Yale University Supplemental Essays (2022-23) Prompts & Advice
Yale’s acceptance rate of 4.46% for the Class of 2026 is not the type 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 50,015 applicants to Yale in the 2021-22 cycle—many of whom were valedictorian or salutatorian of their respective high school class, brought 99th percentile SAT/ACT scores to the table, along with a dizzying list of extracurricular achievements. However, in the end, only 2,234 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 2022-23 Admissions Cycle
Yale Supplemental Essays
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 do you learn about your favorite subjects? What books have you read on the subject? Which podcasts have you listened to? What museums have you visited? 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.”
3) 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 items like: how “prestigious” Yale is, how high it is ranked by U.S. News, or how beautiful the campus is. Rather, you want to be highly-specific in citing reasons why Yale is the perfect academic home for you. This will likely include discussing particular:
- Academic programs
- Residential College experiences
- Study abroad opportunities
- Undergraduate research programs
Yale Short Answer Questions
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, natural environment, or 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 and write with passion, you’ll nail this one.
2) 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?
Feel free to be clever, but at the same time, there is no pressure to get more obscure than you wish to. The real “meat” of this answer is in the rationale for the invitation and what you would ask them. Students most often list inspiring and heroic figures here, but you could also consider someone more controversial or even infamous. If done tactfully, any figure from the present or past could be a superb answer.
3) You are teaching a new Yale course. What is it called?
While there are many Renaissance men and women applying to Yale, this is a chance for you to showcase the unique and distinct area where you are a genuine expert. If you want 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.
4) What is something about you that is not included anywhere else in your application?
This is a fun 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 few key aspects of your personality/background that truly reveals something deep and meaningful about you. As you brainstorm this one, consider the following avenues:
- What moves your spirit? Discuss any art, movies, music, and books that you find deeply moving and personally important.
- Your role in your family.
- Your role in your social group.
- The funniest things you’ve even done.
- The strangest things you’ve ever done.
- Commitment, passion, and enthusiasm.
- Core values and beliefs.
- Important aspects of your upbringing.
- Most intriguing and unique attributes.
- Cultural, religious, community influence.
Yale Supplemental Essays
The following two essays will require responses of 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?
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.
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.
You can talk about an ethnic, religious, neighborhood community or a group of individuals who gather for a club, sport, or service project. Pretty much everyone applying to Yale is deeply involved in a number of activities. You are the captain of a team, the editor-in-chief of your school paper, the president of a club…but so is everyone else applying to Yale. It’s not enough to just rest on those laurels—you need to bring your involvement to life. Use your writing ability to show the admissions officer who you are rather than merely telling them.
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, Dartmouth College places enormous values on the quality of your supplemental essay.
Want Personalized Essay Assistance?
Lastly, if you are interested in working with one of College Transitions’ experienced and knowledgeable essay coaches as you craft your Yale supplemental essays, we encourage you to get a quote today.
Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).