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How to Get Into Yale: 4 Expert Admissions Tips


Yale is one of the most competitive schools on the planet to get into. If you're wondering how to make your application stand out from the crowd, you're in the right place.

In this article, we'll go over everything you need to know about how to get into Yale, including how hard it really is to get into Yale, what Yale is looking for in its students, what test scores and grades you need, and how to ace your Yale application essays.


How Hard Is It to Get Into Yale?

Yale is extremely selective: it accepts less than 5.3% of applicants every year. This means that fewer than seven out of every 100 students get into Yale.

In order to be competitive as an applicant, you'll need to have near-perfect grades, excellent test scores, and standout essays.


What Is Yale Looking for in Applicants?

Yale wrote an entire essay on what it looks for in its students. While the post doesn't go into many specifics, it does offer some helpful nuggets of wisdom regarding what the admissions committee considers when evaluating applications:

  • Academic ability: Yale wants its students to be top-of-the-line academically. The school puts a lot of emphasis on your transcript, so you'll need to achieve great grades consistently. Your teachers will also speak to your academic ability—your letters of recommendation should show that you're hardworking and academically curious.
  • Who you are outside of school: You're required to write many different essays for Yale. Use your essays as an opportunity to paint a vivid portrait of yourself—one that goes beyond your academic performance. Highlight your interests and portray yourself as a real person, not just a collection of numbers.
  • What you'll do with Yale's resources: Yale wants students who will take advantage of its many resources. Your application should demonstrate that you're ready to take on challenges and that you grab opportunities when you see them. Yale isn't looking for complacency—it's looking for students who will take advantage of every moment on their campus.
  • Amazing recommendations: While your transcripts give quantitative information about your academic ability, your letters of recommendation give qualitative insight. Yale will rely on your teachers' letters to really highlight who you are as a student. Teachers often write about things that a simple "A" on a line can't convey, such as your wit or your sense of humor when responding to different challenges.




Can You Apply to Yale Early?

Yale offers both regular application and early action deadlines. The early action deadline is November 1 and you'll get your admission decision by mid-December.

Yale's early action program is single-choice early action, which means you can only apply early to one school (Yale), but your acceptance is not binding.

Statistically speaking, you do have a slightly higher chance of getting into Yale with the early action plan than if you applied regular decision, but the difference isn't significant. If Yale isn't your first choice, we don't recommend applying early action since you won't be able to apply early anywhere else.


Yale Application Deadlines and Requirements

You can apply to Yale using the Common Application, the Coalition Application, or the QuestBridge Application.

You must write at least two essays and answer short-answer questions, regardless of which application system you use. For one essay, you'll get to choose between two prompts. You'll also need to submit three recommendation letters. And if you're an engineering student, you'll have to submit an additional essay! 

Yale normally requires that you send either SAT or ACT scores (optional for students applying for Fall 2023 admission); the Essay section on both exams is optional. Finally, you do not need to have completed any specific coursework in high school to apply.

Here's a full list of Yale application requirements:

  • The Coalition App with Yale-specific questions and media upload, or Common App with Yale-specific questions, or QuestBridge Application with Yale QuestBridge questionnaire
  • $80 application fee or fee waiver
  • Two teacher recommendations
  • One counselor recommendation
  • School report (including transcript)
  • Standardized test results (SAT or ACT)*
  • Mid-year report (due when first semester/term senior grades are available at your school)

*Like many schools, Yale has gone test-optional for this application year. Find out what other schools aren't requiring SAT/ACT scores due to COVID-19 here.




What GPA Do I Need to Get Into Yale?

You need to be at the top of your class, GPA-wise, to be accepted to Yale.

The average GPA of admitted applicants to Yale is 4.14. This means you'll need basically straight A's in order to even be competitive with other applicants. In fact, 94% of admitted students graduated in the top 10% of their class.

You'll have to take AP and/or IB classes as well, both to boost your GPA and to show that you're capable of handling college-level coursework with ease.


What Test Scores Do I Need to Get Into Yale?

This should come as no surprise, but you'll need extremely high test scores to be considered seriously as a Yale applicant.

The average SAT composite score of admitted applicants at Yale is 1505 (which rounds up to 1510). This breaks down to a 745-755 on the Math section and a 750-760 on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section. In other words, you'll need basically a perfect score to be considered.

Yale requires you to send in all your SAT/ACT scores, but the admissions committee is able to look at a student's highest officially reported score on each section of the SAT/ACT.

If you don't have a 1510+ on the SAT yet, you need to seriously consider retaking the test to get as close to that score as possible. Make a plan, commit to studying, and work hard.

The average ACT score of admitted applicants at Yale is 34—that's slightly less competitive than the average SAT scores. That being said, 34 is still high and if you have lower than a 32 on the ACT, you should consider retaking the exam.

Note: Because of COVID-19, Yale has gone test-optional for students applying during the 2021-2022 admissions cycle. As we explain in more detail in our article on schools not requiring the SAT/ACT due to COVID-19, this is likely only a temporary change for highly selective schools like Yale. If you already have a high SAT/ACT score (as defined above), then you should go ahead and submit it; however, if not, you will need to weigh whether trying to take (or retake) the SAT or ACT is worth the health risk and cost.


Yale Application Essays

Yale requires all of its applicants to answer three specific essay questions, plus the well-known "Why Yale?" essay. 

The first prompt you’ll be asked to respond to is about your academic interests and goals:

Students at Yale have time to explore their academic interests before committing to one or more major fields of study. Many students either modify their original academic direction or change their minds entirely. As of this moment, what academic areas seem to fit your interests or goals most comfortably? Please indicate up to three from the list provided.


The second prompt is similar to the first, but asks you to talk about what excites you:

Tell us about a topic or idea that excites you and is related to one or more academic areas you selected above. Why are you drawn to it? (200 words or fewer)


Finally, the third prompt you’ll be asked to respond to is the “Why Yale?” essay question. In 125 words or less, you’ll respond to the following question:

What is it about Yale that has led you to apply?


Applicants using Coalition or Common App will also need to answer the following four short answer questions in no more than 200 characters (about 35 words):

  • What inspires you?
  • You are teaching a new Yale course. What is it called?
  • 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? What would you ask them to discuss?
  • What is something about you that is not included anywhere else in your application?


Finally, Yale also requires Coalition and Common applicants to answer one of the following two essays in 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?
  • 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.


For both the first required prompt and the one you end up choosing of the two above, you'll have to write an essay that's less than 250 words.

If you're submitting the Coalition Application, you'll need to include an audio, video, image, or document file you've created and that's meaningful to you and related in some way to your essay (on the prompt you chose above). You'll then write one sentence to show how this relates to your essay.

All applicants will complete four short-answer questions, while those applying through either the Common App or Coalition App specifically will answer four additional short-answer questions.

The seven short-answer questions for the Yale essays range in limit from 35 to 125 words. These essays are specific to the Yale application—you won't find them on any other college or university's application.

Although short, these Yale supplement essays are just as important as the longer essays.

If you want to learn more about how to answer the Yale essays and short-answer questions, check out our in-depth article.




4 Essential Tips for Getting Into Yale

It's hard to get into Yale but not impossible. You need to put serious work into your application to be considered. Here are four tips you can follow as you're working on your Yale application.


#1: Work Hard at Getting Great Grades

You need great grades to be accepted at Yale.

If you're still in your freshman, sophomore, or junior year of high school, plan to take some advanced classes to raise your GPA. You'll need to be disciplined and work hard to compete with other Yale applicants.


#2: Ace the SAT/ACT

You need high standardized test scores in order to be admitted to Yale. You should plan to take the SAT/ACT at least two to three times. While you should take your chosen test as many times as is necessary to meet (or beat) the average SAT/ACT scores of admitted applicants, know that it may start to look a bit suspicious if you take a test six or more times!

For tips on how to get a great SAT/ACT score, read our free guides:


#3: Write Standout Essays

The key to writing great Yale essays is to write about something that matters to you and to write in your own voice. Yale is very clear on this point: your essays will be most effective if you sound like yourself and write about something you truly care about.

Fortunately, you have plenty of opportunities to flesh out your personality with your Yale essays. You should put equal weight on all the short answer questions, even the ones with a 35-word limit. If you're worried that one of your essays isn't strong enough, seek out a second opinion. If you're not sure where to start on your application essay, be sure to check out our complete guide to the essay writing process


#4: Secure Awesome Recommendations

Yale puts a lot of emphasis on the recommendations you get from teachers, so make sure you get good ones! Pick teachers who really know you—ones that you've worked with closely and have seen your best work. You want letters from teachers who can speak to your strengths beyond academic ability.


Recap: How to Get Into Yale

Getting into Yale is extremely difficult, but it's certainly not impossible! Your application will need to be incredibly polished in order to stand a chance.

Make sure your academic record is nearly perfect, your recommendations stellar, and your essays engaging, and you'll definitely be competitive with other applicants.


What's Next?

Worried about how to write an amazing college essay? Read our step-by-step guide on how to write a college admission essay, and take a look at our analysis of 100+ real college essays to get a feel for what colleges want—and don't want—to read in an application.

If you're getting ready to apply to college, it's time to learn what colleges expect from you. This article will help you better target your application to suit what each school you apply to is looking for.

If you're planning to take the SAT/ACT as part of your application, try out some of our famous test prep guides on topics such as how to get a perfect SAT score and 14 last-minute ACT tips.



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Hayley Milliman
About the Author

Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.

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