Tips for Answering the Yale University Supplemental Essays and Short Answer Questions [2021 – 2022]

Tips for Answering the Yale University Supplemental Essays and Short Answer Questions [2021 – 2022]


Yale University supplemental application essay tips

Not surprisingly, Yale University is consistently ranked among the top universities in the world. It accepts the Common Application, Coalition Application, and QuestBridge Application. All three applications require a personal statement essay plus additional Yale-specific short answers and a Yale writing supplement. For applicants interested in engineering or computer science, there is a third optional essay. This prestigious Ivy League school prides itself on providing undergraduates with an exceptional foundation in liberal arts education that focuses on cultivating knowledge and leadership skills. “Yale’s commitment to each student – to challenge, expand, and ultimately better understand the life of one’s own mind through undergraduate study.” The supplemental writing responses are a chance for you to convey how the Yale experience might augment your passions and perspectives in terms of learning, living, and preparing you for the future.

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If Yale is your first choice, it offers a single-choice early action program for freshman applicants (November 1st deadline). If you choose to use this option, you may not apply to early decision or early action programs at other schools. There are a few exceptions to this rule, check the Yale admissions website for details. Under this program, Yale will notify you of its admission decision in mid-December. The deadline for submission of applications for regular action is January 2nd, and admissions decisions will be released by April 1st.

Before you begin writing your essay(s), thoroughly research all that Yale has to offer and consider the ways in which Yale aligns, or does not align, with your values and your college goals This is a time to get excited about the prospect of attending Yale! Visit the website, speak with current students and alumni, and envision yourself as part of its exceptional learning community. The curriculum at Yale is designed to provide both breadth and depth of study, laying a foundation for students to pursue inspired lives and careers. It strives to foster independent critical thinking. Yale is one of the only universities that allow you to try out your classes before you finalize your schedule. The first ten days of each semester are an opportunity to visit a number of classes to determine which are most interesting to you!

Located in the small town of New Haven, Connecticut, in an urban setting that is primarily a residential campus, Yale offers a supportive community-feel through its system of twelve residential colleges. This configuration, complete with its own residential deans and masters, creates a sense of intimacy within the larger university. Residential deans serve as primary personal and academic advisors. Masters work with students to shape the residential community. This is a powerfully dynamic way of bringing together students and faculty. Think about how this structure can support your intellectual growth.

Yale University short answer questions

Applicants submitting the Coalition Application, Common Application, or QuestBridge Application are asked to respond to the following short answer questions:

    • 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.

This is not a trick question. Yale is trying to gauge your unique interests. Indicate up to three of your top academic areas of study.

    • Why do these areas appeal to you? (125 words or fewer)

The challenge in this response is discussing your rationale for your selected areas in less than 125 words. Consider your experience thus far in these areas. What sparked your interest? What burning question or issue motivates you? How might these concentrations support your long-term goals? Provide some context to support your interests.

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

Here again, you are under significant word limitations. Don’t underestimate this prompt. It is extremely important to demonstrate good fit in your discussion—what unique aspects of an education at Yale attract you? This is an opportunity to convey your enthusiasm for a potential Yale experience. Sometimes making a list can help you get started. Then review your list and make sure each reason relates specifically to Yale. Consider both what Yale has to offer you and what you might be able to offer the Yale community.

Applicants applying with the QuestBridge Application will complete the first set of short answer questions via the Yale QuestBridge Questionnaire, available on the Yale Admissions Status Portal after an application has been received.

Click here to schedule a free call to find out how our admissions experts can help YOU get accepted to Yale!

Yale University additional short answer questions (Short takes)

Applicants submitting the Coalition Application or Common Application will also respond to the following short answer questions, in no more than 200 characters (approximately 35 words):

  1. What inspires you?

This response touches on what motivates you as well as what you find valuable. Discuss something that makes a difference in your way of thinking and subsequently influences your actions and/or behavior. Think about what your response might convey about your character.

Realize that when writing about “inspiration,” you need to write about something that motivated you to act, to change, to contribute, to do — not merely something that changed your emotional state. If a scene or experience motivated you to feel wonderful or terrible, angry or serene, and didn’t move you to action, the story will be ineffective, and well uninspiring. 

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 and what would you ask them to discuss?

Although you are under significant word count limitations, let your imagination go with this one! The person you identify is just as important as the topic you ask them to address. Your response reflects your thinking process, your perception of the world, and your engagement with others. It will also reflect your values and character.

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

This is a chance to infuse some fun and creativity into your response. Be careful to avoid any controversial statements. You never know how your suggestion might be interpreted so try to steer clear of potentially offensive topics.

4. Yale students embrace the concept of ‘and’ rather than ‘or’, pursuing arts and sciences, tradition and innovation, defined goals and surprising detours. What is an example of an “and” that you embrace?

When have you embraced seeming contradictions? How do you reconcile whatever conflict exists between the two poles? Or do you revel in the contradiction and develop different talents and skill sets? Whether your answer reflects one of the suggestions above or is completely different (vegetarian food and BBQs; captain of the cross-country team and needlepoint, classical pianist who plays electric guitar in a rock band, or ????) Provide an example of your “and,” while also discussing succinctly how you choose to handle the contraction. 

Yale supplemental essay questions

Applicants submitting the Coalition Application or Common Application: use the two short essays (250 words or fewer) below to reflect on topics and personal experiences that will help the Admissions Committee learn more about you. 

Yale supplemental essay question #1

Yale’s extensive course offerings and vibrant conversations beyond the classroom encourage students to follow their developing intellectual interests wherever they lead. Tell us about your engagement with a topic or idea that excites you. Why are you drawn to it?

Identify the idea or topic and then remember to convey your enthusiasm as you discuss what truly excites you about it! Consider what sparked and maintains your interest. Your response to this prompt helps to shed light on how you learn, the topics you are drawn to, as well as how you process the world around you. What makes learning fun for you?

Yale supplemental essay question #2

Please respond to one of the following prompts in 250 words or fewer. Please indicate the letter of the prompt you choose.

2A. Reflect on a community to which you feel connected. Why is it meaningful to you? You may define community however you like. 

First define “community.” Then which of your community commitments do you want to discuss? Your community could be united by ethnicity, gender, abilities or disabilities, sports, the arts, politics, geography, religion, or a cause. What is the nature of your connection and your contribution? Why have you chosen to be a part of this community? 

2B. Reflect on something that has given you great satisfaction. Why has it been important to you? 

This question could be answered in so many ways! It could be a community service commitment that you find gratifying. It could be activism on behalf of a cause that is important to you. It could be an example of you caring for an elderly, younger, disabled or sick individual. It could be tutoring. It could be a challenge that you undertook and mastered.

However, the “what” is just part of the question. Why has it been so important to you that it belongs on your Yale application? That is equally important.

Stay away from the superficial “I found it extremely gratifying to help people” kind of answer, and go deeper. Why is helping people in this way important to you? Why is the cause important to you? 

Additional requirement for applicants using the Coalition Application

Applicants submitting the Coalition Application: In addition to responding to the prompts above, upload an audio file, video, image, or document you have created. The upload should complement your response to one of the prompts. Above your response, include a one-sentence description of your upload. Please limit uploads to the following file types: mp3, mov, jpeg, word, pdf. Advanced editing is not necessary. Uploads provided via the Coalition Application will be reviewed by the Admissions Office only. Review the Supplementary Material instructions for material that may be evaluated by Yale faculty.

Here, the goal is to complement– to fill in a gap, add to something– not to repeat. Add a new angle and degree of person-ability to your essay.

Final thoughts on applying to Yale

Applicants to Yale have exceedingly competitive profiles. Yale received 35,220 undergraduate applications for the class of 2024. In addition, consider average SAT scores around 1500 and average ACT scores around 34, and you get a sense of your cohort.

It is easy to get overwhelmed by the numbers, but it is heartening to bear in mind that Yale is dedicated to a holistic application evaluation process for admission. Your short answer responses and supplemental essay(s) facilitate a more comprehensive review of you as a prospective student at Yale. The admissions committee takes the time to read your responses carefully. Make sure you allow yourself appropriate time for thoughtful reflection and effective writing. Use your writing supplement to set you apart from your peers. The best approach is to be true to you and communicate your thoughts, experiences, hopes, and dreams in a way that highlights your genuine enthusiasm for an extraordinary educational journey at Yale!

If you’re applying to Yale University, you can access Yale-caliber assistance to become the most competitive applicant you can be! Get the guidance of an experienced admissions specialist who will help you stand out from an exceptional applicant pool so you can apply with confidence, and get accepted! Click here to get started!

***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***

Marie Todd has been involved in college admissions for over twenty years. Marie has both counseled applicants to top colleges and evaluated 5000+ applications for the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts; College of Engineering; School of Kinesiology; School of Nursing; and Taubman College of Architecture. Want Marie to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch with Marie Todd.

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Tips for Answering the Yale University Supplemental Essays and Short Answer Questions [2021 – 2022]

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