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 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 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 would you ask them to discuss?

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 new 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.

Yale students embrace the concept of “and” rather than “or,” pursuing arts and sciences, tradition and innovation, defined goals and surprising detours. What is an example of an “and” that you embrace?

This is your chance to show off some interests to Yale! And – no pun intended – it doesn’t hurt to be interesting, unique or clever in your answer. Remember to write something that is interesting and memorable. A good way to start could be to think of a phrase (like “tried and true” or “black and blue” and go from there).


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 a community to which you feel connected. Why is it meaningful to 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. Reflect on something that has given you great satisfaction. Why has it been important to you?

Your answer doesn’t need to be grand in scale! It’s okay if you haven’t (yet) saved the world. Of course, if you have, it probably doesn’t hurt to let Yale know that. But even more common answers – like yoga and meditation; baking brownies; or teaching your younger siblings science experiments – can stand out. Just be sure to explain why the activity gives you great satisfaction. Some questions to consider include: What do you gain from the experience? Why do you do XYZ? When did you start XYZ? Give detail and color. If you chose baking brownies, relate it to something meaningful to you – maybe you raised money for a cause, or took over the kitchen to babysit your neighbors every Sunday, or like experimenting with food science. No matter what you choose, tell Yale more about yourself. 

About the author
Marc Zawel

As author of Untangling the Ivy League, Marc literally wrote the book on gaining admission to highly selective colleges. He earned a BA from Cornell University – where he met AcceptU’s co-founder – and an MBA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Marc chaired the admissions advisory board; he has also conducted alumni interviews for Cornell for more than fifteen years.

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