How To Get Into Yale – Guide To Ivy League Admissions

Matt Larriva
Dec 26, 2021
Home » Blog » How To Get Into Yale – Guide To Ivy League Admissions

Whether it is for the school’s Hogwarts-like residential college system, its Tony Award-winning Repertory Theatre in residence at the David Geffen School of Drama, its countless alumni who lead in politics, the arts, and business, or simply for the fact that it is the fifth highest ranked school in the United States, thousands of student’s wonder how they can get into Yale each year. 

Fortunately, starting in 2017, Yale began the process of expanding the size of its undergraduate class from 5400 undergraduates to 6200.  Unfortunately, the application process is still highly competitive. Similar to other Ivy League schools, Yale’s overall acceptance rate is less than 10%.

How is a student supposed to stand out to Yale admissions officers in a group of thousands? 

How do they even begin to ponder what they need for the Yale application process? 

This is that starting point. We will discuss Yale University’s history, the types of students who have been accepted to Yale in the past, and what kinds of students Yale is looking for in the future.

Want to know your chances at Yale? Calculate your chances with CollegeVine’s free admissions calculator.

Yale History

The university traces its roots to the 1640s, when colonial clergymen led an effort to establish a local college in the tradition of European liberal education. In 1701 the Connecticut legislature adopted a charter “to erect a Collegiate School” in Saybrook, Connecticut to educate students for “public employment both in church and civil state.” 

Shortly afterward, in 1716, The Collegiate School moved to New Haven in 1716, and, in 1718, the school was renamed Yale College in honor of Welsh merchant Elihu Yale, who had donated the proceeds from the sale of nine bales of goods together with 417 books and a portrait of King George I to the school.

Yale has had a history of excellence. 

It has produced leaders in politics since as early as the American Revolutionary War, when twenty-five Yale graduates served in the Continental Congress and four went on to sign the Declaration of Independence. 

It has been a the first to achieve many academic achievements, such as Yale School of Nursing founded in 1923 (which was the first nursing school run by university standards rather than under hospital control) and the Yale School of the Environment founded in 1900 (which is the oldest school focused on environmental studies in the United States and the only such institution at an Ivy League School). 

It has also given focus to the arts since its earliest days, such as when the Yale University Art Gallery opened in 1832 (the first college art museum in the western hemisphere which now includes over 185,000 works originating from as far back ancient Egypt). 

Sterling Memorial Library at Yale
Sterling Memorial Library

Even Yale’s architecture lives up to its other historic achievements. Not only are its historic buildings impressive, such as Connecticut Hall, the oldest building in New Haven and National Historic Landmark, but even its more modern buildings live up to its legacy, such as the Yale Bowl, which in its heyday was the largest amphitheater built since the Roman Colosseum, holding 80,000 fans.

Yale has had a history of excellence. It has produced leaders in politics since as early as the American Revolutionary War, when twenty-five Yale graduates served in the Continental Congress and four went on to sign the Declaration of Independence and has been the first university to achieve many academic achievements, which we outline below.

Even Yale’s architecture lives up to its other historic achievements. 

Not only are its historic buildings impressive, such as Connecticut Hall, the oldest building in New Haven and National Historic Landmark, but even its more modern buildings live up to its legacy, such as the Yale Bowl, which in its heyday was the largest amphitheater built since the Roman Colosseum, holding 80,000 fans.

1640

Efforts to Establish a College Begin

The university traces its roots to the 1640s, when colonial clergymen led an effort to establish a local college in the tradition of European liberal education.

1640
1701

Collegiate School Charter Officially Adopted

In 1701 the Connecticut legislature adopted a charter “to erect a Collegiate School” in Saybrook, Connecticut to educate students for “public employment both in church and civil state.” 

1701
1716

The Collegiate School Moves to New Haven

Shortly afterward, in 1716, The Collegiate School moved to New Haven in 1716.

1716
1718

Renamed To Yale

In 1718, the school was renamed Yale College in honor of Welsh merchant Elihu Yale, who had donated the proceeds from the sale of nine bales of goods together with 417 books and a portrait of King George I to the school.

1718
1832

Yale University Art Gallery Opens

Yale has also given focus to the arts since its earliest days, such as when the Yale University Art Gallery opened in 1832 (the first college art museum in the western hemisphere which now includes over 185,000 works originating from as far back ancient Egypt).

1832
1900

The Yale School of the Environment Opens

The Yale School of the Environment founded in 1900 (which is the oldest school focused on environmental studies in the United States and the only such institution at an Ivy League School).

1900
1932

The Yale School of Nursing Opens

The Yale School of Nursing founded in 1923 (which was the first nursing school run by university standards rather than under hospital control)

1932

Famous Yale Alumni

Yale has many notable alumni, including Anderson Cooper, Ben Carson, Edward Norton, George H.W. Bush and George W Bush, Indra Nooyi, Meryl Streep, Sinclair Lewis, Supreme Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and Urjit Patel.  

Sonia Sotomeyer
Supreme Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Yale Alumni
George Bush
George Bush, Yale Alumni

Yale also boasts 20 Nobel laureates across multiple disciplines, including Paul Krugman who won the 2008 Nobel prize in Economics and Sinclair Lewis who on the 1930 Nobel prize in Literature, as well as 35 Pulitzer Prize winners, including Anne Applebaum, David McCoullough, and Bob Woodward.

Yale University Fun Facts & Trivia

The Birthplace of Modern American Football

In 1880, Walter Camp developed modern American football while an undergraduate at Yale.  He developed it by modifying rugby and later became known as the father of American football.

portrait of Yale alumni, Walter Camp
Walter Camp
handsome dan yale mascot

Handsome Dan – Yale’s Mascot

In 1889, Yale students adopt Handsome Dan, a bulldog and enthusiastic football fan. The dog would go on to inspire Cole Porter to write Yale’s fight song, Bulldog, Bulldog.

Frisbie Pie Company

In 1920, Yale students invented the Frisbee by tossing pie plates from the Frisbie Pie Company to each other.

Frisbies Pies Truck at Yale

Drama School Becomes Tuition-Free

As of 2021, Drama School students will no longer pay tuition thanks to a landmark $150 million gift from David Green.

What Kind Of Student Is Yale Looking For?

Yale places a great deal of focus on academics, more so than other Ivy League Schools. 

Not only does Yale look for students who are taking a challenging and rigorous course load, but they also look for students who engage with academic topics outside the classroom, such as pursuing research opportunities, being published in journals, or writing academically minded op-eds for newspapers.

Yale also wants students who have made significant achievements in the arts. 

This is hardly surprising considering that Yale’s fine art programs have consistently ranked in the top of those in the United States.  Though not every student who applies needs to be an artistic savant (the Sciences and Political Science are still the most common majors pursued at Yale), Yale most certainly has a place for students looking to excel in this area.

Beyond this, the two key questions which Yale Admission’s officers ask themselves when assessing potential students are:

  • Who is likely to make the most of Yale’s resources?
  • Who will contribute most significantly to the Yale community?

Such students have intellectual curiosity, energy, relationships with classmates, and impact on the classroom environment. 

Students who have taken advantage of the resources and opportunities available at their high school demonstrate that they can make the most of Yale’s resources.

Ultimately, Yale, like most other Ivy League schools, wants to assemble a diverse, well-rounded student body, which need not necessarily be filled with well-rounded students

Students who excel in a specific field, especially one about which they are passionate will generally have an advantage over students who spread their time and interests too thin or too broadly.

Is Yale The Right School For Me?

Most current students or alumni of Yale would say that students will fit in at Yale if they have energy, are passionate about their interests, or are someone who wants to contribute to society.

Yale wants students who push their limits academically and extracurricular, so a student who would enjoy that kind of challenge and has that kind of drive would be well suited to Yale.

That said, most Yale students are not all business all the time, so a student who enjoys relaxing or parting just as much as they enjoy expanding their intellect would make a good fit for Yale.

Not Sure If Yale Is The Right School For You?

I encourage you to read our guides on getting into the Ivy League schools as well.

Will you get accepted?

Calculate your chances of acceptance at 1,500+ schools based on GPA, test scores, and even extracurriculars on CollegeVine.

Calculate your chances

Will you get accepted?

Calculate your chances of acceptance at 1,500+ schools based on GPA, test scores, and even extracurriculars on CollegeVine.

Calculate your chances

Yale Acceptance Rate

Yale has a 6.5% overall admission rate.  Its regular decision admissions rate is 5.1%, and its early action admissions rate is 13.8%, with around 796 students accepted out of a pool of 5,777 applicants.

Yale Class of 2024 Admissions Demographics

Amongst those students who were accepted, 52% were male, 48% were female, 55% identified as a member of a minority group, 21% received a Pell Grant, 19% were first generation college students, and 8 % had a legacy affiliation. The backgrounds of these students were self-reported to Yale, and 19% indicated more than one ethnicity when asked.

They are counted twice here:

pie chart of yale student education background

The vast majority of students (about 94% of the incoming class) ranked in the top 10% of their class.  Most students also attended a public high school (67%).  19% of students attended an independent institution, 5% attended a boarding school, and 9% attended a religious institution.

pie chart of yale student education background

Most students come from northeastern states, though a decent proportion of the student body comes from western states and southern states.  International students hail from 72 different nations from around the world.

pie chart of yale student education background
Hispanic/Latino13%
International8%
White40%
Asian26%
Black or African American12%
American Indian2%

graph showing MIT student gender demographics
Male52%
Female48%
pie chart of yale student education background
North East33%
Southwest16%
South10%
West19%
Mid-Atlantic10%
Other, including international12%
pie chart of yale student education background
Public school67%
Independent school19%
Religious school9%
Boarding school5%

Most Popular Majors at Yale

Though it is not necessary to declare an intended major when applying to Yale, most students declare one of the following as their intended pick:

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Economics
  • Environmental Studies
  • Ethics
  • Politics & Economics
  • Global Affairs
  • History
  • Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry
  • Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology
  • Neuroscience
  • Political Science
  • Psychology

Yale GPA Requirements

student studying yale school book

The most important things students will need to apply to Yale is an excellent transcript. 

Most admitted students had or were close to an unweighted 4.0 GPA, so almost all straight A’s across all four years of high school.  Yale also wants to see that students have taken the most advanced classes available to them. 

So, a student with straight A’s in all regular, non-honors classes will not be as competitive if their school had offered honors or AP/IB classes.

It should be noted that different high schools have different grading systems, so while a 4.0 or similar GPA is not a hard-and-fast requirement, excellent grades with a difficult class load is an essential part of a competitive application.

ACT/SAT Test Scores For Yale Admissions

Yale generally looks for an ACT score of around 34 or an SAT score of 1500.  For the ACT, 88% of the incoming class scored between 32 and 36, and for the SAT, a similar percentage of accepted students scored above a 700 on both the Reading and Writing and the Math sections.  Furthermore, more than half of admitted students scored higher than 750 on the Math section. 

Will you get into Yale?

Find out how likely you are to get accepted based on your GPA, test scores, and even extracurricular activities. Then, get custom recommendations for how to improve your odds – completely for free on CollegeVine.

Will you get into Yale?

Find out how likely you are to get accepted based on your GPA, test scores, and even extracurricular activities. Then, get custom recommendations for how to improve your odds – completely for free on CollegeVine.

Yale Application Basics

Yale applications must be submitted through The Coalition Application, The Common Application, or The QuestBridge Application.  There is no preference or advantage between different applications, but regardless of which application they choose, they will also be expected to submit the Yale Supplement with their application.  An $80 application fee or fee waiver must also be submitted regardless of which application students choose.

Additionally, students must submit three recommendations:

  • two from teachers
  • one from a school counselor 

The two teachers who provide recommendations for a student must have taught said student in a core academic subject, such as English, Foreign Language, Mathematics, Science, or Social Studies. 

a student and teacher studying at blackboard
Yale requires recommendations from two teachers who taught the student in a core academic subject, such as English, Foreign Language, Mathematics, Science, or Social Studies. 

As for the recommendation from a school counselor, even if the counselor does not know a particular student well, Yale still wants to see that recommendation, as it may still provide helpful contextual information about the student’s school and its academic programs.

Students are also required to submit a secondary school report, which should be submitted by the student’s school or school counselor, as well as a Mid-Year report, due when first semester/term senior grades become available at a student’s school.

Students have the option of submitting standardized test results, such as from the SAT or ACT, for fall 2021 or 2022 admissions cycles, though they are not required, as stated above.  Normally, such scores would also be required.

Students whose first language is not English or who did not study in an English-medium curriculum for at least two years should also submit results from the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE to demonstrate their English proficiency.

Students should craft an identity which is interesting and unique, and highlight it in their applications, especially if they fall into a demographic minority (such as African American, Hispanic Latino, Native American, etc.) or if they come from a region that is geographically underrepresented, such as the Mid-Atlantic, Southwest, or states in in the West and South which are not California or Texas (usually the most well represented states in those two regions).  This is not to say that falling into any of these groups can give a student an inherent advantage, but it certainly cannot hurt to make a student standout.

How To Get An Edge When Applying To Yale

Get on Yale’s radar as early as possible. 

One of the best ways to do this is to participate in Yale run externships and high school programs, especially those which highlight the student or their interests. 

High school seniors could apply for the Yale Summer Sessions, where they would take college courses with Yale students for school credit, or in the Yale Young Global Scholars

Students should look into what programs Yale offers or participates in which align with their passions and interests. 

If students cannot find such programs, they can participate in similar local programs which highlight their academic enthusiasm, or they could reach out to Yale professors working in their field of interest and see if those professors are interesting in taking on an assistant for their research. 

Each of these possibilities will not only demonstrate that a student is ready for Yale’s level of college work but will also demonstrate that student’s interest in Yale specifically.

Apply To Yale Via Early Action

Applying early action is one such method, and for obvious reasons: the early action admissions rate is more than double the regular decision rate

Stay focused on schoolwork and maintaining good grades throughout high school. Very few things in your application can make up for a low GPA.

That said, this is not an option for everyone. 

If the extra time between the early action deadline and regular decision deadline are necessary to make an application more competitive, then it would be better to target the regular decision deadline. 

Fortunately, Yale’s early action admissions is non-binding, so students who have competitive applications but may not be able to attend without financial aid can take advantage of the early application cycle and its higher admissions rate.

Secure Great Letters of Recommendation

Choosing the best possible teacher to write recommendations is also crucial. 

The best option is teachers who know the student best, not necessary who teach the class in which that student got the highest grades.  For this reason, Yale recommends that students seek recommendations who taught them in their junior or senior year, since those teachers would have taught the student in question most recently. 

Yale wants to know about a student’s intellectual curiosity and resilience as well as his or her innate ability and work ethic.  However, students should refrain from making topic suggestions to their teachers unless explicitly asked.

Demonstrate Dedication Through Excellence

Be excellent in something specific. 

Yale wants to make a well-rounded class, but that does not mean that every member of that class needs to be well-rounded. 

Far from it.

Yale wants applicants with depth and a deep commitment to the activities they pursue.  It is nearly impossible to demonstrate that if a student is spread thin amongst five or ten different activities.

Participate in extra curriculars which demonstrate engagement with the community beyond the classroom, the drive to take on leadership positions when available, and a deep commitment to and genuine appreciation for the activity being done.  Yale is especially interested in extra curriculars which can demonstrate community engagement.

The Key To Impressive Essays

Write excellent essays, both for personal statements and for the Yale supplements. 

Students should write about something that matters to them, using their own voice.  Impressive vocabulary and overly complex sentence structures are not necessarily the key to an excellent essay.  Also, be sure to proofread!

Take Advantage of Interviews

If an interview is offered, take advantage of it.  While interviews are not recommended for students to be accepted, Yale highly recommends that students who are offered an interview, participate.  During interviews, students should strive to expand upon the questions asked and to avoid giving short, direct answers.

Don’t Go Overboard With Supplemental Material

Avoid going overboard with supplemental material.  If students have a portfolio or have participated in STEM research which is directly relevant to their application and the programs they are applying to, then, of course, they should submit the necessary supplemental material. 

However, all students should avoid submitting extra letters of recommendation.  Doing so may actually dilute the potency of the two required letters of recommendation. 

Appropriate supplemental letters of recommendation provide new information and dimension to a student’s candidacy, such as a letter from a research mentor who has personally overseen the student’s work.  Appropriate letters should not repeat the strengths and qualities found elsewhere in the student’s application.

Utilize “Hooks” When Possible

Separately, there are so-called “hooks” which former Yale Admissions officers have noted as significant drivers of admissions. Hooks can include being a legacy (one or both of your close relatives went to Yale), placing high in academic competitions (Intel Science competition, Math or Science Olympics), or being a star athlete.

Summary: How To Get Into Yale

Know Yale before you apply. 

What programs you want to take advantage of and why?  How will you participate at Yale and give back to the community?  These are the two most crucial questions Yale admissions officers ask when assessing applications.

Seek out difficult classes.

Seek out the most difficult classes which your high school offers, and if you can pursue interesting and/or difficult coursework outside of your high school (at a local community college for example), then even better.

Maintain a high GPA.

Stay focused on schoolwork and maintaining good grades throughout high school. Very few things in your application can make up for a low GPA.

Take the SAT or ACT.

Take the SAT or ACT if you think you can score well on them.  If you are reading this at a point in time when the SAT/ACT requirement is back in effect, then think about preparing for the test early and getting as high a score as possible when you first take it.

Contribute to the wider community.

When crafting extra curriculars and essays, be sure to think about how service and dedication to the wider community will factor in. Dedication and service to the wider community appears frequently in Yale’s online application literature.