How to Write the Yale University Essays 2016-2017
An Ivy League university and the third oldest institution of higher education in the U.S., Yale University is widely considered one of the very best in the world. Founded in 1701 in New Haven, Connecticut, Yale consists of its undergraduate college, Graduate Schools of Arts and Sciences, and 13 professional schools, including the #1 ranked law school in the country. Yale’s emphasis on rigorous academics goes without saying, but it is equally known for its excellent drama and music programs. The Yale Record is the country’s oldest college humor magazine.
Admission is highly competitive, with under 7% of applicants admitted in the past five years. Approximately half of the student body is female, and 10% is international. The vast majority of classes have fewer than 20 students, owing to the exceptionally high 6:1 student-faculty ratio. Yale also conducts a substantial amount of research and is the largest source of doctoral degrees within the Ivy League. It awarded the first Ph.D. in the country in 1861.
Over the centuries, these qualities have helped Yale graduate a great number of notable alumni — five U.S. Presidents, 19 U.S. Supreme Court Judges, and hundreds of diplomats and members of Congress. Endowments to the university rank second highest of any academic institution, totaling $25.6 billion in 2015. In this blog post, we’ve created a guide to answering Yale University’s prompts for the 2016-2017 application cycle. Armed with our guide, you’ll be able to craft unique essays that will set you apart from the competition.
List Majors or Academic Disciplines That Interest You
Students at Yale have plenty of 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?
Here, Yale is simply asking you to list the majors or academic disciplines at Yale that currently interest you. This requires some research into Yale’s curriculum and fields of study, which you can easily find online.
Write a Brief and Powerful Response to this Prompt
Please indicate up to three from the list provided.
Why do these areas appeal to you? (100 words or fewer)
After completing the question above, this asks you to describe how you realized your interest in these fields. To respond, you may describe your encounters with the subject in high school or the overarching goals you hope to achieve through these academic pursuits. However, in order to write a brief but powerful response, you should focus on discussing either your past experiences or your future goals. While you want to demonstrate that you are both ambitious and experienced in your field of choice, writing too extensively on both puts you at risk of stretching your response too thin.
The ‘Why Yale?’ Prompt
Why does Yale appeal to you? (100 words or fewer)
This is a standard “Why this school?” essay, but since the length allowed is just 100 words, you should focus your essay on one specific characteristic of Yale, in particular something unique to the school. For example, if you spent high school participating in countless debate competitions, discussing Yale’s top-ranked debate squad and its unique culture would be a great way of tying your past interests and accomplishments into your aspirations at Yale.
Or, if you crave close friendships in your personal life, you could discuss Yale’s residential college system, and how you would enjoy forming deep relationships therein. However, in choosing one facet of life at Yale, remember to truly distinguish your response. For example, since Yale’s residential college system is so distinctive, many students will likely write on it, requiring you to add your unique flair and take on it. The options are (effectively) limitless, but of course specificity is key.
Balancing the content you discuss in this prompt with that of the other essays that Yale will see is also important. If your Common App and long essay are both about academics, you should choose a social topic, and vice versa. If the breakdown is one of each, you should reinforce your weaker essay (i.e. a supplement essay about your social life) with this one.
Short Answer Prompts
Who or what is a source of inspiration for you? (35 words or fewer)
If you could live for a day as another person, past or present, who would it be? Why? (35 words or fewer)
You are teaching a Yale course. What is it called? (35 words or fewer)
Most Yale freshmen live in suites of four to six students. What would you contribute to the dynamic of your suite? (35 words or fewer)
Through these prompts, Yale wishes to understand various facets of your personality. With 35 words, you have too much space to merely name your source of inspiration or class at Yale but you also can’t write an entire paragraph explaining your reasoning. Instead, you have to strike a balance and not only answer the question but also accompany it with a brief clarification.
For example, you may choose to name “Alexander Hamilton” as your source of inspiration, which leaves you with 33 words to discuss what about him is so compelling for you, whether it be his inextinguishable drive to rise from poverty or the enormous impact he had purely by writing. In doing so, you provide admissions officers with a glimpse into your personality and your inner motivations.
Additionally, note that this is an opportunity to shed light on personal interests of yours that may be incommunicable through the rest of your application. Further highlighting past achievements of yours that have already been addressed in the Extracurriculars or Awards sections of the Common App would not be helpful for the admissions officer.
Essays – Common Application
Please choose two of the following topics and respond to each in 200 words or fewer.
What is a community to which you belong? Reflect on the footprint that you have left. (You may define community and footprint in any way you like.)
Communities come in many varieties — geographic, cultural, academic, recreational, even family and friends. Community also implies integration and support. Take these into account and carefully choose a community that has been significant in your life and to your development, preferably one which exhibits your best qualities as a candidate, as well as one which you haven’t mentioned already. As with all college-specific questions, this is an excellent opportunity to share a personal side to yourself that isn’t immediately obvious in the rest of your application.
Also make sure to provide concrete examples from your experiences that demonstrate your contributions and commitment to your community. One such example of a community could be a chess team, and your footprint could range from individually winning a tournament to organizing a community bake sale.
Reflect on a time in the last few years when you felt genuine excitement learning about something.
Write about something that you love to do.
Both these questions make a similar request of you, which is to share a personal side that you haven’t had a chance to reveal already. Nothing is off-limits, and you’re encouraged to get creative! Possible responses include experiences both in and out of the classroom, and at home or abroad. Maybe you made a surprising discovery in a science lab, learned a new technique on the playing field, or connected with someone in a foreign country. The point here is to convey your genuine thirst for knowledge and self-improvement, as well as your passion and ability to feel strongly about things that might seem mundane to other people. As long as you hit these points, you are free to write about virtually anything.
Optional Engineering and Computer Science Essay
If you selected one of the computer science or engineering majors, please tell us more about what has led you to an interest in this field of study, what experiences (if any) you have had in computer science or engineering, and what it is about Yale’s program in this area that appeals to you. (Please answer in 500 words or fewer.)
This prompt is primarily asking you for the story behind your choice of major (in this case, engineering or computer science), including any of your high school coursework, extracurriculars, or other relevant experiences that served as motivating factors. However, it is necessary that you not only demonstrate a thorough understanding of the discipline but what it would truly entail, specifically at Yale. This can make the prompt challenging.
Firstly, your decision to pursue either major can be put into context through your first classroom encounters with it. For example, you may have relished the analytical thinking and theorizing required to complete a geometry proof, or maybe you were excited to replicate groundbreaking experiments in science labs, conceived centuries ago by visionaries. Alternatively, you might share a personal experience outside the classroom — a long-time dream of building your very own drone or writing revolutionary new code. However you choose to tackle this essay, make sure to convey your love and devotion to your area of interest as clearly as possible. In addition, you may consider writing about any relevant extracurricular activities or internships, which are equally representative of your passions and attributes.
Secondly, you’re strongly encouraged to research your major as it exists at Yale and contemplate what unique ways you might pursue it there. You can sketch your path out broadly or closely, but it is highly recommended that you mention names of specific departments, resources, and even noteworthy professors and classes to demonstrate that you have done your research and are truly committed to your interest in Yale.
Moreover, there are several defining features about either program that you ought to integrate into your response. For the engineering school, these include unparalleled research opportunities that begin as early as the summer after freshman year and the individual attention students receive from leading faculty, owing to the department’s 1:1 faculty to graduate ratio. For the computer science school, these include the flexible core that allows students to enjoy the college’s other renowned offerings, as well as the unique ability to pursue joint majors with the Departments of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics, and Psychology.
Address both of these aspects of your interest in your essay for an effective and pointed response!
With these tips, you should be well on your way to writing the perfect Yale supplement. Best of luck from the CollegeVine team!
For more help on applying to Yale, feel free to check out these CollegeVine posts:
- Ultimate Guide to Applying to Yale
- Essay Guides to the US News and World Report Top 100 Colleges
- How to Write the Yale Essays (2015-2016)
- How to Write the Yale Essays (2014-2015)