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How to Write the Yale Supplemental Essay

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

While the 2017-2018 common application essays give admissions committees the opportunity to learn more about you, Yale University’s supplemental essay question is specific with one goal in mind—to assess how you will fit into their academic and social communities. Ivy-league institutions have rigorous courses and world- renowned professors. They also offer students membership in unique, extracurricular endeavors. With a history of traditions that span over three centuries, it’s no surprise that Yale would request prospects to write about community contribution and achievement. Your essay must be high-quality, succinct (250 words max) and relevant to Yale’s values and community of scholars.

While you might be tempted to simply pen descriptions of service or group projects you’ve participated in outside the classroom, this prompt is all about action. What activities, operations, or efforts have you contributed to make a group or team better? You’ll need to answer this in a way that grabs the attention of the committee and simultaneously expresses what you will bring to Yale’s next class of scholars.

Here’s a quick list of questions you should ask yourself as you begin writing for Yale’s supplemental essay prompt.


1) What groups, teams or organizations do you value most?

We are all members of different groups. Whether a blended family, political party or jazz ensemble, each group holds meaning in our lives. Which groups are most important to you? Write down what these affiliations represent. For example, a successful applicant wrote about his intern class at the National Institute of Health and how the group represented progress and possibility for scientific innovation. If you can conceptualize what these relationships symbolize, you’ll be closer to sharing your unique story with the committee.


2) What are the goals?

Now that you’ve established which group-memberships are most significant in your life, reflect on your team goals. Does the team seek to raise awareness about a certain cause or issue? Does the group travel to build playgrounds for local families or collect recyclables? If it’s a club membership, religious group or athletic team, revisit the mission statements, goals and vision for the organizations. This will help you as you begin to detail your involvement and inspire a specific focus for your essay.


3) What did you do?

It’s easy to become so engulfed in activities with groups we enjoy that we miss opportunities to celebrate our achievements. Write the top five things you have contributed to each group. This could include relationship building, a positive attitude, fostering team unity and even promoting personal growth. Here’s your chance to bring your activities list to life! An accepted Ivy-league applicant centered her essay around her art and communication skills—designing flyers for humane society fundraisers and coordinating regional events. She told her story of servant leadership, with a group she called life-long friends. Evaluate how you have contributed your time and invested your talents in each group. Be clear and specific about how these actions were used for the greater good.


Now that you’ve done some much-needed soul searching, it’s time to research, research and research! Take a tour of Yale University (whether virtual or in-person), talk to student ambassadors and alumni, frequent the website and social media pages. Learn more about Yale’s community of research scholars, programs and age-old traditions. How can you connect your past contributions to future involvement at Yale? Answer this question the right way and you’ll not only have a creative edge, but directly show how you will make a perfect addition to the institution.

These supplemental essays are key aspects of competitive college applications. If you’d like expert guidance on crafting strong supplemental essay responses, visit our services page to learn more.