there is fun stuff to do every single night of the week if you look for it.
there is plenty to do at the school outside of the academic world
It's overwhelming how many groups on campus. All the freshmen go to the activities bazaar and come back with a heavy bag of brochures from different organizations. It's hard for some of us to choose which groups to join at the beginning, but it also means that there are always causes to support or more groups to join if you want to switch. A lot of people are involved in political, community service or singing groups, but there are also random groups, like the "Anti-Gravity Society" or the Pundits, who play tricks and run around naked right before exams. Every weekend, there is something going on (a cappella concerts, Dramat shows, international dance parties, college-sponsored parties, guest speakers, debates, movies, etc.) Everyone goes all of these activities at some point- it's often hard to decide to go what to go to in a given week because there are so many cool or interesting things going on. Football is definitely the most attended sport. A lot of people play intramurals for their colleges (the college with the most points at the end of the year gets the Tyng Cup). On weekdays, people study or have meetings for various organizations. Some people go to Toad's (the most popular dance club) on Wednesdays, but Thursday, Friday and Saturday are when most people go out. There is definitely a big party scene, but the frats have a pretty small presence on campus and there are plenty of other options for people who don't like partying. Once or twice a semester, the undergraduate funding committee pays for a $5000 all-campus themed party, which can be awesome, and can be a big flop. The dating scene is a little disappointing since such a large proportion of the guys are either gay or only interested in hook-ups. My closest friends are from my residential college and my Christian fellowship. Yale has a lot of traditions. A cappella and secret society "tap nights" are tons of fun because people in crazy costumes are running around all over campus doing silly things. Silliman throws the annual "Safety Dance" (80's dance) in Commons, which is tons of fun. A newer tradition is the Branford "Crushes and Chaperones" 90's dance. At the end of first semester, every college has a holiday dinner and the freshmen have a huge, extravagant dinner, complete with a parade of lobster and gingerbread houses. During reading week of spring semester, we have "Spring Fling" when some musicians come to perform and we all hang out on Old Campus (this year we had Jimmy Eat World, Sean Kingston and The Roots). Also during reading week, every college celebrates their special day, which is different for each college. Every week, there are 6 or so master's teas, where the master of a residential college invites a distinguished speaker to come and you can go have tea, eat cookies, hear the speaker and ask questions. There are also some fun preorientation programs to do the week before coming to school as a freshman and meet other freshmen. I did Harvest, where you live on a farm for five days. I loved it and am still friends with most of my group. The Yale Farm is pretty awesome in general- every Friday, they cook homemade, fresh, brick oven pizza. 40% of our food is organic and sustainable, which is pretty awesome (and very rare for college dining).
The suite rooming system allows for lots of parties, and there are lots of nightclubs and frats if you're into that. You can drink or not drink, not really an issue - the university is really lax about drinking and emphasizes safety before penalties (if you get your friend to the health center for alcohol poisoning and s/he leaves by the next morning, nothing is reported/ recorded). Students definitely leave suite doors open, despite security warnings from our house masters, and people tend to drop by just to say hi when passing by. Masters Teas with famous personalities (from heads of states to R.L Stine and Hanson) are also scattered throughout the week. People make friends through extracurriculars and clubs, which are almost as important, if not more, to some. After all, college is about networking, and you can't find more fertile ground for connections that matter than at Yale.
So much goddamn a cappella, which I did and loved, and which introduced me to all of my current best friends as well as the guy I dated for four years in college and afterwards. I definitely loved all of the silly events and rituals that surrounded a cappella. In addition to that, I definitely went out almost every weekend night for at least the first two years of college. The people I hung out with tended to like their liquor but know how to manage it, for the most part. There was always more stuff going on in terms of theatre, dance, music, lectures, etc than I actually went to, but that was sort of comforting to me, knowing that I had so many choices. Master's teas were the freaking bomb dot com because they fed you and it was a room full of smartass kids asking some famous guy irreverent questions.
Volunteer service organizations, intra-murals, a cappella and other musical groups, and political groups are probably the most popular groups. Football, soccer, basketball, hockey and volleyball are (I think) the most popular sports. I'm a member of both the Varsity Track and Field team and the Cross Country team. I love being on the team!! They're my family at school, my closest friends. People at Yale are very social, they go out, they have fun, they are involved, at the same time as they are serious about their studies.
There are so many activities at Yale that if you don't find so many that it would ruin your schedule, then you're not looking. There is something for everyone, from entrepreneurship to juggling. Yalies seem to enjoy the party life, but are not obsessed with it. There are plenty of people who enjoy themselves every weekend without ever picking up an alcoholic beverage. In general, Yale has something for you to do, no matter what turns you on. Plus, frats are relatively unimportant, which many students will find appealing.
Athletics events and guest speakers (and theater) are very popular. The dating scene relies heavily on one-night stands which usually spore at some frat. I feel that my girlfriend and I are the only couple in our entryway. Some people party and they do it a lot. Partying starts on Wednesday evening and stretches to Monday morning. Frats and Sororities are a big part of the party scene. I met my best friends in my crew team and in my entryway. Also the European society has been a source of close friendship.
Everything is available. There's never a dead moment. At almost any given moment, you can go attend a debate, a play, a dance performance, a fancy dinner party, a frat party, a toasting session, a mixer, an orchestra performance, an a capella performance, or any other bagillion special events that are constantly going on.
The competitive eating club is pretty popular. We try to eat as many hot dogs as possible. Of course, only the most popular students can be in this exclusive club. You have to be invited and it is a secret society that will help you throughout life, particularly if you like hot dogs.