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How to Answer the Yale Supplemental Essay Prompts 2019-2020

NOV 17, 2019 • 12 min read

Applying to Yale university? Your supplemental essays are the perfect way to stand out from a competitive pool of applicants. Yale has nine supplemental questions, making it a lengthy application, but also giving applicants more opportunities to make a good impression on admissions officers.

Yale also gives you the option to upload a video or audio file to further answer one of the supplemental prompts, personifying your application even more.

Yale’s acceptance rate this year dropped to 5.9%, putting it in line with other Ivy League universities. Increase your chances of gaining admission by nearly 3 times with Crimson Education.

If you would like your essay reviewed by an expert so you can feel confident when submitting your college application, get your essay reviewed by Crimson.

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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-- all the things that make up you. Accomplishing this feat in 35, 100, or 250-word answers can be daunting, but the ability to demonstrate critical, personal information through strong and concise 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.

A way to start can be to make a list of experiences, values, or personality traits you have that you definitely want the committee to know about you. From there, find stories or specific experiences that demonstrate these values. How does Yale fit into this picture? You can also try starting with the questions you think will be difficult for you to answer in a personal and robust way; 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 (questions 4-7 could be good for this).

Question 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.

Question 2: Why do these areas appeal to you? (100 words or fewer)

Question 3: What is it about Yale that has led you to apply? (125 words or fewer)

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. Questions 1-3 ask about academic motivations, your interest in Yale, and general inspiration; 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.

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Question 4: What inspires you? (35 words or fewer)

Question 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? (35 words or fewer)

Question 6: You are teaching a Yale course. What is it called?(35 words or fewer)

Question 7: Most first-year Yale students live in suites of four to six students. What do you hope to add to your suitemates’ experience? What do you hope they will add to yours? (35 words or fewer)

Questions 4-7 are asking how you would take full advantage of the Yale community. Strong responses, especially to questions 4 and 5, will be based around personal experiences. Is there a professor, academician, 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 yoo-yoo competitions; could you turn that knowledge into a Yale class syllabus? Finally, for the last question, consider experiences in which you have either enabled the growth of your friends, or vice versa. Be sure to emphasize growth - how do you make each other better?

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Question 8: Applicants submitting the Coalition Application or Common Application will respond to the prompt below in 250 words or fewer: Think about an idea or topic that has been intellectually exciting for you. Why are you drawn to it?

Question 9: Applicants submitting the Common Application will also select ONE of the two prompts below and respond in 250 words or fewer:

  • Reflect on your engagement with a community to which you belong. How has this engagement affected you?
  • Yale students, faculty, and alumni engage issues of local, national, and international importance. Discuss an issue that is significant to you and how your college experience could help you address it.
  • In addition to writing on your chosen prompt, upload an audio file, video, image, or document you have created. The upload should complement your response to the chosen prompt. Above your response, include a one-sentence description of your upload.
  • 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)

Questions 8 and 9 have higher word limits. When it comes to writing about your academic interests, do your best to base your response in 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, 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. No answer or topic is too common as long as you articulate your perspective or rationale clearly.

For question 9, keep in mind that this isn't merely an opportunity to brag about an additional accomplishment (although if this essay ultimately includes an accomplishment, that's ok!). It's really an opportunity to discuss an experience you've had outside of school that you feel gets buried by the rest of your application. Since it specifies an "community engagements," it likely wants you to write about something that appears on your Common App list of extracurriculars but does not appear elsewhere in your app.

Pro tip, it can be helpful to choose an activity that contrasts with your intended major. This shows your diverse interests and gives your application more texture overall.

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

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