written by
Laura Frustaci

Yale University Supplemental Essays Guide: 2021-2022

Essay Guides 12 min read
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Yale supplemental essays are an important part of your Yale University application. Not sure how to approach the Yale essay prompts? With tips from Ivy League graduate Laura Frustaci, CollegeAdvisor.com’s guide to the Yale supplemental essays will show you exactly how to write engaging Yale essays and maximize your chances of admission.

For more CollegeAdvisor.com resources on Yale, click here. Want help crafting your Yale supplemental essays? Create your free account or schedule a free consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.


Yale Supplemental Essays Guide Quick Facts:

  • Yale has an acceptance rate of 6%—U.S. News ranks Yale as a highly competitive school.
  • We recommend answering all Yale supplemental essays comprehensively and thoughtfully.

Does Yale require supplemental essays?

Yes. In addition to the Common App personal essay, there are several Yale supplemental essay questions. Some of these Yale essay prompts are longer than others, while the shortest Yale essays only require 35 words!

Need tips on writing your Common App essay? Check out our blog article.

How many supplemental essays does Yale have?

There are a total of eight Yale supplementals: two Yale essays of 250 words maximum, two Yale supplements of 125 words maximum, and four Yale essay prompts called “Short Takes,” which are just 200 characters maximum (about 35 words). That’s around the length of a tweet!

What are Yale’s supplemental essays?

The Yale supplemental essays 2021-2022 are on the Common App site, but you can also visit the main Yale website for a full list of application requirements.

Let’s start with the first type of Yale supplemental essay— the short essay.

Short Essays:

Yale Supplemental Essays—Short Essay Question 1 (Required):

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 max.)

How do I approach a Yale supplemental essay?

At 250 words, the “short” Yale essays are the longest you’ll write for the Yale supplements. Due to the limited space on Yale essay prompts, you should brainstorm specifically what to cover beforehand.

With Yale supplemental essays like this, try listing out 3-5 topics that really excite you, and then think about specific anecdotes for each topic. What got you interested in this activity? How do you pursue it? Whom do you talk about it with or engage in it with? Once you have topics and detailed anecdotes written down, choose the one which you feel you can discuss the most comprehensively and passionately for this Yale supplemental essay.

This Yale supplemental essay specifically references Yale’s “extensive course offerings” and Yale’s “vibrant conversations beyond the classroom.” Rather than just writing about how much you like to read, for example, try offering a specific aspect of reading that you love. Maybe it’s absurdist modern fiction, maybe it’s the novella, maybe it’s the translation of a text from one language to another. Whatever topic you decide to write about for this essay, try to get very specific about what exactly you like about it.

Unlike the longer Yale supplemental essays, shorter Yale essay prompts require you to pay strict attention to your descriptive language. Don’t use more words than necessary to describe the topic. Rather, you want to focus on how much the topic means to you, and especially why.

Yale Essay Draft Key Questions:

  • Does your draft clearly communicate the topic which excites you?
  • Do you articulate why your chosen activity matters to you, and how it has influenced your growth and identity?
  • Does your supplement provide information not present in the rest of your application?

Yale Supplemental Essays—Short Essay Question 2 (Required):

Respond to one of the following prompts:
2A. Reflect on a community to which you feel connected. Why is it meaningful to you? You may define community however you like.
2B. Reflect on something that has given you great satisfaction. Why has it been important to you? (250 words max.)

This is the only of the Yale essay prompts where you have options. If you’re struggling to decide which of these Yale supplements to answer, try this writing exercise. Set a timer for 10 minutes and write as much as you can about the first prompt. Then do the same for the other. Which answer came more naturally to you? Go with that one!

For 2A, this Yale supplemental essay specifies that you can define community in any way. You could write about your family, a club at school that has been meaningful to you, or perhaps your coworkers at a part-time job. Anywhere you feel bonded with those surrounding you is a community.

Once you’ve defined your community, you’ll want to spend the majority of this Yale supplemental essay talking about why this community is important and how it has contributed to your understanding of the world around you. Perhaps this community changed your mind about a personal belief you once had. Describe specifically how you have been impacted by this community if you respond to this Yale supplemental essay.

For 2B, you should first define what satisfaction means to you. Then, describe why your chosen event, relationship, action, or accomplishment was so impactful to you. Maybe it’s a relationship with someone who is very important to you or a possession that represents something you value about yourself. Maybe you organized a bake sale that raised money for a charity that was important to you.

Like most universities, Yale is looking to build a creative, diverse community on its campus. Yale supplemental essays, and particularly this one, should reflect an individual who understands the meaning of community and how to function successfully in one. Success can look like many different things; just make sure you don’t spend too much time with descriptive language. Describe the why instead of just the what.

Yale Essay Draft Key Questions:

  • Do you focus on the why and not just the what?
  • In 2A, do you clearly define the community you are writing about?
  • Are your details concrete in 2B about what satisfied you and how?
  • Does your response teach the reader something new about you?

Yale Supplemental Essays—Short Answer Question 1: Two Parts (Required):

Part One:
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.
Part Two:
Why do these areas appeal to you? (125 words max.)

These Yale essay prompts comprise a joint question. First, you’ll want to read the list linked in Part One of this Yale supplemental essay question thoroughly and write down any academic areas that interest you. Then, eliminate until you have three areas remaining.

It would be best to not choose just one, since Yale essays place a specific emphasis on the school’s interdisciplinary nature. Instead, choose two or three areas and discuss them together. Explore their similarities and differences and consider what about each of them interests you.

This is an opportunity to discuss your academic goals at Yale. This Yale supplemental essay gives you space to indicate why Yale is the best option for you and how you will contribute to Yale student academic life. Try not to regurgitate the question back to the Admissions Officers. They already know that Yale encourages students to explore multiple intellectual pursuits, so try to avoid sentences like “Yale’s academic flexibility is so beneficial because it allows students to explore many different subjects; the three subjects I would be most interested in are…” Instead, cut the first half of the sentence and dive right into your chosen subjects.

Yale Essay Draft Key Questions:

  • Is equal time dedicated to each subject you selected?
  • Do you explain why each subject sparks your interest?
  • Do you address the potential overlap between subjects?
  • Does your response supplement and/or complicate the other aspects of your application, with special regard to academic preferences?

Does Yale have a “Why Yale” essay?

Yes. This is the classic supplemental essay question, and Yale supplements are no exception—all colleges want to know what makes them special to you. Yale supplemental essays are your chance to showcase any research you have done about Yale. This Yale essay prompt in particular is the perfect space to lay out your motivations for wanting to attend Yale.

Check out the following section for more details on the “Why Yale” supplemental essay.

Yale Supplemental Essays—Short Answer Question 2 (Required):

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

Your responses to the Yale supplemental essays should both introduce you to the admissions officer, AND create a strong case for why you should attend Yale. For this question, avoid over-generalizing with statements like “Yale’s campus is beautiful” or “I just feel like I belong there.” Instead, offer concrete examples of why you belong there. Maybe you’re a literature fiend and you’re dying to perform research in Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Maybe there’s a specific Professor you really want to learn from.

This is the space to name-drop courses, clubs, professors, and research opportunities only available at Yale. Colleges can tell when you swap out their name for another University and submit the same “Why here?” answer. Your application will be stronger if your answer to this Yale supplemental essay could not be swapped interchangeably with any other schools.

Yale Essay Draft Tips:

  • Do you prove that you’ve done research on the school?
  • Do you explain what unique opportunities Yale would provide you that you could not get anywhere else?
  • Does your draft provide specific details about what you hope to do while on Yale’s campus?

Short Takes:

Yale Supplemental Essays—Short Takes Question 1 (Required):

What inspires you? (200 characters or fewer; approximately 35 words)

These Yale essays are called “Short Takes” for a reason—the college is pushing you to distill your thinking into just a few short sentences.

For this question, you’ll want to give a quick description of what it is that inspires you and then move quickly into why it inspires you or how. That information will tell Admissions Officers a lot more about you than a detailed depiction of just the “what” of this question.

With these Yale supplements, be a ruthless editor. Save your flowery, descriptive language for the other Yale supplemental essays. Any time you see words that could be condensed, edit them down. This might take longer than expected, and it will be especially helpful to have another set of eyes on these shorter Yale supplements. When you’re tweeting, for example, you only say the most important part of your idea because of the character limit. That doesn’t mean your Tweet won’t go viral! It’s the same idea here. Sometimes shorter is better!

Yale Supplemental Essays—Short Takes Question 2 (Required):

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? (200 characters max; approximately 35 words)

Here is an opportunity for you to talk about someone you really look up to, who has perhaps influenced your academic and career path or inspired you to pursue an extracurricular you really love. Again, you’ll want to mention the name of the person in the first short sentence and then move immediately into what you would have them talk about. This can be a query you’ve long pondered, or perhaps you could ask for an expansion on previous research they’ve done or elaboration on a speech they’ve made. This is another good opportunity to show off your expert research skills.

Yale Supplemental Essays—Short Takes Question 3 (Required):

You are teaching a new Yale course. What is it called? (200 characters max.; approximately 35 words)

This is a chance to mention a subject (or two) that you really care about, ideally something not already offered by the Yale syllabus. Remember, Yale supplemental essays are your chance to showcase the research that you’ve done on the school. Pitching a Yale course that is identical or too similar to a current course is a glaring error. It might be helpful to look at some of their course offerings to get an idea of what types of classes Yale already offers. Or, you could combine two of your passions into one niche subject.

Yale Supplemental Essays—Short Takes Question 4 (Required):

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? (200 characters max.; approximately 35 words)

Here is where Yale emphasizes their desire for interdisciplinary academia. To answer this question, you might think about two disparate pieces of your identity or two subjects you love that are at odds with each other. You can also consider a contradiction you face in an extracurricular club or at an after-school job. This question is a chance to be more creative and abstract—while some of the Yale essays are concrete in what they ask of you, this one is more open-ended. Something to remember for this essay—Yale supplemental essays should tell a story about you as a candidate. Be careful about introducing completely new information that isn’t explored or explained elsewhere in the application.

Yale Supplemental Essays—Concluding Thoughts

Completing the Yale essay prompts can seem daunting, but don’t let that discourage you from applying. The Yale supplements are a great opportunity to demonstrate who you are to Admissions Officers. These Yale essays can boost your application if you have a lower than average GPA or SAT score.

Use this guide as a step-by-step aid when approaching the Yale supplemental essays 2021-2022, and start earlier than you think you should. Especially with the shortest Yale essay prompts; you might think it will be easy to write 35 words in 35 minutes, but sometimes the shortest prompts can be the most challenging. Don’t be afraid to ask for revisions from someone; it’s helpful to have another set of eyes checking your Yale essay prompts for grammatical errors, tone, and clarity. Good luck!


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This 2021-2022 essay guide for Yale University was written by Laura Frustaci, Harvard ‘21. For more CollegeAdvisor.com resources on Yale, click here. Want help crafting your Yale supplemental essays? Create your free account or schedule a free consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.

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