Many years ago, former Yale President Kingman Brewster wrote that selecting future Yale students was a combination of looking for those who would make the most of the extraordinary resources assembled here, those with a zest to stretch the limits of their talents, and those with an outstanding public motivation – in other words, applicants with a concern for something larger than themselves. He said, “We have to make the hunchy judgment as to whether or not with Yale’s help the candidate is likely to be a leader in whatever he* ends up doing.” Our goals remain the same today. Decade after decade, Yalies have set out to make our world better. We are looking for students we can help to become the leaders of their generation in whatever they wish to pursue.
*When President Brewster wrote this in 1967, Yale College was a single-gender institution. In 1969, he oversaw the college’s transition to coeducation. Today, Yale is proudly inclusive of students of all backgrounds and identities. Visit belong.yale.edu to learn more.
As we carefully and respectfully review every application, two questions guide our admissions team: “Who is likely to make the most of Yale’s resources?” and “Who will contribute most significantly to the Yale community?”
We estimate that a large majority of the students who apply for admission to Yale are qualified to do the work here. The great majority of students who are admitted stand out from the rest because a lot of little things, when added up, tip the scale in their favor. So, what matters most in your application? Ultimately, everything matters. The good news in that is that when so many little things figure into an admissions decision, it is fruitless to worry too much about any one of them.
Our advice is to pursue what you love and tell us about that. Be yourself. Ask the teachers who really know you to recommend you. Apply and relax.
Here are a few tips that we hope will help you present yourself as the outstanding person you no doubt are. We wish you all the best and look forward to reading your application.
Yale is above all an academic institution. This means academic strength is our first consideration in evaluating any candidate. The single most important document in your application is your high school transcript, which tells us a great deal about your academic drive and performance over time. We look for students who have consistently taken a broad range of challenging courses in high school and have done well. Your high school teachers can provide extremely helpful information in their evaluations. Not only do they discuss your performance in their particular class or classes, but often they write about such things as your intellectual curiosity, energy, relationships with classmates, and impact on the classroom environment. Obviously, it is important to ask for recommendations from teachers who know you well.
No Score Cutoffs
Admissions officers consider standardized test scores and transcripts together. Officers evaluate scores within each student’s unique context and use them to augment other academic indicators in the application. Strong scores are not a substitute for a weak transcript, and weaker scores do not disqualify an applicant.
There are no score cutoffs for standardized tests, and successful candidates present a range of scores. The middle 80% of ACT and SAT scores (the 10th to the 90th percentiles) of first-year students who enrolled in fall 2020 were as follows:
- ACT Composite: 31-36
- SAT-Evidence-Based Reading and Writing: 680-790
- SAT-Math: 690-800
These ranges provide a snapshot of the class, not a floor for competitiveness in Yale’s selection process. It is not the case that scores below a certain threshold “hurt” an application while those above “help” it. Scores below these ranges can still be helpful to establish an applicant’s academic preparation for Yale coursework.
Bringing Your Application to Life
Just as teacher recommendations are meant to give the admissions committee a glimpse of what you are like in the classroom, the counselor recommendation may provide us with a picture of your place in your high school class and in the larger school community. Your counselor can help us assess the degree of difficulty of your program, tell us what a particular leadership position means at your school, provide information on your background, and, in general, provide the sort of textured comments about you that would help your application come to life.
The Yale application tries to get at the personal side of the applicant through the use of several short essays whose scope is broad enough to accommodate most writers. We encourage you to take the writing of the essays seriously and to write openly and honestly about activities, interests, or experiences that have been meaningful to you. What is most important is that you write in your own voice. If an essay doesn’t sound like the person who writes it, it cannot serve very well as a personal statement. As with every document in the application, we read essays very carefully and try to get a full sense of the human being behind them.
We convene a committee of experienced admissions officers, Yale faculty, and Yale deans to select applicants who have shown exceptional engagement, ability, and promise.
Transcripts, test scores, essays, and recommendations help paint a picture not only of a student’s accomplishments to date but also of the ways in which an applicant has taken advantage of available opportunities. For example, does your school offer AP courses, an International Baccalaureate program, neither, or both? We only expect you to take advantage of such courses if your high school provides them.
Again, we are looking for students who will make the most of Yale and the most of their talents. Knowing how you’ve engaged in the resources and opportunities at your high school gives us an expectation of how you might engage the resources at Yale if admitted.
Describing the process of selecting future Yale students, President Kingman Brewster once wrote, “I am inclined to believe that the person who gives every ounce to do something superbly has an advantage over the person whose capacities may be great but who seems to have no desire to stretch them to their limit.” Within the context of each applicant’s life and circumstances, we look for that desire and ability to stretch one’s limits.