Trip report: Yale University

23 Sep

Yale University is one of the most selective universities in America, routinely rejecting 93% of candidates.  Last year over 25,000 high school seniors vied for a chance to attend this prestigious institution, whose name is often invoked in the same breath with its two peers as “HarvardPrincetonYale,” an incantation that represents the ultimate in higher education’s brand name exclusivity.

For those fortunate enough to win admission, Yale offers its 5,275 undergraduates a choice of 2,000 courses each year in either the liberal arts or engineering.  In case students have a hard time deciding what to take, a two-week “shopping period” at the beginning of each semester allows them to test-drive several classes before committing to a schedule.  The purpose of this is to encourage students to take risks and explore new intellectual areas.

Students live in residential colleges, a system modeled after universities Oxford and Cambridge and popularized by Hogwarts.  Freshmen are assigned to one of twelve residential colleges where they will live for the duration of their time at Yale.  Like Hogwarts, students become fiercely loyal to their residential college.  As our tour guides introduced themselves, they yelled out the name of their residential college and each claimed that it was the best.  Not being familiar with the colleges, the information was meaningless but illustrated the concept at work.

The tour led us through Yale’s campus, where its stately collegiate gothic-style buildings, grassy quads and courtyards grace New Haven’s streets.  The interior of one library is cathedral-like, easily inspiring awe and involuntary genuflection.  Normally, college tour groups ask few questions of their guide but the surroundings seemed to loosen everyone’s tongue and our group peppered the guide with questions until the tour ran late.  Our guide, a genial junior studying international relations, patiently answered everyone.  Because of time constraints, we reluctantly broke away from the last part of the tour that covered the old campus.  If our daughter decided to apply here and was lucky enough to get in, we could always come back and ask questions then.

Yale has an early action program where prospective students apply by November 1 and receive a response by mid-December.  Unlike early decision programs where acceptances are binding on the applicant, Yale does not require a decision until May 1 so students are free to apply elsewhere under regular decision.

Tuition, room and board costs $49,800 for the 2010-2011 academic year.  Financial aid is need-based and Yale has a generous financial aid budget of $100 million.  Its goal is to graduate students without loans so even though it is an expensive school, depending on family income, a Yale education may represent a better value than some public universities.  But first you have to get in.

Throughout its storied history, Yale has produced many renowned alumni, including Nobel laureates Sinclair Lewis and Paul Krugman, Pulitzer Prize winners Garry Trudeau and Thornton Wilder, former presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, senators John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman, actors Jodie Foster, Angela Bassett, Edward Norton and Sam Waterston.  As the admissions numbers attest, even after three hundred years, Yale remains a highly desirable place to attend college.

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3 Responses to “Trip report: Yale University”

  1. Marty Lowell September 23, 2010 at 10:20 AM #

    In the spirit of contribution and not wanting to be snarky I want you to know that your reports are becoming less worth reading with each new addition. I can get nearly all the info in this piece from any guidebook or website. This could almost have been written by one of their PR people.

    What I want is your unvarnished opinions. What surprised you?, what moved you? What insulted you? Is this stuff subjective? Of course, but that is what makes it valuable. We all know Yale is a superb school. I don’t need you to tell me that and as soon as I start reading it I am moved to go no further.

    When we visited Colgate we were astonished by how smug the admissions representative was. They made a big show of saying how much they valued the applicants as individuals and then told us they were not interested in personal interviews. We could do one but it would not be counted for anything. The place gave me the creeps. I’d love to hear what you find when and if you go there.

    Marty

  2. Carol September 23, 2010 at 11:51 AM #

    Great report!
    Such a beautiful campus.
    As a native “nutmeger,” I feel I have to mention the location of Yale – New Haven, CT, roughly 75 miles from NYC.

  3. Seth September 28, 2010 at 12:28 PM #

    Ah, college tours. We’re fourteen years away from them, and yet we already identify with you as you travel with [your daughter] around the college circuit.

    Recently I read that a kind of ‘Barbarians at the Gate’ view of colleges is on the rise, with some scholars calling for the end of college as we know it.

    How, they ask, can a school charge $50,000 a year, pay its professors and administrators so much for so little work (ouch), and insist they need massive donations, even as they leave their students deeply in debt?

    I wonder what the tour guides would say about that.

    Probably that college is worth it. I often ask my students if they think their education is worth the money, and while there’s some mixed feeling, most say yes.

    But curiously, studies seem conflicted about what a college does for you.

    Some studies suggest it’s the applicant, not the college, that makes one successful- if you get into Princeton but don’t go, you’ll probably earn as much as one who goes.

    And recruiters seem to favor state schools, generally. To my utter amazement, Penn State, one of the nation’s biggest party schools, gets recruiters’ top ratings. Explain those two findings to me. I beg you.

    But prestige schools do seem to help students get a leg up initially, especially in some fields, and some studies suggest the effect lasts.

    Yale and Trinity look beautiful. But I suspect [your daughter] will do well, academically and professionally, wherever she goes.

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