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Duke University
Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How to Write the ‘Why Major’ Yale Essay

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Hale Jaeger in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info. 


What’s Covered:



In this article, we discuss strategies to write Yale University’s “Why This Major” supplemental essay. For this essay, applicants must respond to the following prompt: 


“Students at Yale have 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.


Tell us about a topic or idea that excites you and is related to one or more academic areas you selected above. Why are you drawn to it? (200 words)”


‘Why This Major’ and ‘Why Yale’


When responding to Yale’s “Why This Major” essay prompt, keep in mind that the real hidden question is “Why do you want to pursue these fields of study specifically at Yale?” While it is important that you draw connections between your academic interests and Yale, you also will be writing a “Why Yale” essay, so you don’t have to cover every reason that you are interested in the school in this essay. 


That said, try to write about any specific programs or opportunities that you want to take advantage of within the department you are interested in at Yale. This essay is a great place to mention those academic opportunities unique to your major at Yale.


Applying With Multiple Majors


When you apply to Yale, you are asked to choose at least one and up to three majors. A wide range of disciplines are offered, with the three most popular majors at Yale being economics, computer science, and molecular, cellular, and developmental biology. 


It is common for Yale applicants to select two or three potential majors when they apply. If you do this and can connect them, even if they’re seemingly not connected at all, that is a great aspect to demonstrate within your essay. 


For example, when Hale applied to Yale, he applied as a chemistry and English double major, which on the surface seemed to be different fields. Hale was able to connect these fields by discussing his interest in scientific writing and scientific communication. In his essay, he discussed wanting to be able to both discover things and write about them in ways that were accessible to the average person and not just the scientific community.


If you are considering multiple majors that are not connected, try to think about the reason why you are interested in them. Is there something that they share even if they seem to be very different? 


Applying Undecided


Applying Undecided and Changing Majors


Many students are not yet sure as to what exactly they want to study in college, and it is fine to be undecided. When applying to Yale in particular, students have the option to select “undecided” as their major. 


Many students change their major at some point in college. For example, Hale is no longer a chemistry and English double major. He changed his major to biology before he even got to Yale, and then changed once again to his current major, neuroscience.


Writing About Undecided Majors


As you approach this essay, keep in mind that by writing about your academic interests, you are not setting in stone your future academic goals, and you will not be held to the major that you include in this essay. If you are undecided, try choosing one, two, or even three majors that you are considering studying, and talk about why those things interest you. Even if you haven’t made a real decision yet, it’s good to show why you’re interested in potentially pursuing certain fields because it gives the admissions team a window into what you’re passionate about.


Additionally, Yale has some interesting joint programs and interdisciplinary opportunities, such as computing in the arts, which is a combination of computer science and music. If you have multiple interests, you can use Yale’s course and department website to find unique programs that might be a good fit for you.


Be Authentic


As you write your essay, it is important to highlight the authentic reasons that you’re interested in your field of study, rather than superficial ones. Authentic reasons are those that mean something and tell the admissions committee something important about who you are.


Some sample guiding questions to help you add authenticity to your essay are: 


Do you have past experiences that have made you interested in this major? Do you have goals for your future that this major will facilitate? What are the specific things about the major that are appealing to you? Is there a particular methodology associated with this field that aligns with your style of learning? Do you like to work with your hands and that’s why you want to go into your specific field? Do you like to ask questions and then go through a process to find the answers? What are the real reasons that you’re getting this degree? 


Reasons To Avoid


There are also some reasons for pursuing a major that don’t translate well in this essay. Reasons to avoid include post-graduation salary, clout and prestige, and family pressure.


It is important to show that you are not pursuing your major just because it’s something that will make you look good or give you a particular lifestyle. Instead, aim to demonstrate that you chose your major because it is actually what you want to do. There are plenty of careers that pay well, are prestigious, and seem cool, but there are only so many things that you’re passionate about, and that’s what a reader looks to see. 


Avoid talking about pursuing your major to make your parents proud or because they want you to study it. Your parents aren’t applying to college; it will be you attending this school, getting your bachelor’s, and starting your career. Yale wants to know what you want, not what your parents want.