Frequently Asked Questions - Applying to Yale College

The Common Application requires that your essay be within the stated word limits in order for you to submit your application. Your Common Application essay must be between 250-650 words, and your Yale Writing Supplement essay must be 500 words or less. If your essays do not adhere to these word limits, you will not be able to submit your application. You must submit your essays electronically through the Common Application. Remember, concise and simple writing is often the best writing, so adhering to the word limits and the space provided will work to your best interest.

The honest answer is there is no answer to that question. So many factors come into play through the selection process that outcomes for most candidates in the applicant pool are impossible to predict. What we can do is tell you what we will look for in your application. See “What Yale Looks For” for an overview.

The best essays are thoughtful and reflective, conveying a specific idea related to your personal or intellectual life. We understand that in a mere 500 words you cannot possibly tell us everything about yourself. Please don’t try! The essay is not meant to be a comprehensive autobiography. It’s an opportunity for you to share with us something meaningful about yourself and your experiences. Take some time to think about what you want us to know about you. Consider the essay’s brevity to be a challenge: it’s often more difficult to say what you mean with economy.

The essay question is open-ended, and some students say the hardest part is knowing where to start. We suggest that you focus on specifics — don’t waste words on generalities. Choose a topic that expresses who you are and allows you to share with us something important to you. Don’t feel the need to come up with a “gimmick” or an original topic. Gimmicks usually fail, and many successful candidates write about fairly common topics, such as music, sports, community service projects, and family relationships.

Take the time to carefully review your essays before submitting them. We expect that your grammar and spelling will be correct.

Additional information can be found in our Advice to Candidates section.

Although the Common Application limits the number of extracurriculars you may report to ten items, this is generally more than enough space for a majority of competitive applicants to communicate their most important and relevant extracurriculars. Please note that it is not necessary to report all of the activities you have ever participated in. You should only report your most recent activities, generally from grades 9-12, and you should focus on activities that you have spent the most time on, those that have meant the most to you personally, and those that are most relevant to your college plans and goals. Generally speaking, applicants should not submit additional resumes, except in the case of professional employment experience in the performing arts (e.g. in dance, music, film, theater).

Yale has a longstanding policy that a student may apply to the College no more than three times. This includes application to the freshman class and/or transfer admissions program.

There is no need to submit supplementary material. The vast majority of our students are admitted on the basis of required documents alone. For a very small number of exceptionally talented artists, musicians, and researchers, supplementary material may be useful to communicate information that cannot be conveyed adequately in the rest of the application. See the guidelines about Supplementary Materials for more information.

Not at all. Unlike some schools, we do not track your communications with us or your visits to Yale. It is not necessary to be in regular contact with the admissions office. Admissions officers are happy to answer your questions, but excessive emails or phone calls can be very distracting.

Ask your guidance counselor to address any special circumstances in his or her letter. You may write about particular challenges in your personal statement, but it is always a good idea to have your counselor explain the situation.

The same application is used for all candidates, and it asks you to list your country or countries of citizenship. We are interested in your citizenship chiefly for reporting purposes, but it has no bearing on your chances of admission.

Absolutely not. An applicant’s ability to pay for a Yale education is not considered during the admissions process. This policy is called “need-blind admission.” Yale is strongly committed to equality of opportunity, and need-blind admission ensures that the College will be open to students of personal and academic promise from all segments of society and all parts of the world. An application for financial aid has no effect on the admissions committee’s decision. This policy applies to all candidates, regardless of their citizenship.

No. Students may only begin a course of study at Yale in the fall semester.

If you feel the need to submit extra information, you may ask one additional recommender to write on your behalf. Please do not solicit this additional letter unless you feel it will add substantially to your application. The writer should know you well personally or have mentored you closely in some capacity.  For example, if you have engaged in advanced scientific research, you should consider asking your research mentor to write a letter of recommendation for you. Please ask that person to include the following at the top of their letter: your full, legal name as it appears in your application, the name and location of your high school, and your date of birth. The letter should be labeled "Supplementary" to avoid confusion. See the guidelines about Supplementary Materials.

Your recommenders must be able to write about your recent work in rigorous academic subjects. We strongly encourage you to submit recommendations from 11th and 12th grade teachers. Yale has an extremely competitive applicant pool, so it’s probably unwise to submit a recommendation from a favorite 9th grade teacher or from a coach or chorus director unless he or she has also taught you recently in an academic course.

Yale doesn’t require that these recommendations come from teachers of particular subjects. It’s a good idea, however, to have the two letters come from teachers of two different subjects. Choose teachers who know you well and can give us a sense of your academic and personal strengths.

The Application Checklist page, which you should check frequently, will let you review the documents that we’ve received and determine which we still need. Admissions officers won’t be able to review your application fully unless we have all the required documents, so it’s absolutely crucial to send these items in by the deadline.

Very! Email is the main way we communicate with you throughout the admissions season. This includes, among other things, the initial acknowledgment that we received your application, information about our Application Checklist page, whether you need to supply us with missing documents to complete your application, and online admissions decisions. Please be sure that the email address you supply is functional and check it often.

If you have taken part in external examinations such as the AMC, AIME, or academic Olympiads, please self-report your scores either in the Activities section of your Common Application or in the Additional Information section (found within the Writing section of the Common Application).