How to Write the Yale Supplement 2019-2020

Yale is a private research university in New Haven, Connecticut. Yale is best known as a member of the Ivy League, and it routinely attracts world-renowned educators and researchers. Beyond exceptional academics, Yale meets 100% of demonstrated financial need for their 5,964 students without any loans. The acceptance rate is 6.22%.

Before we go into the supplement, we have a bit of a bone to pick with the office of admissions at Yale. Strap in.

The vast majority of colleges who use the Common App, which means that the vast majority of colleges in America, release their supplements on August 1st. A small group of stragglers release their supplements in the following days. Three, four, typically five days late at most. Not Yale. Just as Yale strives to excel as an educational institution, they appear also to strive to excel at inconveniencing students. This year, Yale did not publish their supplement until after August 19th. Over two weeks late.

Why is this more than just an inconvenience? Well, we believe that students should have the opportunity to work on their applications before school starts back up. College applications are stressful.

But many high school students in Florida, California, and other areas of the United States have already started their fall semester. So, by publishing their supplement so absurdly late, Yale has stripped huge numbers of students of the opportunity to work ahead. We think this is pretty inconsiderate and uncool, and we’d like it if Yale didn’t repeat the practice — especially since they didn’t even have the decency to change their supplement!  

We’re done ranting about Yale’s absurdity, so it’s time to get into the re-used questions, and it’s about time. There are a lot of them.

The first question is tucked into the “Academics” section. First, you need to select three areas of academic interest. After selecting them, you will need to answer the question below. 

Why do these areas appeal to you? (up to approximately 100 words).

The word limit on this question is “approximate,” so we advise students to keep their answer to 90-110 words. This question doesn’t require you to say how you plan on pursuing the interests at Yale (that comes later), so you don’t need to fit that in. You only need to answer the question. Ideally, your interests are diverse but intertwined. For example, you may be interested in history, English, and African studies. For this answer, you could illustrate how these three subjects support one other academically and how you would grow intellectually by studying them in parallel.

After the question above, there are the “Additional Questions.” These are the official Yale supplement prompts.

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

You didn’t go into ‘why Yale’ in the first question. The reason why is because you still had this one coming up. For this question, you need to do two things: 1) focus on academics, and 2) be specific. Talking about how great the history department is isn’t specific enough. You need to name 1-2 professors you would like to work with, a class or two that you’d like to take, and a program inside or outside of the traditional classroom that you feel would further you in your studies. Do not waste any of your 125 words talking about a lovely tour guide or beautiful trees. You’re applying to college.

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

What inspires you? 

Keep it simple and avoid anything too closely related to your academic interests. Continuing the history trend for this post, you shouldn’t talk about how powerful women of history inspire you if you said earlier that you want to major in history. That is too on-the-nose. Think small and allow yourself to be abstract. For us, it’s bioluminescence. If an animal can glow on the outside, metaphorically glowing on the inside should be a piece of cake. (That was cheesy, we know, but the illustration stands.)

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?

We love this question! While it does allow you to ‘invite’ dead people, we like to keep answers here in the world of the living. Think about someone related to your area of interest, but who has a potentially broad appeal. Bonus points to you if the person you pick is a C-list celebrity or below. Neil deGrasse Tyson is an awesome and inspiring human, but he probably wouldn’t be a novel suggestion. For the question, keep it to one — because they ask for one.

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

Another question that we love! Have fun here and try to stay at least tangentially related to one or more of your areas of interest. Try writing it as if it existed, but make sure it doesn’t before you start. And yes, they already have classes on K-Pop, fake news, and the ethics of forgiveness.

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?

Yale for the win again! They have almost made up for being so annoying…but not quite. This supplement is a place to show that you are not a robot. You are, in fact, a teenager who eats, breathes, and, presumably, sleeps ion a room with your suite-mates. We love micro-stories about sharing pieces of your culture, preferably through food.

After these very short answer questions come two longer essays:

Think about an idea or topic that has been intellectually exciting for you. Why are you drawn to it? (250 words)

This is a very fun question but, before you start, look back at your answer for the very first question in this supplement. For this longer essay, you cannot repeat anything in that first answer. It must be original content, and we’d love for it to be strange, niche, and authentic. Don’t start Googling ‘intellectually exciting topics’ or pulling complicated concepts out of the physics textbook you haven’t cracked in a year. Yale isn’t nearly as interested in what you say excited you than they are in how you write about it. If you are genuinely excited and can convey that through the supplement, they will be excited about you.

Please respond to either one of the following prompts in 250 words or fewer. 

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

If you are considering this prompt, remember that your community does not need to be flashy or crazy or overtly cool for it to be meaningful. Like the prompt above, they are less interested in the what than they are in the why. The readers are looking to gain clarity around who you are, and where you come from is a huge part of that. Start by brainstorming all of the communities you are part of. There is your town, your school, your religious community if you are part of one, any teams you are on, clubs you lead, or activities you are highly committed to (such a community theater — it has community in the name!). We advise students to select one to focus on that is both small and that you are an active member of, not just floating through. They want to see you in action, so focus on how you contribute to the health of a community you care about.

B. 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.

This is another question that we really love, but you must look smaller rather than larger. By focusing on a local issue, you can actually hit the key points of Prompt A (your role in a community) while acing this question. What is an issue in a community you are a part of? It could be economic, social, medical, or legal. If you’re in a city, it may be gentrification. If you’re in the country, it may be rising property taxes and the decline in small farms. For this question, the two things that you absolutely must do are 1) show the complexity of the problem and 2) link your desire to problem solve to what Yale can offer you. For example, if you were to go the rural farming route, you could talk about how rising local taxes are forcing farmers to give up their land, but they are also raising more money for struggling schools, which could help address issues of underemployment. Basically, that it isn’t as simple as just cutting a tax. Then, you could say that you’d like to take the “Agrarian Societies” anthropology course and the course “Inequality in America,” as well as to combine your anthropology studies with economics courses geared towards developing economies and that may be able to shed light on small-scale developing economies in the United States. We’d definitely be interested in pursuing it, and they probably would be too.



If you’re trying to get into the Ivy League, it helps to have an extra set of eyes. Send us an email; we’d love to take a look.