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How to Write the Yale Supplemental Essays 2023-2024

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Sitting down and writing college essays for any school can be a daunting task — and even before you start putting pen to paper or hand to keyboard, you want to have the right approach. Yale University is an Ivy League school founded in 1701 and known for its robust liberal arts program, along with its wide array of extracurricular offerings and out-of-the-classroom pursuits. Located in the diverse city of New Haven, Connecticut, it’s an institution like no other that fosters strong community through its residential colleges and various campus organizations. In this article, we’ll help you nail your Yale supplemental essays.

yale essays 2023 examples

And now that you know that, it’s time to step away from every assumption you’ve ever made about Yale. Although you will want to extensively research Yale during this process, it needs to be in tandem with the soul-searching that these prompts require. Writing these essays, though it’s not always fun, can be a rewarding learning experience for you and help determine what makes you unique. Strive to write essays that no one else could have written — that’s how you know you’re putting down a true, honest, genuine representation of yourself before the admissions officer.

Yale’s 2023–2024 Prompts

Short response.

  • 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.

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)

What is it about yale that has led you to apply (125 words or fewer), coalition/common app short response (200 characters/roughly 35 words or fewer).

  • What inspires you?
  • If you could teach any college course, write a book, or create an original piece of art of any kind, what would it be?
  • Other than a family member, who is someone who has had a significant influence on you? What has been the impact of their influence?
  • What is something about you that is not included anywhere else in your application?

Essay Prompts (400 words or fewer, choose one)

  • Reflect on a time you discussed an issue important to you with someone holding an opposing view. Why did you find the experience meaningful?
  • 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.
  • Reflect on an element of your personal experience that you feel will enrich your college. How has it shaped you?

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Yale’s Short Responses

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. (125 words or fewer).

This question is asking you to list three things that interest you at the moment, with the understanding that they might change.

The key is to be honest: what do you truly want to major in? Ideally, you have shown interest in these topics already and these interests are reflected in your transcript and/or extracurricular activities, but sometimes that’s not possible. For instance, you may not have had the opportunity to pursue anthropology while in high school, but you have read books on human history that have led you to want to pursue it in college. Or perhaps your heroes are economists, but economics wasn’t a course at your school.

For reasons like these, some students will put a major they think admissions officers want to see or is more evidenced by their high school experiences. There’s a middle ground to consider: discuss your interest in this topic in the next question, so that you can clarify your interest without seeming inconsistent!

Here, try to laser focus on one or two (at most) of those academic interests you mentioned above. You have 200 words to work with in this question, but this is not the place to cram in everything you like. Instead, you should bring in anecdotes, experiences, or conversations that contributed to your decision to follow your interest(s).

Dig deep and find examples that are meaningful: if you like math, why is that the case? Do you enjoy finding and applying patterns in real life? Did a teacher show you a number trick that blew your mind? If you like literature, was it because you had a debate about a book that changed your perspective on a story? Was it because you want to be a storyteller? Don’t be afraid to invoke some of the most heartfelt and creative moments of your life as you explain why you’re passionate about the idea you’re bringing to this essay.

Avoid writing about all the standard reasons (prestige, academics, resources…) unless you have a unique reason for doing so. Even writing about standard aspects of Yale, like New Haven or the residential college system, should be approached carefully because you can be sure that admissions officers have just about read every single possible answer relating to these topics.

You want your “Why Yale?” to be unique, so if you’re going to be writing about academics or resources, you need to show that you’ve done your research. Much like you want every essay to be unique to you, this essay should be unique to Yale (essentially, you shouldn’t be able to use it as a supplement for any other school ). Yes, making each “Why X University?” essay unique creates extra work, but it’s the ability to put in that extra work that often differentiates the strong high school student from the future Ivy Leaguer.

When you try to imagine yourself at Yale, you can consider the following questions:

  • What would be your niche?
  • Who would be your community?
  • What about Yale fits into your personal narrative?
  • What would you contribute to the Yale community?
  • Is there a department you’re passionate about that offers cooler classes than anywhere else?
  • Is there a program unique to Yale that fits your interests?
  • Is there a club you long to join?
  • Is there something about Yale’s philosophy that you deeply resonate with?

Whatever your answers to these questions, make them specific and spirited.

Yale’s Coalition/Common App Short Responses

What inspires you (200 characters/roughly 35 words or fewer).

The most important part of this question is your explanation. Barring truly problematic inspirations, there are no wrong answers here, which means that what matters is how you justify your answer. You want to dive beneath the surface and find an answer that speaks to the narrative you’ve been crafting through all of these essays, while hopefully pulling in something fresh from your personality. Provide specificity in your answer.

Most of all, don’t feel the need to impress the admissions officer. It’s perfectly okay to sound like a teenager in these answers (of course, without being immature).

If you could teach any college course, write a book, or create an original piece of art of any kind, what would it be? (200 characters/roughly 35 words or fewer)

Here’s another chance to explore an interest you might not have quite made clear through your transcript so far. Be creative with your choice of course, book, or artwork— you can certainly draw from Yale’s “Blue Book” (the course offerings listed online), or from a real library or gallery. At the same time, you can also draw from fantasy and niche topics, and you don’t have to limit yourself to an existing field or major.

The ideal result is that if someone read the title, they’d be interested in taking your class, reading your book, or viewing your artwork. A little creativity goes a long way. But there’s no need to overthink it! As long as you describe one of your genuine interests, and/or a genuine aspect of your personality, you’ll be able to successfully answer this question.

Other than a family member, who is someone who has had a significant influence on you? What has been the impact of their influence? (200 characters/roughly 35 words or fewer)

Questions about heroes and mentors are common on college applications, so you may very well have written a similar essay for another school already! If so, feel free to repurpose some of that essay for this one; it does not (and in most cases should not) be Yale-specific. The most important thing is that this essay is you specific.

Think about the teachers, coaches, friends, and even historical figures or people online who may have impacted you. This question is two-fold, requiring you to discuss both the person and their impact on you in only around 35 words. You’ll need to pick someone who you can explain their relation to you quickly. As a result, don’t feel pressure to describe the most esoteric person who’s impacted your life. Respectfully and briefly describe the person you chose and don’t shy away from vulnerability when elaborating on their impact.

What is something about you that is not included anywhere else in your application? (200 characters/roughly 35 words or fewer)

This short response essay is another great chance to showcase something you haven’t yet mentioned before in your application—make it meaningful! Remember that even the mundane can be meaningful too: this answer doesn’t necessarily need to be about a hidden achievement or a secret passion for quantum physics.

When you write a college application, you craft a multidimensional picture of yourself based on your academics, extracurricular activities, athletics, and/or other endeavors you’ve followed. This question gives you the unique opportunity to showcase another dimension that doesn’t fall within those standard categories.

Yale’s Essay Prompts

Reflect on a time you discussed an issue important to you with someone holding an opposing view. why did you find the experience meaningful (400 words or fewer).

If you end up attending Yale, you’ll likely be thrust into a community more diverse than any you’ve experienced in the past. Everyone handles culture shock differently, so you’ll want to show that you’re ready to face it with both an open mind and an open heart. Think of a time you approached conflict in a positive or productive way. You want to avoid sounding like you simply engage in debates to be right, or like you’re unwilling to change your opinions even when provided with compelling evidence.

Important lessons can come out of dealing with disagreement or disharmony within a group, some of which can be incredibly formative. Some of those lessons can include accepting a time you were wrong, finding the resilience to defend a position you strongly cared about, or learning through debate what it is that really matters to you.

When describing the meaning behind your experience interacting with someone who holds an opposing view to yourself, you can focus on the lesson you feel you learned from that experience. Remember to center your valuable 400 words around one moment ; doing so will guide you toward exploring its depth and making the conclusions you drew from it more concrete and specific to your unique life experiences.

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. (400 words or fewer)

Yale places a huge emphasis on community, and admissions officers are keen to find out what piece of the puzzle you’ll fill once you’re there. Think expansively about the concept of community: your extended family, a club you’re part of, a religious group, etc. Furthermore, consider what you’ve done to remain a dedicated member of that community. Writing about how you’ve fostered your relationship to your community over time will allow you to demonstrate why and to what extent the community is meaningful to you.

If you’re having trouble articulating why the community is meaningful to you, consider a time when your connection to your community faltered or you questioned your place in it. Understanding why you chose to re-establish your role in the community after this point of doubt may help you articulate its meaning to you. Invite the reader into your world, let them feel what you feel, and open a window into why you cherish all of that.

Reflect on an element of your personal experience that you feel will enrich your college. How has it shaped you? (400 words or fewer)

This prompt is much broader than the previous two prompts, so if writing about only about the meaning of your community or the way you respond to opposing viewpoints feels limiting to you, then you should select this prompt as your Yale essay question.

Nevertheless, this prompt’s broadness can be a trap for many students as they respond to the prompt with a broad answer. Before writing this essay, it’s advisable to write a brief outline so that you can keep your response contained, focused, and specific to you and your experience.

One way to keep this essay response cohesive is to consider a specific experience you have had and using that experience as the basis for your essay response. For instance, maybe you lost the final in your state tennis championship. How did bouncing back from that disappointment change you, and how will you bring your resilience to your college community? Or, as another example, maybe you hold a marginalized identity. Narrating a specific occasion when discrimination had the potential or reality of holding you back, and describing how you responded to that experience, can also be a strong response to this question.

The question is multilayered, because the Yale admissions officers would like to know not only about your experience, but how the experience changed you and how you will bring the lessons you’ve learned to your college community. Considering the three parts of this question, try to work backward by thinking of a life lesson you might want to bring to a Yale residential college community and then turning back the clock to recall how you learned this lesson in the first place.

If you need help polishing up your Yale supplemental essays, check out our College Essay Review service. You can receive detailed feedback from Ivy League consultants in as little as 24 hours.

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  1. How to Write the Yale Supplemental Essays 2023-2024

    Our writers and consultants come from the nation's top schools, such as Harvard, MIT, and Stanford. Having gone through a rigorous vetting process, our team is ready to support college-bound students with personalized essay feedback and admissions advice. We've broken down the Yale supplemental essays for the 2023-2024 admissions cycle.