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Last updated March 9, 2023

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How to Get Into Yale

Key Takeaway

If you want to get into Yale, you're going to need more than a hope and a prayer (though you may need those, too). You'll need a smart application strategy—one that incorporates Yale's own values and shows that you can have an impact.

As one of the most well-known institutions in the Ivy League, Yale receives nearly 50,000 applications each year. Chances are, yours might be one of them.

But with so many applicants and so few spots, Yale admissions officers have to be selective. Some might even say rejective. If they weren’t, the numbers simply wouldn’t work.

In this guide, we go through all your questions and give you advice about how to write a successful Yale application.

Let’s jump in.

How to Apply to Yale

Literally applying to Yale won’t be that different from applying to other institutions. But as you’ll see in our Yale supplemental essay guide, Yale asks you to do quite a bit of writing, so you’ll want to plan ahead.

Does Yale use the Common Application?

Yes, Yale uses the Common Application. You can also apply through Coalition. If you’re eligible, you can also apply to Yale using QuestBridge.

Yale Application Options

At Yale, you can either apply Single-Choice Early Action or Regular Decision.

Single-Choice Early Action (also known as Restrictive Early Action) is your chance to apply early to Yale and to receive an admissions decision by mid-December. But there’s a catch. If you want to apply Single-Choice Early Action to Yale, you can’t submit any other Early Action or Early Decision applications. There are a few exceptions, however, so you should read the rules carefully if you’re considering this application plan.

Yale Application Deadlines

Single-Choice Early Action applications are due November 1, and Regular Decision applications are due January 2.

How hard is it to get into Yale?

Yale has a 5.3% acceptance rate. That means that for every 100 applicants, only about 5 are admitted.

We won’t sugarcoat it: getting into Yale is hard.

With an acceptance rate of 5.3%, even the brightest, most engaged applicants will end up with bad news on decision day.

But fear not. If you’re willing to brave that impossibly-low admit rate for a chance at being a Bulldog, there are a few ways you can give your application a fighting chance.

Let’s start by going over what Yale’s looking for in the first place.

What does Yale look for in applicants?

To sum up what the Yale Office of Admissions “What Yale Looks For” page,  “Ultimately, everything matters.”

You’re not going to trick an admissions officer into admitting you to Yale. Instead, the key to earning admission is to be authentic and strategic in how you present your personal narrative across your application.

Yale admissions officers want to admit students who have shown that they want to make the most of the opportunities available to them. They want students who will impact their communities and the world more broadly. They want students who are intellectually curious and willing to challenge themselves.

If that sounds like you, then good! You’re off to a good start. Before you can write anything, you’ll have to actually have demonstrated those traits in your academics and extracurriculars.

Once you have that down, writing your application around these themes will help you stand out to the Yale admissions committee.

Yale GPA requirement

Yale doesn’t have a GPA cutoff, so your application won’t be thrown out if you don’t meet a certain GPA threshold.

That said, Yale admissions officers are on the lookout for students who have near-perfect or perfect GPAs.

Of course, your GPA and course rigor are always evaluated within the context of your school. But on the whole, Yale students tend to have near-perfect 4.0 GPAs in high school.

As we discussed in our post on the Yale Common Data Set, 97% of enrolled first-year students who submitted class rank were in the top tenth of their high school graduating class. A full 100% were in the top half.

So although Yale doesn’t have a GPA cutoff, you should use this data to be realistic about your chances of admission.

Yale SAT Scores

Yale has continued to extend its test-optional policy, but we don’t know for sure whether test requirements will return in the future. We have a separate post about how to decide when to submit your test scores, but the key is knowing what the school’s middle 50% range is.

According to the Yale Common Data Set, Yale’s middle 50% SAT scores for enrolled first-year students were 1480-1560. For the ACT, the middle 50% was 33-35.

Does Yale superscore?

Yes, Yale superscores. That means that if you’ve taken the SAT or ACT multiple times, they’ll take the best scores you achieved for each section, even if you earned those scores on different test dates.

What high school coursework do I need to get into Yale?

A single class won’t make or break your Yale application. That’s because Yale admissions officers look at your transcript holistically.

Like most admissions officers, Yale admissions officers will look at your transcript in the context of your high school. If your school only offers 4 APs, they won’t expect that you’ve taken 16. At the same time, if your school offers 16, they’ll expect that you’ve taken enough to challenge yourself.

There’s no secret formula to curating a courseload that will get you into Yale. But you should think about rigor and balance when choosing your classes.

Since Yale admissions officers want to see that you’ve challenged yourself, you should take on the highest amount of rigor you’ll be able to handle while still earning good grades. You should also aim for a balanced approach—don’t only take AP courses in the STEM fields if you want to go into STEM. Try to balance your schedule with rigorous social science or humanities classes, too.

The bottom line: think about the most challenging courseload at your school, and aim for as close to it as you can reasonably, successfully, and happily get.

What extracurriculars do I need to get into Yale?

Just like you can’t hack your transcript to get into Yale, you also can’t magically compile the perfect extracurriculars.

Instead, the key to finding the right extracurriculars is choosing the ones that are most meaningful to you.

Admissions officers won’t care if you’re a nationally-ranked debater if you can’t communicate why your debate work has been so meaningful. If you start a non-profit just to put the accomplishment on your activities section, an admissions officer will see right though you.

So what makes for a good extracurricular activities section? It tells a story.

Your activities themselves aren’t as important as the meaning they carry. Being able to create this meaning for your admissions officer—across your activities descriptions and in your essays—is at the heart of every successful application.

No matter what your extracurriculars actually are, be thoughtful about how you present them to Yale admissions officers. One strategy we like to recommend is looking at Yale’s mission statement and community values and writing about your activities with those values in mind. Try it out in your own application, and let us know what you think.

Final Takeaways + Yale Supplemental Essays

Applying to Yale will be a lot of work, and the truth is that you’re more likely to be one of the 95% of applicants who receive a rejection. But that shouldn’t deter you from trying anyway.

To get into Yale, you’ll need to have the credentials—those statistics like GPA, test scores, and course rigor—but those alone aren’t enough. Success in Yale admissions is about telling a meaningful story throughout your application.

And to do that, you’ll need to write good essays. Now that you have your Yale application strategy in your back pocket, hop on over to our Yale Supplemental Essay guide to get started.