The Ivy Coach Daily

August 28, 2022

An Overview of the 2022-2023 Yale University Essay Prompts

Yale University has released its essays for applicants to the Class of 2027 (photo credit: Namkota).

In addition to the Common Application’s Personal Statement and optional Covid-19 essay, Yale University asks its applicants to the Class of 2027 to answer a series of short answers, a hallmark of the application to the Ivy League university, as well as two essay prompts. The short answers are each no more than 200 characters or 35 words or fewer. The two longer essays are 125 words or fewer and 400 words or fewer. For the 400-word essay, applicants have an option of answering one of two prompts. So what exactly are the Yale essay prompts for the Class of 2027? While they are similar to the 2021-2022 Yale essay prompts, there are indeed some subtle and not so subtle differences. Without further ado, here are this year’s Yale essay prompts:

Yale Essay Requirements at a Glance

1 x 125-word essay, 4 x 35-word or 200 character short takes, and 1 x 400-word essay (selected from one of two prompts).

Yale Essay PromptWord CountQuick Tips
What is it about Yale that has led you to apply?125 words or fewerIt’s all about the specifics. No class names (admissions officers know you can just swap classes in and out from other Why College essays). No professor names (professors leave and it comes across as name dropping). Students should showcase genuine specifics that highlight how they’re going to contribute their singular hook to Yale’s unique programs, institutes, culture, traditions, activities, and much more.

What inspires you?
No more than 200 characters (approximately 35 words or fewer)Don’t be afraid to write about something small, drawn from your own life. Don’t choose something from the news that we all know, like Malala Yousafzai’s remarkable work to empower young women. And don’t pick something from Yale as you’ll risk coming across as a sycophant.
You are teaching a new Yale course. What’s it called?No more than 200 characters (approximately 35 words or fewer)Make the title of the class pithy and be sure to include an explanation — albeit a short one. The course should relate to your most significant academic interest.
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 and what would you ask them to discuss?No more than 200 characters (approximately 35 words or fewer)No Martin Luther King, Jr. No Mahatma Gandhi. Pick someone who has made a real difference in the world — aligned with your specific area of focus — but whose name may not be all that recognizable. Teach admissions officers something and make sure the topic you’re speaking about isn’t a “duh.” Climate change is bad. We know!

What is something about you that is not included anywhere else in your application?No more than 200 characters (approximately 35 words or fewer)It’s ok to include something a little unusual here — even unrelated to your hook. Just make sure it remains intellectual. No baking pies. You’re not applying to culinary school. That would be a wasted opportunity.
Yale carries out its mission “through the free exchange of ideas in an ethical, interdependent, and diverse community.” Reflect on a time when you exchanged ideas about an important issue with someone holding an opposing view. How did the experience lead you either to change your opinion or to sharpen your reasons for holding onto it?400 words or fewerTell a story here that showcases that you have an opinion about a matter, but you’re also malleable to change. Demonstrate that you can hear someone else’s view and even change your own view, realizing that you may be wrong about certain things. It will make you more likable. And don’t ever be afraid to tackle a controversial topic so long as you argue respectfully and display empathy.
Reflect on a time when you have worked to enhance a community to which you feel connected. Why have these efforts been meaningful to you? You may define community however you like.400 words or fewerChoose a small topic related to your hook. Don’t sell. Don’t write how you did this, that, this, and that. Tell one small story of a contribution you made to your community. And maybe your contribution didn’t lead to enduring change. That’s ok! It will only make you more likable if you failed. No need to brag. It’s about the efforts you made to create meaningful change in an interesting area that matters most here. While serving food at homeless shelters is a wonderful act for humanity, it doesn’t showcase originality. Be an original change-maker.

What is something about you that is not included anywhere else in your application?No more than 200 characters (approximately 35 words or fewer)It’s ok to include something a little unusual here — even unrelated to your hook. Just make sure it remains intellectual. No baking pies. You’re not applying to culinary school. That would be a wasted opportunity.Yale carries out its mission “through the free exchange of ideas in an ethical, interdependent, and diverse community.” Reflect on a time when you exchanged ideas about an important issue with someone holding an opposing view. How did the experience lead you either to change your opinion or to sharpen your reasons for holding onto it?400 words or fewerTell a story here that showcases that you have an opinion about a matter, but you’re also malleable to change. Demonstrate that you can hear someone else’s view and even change your own view, realizing that you may be wrong about certain things. It will make you more likable. And don’t ever be afraid to tackle a controversial topic so long as you argue respectfully and display empathy.Reflect on a time when you have worked to enhance a community to which you feel connected. Why have these efforts been meaningful to you? You may define community however you like.400 words or fewerChoose a small topic related to your hook. Don’t sell. Don’t write how you did this, that, this, and that. Tell one small story of a contribution you made to your community. And maybe your contribution didn’t lead to enduring change. That’s ok! It will only make you more likable if you failed. No need to brag. It’s about the efforts you made to create meaningful change in an interesting area that matters most here. While serving food at homeless shelters is a wonderful act for humanity, it doesn’t showcase originality. Be an original change-maker.

Why Yale?

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

The first Yale essay is a classic Why College essay. So many highly selective universities ask a version of why students wish to attend their school not because admissions officers lack creativity. Rather, it’s because they want to know that students truly wish to attend the school — and for the right reasons. After all, a school’s yield, the percentage of admitted students who choose to matriculate, matters to admissions officers. They care about Demonstrated Interest — even when they tell you they don’t measure it. If they didn’t measure Demonstrated Interest, applicants should ask themselves, why would they ask this question?

A time-tested way to measure if a student really intends to enroll is whether students include general statements that can apply to just about any highly selective university (e.g., a great liberal arts education, a picturesque campus, engaged students and professors) or specifics tailored just to that institution (and how the student is going to contribute their singular hook to the school’s programs, institutes, culture, traditions, activities, and so much more). Thinking of name-dropping a professor or rattling off a few class names? Think again. These are not genuine specifics and should thus be avoided.

Short Takes

For Yale’s short takes, it’s all about being a wordsmith. If an applicant’s answer is 25 words, the applicant hasn’t used all of the real estate available to make their case. And it’s about being pithy and showcasing intellectual curiosity at every turn.

What inspires you? (no more than 200 characters or approximately 35 words or fewer)

Each answer, including for longer essays, should be a puzzle piece. Each puzzle piece should thus complement the other puzzle pieces. If a student is an astrophysicist in one essay, they shouldn’t suddenly be writing about anthropology in another short answer or longer essay. And they shouldn’t be writing on a cliché college essay topic like sports, music, grandparents, or travel. If a student is an astrophysicist, let’s learn something about the night’s sky.

You are teaching a new Yale course. What’s it called? (no more than 200 characters or approximately 35 words or fewer)

This is an opportunity to create the class of your dreams — and make sure its name is fun. College courses, unlike high school courses that don’t get all that much more creative than “AP U.S. History,” often have enthralling names, like: “Beatniks, Hot Rods, and the Feminine Mystique: Sex and Gender in the 1950s” or “The Search for King Arthur.” But be sure not to just list the name of a course you’ve created. Use the remaining word count to explain why this course should be taught. And make sure that the selection of the course fits with your demonstrated hook, or through-line, in your application.

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 and what would you ask them to discuss? (no more than 200 characters or approximately 35 words or fewer)

It’s important here not to choose a person so many other applicants select. Yes, that means Martin Luther King, Jr. is out. Yes, so is Abraham Lincoln. And George Washington. Dare instead to choose someone admissions officers may not know off the top of their heads but whose contributions to our world reverberate today. Think of it as a chance to teach us about this person. But don’t just introduce the person. Create a dialogue with that person on an interesting topic, one apropos for our time.

What is something about you that is not included anywhere else in your application? (no more than 200 characters or approximately 35 words or fewer)

Here’s an applicant’s chance to be fun and share something that’s maybe even a little lighter. But even when an applicant goes into lighter territory, it remains important to nonetheless showcase intellectual curiosity. As an example, if an applicant is writing about a hobby not showcased in their activities section, make sure it’s an intellectual one. Don’t just write about collecting historical documents. Why collect them? What’s one that’s particularly enthralling? Or maybe an applicant wrote a great essay for another school that didn’t quite fit the prompts for Yale but could be used, in short-form, for this Yale short take.

Yale Longer Essay

Applicants must respond to one of the following two prompts (400 words or fewer):

Yale carries out its mission “through the free exchange of ideas in an ethical, interdependent, and diverse community.” Reflect on a time when you exchanged ideas about an important issue with someone holding an opposing view. How did the experience lead you either to change your opinion or to sharpen your reasons for holding onto it?

An applicant can write about a variety of issues — even ones some may consider controversial — but there are three keys to acing this essay prompt: (1) the topic must be intellectual; (2) the applicant must demonstrate their conviction as, for admissions officers, it’s a window into the world of how a student will voice their opinion in classes and in conversations with peers and professors on campus; and (3) the applicant must demonstrate that they’re malleable, open to hearing the opinions of others and willing to alter their views. This third point is so often not touched upon by applicants when writing this essay and that is a missed opportunity to say the least. After all, the purpose of attending an elite university and receiving a liberal arts education with students from all over the world is not to surround oneself with like-minded peers (never use that term in a college essay!). Rather, it’s to surround oneself with people whose perspectives will surely differ from one’s own and expand one’s worldview. This is an applicant’s chance to showcase that their beliefs, while important, are not fixed for life. They’re open to change.

Reflect on a time when you have worked to enhance a community to which you feel connected. Why have these efforts been meaningful to you? You may define community however you like.

So many applicants choose to write on a hackneyed topic for this prompt — like starting a non-profit seemingly for the purpose of getting into a top college or working in a homeless shelter or tutoring underprivileged students. Try very hard to avoid writing about such topics. Community service should not be a separate checkbox for applicants. Rather, the way students should serve their communities is through their hook. If they’re a historian, maybe they’re curating their town’s history for an exhibit for their local library. If they’re an astronomer, maybe they’re leading tours at the nearby observatory. This is another key puzzle piece for applicants to showcase their hook — never in a redundant way but always in a complementary way.

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with Your Yale Essays

If you need help with your applications, including your Yale supplemental essays, reach out to Ivy Coach today to learn about our college counseling services. Don’t come to us after the essays are all already written as we’ll likely just want to scrap them as they are unlikely on the topics we’d want them to focus on in your storytelling. Instead, come to us before they’re written so we can brainstorm paragraph by paragraph direction and then revise these essays sentence by sentence.

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