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Last updated March 8, 2023

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How to Write the Yale Supplemental Essays

Key Takeaway

Yale asks applicants to write a lot in the Yale supplement. In this post, we go through all of Yale's supplemental essay prompts and short answer questions. We show you how to write effective answers for all of them.

You’ve got your work cut out for you with the Yale supplemental essays. There are a lot! Your writing will be divided between short-answer questions and two essays of 400 words or fewer.

Let’s take a look.

How to Write the Yale Short Answer Questions

Starting with the short answer questions, you’ll see that you’ll be writing a mix of short responses. Overall, your goal for the short answer questions is this: to show academic and cultural alignment with Yale, and to reveal insights about your character and personality.

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 from the list provided.

Your first short answer question will be pretty short. It’s simply a list of your academic interests, drawn from the list Yale provides. Pretty straightforward—choose your academic areas of interest.

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 take on an academic interest essay, your response of maximum 200 words should cover one of your main academic interests. This is your chance to lay it all out: show how passionate, inquisitive, and dedicated you are to the topic or idea that you’ve chosen. Raise insightful questions, reflect meaningfully, and, if relevant, pose thoughtful solutions.

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

Here, you’ve got a short “why us” essay. Yale wants to know that you’ve done your research, and they want to see you make the case that you’re a natural fit for the school. But 125 words isn’t many, so you’ll have to use them wisely. Before you even start writing, spend an hour or so on Yale’s website. You can also do virtual or in-person information sessions or campus tours. Gather all the information you can: look

If you’re applying through Common App or Coalition, you’ll also need to answer the following questions. You’ll have a maximum of 200 characters, or about 35 words, each.

What inspires you?

Think about what you want your admissions officer to learn about you from this question. Something about your values or character? Something academic? Or something about your passions or commitments? Saying your mom inspires you because she went back to college later in life sends a different message than saying that you’re inspired by the amazing ways bees communicate with each other. Neither is better than the other, but they send different messages.

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

Here’s your chance to be creative and intellectual while revealing a bit of personality. Because you don’t have much room for explanation, your course title should be able to stand on its own, and it should generally make sense within the context of your broader application. You don’t want to be so quirky that it seems like you’re trying too hard—BIOL 251 - An introduction to bee communication and athletics: a study in bee society using Platonism—but you also don’t want to be so boring that your admissions officer will read it and immediately move on—BIOL 251: An introduction to bees.

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 would you ask them to discuss?

This question is a good one. But it’s also tricky because you have so many choices. If someone immediately comes to mind, great. If not, don’t try to google “world’s most profound people” and write about whoever pops up first. Your answer should be authentic and relevant to who you are and what you care about.

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

This essay is your opportunity to tell your Yale admissions officer that last tidbit of information that you haven’t been able to fit in anywhere else. But you still only have about 35 words, so you can’t say much. To decide what to write, you’ll need to take a step back and think about your application holistically. What’s missing? What other information would be helpful for them to truly understand who you are? Include it here.

How to Write the Yale Essays

Applicants submitting the Coalition Application or Common Application will respond to one of the following prompts in 400 words or fewer.

1. 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?

To kick off the essay questions, Yale asks you to write a diversity essay. As you can tell from the prompt, Yale students know how to engage with each other, even if they have different ideas or opinions. This essay is your opportunity to show that you can do that, too.

When you pick a conversation to write about, choose one that was genuinely challenging and meaningful. The topic under debate should be one that says something about what you value or who you are as a person.

The purpose of your essay isn’t to dwell on the difficulty of the conversation. It’s to show maturity of thought through your reflection and subsequent actions. In your answer to the final question of the prompt, be sure to focus on the specific details about how you decided to change your mind or hold on to your reasons.

2. 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.

And to round out your Yale supplement, you’ve got a nice community essay. As the prompt indicates, you have a lot of freedom with how you define “community.” It could be your school or local community, a particular friend group or club, your family or loved ones, or even a bigger community like your state. Whatever community you choose, the most important part is that you’ve taken an action that has impacted it for the better.

In your reflection, be sure to detail what you did, how you did it, and why. Emphasize your impact. Remember to talk about those key factors like magnitude and reach. And finally, reflect meaningfully, not just on what you did but also on what you learned. How did your actions help your community? How did that in turn help you?

If you want to take your essay to the next level, you can subtly hint at some of Yale’s own institutional values. Take a look at their motto and mission statement, and use the lessons you learn there to inform how you write about your own community.

Overall, by the time your admissions officer is done reading your essay, you want them to say, “Wow! They are a great community member. Having them on Yale’s campus would make Yale a better place.”

Okay, ready to get started? Your Yale supplemental essays await. You’ve got a lot to write, so the sooner you start, the better. Feel free to check out our Yale Common Data Set and How to Get into Yale posts for more application tips.

And if you want more support before you get going, hop on over to the Essay Academy, our digital course where we show you how to write your best college essays. ✏️

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