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How to write the 2021-2022 Yale supplemental essays

by Story2 Staff, on Jul 24, 2021 6:12:43 PM

Supplemental essays are a great opportunity to give admissions officers more insight into why your unique character and life experiences make you a great fit for their school. 

Like many other schools, Yale University’s application requires a few supplemental essays. This is your chance to really make your case! Before you begin, take some time to research specific programs and activities at Yale, and explore how you will engage with those programs. Use each question to add another part of your story, so altogether your supplements show who you are as a person and how you will contribute to the Yale community. 

Jump ahead to:

Read on for how to answer each of the supplemental essays for the Yale 2021-2022 application! 

Yale 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.

Prompts #1 and #2 go together. First, pick up to three choices from the list of majors! 

Yale Question 2:

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

Now you can dig into the “why.” It's often more powerful and engaging to approach your “why” through action, rather than thoughts. That’s where storytelling comes in! What real moments from your life shaped your interests in your chosen subjects? 

You only have 125 words here, so it’s better to choose a single moment and build it out with more detail, instead of trying to cram in multiple big, general ideas. Be as direct and specific as possible. 

Here are some additional brainstorming tips, based on Prompt #1:

  • Use the essay to explore one of your possible majors, or how they fit together.
  • Are there questions that excite you at the intersection of one or two of them
  • Be as specific as you can, about both what you want to study and why. 
  • It will feel like you want to go into your thoughts to answer the "why" part, but Yale is asking about how certain academic areas "fit your interests or goals most comfortably." 
  • This question is also a chance to talk about how you learn and solve problems, what you offer others in different learning situations, and what specific types of scholarship are related to your key interests and goals. 
  • If you talk about specific Yale programs, make sure to get their names right and show what specifically interests you about them. 
  • As they indicated in the Prompt #1, the admissions committee doesn’t expect you to know exactly what you want to study in college. So instead of worrying about what admissions officers “want” you to choose (which is a total dead end), focus on your real academic interests and how those interests might unfold at Yale. 
  • One last caution: don't get too sucked in by the word "comfortably," since a lot of college is about taking in and wrestling with new ideas, which can be a bit uncomfortable! 

Your next steps for Yale University Prompt 2: 

  • Consider why your core areas of interest appeal to you
  • Identify real moments that reveal how those interests (your "why") evolved.
  • Pick one of those moments and give a quick glimpse into your "why" in action.

Yale Question 3:

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

This is a classic “why this college?” prompt, which means that it’s a great chance to demonstrate your fit for Yale! The keys to strong “why this college?” essays are to choose specific details that are both personal and unique to you. 

Avoid cliches. “I always wanted to go to Yale” is not specific. Forget trying to cover every single great thing about Yale. Home in on a few specific, unique things that will help deepen readers’ understanding of who you are as a person and as a prospective Yale student.

Your next steps for Yale University Prompt 3: 

  • Choose 1-2 things that led you to apply to Yale
  • Identify real moments that reveal why those things are important to you 
  • Use this short essay to connect something about Yale that attracts you and a moment in your own life that also draws you there. 

Short Answer Questions (each no more than 200 characters)

These are very short -- 200 characters, not 200 words -- so be honest and specific and you will win the day! 
  • What inspires you?
  • You are teaching a new Yale course. What is it called?
  • 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?

Yale Question 4: 

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)

This essay is long enough for you to describe something you are really interested in and show how that interest has evolved through a combination of study and action. Imagine it's late at night and you've run into another student walking home from a political debate, or a play rehearsal, or a concert. What's the  most important thing they need to know about your academic interests? Where are those interests drawing you now? 


Yale Question 5 (choose one of the following 2 prompts) 

Reflect on a community to which you feel connected. Why is it meaningful to you?  You may define community however you like.

This is a Community essay. You can write about any community that has shaped you -- family, neighborhood, work, school, summer camp, or something else that shows how you define community. Two key words in the Yale version of this common prompt are reflect and feel connected. To reflect is to look back, almost like you have a rear-view mirror to help you see how you got to this moment. Take time to explore the moments that have helped you develop that feeling of connection you experience now. How does that community feeling inform who you will be in the Yale community? What do you bring from that community that is important for others to know about you? 


Reflect on something that has given you great satisfaction. Why has it been important to you?

Be careful about being too smug and just writing about how your achievements give you great satisfaction! Your achievements show up in other parts of your application, so don't repeat them here. Go for something a bit deeper and more powerful. Here are three things I might have written about when I was applying to college: teaching an older neighbor how to swim; petitioning the school board for a homeroom where we didn't have to say the Pledge of Allegiance; selling Avon door-to-door to earn enough money to buy myself a Canon camera! 

Back to main Supplemental Essays post.

Ready to perfect your personal statement next? For tips on crafting a great personal statement and examples of what that looks like, check out our guide to personal statements.

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Topics:college admissions

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