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The Yale University supplemental essays 2020

August 28, 2020, Posted In Supplemental essays

Here’s a look at how students can successfully answer Yale’s supplemental essay questions:

Short Answer Questions

Applicants submitting the Coalition Application, Common Application, or QuestBridge Application will respond to 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? (125 words or fewer)

You do not have to commit to a major in high school, or even in your first year of college. And stating an academic direction in your application does not bind you to that major. If you feel committed to a particular area of study, or perhaps two or three areas of study, then you should express your interest(s) here and explain why! There’s not a lot of room, so you’ll need to be succinct. If you’re not sure, that’s okay too, but generally students with an academic focus fare better at highly selective schools. And if you’re unsure, giving Yale a sense of the academic areas that excite you will be very helpful.

Focus on the last part of the question: “[W]hat academic areas seem to fit your interests or goals most comfortably?” Be sure to tie your interest(s) to your past experiences, both inside and outside the classroom, as well as to your future career goals.

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 will also respond to the following short answer questions, in no more than 200 characters (approximately 35 words):

What inspires you?

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, mathematical equation or photograph, to name several. This prompt can 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 just the source of your inspiration.

Yale’s residential colleges regularly host 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 isn’t a whole lot to work with, so try to keep this answer tight (and impactful) by removing unnecessary language. What specifically about this individual inspires you? How have they changed your outlook on life? What is something you could ask about them that is unexpected? Could you ask something that also reflects your personality and passion?

You are teaching a Yale course. What is it called?

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 (and perhaps teach!).

Look at the Yale course catalogue to 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 – get 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 do you hope to add to your suitemates’ experience? What do you hope they will add to yours?

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? Maybe your passion for theater or recycling or political protest will inspire others? And don’t forget to include what you hope to learn or gain from your peers at Yale, whether that be a new perspective, skill or experience.


Applicants submitting the Coalition Application or Common Application: use the two short essays (250 words or fewer) below to reflect on topics and personal experiences that will help the Admissions Committee learn more about you. 

  1. 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?

This is an opportunity to expound upon a topic you’ve yet to cover in your application. Do you have a passion that isn’t necessarily academic or traditionally extracurricular? Yale wants to hear about it. Try using an anecdote to draw the reader in and then relate that passion to something you could pursue on campus. 

  1. Respond to one of the following prompts:
  • 2A. Reflect on your membership in a community. Why is your involvement important to you? How has it shaped you? You may define community however you like.

What does community mean to you? That’s where you should start – define the term. Then, explain your involvement with one community in particular and how that involvement has influenced you as a person. As always, it’s important to connect this involvement in community to how you might participate similarly on campus, should you be admitted.

  • 2B. Yale students, faculty, and alumni engage issues of local, national, and international significance. Discuss an issue that is important to you and how your college experience could help you address it.

This can be an overwhelming question for some students, especially in the world we are living in now. Many students will choose to cover COVID-19 or the Black Lives Matter movement. If you have been involved closely in either of these, then absolutely write about one of them. However, there are many other issues impacting the world that you could choose.  Dig deep within yourself to find something that is significant to you. Explain how you’ve been involved and how you’d like to continue that involvement during your college years.

  • 2C. Tell us about your relationship with a role model or mentor who has been influential in your life. How has their guidance been instrumental to your growth?

Here, Yale wants to learn about what kinds of people you respect and admire, and why. Make sure you choose one person in particular, explain your relationship and then give an example of how that person has directly impacted your growth. You’ll be interacting with advisors, coaches, professors, TAs and more while you’re in college, so it’s important to know the type of mentee you’ll be. 

For more information on how to answer Yale’s supplemental essays, request a complimentary 30 minute admissions consultation or give us a call: 617-424-0700