How to Get Into Yale

Padya Paramita

How to Get Into Yale

So, you’ve got your eyes set on attending Yale University, one of the most prestigious academic institutions anywhere in the world. It might have been your dream to be a Bulldog since you were young, or you might have grown fond of the New Haven school as you learned more about it in high school. Regardless of when you started wondering how to get into Yale, you probably know that it’s not an easy task. The current acceptance rate for Yale is only 5.9%. Even this year during the Single-Choice Early Action round, Yale accepted 13% of its application pool and will only get more selective in the regular round. It’s safe to say that you’ve got your work cut out for you!

Just like other Ivy League schools, Yale receives thousands of applications from students across the globe. While the competition is tough, there are ways to optimize your application to make sure that you’ve represented yourself in the best way possible in order to stand out from your peers. To help guide you through how to get into Yale, I’ve provided an overall picture of academic and residential life at the school, the numbers for admitted students, how to take advantage of your extracurriculars and personal statement, how to write the supplemental essays, and finally the deadlines and protocols you must follow in order to get your application submitted on time. 

An Overview of Academic and Residential Life

Located in New Haven, Connecticut, the undergraduate portion of Yale University is often referred to as Yale College. This school provides students with an ideal academic environment to achieve their goals through access to state-of-the-art labs, Yale’s own Art Gallery, Museum of Natural History, and more. Students have hundreds of courses to choose from, and the major offerings span from the typical “Math,” “Biology,” and “Economics” to the more specific “Geology & Natural Resources,” “Human Rights Studies,” and “Ethics, Politics & Economics.” The institution prides itself on its course shopping period which encourages students to explore their options. It emphasizes ensuring “diverse intellectual pursuits for all Yale College students while encouraging flexibility and freedom to expand on individual interests, explore new curiosities, and take academic risks.”

When you’re considering how to get into Yale, know that the school promotes a close-knit community by the presence of residential colleges, where undergrad students are placed starting their freshman year. Students are randomly assigned their cohort and they spend the next four years residing in these buildings, all of which come with their own facilities (library, gym, dining hall, and more), and form bonds with their suitemates and hallmates that often last beyond their time at Yale.

Academic Requirements

Academic strength is the number one factor that is considered in your admissions decision. Yale states that “the single most important document” during the process is your transcript, as it reflects your performance over the course of four years. When you’re thinking about how to get into Yale, make sure that you’ve taken the most rigorous class and done well in them in order to convey that you can handle the course load at this intensive university. 95% of the students in Yale’s Class of 2022 were at the top 10% of their high school classes, so your class rank definitely matters. The college values candidates have taken AP or IB classes, demonstrating that they aren’t afraid to challenge themselves academically. 

Like other top schools, Yale approaches admissions holistically and doesn’t have a set SAT score that they require for applications to be read. That being said, note the median SAT ranges at this competitive university: 

  • SAT-Evidence-Based Reading and Writing: 720-770
  • SAT-Math: 730-790
  • ACT Composite: 33-35

If your composite SAT score doesn’t lie in the high 1500s and you’re gunning for Yale, you should retake the test to ensure that you don’t fall behind the pack. Similarly, study hard to get the strongest score you can on the ACT. While Yale doesn’t require SAT subject tests, you’re “recommended” to take them, which is usually an indication that you should submit these scores unless absolutely impossible. Subject tests can effectively convey your prowess in your areas of interest.

That being said, the SAT score is a number based on a single day’s performance and admissions officers will focus more carefully on your GPA, since you have accumulated that number throughout your time in high school. 

Letters of Recommendation

Admissions officers also pay a great deal of attention to the letters written by your high school teachers. Yale states the following:

“Request recommendations from two teachers who have taught you in core academic subjects (e.g. English, Foreign Language, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies) who know you well, and who have seen you at your best. It is preferable, but not required, that recommendations come from teachers who have taught you during your junior or senior year of high school.”

Without a doubt, you must ask teachers who know you well to be your recommenders, as the reader will be paying careful attention to how the writer has described your intellectual curiosity, collaboration and leadership skills, as well as overall impact as part of the classroom. 

Extracurriculars

If you’re considering the question of how to get into Yale, you’re probably already aware that the college looks for unique individuals who bring different backgrounds featuring a breadth and depth of extracurriculars. Yale wants applicants who have taken advantage of their current resources to make meaningful contributions in their community - and will continue doing so at Yale. If you think you might struggle to fill your activities list, it might be too late. But if it's still early on in your high school career, you need to step out of your comfort zone and strive for leadership positions in areas that can help you stand out.

Simply being a member of common clubs such as debate or Model UN is not enough. Think about where your talents lie and how you can use them to help your community or start an initiative that incorporates others. Yale wants to know how you’ve engaged in the opportunities at your high school or area to determine how you will thrive on campus. Think outside the box - what club can you start that doesn’t already exist? If you’re interested in business, start your own. If you’re a writer, start a literary magazine. If you’re interested in computer science, build your own app. Don’t just limit yourself to pre-existing pursuits. Yale wants to see you step out of your comfort zone.

Personal Statement

One way to do elaborate on your different experiences is to take advantage of the Common Application personal statement. This is a 650-word essay that shows admissions officers who you are and what matters to you. While this component isn’t Yale specific, it still provides you with a chance to tell a story that doesn’t apply to 99% of other students. So, your response could also focus on a part of your background that has shaped you or it could highlight an experience that you believe distinguishes you from your peers. You must brainstorm your essay very carefully, as well as go through at least ten drafts in order to submit a polished version of Yale’s caliber.

Supplemental Essays

When it comes to assigning supplemental essays that gauge why you would be a good fit, Yale offers a range of questions that are as short as 35 words to as long as 250 words. While many schools ask one or two supplemental questions, Yale asks you 11! You can read about how to approach each of them in more detail here. The prompts are:

Academic Questions: 

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.

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

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

Short Answer Questions (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 question would you ask? 

You are teaching a Yale course. What is it called?

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?

Essays (250 words):

Think about an idea or topic that has been intellectually exciting for you. Why are you drawn to it?

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.

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.

Approaching the Prompts

Don’t start freaking out just by looking at the sheer number of prompts that lie ahead of you. Take it one question at a time and think about the most unique ways to approach these questions. Don’t shoot for answers that other students might flock towards, such as Bill Gates as a person you’d ask a question to or climate change as a topic that has been intellectually exciting for you. The point of these isn’t to write what you think admissions officers want to hear, but letting them know about what motivates you and your academic pursuits. The supplemental essays provide the opportunity to show the school that you're curious, ambitious, and intellectually driven. 

The word limit can be tight for most questions, so you need to be all the more succinct. Don’t waste the space fixating on general statements that might apply to any of the Ivies. Make sure your answers are specific to Yale and most importantly, specific to you. Use the prompts to tell the school facts about yourself 1) that they don’t know from other parts of your application and 2) that further indicate how you’d value Yale’s resources. The goal of these essays is to see how you’d fit within the campus environment. Why do you think Yale is the best place for you?

Taking advantage of these prompts is absolutely key when thinking about how to get into Yale. Show them that you know the university. Talk about specific classes, professors, and opportunities that you can’t find anywhere else, and how you would best benefit from them.

Requirements and Deadlines

When thinking about how to get into Yale, you must also think about the logistics. It’s extremely important that you follow instructions and stick to deadlines when it comes to getting the required scores, recommendations, and other documents submitted on time.

The Single-Choice Early Action (SCEA) deadline for Yale is November 1, while the Regular Decision deadline is January 2

Knowing these dates can help you start working on filling out the Common App, writing all of the required essays, providing your recommenders enough time to write their letters. The material you need to submit for your Yale undergraduate application is outlined in the table below:

Requirements for the Yale Application Deadlines and Notes
Common App personal statement The word limit is 650 words.
Yale-specific essays These will appear on the Common App once you’ve chosen Yale as one of your colleges.
Official high school transcript This must be submitted directly from your school.
School report This should be submitted by your counselor to summarize your academic performance, including your official transcript.
Counselor recommendation This letter is very important to help you stand out from your peers.
Two (2) letters of evaluation from teachers These letters are also crucial, as admissions officers want to know what you are like in the classroom.
Mid-year report If you are deferred from SCEA, this is due February 15. For Regular Decision (RD), this should be submitted whenever mid-year grades are available.
SAT or ACT The last tests students can take for SCEA are the October ACT and November SAT. The last tests students can take for RD are the December ACT and December SAT.
SAT subject tests (recommended) The last test students can take for SCEA is the November session and the last test students can take for RD is the December session.
Interviews (optional) A limited number of on-campus interviews are available on a first-come, first-serve basis from mid-June to mid-August and from mid-September to mid-November.
Arts supplement (optional) If you are an excellent artist, designer or a musician, consider submitting a portfolio of your work; guidelines here: https://admissions.yale.edu/supplementary
Financial aid documents U.S. citizens and permanent residents applying for aid must fill out the FAFSA, the CSS Profile, and signed tax returns of parents and the student. Deadlines: Early Action: November 15; Regular Decision: March 1

Use the table as a checklist to make sure you send all of the necessary documents and scores. Once you’ve submitted your application, Early Action applicants are notified in mid-December, while Regular Decision applicants are notified by April 1. 

Next Steps

  • Apply Early Action - When thinking about how to get into Yale, seriously consider the early application route. Statistically speaking, since fewer students apply during the Single-Choice Early Action round, you have a greater chance of admission just based on probability alone. And while you should definitely not take admission for granted because most candidates applying this round have their act together, applying SCEA is an effective way to demonstrate that you’re committed to Yale. You will be competing against a much smaller pool, and if your application checks all the right boxes, you may get accepted!
  • Research Thoroughly - I cannot emphasize the importance of being as specific as possible in your Yale supplemental essays. Because you are so limited by space, you need to show that you are well-versed in how Yale works in as few words as possible. So, you need to go to the website and read up on how course selection works, what the distribution requirements are, and what majors you might want to select. Show your knowledge in your writing - if you say “dorms” instead of “residential colleges,” for example, that will be an automatic red flag to the reader that you might have copy/pasted another essay. Watch out for such easy-to-avoid mistakes!
  • Get to Know Your School Counselor - Remember that Yale pays a great deal of attention to your class rank compared to other students in your high school. Your relative position can be explained in your counselor recommendation, so it’s all the more important that you get to know your high school counselor starting as early as the ninth or tenth grade. Your counselor can help the college understand the context of your high school, elaborate on the importance of a leadership position that you might hold, talk about your background, as well as provide greater detail on why you are a standout candidate over others.

The question of how to get into Yale cannot be answered with a specific formula that automatically gets you admitted into this competitive college. But, it’s still clear that Yale University values students who shine above others in the classroom, and bring unique extracurricular experiences that can’t be found easily. When working on your application, remember that Yale wants to know what qualities you will bring that distinguish you from other high schoolers, along with how you will utilize their resources and contribute to campus. Work hard in school, pursue leadership opportunities, and when the time comes, make the most of your personal statement and Yale supplemental essays to show why you’re a worthy candidate. It’s not easy, but not impossible. Good luck!

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