Yale Essay Prompt

How to Write the Yale Supplemental Essay

Reflect on your engagement with a community to which you belong. How do you feel you have contributed to this community?

While the 2017-2018 common application essays give admissions committees the opportunity to learn more about you, Yale University’s supplemental essay question is specific with one goal in mind—to assess how you will fit into their academic and social communities. Ivy-league institutions have rigorous courses and world- renowned professors. They also offer students membership in unique, extracurricular endeavors. With a history of traditions that span over three centuries, it’s no surprise that Yale would request prospects to write about community contribution and achievement. Your essay must be high-quality, succinct (250 words max) and relevant to Yale’s values and community of scholars.

While you might be tempted to simply pen descriptions of service or group projects you’ve participated in outside the classroom, this prompt is all about action. What activities, operations, or efforts have you contributed to make a group or team better? You’ll need to answer this in a way that grabs the attention of the committee and simultaneously expresses what you will bring to Yale’s next class of scholars.

Here’s a quick list of questions you should ask yourself as you begin writing for Yale’s supplemental essay prompt.


1) What groups, teams or organizations do you value most?

We are all members of different groups. Whether a blended family, political party or jazz ensemble, each group holds meaning in our lives. Which groups are most important to you? Write down what these affiliations represent. For example, a successful applicant wrote about his intern class at the National Institute of Health and how the group represented progress and possibility for scientific innovation. If you can conceptualize what these relationships symbolize, you’ll be closer to sharing your unique story with the committee.


2) What are the goals?

Now that you’ve established which group-memberships are most significant in your life, reflect on your team goals. Does the team seek to raise awareness about a certain cause or issue? Does the group travel to build playgrounds for local families or collect recyclables? If it’s a club membership, religious group or athletic team, revisit the mission statements, goals and vision for the organizations. This will help you as you begin to detail your involvement and inspire a specific focus for your essay.


3) What did you do?

It’s easy to become so engulfed in activities with groups we enjoy that we miss opportunities to celebrate our achievements. Write the top five things you have contributed to each group. This could include relationship building, a positive attitude, fostering team unity and even promoting personal growth. Here’s your chance to bring your activities list to life! An accepted Ivy-league applicant centered her essay around her art and communication skills—designing flyers for humane society fundraisers and coordinating regional events. She told her story of servant leadership, with a group she called life-long friends. Evaluate how you have contributed your time and invested your talents in each group. Be clear and specific about how these actions were used for the greater good.


Now that you’ve done some much-needed soul searching, it’s time to research, research and research! Take a tour of Yale University (whether virtual or in-person), talk to student ambassadors and alumni, frequent the website and social media pages. Learn more about Yale’s community of research scholars, programs and age-old traditions. How can you connect your past contributions to future involvement at Yale? Answer this question the right way and you’ll not only have a creative edge, but directly show how you will make a perfect addition to the institution.

These supplemental essays are key aspects of competitive college applications. If you’d like expert guidance on crafting strong supplemental essay responses, visit our services page to learn more.

The Yale University short answer questions 2017

Here’s a look at how students can successfully answer Yale’s supplemental essay 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 thelistprovided.

This is the time to list your academic interests at Yale. As they mention in the prompt, you do not have to commit to a major now. Stating an academic direction in your application does not bind you to that major. If you feel committed to a particular area of study, then you should express your interest here. If, however, you’re not sure, that’s okay too, but generally students with an academic focus fare better at highly selective schools.

Why do these areas appeal to you? (100 words or fewer)

In this question you should describe your academic interests in more detail. Focus on the last part of the question: “what academic areas seem to fit your interests or goals most comfortably?” In describing your academic interests, be sure to tie it back to your experiences both inside and outside the classroom as well as your future career goals. The “why” is the most important part of this question.

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

This essay question is the culmination of your demonstrated interest and a reflection of your “fit” on campus. Universities are constantly trying to assess fit in the same way their applicants are. Craft a thoughtful and honest response here. Think about an answer that accurately reflects your personality and be sure to make connections between your interests and Yale’s unique academic and/or extracurricular offerings. If Yale is your top choice, then this answer should come easily. Students who find themselves forcing the answer may want to reassess their decision to apply.

Applicants submitting either the Coalition Application or Common Application are also asked to respond to the following short answer questions:

What inspires you? (35 words or fewer)

Admissions officers use this question to learn more about an applicant’s creative interests. Remember, your source of inspiration can be anything – a book, play, poem, person, movie, painting, music or photograph, to name several. This prompt can help reveal, for example, how art or literature may represent different parts of your life, and/or what you value. Before sitting down to write, take some time for self-reflection. When writing about your source of inspiration, don’t forget to tie your response back to yourself. Admissions officers are trying to learn more about you as a person, not only the source of inspiration.

Yale’s residential colleges regularly host intimate conversations with guests representing a wide range of experiences and accomplishments. What person, past or present, would you invite to speak? What question would you ask? (35 words or fewer)

35 words isn’t a whole lot to work with, so try to keep this answer tight by not using unnecessary language. Keep your answer as brief but impactful as possible. What specifically about this individual inspires you? How has he or she changed your outlook on life? What is something you could ask about him/her that is unexpected? Could you ask something that also reflects your personality and passion?

You are teaching a Yale course. What is it called? (35 words or fewer)

This is a great question, and one that will elicit a variety of interesting answers from applicants. This is an opportunity to further discuss your academic interests and show the admissions committee what subjects you’re most excited to learn about. Look at their course catalogue and make sure there isn’t already a course with that title. As an incoming student, what is a class you would be really excited about registering for? The class doesn’t have to be within the bounds of a normal college curriculum – think outside the box and be creative with the title of the course as well as its curriculum.

Most first-year Yale students live in suites of four to six people. What would you contribute to the dynamic of your suite? (35 words or fewer)

As much as your Yale experience is grounded in academic pursuits, it will also be defined in large part by your social and extracurricular contributions outside the classroom. Yale ultimately wants to admit students who will have a positive impact on those around them, helping to cultivate a community of learners and “doers.”

In thinking about your own contribution, be true to yourself. Perhaps your sense of humor will provide a welcome relief during finals week? Or maybe your upbringing will change the perspective of your roommates?

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