curiosity. You should show how you ended up being interested in these subjects by telling about experiences that brought you there. Maybe you had an inspiring history teacher who sparked your passion for the subject or you read a profound book that kicked off your science itch. No matter what, this essay is a chance to give a personality to your academic interests.

What is it about Yale that has led you to apply? (Length = 125 words or less)

This is a curveball question for a lot of students. Being asked to explain why a student wants to attend Yale seems like a blatantly obvious question. Because it’s one of the premier schools in the world! While that’s definitely true, it’s not going to cut it as a sufficient answer. You see, admission boards don’t want to know what makes Yale so great. Instead, they want to know why you, as an individual, want to attend.  You’ll want to explain why you have a vested interest in attending and what it would mean to you to be accepted. While you need to remain personal, don’t completely ignore aspects of the university. This question is also a great opportunity to show the admission specialists that you’ve done your research. A great approach is to look up specific Yale opportunities within your field of interest and how that would inspire you to apply. You’re checking both boxes by mentioning something specific about Yale and how it applies to you and your goals.

Many different aspects of Yale can attract high school students, such as their stunning campus.

Short Questions

What inspires you? (Length = 35 words or less)

Don’t fret! 35 words might not seem like enough to answer a question so broad like inspiration, but that’s the point of this question. Anyone can write a long, drawn-out piece on the different things that motivate them. This Yale supplemental essay is looking for a condensed, focused, and simple answer to the question. Even if it’s your first inclination, try your best not to put something cliche like “my parents” or “life”. There’s a good chance hundreds of other students will have the same idea. Think of this essay more like a word challenge. You have 35 words to describe a meaningful moment, experience, person, etc. in your life. Make it short and sweet but as colorful as possible.

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 question would you ask? (Length = 35 words or less)

Too many students will waste time overthinking their answers to this question instead of how it’s framed. In other words, it’s not so important who you choose to come to speak. Instead, the reasons used to justify that choice and the way in which you present the ideas are much more important components of your answer. While hearing from a lot of famous people would be cool, it’s a good idea to stick within your field of interest. Once you’ve landed on somebody interesting, you’ll want to find a specific question to ask them. For example, instead of asking Galileo Galilei about the Heliocentric Theory of the universe, you could ask him about the struggles of having new scientific discoveries accepted in the mainstream culture. Keeping it relevant to your studies can help tie your entire application together.

  • You are teaching a Yale course. What is it called? (Length = 35 words or less)

In the last question, you were in charge of inviting someone interesting to speak at Yale. In this scenario, you’re teaching a course at the university and you have to give it a name. You should focus on making the answer relevant to your interests and hobbies. You can make a list of your interests, to begin with, and then start thinking about them in a little more depth. For example, you might be inspired to learn new languages and have an interest in psychology. Maybe your class would be “The Personality of Languages” that focuses on how learning different languages can manipulate personalities. The experts at AdmissionSight recommend taking a look at Yale’s current courses for some inspiration.

Most first-year Yale students live in suites of four to six people. What do you hope to add to your suitemates’ experience? What do you hope they will add to yours? (Length = 35 words or less)

Yikes! You have to answer two questions now, still within the confines of 35 words. The best approach is to find an answer that addressed both. That way, you can keep your word count down to the required limit without avoiding each question. Remember, those reading your application aren’t just looking at your answers. They’re also looking at how you answered and if you were able to stick to the prompt. A good place to start with this question is to think about how friends, family, and coworkers often talk about you. What are some highlights of your personality they enjoy? Weaving these answers into your response doesn’t just take research out of the equation, but it’s also honest. For the second portion of the question, think about how you could benefit from having a shared space. You don’t have to try and guess the personalities of your potential roommates. Whether it’s a chance to meet new people, experience new cultures, or exchange ideas, you’ll need to explain why sharing a room would be beneficial to you.

Two Yale roommates gather together in their dorm.

Yale Essays

Think about an idea or topic that has been intellectually exciting for you. Why are you drawn to it? (Length = 250 words)

At this point in the application, admission officers already have a clear idea about your area of study, what motivated you to pursue it, people you look up to, and the specific courses you’d like to take. Since you’ve already revealed a lot about yourself, it can be difficult to say something new, exciting, and unexpected to really keep them interested this far along in the Yale supplemental essays. When writing about an intellectually exciting topic or idea, too many students simply rehash ideas that had already been discussed in detail above. Hitting on those points again will only make your reader yawn and might take an otherwise great application down to the bottom of the consideration pile.

On this topic, dig a little deeper into what inspires you, intrigues you, interests you, and drives you. Obviously, you have to keep it somewhat related to intellect, but don’t be afraid to branch out and make it unique. Think back to special experiences you’ve had that really got your brain turning and drove you to explore new ideas, read new books, listen to new people, consider new lines of thought, and more. Use that brain of yours and see what kind of memories pop out. If you still don’t have any ideas after some valiant attempts, feel free to write about another prompt that speaks to you a little more.

Applicants submitting the Common Application, answer one of the prompts below in 250 words or less. Applicants submitting the Coalition Application, please choose one of the topics below and respond in 300 words or fewer, and in addition to writing on your chosen topic, upload an audio file, video, image, or document you have created that is meaningful to you and relates to your essay. Above your essay, include a one-sentence description of what you have submitted.

A) Reflect on your engagement with a community to which you belong. How do you feel you have contributed to this community?

A lot of students feel left out of this question, having not belonged to what they would consider an “official” community. Don’t worry, the definition of a community is broad in this case. This could be anything from your neighborhood, a club you joined at school, your family, and anything in between. Maybe you’re a member of a school club that’s performed in competitions around the country. Or perhaps your family has gone through unique experiences having to live abroad for a certain amount of time. Regardless of the “community” that you choose, the focus of the piece needs to be how you have contributed to the group. Honesty and transparency will go a long way here. You don’t have to uncover anything you’re uncomfortable revealing, but this is a great chance to show who you are as a person – warts and all.

athletes playing football

B) Yale students, faculty, and alumni engage issues of local, national, and international importance. Discuss an issue that is significant to you and how your college experience might help you address it.

If there’s a topic you can’t get enough of, then this is the perfect prompt for you. The Yale supplemental essays are a way for college admission officers to determine if you’re a good candidate for the school – and vice versa. In this prompt, you’re instructed to talk about a particularly important issue, either on the local, national, or global level that’s important to you and how attending college will help you tackle it. That second part is particularly important. It’s one thing to be able to talk about your passion for solving the problem of mass incarceration. It’s another to be able to articulate how your time at Yale would help you address the problem. Instead of focusing on how you can dismantle the problem altogether, it’s better to address a much more focused issue and how your experience at Yale might support your efforts in that area. It’s more realistic and allows you to go into more detail.

AdmissionSight is your one-stop-shop for all things college admissions-related. We’ve helped countless students write the best application possible in order to greatly increase their chances of impressing admissions officers and making their way into their dream college. Learn more about us here.


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