The Ultimate Guide to Applying to Yale

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If you’re interested in applying to Yale University, you probably already know that you’re considering one of the best-regarded universities in the world, one with a long history of exceptional scholarship, illustrious faculty, and well-known alumni. Students from Yale go on to do great things, and if you have great aspirations, Yale is a fantastic community and institution in which to get started on that path.


Harvard’s traditional rival, Yale has been around nearly as long as Harvard—it was founded in 1701, making it the third-oldest institution of higher education in what would eventually become the United States. The entire school was known as Yale College until 1887, when the name Yale University was adopted. Currently, undergraduates at Yale study in the liberal arts college, Yale College, and the Yale School of Engineering and Applied Science, or SEAS.These days, Yale remains a deeply respected intellectual powerhouse with high standards for admission and a highly accomplished student body.


Before you apply to Yale, you’ll need to have a solid grasp of Yale’s application expectations and procedures. Read on for an overview of the Yale application process and deadlines, how to fill out Yale’s application, and how you can afford a Yale education.


Want to learn what Yale University will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take? Here’s what every student considering Yale University needs to know.


Introducing Yale


Located in New Haven, Connecticut, solidly within the boundaries of New England but also just a two-hour train ride away from New York City, Yale is a world-class research university and a member of the Ivy League athletic conference. The well-known U.S. News and World Report rankings place Yale in the #3 position within their National Universities category, and Yale lives up to this high ranking with its rich tradition of influential scholarship and notable alumni.


Yale University is made up of fourteen separate degree-granting schools, including its undergraduate liberal arts program, known today as Yale College. Some undergraduate students study within Yale’s SEAS, as noted above, but the undergraduate admissions processes for all students are handled by the same office.  


Together, the schools at Yale are home to 12,312 students representing 118 different countries. At present, there are 5,453 undergraduate students enrolled at Yale, representing all 50 U.S. states and over 50 countries around the world. About 10% of Yale undergraduates are international students.


Students at Yale College can choose between 80 different academic majors for their bachelor’s degrees. The most popular majors are Economics, Political Science, History, and the majors within the field of the biological sciences. All majors require students to participate in some kind of culminating senior experience, whether that be writing a thesis, taking a departmental examination, or undertaking some other type of senior project.


In addition to courses within their majors, students must fulfill a number of distribution requirements by taking courses in various subject areas and mastering certain foundational skills, such as writing. Studying abroad, whether during the academic term or during the summer, is popular and highly encouraged. Undergraduate students also have the opportunity to conduct research in their chosen field of study.


Outside of the classroom, Yale students participate in a stunning diversity of extracurricular activities—over 460 active student organizations exist on campus at present. Students at Yale are also enthusiastic participants in cultural and identity-based groups, political organizations, and religious communities. Academically and socially, Yale provides an exceptional environment for talented and ambitious students to flourish.


Yale Admissions Statistics


Admission to Yale is extremely selective. For the undergraduate class of 2020, Yale received 31,455 applicants total and accepted 1,972 applicants, for an acceptance rate of approximately 6.3%. While Yale has not yet released the number of accepted applicants who will actually matriculate in the fall of 2016, in 2015, 1364 first-year students matriculated at Yale.


When considering Yale’s potential future acceptance rates, prospective applicants should keep in mind that Yale has recently constructed two brand-new residential colleges, which are scheduled to open alongside the existing residential colleges in the fall of 2017. This will allow Yale to increase the size of its future first-year classes by about 15%.


Yale also accepts transfer applications from current college students at accredited two- or four-year schools, with an application deadline of March 1st for entry the following fall. However, Yale admits very few transfer students on a space-available basis. Typically, around 20 to 30 applicants are accepted from a pool of over a thousand transfer applicants, for an acceptance rate of less than 3%. More information about transfer applications is available here.


A strong academic record is a must for students interested in applying to Yale, of course, but especially given the large number of highly qualified applicants that seek admission to Yale each year, other factors are important as well. Yale’s admissions website cites “motivation, curiosity, energy, leadership ability, and distinctive talents” as some of the qualities that the admissions committee is seeking when they choose the next first-year class. Applicants should not only bring something special to the Yale community, but show promise in their ability to take advantage of the expansive opportunities Yale offers to its students.


Paying for Yale


The total estimated cost of attendance at Yale for the 2016-2017 school year is $68,175. Tuition alone costs $49,480 for the year. 49% of Yale students receive scholarships and/or other grant aid from Yale sources.


Admission to Yale is need-blind, meaning that the admission committee does not have access to financial-aid application information, and Yale’s financial aid is entirely need-based. The student’s financial need is calculated using the full yearly cost of attendance for that student, not just the cost of tuition. Using data from the FAFSA and the CSS Profile, Yale will create a financial aid award package that meets 100% of the student’s demonstrated financial need. Students are not required to take out any loans as part of their financial aid packages, and 83% of students in the class of 2015 graduated without any educational debt.


According to Yale’s financial aid policy, students with family incomes of less than $65,000 per year and assets typical for that income range will have an expected family contribution of zero. Over 10% of Yale students fall into this category.


Families with an income of between $65,000 and $200,000 per year are assessed an expected family contribution equal to between 1% and 20% of their yearly income, though the actual amount of individual awards varies based on the family’s situation. Some families with incomes above $200,000 do still receive need-based financial aid, especially if they have multiple children in college or other mitigating circumstances.


Prospective Yale applicants who are concerned about their financial aid eligibility, particularly those who live in the United States, can use Yale’s Net Price Calculator tool to estimate how much financial aid they would likely receive given their income and assets. This is simply an estimate, and students will need to go through the full financial aid application process to receive an actual financial aid offer.


Unfortunately, the Net Price Calculator is not able to provide financial aid estimates for international applicants whose parents do not work in the United States. However, international students are subject to the same financial-aid policies as domestic students, in that they are admitted on a need-blind basis, are awarded aid to meet 100% of their demonstrated financial need, and are not required to take out any loans as part of their financial aid packages.


Early Action applicants to Yale should submit the requested financial information along with their Early Action applications by the November 1st deadline. If these documents are received on time, accepted students will receive an estimated financial aid award letter along with their acceptance in December. Students and families must update their applications once their tax information for the year becomes available in the spring, and students generally receive finalized award letters by early April.


Technically, there is no strict deadline for Regular Decision applicants to apply for financial aid from Yale. However, the later you apply, the later you’ll receive your financial aid award letter. Yale recommends that applicants submit all their financial aid paperwork by March 1st in order for accepted students to receive their award letters before the May 1st deadline for committing to Yale and many other colleges.


The Yale Application


Yale offers prospective students three ways to apply. These are the Common Application, known as the Common App; the Coalition Application; and the QuestBridge National College Match application. As an applicant, you must choose one of these options— you’re not permitted to submit multiple applications. Which application you submit is up to you, and all forms of the application receive equal consideration. Below, we’ll briefly go over the details of how to complete the application process through each of the three application paths.


For the Common App and the Coalition App, application deadlines are the same. On either of these applications, the student can choose to apply to Yale according to the Regular Decision timeline or the Single-Choice Early Action timeline. (To learn more about what Early Action means and which timeline is best for you, take a look at this post on the CollegeVine blog.)


If you’d like to apply through the Single-Choice Early Action program, you’ll need to submit your application materials by November 1st. Officially reported test scores must reach Yale by the first week of December, so plan accordingly. If you apply Regular Decision, application materials are due January 1st, and officially reported test scores must reach Yale by early March.


The QuestBridge application is slightly different in terms of deadlines. QuestBridge is a national nonprofit which assists low-income high-school students in applying for admission and financial aid. You can only use the QuestBridge application to Yale if you have been selected as a Finalist in the QuestBridge National College Match program, which has its own deadlines in late September. (You can learn more about that program here.) QuestBridge applications to Yale must be submitted by November 1st.


Common App


Many other schools besides Yale participate in the Common App system, so the Common App is an especially popular way to apply to Yale. In order to apply to Yale through the Common App, you’ll first need to set up a Common App account and add Yale as one of your schools. Visit the post A User’s Guide to the Common App on the CollegeVine blog for more information about how to get started with using the Common App.


Once you have answered the general questions that the Common App asks for all applicants, you’ll need to take a look at the Yale-specific Common App supplement. In order to access this part of the application, navigate to your My Colleges tab and select Yale from the list of schools to answer its school-specific questions.


The Yale supplement to the Common App will be officially made available to applicants on September 1, 2016, so no screenshots are available at this time. However, Yale’s short-answer and essay questions for the Common App are already available on the Yale admissions website, and are reproduced below.


First of all, Yale will ask you to answer the following short-answer questions:



  • “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? Please indicate up to three from the list provided. Why do these areas appeal to you? (100 words or fewer)
  • Why does Yale appeal to you? (100 words or fewer)
  • 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)”


Obviously, you won’t have very much space to answer these questions in any detail! Focus on what makes you outstanding and a valuable prospective addition to the Yale community. Try to avoid cliched phrasing, and come up with unique answers that speak to who you are as a student and a person.

In addition to these questions, Yale will ask you to write two slightly longer essay responses on the Common App. The prompt for these essays is as follows:

“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.)
  • 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.”


Students who have expressed an interest in majoring in computer science or engineering will have the opportunity to submit an additional essay on the topic below. While this essay is technically optional, you should definitely submit it if you fall into this category; it’s always a good thing to give the admissions committee more information about your interests and passions.

“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.)”

Check out the CollegeVine blog for more details regarding how to fill out Yale’s supplemental essays for the 2016-2017 application season.


Coalition Application


The Coalition Application, created by the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, represents another avenue for submitting your application to Yale. While the basic questions you’ll be asked are similar to the Common App, the longer of the Yale supplemental questions for the Coalition App is substantially different in format, and may or may not be better suited to you personally.


First, the Yale supplement to the Coalition App will ask you to complete the same short-answer questions as you would for the Common App. You can find those questions under the Common App section above.


Then, you’ll be asked to answer another more complicated prompt, which reads as follows:


“Upload a document, image, audio file, or video you have created (any one thing of your choosing) in the last four years that is meaningful to you. It should be related to one of the two topics below. In 250 words or fewer, reflect on why you chose to share this with us and how it relates to the topic you select. (Uploads are limited to the following file types: word, pdf, jpeg, mp3, mov, mp4.)


  • A community to which you belong and the footprint you have left. (You may define community and footprint in any way you like.)
  • A time in the last few years when you felt genuine excitement learning about something.


Please note that advanced editing of the document/image/audio/video is not necessary. While we are not providing limits to the length of the material you upload, the Admissions Office may not have time to review the entirety of your submission. Sometimes, less is more.”

The Coalition Application thus presents a less traditional, more open-ended way of responding to the same essay questions that are offered by the Common App. This could be either a great boon to you, or a great distraction. Before you choose to submit the Coalition Application, you’ll need to consider very carefully what talents you might be able to bring to this topic and whether you’ll be able to stand out in a positive way by taking this path. Multimedia presentations can make for an interesting applicant, but they’re not for everyone, and you should only submit the Coalition Application if you’re sure that you can do it well.


Applicants who have expressed interest in computer science or engineering majors are encouraged to write an additional, optional essay, just as on the Common App. See above under the Common App section for the prompt you’ll be asked to use.


To learn more about applying to Yale using the Coalition Application, you can visit the Yale admissions website.


QuestBridge National College Match Application


As we’ve already noted, the QuestBridge application to Yale differs from both the Common App and the Coalition App in that it is not an option for all applicants. In order to apply through the QuestBridge process, you must first apply to the QuestBridge assistance program for low-income high-school students, and be named a Finalist in the program. Once you’ve completed this process, you will receive information on how to apply to Yale through the QuestBridge website and process.


Applying through QuestBridge can be a helpful option for students from low-income families, who often are less familiar with college applications and may need extra assistance during the application process. To learn more about QuestBridge and applying to Yale, you can visit the Yale admissions website. More information will be available on the QuestBridge website by late August.


The Yale Interview Process


Many Yale applicants are able to make interviews part of their application experience. The interview presents an opportunity both for you to get to know Yale better, and for Yale to get to know you better. If you are able to have an interview, you’ll typically meet with a Yale alum in a public location (such as a coffee shop) upon which you mutually agree. Your interviewer will fill out an evaluation of you that will become part of your admissions file and be considered alongside the rest of your application materials.


Yale conducts local interviews with applicants through its Alumni Schools Committee (ASC), which has branches in most parts of of the United States and many other countries. Alumni in various locations will interview as many local applicants as can be accommodated by the ASC. The college asks that you do not contact either your local ASC or the Yale admissions office seeking an alumni interview. If there is an interviewer with an opening available in your area, the ASC will contact you at some point after you submit your application, whether through the Early Action process or through the Regular Decision process.


Unfortunately, Yale interviewers are not available in all locations. While you should make an effort to arrange an interview if you have the opportunity, technically, the interview is not a required part of the application process. If you’re not able to have an interview, that won’t be held against you when your application is evaluated by the admissions committee.


You should be aware that although some Yale interviews are done in-person, others may take place online using video chat technology. To learn more about how to prepare for your interview and what to expect once you’re there, you can check out the various posts on the CollegeVine blog about the college interview process, how to prepare, what to do, and what not to do


A small number of on-campus interview slots are made available each year. These occur during the summer and fall for high school seniors intending to apply to Yale in the fall and winter, and are conducted by current Yale seniors rather than alumni. If you live near Yale or can easily travel to New Haven, you can visit the Yale admissions webpage on interviews to see if there’s an interview appointment date and time open that works for you, but demand is high. Keep in mind that if you receive an on-campus interview, you will not be contacted for an alumni interview after your application is submitted.


Other Yale Application Requirements


In addition to your Common App, Coalition App, or QuestBridge application and your Yale supplement for either of the first two, Yale will require you to submit the following:


  • Application fee of $80, or a fee waiver request, completed by you.
  • Two recommendations completed by your chosen teachers.
  • Counselor Recommendation completed by your counselor.
  • School Report, including transcript, completed by your counselor.
  • Mid-Year Report, completed by your counselor when grades for the first term of your senior year are made available.
  • Official test results for the SAT with writing or the ACT with writing, requested by you and sent directly to Yale.
  • Any additional test score reports (for AP tests, SAT IIs, and so on), requested by you and sent directly to Yale.


All of the documents you send to Yale should be submitted online.


Hearing Back from Yale


If you apply to Yale through its Early Action program, your admissions decision will be available online by mid-December. You may either be accepted, rejected, or deferred to the Regular Decision application pool at this time.


Since Yale has an Early Action program, not a binding Early Decision program, applicants who receive acceptances in the Early Action round are not obligated to attend Yale. If you’re in this position, you’ll have until May 1st to decide whether you will actually matriculate at Yale. This means that you’re welcome to apply to other colleges in the Early Decision II and/or Regular Decision rounds and make a final decision once you hear back from those schools as well.


If you receive an Early Action rejection in December, you may not reapply to Yale through the Regular Decision process, but you may be able to apply to Yale as a transfer student in the future. However, if you are deferred in December, your application will be reconsidered as part of the Regular Decision applicant pool. We’ll discuss what being deferred from Yale means for you later in this post.


Regular Decision applicants, as well as those Early Action applicants who were deferred, will receive their admissions decisions in late March. As a member of the Ivy League, Yale releases its Regular Decision admissions decisions on “Ivy Day” along with the other Ivies. On Ivy Day, applicants may be either accepted, rejected, or waitlisted by Yale.


If you’re accepted to Yale in the Regular Decision round, congratulations! You’ll have until May 1st to decide and inform Yale of whether you’ll be matriculating in the fall. You’re not required to put down a deposit at this time to secure your place in the class.


If you’re waitlisted by Yale, unfortunately, you have more waiting to do. If you’re one of the few student who are eventually accepted off the waitlist, you won’t find out until after May 1st, and perhaps much later in the summer. Below, we’ll go over some additional information about what you should do if you land on Yale’s waitlist.


Deferrals and the Waitlist at Yale


Every year, many of the Early Action applicants to Yale— over half of those in the Early Action applicant pool, in fact— are neither accepted nor rejected in December, but are instead deferred to the Regular Decision application pool. These students are still in the running for admission to Yale, but will not receive their final admissions decision from Yale until Ivy Day in late March.


If you’re deferred from Yale in December, you’ll need to do more than sit and wait for your final decision. Often, students choose to send a letter to the admissions office stating that they are still strongly interested in Yale. You’ll also want to send along any new or additional information not included in your original Early Action application that might help your case, such as new and higher standardized test scores, improved grades, or additional letters of recommendation.


When Regular Decision admissions decisions are released in late March, a number of applicants are placed on the waitlist, meaning that they may be accepted later if space becomes available. If waitlist applicants are accepted, they’ll find out at some point after May 1st, and often even later in the summer.


As with being deferred, being waitlisted requires a bit more work from you. If you have any new accomplishments or improved academic performance to report, you can submit that information at this time. You can also choose to not take a spot on the waitlist, if you would prefer to focus on other schools.


To be clear, Yale accepts very few students off the waitlist; in 2016, Yale ended up taking 103 students from the waitlist out of over a thousand applicants, for an acceptance rate of about 1%. If you’re waitlisted at Yale, you should reiterate your interest if you’d still like to be considered for admission, but you’ll also need to move forward with one of your other chosen colleges.


To learn more about Yale, you can explore the undergraduate admissions website, visit the campus in New Haven, read blog posts from current Yale students, or even take a virtual tour. Representatives from Yale also appear in person at public information sessions and events throughout the country; you can search for events near you here.


Has this post piqued your interest in Yale? CollegeVine can help you navigate the Yale admissions process, from crafting your application to evaluating your financial aid. You can check out more posts about applying to Yale on the CollegeVine blog.


Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

Monikah Schuschu
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Monikah Schuschu is an alumna of Brown University and Harvard University. As a graduate student, she took a job at the Harvard College Office of Financial Aid and Admissions, and discovered the satisfaction of helping students and parents with the often-baffling college admissions process. She also enjoys fiber art, murder mysteries, and amateur entomology.