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How to Get into Yale University: The Complete Admissions Guide

Yale University is a world-class academic institution located in New Haven, Connecticut.

Even students who do not aspire to become a Bulldog are aware of its academic reputation: Yale is one of the more difficult Ivy League schools to gain admission to.

As we have stressed in other guides to admission, the key is to a winning application is to look at the intended Ivy League as its own, unique establishment, because each school values a different set of characteristics.

In this guide, we will use data and information provided by Yale to explore and inform you of what characteristics the school values in its prospective students.

This includes grades, test scores, and extracurriculars, as well as the intrinsic qualities that make up you.

By the end, we hope to give you an overall, strategic plan on how to organize your high school career and application to best fit what Yale is looking for.

How difficult is it to get into Yale?

In the 2018 application cycle, Yale University received a total of 35,308 applications.

  • Of those, 2,224 were admitted.
  • This puts Yale’s admission rate at about 6.3 percent and makes it one of the top three most difficult Ivy Leagues to get into.
  • For comparison, Harvard’s admission rate for that year was 4.59 percent, while Princeton’s and Columbia’s were 5.5 percent.

Looking at data for the past five years, Yale’s admission rate has fluctuated between 6.3 percent and 6.9 percent, but never dipped lower than that.

If this trend continues, we can expect the rate to remain consistent for the next application cycle.

What are the grades and scores necessary for Yale?

Unlike some of the other Ivy League schools, Yale does not release data about the middle 50 percent of ACT and SAT test scores for its admitted students.

It shares test score ranges and the percent of students admitted who scored in those ranges, which can also give you a lot of information regarding your application.

Here is the data from the class of 2022:

Act score range

Percentage of admitted students who scored in this range

32 – 36

87%

27 – 31

11.4%

Below 27

1.6%

SAT score range

Percentage of admitted students who scored in this range (EBRW)Percentage of admitted students who scored in this range (Math)

760 – 800

44.4%

64.6%

700 – 750

41.7%

23.8%

600 – 690

13.3%

10.8%

Below 6000.6%

0.8%

Analyzing this data, these are the primary takeaway points:

  1. You should aim to get a 32 or higher in the ACT.
  2. You should aim to get at least a 700 for the SAT’s EBRW Section.
  3. You should aim to get at least a 760 for the SAT’s Math Section.

The above points are important because the percentage of admitted students who scored below these numbers is significantly lower than those who achieved these numbers or above.

Finally, 95% of admitted students for the class of 2022 (who reported their class rank) were in the top 10% of their high school class, so it is also essential that you get a competitive high school GPA to have the best chances at getting into Yale.

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What should you do in high school?

When considering the intrinsic, not-so-obvious-as-test-scores qualities of a potential Yalie, we scoured Yale’s mission statement, admission process, and advice columns to gain a sense of what these were.

We found several repeating themes.

1. Yale puts values academic strength.

There is no way around this one – the school literally states that academic strength is its first consideration in its application process page.

This quality is actually distinct from achieving competitive GPAs and standardized test scores because, while these are prerequisites to Yale, they are not what will ultimately get you in.

Rather, you must demonstrate your academic strength in unstandardized ways and in a multitude of contexts. There are many ways you can approach this.

Below are some examples.

  • You can join a club (Debate, Model UN, Math Olympiads, Choir, etc.), participate in that club consistently, and become extremely competent in it.
  • Document and demonstrate your successes through winning competitions and achieving rankings
  • Develop a close relationship with at least two teachers in subjects you are passionate about. This way they will be able to attest to your abilities, curiosities, and academic excellence, as well as characterize you personably to admission officers.
  • Pursue interests that are not “required” and take place outside of school. For example, do you love being in nature and studying birds? Then join the local Audubon Society and talk about your fascination and knowledge of birds in the essays.

2. Yale admits students who they know will utilize the immeasurable amount of resources available at its campus.

At Yale, you will be able to delve deep into whatever it is you wish to pursue.

Well-renowned professors, academics, technology, connections, and perhaps even peers will be available to you to reach out to – as long as you have the desire and self-initiative.

What this means is that you must show Yale that you have used your time in high school well.

Show Yale…

  • …how far you have gone to learn about a single topic.
  • …there is no inconvenience great enough to stop you from acquiring knowledge or skill.
  • …you will reach out and find the resources even when they are not readily available to you. This means you are accessing resources in your greater community (neighborhood, school district, city, etc.).

3. Impact

Yale looks for future leaders – people who will contribute to and create ripples at their institutions and then the world at large.

  • Unlike some schools that favor specialization in a few topics, Yale favors those who “stand out from the rest because of a lot of little things, when added up, tip the scale in their favor.”

No one thing matters the most or carries the most weight in your application.

Rather, you may pursue a multitude of interests, passions, and curiosities as long as you pursue them with purpose and show that you have made an impact in those areas – created a lasting impression.

General Advice for the Yale Supplemental Essays

Yale accepts three types of application, which they review with no discrimination or biases.

There is the Common Application, Coalition Application, as well as the Questbridge Application.

  • The Coalition Application is made available to schools that have shown that they give adequate to low-income and underrepresented students who are admitted. Therefore, if you or your family will need aid in order to pay for your education, the Coalition app is a good choice, since it can act as an automatic filter for schools based on financial aid.
  • If you would like to streamline your application process and financial is not a huge concern for you, then use the Common application, because more colleges and universities accept this application than the Coalition.
  • One other thing to consider is that the Yale-specific questions differ for the Common and Coalition application. Applicants using the Common App are asked to choose two short essay questions (from three) to respond to, while applicants using the Coalition App may choose to submit a digital file of their creation along with a short reflection, in lieu of responding to the two essay prompts.
  • The Questbridge Application is for highly motivated high school students who have excelled academically despite being disadvantaged. It is an application that allows you to talk about your unique circumstances or background. Specifically, it is for students who come from families earning less than $65,000 a year (for a family of four with minimal assets).

Regardless of which application you choose to submit, the Yale-specific essay and short answer sections emphasize similar themes we have already touched upon: academic interests and inspirations, why Yale is a good fit for your learning, how would you utilize Yale’s resources, and what you would be able to contribute to your peers and community.

Strategically choose your prompts and the focuses of your responses so that you present a well-rounded, robust, and genuine individual who meets all four of Yale’s standards for its students.

A Checklist for the Yale Application

  • Coalition Application, Common Application, or Questbridge Application (Due by January 2 for Regular Decision)
  • Application Fee or Fee Waiver
  • ­­­­SAT or ACT test scores and SAT Subject Tests (Scores should be submitted to Yale by early March for Regular Decision)
  • School Report (including transcript) Submit by Jan 2)
  • One counselor Letter of Recommendation (Submit by Jan 2)
  • Letters of recommendation from two teachers (Submit by Jan 2)
  • Mid-Year Report (Due when first semester/term senior grades are available at your school)
  • Financial Aid Application (Due March 15 for Regular Decision)

Conclusion: How to Get Into Yale

Yale is among the most difficult schools to get into. We hope this guide illuminated your journey to applying to Yale!

Remember to show your uniqueness, intellectual vitality, and passion for a few fields in your application. Yale wants to know that you’d take advantage of its resources as a student.

Of course, don’t forget to write essays that tell a story of your journey as a student. Let us know if you need any help.

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