Yale University Guide

The Ivy Scholars guide to Yale University’s culture, admissions, and other essential information for prospective students and their families.

Location: New Have, Connecticut

Mascot: Handsome Dan the Bulldog

Type: Private Research Institution

Population: 6,000 undergrads, 13,400 total

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About Yale University

Yale University was founded in 1701 in New Haven, Connecticut and is the third oldest college in the United States. Yale awarded the first PhD in the country in 1861 and has a nearly equal number of undergraduates and graduates. The school is split into residential colleges, which operate a bit like the houses at Hogwarts and are assigned before students begin their freshman year.

Yale University Statistics

Year Founded: 1701

4 Year Graduation Rate: 88%

Gender Distribution: 50% male, 50% male

Acceptance Rate: 7%

Residency: 80% out of state, 11% international, 9% in state

Location Type: Urban

Schedule System: Semesters

Student/Faculty Ratio: 6:1

Average Class Size: 18

Demographics: 44% Caucasian, 14% Asian, 9% Hispanic, 6% Black, 5% Other

National Rankings

US News Rankings:

  • #3 Best Value Schools
  • #3 National Universities
  • #3 Senior Capstone
  • #5 Writing in the Disciplines
  • #14 Best Undergraduate Teaching
  • #14 First Year Experiences

Independent Rankings:

  • #3 Top Colleges per Forbes
  • #3 National Colleges per The Times of Higher Education
  • #8 World University Rankings per The Times Higher Education
  • #11 Quality of Education per The CWUR-College World University Ranking
  • #14 Best Business School per Bloomberg Business Week
  • #15 Best Value Colleges per Forbes
  • #17 Best Career Placement per The Princeton Review

Yale University Admissions Information

Application Deadlines:

  • Single Choice Early Action: November 1st
  • Regular Decision: January 2nd
  • Transfer Deadline: March 1st

Notification Dates:

  • Early Action: Mid-December
  • Regular Decision: April 1st

Acceptance Rates:

  • Early Action: 14%
  • Regular Decision: 4.4% 
  • Transfer: 2%

Average Applicant Pool: 36,800

Average Number of Applicants Accepted: 2,200

Average Number Enrolled: 1,400

Application Systems: Common App, Coalition App

Average GPA: 4.19 weighted

SAT Scores: 25th percentile – 1420, 75th percentile – 1590

ACT Scores: 25th percentile – 32, 75th percentile – 35

*Test mandatory. Writing sections optional.

Comprehensive Breakdown



Demonstrated Interest: Yale does not consider demonstrated interest.

Recommendation Letter Policies:

Two letters of recommendation from teachers who have taught students in credit-bearing classes during the academic year in core academic subjects. (Preferred from Junior and Senior Year) One Counselor recommendation. Supplemental letters discouraged.

Yale Essay Prompts for 2021:

  • Common App Personal Statement (650 words)
  • 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.
  • Why do these areas appeal to you? (125 words or fewer)
  • What is it about Yale that has led you to apply? (125 words or fewer)
  • Respond to the following short answer questions (approximately 35 words):
    • What inspires you?
    • 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 question would you ask?
    • You are teaching a Yale course. What is it called?
    • Most first-year Yale students live in suites of four to six students. What do you hope to add to your suitemates’ experience? What do you hope they will add to yours
  • Yale’s extensive course offerings and vibrant conversations beyond the classroom encourage students to follow their developing intellectual interests wherever they lead. Tell us about your engagement with a topic or idea that excites you. Why are you drawn to it? (250 words)
  • Respond to one of the following prompts: (250 words)
    • 2A. Reflect on your membership in a community. Why is your involvement important to you? How has it shaped you?  You may define community however you like.
    • 2B. Yale students, faculty, and alumni engage issues of local, national, and international significance. Discuss an issue that is important to you and how your college experience could help you address it.
    • 2C. Tell us about your relationship with a role model or mentor who has been influential in your life. How has their guidance been instrumental to your growth?

*For applicants submitting the Coalition Application: 

  • Upload an audio file, video, image, or document you have created. The upload should complement your response to one of the prompts. Above your response, include a one-sentence description of your upload. Please limit uploads to the following file types: mp3, mov, jpeg, word, pdf. 

Engineering Essay

  • Please tell us more about what has led you to an interest in this field of study, what experiences (if any) you have had in engineering, and what it is about Yale’s engineering program that appeals to you. (250 words)

Yale Essay Writing Tips

Special Notes:

  • When applying to Yale University, they have three types of applications available, however only one of those options can be done at one time.  
  • Students who apply to computer science and or engineering majors have the opportunity to write an optional additional essay.
  • Half of early action applications are deferred. That means that they are neither rejected nor accepted. They are still in the running for admissions.
  • Deferred applicants can send new information to include a letter stating why they still strongly want to attend. 
  • Yale offers an optional admissions interview, which may be done with either an alumni or a current Yale senior. Students are encouraged to complete an interview.


  • Students may only transfer into Yale at the beginnings of their Sophomore or Junior year, and must complete two years of education at Yale.
  • Transfer students have the same financial aid access as first-year students.
  • The Eli Whitney Students Program is an alternative to transferring for students who have not been enrolled in school for five or more years.
  • Students may apply using either the Common or Coalition App.
  • Two letters of recommendation are required from college-level instructors.
  • Transfer applicants must submit standardized test scores.

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Yale University Academics

Core Requirements:

  • 2 credits, humanities and arts
  • 2 credits, sciences
  • 2 credits, social sciences
  • Skills in language (at least one course depending on preparation)
  • 2 credits, quantitative reasoning
  • 2 credits, writing
  • Comprehensive Degree Requirement Information

Courses of Study: 

  • Majors Offered
  • Option to double major and receive one diploma
  • Popular majors include Biological and Biomedical Science, History, Math, Statistics and Social Science.
  • It is relatively easy to change majors.
  • No minors are offered, however in recent years they have been considering adding them.
  • Course Catalog

AP Credit Policies:

Academic Strategy

Admissions Criteria: 

The most important factors for Yale admissions are the essays, recommendations, course rigor, extracurriculars, GPA, standardized test score, and character. Yale wants students who are academically prepared, and who demonstrate this preparation by excelling in difficult courses. They further want passionate and involved students; who have demonstrated their passions and curiosity through their extracurricular activities.

Factors which are considered, but are of secondary importance are the interview, legacy status, first generation status, race/ethnicity, geographic origin, state residency, and work experience. None of these are enough on their own, but can serve as deciding factors between qualified candidates.

Yale is need-blind in admissions, which means a student’s ability to pay for college is not factored into the admissions decision.

What is Yale Looking For?

Yale wants students who will best be able to take advantage of and benefit from the resources they offer on campus. This is not just students who are the most academically prepared, but ones who are deeply intellectually curious with passions they want to pursue.

The first thing admissions looks at is academic preparation: a student’s transcript and test scores. This is the first bar which must be passed, as Yale seeks academic excellence and intellectual passion. While admissions will keep reading an application even if grades are sub-par, academics are a key factor. 

The letters of recommendation provide context for a student’s grades; how they work and how they think. This combines with later sections of extracurriculars and essays to give admissions officers a better idea of who they are as a person beyond their scores alone. Here, they are looking for passion, academic curiosity, and a drive to learn for the sake of learning and knowledge alone.

All applications are read through in their entirety before being discussed by committee. While the various strengths of each file will be discussed, and each will be decided by committee, many will be dropped very quickly if initial readers don’t believe the applicants are suited for the college. First readers decide which applications deserve more in-depth review by the committee.

Yale is devoted to both keeping its high standing in the rankings, preserving their campus culture, and in increasing outreach to underserved and underprivileged communities. Thus the ideal student is high achieving, from an under-represented background, and fully embodies the culture of Yale, as portrayed in their essays.

Finally, Yale has a strong athletic tradition, and recruited athletes who meet their academic standards are in a very good position to gain admittance. It is rare for students to meet both criteria, however, and admissions hope should not be pinned on this.

Yale Strategy:

Yale is currently in the process of increasing their undergraduate population, although as with the rest of the elite schools in the country the number of students applying to the school is growing every year. Thus admission rates will slow their descent, and indeed the 6% admissions rate last year was an increase from the year before. That said, it is not a high rate by any means.

Yale does not track demonstrated interest; their yield is slightly above 70%, which means 70% of the students they admit decide to attend the school. However, the optional interview is a good opportunity to both learn more about Yale, and to give admissions another view of who you are as a person. This is important, because character is one of the key factors considered in admissions.

Yale does not offer Early Decision, but does offer Restrictive Early Action, which is a good option if Yale is your top choice. Applying this way prevents you from applying to other schools early, but doesn’t bind you to attend Yale if you are accepted. As the applicant pool is smaller, students have a slightly higher chance of being admitted applying this way.

Yale is known primarily as a liberal arts school, although they are trying to improve their reputation for STEM subjects, thus students who are moderately competitive for MIT or CalTech would actually be more competitive for Yale. 

Students should do their best to have a singular passion or theme through their extracurriculars, as this makes it easier for first readers to remember their application, and present it to the committee. Students who stand out in their passion and involvement are more likely to be accepted, as they appear unique and interesting.

Special Programs

Honors Programs:

Research Availability:

  • Undergraduate Research
  • 95% of undergraduate science majors do research with faculty.
  • 100+ summer research fellowships awarded to first-year students.
  • 800 science, math, and engineering labs.

Study Abroad: 

Business Options: 

  • There is no option for business. Students interested in business frequently major in economics, although students interested in a particular field in business will major in something related to the field before applying to an MBA program.
  • Silver-scholars-program is a program where seniors go straight from graduating into an MBA program.

Pre-Med Options:

  • Yale does not offer a pre-Med major. 
  • Students need to decide by the end of your sophomore year if they plan to go directly to med school or take a year or more off. 
  • If a student does not take a gap year, they will be required to complete all pre-med requirements by the end of their junior year. Yale recommends students take a one to two gap years to complete research. 

Pre-Law Options:

  • Yale has no pre-law program, however it offers its students an interdisciplinary track that creates their own major giving them the skills that law school seeks.
  • As a top 3 law school in the nation, Yale values this profession, therefore created the  Undergraduate Pre-Law Resources Handbook to assist their students.

Computer Science Options: 

  • The Department of Computer Science offers both a BA and a BS in computer science, and takes part in four joint majors with other departments.
  • There is a Certificate in Programming offered for students who want to learn coding but cannot fit a full major.
  • The department offers a joint BS/MS degree in computer science for highly qualified students.

Additional Specialty Programs: 

Programs for High Schoolers:

  • The Summer Springboard Program is a two-week residential or commuter program on Yale’s campus, offering academic classes, excursions, and a taste of college life.
  • Pre-College Students may enroll in courses in Yale’s summer session. This program is only open to rising Seniors or students about to enter college who are at least 16.
  • New Haven Outreach Programs offer opportunities for students in New Haven to learn and explore in collaboration with Yale students and faculty.
  • Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS) is an on-campus summer program for talented high school students from around the world.
  • International Summer School is a three week program on Yale’s campus for students ranging from 13-18 from around the world.
  • Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG) is a residential summer program for gifted students on Yale’s campus.
  • Summer Journalism Program is a one-week intensive course on journalism run by undergraduate students from the Yale Daily News.

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Student Life at Yale University

School Motto:  Light and truth

Mission and Values:

  • Mission: Yale is committed to improving the world today and for future generations through outstanding research and scholarship, education, preservation, and practice. Yale educates aspiring leaders worldwide who serve all sectors of society. 
  • Values: comprise, commitment to common good, diversity, compassion, and growth and learning. 
  • Additional Information
  • Student testimonials (Niche, Unigo, Cappex)

Yale’s Residential College System:

Yale’s Residential College System has a blend of intimacy, as well as vastness. With 14 colleges available the variety is broad, however what they have in common is a “home away from home.” Each college contains a library, gym, dining hall, activity spaces, and centers around a grassy courtyard. Other interesting offerings may include a movie theatre, basketball court, printing press, as well as the Buttery in the basement of each college where there is a snack bar that sells cheap food late at night and often serves as a gathering place. Students are fiercely loyal to their colleges and each student feels the residential college they were placed in via lottery is the very best. Yale students have fun competitions between the colleges.

Housing Statistics:

  • 100% of freshmen and sophomores are required to live on campus unless married and or at least 21 years of age
  • 84% of undergraduates live in on-campus housing for the entirety of their stay

Campus & Surrounding Area:  

  • Yale’s central campus is 260 Acres in downtown New Haven.
  • Historical buildings such as Connecticut Hall date back to the 1700s are seen throughout the campus.
  • Notable modern construction is incorporated into campus buildings.
  • Yale owns 7 forests and Horse Island in Connecticut and surrounding states.
  • On campus and nearby there are many interesting places to visit.
  • Safety Information
  • Virtual Tour



  • The Halloween Midnight Show sells out every year.
  • You don’t have to like football to be part of the annual Harvard vs. Yale football rivalry.
  • On the last day of the fall classes every Yale student is treated to a Holiday Dinner.
  • Spring Fling includes a huge dance in the commons hosted by the first year council. It takes place when the spring semester ends and the entire freshman class is invited.

Student-Run Organizations: 


Greek Life:

Yale has an active greek life. They have four National Panhellenic sororities, two Latina-based multicultural sororities, eleven fraternities (one is Latino-based, multicultural Greek organization, and another of which is a Christian fraternity as well as one co-ed house.


  • Toads Place is one of the popular local bars. On Wednesday and Saturday nights students go to listen to live music and or dance parties.
  • Attend Club Events
  • Sing in Acapella groups
  • Head into New York city or Boston on the weekends.
  • Common room parties and hanging out with friends.
  • Go to guest lecturers and or art events such as dance shows.
  • Religious activities and functions
  • Attend the BowTie Criterion theatre where a wide variety of shows can be seen.

Financial Information

Yearly Cost of Attendance:

  • Total: $78,850
  • Tuition: $57,700
  • Fees: $50
  • Room & Board: $17,200
  • Books & Personal Expenses: $3,700

The Yale Initiative:

The Eli Whitney Students Program (EWSP) is designed for individuals with high academic potential who have had their education interrupted, at some point during their educational careers, for five or more years. The format of the program offers more flexibility and allows students to take classes on a part time basis. They can still qualify for need based financial aid.

Additional Financial Aid & Student Loan Information


Yale, like all other Ivies, does not offer merit-based scholarships. Often students qualify for merit awards from other organizations where the criteria will be linked to the student’s performance in academics, sports, music or another field of special interest. These outside scholarships can then be used to pay for attending Yale.

Fun Facts

  • The Voynitch manuscript, world’s most mysterious, is in Yale’s Beinecke Library of rare books and manuscripts. The best code-breakers, mathematicians, and linguists have not been able to crack the cipher contained within its 240 vellum pages.
  • It was the first university in the United States to offer a PhD.
  • 52 Nobel Peace Prize Winners have either attended or been a professor at Yale.
  • There’s a secret society on campus which has its own private island.
  • Yale Daily Newspaper is the oldest collegiate daily newspaper. 
  • The largest gymnasium in the western hemisphere is at Yale.
  • Yale Freshmen are treated to a formal holiday banquet akin to a real-life Hogwarts.
  • Crescent Underground Theatre is the most flexible undergraduate performance space on campus, with tiered-seating, a sound system, sprung floors, and theatrical lighting. 
  • Billionaire University: Yale produces Mega-Rich Alums with the most undergraduate billionaires after U Penn.
  • 5 US presidents graduated from Yale: William Howard Taft, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, all attended for undergraduate studies while Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton earned their law degrees there.
  • Yale also claims the oldest and most well known a cappella group: the Whiffenpoofs have been singing on Monday nights since 1909.
Wendy Y.
Below is my son's review. He was accepted to his dream Ivy League school!

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