How to Write the Yeshiva University Essay Questions: A Stunning Guide

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New York City’s Yeshiva University is “dedicated to advancing the moral and material betterment of the Jewish community and broader society, in the service of God.” With four campuses across the city, students have a wide range of options while pursuing both a Jewish education and a degree in liberal arts or science.

Yeshiva University has an acceptance rate of 80%.

Uniquely, the university has a direct partnership with other universities located in Israel. Students have the opportunity to start their education overseas or travel to visit the country at some point during their college career. This program speaks to an overall goal that the university has to connect with students both in and beyond the classroom.

What are the Yeshiva University Essay Requirements?

In order to apply to Yeshiva University, students will need to complete their application through YU’s online portal.

Before planning your essays, you should determine whether or not you will be applying to Yeshiva University’s Honors Program, as the requirements are different.

In this guide, we will cover both the essays for regular admission and those for admission to the Honors Program.

It’s important to understand that if you are applying to honors, you do not also need to write the admissions essays for the traditional track.

Yeshiva University General Essay Prompts

On the YU application, you will be asked to complete one of two essay choices with a word count of 750 words or less.

In comparison to other schools, this is a generous word count range and will, therefore, allow you to thoroughly share your experiences and ideas with your reader. The general application prompts are as follows:

If you could design your ideal college course, what would it be and why?

Describe one time you advocated for yourself or for somebody else. Discuss the internal conflict and/or values that drove your decision to act. What, if any, were the rewards or consequences of your actions?

Designing a College Course

If you could design your ideal college course, what would it be and why?

For this essay, it’s a good idea to brainstorm a list of potential course topics before you begin writing. This process will allow you to write down a range of ideas from “Netflix and Popcorn Binging” to “Exploring Alien Identity Through Intergalactic Poetry.”

Of course, you will need to weed out the strange, irrelevant, and weak options in order to get to your real choices. Notice that in the prompt you are asked to describe an “ideal” course.

This means that the topic must be interesting and important to you and the course itself is crafted in a way that would enhance your learning.

  • Consider choosing a topic in which you struggle but would like to overcome or one that you are passionate about but would like to dive deeper.
  • However, your ideal course doesn’t necessarily need to align with your potential major. In the essay, the admissions committee wants to learn more about you as a person.
  • You may also have a variety of interests outside of your future career choice.

If you do have an idea that is related to your potential major, describing this course could also make for a powerful essay. It would be a testament to what you have already explored when considering a career.

In this essay, try to think outside of the box.

  • Don’t list your “ideal” course as “English 101” because you believe that writing is your weakness.
  • This course already exists at almost every college in the United States. Instead, be creative!

For example:

  • Rather than writing about “English 101,” you could describe the course “Unlocking Grammar through Visual Signage.”
  • In this course, grammar (a topic that you struggle with) would be taught by analyzing real-world images of grammatically incorrect signs.

While this might seem different, you know that you learn much better through visual imagery, and this course would be both interesting and informative.

  • As a final project, you might have to go around town, take pictures of signs, and write a thorough analysis of the correct/incorrect grammatical premises utilized.

This prompt asks you to focus on both the what and why.

Therefore, follow up on the description of your course with a thoughtful reflection on why the components that you describe make up the perfect course for you.

  • In your “why” you might describe your learning style, interests, passions, life experiences, or any other relevant topic that has influenced your topic choice.
  • It could be, for example, that after reading Night in the 10th grade, you were intrigued that Elie Wiesel’s father didn’t want him to study the Talmud because he was too young.
  • You would want to mention this inspiration and resulting curiosity as one reason why your ideal course would be “Best Practices for Teaching Jewish Principles to Young Children.”

Essentially, avoid the cut and dry course catalog description.

Allow your readers to uncover information about you through this essay. Select a topic that you would enjoy and would further your learning.

Speak Up, Stand Out: What It Means to Advocate for Yourself or Others  

Describe one time you advocated for yourself or for somebody else. Discuss the internal conflict and/or values that drove your decision to act. What, if any, were the rewards or consequences of your actions?

Yeshiva University’s second prompt refers to a time when you had to advocate for yourself or for another person.

This is the type of prompt for which students either immediately have a compelling story come to mind or have a meltdown because they don’t think the question applies to them.

If you find yourself in the second category, take a breath. We are confident that this prompt applies to you even if it doesn’t appear to on first reading.

  • You should know that advocating means using your voice in an attempt to influence someone or something.
  • It doesn’t necessarily mean that you had to testify in front of Congress or break up a gang fight.

Here are some examples of advocating for yourself or for someone else:

  • Convincing your parents/teachers to have you tested for dyslexia because you knew that your difficulty in reading was unrelated to the effort put forth in class.
  • Alerting a guidance counselor that your friend was homeless and living in a car, which is why they had been missing many school days.
  • After feeling frustrated with a process at work, you considered quitting. To counteract this feeling, you talked to your boss about the issue and suggested a change that would improve the work environment.
  • Attending a protest to stand up for the rights of others (even if you are not a part of the group that is treated unfairly).

As you can see, there is a broad range of topics you could discuss in your essay.

Once you have decided on a story to tell, you should describe both your internal conflicts/values and the consequences/rewards of advocating for yourself or others.

Let’s go back to our first two examples above.

Example 1:

  • You may have had an internal conflict before advocating for yourself because you feel that there is a stigma against people with disabilities.
  • As such, you were afraid of becoming a part of that group.
  • However, you overcame that feeling and were rewarded because you identified your dyslexia and got the help you needed to succeed in school.

Example 2:

  • While you know that telling the counselor would be the right thing to do, you were worried about hurting your friend’s feelings.
  • You believe that all students have a right to be successful at school. Therefore, you wanted to help in a meaningful way.
  • Although your friend was upset with you for weeks (consequence), he was able to get free lunch and reliable transportation to school because you spoke up.

While writing your essay, use powerful diction and vivid description to enhance your story.

  • With 750 words, you have room to be a storyteller.
  • Allow your reader to get inside your head and experience your mental process before, during, and after the event you describe.
  • For most college essays, we advise against giving additional background details, but, since you have much more room in this essay, go ahead and be a little more descriptive.

It’s good practice to brainstorm ideas for both essay prompts.

Then, think about which essay would reveal more about who you are and what kind of student you would be at Yeshiva University. It is important that the admissions committee gets a sense of how you would fit in at YU by including their sense of purpose and ideals.

Applying to the Yeshiva University Honors Program: Essay Requirements

On the honors application, students are asked to write two essays, one that is argumentative and another that is personal, with a word count of 750 words or less.

Additionally, students must answer five short answer questions in 150 characters or less.

It’s important to understand which honors program you are applying for at Yeshiva University, as the prompts vary from program to program.

All honors applicants will write an argumentative essay addressing the following prompt:

Which idea or invention would you “uninvent” if you could? Explain.

Remember, this prompt is argumentative. This means you are not merely glazing over your ideas. Instead, create a structured, well-thought-out, and precise argument to support your idea.

  • First, you must decide the idea or invention that you would like to “uninvent.” In order to create a powerful argument, you should choose an idea or invention that is influential and has affected many people.
  • For example, “uninventing” shoes that can order pizza is an okay idea but will probably not make for an impressive argumentative essay. It doesn’t hold the same weight as uninventing the idea of racism or nuclear weapons.

Even if your idea seems self-explanatory, you should still argue why you would uninvent it.

  • Keep in mind that there are many strategies for creating a sound argument, including emotional and logical appeals, as well as thoughtful diction.
  • Spend less time on describing the existing idea or invention and more time framing your argument why you have made the choice to uninvent it.
  • You may choose to use specific detail, statistics, historical facts, and other pertinent information in your response.

Building further on the latter example of uninventing nuclear weapons, you could structure your argument around the ongoing tension between numerous countries due to nuclear weapons. You could then point to historical evidence of just how destructive the invention of nuclear weapons has been.

Since this is a persuasive essay, you should strive to do more than just convince the readers that nuclear weapons should be uninvented. You should provide a solution, something better that the readers can hope toward.

If word count allows, you may also include a concession in which you recognize another side to the argument. Still, counter that concession with your response as to why, despite these facts, you would still choose to uninvent the idea or invention.

Daniel Abraham Honors Program and the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program

Students applying for the S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program at Stern College for Women and the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program at Yeshiva College will also write a personal essay on the following:

What book or written work do you feel should be mandatory reading for all students during their first year at Yeshiva University? Explain.

For this essay, you should not only consider a written work that you love but one that you believe “should be mandatory reading” for first-year students. This detail is important because it asks you to take a universal approach to your essay.

After selecting a work, you must investigate what it is about this work that you believe is beneficial for an entire student body.

In your essay, articulate this idea while remaining specific. Imagine that the admissions committee might select your choice to assign to the entire class.

For example, the work might convey:

  • That there is always hope even in the darkest of times
  • Information about a critical issue affecting society today
  • Reveal how resilience and hard work are essential qualities to achieve success
  • Spiritual wisdom and guidance

For example, perhaps you believe that Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy should be mandatory reading for first-year students. You might believe that increasing the collective knowledge of mankind is something critical to innovation and progress.

Better yet, you might believe that asking the right question is harder than finding the right answer. In other words, the process is weighted more heavily than the outcome by itself. If you truly believe that these are important lessons that students should keep in mind starting their undergraduate career, then you will be able to explain your reasoning.

These are just a few of many reasons you could provide in your explanation. Unlike the other essay, this is not argumentative and therefore you should take a more personal and emotional approach.

Sy Syms Business Honors and Entrepreneurial Leadership Program

Students applying for this program will also write a personal essay on the following:

What would be your ideal career? Describe how your leadership, work, and/or internship experience would make you an ideal fit for this profession.

If this essay prompt sounds like a resume, you’re on the right track.

As an applicant to an honors business leadership program, you should describe your specific career goals and what you have already done to prove that you are a leader.

  • Think about your various leadership, work, and internship experiences.
  • Then, choose 2-3 that you believe are most reflective of why you would make a great student in this program.

While you want to avoid being pompous, don’t be hesitant to highlight your accomplishments and roles. The admissions committee can’t find out this information unless you tell them.

  • For example, don’t only write about your experience as a member of your Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) chapter if you were also the president of the group.
  • Instead, talk about your experience as both a member and a leader of your student chapter.
  • It’s not bragging to highlight your true role in the organization.

However, don’t stop at describing your experience. The true goal of this essay is to describe your ideal career and connect how your life experiences make you a good fit for that position.

  • Is your ideal career owning your own accounting firm?
  • Describe how your work interning at the county tax department gave you real-world experience.
  • Then, mention how you and your friend sponsored a free after-school tax information class to help working students file their taxes.
  • Building off of the FBLA example, maybe you started a non-profit organization leveraging the connections you built in your leadership position in the club. Maybe you collaborated with other students across the nation after having met them at the national conference.
  • These experiences could have shaped your decision on pursuing a career in business as an entrepreneur, leveraging your interpersonal skills and desire to create new things.

These experiences make you an ideal candidate because they show you have had a variety of experiences and you are willing to advocate and create programs that do not already exist (leadership).

Weaving your experience and career aspirations together make for a more convincing essay.

Honors Application Short Answer Questions

In the short answer section for the honors application, Yeshiva aims to learn more about you. Answer each of these questions in 150 characters or less:

For reference, “In” to “less” in the above section is exactly 150 characters. There will not be enough characters to be detailed. Instead, aim to be precise.

  1. Who is one person (personal, fictional or historical) who has inspired you? Why?

For this answer, consider a variety of options beyond the stereotypical answers of “Martin Luther King Jr.” and “Gandhi.” While these figures are absolutely inspiring, you will not be able to thoroughly explain a particular connection you have with these figures (that would make you stand out) with your limited character count.

If you have a historical figure in mind but do not feel comfortable concisely conveying your thoughts within the word limit, then one suggestion is to pick up a biography of the figure of interest or some form of interview.

For example, if Nikola Tesla is inspirational to you, read one of the many biographies of his work and life. At the very least, look at some of his famous quotes, “The present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine.” By gaining further insight, you will be able to solve the word limit issue.

Be sure to choose someone who has honestly inspired you and specifically explain why.

In order to get the most out of the short answer, it’s imperative that you carefully select words that hold weight by conveying specificity.

2. If you could go back in time and relay a message to yourself at the beginning of high school, what would it be?

While responding to this question, it may be better to give yourself broad advice that readers will be able to connect with and understand.

If you provide a specific example, such as “Don’t date Corey Wilkerson!” there will not be sufficient room for you to adequately explain your response. This will leave your readers confused and unsatisfied.

Instead, truly broad advice might look like “Remember to do well in school but to also remember your duty to your family.” This statement is easily understood and additional context is not necessary.

3. Name one political or social issue about which you are passionate.

Here, choose a topic that is truly important to you and not what you think the admissions officer wants to hear. After choosing an issue, imagine that you were in a face-to-face interview and asked this same question.

Would you be able to discuss this topic at length? If not, you should probably choose another issue.

4. In addition to your intended major, what is another academic field in which you are interested?

Don’t leave this question blank. Often, degree fields are competitive, so it’s better to get into a school and transfer majors later than to not get in at all.

If you have trouble coming up with another academic field, research fields that are closely related to the one you have chosen. “Another academic field” does not necessarily have to be the polar opposite of what you intend to pursue.

5. If you could travel to one place you have never before visited, where would that be? Why?

You likely have a long list of places you would like to visit. After choosing one, remember to go beyond physical beauty when describing why. There are many places in the world that are beautiful.

Instead, you want to be more thoughtful and introspective about your response.

What is it at the heart of this place that you want to experience?

Conclusion: Writing the Yeshiva University Essays

Before you submit your essays and short answer responses for Yeshiva University, it’s a good idea to have another person proofread your responses.

You should also ask them whether your responses are clear and enough context is included to understand your experiences.

Our company is here for you at any part of the college application process.

And if you’re interested in gaining an edge in college admissions essay writing, check out our college essay boot camp.