Sitting down and writing college essays for any school can be a daunting task — and even before you start putting pen to paper or hand to keyboard, you want to have the right approach. Yale University is an Ivy League school founded in 1701 and known for its robust liberal arts program, along with its wide array of extracurricular offerings and out-of-the-classroom pursuits. Located in the diverse city of New Haven, Connecticut, it’s an institution like no other that fosters strong community through its residential colleges and various campus organizations, and forges the minds of sharp, smart, and kind people.
And now that you know that, it’s time to step away from every assumption you’ve ever made about Yale. Although you will want to extensively research Yale during this process, it needs to be in tandem with the soul-searching that these prompts require. Writing these essays, though it’s not always fun, can be a rewarding learning experience for you and help determine what makes you unique. Strive to write essays that no one else could have written — that’s how you know you’re putting down a true, honest, genuine representation of yourself before the admissions officer.
Yale’s 2022–2023 Prompts
- 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. (125 words)
- Tell us about a topic or idea that excites you and is related to one or more academic areas you selected above. Why are you drawn to it? (200 words)
- What is it about Yale that has led you to apply? (125 words)
Coalition/Common App Short Response (200 characters/35 words)
- What inspires you?
- 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?
- You are teaching a new Yale course. What is it called?
- What is something about you that is not included anywhere else in your application?
Essay Prompts (400 words)
- Yale carries out its mission “through the free exchange of ideas in an ethical, interdependent, and diverse community.” Reflect on a time when you exchanged ideas about an important issue with someone holding an opposing view. How did the experience lead you either to change your opinion or to sharpen your reasons for holding onto it?
- Reflect on a time when you have worked to enhance a community to which you feel connected. Why have these efforts been meaningful to you? You may define community however you like.
Yale’s Short Responses
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. (125 words or fewer)
This question is asking you to list three things that interest you at the moment, with the understanding that they might change. Regardless of where your interests fall, it’s nice to paint a picture of your motivations behind how you came to be interested in those things and how you see them reflected across your life.
The key here is to show that you’ve done your research: you should feel encouraged to reference professors or classes you want to take, chat about your experiences and why they’ve led you down a certain path, or insert a quirky (but not gimmicky!) anecdote about what you’ve chosen. This set of two questions is where you explain your academic interests to the admissions officers, with this first one serving as an introduction of sorts. Take this chance to craft a cohesive narrative about your endeavors in the classroom and how they’ve built your academic profile.
Tell us about a topic or idea that excites you and is related to one or more academic areas you selected above. Why are you drawn to it? (200 words or fewer)
Here, try to laser focus on one or two (at most) of those academic interests you mentioned above. You have 75 more words than in the previous question, but don’t treat this like a continuation of it: this is not the place to cram in everything you like. Instead, you should bring in anecdotes, experiences, or conversations that contributed to your decision to follow that interest.
Dig deep and find examples that are meaningful: if you like math, why is that? Do you enjoy finding and applying patterns in real life? Did a teacher show you a number trick that blew your mind? If you like literature, was it because you had a debate about a book that changed your perspective on a story? Was it because you want to be a storyteller? Don’t be afraid to invoke some of the most heartfelt and creative moments of your life as you explain why you’re passionate about the idea you’re bringing to this essay.
What is it about Yale that has led you to apply? (125 words or fewer)
Avoid writing about all the standard reasons (prestige, academics, resources…) unless you have a unique reason for doing so. Even writing about standard aspects of Yale, like New Haven or the residential college system, should be approached carefully because you can be sure that admissions officers have just about read every single possible answer relating to these topics. You want yours to be different, so if you’re going to be writing about academics or resources, you need to show that you’ve done your research. Much like you want every essay to be unique to you, this essay should be unique to Yale (essentially, you shouldn’t be able to use it as a supplement for any other school).
Imagine yourself at Yale. What would be your niche? Your community? What about Yale fits into your personal narrative, and what would you contribute to the Yale community? Is it a department you’re passionate about that offers cooler classes than anywhere else? Is it a club you long to join? Something about Yale’s philosophy that you deeply resonate with? Whatever it is, make it specific and spirited.
Yale’s Coalition / Common App Short Responses
What inspires you? (200 characters)
The most important part of this question is your explanation. Barring truly problematic inspirations, there are no wrong answers here, which means that what matters is how you justify your answer. Again, you want to dive beneath the surface and find an answer that speaks to the narrative you’ve been drawing up through these essays, while hopefully pulling in something fresh from your personality.
Most of all, don’t feel the need to impress the admissions officer. It’s perfectly okay to sound like a teenager in these answers (of course, without being immature).
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? (200 characters)
If you weren’t aware, Yale’s residential colleges have a long-standing tradition of hosting “college teas” with cool people (sometimes celebrities!) Your answer about who you would invite can reveal a lot about who you are, and the prompt asks you to balance the reasons why you would invite this person with why you’re interested in their work. Focus mostly on the rationale behind your guest, and on perhaps showcasing another side to your personality once again (but make sure it still fits into the narrative you’ve been building).
You are teaching a new Yale course. What is it called? (200 characters)
Here’s another chance to explore an interest you might not have quite made clear through your transcript so far. Be creative with your class choice — you can certainly draw from Yale’s “Blue Book” (the course offerings listed online) but you can also draw from fantasy and niche topics to craft your dream class, and you don’t have to limit yourself to an existing field or major. The ideal is that if someone read the title, they’d be interested in taking it.
What is something about you that is not included anywhere else in your application? (200 characters)
Another chance to showcase something you haven’t yet mentioned — make it special! Remember that even the mundane can be special too: this answer doesn’t necessarily need to be about a hidden achievement or a secret passion for quantum physics.
What matters more is how you present this special something. When you write a college application, you craft a multidimensional picture of yourself based on your academics, extracurricular activities, athletics, and/or other endeavors you’ve followed. This question gives you the unique opportunity to showcase another dimension that doesn’t fall within those standard categories.
Yale’s Essay Prompts
Yale carries out its mission “through the free exchange of ideas in an ethical, interdependent, and diverse community.” Reflect on a time when you exchanged ideas about an important issue with someone holding an opposing view. How did the experience lead you either to change your opinion or to sharpen your reasons for holding onto it? (400 words)
If you end up attending Yale, you’ll likely be thrust into a community more diverse than any you’ve experienced in the past. Everyone handles culture shock differently, though you’ll want to show that you’re ready to face it with both an open mind and an open heart. Think of a time you approached conflict in a positive or productive way. You want to avoid sounding like you simply engage in debates to be right, or like you’re unwilling to change your opinions even when provided with compelling evidence.
Important lessons can come out of dealing with disagreement or disharmony within a group, some of which can be incredibly formative. Some of those lessons can include accepting a time you were wrong, finding the resilience to defend a position you strongly cared about, or learning through debate what it is that really matters to you. Whatever your lesson is, in this essay, it is helpful to focus in on the specific moment that led you to this realization rather than trying to cram in all the times you dealt with conflict. Centering your 400 words around one moment will guide you toward exploring its depth and making the conclusions you drew from it more concrete.
Reflect on a time when you have worked to enhance a community to which you feel connected. Why have these efforts been meaningful to you? You may define community however you like. (400 words)
Yale places a huge emphasis on community, and admissions officers are keen to find out what piece of the puzzle you’ll fill once you’re there. Think about a community that has been meaningful to you, whether that’s your extended family, a club you’re part of, a religious group, etc., and what you’ve done to remain a dedicated member of that community. This question is also intentionally broad so that it allows you to showcase a range of actions: some communities benefit from grand gestures, while others create bonds between members through shared activities or even struggles.
Framing this essay around action and reflection is a good starting point, as your actions will communicate what you’ve done for your community (and this is a good place to insert the classic advice of “show, don’t tell”), and your reflection can highlight the reasons behind your actions. Try to push beyond the obvious or cliché (“I work for my community because I have to/I enjoy it/I get to meet cool people”) and dig for what your contribution is, and what you learn from it. Invite the reader into your world, let them feel what you feel, and open a window into why you cherish all of that.
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