Applicants to Yale College interested in engineering were required to write an additional essay for the first time this year.

Students who stated an intent to major in the department had to complete the essay in addition to completing the Common Application and the University’s supplemental essay, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeffrey Brenzel said in an e-mail Sunday. In addition to helping admissions officers better understand the students’ interest, Brenzel said, the essay will help the University assess its recent efforts to promote its science and engineering offerings and continue its project of recruiting promising engineers.

“In many instances students were indicating an interest in engineering on their applications, but not writing about that interest specifically,” Brenzel said in an e-mail. “We thought that this route would be the best for us [to encourage the applicants to tell us more] … and we will evaluate after the cycle is over whether we wish to continue with it going forward.”

The essay asks prospective engineers to describe their experiences in engineering and to explain what appeal Yale’s engineering program holds for them, and is the latest in a string of projects designed to recruit top science and engineering students. These initiatives include a separate science and engineering viewbook in addition to the University’s general viewbook, three science and engineering forums for prospective students spanning the East Coast this fall and Yale Engineering and Science Weekend (YES-W), a program that brings 60 to 80 top science and engineering recruits from the regular-decision pool for tours of the University’s facilities, presentations of Yale’s science and engineering offerings, and discussions with professors and students.

Brenzel said Yale joins several other institutions in requiring an engineering essay, including Princeton University. Though some require engineering applicants to complete a different application than other students, both Yale and Princeton still allow prospective engineers to use the generic application.

Two engineering majors, Keila Fong ’13 and Alex Beltes ’12, said they support the addition of the essay. Fong, who is majoring in mechanical engineering and computer science, said she thinks the essay is a positive addition to Yale’s efforts to attract the top candidates for its engineering program. But Fong said she knows that some students may not share her view.

“Some people feel like rather than trying to recruit more heavily, [the University] should do more to improve the program and let it speak for itself,” Fong said. “[To these students] this is a more superficial way to address the problem rather than improving the standard of life for science and engineering majors.”

Vincent Wilczynski, deputy dean of the School of Engineering and Science, and Roman Kuc, associate dean of educational affairs at the School of Engineering and Applied Science, deferred comment to admissions officers.

Applications for regular admission were due Jan. 1. Decisions will be available online by April 1.