A student wrote me an email a few weeks ago. In it, he asked, “Do you think I should submit a version of the essay about economics that I wrote for Penn as the Yale essay?”
I’m in favor of streamlining the essays for your college applications. Often there are ways to adapt an essay or theme that you have crafted for another college with few additional edits. This time however, I sent a single sentence reply. “Is your interest in economics the most important thing you have to share with Yale?”
We didn’t need to discuss this further. Of course he had plenty of other experiences to draw upon in crafting an essay. Yale’s request, to “reflect on something you would like us to know about you that we might not learn from the rest of your application or on something you would like to say more about,” is completely open-ended. It also encourages applicants to think creatively and cohesively about their entire Yale application. Don’t repeat themes or topics you have already written about in the Common Application.
Aspiring engineers applying to Yale will also need to write an additional essay outlining their interest and experiences related to engineering.
My favorite part of the Yale application is the short answer section. In addition to identifying the roots of your interest in Yale, there are five questions, each requiring an answer of less than 150 characters. It’s a chance to be creative, concise, and human. “What would you do with a free weekend next month,” and “What is the best piece of advice you have received while in high school,” Yale wants to know. With these, often the first answer that comes to mind is a version of the correct one, but I encourage you to be certain that you have shared your own personality in your answers. As with all of your applications, this is the only chance you have to be understood, in your own words, by the admission committee. Take your time, be judicious, draft carefully, and edit thoroughly.
By Whitney Bruce, who has worked in college admissions since 1996. She has served as a Senior Assistant Director of Admissions (Washington U), Application Reader (University of Michigan), Assistant Director of College Counseling (private prep school in St. Louis), and an independent college counselor. She is happy to advise you as you apply to college.