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6 Awesome Yale University Essay Examples

What’s Covered:


Yale is one of the top universities in the country, and a member of the prestigious Ivy League. Earning a spot at this highly coveted university is no easy feat, but having strong essays is one step in the right direction.


In this post, we will share six essays real students have submitted to Yale. We will also be covering what each essay did well and where there is room for improvement. Hopefully, you will have a better idea of how to write your Yale essays after reading through these!


Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized. 


Read our Yale essay breakdown to get a comprehensive overview of this year’s supplemental prompts.


Essay #1: Immigration Reform


Prompt: Yale students, faculty, and alumni engage issues of local, national, and international importance. Discuss an issue that is significant to you and how your college experience could help you address it. (250 words)


A chaotic sense of sickness and filth unfolds in an overcrowded border station in McAllen, Texas. Through soundproof windows, migrants motion that they have not showered in weeks and children wear clothes caked in mucus and tears. The humanitarian crisis at the southern border exists not only in photographs published by mainstream media, but miles from my home in South Texas.


As a daughter of immigrants, I have heard countless stories of migrants being turned away by a country they desperately seek to love. After seeing the abhorrent conditions migrants face upon arriving in the U.S., I began volunteering with Loaves and Fishes, an organization that shelters and provides necessities to undocumented immigrants. This year, my experiences collecting donations and working at pop-up soup kitchens have made me realize that the communities in South Texas promote true American values of freedom and opportunity. The U.S. government, however, must do better.


During my university career, I aspire to learn how our immigration system can be positively reformed by considering the politics and economics that shape policy-making. Particularly, classes such as Institutional Design and Institutional Change will prepare me to effect change in existing institutions by analyzing various methods to bolster the economy. 


Additionally, I hope to join the Yale Refugee Project that volunteers at the southern border and prepares asylum cases for court. With the numerous opportunities offered by YRP, I will be part of a generation of activists and lawmakers that builds a more empathetic immigration system.


What the Essay Did Well


This essay draws its strength from its roots in the applicant’s personal experience and its connections to Yale-specific opportunities. Here, we learn a bit about the applicant’s story, values, and fit for Yale, all well-encapsulated within the 250-count word limit. 


The essay starts off with a fantastic imagery-rich anecdote, a strong way to draw your reader in. The student quickly establishes not only the problem’s dire extent but also a personal connection; this issue resides in her own backyard. Here, she establishes that immigrant mistreatment is more than a faraway crisis to her, offering crucial background behind her passion for it.


Her attitude towards getting things done is evident through her concise writing. She succinctly describes the steps she has taken like “volunteering with Loaves and Fishes” and “collecting donations and working at pop-up soup kitchens.” She then goes on to plainly explain the classes and organization at Yale that closely align with her goals, making it quite easy to imagine the role she would play on campus. Being concise and intentional with your ideas maintains the reader’s interest as they grow to trust that each sentence will carry interesting content that differs from that within the sentence before it.


This essay is wise in that it honed in on very specific opportunities at Yale that align perfectly with the student’s passions. Notice how YRP’s mission mirrors that of Loaves and Fishes in their shared goal to better southern immigrant communities. YRM’s opportunities for helping immigrants through the world of law offer an almost “grown-up” version of the work this student has already completed; here, she shows a willingness to build upon her experience and to push herself even further.


What Could Be Improved


If there is one area of this essay that could be strengthened, it is the conclusion. As the word count is tight, this student doesn’t have space for an entire paragraph, so at the moment she used this sentence: “With the numerous opportunities offered by YRP, I will be part of a generation of activists and lawmakers that builds a more empathetic immigration system.” 


This sentence is more a conclusion for her discussion about the Yale Refugee Project, although alluding to a “generation of activists and lawmakers” and building a “more empathetic immigration system” suggests a forward-looking conclusion statement. That being said, it could be made stronger by separating the conclusion from the Yale Refugee Project and possibly tying back to previous ideas like the situation at the border or her call for the government to improve. 


Essay #2: Artificial Intelligence


Prompt: Think about an idea or topic that has been intellectually exciting for you. Why are you drawn to it? (250 words) 


Her name is Sophia. Described by many as compassionate, sexy, and a witty twitter icon, Sophia embodies success and holds a level of intelligence humans can only dream of. Sophia is not your average girl. In fact, she’s not a girl at all. Created in an artificial intelligence lab in Hong Kong, Sophia is the most famous android in the world. 


When I first read about Sophia the Robot and its apparent ability to feel emotions, I was intrigued yet perplexed. For years, A.I. has revolutionized technology, enabling tasks to be performed rapidly and skillfully. But the single characteristic I long believed separated humans and A.I. was humans’ ability to express emotions. Today, with emotional A.I. undergoing expeditious development, I find myself wondering what actually makes us human. Can only humans have a mind with consciousness and thought? Will machines be able to imitate the human mind or can they perceive emotions only through algorithms? How do humans learn to feel emotions? What is the mind? 


As a philosophy enthusiast, I am fascinated by the potential for A.I. to recreate the human mind. From Descartes postulating that the mind is identified by a self-awareness to early monists arguing that the mind is a purely physical construct, philosophical theories seek to understand the mysterious minds of humans that science cannot fully explain. In college, I hope to study the Philosophy of Mind and Artificial Intelligence in order to better understand our minds and the technology that is increasingly resembling them. 


What the Essay Did Well


This is an amazing essay because not only do we see this student’s fascination with AI, but we see the effect it has had on their outlook on the world. By the end of the essay we are left wondering “what is the topic that intellectually excites this student?” Is it AI or the philosophy of the mind? Seamlessly intertwining these two topics is quite impressive.  


So how did this student convince us of their fascination for two ideas? They showed us. Although they tell us “I was intrigued” about AI, we see their interest in their discussion of Sophia. Describing Sophia as “compassionate, sexy, and a witty twitter icon” makes the AI appear on a pedestal. Using cliche phrases like “Sophia is not your average girl” emulates a discussion you would have about a real person you are in love with, which becomes all the more humorous when we are told right after Sophia isn’t human. 


While this student employs descriptive writing, humorous cliches, and subverted expectations to demonstrate their fascination with AI, we see their interest in philosophy through the use of rhetorical questions. Similarly with the topic of AI, the student plainly states their interest in philosophy by referring to themself as a “philosophy enthusiast.” But we see that enthusiasm jump off the page when they ask four consecutive philosophical questions. Bringing the reader into their head is such an effective way to convey your inner-most thoughts without losing the reader’s attention. We are a part of this inquiry and suddenly become just as curious to the answers as the student is.


Through these varied writing techniques—another way to keep your essay interesting—both of this student’s fascinations are well-represented. The last line brings everything together in a neat package, explaining how they can explore both topics as one in college.


What Could Be Improved


There is honestly very little this essay needs to improve upon, but one suggestion would be to include Sophia in the latter half of the essay. Since Sophia epitomizes the fusion of AI and the human mind, this is such a perfect symbol for this student. Adding a rhetorical question about Sophia (ie “Does anything separate me from Sophia?“) or referencing their hope to understand Sophia’s role in humanity after a Yale education in the conclusion would be easy ways to keep the idea sustained throughout the essay. 


Essay #3: Shaping Education Systems


Prompt: Yale students, faculty, and alumni engage issues of local, national, and international importance. Discuss an issue that is significant to you and how your college experience could help you address it. (250 words)


Each time we handed homework back, our primary school students would anxiously start counting and comparing the number of corrections. The warning that “a mistake on the Gaokao will cost you thousands of places to your dream university!” had already been drilled into their heads. 


The combined efforts of generous government spending and unreserved sacrifices of parents have guaranteed education for most Chinese children. After two summers of teaching English in rural Chinese schools, I’ve realised that the problem isn’t funding, but a redundant system.


My friend and I founded Project Take Flight to propose learning driven by curiosity rather than pressure, earned by exploring rather than memorising. After two weeks with quirky essay prompts, vocab games, improvised debates and a lesson titled ”How to Fail”, students’ creativity flowed and the stigma of making mistakes seemed forgotten.


But there’s a limit to the impact of two high-school students; education systems around the world need nation-wide policies that do not just provide the resources but also ensure they are used effectively. Putting students in school might equip us with the skills necessary in the “world of tomorrow”, but education at its best – the type I hope to experience at Yale – enables us to have a say in what that world will look like. I want to understand the processes of curricula development and policymaking through taking courses in Educational Studies alongside my major so I can contribute to shaping an education system where every student can learn for causes greater than themselves.


What the Essay Did Well


The prompt asks for an issue that is significant to you, and this student certainly did that! Although education reform is a fairly general topic on its own, the focus is on the work this student has done through the club they founded and the problems they have observed because of their hands-on experience. This is a good example of making a broad idea personal and therefore successful.


The student is able to show the difference between the traditional education system and the innovative approach they implemented with concrete examples. The mantra they include about every mistake affecting your chances of college echoes the sentiments of stressed high school students, but the fact it has been adopted by kids in primary school is this student’s way of demonstrating how broken the system is. They contrast the old with the new by showing how they made learning fun and stress-free with “quirky essay prompts, vocab games, improvised debates and a lesson titled ‘How to Fail’.”


What Could Be Improved


Although this essay hints at how this student wants to reform the education system, we are largely provided with very little about their actual plans. We have seen their ingenuity at starting Project Take Flight in high school, but we want to know how they will expand on their passion with a Yale education.


Rather than telling us “I want to understand the processes of curricula development and policymaking through taking courses in Educational Studies,” this student should have 1) included more resources at Yale and 2) described their idea to improve the education system. Admissions officers know you are young and can’t accomplish much yet, but they also know you have dreams—tell us about them!


Something like this would have accomplished both point more effectively: “I want Project Take Flight to spread its wings and touch students all over the globe. Through the course Money in American Politics I will learn the tools needed to lobby Congress to adopt a student-focused curriculum. Working under Professor Nancy Close, I will acquire an expertise in child psychology to reform my proposed curriculum to best suit the needs of children from the New York city public schools to the rural villages of China that started it all.”


Essay #4: Biomechanics


Prompt: Yale’s extensive course offerings and vibrant conversations beyond the classroom encourage students to follow their developing intellectual interests wherever they lead. Tell us about your engagement with a topic or idea that excites you. Why are you drawn to it? (250 words)


My heel strikes the pavement, calf muscles flexed to brace for the mechanical load of the impact. As my weight shifts forward, I imagine horizontal velocity vectors extending directly ahead. The angle created by my knee increases as I hit the propulsion phase of my stride, and with a final drive of force, I push off from my forefoot.


I discovered my fascination with sports biomechanics in the USC Biomechanics Research Lab. In my research project, I apply scientific principles to running to prevent stress-induced injuries in athletes. By analyzing video frames of PAC-12 athletes in motion and linking them to force plate data, I seek to understand the forces behind running. Comparing these conclusions to the data of athletes after a stress fracture, I can deduce the tangible differences that increase susceptibility to injury. To accomplish this goal, I have learned to use Python and MATLAB to sync the video and force plate data to create graphs for analysis. I have also used sports analysis programs to identify the locations of joints in individual frames and create videos overlaid by force vectors. Through this work, I hope to use my passion for sports biomechanics to improve the health of athletes.


My interest in sports biomechanics also extends outside of the lab, where I see my knowledge in motion. Neighborhood runs are scientific feats where I analyze my movements with principles of physics. With every step, I seek to improve my performance, putting sports biomechanics into action as an athlete.


What the Essay Did Well


This is a very detailed essay that is able to convey complex academic ideas in a manner that is easily understood by the reader. Not only that, but the high level of detail also demonstrates the passion this student has for sports biometrics.


Right off the bat, the hook at the beginning brings a high level of energy and excitement to the essay: “My heel strikes the pavement, calf muscles flexed.” However, the introduction isn’t just for sheer shock value; they introduce the intellectual aspect of running. Details about “horizontal velocity vectors,” the “angle created by my knee,” and the “propulsion phase” immediately demonstrate the depth of knowledge this student has.


Their intellect only grows in the second paragraph with the multitude of details they use to describe their research project. Breaking down their process step-by-step allows the reader to appreciate all this student has accomplished, even if we know nothing about sports biometrics. We walk away from this essay blown away with this student’s abilities and a clear understanding of their intellectual vitality. 


What Could Be Improved


This essay does an excellent job explaining how this student has explored their passion for sports biometrics, but a key detail is missing: why are they passionate about it.


They tell us about how their goal of pursuing sports biometrics is to “prevent stress-induced injuries in athletes,” but how did this become this student’s purpose? Maybe this student sustained an injury when they were younger that prevented them from playing for two seasons and made them feel like they had lost a part of themselves. That would have made a great introductory anecdote. Or perhaps organization is a cornerstone of their personality which led them to fall in love with charts and data analysis and sports biometrics allows them to combine the thrill of sports with their detail-oriented side. Whatever the reason is, this essay needed to include details that demonstrate why this student chose sports biometrics.


Essay #5: Why This Major 


Prompt: Why do these areas appeal to you? (Biomedical Engineering; Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology; Neuroscience) (125 words)


Tearing past layers of wrapping paper, I blink twice at the box in my hands: The Squishy Human Body. Little did I know that this strange seventh birthday gift would inspire a curiosity in biology and a desire to pursue medicine. Snapping open the plastic head, I would seek to understand the brain’s inner workings. Squeezing the rubber heart would turn into countless questions about the molecular properties of its tissues. Using the tweezers to remove the small intestine, I would perform my own surgeries, each time with improved equipment that I designed to fit the patient’s needs. I hope to continue my exploration of biology at Yale, working to understand functions on a cellular level while applying my knowledge to the field of medicine.


What the Essay Did Well


While this essay is short and sweet, it works! Focusing on a singular moment in time, a singular object, allows this student to tell us a lot about their passion for biology and medicine in a very limited amount of space.


The reader is taken on a journey through the human body—via the toy—and at each stop along the way we learn another detail about the student. This is a clever way to convey information, especially when you are tight on words. Using symbols and giving each sentence a specific focus helps the reader quickly take away the main point so we finish the essay feeling like we’ve learned a great deal about what this student wants to learn and do with their degree.


Additionally, this essay is a breezy read because of the use of action verbs keeping the reader in the moment. The repeated structure of beginning sentences with -ing verbs (“Tearing,” “Snapping,” “Squeezing,” “Using,” etc) suggests that these actions are currently taking pace. This is a nice trick to draw your reader in without wasting any space.


What Could Be Improved


This essay could be even better if it told us more about this student in detail. Using the head, heart, and intestine as symbols for what they will learn and do in the future good, but including concrete details would make it great. We could see research projects they conducted, volunteer work at a hospital they engaged in, or clubs that they joined at school to demonstrate their hands-on experience with medicine. The whole point of The Squishy Human Body is to give kids hands-on experience, so let’s see it!


Reworking sentences to be more like these would have made the essay stronger: “Snapping open the plastic head, I found the brain I performed countless CT scans on to locate tumors. Squeezing the rubber heart, I see my report on addressing high rates of female cardiovascular disease.”


Essay #6: Why Yale


Prompt: What is it about Yale that has led you to apply? (125 words or fewer)


Coin collector and swimmer. Hungarian and Romanian. Critical and creative thinker. I was drawn to Yale because they don’t limit one’s mind with “or” but rather embrace unison with “and.” 


Wandering through the Beinecke Library, I prepare for my multidisciplinary Energy Studies capstone about the correlation between hedonism and climate change, making it my goal to find implications in environmental sociology. Under the tutelage of Assistant Professor Arielle Baskin-Sommers, I explore the emotional deficits of depression, utilizing neuroimaging to scrutinize my favorite branch of psychology: human perception. At Walden Peer Counseling, I integrate my peer support and active listening skills to foster an empathetic environment for the Yale community. Combining my interests in psychological and environmental studies is why I’m proud to be a Bulldog. 


What the Essay Did Well


A strength of this essay is how it acts like this student is actively a student at Yale, subconsciously tricking the reader into thinking that they belong. While many students in a “Why School?” essay say things like “I want to” or “I would“, being quite literal in the sense they are viewing attending Yale as a future possibility. However, this student employs present verbs and specific locations to make Yale a current reality, for example: “Wandering through the Beinecke Library, I prepare for my multidisciplinary Energy Studies capstone.” While this approach requires more confidence, it can help you stand out from other applicants who approach Yale as a hypothetical.


Another positive aspect is how this student explains what Yale resource they are taking advantage of and how they will benefit from/contribute to it. Incorporating both of these is what gives your “Why School?” essay meaning. Admissions officers need to see you have done your research and found opportuniites that relate to you, but they also want to see what you will do on campus and beyond. This student applies this method of description to a class, professor, and organization to thoroughly demonstrate how Yale uniquely aligns with their goals.


What Could Be Improved


One issue with this essay is it tries to cover too much, ultimately leaving many things unsaid. Take the introduction for example. While the notion of embracing “and” not “or” is a good way to demonstrate all the possibilities they can pursue at Yale, this student shares details about themselves that pique the reader’s interest, but unfortunately aren’t expanded on. We want to know about their coin collection and their Hungarian and Romanian roots, but they are never referenced again.


Although the Yale opportunities are slightly more focused around the idea of the environment and psychology, the essay lacks a clear link between the two topics until the last sentence. This makes the essay feel disjointed and overwhelming for the reader because we can’t process how all of this information relates.


To overcome this issue, the student could present the idea of the environment and psychology as their end at the very beginning, cutting out the other identities they present. Not only would this make the entire essay more streamlined, it would make the second paragraph far more manageable because the reader would go into knowing this student’s two interests. Yes, some interesting facts would need to be sacrificed, but when you only have 125 words you need to prioritize the main idea of your essay.


Where to Get Your Yale Essays Edited


Do you want feedback on your Yale essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 


If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!


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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.