Yale Supplemental Essays 2023-24 Prompts & Advice

August 17, 2023

yale supplemental essay

Yale’s acceptance rate of 4.35% for the Class of 2027 is not the type of number you want to simply glide past as you proceed through the application with blind optimism. It is not our intention to inject unnecessary anxiety and fear into the highly selective admissions process (you likely already have plenty of sources for that). Rather, we feel it is in your best interest to process the implications of the fact that there were 52,250 applicants to Yale in the 2022-23 cycle—many of whom were valedictorian or salutatorian of their respective high school class and brought 99th percentile SAT/ACT scores to the table, along with a dizzying list of extracurricular achievements. However, in the end, only 2,275 individuals were admitted. One thing all of those individuals had in common is that they composed stellar Yale supplemental essays.

(Want to learn more about How to Get Into Yale University? Visit our blog entitled: How to Get Into Yale: Admissions Data and Strategies for all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.)

It will take perfect(ish) academic credentials to make it past the hyper-competitive “first cut” in the Yale application process. From there, you need to find a way to stand out from your place in a crowd of impeccably credentialed high schoolers. The numerous essays and short answer prompts required by Yale present one of the best opportunities you will have to stand out in the eyes of the admissions committee.

Yale Supplemental Essays for the 2023-24 Admissions Cycle

Yale Supplemental Essays: Academic Interests

1) 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.

In this space, you are simply being asked to pick the three areas that you are most excited about and align with your background. There is likely some degree of overlap in your three areas of interest or, at least, some interdisciplinary connection that you envision. If so, you’ll have a chance to explain those connections in the next short answer…

2) 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)

This is the place to succinctly and effectively explain why your area(s) of academic interest have sparked your interest. Your answer should contain a narrative that shows the depth of your interest, when it began, how you have cultivated it, and where you see it going in the future. Common mistakes here include citing that you want to go into a particular area because it is prestigious, well-compensated, or will satisfy your parents.

Instead, focus on things like: How did you become interested in your chosen topic or idea? What books have you read on the subject? Which podcasts have you listened to? What museums have you visited? What interests and excites you most about it? Perhaps the words of former Yale President, Kingman Brewster (who has the most Yale name ever) best capture what this prompt aims to uncover: “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 Supplemental Essays: Short Takes and Essays

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

When penning a “Why Us?” essay, you want to avoid areas that will be touched upon by tens of thousands of your peers. These include the following: how “prestigious” Yale is, how highly it is ranked by U.S. News, or how beautiful the campus is. Rather, you want to be incredibly specific in citing reasons why Yale is the perfect academic and social home for you. This will likely include discussing particular:

All applicants must respond to the following four short answer questions. Responses should be no more than 200 characters (roughly 35 words).

1) What inspires you?

This can be relevant to the area of academic interest cited in the first Yale essay, but you want to avoid being redundant. This may be a bigger-picture idea, mission, or goal that undergirds much of what you want to do with your academic, career, and personal future. On the contrary, this entry can be completely outside of your academic/professional interests. It could be about a historical occurrence, the natural environment, or a philosophical/religious idea that you find inspirational. It could be focused on a musical artist that moves you, your pet cat, or a work of fiction. There are limitless possibilities to this one—if you follow your heart/gut, include the all-important “why,” and write with passion, you’ll nail this one.

Yale Supplemental Essays (Continued)

2) Other than a family member, who is someone who has had a significant influence on you? What has been the impact of their influence? 

When you think about who has shaped your life—beyond your family members—who comes to find? Is it a friend, a teacher, a mentor, a coach, or a coworker? How has this person influenced, challenged, encouraged, or inspired you, and how has that impacted you as a person?

3) If you could teach any college course, write a book, or create an original piece of art of any kind, what would it be?

Yale has expanded its horizons this year to include books and art alongside college courses. If you opt to stick with the college course direction, know this is a chance for you to showcase the unique and distinct area where you are a genuine expert (or hope to become one). Make sure that the topic of your course is not overly broad (or currently offered). For inspiration, research some of the more interesting elective courses actually offered at Yale such as: The Criminal Mind, Is That Racist?, The Search for Extraterrestrial Life, and Cocktail Culture: The History, Ethics, and Aesthetics of Drink.

If you opt to discuss a prospective book or original piece of art, think about what type of book or artwork you would create. Chapbook? Biography of a particular historical figure? Novel that centers on a mother/daughter relationship? Sculpture involving found objects? Pen-and-ink drawing of your childhood home? Whatever you choose, your answer should reveal something about your interests, passions, or background.

Yale Supplemental Essays (Continued)

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

This is an opportunity to share something genuinely unique about yourself that may not shine through anywhere else on the application. The key to answering this one is to pick a key aspect of your personality/background that truly reveals something deep and meaningful about you. To accomplish that, first inventory what already appears on your application before deciding what’s not present. Is it your love of running? Thrifting? That you cook dinner with your sister every Friday? That you grow your own vegetables in the summer?

Furthermore, as you brainstorm, consider the following avenues:

  • Your role in your family.
  • Your role in your social group.
  • A formative experience.
  • A hobby.
  • A habit.
  • A favorite food, place, object, item of clothing, etc.
  • Cultural, religious, community influence.

Yale Supplemental Essays: Choose 1 of 3

Finally, you’ll have the opportunity to choose one of the following three prompt choices, which require a response of 400 words or fewer:

Option #1: Reflect on a time when you exchanged ideas about an important issue with someone holding an opposing view. Why did you find the experience meaningful?

It’s no secret that we live in a polarized culture, where there seems little room for constructive dialogue between individuals with competing viewpoints. This is a chance to show that you are an open-minded, intellectually curious, truth-seeking young person who is willing to engage in conversations/debates with people who hold opposing positions on important topics. One key thing to remember when addressing this prompt is that you don’t have to be the hero of the anecdote—in fact, you may be one who learned to expand their thinking. Most importantly, though, you’ll want to reflect on why this particular conversation was so important to you.

Yale Supplemental Essays (Continued)

Option #2: Reflect on your membership in a community to which you feel connected. Why is this community meaningful to you? You may define community however you like.

First, remember that you are the boss of this prompt—you get to decide what “community” means to you, whether that’s a religious or ethnic community, your neighborhood, a sports team, club, or class, an online forum, your beach clean-up crew, or your four crazy, lovable aunts who constantly seem to be over dispensing advice and making lasagna. Pretty much everyone applying to Yale is deeply involved in a number of activities, both formal and informal, so your mission will be to bring your involvement to life. After you’ve described your chosen community, you’ll then, of course, need to tackle the ever-important “why?” Why do you appreciate this particular community? How has it impacted you?

Option #3: Reflect on an element of your personal experience that you feel will enrich your college. How has it shaped you?

This is an opportunity to share something about your background that you feel will positively impact Yale’s residential community. To do so, consider discussing how your role in your family, important aspects of your upbringing, or a particular cultural, religious, or community influence either impacted your core values and beliefs or helped develop a particularly important attribute.

How important are the Yale Supplemental Essays?

The Yale supplemental essays are “very important” to the evaluation process. Seven other factors are “very important.” These factors are: rigor of coursework, class rank, GPA, recommendations, talent/ability, character/personal qualities, and extracurricular activities. Clearly, Yale places enormous value on the quality of your supplemental essay.

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