How to Write the Yale University Application Essays 2018-2019
One of the first colleges in America founded over three hundred years ago, Yale has since secured its position as one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world. As a member of the Ivy League, Yale sits at #3 on the US News National College Ranking.
Yale’s class of 5,500 undergraduates study in the city of New Haven, Connecticut. Each student lives in one of the fourteen residential colleges across the 345-acre campus. With over 32,900 first-year applicants last year, only 6.7% of students were accepted.
Yale offers three ways to apply: the Common Application, the Coalition Application, and the QuestBridge National College Match Application. Let’s take a look at the Yale-specific questions that accompany each of these.
Yale University Application Essay Prompts
Short answer questions (Required)
The short answer questions give you an easy way to make your application memorable. However, too often, many students write something boring or cliché. While your mom might be the most important person in your life and scoring the game-winning goal might be your most memorable experience, the same is likely true for hundreds of other applicants. How can you avoid this? Let’s take a look at the questions.
This sounds a lot like “vision statements” that many business professionals write for themselves. The idea here is to give a concise summary of what drives you every day.
While brainstorming an answer to this question, it’s a good idea to think about how you would summarize your application in a few sentences. What are your recommenders saying about you? What do your classwork and extracurriculars demonstrate an interest in? What sentence instantly helps to combine the disparate elements of your application into a cohesive narrative? This should help guide an answer to the question that’s consistent with your overall application.
The stereotypical answer to this question is along the lines of Mahatma Gandhi or President Obama. Of course, these are interesting people that anyone would like to have a conversation with, including hundreds of Yale applicants. On the other hand, very few applicants will write about people like Paul Baran or Joseph Campbell. You can make your application stand out by mentioning someone unique.
Once again, this question gives you the opportunity to reference back to the rest of your application. If you’re trying to show you really love math, maybe write about Pierre de Fermat. Or, if you have already written two essays about math, show you’re well-rounded by writing about Strom Thurmond.
The second part of this question is about what you’d like to ask the selected individual. Admissions officers see questions like “what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced?” all the time. Be original! Think about how the person you’ve selected interacts with your application. Remember, the question you would ask them reflects upon yourself too.
This is just a proxy to ask “what interests you?” That is, what interests you enough that you’d want to share that passion with a handful of Yale students? You can let your creativity run wild here; if you have a niche interest, this is the perfect place to mention it. An answer like “Designing and Testing Role Playing Games” is a lot better than “Economics 101.”
Alternatively, think about two interests you have. For example, if you like cartoon shows and politics, a class called “The Politics of Cartoon Shows” will definitely catch the eye of an admissions officer.
In one of our team member’s successful Yale applications, he made a long list of things he liked, spicing it up with humorous items like “dank memes.” A list of things is a great way to answer this question; you can easily show your diverse interests in one sentence.
Another way to answer this question is by describing your personality. Are you outgoing and social? Are you calm and composed? Let Yale know with this question, but make sure it doesn’t contradict what your recommenders say about you!
This prompt is a similar to a traditional “Why Major” prompt, however, 100 words is a very tight amount of space, and thus you need to be comprehensive and clear. Whether or not you plan on majoring in physics, economics, or neuroscience, the same basic strategy can be applied across the board.
As directly as possible, you need to describe what exactly is most fascinating or compelling about your intended major. For example, if you are interested in linguistics, you could write specifically about the nuances of language formation in prehistoric hominids or how language and thoughts are linked in dreams. If you are interested in psychology, you could explain how you want to better understand consumer mentalities in order to build organic and effective marketing campaigns.
Whatever your interest is, waste no space in diving right into the most specific details. Then, work to connect the details to future goals and interests. Make a statement about how you will act upon your interest.
Like other Yale responses, here you are challenged to discuss your thoughts deeply and clearly in a limited amount of space. A great resource to consider is CollegeVine’s “Why School” essay guide, which contains excellent information about how to tackle any specific school prompt.
For Yale in particular, you want to pick a refreshing aspect about the school that really piques your interest. One way would be to discuss how the school culture and atmosphere spark an electric fervor for learning. Be keen on discussing very specific and poignant details. For example, if you visit Yale, you may immediately notice the silent focus that permeates the massive libraries or the clarity of the cold winter air. Don’t be afraid to use acute or even sensory details to describe these experiences and the aspects of Yale that have led you to apply. A great strategy is to choose an idea, opportunity, or aspect that is very concrete and specific and build around it, as opposed to discussing an exhaustive list of reasons without truly elaborating in depth.
This question is about specificity, so be specific! Tell the Admissions Office exactly what you’ve done with computer science or engineering. If you’ve taken AP classes in these fields, mention them. If you’ve done your own independent projects, make these the focus of your essay. Don’t talk about your general love for engineering or Yale’s general strength as a school. If you’re writing this essay, Yale already knows about this!
The second part of this question is to reflect on what Yale’s program will offer you. For example, Yale is famous for their biological science department, as well as for having many Nobel laureates. Tell them exactly what you’d like from your engineering education (even if you don’t know yet). For example, if you’re interested in medicine, tell them how you like Lisa Sanders’ community outreach or that Stephen Fleck’s research interests you.
Longer essays (2 of 3 required)
Here comes the most important part of the writing section: the two longer questions. You have up to 250 words to respond to TWO of the following three prompts.
What makes you tick? What intellectual thoughts keep you up at night? Yale is looking for students driven by a passion for learning; they want to see the ability to succeed within a focused field of study (i.e., the college major). Therefore, your answer to this question should convey your love for a certain field of study. Keep in mind that your answer isn’t constrained to classroom subjects — if you read books about sports statistics on your own time, that’s a perfectly valid answer!
No matter what you talk about, make sure your essay conveys your intellectual vitality — an interest and desire for learning. The exact thing you talk about matters less than showing a deep passion for a specific interest. Focus on your involvement with the process of learning and the rest of the essay should fall in place.
This is what CollegeVine considers “the leadership essay.” Show off how you took charge in a situation to make a real impact! You shouldn’t talk about a group you were minimally involved with nor should you only talk about the accomplishments of the group. Make sure the essay reflects well on you, not just on the group.
Ah, the wildcard. Be careful if you choose this prompt; your answer better convey something memorable! Don’t tell them about your GPA or pet goldfish; this essay is for truly extraordinary things. Before you choose to answer this prompt, ask yourself: Do I have something truly unique to share? If the answer is yes, this is the question for you.
Yale is one of the most selective schools in the country, so applaud yourself for shooting so high! Great essays are quite possibly the easiest way to distinguish yourself from thousands of other accomplished applicants. Start early, take the essays seriously, and with a bit of luck, you might find yourself with an acceptance letter in a few months.
From everyone here at CollegeVine, we wish you the best of luck writing your Yale essays!
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