How to Approach the Yale Supplemental Essays 2021-2022

Padya Paramita

How to Approach the Yale Supplemental Essays 2021-2022

As you embark on the road to writing your Yale supplemental essays 2021-2022, it’s important to think about why you’ve chosen to apply, beyond the obvious fact that Yale is consistently one of the highest-ranked schools in the country. Is it the chance to combine your two favorite subjects through the “Mathematics & Philosophy” major that resonates with you, or is it the once-in-a-lifetime shot at studying reefs and rainforests for a semester in Australia that you can’t stop thinking about? Whatever it is about the home of the Bulldogs that calls your name, there’s no better way to let admissions officers know than through your supplemental essays. 

Yale highly values knowing what motivates your academic pursuits, and the supplemental essays provide the opportunity to show the school that you're curious, ambitious, and intellectually driven. To frame your aspirations in a way that highlights you as an impressive applicant, you need to take advantage of the Yale supplemental essays 2021-2022. To guide you through them, I’ve outlined each of the prompts, how best to approach them, and additional tips to make sure that you write outstanding essays that separate you from the particularly tough Yale applicant pool. 

Short Answer Questions

Applicants submitting the Coalition Application, Common Application, or QuestBridge Application will respond to the following short answer 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.

This question is your chance to show your focus directly. So, emphasize areas of choice that make sense alongside other parts of your application. The three majors you choose should definitely be connected. Within your major, try to be as specific as possible. Don’t just automatically say “biology.” Look through options that match your aspirations and consider options such as “Biology (Ecology & Evolutionary),” “History of Science, Medicine, and Public Health,” and “Biomedical Engineering.” Don’t choose a topic just because you think it sounds impressive. Admissions officers aren’t looking for any specific answers beyond what legitimately reflects your interests and goals.  

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

Now we get to why these areas appeal to you. Again, there are no specific boxes that your reasons need to check. 100 words is a very restricted limit, so don’t run around in circles. If you picked three areas in your first answer, you’ll have around 33 words to explain each choice of major. 

Don’t talk in general terms such as “studying Environmental Engineering can help scientists understand the world’s issues better.” The question asks why the areas appeal to you. If you’ve picked three areas that seem random at first, such as English, Economics, and Gender Studies, explain why the overlap is more than what meets the eye and how they all connect in helping you get where you want. You could use a short anecdote to drive your point home. Focus on what an ideal undergraduate academic experience looks like for you, and how Yale’s programs are suited for you. 

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

Now we get to the classic “Why Yale” question in the Yale supplemental essays 2021-2022. When reading your responses, Yale wants to know two things: “Who is likely to make the most of Yale’s resources?” and “Who will contribute most significantly to the Yale community?” The key to answering this question is to keep it simple and specific while making sure your knowledge of the school comes through. You want to be presented as a one-of-a-kind candidate. Since the word limit is tight, you must pinpoint one or two things that makes Yale special – not in general, but in connection to your interests.

Are you excited by the chance to explore your love for film and media through courses such as FILM 233: Children and Schools in Global Cinema and FILM 320: Close Analysis of Film, while becoming an active member of the Yale Film Society? Or are you more drawn by the chance to enrich your advocacy for global health care through the Health & Community: Globalization, Culture, and Care comparative study abroad program across five different countries?

Keep your scope narrowed to features that can only be found at Yale so the reader knows you’ve done your research and are applying for the school itself, and not just the Ivy League name. 

Applicants submitting the Coalition Application or Common Application will also respond to the following short answer questions, in 35 words or fewer:

  • 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?

    Based on your answers to these four very short questions, admissions officers hope to gauge how you think and who you are. There’s no need to spend hours coming up with the “perfect” response because it’s all about painting an authentic picture of your personality. For any of these responses, you should avoid the most basic or common answers such as inviting Bill Gates or Barack Obama to be the guest speaker or wishing to teach a course called “19th Century Literature.” Your goal is to stand out and 19th Century Literature courses already exist in every university. They won’t make you memorable!

    “What inspires you?” is an extremely broad question. With 35 words in your hand, you cannot get too elaborate. Don’t mention random disconnected things that are all over the place. It is easiest to stick to one answer here – for example, a piece of media such as a song or movie, or a goal such as achieving success in the future.

    For the second prompt, you should spend more time thinking about your question rather than about the guest’s identity. This is a good chance to show admissions officers where your interests lie, what you’re curious about and whether you have the ability to ask a good question. 

    In answering the third question, think about something more niche within your area of interest. You aren’t locked within traditional boundaries of academics – you could teach a social media course or poster-making class!

    For the fourth question, remember that Yale wants students who are both strong and personable. The reader wants to know whether you’re a candidate who is a friendly and considerate human being. Plus, nobody wants a selfish suitemate. Admissions officers want to know how you would engage with others and what you would share with your community. 


    Applicants submitting the Coalition Application or Common Application will respond to the prompt below in 250 words or fewer:

    • 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?

    Note that this question from the longer Yale supplemental essays 2021-2022 has asked for a topic that’s “intellectually exciting” as opposed to academically interesting. So you can extend beyond subjects that you’d study at school and talk about pretty much any idea that causes you to sit up and engage in lively discussions.

    What topics do you enjoy thinking about in school or in your extracurriculars? It could be related to sports, theatre, a mathematical equation. A good way to narrow down your options might be to ask yourself, “What can I give a five-minute presentation on right now?” 

    In answering the why part of the question, think about how the topic is relevant to you. Do you have a personal connection with the concept? Is there a historical or cultural relevance in the subject that’s beyond what meets the eye? Show the reader your perspective on why everyone should pay attention.

    Respond to ONE of the following prompts.

    • Reflect on your engagement with a community to which you belong. How has this engagement affected you?

    When answering this prompt in the Yale supplemental essays 2021-2022, think about a group or place that has impacted you – it could be your ethnic or religious community or it could be a club at school, or an organization outside of school that matters to you. Think about the role you’ve played in the community, how it has shaped your perspective, and how you’d be different without it.

    The heart of this prompt lies in clarifying the role you have played in this community. Were there situations where you had to lead the community? Have there been any changes that you’ve successfully implemented? Since the prompt doesn’t specify whether your engagement with the community should be positive or negative, you can take a nuanced route and talk about both – factors that you love about the community, and issues that you didn’t like and worked to change. 

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

    If you write about a local or global topic broadly, with no obvious relation to you, admissions officers will see through you. The more specific and unique your selection, the more the essay will stand out to admissions officers.

    Finally, you should tie your answer back to Yale in answering the second half of the question. Is there a course where you hope to learn more on the topic? Is there a student organization where you can meet like-minded peers to partake in ongoing discussions around the subject? Choose this prompt if there's something you can talk about for a while, that doesn't overlap with your personal statement. 

      Engineering Essay

      Applicants submitting the Coalition Application or Common Application who select one of Yale’s engineering majors will also respond to the prompt below in 300 words or fewer:

      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. 

      This question has three parts, so start by understanding exactly what it is looking for:

      • What has led to your interest in studying engineering
      • What engineering experiences have motivated you 
      • Why have you chosen Yale specifically to pursue this major

      This leaves you only about 100 words to dedicate to each sub-topic. Ideally, the three parts would have a connection between one another. For example, if you wish to concentrate in Mechanical Engineering based on a childhood interest taking toy cars apart and your experiences have revolved around participation in mechanics competitions or interning at local labs, talk about how Yale can help you fuel your skills and enthusiasm around the subject. Don’t say you’re interested in Biomedical Engineering and then talk about how you wish to study Computer Engineering at Yale with no connection back to the biomedical aspect. That won’t make any sense.

      The core of the essay lies in knowing why Yale is the place for you to hone your engineering skills. There are many other undergraduate engineering programs in the country – don’t just write an essay that could apply to Duke’s or Princeton’s engineering school as well. Do your research on Yale and let the reader know you’ve done so. Are you excited to engage with the wider New Haven community through programs such as Yale Funbotics and introduce robotics to underrepresented youth? Are you keen on Yale because of courses such as MENG 472, which would allow you to conduct your own independent project under the mentorship of the Mechanical Engineering faculty? 

      Don’t go off-base and talk about the wider importance of engineering in the world or what is great about Yale in general. The engineering portion of the Yale supplemental essays 2021-2022 should demonstrate your capabilities as a prospective engineer and demonstrate the fact that you’ve actually done your homework when it comes to understanding the exceptional undergraduate offerings at Yale School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. 

      Additional Tips for Writing the Yale Supplemental Essays 2021-2022

      As you brainstorm and jot down ideas to compose your Yale supplemental essays 2021-2022, keep the following tips in mind:

      • Be succinct but confident – None of the Yale supplemental essays 2021-2022 have a significantly high word limit. The word limit for the longer essay questions is only 250 words. So in a matter of 100-200 words, you have to confidently answer questions by convincingly telling a story, providing a clear picture of yourself, and outlining your goals in relation to the programs at Yale. Don’t beat around the bush. Get straight to the point and go through multiple drafts while actively reflecting on how Yale is the right school for you.
      • Don’t misrepresent yourself – For questions that ask about your academic interests or ideas that you find exciting, it might be tempting to try and guess what Yale wants to hear. Definitely avoid that, as it’s neither fair to you nor your reader. Yes, there comes a lot of pressure with applying to a school as selective as Yale, but if you try too hard, you’re going to put a lot of effort into an application that is dishonest. You want the admissions officers to evaluate you based on your real interests.
      • Make sure to be specific – For a few prompts in the Yale supplemental essays 2021-2022, such as the role of the “Why Yale?” question, you might be misguided to list things straight from the Yale website to prove that you have done your research. Except, the website exists for everybody and if admissions officers wanted to read it, they’d pull it up on their web browser. Don’t just copy and paste cool features – tell the school something about yourself that they don’t know in connection to how you’d benefit from 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?

      The best way to stand out from your peers in the Yale supplemental essays 2021-2022 is to emphasize qualities and experiences that are unique to you. If admissions officers come away from reading your responses knowing you’re making a well-informed decision, they’re more likely to go to bat for you. Ultimately, make sure your responses have highlighted the perspective you’ll bring and why Yale’s resources can help you achieve your goals. Best of luck!


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