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How to Write the Yale University
Supplemental Essays

Academic Interests

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.*

Admissions officers aren’t looking for any particular answer, but want to see that your choices reflect the interests you’ve demonstrated through your academics and extracurriculars. While the three choices are often related to each other, it’s also acceptable to list a wider variety of interests if they connect to the rest of your application.

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? (200 words or fewer)*

In this response, the admissions committee is looking for authentic passion and a demonstrable love of learning. First, note that the question asks you to choose a topic related to academic interests you cited in the first prompt—while the topic you choose should have a clear connection to your intended area of study at Yale, this is also an opportunity to show how you connect your academic interest to other related topics, demonstrating creativity and interdisciplinary curiosity. Whatever topic you choose to write about should be connected to clear and demonstrable activities—this could be participation in a robotics club or attending a creative writing bootcamp. Then, address the second part of the prompt—the origin of your interest in the topic. Write about where this particular passion comes from, whether your family or community, a teacher or class, or an extracurricular that helped to ignite your curiosity. A great way to wrap up this essay is to describe how you plan to use your knowledge about this subject in the future.

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

The classic “why Yale” question only allows you 125 words to describe why you want to attend Yale and how you would be a good fit for the school. In order to answer this question, research is going to be vital. Include details about unique resources, eminent professors whose work you’re familiar with, extracurricular and academic programs you’re interested in pursuing, or something that draws you to Yale’s student life and community.

Short Answer Questions

Respond to the following short answer question
in no more than 200 characters (approximately 35 words):

What inspires you?

The key to answering all of these 35-word questions is specificity. For this question, stay away from broad, vague or cliched answers such as “world peace” or “my grandmother.” Think of what motivates you every day – what motivated you to apply to Yale, for example – and write about it in specific detail.

You are teaching a Yale course. What is it called?

To answer this question, choose a topic about which you are either intensely curious or already very knowledgeable. Stay away from courses that you would see in a standard course listing, such as “Economics 101.” This is a great chance to flex your creativity and come up with a course that you’re uniquely excited to teach!

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 and what would you ask them to discuss?

When answering this question, you can continue to write about your academic, extracurricular, or personal interests. The question you pose will offer admissions officers insight into your interests and what you are curious about. Focus on what you would like to learn, and then consider who your speaker might be. Avoid popular answers such as Gandhi, Einstein, or Steve Jobs. The more unique your guest is, the more memorable your answer will be!

What is something about you that is not included anywhere else in your application?*

This prompt allows you to share any information that you believe is important to your application, but has not yet been conveyed through your essays, grades, or test scores. Have you started your own passion project or initiative to help others? Perhaps you’d like to elaborate on an aspect of your application that would require more context to fully understand. Whatever you choose to write, be sure to use this answer wisely—you shouldn’t brag about all your amazing accomplishments, but rather, give more context or add information that you think would be valuable to your application.

Supplementary Essay

Please respond to one of the following prompts in 400 words or fewer. Please indicate the number of the prompt you choose.

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?

With this prompt, Yale admission officers are seeking to understand how you handle disagreements, conflicts, debate, and internal questioning through a specific encounter you have had. Yale’s admissions page quotes university President Kingman Brewster as saying: “I am inclined to believe that the person who gives every ounce to do something superbly has an advantage over the person whose capacities may be great but who seems to have no desire to stretch them to their limit.” Yale is looking for students who have a hunger to stretch their own limits—who are teachable and curious about others’ experiences, and yet are still self-assured and confident in their own perspectives and viewpoints. Whatever experience you choose should ideally represent a balance of those characteristics, and the story should be specific. Think particularly of an experience of disagreement you have had over a belief that is particularly defining for you—strategize how you might convey more about yourself through the experience you choose to share with the admissions committee. Did you recently question one of your core beliefs about racial, religious, or economic tensions? Remember to clearly and fairly portray the other side’s argument, and include plenty of context about how this conversation occurred and the personal significance of the person with whom you discussed the topic.

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.*

This prompt asks you to reflect on the community you come from and what specific contributions you have made to that community. In order to answer, first consider the communities that have shaped you—your immediate and extended family, your religious community, your neighborhood, your political party, your racial or ethnic community. Which would you identify as the most formative and central to your identity today? In which of these spheres are you most active? Once you have chosen the community you want to write about, be descriptive and specific about your work within the community—this is an opportunity for the admissions committee to get to know you better, so share a particular contribution or effort in the community that is most relevant to your values, personal formation, and worldview. Have you volunteered alongside your religious community? Do you find yourself helping to care for your siblings? Do you spend holidays in the kitchen with your grandmother learning special family recipes? As you tackle the second part of the prompt addressing why these efforts have been meaningful, think about specific insights you have gained from your involvement in the community. This is another opportunity for you to demonstrate your curiosity and show the admissions committee how you contribute to a diverse community and are willing to learn and grow by being a part of that community as well.