How to Write Short-Answer Essays – Essay and Tactics for YYGS International Student

Hello friends, today, we’ll be discussing on how to write short-answer essays and I am going to share with you one of the 200-word essay that is part of the YYGS application, titled:

We want to learn more about your background, beliefs, values, and/or the important people in your life. Please tell us about something that has influenced you and articulate how it has shaped you. (200 words)

I am also going to share with you some advice from my experience. You can also check out my previous post on YYGS Accepted Essay for international applicant.


Although this 200-word essay do not seem as much of a daunting task as the 500-word one, it is definitely just as important, and should be taken seriously too. The purpose of this essay is for the Admissions Team to know who you are as a person. What do you stand for, what motivates you, etc. Your essays are here to set you apart from other applicants with similar qualifications in terms of grades.

Hence, it is important to be true to yourself as everyone is different in their own way. There is no 2 people with the same life story.

When I was crafting this essay, I had a hard time starting as I found it hard to choose a topic to write on. There were many things in life that has influenced and shaped me into who I am today, as well as many important people who have inspired me along the way. In the end, I decided to write about the person who knows me the best – My mother.

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My 200-word Essay

I have not always been hopeful and positive. However, I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded with people who are, especially my moma.

“My dear, look out of this window. What do you see?”

“Nothing, moma. It’s night time”

“I see hope. Look at the lights. Behind every window there is a person, and every person is a light. We did not come to earth just to live a life, we are here to make a difference. And I believe you can.”

For a split second, I have the greatest hope in the world. Sitting in that little room, I have never felt such faith.

My moma gave me her best gift yet – Hope. With hope, I became more grateful, seeing blessings in the little things in life every day. I am still not as positive as my moma, and I still fall into the deep dark hole sometimes. However, I continue to learn, and improve each and every day.

I am grateful for all that has happened to me, as it taught me my most important lesson, where I do my best to carry it with me, and share, as I experience the slippery slopes of life.

How to Write Short-Answer Essays

Essay Tip #1: Decide on a topic through Personal Reflection

These essays force students to do personal reflection, which students like us do not do often. Introspection does not come easily to adolescents, so the essay writing process is a good platform for us to learn and discover ourselves. We all have a different story that is uniquely ours. Yale is looking for students who know themselves well, have an academic and career direction, and can articulate it.

Essay Tip #2: Do not be afraid to show your vulnerable side

A lot of times, we have the misconception that we should only show our “good side” to the Admissions team as we want them to have the best impression of us.

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Think about it from another perspective: There are too many seemingly “perfect” applicants out there, so there is no harm in being real.

I personally had doubts about this essay when I submitted it, as it may seem that I am not a good enough person and made me look like a weak applicant. Nonetheless, I still submitted it and hoped for the best.

Apparently, Yale liked it! So, being real is important.

Essay Tip #3: Avoid over-used topics

Topics such as making the winning shot, community service, or immersion experiences, etc. are good if you personally felt that there was a defining moment that compelled you to change or improve in one way or another. Or, if you can write about it in a new and original way, then go for it! If not, I would recommend you to steer away from topics like these. Make sure that experiences you choose to share are not only impactful to you, but also somewhat unique. You want to use the essay as an opportunity to set yourself apart.

It’s wiser to write about something “normal” in your life and its impact on you. Look inside yourself. Tell the Admissions team the story of what makes you an interesting and unique person.

Essay Tip #4: Show, don’t Tell

Use details and verbs in the present tense to make it more vivid and alive, such that the reader can imagine being there. The more immerse reading experience can make your essay more memorable and stand-out for the reader.

Essay Tip #5: Focus on just 1 experience or idea

Focus on just one experience or idea, and develop it in some depth. Admissions officers do not want to read a “laundry list” essay describing all of your personal values or important people in your life. 200 words is not a lot, so, identify a topic and stick to it. For my essay, you can see that I focused on the window scene with my mom and the main idea was the power of Hope.

If you merely present a historical list of events, the reader does not get a sense of what type of person you are. I had this problem in my first few drafts and had to re-do this essay. It is better to hence focus on 1 main topic and talk about it in depth than trying to impress the reader with several topics.

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Essays Tip #6: Don’t get too drawn away. The essay ultimately has to be about YOU

Whatever you write, make sure that the message that is clearly conveyed is about who you are. One problem that I face earlier is that I found myself spending too much words describing about the event or the person and neglected showcasing who I am, what I have learnt or how it made me grow as a person.

Essays Tip # 7: Avoid cliché sentences

Avoid cliché sentences such as “Ever since I was young” or “I remembered the first day of school,”. These type of sentences are overly sentimental and hence should be avoided.

You want to portray yourself a promising young adult, about to start making the first steps toward independence and adulthood; this involves creating a persona for yourself where you are disciplined, eager for challenges, proven in your abilities, etc.

Essays Tip # 8: Don’t go to the other extreme where you are overly ambitious

AVOID vague, overly ambitious and naive descriptions of your goals or your accomplishments. Sentences such as “I want to find a cure for cancer and help mankind”, or “My volunteer experience have completely changed me, as well as the lives of others” should be avoided.

Essays Tip #9: Be realistic & specific

Do not simply say “I hope to work on ABC in the future”, instead it would be better if you phrased it like this: I hope to increase my volunteer efforts with after school programs and to start a fundraiser for ABC.

You can also be realistic and say: I am new to ABC, but I hope to do XYZ to learnt more about it. You want to portray yourself as a capable but eager-to-learn young adult getting ready to move into the world


In a nut shell, be yourself, and you will find yourself with surprising results 🙂 Tell the story that is uniquely you. You can do it!

If you have any questions, or would like me to help you with the application process in any way, comment below. I am happy to help.

Lastly, thank you very much for reading, I hope that you found it helpful, and if you want to see more contents like this, please leave your suggestions in the comment section down below, I would be very grateful for that!

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