How to Write the Yale University Supplement Essays 2015-2016
Enthralled by its stunning gothic architecture and evident rich history, many tourists (and especially alumni) claim that Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, is the most beautiful school in the Ivy League. Coupled with its strong liberal arts curricula, powerful networking opportunities, and plentiful resources, it is no wonder that Yale ranks consistently in the top 3 of US universities.
But the home of the Bulldogs admitted just under 6.5% of last year’s applicants to the class of 2019. Like its biggest rival, Harvard University, Yale could fill its incoming freshman class several times over with qualified students due to the impressive nature of each year’s applicant pool. As such, standing out via Yale’s Writing Supplement will be absolutely critical for students eager to call themselves Yalies next fall.
Yale offers students the opportunity to write an open-ended supplement essay on any topic they want, with a 500-word cap. Yale also has an optional 500-word essay for applicants to its engineering school.
Note: this year’s Yale supplemental application is almost identical to last year’s. The only exception is that this year’s app is shorter, with one less question. We’ve updated this year’s post slightly to reflect new trends in admissions. Read last year’s post here.
Please reflect on something you would like us to know about you that we might not learn from the rest of your application, or on something about which you would like to say more. You may write about anything—from personal experiences or goals to interests or intellectual pursuits. (Please answer in 500 words or fewer).
This long essay prompt offers you an opportunity to discuss your personal development beyond the bullet points on your resume, as well as beyond your Common App. Your supplement essay should not be redundant with your Common App one; it should have different content and a different tone and writing style. In terms of topics, you can certainly use an extracurricular activity, though if you do, you should try to highlight a less-prominent activity on your resume. It is more important to convey development than competence in this essay, and while discussing your most prominent extracurricular activity is often an excellent way to show off your skills, an activity where you enjoyed less success is often a better tool to discuss challenges you faced or personal development. For example, even if your most successful activity is Science Olympiad, you could discuss the friendships and improved social skills you gained from the debate club.
Beyond extracurricular passions, you could also base your essay on an intellectual topic, such as something that you researched, something that you would like to research, or just a field of academics that you find interesting. However, this strategy can be risky because you risk getting stuck in the weeds. The essay has to be at least 50% about you and your emotional and rational reasons for liking or loving the topic. Writing 500 words about the beauty of nominal GDP targeting might make for interesting reading (for some) but it doesn’t convey enough about you. A less risky option is to discuss a personal growth story, discussing a challenge you faced or an incident that helped you develop. The opportunities here are endless, but you do want to be careful not to write your essay in a way that makes it seem as though you want to elicit sympathy. In particular, tone-deaf pathos (for example describing a move two towns over at the age of 7 as a traumatic life-or-death experience) can backfire substantially.
This essay allows you to show why you will add something to the Yale community. The admissions counselors should be able to read it and see how you will fit in. You don’t have to explicitly or even implicitly reference Yale itself, but you do want to convey themes such as citizenship, curiosity, idealism, diversity, realism, and acceptance, which will convey your suitability.
Optional essay for prospective engineering majors:
If you selected one of the engineering majors, please write a brief third essay telling us what has led you to an interest in this field of study, what experiences (if any) you have had in engineering, and what it is about Yale’s engineering program that appeals to you. (500 words)
This is a pretty basic “Why Major” essay, and accordingly you can use the same technique that you do for all such essays. As always, you want to make sure that you specifically address Yale engineering, not just engineering as a field. Unless you have a specific vehicle or highly specific interdisciplinary field, you should use the standard playbook. Start by discussing why you want to pursue the field, making reference to experiences and activities in high school that reinforce your decision and prove your competence, then transition into Yale Engineering-specific factors. Yale Engineering has relatively few “disciplines,” so you should drill down into specific areas of focus (amphibious vehicles in the mechanical engineering discipline being one prominent example). Be sure to focus on specific sets of classes and research initiatives – don’t just name-drop professors.
With these tips, you should be well on your way to writing the perfect Yale Supplement. Best of luck from the Admissions Hero team!