Yale University was founded in Saybrook, CT by colonial clergymen in 1701, making it the second oldest Ivy League institution (after Harvard). But it wasn’t called Yale back then… It was known as the Collegiate School, and its main purpose was to provide the Christian ministry with a theological education. The school relocated to New Haven, its current home, fifteen years later in 1716 and was renamed Yale College in 1718 after benefactor Elihu Yale. Though the College’s history is deeply rooted in Christian faith, today Yale University and its world renowned School of Divinity welcome students and faculty from many denominations and faiths, and the history, doctrine and policy of all major church bodies are taught.
Throughout American history, Yale graduates have continuously been important figures and influential leaders, including during the American Revolution. (Fun fact: Yale student militias helped defend New Haven when British troops invaded in 1779!) Four Yale graduates signed the Declaration of Independence, and five others went on to become president, including Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
Today, Yale is a premier research institution with many programs, departments and schools across disciplines. In fact, USA Today recently reported that Yale was ranked the number one undergraduate college in the US by College Factual, and this isn’t just an opinion. Data revealed that Yale has both the highest freshman retention rate and the highest on-time graduation rate, at 99% and 87% respectively, making its retention and graduation rates better than any of the other 1,393 schools evaluated this year.
The most highly ranked major at Yale, according to College Factual, is biology, which is not surprising considering that throughout its history Yale has been a pioneer in science. In 1802, Benjamin Silliman taught the first modern science course in the US — chemistry. And in 1915 Yale founded one of the first academic programs in public health. New Haven is now a leading center for bioscience and technology thanks to Yale, with 30+ biotech companies worth more than two billion dollars in investments that have developed out of Yale research.
Yale also paved the way for graduate education in America. In 1732, Reverend George Berkeley established the first scholarships for graduate study in the US, and in 1861 Yale became the first university to award Doctor of Philosophy degrees.
Aspiring writers and journalists will be excited to learn that the oldest college daily newspaper was founded at Yale in 1878. Many famous journalists, politicians and Pulitzer prize winners, including Joanne Lipman, Joseph Lieberman and Samantha Power, worked as reporters and editors for Yale Daily News before making tremendous impacts in their professional careers.
In addition to educating many great politicians, scientists and scholars, Yale also nurtures artists. Actors and actresses such as Paul Newman, Meryl Streep and Angela Bassett attended Yale School of Drama, the graduate theater studies program, before going on to either win or be nominated for Academy Awards. Yale Repertory Theater, formed as a part of the School to provide theater artists with professional practice, has produced over 100 premiers, including two Pulitzer Prize winners, 11 Broadway plays, eight Tony Award winners and over 40 Tony Award nominees. As an undergraduate student, you will undoubtedly get the chance to see a future Broadway or Hollywood star perform on the weekend, or (if you’re lucky) work alongside one in a production. Yale undergraduate students Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti and Ron Livingston were known to be active in the undergraduate theater scene.