Admissions changes for would-be freshmen announced

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions is introducing new essay topics for the 2016-2017 freshman application to Yale, as well as a new technology that students can use to apply.
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Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway takes a moment on this year's Freshman Move-In day to pose with the student volunteers who helped welcome the university's newest undergraduates to campus. (Photo by Michael Marsland)

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions recently released the essay topics that will appear on the 2016-2017 freshman application to Yale. Although most of the application will remain the same, the updated topics and application options will help to shed new light on applicants’ unique experiences with the communities to which they belong, their intellectual pursuits, and their diverse passions. The new questions also echo Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway’s priorities for Yale College and reflect input from Yale’s Faculty Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid. 

Engaged citizenship and intellectual excitement

In his address to Yale’s incoming freshmen in August, Holloway challenged students to accept all the responsibilities of being a Yale citizen — from making substantive contributions to the community to embracing the challenges and differences of their new classmates. The Dean urged freshmen to “Journey into uncertainty and meet with excitement and passion all that confounds you, angers you, challenges you, and enthralls you. Come to these moments with integrity and honesty, and, most of all, dare to listen to what you hear.” Read Holloway’s full address.

Holloway has made civic engagement a central part of his vision for Yale College. In an effort to support this vision, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions recently updated its freshmen application with new questions that ask students to reflect on citizenship in a community and on intellectual excitement.

Director of Undergraduate Admissions Margit Dahl explained that admissions officers reevaluate Yale’s application questions annually. “The application is an opportunity for applicants to share their distinctive strengths and identities,” she said. “A group of colleagues and I developed the new questions as a way to help students reflect on the communities, activities, and ideas that have shaped their experiences thus far, and which will shape how they engage with the colleges they attend.” 

In previous years, when freshmen applicants completed the Yale-specific portion of the freshmen application, they were asked to respond to a general open-ended essay prompt. Now applicants will be asked to write brief reflections on two of three specific topics. All freshmen applicants also submit a personal statement and respond to a series of Yale-specific short-answer questions.

Previous Essay PromptNew Short Essay Topics

Please 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 about which you would
like to say more. You may write about
anything — from personal experiences
or interests to intellectual pursuits.

Please choose two of the following topics and respond to each in 200 words or fewer:

  • What is a community to which you belong? Reflect on the footprint that you have left.
  • Reflect on a time in the last few years when you felt genuine excitement learning about something.
  • Write about something that you love to do.

 “Our new application questions resonate with Dean Holloway’s priorities for Yale College, including diversifying the student body in every imaginable way and increasing the opportunities for students to learn from each other,” said Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan, commenting on the new application questions. “We hope that this small change has the potential to help the Admissions Committee select highly-qualified students from all backgrounds with the greatest potential to contribute to and engage with the Yale College experience.”

Quinlan also noted that the new questions help communicate some of Yale’s core values: “We want to send a message to our applicants that Yale expects its students to be engaged citizens in our diverse community and to pursue their academic ambitions with genuine enthusiasm and a love of learning.”  

New ways to showcase talents and strengths

The updated Yale-specific application questions will accompany another change in admissions policy this year. Freshmen applicants will now have three ways to apply to Yale: the Common Application, the QuestBridge National College Match Application, and the new Coalition Application.

The newly released Coalition Application features technology that will allow applicants to submit a digital file of their creation along with a short reflection. Students using the Coalition Application will be prompted to upload a document, image, audio file, or video they have created in the last four years that holds special meaning for them. They will also reflect on why they chose to share this piece of work and its relationship to one of the new topics listed above.

“Applicants to Yale College show a tremendous amount of talent and creativity. We felt that the Coalition Application might resonate with students interested in sharing something of significance beyond the written word,” explained Dahl. “We are delighted to expand the ways in which applicants can showcase their strengths and personalities to the Admissions Committee.”

The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success is a diverse group of 95 public and private colleges and universities that have created a new free application platform with tools designed to support students throughout the application process. Quinlan expressed his excitement for the new application and the collaboration among admissions offices that drove its creation: “The colleges and universities in the coalition range from small liberal arts colleges to large public flagship universities, many of whom had never participated in a consortium application. By bringing this group of schools together, we had the unique opportunity to create an application from the ground up.”

Quinlan cited the platform’s shared fee waiver process, which allows qualifying students to receive a fee waiver for multiple member schools with just a few clicks, and the inclusion of digital uploads in a variety of media formats as some of the Coalition Application’s most significant benefits. The Yale Admissions Committee will not give preference to one application type over another, and all applicants will be asked to submit one, and only one, application for freshmen admission.

Details of Yale’s undergraduate application options, including instructions on how to apply and advice for prospective applicants, are available at

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