How to Write the Yeshiva University Essays 2021-2022

 

 

Yeshiva University requires all applicants to answer one prompt with three options. Applicants to one of the University’s honors programs must fill out a separate application, which has four supplemental essays.

 

All applicants should note that Yeshiva has prompts that are both on the longer side and incredibly open-ended, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to draft, write, and revise your responses. In this post, we’ll cover how you should approach these open-ended essays that make up a crucial component of your application.

 

Read these Yeshiva essay examples to inspire your writing.

 

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Yeshiva University Supplemental Essay Prompts

 

All Applicants

 

Please respond to one of the following prompts in 500-750 words:

 

Option 1: What lessons have you learned from high school that you have applied in your life? How have these lessons further defined your values and character? (500-750 words)

 

Option 2: Character, values, leadership, and potential: these are characteristics that we are looking for at YU. Please provide examples from your life, your experiences, or your aspirations and how they will be further defined, enhanced, or developed at YU. (500-750 words)

 

Option 3: As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to reflect on the past while focusing on hope, happiness and ways to express Hakarat Hatov (gratitude). Please highlight an example where you, your family members or friends have exemplified Hakarat Hatov and the impact it has had on you on a personal level and/or within your community, whether COVID related or not. (500-750 words)

 

Honors College Applicants

 

Prompt 1: Describe a time in your life when you had to decide between taking a risk and playing it safe. What choice did you make? What was the outcome of your choice? Would you have made the same decision looking back on the experience, or would you make a different decision? (750-1000 words)

 

Prompt 2: What is one human achievement or innovation you would like to see in your lifetime? (150 words)

 

Prompt 3: When meeting someone for the first time, what do you want them to know about you but generally do not tell them? (150 words)

 

Prompt 4: Please describe something about which you are passionate. If you would like, please feel free to share a link to a video which best illustrates this passion.  The link can be a found video, such as from YouTube, or can be an original video filmed on your own. (150 words)

 

All Applicants, Option 1

What lessons have you learned from high school that you have applied in your life? How have these lessons further defined your values and character? (500-750 words)

 

This prompt allows you to write about nearly anything, which can be both a positive and negative. On the one hand, you have the freedom to share whatever you want with the admissions committee. On the other hand, brainstorming with such little structure can be difficult.

 

If you’re applying to Common App schools and still have a list of topics you considered writing about for the main Common App essay, that can be a good place to get some inspiration. You can also ask yourself general questions that are a little more focused than the prompt itself:

 

  • When you reflect on high school, which moments stick out as most significant?
  • If you had to give advice to an incoming high school freshman, what would you tell them?
  • Think back to three years ago, when you entered high school. How are you different now?

 

Once you have some idea of what you want to write about, the next step is, like with any good college essay, to identify examples that will illustrate your points to your reader. You can do this even if you don’t have a complete picture of what your essay is going to look like yet. Since this is a longer essay, you’re going to go through several rounds of revisions no matter what, and at some point the best thing is to just start writing.

 

Take a hypothetical applicant, Olivia. She has three older siblings, and she wants to write about how high school has taught her how to find her own path, and not to try to conform to other people’s definitions of happiness and success.

 

The anecdotes Olivia chooses will need to be strong enough to carry a 500-750 word essay. Showing growth over time is a good way to keep your essay engaging all the way through. 

 

So, Olivia might start her essay by talking about her freshman year, when she tried out for the basketball team because her sister was the captain and everyone expected her to. She made varsity, but she always dreaded going to practice, and was miserable during the season. The following fall, one of her friends offered to take her rock climbing. Olivia ended up enjoying it much more than she expected, and she quit the basketball team. At first, her sister was hurt, because she thought it was her fault, but eventually she understood where Olivia was coming from, and Olivia even spent some time during the pandemic teaching her how to climb.

 

In an essay of this length, your reader can sometimes get lost in your narrative, so you want to make sure that you clearly state your takeaways at the end. You don’t want to finish with a cliché, as that is generic and impersonal. 

 

Instead, summarize your story for your reader. Even if the sentiment you’re communicating is a common one, saying it in your own words will make it unique to you. Here are two ways our  hypothetical applicant Olivia might end her essay, to illustrate what we’re talking about:

 

Cliché ending: After all of this, I realized that the Hallmark cards are right: always follow your heart.

 

Personal ending: When I started high school, all I wanted was to be like my sister. I wanted to hit big shots and get doused in Gatorade. But those things don’t make me happy. I’ll always be grateful to have talented, accomplished siblings. But I also now have the self-confidence to try new things, even things that involve hanging off a seemingly totally smooth rock face by just the tips of my fingers.

 

You should have the space for this kind of reflective conclusion, and clearly restating your points is incredibly helpful for your reader. Remember that admissions officers are reading fast, and they probably won’t remember everything in your essay. The conclusion will be the last thing in their mind, so you want it to be as strong and as personal as possible.

 

All Applicants, Option 2

Character, values, leadership, and potential: these are characteristics that we are looking for at YU. Please provide examples from your life, your experiences, or your aspirations and how they will be further defined, enhanced, or developed at YU. (500-750 words)

 

Like the first option, this prompt is open-ended. Here, however, Yeshiva lists specific characteristics they would like you to focus your essay on, so if you’re getting overwhelmed by the freedom of Option 1, this option provides slightly more structure.

 

The first thing you want to do is pick a theme for your essay. If there’s something about your character or values that you feel is important to who you are, but doesn’t necessarily come across in a transcript or activities list, those broad categories give you a place to share it. “Leadership” and “potential” are a little more focused, and if those topics speak to you, that can make brainstorming easier. However, there’s no right answer here, and these characteristics are general enough that there will probably be some overlap between them in your essay.

 

Next, you want to select “examples from your life, your experiences, or your aspirations.” Like with Option 1, for a longer essay like this you’ll probably want to select 2-4 strong anecdotes that create a cohesive narrative. 

 

For example, say you choose to write about leadership. One strategy would be to tell the story of how you learned about the qualities a good leader has to have. You might describe how you were raised with strict parents, which made you think leadership meant ruling with an iron fist. In high school, however, you went on a rafting trip with some friends. The trip leaders helped out with cooking, setting up tents, and various other chores, and allowed other people to take on leadership roles by steering the boat or setting the pace for a day hike. This experience showed you that a good leader can connect with other people, and empowers them to feel like they have  an important role to play as well.

 

You can write your essay about a single experience if you would like, but you should be able to describe it in enough detail to show your reader why it made such an impact on you. 

 

For example, you could write about your value of community by describing the time your entire neighborhood’s power went out for several days after a storm, and how everyone worked together to make sure everyone had food and blankets, and to keep spirits high.

 

Finally, you want to make sure you address the final part of this prompt, and explain how the quality you focus on “will be further defined, enhanced, or developed at YU.” This isn’t a “Why School?” essay, but you do want to make sure you show your reader how you see Yeshiva helping you grow as a person.

 

For example, say you write the “leadership” essay. You might conclude your essay by talking about how you look forward to studying Jewish philosophical texts at Yeshiva’s Mendel Gottesman Library of Hebraica/Judaica, to learn more about the history of the Jewish faith’s views on leadership.

 

Like with a “Why School?” essay, the connection to Yeshiva should be specific, and personal to you. If you just said you’re excited about exploring the library, that isn’t specific, because every college has a library. Or if you said you’re excited about learning about the history of Jewish philosophy, but didn’t say why, that wouldn’t be personal, because everyone interested in Yeshiva is interested in learning more about the Jewish faith.

 

All Applicants, Option 3

As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to reflect on the past while focusing on hope, happiness, and ways to express Hakarat Hatov (gratitude). Please highlight an example where you, your family members or friends have exemplified Hakarat Hatov and the impact it has had on you on a personal level and/or within your community, whether COVID related or not. (500-750 words)

 

The focus of this prompt is clear, so if gratitude is a quality you feel is important to your life, we recommend using this prompt to illustrate that to your reader. Alternatively, if you’re having a hard time brainstorming for the more open-ended Options 1 and 2, the specificity here might be helpful for you.

 

As you think about which experience you want to write about, make sure you can describe both it and your own state of mind during it in detail. Someone holding the door for you is nice, but you would probably have a hard time thinking of 500 words to say about that.

 

Here are some examples of experiences that you could write a strong essay about:

 

  • Your family planning a surprise trip for your mom, who works in healthcare and has been extremely stressed during the pandemic
  • Making a painting for one of your best friends in the grade above you and giving it to her for her graduation
  • Baking cookies for your local fire department after they responded to a fire in an empty building near your house and prevented the fire from spreading anywhere else

 

Once you select an experience to focus on, the key to a strong response is showing “the impact it has had on you on a personal level and/or within your community.” Gratitude means something different to each person, and you want your essay to illustrate what it means to you specifically.

 

Take the fire department story. Below are some examples to demonstrate the difference between a weak and strong response.

 

Weak response: I was extremely appreciative that the firefighters had put themselves in harm’s way to protect my neighborhood, and wanted to express that gratitude, even just with something as simple as cookies.

 

Strong response: Even hours after the final embers had been drenched, flames were still imprinted on my eyelids whenever I closed my eyes. If the firefighters hadn’t responded so quickly, or hadn’t been so willing to risk injury to protect the rest of the neighborhood, those flames could have consumed everything in the only home I’ve ever known. The firefighters probably won’t even remember me, because to them, it was just another day on the job. But I will always remember them, because they protected everything I love. The least I could do was bring them cookies.

 

The weak response uses generic, vague language to express gratitude. In contrast, the strong response shows the reader what exactly about the situation made the writer feel gratitude, and describes the writer’s state of mind. It’s this kind of specificity and detail that will illustrate how this experience impacted you on a personal level.

 

 

Honors College Applicants, Prompt 1

Describe a time in your life when you had to decide between taking a risk and playing it safe. What choice did you make? What was the outcome of your choice? Would you have made the same decision looking back on the experience, or would you make a different decision? (750-1000 words)

 

You want to begin by brainstorming specific memories. The important thing is not whether you took a risk or played it safe. Rather, you should pick an experience that you can reflect thoughtfully on, and that showcases your personal growth. 

 

Remember that your topic shouldn’t overlap with what you wrote about for the general College’s prompt. You only get so many opportunities to share yourself with the admissions committee, and repeating yourself is a waste of one of those opportunities.

 

Also keep in mind Yeshiva’s description of their honors programs: “Students who take honors courses commit themselves to hard work, a challenging search for understanding, and intellectual excellence.” Ideally, your essay should demonstrate how you have embodied these qualities in your own life.

 

Here are some examples of experiences that you could write a strong essay about:

 

  • You’re part of the baseball team, and there’s one student with autism (Randy) that is always made fun of and excluded. Everyone is afraid to stand up for him for fear of being ostracized themselves. You decide to invite Randy to a team dinner one day, and you pick him up and arrive together. While the other members are initially unwilling to engage with you both, the others become interested when Randy pulls out a deck of cards and starts doing magic tricks. The others even ask to be taught those tricks, and you’re glad to see everyone finally interact kindly with Randy. 
  • You decided to run for class president against the wildly popular “incumbent.” While the current president was well-liked as a person, you felt that he was too focused on organizing school social gatherings, and wasn’t paying enough attention to student issues like internet filters and the lack of Kosher food in the cafeteria. You decided to run against him, despite being more of a reserved person. You ultimately didn’t win the election, but were able to draw more attention to these issues, and you overcame your fear of public speaking. You’ll continue to fight for these issues by attending school board meetings.

 

Once you’ve selected an experience and begin to outline your essay, remember that this is a lengthy supplement. You have plenty of room to build your narrative, so make sure you describe not only the situation, but also your mental state both at the time and in the time since this event happened.

 

The additional space also means you have space to show off your writing skills with vivid, memorable descriptions. Take the second example from above. Say you’re describing your experience overcoming your fear of public speaking. Below are some examples to illustrate the kind of writing you should be going for.

 

Example 1: Before I gave my speech, I was extremely nervous. 

 

Example 2: As I waited in the wings of the stage, old, familiar nerves started to wash over me. Sweat prickled on my palms and the back of my neck, and my stomach felt like I had left it on the top of a rollercoaster.

 

If your first draft looks more like example 1, that’s okay! At that stage of drafting, you’re just trying to get your ideas down. Once you’ve solidified the body of your essay, you can start worrying about the finer details, as these are the kinds of things that will take your response from good to great.

 

Honors College Applicants, Prompt 2

What is one human achievement or innovation you would like to see in your lifetime? (150 words)

 

This is the kind of prompt that will require some brainstorming, but once you’ve selected your topic the actual writing should be fairly straightforward.

 

You want to spend time thinking about what you want to write about because this prompt gives you an opportunity to show some creativity. You don’t want to write about space colonization or a cure for cancer because, while those would certainly be remarkable achievements, they’re also pretty cliché. Yeshiva wants to see that you can think about the world on a more nuanced level.

 

Here are some examples of things that you could write a strong essay about:

 

  • A clean water network that can supply the entire world
  • An earpiece that translates any language into the wearer’s native tongue
  • A method of perfectly restoring ancient paintings and statues

 

The other component of this essay is saying something about why this particular innovation would be so meaningful to you. That personal connection is what will differentiate the great essays from the good ones.

 

Take the restoration example. You might write about how you were shocked when you learned that ancient Greek and Roman marble statues were not originally white, but painted, and that made you feel like people are not fully appreciating the artists’ abilities. You hope that showcasing these works in their original forms would not only lead to celebration of ancient artists, but also inspire modern artists and move art forward.

 

As you pick your topic, do remember that you want to avoid taking a stance in any sort of political debate. You don’t know anything about the person who will be reading your essay, and you never want to unintentionally offend. 

 

So, you shouldn’t write about how you hope to see a world where, for example, capitalism has been abolished. There are plenty of good topics, like the ones above, that don’t run the risk of ruffling any feathers.

 

Honors College Applicants, Prompt 3

When meeting someone for the first time, what do you want them to know about you but generally do not tell them? (150 words)

 

Responding to this prompt is relatively straightforward. You want to pick an important part of your personality or experience you have had, illustrate it with an example, and say something about why you don’t tell people this up front.

 

If you’re having trouble brainstorming a topic, think about the situation the prompt describes: what is something important about you that you generally don’t share, for whatever reason, when you first meet someone?

 

You are likely going to have to get at least somewhat vulnerable in your response, which can be an uncomfortable thing to do with a total stranger, but remember that how personal you get is up to you. The thing you share should be meaningful, but doesn’t have to be your deepest darkest secret either.

 

For example, say you have had problems with anemia for most of your life, which affects your ability to play sports or do certain activities with your friends. You might not tell people this because you don’t want people to think of you as being less capable than anyone else. In order to illustrate this struggle, you might describe a time your friends were going on a hike, and you weren’t healthy enough to come, but you made up some excuse because you didn’t want them to pity you.

 

Remember that, like any college essay, your goal is to teach your reader something about what makes you tick. If someone comes away from your response with a better understanding of who you are, you’ve written a successful essay.

 

Honors College Applicants, Prompt 4

Please describe something about which you are passionate. If you would like, please feel free to share a link to a video which best illustrates this passion.  The link can be a found video, such as from YouTube, or can be an original video filmed on your own. (150 words)

 

This is another straightforward prompt: write about one of your passions. Keep in mind that you don’t have to try to impress the admissions officers. They already have your transcript, after all. So, there’s no need to write about Baroque art, unless you are genuinely interested in it. If anything, reminding your reader that you’re more than just your GPA and activities list can inject some life into your application.

 

For example, you could write about your fascination with Taylor Swift’s lyricism. Or the unpredictability of which college football players end up being good in the NFL. 

 

If you want to write about something slightly more serious, you might talk about your desire for better public transportation in your hometown, or the connection between physical exercise and mental health.

 

You do want to make sure that the passion you describe here isn’t already reflected in your activities list, or anywhere else in your application. So, if your activities list already includes your participation in local robotics competitions, you shouldn’t talk about robotics here. You only get so many chances to share yourself with the admissions committee, and you don’t want to waste one by being redundant.

 

Additionally, as always you want to make sure you answer the question why. Your essay needs to say something about you, not the thing you’re writing about. So, if you write about NFL college scouting, you shouldn’t spend 150 words analyzing recent drafts. 

 

Instead, describe how you believe everyone can be successful in the right environment, and you enjoy tracking players to see which ones are put in position to succeed versus those who are set up to fail. This explanation shows your reader that you can think critically, and that you are a thoughtful observer of the world around you.

 

If you think a video would help illustrate something about your passion, you should absolutely include one. Maybe you already have one in mind, or you’re in the mood to spend some time browsing YouTube. Just don’t spend hours looking for one. That might be fun, but probably isn’t the best use of your time in the thick of college applications season.

 

Where to Get Your Yeshiva Essays Edited for Free

After reading over your own writing dozens of times, you may find yourself struggling to see anything that can be improved. That’s why we created a Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get your essay reviewed for free by another student. Since they don’t know you personally, they can be a more objective judge of whether your personality shines through, and whether you’ve fully answered the prompt. 

 

You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. We highly recommend giving this tool a try!

 

 

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Our college essay experts go through a rigorous selection process that evaluates their writing skills and knowledge of college admissions. We also train them on how to interpret prompts, facilitate the brainstorming process, and provide inspiration for great essays, with curriculum culled from our years of experience helping students write essays that work.

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