Despite the fact that Yale is my alma mater’s rival school, I have to admit it is a pretty incredible place. My brother will be freshman there next year, and as he gets excited about the four years ahead, I am reminded why it is such an incredible place. Let’s start off with a picture:
Incredible, right? This is the closest you get to Cambridge/Oxford in the US. Admittedly it is not as old as it looks (Yale was founded in 1701 well after the age of gothic architecture). When many of these buildings were built, students poured acid down the side to make the buildings look older. But despite this story, I have to admit that I like it. It looks like a place where important things are happening, and they are.
Yale is a private university located in New Haven, Connecticut. It is the third oldest college in the country. Yale is the institution that educated five US Presidents, nineteen Supreme Court Justices, countless academics, CEOs, scientists, actors, writers, artists, architects, and prominent people and leaders in just about every field known throughout the country and the world. It is a diverse institution with an undergraduate population of 5,200. The class of 2016 had student representation from 48 US states and 90 countries. 12% of the students were first-generation college students, 50% received financial aid, and 60% came from public schools.
Academically Yale is absolutely top notch. Yale attracts prominent faculty members across disciplines so whether or not you plan on focusing on the arts, hard sciences, social sciences, humanities, or whatever, there will be opportunities with work with some of the best people in the field. As a liberal arts institution, students at Yale are encouraged to explore their academic interests and take classes in many departments.
Students are required to take a total of 36 classes (4-5 classes per semester). Yale’s curriculum follows a distribution requirement system which at Yale means that many courses are classified as either social sciences, sciences, humanities & arts, quantitative reasoning, or writing. To ensure a well-rounded education, regardless of your major, students must take a least two courses classified in each of these categories. All students must also prove proficient in at least one foreign language by taking anywhere from 1-3 courses depending on your high school preparation. At Yale, most students will devote between a third to half of their courses toward their major and the other half to two-thirds towards requirements and elective courses in whichever field they are interested in studying giving students plenty of time to explore.
One of the things I like most about Yale’s academic system is Shopping Week. Unlike at many schools where students register for classes before the start of the semester, at Yale, students are encouraged to “shop” courses during the first two weeks of class. Essentially, students can create lists of whatever classes they might be interested in and without making any commitment walk into the class during these first two weeks, look over the syllabus and see if they like the professor and teaching style. If they aren’t satisfied, they are encouraged to walk out and leave at any point and even maybe shop another class in the same time slot. Shopping week is great because it empowers students to make sure they only take classes that they will be happy with. And, it also is a fantastic time to check out courses you know you can’t fit into your schedule but that might be interesting to at least explore for a couple of weeks.
Occasionally, students bring up concerns to me that they think that at a school like Yale, the professors won’t be teaching-focused. It is true that professors at top universities are hired because they’ve published ground-breaking books and done incredible research rather than that they teach very well. However, when you have a system like shopping week, you can weed out any professor who you don’t think meets your standards, and you should be able to avoid the problem of stumbling upon a teaching dud.
And several other things about Yale’s academics worth mentioning:
-Every class is taught by a professor and all professors have open office hours where you can talk to them outside of class
-The student-faculty ratio is 6:1
-Students choose their major as a sophomore but you are allowed (and even encouraged) to change it if your interests change your junior year
-There are about 2000 courses offered each year
Aside from being one of the most beautiful college campuses in the country, Yale’s campus is also a great example of an integrated campus, positioned right in the middle of downtown New Haven. New Haven is a small city of 130,000 but as students walk between their classes across the campus, there is plenty to do. There are numerous coffee shops and cafes, ice cream/frozen yogurt stores, an Apple store, several bookstores, some great restaurants including a street filled with multiple (and excellent) Thai restaurants. Unlike at some colleges, it doesn’t feel like a trek to get to any of these places– they are interspersed with parts of the campus so passing by real people and city life is a part of the college experience.
I will take a second to say that a lot of people I’ve talked to (mostly people who have never been to Yale) seem to think that New Haven is a boring and even dangerous small city. In my own personal experience, having been to the campus at least several dozen times, I have not found that to be the case at all especially in the areas surrounding the campus. No, it is not a huge city. If you want that, there are schools in New York, Chicago, Boston, etc.. However, there is enough in New Haven that in the four years of college there will always still be something new to try. And as far as danger, I will just say that from what I’ve seen the crime rates are comparable to most cities of comparable size, and while you do see some homeless people on the outskirts of the campus occasionally, I can say definitively that nobody has ever given me any problems, and it was in no way worse than around Harvard (where we also have a sizable homeless population giving students ample opportunity to volunteer in the community).
If city life isn’t your thing though, there are quieter campuses, but I wouldn’t rule Yale out just for that reason. I have met Yale students who prefer the more secluded college feeling away from city life, and Yale can offer that too. While you may have to walk through city streets to get from place to place, if you want to spend your afternoon in a quiet outdoor place, a large percentage of the buildings are designed to have quiet courtyards in the middle so that if you want to sit on the grass and only be surrounded by other students, there is ample opportunity for that too.
The residential life is one of the highlights of the Yale experience, and accordingly a full 88% of students live on-campus. Modeled after Oxford and Cambridge, Yale has a residential college system. Before you ever set foot on the campus, you are randomly assigned to one of twelve residential colleges which you will be a part of for all four years. Although the majority of freshmen live together on Old Campus, a big quad in the middle of the university, and don’t move into their residential colleges until sophomore year, the residential colleges become a part of your life from the moment you arrive. These residential colleges are more than dorms, they are full communities that become the center of many students’ social lives.
Each of these residential colleges houses approximately 400 students. Most of the rooms are set up in suites where groups of approximately 2-8 students share a common room with individual bedrooms off of it. In addition to providing housing, all of the residential colleges have their own dining halls, gyms, libraries, common spaces, late night cafes (or “butteries” as they call them at Yale), and many have additional facilities such as theaters, pottery studios, etc. that make them unique. Residential colleges are each run by two professors, a master and a dean. Deans are there to help guide you academically. Masters oversee the social life of the college using massive annual budgets to throw master’s teas (speaker series where masters invite renown politicians, actors, businessmen, etc. to speak about their work to students in the college over tea), annual traditions (every college has their own unique thing), formals, cookouts, and whatever else they think will contribute to life at the college.
With 500 student groups on campus, extracurricular activities are a critical part of life for the majority of Yale students. Most students will tell your they spend equal or more time on their extracurricular activities than on their classes. There is tremendous variety in what students do outside of class. Some of the most notable organizations are the Yale Daily News, the oldest daily college newspaper and essentially a breeding ground for future editors for the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, the Whiffenpoofs, an all-male senior singing group that is probably the most well-known A Cappella group in existence, and the Yale Political Union, the oldest student debating society, where students join parties such as The Party of the Left, Tory Party, and the Party of the Right which all have their own agendas.
Yale especially shines in the arts with one of the best college orchestras, the Yale Symphony Orchestra, multiple theater productions every weekend, opportunities to work as assistant curators and tour guides at the Yale art museums, over twenty dance groups, and more than fifteen A Cappella groups some of which participate in world-wide tours.
There are also numerous opportunities to work as research assistants for professors, take student jobs across the campus, join in professional and cultural organizations, and play club and intramural sports.
Yale has a need-blind financial aid policy for all domestic AND international students (it is one of only six schools that is need-blind for international students). Yale bases its award decisions solely on need (there are no merit scholarships), and is committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated need. Yale is one of the few schools that does not factor loans into the financial aid package meaning that your package will consist of a combination of need-based scholarships, term-time employment, and a parental contribution. If your parents earn less than $65,000 in combined income, Yale will not require any contribution from annual income. For incomes between $65,000 and $200,000, Yale will require a contribution of between 1-20% of annual earnings, and students from families who earn more than $200,000 per year will still in many cases qualify for a financial aid package.
In 2011-2012, Yale gave a total of $118 million in financial aid with an average award of $37,800 per year. Yale offers one of the most generous financial aid packages around, and contrary to popular belief, in many cases will end up costing students less than a public university.
Yale is one of the most selective universities in the country accepting just 6.72% for the newly admitted Class of 2017. However, every year over 2,000 students are admitted. These are real people throughout the country and world from public and private schools. Although these students are smart, they are not necessarily #1 in their class nor do they necessarily have a perfect SAT scores. In fact, many students who are first in their class AND have perfect SAT scores are not admitted to Yale. Like most competitive private liberal arts schools, Yale looks beyond these basic statistics when evaluating applicants. Yale wants students with strong academic backgrounds, but they also want students who have interests and passions outside of the classroom so that they will contribute to life at the college and be leaders in the world beyond. Extracurricular involvement and personal characteristics are a critical part of the evaluation. The best information on what Yale is looking for can be found on their own website.
-Two teacher recommendations
-SAT + two SAT subject tests OR ACT Plus Writing Test
-Mid-Year Report (your first semester grades senior year)
-$75 application fee or a fee waiver request
Admissions Statistics – Class of 2016 (from Yale’s website):
Between an awe-inspiring campus and the dynamic, interesting, and talented students and faculty that fill it, Yale is a truly awesome place. Admittedly, it is the kind of campus that would best suit a self-starter who will take advantage of the opportunities the school has to offer without someone holding their hand every step of the way. Yale also works best for a student who is excited by the idea of being surrounded by some of the most highly intelligent and accomplished students in the world (acknowledging that might mean you might not be #1 in everything you do there because at Yale that is basically impossible).
In 1878, when the Yale Daily News started, the original editors printed the reason they started the new publication:
“The innovation which we begin by this morning’s issue is justified by the dullness of the times, and the demand for news among us”
Well from every Yale student I’ve talked to today, there is plenty of news and plenty to talk about just about any day of the week. Where there is stillness, Yale students create action hosting lecture series, taking an active role in the community, participating the the Yale arts scene, doing science research on ground-breaking topics, and beyond. Yale students love taking an active role in ever-changing and dynamic Yale community where students find their passions and then go out and change the world.