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The Ultimate Guide to Acing the Yale Supplemental Essays 2021/22

23 SEP 2021

If you're applying to Yale University, the supplemental essays are a huge part of the application package. Quality, well-thought-out answers will help you stand out from the competitive pool of applicants. Yale has nine supplemental questions, making it a lengthy application. But, the additional questions also give you more opportunities to make a good impression on admissions officers.

How to stand out in your Yale Supplemental Essays for 2021

Like the Common App personal statement, the supplemental essay questions are another opportunity for you to show Yale what you value, your interests, hobbies, goals, and where they originated. It's your chance to tell them all the things that make you the perfect Yale student. Accomplishing this feat in 35, 100, or 250-word answers can be daunting, but the ability to demonstrate critical, personal information through concise and robust language is crucial to a strong 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.


Crimson Education is the world’s leading university admission consulting company. Our expert admission strategist can help you narrow down your ideas and word choice to help you craft the perfect essay prompt response. Get your essay reviewed today!


What are the Yale essay prompts for 21/22?

The essays vary slightly based on the application platform you choose, but Yale requires nine responses - seven short answer questions and two short essays.

Short answer questions

  1. 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.
  2. Why do these areas appeal to you? (125 words or fewer)
  3. What is it about Yale that has led you to apply? (125 words or fewer)
  4. What inspires you? (200 characters or fewer; approx. 35 words)
  5. 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? (200 characters or fewer; approx. 35 words)
  6. You are teaching a Yale course. What is it called? (200 characters or fewer; approx. 35 words)
  7. 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? (200 characters or fewer; approx. 35 words)

Two short essays

  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? (250 words or fewer)
  2. Respond to one of the following prompts: (250 words or fewer)
  • 2A. Reflect on a community to which you feel connected. Why is it meaningful to you?  You may define community however you like.
  • 2B. Reflect on something that has given you great satisfaction. Why has it been important to you?

Applicants submitting the Coalition Application must upload an audio file, video, image, or document you created. The upload should complement your response to one of the prompts. You can find more information here.

Us Supplemental Essay Ebook

How to answer the Yale short answer questions 

Start by making a list of experiences, values, or personality traits you want the committee to know about you. From there, think of stories or specific experiences that demonstrate these values. How does Yale fit into this picture? You can also start with the questions you feel will be challenging to answer. Jot down ideas as they come. If you have a strong sense of humor, you can include this aspect of your personality in some of your answers. In all your answers, tie what you say about your career aspirations or expectations for a Yale education to instances from your lived experience.

Questions 1-3 ask about academic motivations, your interest in Yale, and general inspiration. A strong response would describe the moment you knew you were interested in an academic discipline or goal and how you developed that motivation over time. Who or what inspired you? What obstacles did you overcome? Why is Yale the only school that fits your academic dreams? Do your research and be as specific as you can. 

Questions 4-7 ask how you will take full advantage of the Yale community and what you might contribute. Strong responses, especially to questions 4 and 5, are based on personal experiences. Is there a professor, academic, or public figure who inspires you and would make a good guest speaker? What is a class you have always wanted to take? What would it mean for you to teach it? Maybe you have niche knowledge of yo-yo competitions. Could you turn that knowledge into a Yale class syllabus? How would you teach the class differently than anyone else? Finally, for the last question, consider what aspects of your application you might want to tie together. Do you have unique interests that aren't necessarily connected? Do you see the world from an unusual angle? Take this opportunity to celebrate your contradictions and uniqueness. Remember to draw from your life experience and share your viewpoint with others?

How to answer the Yale short essay questions

The short essay questions have higher word limits. When writing about your academic interests, do your best to base your response on a specific experience or anecdote. Try to write primarily about how you discovered a particular issue or topic, rather than just drawing analytical insights into its implications. The purpose of this essay 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.

For the second prompt, choose the question that makes the most sense to you. For either question, reflect on something meaningful that you feel gets buried in the rest of your application. These questions allow you to articulate how you relate to others and what you value. Be authentic and sincere. Where have you felt a deep sense of belonging? On a team? Through an artistic venture? What brings you joy or satisfaction, and how does it motivate you? Think beyond your accomplishments to what makes you who you are as a person.

Pro-tip: It can be helpful to choose an experience that contrasts with your intended major. This type of experience shows your diverse interests and gives your application more depth.

Final Thoughts

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 freshmen students arrived on campus many months later, they asked each other this question as a conversation starter. To their surprise, most of the responses were quite ordinary. They answered with activities they actually did on a free afternoon - going on a run in the park or finally finishing a book. Most people didn’t say they read the complete works of William Shakespeare during their free afternoons. Use language and sentence structure that fits your voice and your story. No answer or topic is too familiar as long as you articulate your perspective or rationale clearly. 

Finally, proofread and stay within the word limit on all the short answers and essay questions. Being concise is crucial. Ask your teachers, friends, and family to read your responses. A fresh set of eyes makes a big difference.

Crimson Education is the world’s leading university admission consulting company. Our expert admission strategist can help you narrow down your ideas and word choice to help you craft the perfect supplemental essay responses. Get your essay reviewed today!

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