How to Write the Yale Supplemental Essays

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.

In this section, admissions officers are not looking for any specific answer besides that your choices reflect your interests and make sense given your academics and extracurriculars. It’s a good idea to have your three choices be related to some degree, though if your interests are varied in the rest of your application, then feel free to list those.

Why do these areas appeal to you? (125 words or fewer)

There is not a ton of space in this prompt to get into the details of why exactly these subjects appeal to you, so it’s important to be specific and brief in your answer. Focus on what you hope to learn more in these subjects, and what you hope to do with your degree after college. If you choose three unrelated topics, be sure to explain how these areas intersect, and what you hope to learn or understand better in that intersection.

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

This is the classic “why Yale” question with one important caveat – you only have 125 words to explain your reasons for choosing Yale. The key to answering this question is research: spend some time on your intended major’s department page at Yale. What resources are available? Are there generous research or study abroad opportunities? An eminent professor whose work you’ve examined in school already? A state of the art facility? Be sure to be specific in this essay here, and feel free to mention details about Yale’s student life and community.

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

  • What inspires you?
    • The key with 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 connect that with a specific detail that allows you to bring that into this response in a natural way.
  • 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?
    • This is a great place to expand more on your interests, either academic, extracurricular, or personal. Your question in this answer is more important than the guest, and will give admissions officers insight into your interests and what you are curious about. Also, it would be best to stay away from popular figures such as Gandhi, Einstein, or Steve Jobs, for example. More unique figures will make your answer more memorable.
  • You are teaching a Yale course. What is it called?
    • This is another chance to delve deeper into your interests. Be creative! Stay away from courses that you would see in a standard course listing, such as “Economics 101.” Choose a topic that you are either intensely curious about or that you already know a lot about.
  • Most first-year Yale students live in suites of four to six students. What do you hope to add to your suitemates’ experience? What do you hope they will add to yours
    • The key to this response is balance – it’s a two-part question that you will need to answer in just 35 words. Think about what you are inordinately good at or what people view as your strengths, which would be perfect material for the first part of the question. For the second part, think about areas that may be construed as weaknesses or fields of inexperience, and talk about how your suitemates’ varied experiences could help you gain more understanding in those fields.

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? (250 words)

For this response, the key is to demonstrate passion. Yale wants to hear that you have a love of learning, and that there is a topic that drives you to learn more about it or inspires you to act upon what you’ve learned. Talk about how this passion or interest came about, how you’ve engaged with it in the past, how you intend to engage with it in college, and what you hope to do with the knowledge and experience you gain in college to impact that topic.

2. Respond to one of the following prompts (250 words):

  • 2A. Reflect on your membership in a community. Why is your involvement important to you? How has it shaped you? You may define community however you like.
    • The word “community” in this prompt is totally up for interpretation in this prompt – it could be a cultural, ethnic, religious, or geographic community. It can also be the books at the library you volunteer at, or the orchids at the florists’ where you work. Whichever community you choose, be sure to focus on your contribution to that community. If you showed leadership or were able to make change happen in some way, talk about that. Furthermore, how has that community shaped you? What lessons or values have you learned during your time as part of this community?
  • 2B. Yale students, faculty, and alumni engage issues of local, national, and international significance. Discuss an issue that is important to you and how your college experience could help you address it.
    • This is a great space to talk about the change you want to see happen in the world, and to let the admissions committee know that you intend to have an impact on that issue to some degree. Talk about why this issue is relevant, why it needs to be addressed and how, and why it is important to you. Additionally, the second part of this prompt should loop back to Yale – what knowledge or experience do you intend to gain in college that could set you on the path for addressing this issue?
  • 2C. Tell us about your relationship with a role model or mentor who has been influential in your life. How has their guidance been instrumental to your growth?
    • For this question, focus on what you’ve learned from the person who influenced you. Ultimately, Yale wants to learn about you, even if you are writing about someone else. Possible subjects can be someone who has personally influenced you for the better, such as a teacher, family member, friend, coach. Use anecdotes to show, rather than tell, how this person has impacted you.