This is a standard but really short “Why us?” prompt. Because it’s so short, you’ll want to find a few specific reasons that set Yale apart from other schools you’re applying to. As the following guide explains, you’ll want to be sure to think of this as a “Why us?”—as in you + the school, and why you’d be a great fit together, and not simply “why them.” One way we sometimes joke about this is to think about the essay as though you’re helping the school understand why your online dating profile and its online dating profile are perfect for each other, and how you’d probably make great partners.

For a complete guide to “Why us?” essays, click here. Here’s a condensed version:

Five Common Mistakes Students Make on “Why Us?” Essays

Mistake #1: Writing about the school’s size, location, reputation, weather, or ranking

Mistake #2: Simply using emotional language to demonstrate fit

Mistake #3: Screwing up the mascot, stadium, team colors or names of any important people or places on campus

Mistake #4: Parroting the brochures or website language

Mistake #5: Describing traditions the school is well known for

Mistake #6: Thinking of this as only a “why them” essay (as mentioned above)

So, if those are things you shouldn’t write about, what should you write about? Here are some steps to figure that out.

Step #1: Do your research.

Step #2: Use this chart to map out your research. 

Step #3: Decide on your approach.

Approach #1: The “3-5 Unique Offerings” Strategy

Find 3-5 opportunities that are particular to the school (i.e., available at no other school or no other school you’re applying to) and connect each one back to you.

Approach #2: The “One Value” Strategy

How it works: Identify one core value that links you to the school and tell a story. Like so:

1. Find a way in which you and the school are deeply aligned.

2. Take your time crafting the essay.

3. Find a way to be vulnerable.

Could I create a hybrid approach by focusing on a central theme, but still listing a few reasons?

Yup. 

Here’s a nice example essay (written by Luci Jones): 

My life is the epitome of “and.” I have Chinese roots and am a proud North Carolinian. I am a team player and a leader. A bookworm and a backpacker. A creative thinker and logical problem-solver. I bridge divides. Like me, Yale embraces “and.”

While Yale has the resources of a large research university, its approach to academics fosters the intimacy of a liberal arts education. I could research abroad in Rabat and prepare for post-college work at CIPE, but also engage in small group discussions about world cinema and take an interdisciplinary class connecting creative writing, psychology, and digital media. Yale is a place that closes the gap. A place that offers a whole new world of “and” to explore and create. (123 words)

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Tips + Analysis 

  1. (Quickly) hook the reader. As with the first essay, the opening line here pulls us in and makes us curious what exactly she means by this claim. This is a quick way to stand out from the rest. 

  2. Get really specific about the school + you. The second paragraph gets into some nice detail regarding what the school offers, with the contrast between the details illustrating a connection to a core aspect of how she sees herself  (an embracer of “and”). 

  3. Bookending. With any essay, but especially one this short, bookending (using the final line to link back thematically to where the essay opened) can be a nice way to create a sense of closure while allowing you to devote most of your word count to details about the school and yourself. 

Prompts 3-6 are short answer questions. For a more detailed guide, click here.

As you approach these, keep in mind that each offers a chance to show the reader a new piece of yourself. Get really specific with your responses in ways that counterpoint nicely with other elements of your application. And along those lines, try not to repeat things that appear elsewhere.