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MAR 14, 2020 • 6 min read
Yale Supplement Short Response Questions
The purpose of the short response questions in your Yale application is to provide evaluators from the admissions office a more comprehensive view of you as a person than they could build from dry, resume-like information.
Like the Common App personal statement, these questions are another opportunity for you to show someone what you value and why, your interests, your hobbies, your goals and where they come from - a host of other facets that make up you.
Accomplishing this feat in 35, 100, or 250-word answers, therefore, can be quite a daunting prospect, but the ability to demonstrate critical, personal information through strong and concise language is a crucial skill to display in your application. Your final responses should reveal an exceptional or analytical self-awareness that comes from carefully reflecting on who you are, what you care about, and why.
We’ll start with supplement question 2, as it’s the classic “why-choose-this-college” essay, and a very important one to get right.
Short Answer 2: [same] What is it about Yale that has led you to apply? (125 words or fewer)
Now let’s run through the others.
Short Answer 1: [same] 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? (100 words or fewer)
Short Answer 3: [same] What inspires you? (35 words or fewer)
Short Answer 4: [same] 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 or fewer)
Short Answer 5: [same] You are teaching a Yale course. What is it called? (35 words or fewer)
Short Answer 6: [slightly different] 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? (35 words or fewer)
Question 7: Please choose two of the topics below and respond to each in 250 words or fewer.
Yale School of Engineering and Applied Science: If you selected one of the engineering majors, please tell us more about what has led you to an interest in this field of study, what experiences (if any) you have had in engineering, and what it is about Yale's engineering program that appeals to you. (300 words or less)
Before you write, consider the questions. Focus first on the questions you think will be difficult for you to answer in a personal and robust way, and jot down ideas as they come. Think about which questions render themselves more suitable to a humorous approach (questions 4-6 could be good for this), and which ones require moments of gravity and sincerity.
As previously stated, the aim of answering these questions as best you can is to give evaluators the most complete sense of yourself possible.
In all your answers, try to tie the things you say about your career aspirations or expectations for a Yale education to instances from your lived experience.
In questions 1-3, which concern academic motivations, interest in Yale, and general inspirations, strong responses would describe the moment you became interested in an academic discipline or goal, as well as the experience of how you developed that motivation over time in concise, storytelling language.
Questions 4-6 are primed to let you, as an applicant, express how you believe you would take full advantage of the Yale community. Strong responses, especially to the first two questions will again be based around personal experience. Is there a professor, academician, or public figure who relates to a piece of interesting work you've read or done in high school who would make an excellent guest speaker? Is there a similar topic that would make a good class? Finally, consider experiences in which you have either enabled the growth of your friends, or vice versa, as a starting point for the sixth question.
The last question, the most expansive in its word limit, is similar in many ways to traditional Common App prompts in what it allows you the opportunity to express. Again, when thinking of a topic of intellectual excitement or a community or world issue, base your answer in an area in which you have strong, experience-based stories to tell. Write first from the experiential perspective of how you discovered a particular issue or topic, before drawing analytical insights into its implications. The purpose of this essay, in any case, should be to demonstrate a genuine predisposition of academic and worldly curiosity or engagement. To this end, your writing style must be sincere and revealing without being overly dramatic.
When you sit down to write, be honest. Use your voice. One of Yale's short answer prompts from many years ago was, "What would you do with a free afternoon [50 words]?" The question was so popular that when I arrived on campus many months later as a freshman, people would ask it to each other as a conversation-starter.
To all our surprise (even though we were the ones who wrote these answers), most of our responses were quite ordinary; things we would actually do on a free afternoon. Things like going on a run in the park, or finally finishing a book we were in the process of reading. Not things like reading the complete works of William Shakespeare (unless that's actually you - never say never).
Use language and sentences structures that fit your voice and your story, and that make you seem the most authentic. No answer or topic is too common as long as you articulate your perspective or rationale clearly.
Finally, proofread and stay within the word limit. Concision is obviously crucial. Ask your teachers, friends, and family to read your responses. A fresh set of eyes makes a big difference.
This advice should allow you to approach your Yale short answer questions with more confidence. A crucial part of any application to Yale, answering these questions well is hugely advantageous. They will allow you to show the officers reading your application how and why you are more than a collection of grades and accomplishments.