How to Write the Yale Supplement 2018-2019

It’s no secret that Yale University is one of the most prestigious schools in the nation. With a six percent acceptance rate, this Ivy Leaguer also rounded out last year as one of the world’s most exclusive. The supplement is a hefty one but is a pretty good indication of the academically demanding environment of the school. If you can’t handle the supplement, don’t bother applying. We would also like to take a moment to welcome Yale to the party who, two weeks after everyone else, has finally published their supplement.

The Surprise ‘Academic Interests’ Question

There is a trick to the supplement. Once applicants have filled out the Common App portion, another question about academic interests will suddenly appear on the drop-down menu. Your response should be about your major. Do your research on the professors and academic offerings at Yale. Hone in on a very specific academic path and say that’s what you’d like to major in. This should be an extension of something you’ve demonstrated an interest in already throughout high school. Even if you’re really ready to try something new, don’t talk about that in your application. Play the game and then do what most other kids do and just figure out what you actually want to study when you get there. Also, do not, under any circumstances, say you are ‘undecided.’ Be specific and committal.

What Is It About Yale that has led you to apply? (125 words or fewer) 

Your answer here needs to be HIGHLY specific. Yale wants someone who got excellent grades and is highly involved in very specific extra-curricular. You’re applying because you and Yale are one in the same. All colleges ask this question, but in the case of the Yale app, you have to hyper-emphasize where you and Yale overlap in the Venn Diagram. No BS. No superfluous material. No mention of the beautiful campus, the prestige, or the Fight Song, or the fact that Rory Gilmore went there and you and Rory Gilmore both like coffee.

Also, if you are creative and want to play with form, this is your chance. You have nothing to lose. Ball out.

Please respond in no more than 200 characters (approximately 35 words), to each of the following questions: 

For the below questions, we’d like for you to consider an analogy. Think of Thanksgiving. Depending on your tradition, you probably have a variety of food items on your dinner table. You might have yams, turkey, green beans, and stuffing, or perhaps you have a Tofurkey, kale, and gluten-free pie. What you probably don’t have is a table that includes turkey, green beans, stuffing, ramen, and chicken parm.  

What we do with our Ivy League applicants is write down 15-20 different things that would be on their application, were it a Thanksgiving table. These are little things: plays soccer, excels in Biology, aced the Bio SAT II, has lived in 6 different apartments on the same block, eats dark chocolate before bed every night. There are tangibles and even intangible aspects of who you are, including your relationship to your family, your interests, and your beliefs.

So, list out 15-20 aspects of yourself. We will use these traits to answer the below questions. One note: They shouldn’t overlap. You should have enough to talk about something new (though complimentary) in each question.

What inspires you? 

Pick something quirky for this question.

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?

Pick something off the table that hasn’t been listed elsewhere in your application. If you are Editor in Chief of your school’s paper, use another dimension of yourself here. They already know from your application that you’re into journalism, so don’t put Maggie Haberman or Ira Glass here. The question you write is of equal importance to the figure. Don’t try to sound smart!! They’ll smell it from a mile away. Ask something you’d genuinely want to know, and that interest will shine through.

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

Your answer should be something completely different from your answer to #2. Again, if you are a journalist, or you wrote ‘Maggie Haberman’ above, don’t say ‘a course on journalism.’ This needs to introduce a new aspect to you.

Most first-year Yale students live in suites of four to six people. What do you hope to add to your suitemates' experience? What do you hope they will add to yours?

Insert empathy and humanity here. What do you hope your roommates will add to your experience? It’s important to note that almost every college has said last year’s class was the most diverse in the history of time. Keep in mind that the people living with you will most likely have had completely different life experiences from you and that’s a good thing.

Please choose two of the following topics and respond to each in 250 words or fewer. 

Now that the word count has increased, we’re going to pick some more things from our table and used them to write stories.

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

We’re starting to sound like a broken record. This one should be something you haven’t discussed elsewhere in your application, but it should also be a logical extension of what you have already outlined. So, if you are the EIC at your school’s paper, don’t talk about Neurobiology. By the way, this should not be about your major. You have a major question down below.

Reflect on your engagement with a community to which you belong. How do you feel you have contributed to this community?

If a story doesn’t come to mind, don’t answer this question.

We would encourage you to focus on small-c community. Think about dinner conversations with your family, or experiences you’ve had around your neighborhood. You should also come at this question hyper-creatively and define community in your own terms. Don’t try to write what you think they’re looking for and definitely don’t write about something community service-related.

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 might help you address it. 

Kids tend to mess this one up the most, primarily because they try to go too big. The focal point of your response should be an issue you’ve actually engaged with, not one you hope to tackle in the future.

We learn a lot about schools from the questions they ask in their applications. Everyone is asking a version of this question this year. Schools want involved students Share about your own life, but avoid talking about how you were some kind of savior.


Want to be competitive for the Ivy Leagues? Reach out to us here. We are great at helping students develop impressive trajectories throughout their high school careers.