It’s easy to fall in love with Yale University. Maybe you stopped in New Haven with your parents to escape the traffic on I-95 in Connecticut, and from the moment you saw that Gothic architecture, you knew this was it. Later you read about Yale’s residential colleges (which made it seem just like Hogwarts!), and Yale became your number one choice.
At the same time, you know the acceptance rate at Yale is very low. Is your SAT or ACT score high enough to get into Yale? What about your high school GPA? The admissions process at Ivy League schools seems hard to understand. How do schools like Yale choose who to accept? What can you do to improve your chances? Raise your test scores? Do more extracurriculars? Apply early action?
Below, we’ve condensed everything we know about the Yale University admissions process. Read on to find out if you’re a competitive applicant and tips to lift your chances of going from applicant to admitted student.
You’re right about one thing: Yale is a highly selective school. In 2018, the overall acceptance rate at Yale was only 5.9%, meaning admissions officers rejected 94 out of every 100 students who applied. Moreover, as we’ve written elsewhere, that overall rate includes Yale’s early action acceptance rate, which is higher than the Yale’s regular decision rate. That means that in reality, the regular admission rate at Yale is closer to 4%.
In addition, the college admissions process gets more competitive every year, as more domestic and international students alike apply. That means you need to really stand out. These admissions statistics are a little scary, but don’t fear. Once you know what Yale is looking for, you can better tailor your application to meet their expectations.
Let’s start with your grade point average (GPA). Yale admissions officers will calculate based on your high school transcript, which you’ll submit with your overall application.
Last year, the reported average high school GPA of an admitted student at Yale was a 4.19 out of 4.0, what we call a “weighted” GPA. However, unweighted GPAs are not very useful, because high schools weight GPAs differently. In truth, you need close to a 4.0 unweighted GPA to get into Yale. That means nearly straight As in every class.
Yale, like the rest of the Ivy League and most other colleges, requires either the SAT or ACT for admission. They have no preference between them, so choose the test that’s a better fit for you, thoroughly prepare for it, and plan to take it multiple times.
The average SAT and ACT composite scores for admitted students at Yale varies, as you can see in the table below. However, keep in mind that unless you fall into certain privileged categories (athletes, legacies, donors, etc.), your SAT/ACT score should be closer to the 75th percentile than the 25th percentile to ensure you’re maximizing your chances of admission.
|Test/Section||25th Percentile||50th Percentile (Mean)||75th Percentile|
Note that Yale University “superscores” the SAT, not the ACT. That means they will mix and match section scores from different days for the SAT, but only look at composite ACT scores.
Finally, Yale recommends that applicants submit two SAT II, or subject test, scores. While these tests are not explicitly required by Yale, you should submit your scores on your SAT subject tests if they’re in the 90th percentile or higher.
Use percentiles, not scores, to make this decision, because the scores are scaled based on who takes the test that year. For instance, a 750 on the English Language and Literature test is seen as a much higher score than a 750 on the Math 2 SAT Subject Test.
Those are the overall academic requirements for Yale. But what about everything else? In addition to evaluating your academics, the admissions officers at Yale want to hear about all the other parts of your life. In addition to reporting your grades and SAT scores, there are a few more key aspects of the Yale admissions process:
• SAT and two SAT Subject Test Scores, or ACT scores
• Two teacher recommendations and one counselor letter
• A high school transcript
• A mid-year report
• An $80 application fee or fee waiver
• A completed Common Application
• Yale-specific essays
First, to understand who you are as a student beyond your transcripts and test scores, Yale will ask for letters of recommendation from two of your teachers as well as your school counselor. When considering who to ask, don’t focus only on the teachers who gave you the best grades, but the people who know you well and will write great, personal letters.
Second, in addition to your transcript and his/her letter, your school counselor will submit a few additional documents:
• A school report, which your school’s demographics and its most salient features (like if there’s a limit on how many AP classes you can take)
• A mid-year report, which will update Yale on your senior year grades that might not be officially posted when you apply.
These will also help Yale contextualize your application.
Then, you’ll need to submit the Common Application (or Coalition Application). When you apply to college, you’ll get to know this online interface well; it’ll be where you go to apply not only to Yale, but to Harvard, Brown, and Princeton, too! Much of the Common Application is standard demographic and educational information. You’ll also fill out an “activities” section, where you’ll detail all your extracurricular involvement.
On top of that information, the Common Application asks for a single personal essay that will be submitted to all your schools. This essay, of 650 words or less, is your chance to tell Yale and the rest of your schools about an important moment or theme in your life. A strong Common App essay is key to a competitive application, so plan to revise it several times!
Lastly, in addition to the main essay, Yale and many other schools require additional, school-specific essays. These can change from year to year, but generally they ask about your interest in the school and/or more details about what you’ve already done. Last year, Yale University asked eight short-answer essay questions. Some of the topics were:
• What is it about Yale that has led you to apply?
• Think about an idea or topic that has been intellectually exciting for you. Why are you drawn to it?
• You are teaching a Yale course. What is it called?
Having a strong application strategy to get these essays drafted, revised, and done, as well as a coherent narrative to present in them, is essential for admission to selective schools like Yale and the rest of the Ivy League.
Finally, you’ll need to pay an $80 application fee to submit your application through these online interfaces. These fees can be waived by showing financial hardship.
As you put together all these materials, keep in mind the eventual deadlines! Everything for Yale must be submitted by:
• November 1 for Single-Choice Early Action
• January 1 for Regular Decision
Early Action decisions are released in mid-December, and Regular Decision applicants will hear online by April. Admitted students must decide by May 1 if they will attend.
The final thing to keep in mind is that Yale University is so selective, that even if you’re a competitive applicant there, it makes sense to apply to similar schools as well, like Harvard University, Princeton University, and Columbia University.
Good luck! And remember, if you need advice on any of this—how to understand your GPA, when to take the SAT or ACT, what extracurricular activities to do, how to spend your summers, or what on earth to write all those essays about—you know where to find us!
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