5 Things to Know Before Applying to Yale University

5 things to know before applying to yale

Rounding out the top 3 of US News’ university rankings for 2018 is Dear Old Yale University.

Yale has been the perennial bronze medalist to Harvard and Princeton’s battle for gold for the past decade, at least. Since last year, Yale has shared the #3 spot with UChicago.

The New Haven university’s inability to crack the top two may be due to a consistently lower “peer assessment score” for undergraduate academic reputation, but as any proud Bulldog will remind you, Yale football beat Harvard for the first time in ten years last year, so anything is possible.

As the nation’s second-oldest university, founded in 1701, Yale’s academic reputation is well established. Known for chart-topping graduate and undergraduate programs in a number of fields, Yale is also home to prestigious schools of Law and Management.

Yale’s neo-Gothic architecture, inspiring awe and Oxbridge comparisons, will clue you in on the importance placed on tradition – from elite secret societies like Skull and Bones, to an orchestra concert every Halloween at midnight – at the world’s now second-most-famous “Blue Ivy.”

Yale's Blue Ivy

Without the finals clubs of Harvard or the eating clubs of Princeton, Yale prides itself on an engaging and unpretentious student body. Yale students are enthusiastic and involved, whether its through writing for the Yale Daily News, singing in an a cappella group, or planning Model UN Conferences.


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Extracurricular activities offer abundant opportunities for leadership, but the significant distributional course requirements attract serious scholars as well. If you’re remembering Yale as Blair Waldorf’s dream school, you may not be too far off in imagining the type of hardworking, multi-talented, future leaders who attend this school.

applying to yale like blair waldorf

1. Fine arts are a big deal at Yale

A capella and theater and music oh my! Yale’s Whiffenpoofs and Dramatic Association are the oldest a cappella and theater groups, respectively, in the nation. Every year freshmen compete for spots in more than 15 student-run singing groups, and the “Dramat” puts on two professionally-produced shows. Yale also claims impressive graduate programs in Music, Art, and Drama, and graduates of the Whiffenpoof’s range from Cole Porter to Frozen composer Bobby Lopez.

Aside from a capella and theater, Yale offers a full undergraduate Symphony Orchestra and Dance Studies curriculum. Undergrads at Yale spend their weekends hearing roommates practicing solos in the shower and going to friends’ dance shows, improv jams, and concerts.

2. Yale offers several freshman-specific programs and classes

If you’re a freshman at Yale, you have lots of academic offerings and advising options to help you transition to a college environment. The Directed Studies program, open only to freshmen, is an immersive, intense journey through the Great Books of the Western canon, for those interested in the Humanities.

The Freshman Seminar program offers an alternative to the large introductory lecture, by providing small, freshman-only courses on specific subjects; this year’s offerings include Cosmology and Literature, One Thousand Years of Love Songs, The Science and Politics of Cancer, and Blue.

Aside from these curricular options, freshmen are bombarded with advisors including a Yale college senior Freshman Counselor (or “FroCo”), a Residential College Dean, and Faculty advisor. On top of that, Yale’s “shopping period” allows all students to sample classes for the first two weeks of each semester before finalizing their course selections.

3. Yale’s residential colleges offer an on-campus community (or sometimes, a bowling alley)

Yale dorms or “colleges” are assigned randomly before you set foot on campus, ensuring that you are a part of campus community from the first moment. Residential colleges are specifically designed to be “a microcosm of the Yale community as a whole,” with equal numbers of athletes, international students, men, and women in each one.

While freshman all live together on Old Campus, from sophomore year onwards, students live in the Colleges or choose to move off-campus. Each College has its own architectural style, a Head of College faculty member in charge of College social life, and cool activity-specific space, from a pottery studio in Trumbull College to a printing press in Branford College. Formerly 13, Yale’s Residential College system expanded to include two new Colleges, expanding its undergraduate population by 15% as well.


>> Recommended Reading: 5 Things to Know Before Applying to Stanford University


4. Yale’s campus activists have been garnering press recently

Like many elite undergraduate institutions, you could say Yale puts the “liberal” in liberal arts. While the Yale Political Union offers a range of parties from the Far Right to the Far Left to Pirates, Yale’s undergraduate population as a whole skews liberal, and in recent years, has made headlines with student protests and activism.

This year alone, Yale replaced the title of “Master” with “Head of College” and renamed Calhoun College in honor of pioneering female computer scientist Grace Hopper. If activism is your thing, as the nation continues to face controversies surrounding race, class, and gender equality in “elite” spaces, Yale will surely provide opportunities to add your voice to the debate.

5. New Haven offers a low-key city vibe with personality

Nestled in Connecticut’s lower-east corner, New Haven is a mid-size city that is “large enough to be interesting, yet small enough to be friendly.” Although only a few hours from Boston and New York, Yale students for the most part tend to stay within the blocks surrounding Yale’s campus.

While not quite rivaling the diversity and opportunities of a large city, New Haven has its own unique charms, from a respected repertory theater, a yearly Arts and Ideas festival, and a legendary pizza rivalry between Sally’s and Pepe’s.


Want to read posts like this about other schools? Check out our 5 Things To Know Blog Series.

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