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How to Respond to the 2023/2024 Yale Supplemental Essay Prompts

By Cece Gilmore

Cece Gilmore is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cece earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Arizona State University. While at ASU, she was the education editor as well as a published staff reporter at Downtown Devil. Cece was also the co-host of her own radio show on Blaze Radio ASU.

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Reviewed by Bill Jack

Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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Updated: November 1st, 2023
How to Respond to the 2023/2024 Yale Supplemental Essay Prompts

Yale is a popular Ivy League school located in New Haven, Connecticut. The Yale campus is known for its overall striking architecture, especially the beauty of its older stone buildings. Since Yale is an Ivy League school, that means it is extremely competitive in terms of admissions. Yale’s acceptance rate lies around 5%. The best way to make your application rise above the rest is through your Yale supplemental essays! 

Yale University’s supplemental essays

Yale’s supplemental essays are one way Yale gets to know their applicants and ultimately reach an acceptance decision. Fortunately, Yale asks candidates to respond to a wide selection of supplemental essays through the Common or Coalition Application. 

Applicants are able to share multiple sides of their personalities and experiences. When complete, responses should give admissions officers a good sense of “who you are” as a person. Read more in this guide on how to nail the Yale supplemental essay prompts!

Also see: How to write an essay about yourself

Breaking down the Yale supplemental essays 

All applicants to Yale have to complete the Yale supplemental essay questions. The Yale supplemental essay questions differ slightly depending on the application platform you choose to apply to Yale with. The options depend on whether you apply through the Coalition Application, Common Application, or QuestBridge Application. 

Short answer questions

Yale asks applicants to respond to both short answer questions and essays. The short answer questions range from 250 words to only 200 characters or 30 words. Therefore, it is best to not overthink these short answer questions! Rather just write what comes to mind. Just be sure to review your responses after to ensure you are not repeating yourself or leaving out any critical information. 

Essay responses 

The Yale essays must be 400 words or fewer. Once again, that does not leave a lot of room for lengthy sentences. Therefore, be short and concise. If you struggle with cutting down your responses, ask a trusted friend to help you cut out words.  Be sure to write an outline of the main points you want to include in your response and get rid of the filler words in your response. 

Short answer questions for Coalition Application, Common Application or QuestBridge Application applicants

Prompt #1

“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. 

This is a pretty straightforward question. What do you want to major in or study while at Yale? It is best to be honest in this response. If you know what you want to major in, describe it. Be sure to double check the list of majors that Yale provided to ensure you are not selecting an area of study that is not available. 

Not sure about your major?

If you do not know exactly what you want to major in at Yale, do not worry! As  mentioned in the question, students often change their minds about what they want to study, so don’t pressure yourself about deciding your future right now. Rather, write about a few majors that truly interest you. Describe how they fit your interests and goals, and discuss what you hope to accomplish with a degree(s) in this field. 

Questions to consider

  • What is your intended major at Yale? 
  • What are you interested in academically? 
  • Why do you want to get a degree? What are your future career goals? 

Prompt #2

“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) 

This is a continuation of prompt #1. Your goal for this prompt is to tell a cohesive story about what piques your intellectual curiosity. To begin, try to recount a story from your past that illustrates your long-held interest in your chosen academic field. For example, perhaps you broke your ankle playing soccer when you were in middle school and became fascinated by your physical therapist’s care. Whatever the reason behind your intended major, describe its significance! Make sure that you connect back to yourself as you relate to your selected major(s). 

The best way to approach this prompt is through a story or anecdote! Be as specific as possible when describing how you became drawn to your chosen academic area. 

Questions to consider

  • Why are you interested in your major? 
  • Are there people in your life who studied what you want to study? 
  • What excites you about your intended major? 

Prompt #3

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

This question differs from the two previous short essay questions because it wants you to discuss “why Yale?” This is a great place to detail how Yale’s location, academic programs, and extracurriculars appeal to you. Make sure that you are not just listing the great things about Yale, but rather, explain how these aspects will benefit you. For example, you can write about how Yale offers a particular major that they are highly regarded in. Is there a particular professor you would like to study under, or a project that you want to be part of? If so, be sure to share! The most important thing is to connect your interests and future with what Yale offers. 

Try to avoid cliche answers such as describing how Yale is a prestigious Ivy League school. Rather, be specific and descriptive about what truly drew you to apply to Yale.

Questions to consider

  • What makes Yale stand out from other colleges? 
  • Why did you choose to apply to Yale? 
  • Why is Yale a dream school for you? 

Additional short answer questions for QuestBridge applicants

Applicants applying with the QuestBridge Application will complete questions that will be available on the Yale Admissions Status Portal after an application has been received. 

Additional short answer questions for Coalition Application or Common Application applicants

The following short answer questions are for Coalition and Common Application applicants only and should not exceed 200 characters or 35 words. 

Prompt #1

What inspires you? (200 characters or fewer)

This question can ultimately be answered in any way. You can write about a person, a time you failed, a television show, and so much more. The most important part is that you are being true to yourself in your response! 

Prompt #2

If you could teach any college course, write a book, or create an original piece of art of any kind, what would it be? (200 characters or fewer)

This question aims to gain some insight into your interests and passions. What do you absolutely “nerd out” about? You want to select a subject or topic that you can lecture about for hours, write hundreds of pages or paint for days. Once again, you have a lot of creative freedom with this response. Be sure to not choose something that is already a course at Yale, a book or a piece of art! Yale wants to see that you have interests beyond just the “typical” of these subjects. 

Prompt #3

Other than a family member, who is someone who has had a significant influence on you? What has been the impact of their influence?  (200 characters or fewer)

Whoever you immediately thought of while reading this prompt – write about them! It can range from a high school teacher to a famous athlete to an Instagram model! As long as it is not a relative you are discussing, anyone you choose is fair game. Make sure you are describing the relationship between you and this person if it is not obvious. Also, detail what this person means to you and how they have helped you thrive thus far in your life. 

Prompt #4

What is something about you that is not included anywhere else in your application? (200 character or fewer) 

This prompt is very straightforward and is the perfect opportunity to make sure your Yale application is well-rounded and represents all aspects of your life. Read over your application and look for any missing pieces. Are there any interests, hobbies, philosophies, quirks, etc that are missing? If there are, be sure to list them here! This can also be a good opportunity to elaborate on anything listed on your application. For example, if being a captain of your high school cross country team is listed on your application you can detail how that experience allowed you to be a leader and you locked into your entrepreneurial skills by starting a business making xc merch for everyone on your team. Ultimately, use this space to ensure you are being accurately represented in your Yale application. 

Essay questions for Coalition Application or Common Application applicants

For the Coalition Application or Common Application, you only need to respond to one of the following prompts in 400 words or less

Prompt #1

Reflect on a time you discussed an issue important to you with someone holding an opposing view. Why did you find the experience meaningful? 

Knowing how to engage in a meaningful conversation with someone with an opposing view is a challenging, but vital life skill to possess. Therefore, this prompt is not looking for a dramatic story of how you completely changed someone’s mind and completely altered their life. Rather, it is searching for an individual who is not afraid to stand up for issues that they care about.

While at Yale, you will be forced to interact with many diverse people who will have different options on topics than yourself. Therefore, you should show Yale that you are able to learn, listen, and grow from these conversations and experiences with people who share different opinions. 

Forming an answer

To begin answering this prompt, think of a time in which you had an uncomfortable conversation with a friend, family, or a stranger. Remember, your goal is to stand out when writing any college application essay. So, try to pick a moment that allows Yale to see a unique angle of your life. 

Once you have established the uncomfortable conversation, summarize the opposing views. This shows that you are able to analyze both sides of the argument and know how to listen to someone even if you disagree with their views. You can establish which side of the argument you supported in this section of your response. 

Lastly, share any lessons you learned from this experience. How did you grow from this conversation? End your essay with a clear explanation of what you learned and how you will use this lesson as you continue on in life. Remember to connect back to Yale and how you will use this lesson while attending Yale specifically. 

Questions to consider

  • Why is it important to talk with people who have different opinions? 
  • What have you learned from discussing a topic with someone with an opposing view? 
  • How can you bring what you have learned from this experience to the Yale community? 

Prompt #2

Reflect on your membership in a community to which you feel connected. Why is this community meaningful to you?  You may define community however you like.

Community is such a critical part of college. It provides students with a sense of unity with their classmates and ultimately leads to a better overall college experience. Therefore, Yale wants to see that you are able to connect within a community! 

Forming an answer

A community does not need to be large scale, rather, it can be a small group. For example, maybe you were a part of the recycling club in high school and that club community was like your second home. Or maybe you were a student athlete and being on the track team in high school gave you a sense of community and purpose. Or, maybe your very own town community made your time living at home so great! 

There are plenty of instances in which community is present in your life. Therefore, just take the time to truly think about the different communities you are a part of and which had the most impact on you. 

Once you have decided on a community, be sure to reflect on how being a part of it improved your life. You want to highlight how important community is to you and your growth. Be sure to detail how exactly being a part of that group helped you thrive. For example, you can describe how it gave you a lot of people and connections you could reach out to for help.

Remember, Yale wants to see that you can not only be a part of a community, but thrive in one! You can even discuss your role in the community you chose and how vital it would be for you to play that same role in Yale. 

Questions to consider

  • What does community mean to you? 
  • How does being a part of a community help you? 
  • In what ways do you hope to find a community at Yale? How will you go about this and contribute to this new Yale community? 

Prompt #3

Reflect on an element of your personal experience that you feel will enrich your college. How has it shaped you? 

This is a very broad prompt! Therefore, try to brainstorm and create an outline if you are selecting this prompt to ensure you have a response that makes the point you want it to. 

Try to pick a specific personal experience that reveals a characteristic of your personality that you feel will enrich your intended time at Yale. Think of any unique characteristics, backgrounds or identities you may possess.Once you have decided on the aspect that best represents you, detail a narrative that truly shows without directly telling the admissions committee what it is that is unique about you. This show not tell method will help you stand out in your response and allow the admissions committee to truly get to know you.  

How to format your response

  • Tell a story or anecdote about a personal experience you have had 
  • Describe how this experience has changed you and what you have learned from it 
  • Detail what lessons you have learned from this experience
  • Connect to Yale and how you will bring this new knowledge to their campus 

Questions to consider

  • What will you bring to the Yale community? 
  • How is your story different from other Yale applicants? 
  • What has influenced who you are today? 

Final thoughts on responding to the Yale supplemental essays

Now that you have completed reading our guide for responding to the Yale supplemental essay questions, it is time to write and perfect your responses! Be sure to double check which application you are using to apply to Yale whether it be the Coalition Application, Common Application or QuestBridge Application. 

If you are still feeling stuck responding to the Yale supplemental essays, Yale offers resources to help you. Yale has a few podcast episodes on how they make decisions on applications as well as offering some advice and strategies of what to include in your responses! In addition to their podcast episodes, they have a website with advice on putting together your application. 

By now, you are more than equipped to answer the Yale supplemental short answer and essay questions! Remember, be sure not to repeat yourself throughout your responses. You want to showcase every side of yourself so Yale gets a clear picture of who you are. 

Next steps after applying to Yale

Once you have perfected your Yale supplemental essay responses, it is time to submit your flawless application! 

Now what should you do? You can sit back and relax after being so diligent. Continue to check your Yale portal and email to stay updated on your application status. You can even follow Yale on social media to stay updated on other events and deadlines you may need to be aware of. 

Additional resources

As you are submitting your perfect Yale application, be sure to check out our guides on how many schools to apply to. In addition, check out our guide on what looks good to submit to colleges to make sure you are putting your best foot forward. Unsure about which standardized test you should take? Read more on the ACT vs SAT! Already completed the ACT or SAT? If you are wondering about test optional schools, read here about whether or not to send your SAT/ACT scores. Finally, check out our free scholarship search tool to help you afford your education. Good luck! 

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