Yale University boasts the outstanding academic programs, dynamic student body, and classically beautiful campus befitting a member of the Ivy League’s Big Three.
Yale fits neatly between other members of the Old Guard. It's larger than Princeton but smaller than Harvard; older than Princeton but younger than Harvard; and features the same hallmark mix of high-level academics and quirky social traditions. While New Haven may not have the college-town charm of Cambridge or Princeton, people feel it’s taking a turn for the better, with a wealth of restaurants and cultural pursuits. Students say that Yale’s residential college system makes the large research university a more manageable experience for undergraduates./
History is one of the strongest and most popular undergrad programs, along with political science, economics, English literature, and psychology. Students take advantage of their classroom opportunities with top-notch professors, as well as the resources available to them as part of a premier research institution. Yale presents no problem finding a club or group to fit students' many different interests, and most students are actively involved in the Yale community outside the classroom. Intramural sports are popular, and students rally around the varsity teams on game days. There's always something to do after-hours, too, as Yalies take their social scene just as seriously as any other aspect of their college careers.
The term “Yalie” means different things to different people. To many Ivy League outsiders, it signifies an elitist with a first-class ticket to a world of secret societies, Gothic traditions, and a network of movers and shakers. “Yalies are stereotyped as pompous people who think they're better than everyone else,” writes a junior studying engineering. Many, she says, are seen as “[p]opped-collar prep school graduates who got in because their fathers donated buildings or were famous.” Not everyone thinks the stereotypes are accurate, however. The same junior goes on to say, “There are some people like that everywhere...But I’d say at least 80% of the people here are so grounded that they are amazed they even got in.”
Then there is Yale's reputation within the Ivy League. “The second Yale stereotype is the one held by students/alums from other Ivy league schools,” writes a recent alumnus. “To them, the Yalies are the mopey, artsy, emo Ivy leaguers, the ones who love movies without strong linear narratives, performance art and experimenting with homosexuality.” Another senior writes, “Yalies are known to be more easygoing and artistic than other Ivy League students, but still extremely intelligent, motivated, and passionate.”
Whether it's a cappella or Skull and Bones, Yalies do tend to keep themselves very busy. A senior majoring in political science explains, “At any hour of the day, Yale students are always up to something, whether it be studying in the library, singing in an a capella concert, or chatting with friends at the local coffee shop.” In fact, a packed schedule is pretty much the norm for Yale students. Another senior majoring in political science writes, “On
any given weekend, I am torn between seeing one of five plays, one of
four dance performances, one of three a cappella concerts, one of ten
sports games, or attending one of a dozen parties. There is something
for everyone, and the problem is always narrowing down your activities
rather than not finding enough to interest you.”
Extracurriculars definitely enhance the social scene at Yale, but it is also largely defined by the residential college system. Incoming freshmen are assigned to one of 12 residential colleges, and they maintain relationships with their colleges and fellow residents throughout the next four years (and sometimes much longer). “For a girl from an incredibly small town, like myself, it made going to college a lot less scary than it could have been,” writes one junior. “In fact, the frat scene here is much smaller than in other colleges, in part because we get that brother-sister feel in our residential colleges. Plus, there is layer upon layer of administrative support in the colleges for all your academic and social problems.” Another sophomore writes of Yale, “it's made to feel like home with the residential college system (think Hogwarts, except 12 colleges and there's no magic).”
As for academics, Yale students spend much of their time studying, but they aren't overly competitive. A junior economics major says, “One of the best things about Yale’s academic atmosphere is how much students are NOT competitive - your biggest rival will be yourself, which is the by-product of very passionate, self-motivated students learning together.” Yalies generally tend to describe themselves as more chill than students at comparable colleges. “Work at Yale is hard,” says the freshman music major, “but students here are far from consumed by it - hanging out with friends, or involvement in extracurricular activities is just as important for Yalies as are their grades.” Classes range from larger introductory lectures to tiny seminars, and almost all of them are taught by professors, many of whom are accessible. “The student/faculty ratio at Yale is something like 8:1, which is pretty incredible,” writes a junior majoring in history. “Some of the most intense learning I've done has been in small seminars of 5-10 students. This generally results in an atmosphere of interest and discourse, but rarely competition.”
Students also get a wide range of opinions in these classes, thanks to a fairly diverse student body. Some students complain about a lack of socio-economic diversity, but in general undergrads are impressed with the variety of individuals they meet at Yale. “I, personally, do not see racial diversity as a problem. If anything, I see a lot of self-segregation,” writes one junior. “I am Chinese-American, but I do not choose my friends based on their ethnicity. I have met people through activities that I enjoy.” Another freshman has the following to say about the student body: “Political activism is very strong here, and while the majority consider themselves liberal (particularly socially), there is room for the right wing as well. That being said, intolerance of homosexuality, racism, sexism, etc. will provoke a strong reaction here. The LGBT community is significant (there's a reason we're “the gay Ivy”). There is also a strong Jewish community, many houses for worship (primarily Christian), and several cultural clubs and houses.”
Almost without exception, students are proud to be Yalies. They like the school even down to its nerdy traditions, which, owing to its legacy, have been carried out by numerous generations before them: “Only at Yale would the traditional Halloween activity be to get in costume, have a few drinks, and go to see the Yale Symphony Orchestra's midnight show in which they play a student-arranged soundtrack to a student-made movie in which the Yale Dean makes an appearance in a plaid skirt,” writes a senior. In sum, “Yale is AMAZING!”