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Last updated March 8, 2023

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How to Use the Yale Common Data Set

Key Takeaway

Yale's 5.3% acceptance rate makes it a super-reach for pretty much every applicant. If you want to overcome the odds, you'll have to show Yale admissions officers that you can swing it in the classroom, have exceptional talent and character, and can put yourself out into the world to make an impact.

This post breaks down the Yale Common Data Set. We extract the most important information and show you how to take advantage of it in your own application.

Let’s start with the basics.

How Yale Evaluates Applicants — based on CDS data

When it comes to evaluating applicants, Yale prioritizes academics, ability, and character.

The major academic categories—rigor, rank, GPA—are all listed as “very important.” But that’s not everything. Yale admissions officers also look for students who stand out in their extracurriculars and are good members of their classrooms and communities.

Since Yale doesn’t list anything in the “important” category, you’ll want to pay extra attention to those “very important” rankings and the “considered” rankings that you have control over—test scores, interviews, and volunteer and work experience.

Very important Important Considered Not considered
Rigor   Test scores Religious affiliation
Class rank   Interview Applicant interest
GPA   First-generation status  
Application essay   Alumni relations  
Recommendations   Geographical region  
Extracurriculars   State residency  
Talent and ability   Race and ethnic status  
Character   Volunteer experience  
    Work experience  

Does Yale track demonstrated interest?

No, Yale does not track demonstrated interest. The Common Data Set indicates that applicant interest is “not considered” in admissions decisions, so don’t worry about spending all your time trying to connect with the school.

Does Yale care about test scores?

Test scores aren’t the be-all and end-all for your Yale application, but they are considered. About 54% of enrolled first-year students submitted an SAT score, and 35% submitted an ACT score. Those submission rates are in line with those at the other Ivy League schools.

Does Yale care about essays?

Yes. Yale ranks essays as “very important” in their admissions process. As one of the most critical parts of your application, your essays need your time and attention. And they need a lot of it. Yale also has a pretty hefty set of essays and supplemental prompts. They’re expecting you to put your all into these ones. We’ve got you covered there, though. See our Yale supplemental essay guide for next steps.

What GPA do I need to get into Yale?

100% of students were in the top half of their graduating high school class, with 99% being in the top quarter and a whopping 97% in the top tenth. While Yale doesn’t report GPA bands, we can tell from class rank data that if you don’t have a near-perfect or perfect GPA, your chances of being admitted aren’t quite as high.

Yale Acceptance Rate

47,240 applicants applied to Yale, making it one of the Ivy League schools with the biggest applicant pools. Only 2,509 were admitted. That’s a 5.3% acceptance rate. Definitely nothing to scoff at. Of those 2,509 admitted students, 1,786 enrolled at Yale.

Yale Early Action Acceptance Rate

Yale doesn’t report Early Action admission rates as part of the Common Data Set, but Yale Daily News reported that in the 2022-2023 application cycle, 7,744 applicants applied EA. Of those nearly 8,000 students, only 776 were offered spots in the incoming class—a 10% acceptance rate.

Acceptance rates continue to decline. But at almost double the RD rate—as opposed to MIT’s EA bump of only 0.6%—submitting an early application to Yale may slightly boost your chances.

What’s the right application option for you?

Whether you apply on the regular or early timeline depends on several factors. If your application strengths align with what Yale looks for in applicants—that is, if you have strong grades, course rigor, extracurriculars, and essays—then applying early might give you a slightly better shot against the single-digit admit rate. But sometimes the extra time you have to prepare your application and essays when applying Regular Decision can make the difference. So weigh your options, honestly evaluate your chances, and make your best assessment about which application plan is the right choice for you.

Most popular majors at Yale

The Yale Common Data Set lays out the percentage of degrees awarded in each academic field, so we can get a sense of what students most commonly major in.

At Yale, almost a quarter of students who earned degrees in 2020-2021 studied in the social sciences. And that’s not even counting psychology, which alone accounted for 3.7% of degrees. Just over 23% of degrees were awarded to students in a humanities discipline, and about 33% were awarded across STEM fields.

Major Percent of Degrees Conferred
Social Sciences 24.67
Biological/Life Sciences 10.83
Mathematics and Statistics 9.15
Interdisciplinary Studies 7.62
Computer and Information Sciences 7.34
History 6.99
Engineering 5.94
Area, Ethnic, and Gender Studies 5.59
Psychology 3.7
Visual and Performing Arts 3.62

As you can see in the chart, Yale students tend to lean more into the “softer” sciences and humanities rather than the hard sciences. When we compare these numbers to a school like MIT, we can really start to see institutional personalities. If you’re interested in a social science like sociology or a “softer” science like biology, then Yale might be a better fit for you.

Alternatively, what if you’re interested in studying a field like Engineering? With almost 6% of degrees awarded going to engineering students, Yale may be the place for you, but it’s a degree that’s less commonly attributed to Yale than to, say, MIT or UMich, which are well-known for their engineering programs.

What should you do with all this information?

With a 5.3% acceptance rate that is likely to get lower each year, virtually no one is a shoo-in to Yale. The reality is that if you want to get into Yale, your baseline GPA, course rigor, and extracurricular achievement should be as high as possible. If 97% of the enrolled first-year class was in the top 10th of their own high school graduating classes, then chances are, that’s where you should be, too.

But those accomplishments alone won’t earn you a seat at Yale. You’ll need to set yourself apart. And how do you do that? Through the written parts of your application—your personal statement, supplemental essays, and extracurricular activities descriptions. Since Yale values talent, ability, and character, each of these application components should drive home at least one of these values.

Ready to get started on your application? Check out our How to Get into Yale guide next.

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