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Yale University

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What should every freshman at your school know before they start?

College is not a breeze. For the entire second half of high school, most students spend their time counting the days until "I can leave this miserable place!? Senioritis engulfs them. Daydreams about imminent independence distract them. And their focus falters, until it becomes too late. This story describes countless students every year who fail to realize that college is about stretching boundaries, growing potential, extirpating personal vice, and seeking challenge. I commenced college complacent: I was a national Presidential Scholar; I scored a 2400 on the SAT; I was accepted at Yale. I could not be more accomplished, or less worried about my future. But how fatuous I was! My grades suffered and my ambition collapsed. What I would recommend to any incoming college freshmen, therefore, is that they arrive with the robust understanding that they will have to continue to work to earn their admittance. They must discipline themselves to ignore the rich web of stimuli bombarding their impressionable minds. And they must learn to balance work with play, while continuing to play after every storm: brooding over past mistakes will only deepen malaise. Becoming aware of these ideas is the first step to a successful college experience!

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I think finding the right people is the key to finding the right school. What's the student body like? It may not be obvious on a school tour, but the racial, sexual orientation, socioeconomic, religious, and political makeup of the school as well as the general social atmosphere can really affect a student's experience with college. Are students likely to conform, or are they very creative and individually unique? Are students complacent, or are they willing to challenge the status quo? Which is more important: grades or learning? Are cultural or political student groups inclusive or exclusive? While answers to these questions may vary according to segments of the student body, such factors can heavily influence how a student feels about the college experience. "Will I fit in?" is a valid concern, and students who find themselves unable to 'fit in' often struggle with enjoying college. Freshmen who struggle with finding others with whom they can relate will find their new-found independence lonely. Before enrolling in a school, prospective students should ask of themselves, "Can I see myself as one of these students?" and "Will I be happy as one of these students?"

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?This is a year of transition,? said my college Dean in his opening remarks to the college freshmen. Those words comprised the greatest advice I received upon arriving at Yale. In the span of the Dean?s speech, I found an entirely different perspective on freshman year. Rather than making it a year to simply work ahead as a prospective Music and International Studies major, freshman year became a time to explore fields and experiences I had never encountered--both within and without the classroom. How else would I have discovered the fascinating philosophical debate about film versus digital recordings? Or that New Haven perfect for hawk watching? A transition is careful exploration; it is testing the waters. Today I understand that one semester is just the beginning of lifelong learning beyond the fields most familiar to me. So, high school self, my advice is that you be willing to ?take it slow? and seek education beyond your usual interests, because the college transition is not only one of settling in, but branching out. Be adventurous and don?t restrict yourself. You are here to learn, and you will find that learning happens in the most unexpected places.

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Look carefully, but don't go crazy searching. Maintain a mutually respectful parent-child relationship if you are looking together! In my mind multiple colleges could be the "right place" for you, for different reasons. The most important thing is to find a place where you can be yourself without feeling that you have to change your beliefs and passions. HOWEVER, be aware your interests will inevitably evolve somewhat (or a lot) during this time. While you technically become an adult when you graduate from high school, the few years following that milestone are incredibly important for figuring out who you are and what you love. My advice is to chose a college that provides just enough discomfort to encourage personal growth and enough variety in academic and extracurricular persuits to help you discover new passions and/ or refine old ones. And when you get there, enjoy! Get caught up in the world of your university. Don't expect perfection (all colleges have their weaknessness) and know it will be difficul at times. But realize, somewhere in the back of your mind, that this is a rare and wonderful time in your life, a memory before you know it.

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The focus of the individual in determining his or her future should always be the inidividuality of the the individual. In other words, always start from fully realizing who one is and what does one truly want to achieve in the society before considering what is fashionable, profitable, or idealistic. Not matter how competitive or difficult a task is perceived to be, one's unwavering interest in the matter can make it perfectly doable. Similarly, not matter how tedious and repetitive an activity is rumored to be, one's genuine interest can make it enjoyable in the most delightful ways. Such a rule suits both for the college search process and any activities that one may go through. To simply shoot for the "best," as most people would consider it to be, is definitely overrated. If every person in the world does that, there would be no uniqueness in the world. Society would quickly degenerate into a monochromatic, unchanging collective mass. Many people say that college is the first step to the rest of the life, and that is exactly why one must find that one place and those few things that defines one to be not like any other.

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Hey! Continue to work on your relationship with God. Make sure to listen and understand other people's experiences of God and learn from their traditions and rituals. Make sure to imprint in your mind the gospel words, "don't be afraid." Fear will cause stagnation and you will waste time denying you are afraid but actually avoiding the insecurities and uncomfortable feelings the “unknown” brings. Embrace your sexuality, give it up wisely, and enjoy the feeling of being in love, the people who offer it emotionally and physically, and ignore the guilt other people will force upon you. But, most importantly, be compassionate with yourself. Continue with your academic goals but remember to enjoy your journey. This means don't trying to control people, events in your life, and deny yourself to take the time to improve your physical appearance, maintain your health, and buy yourself something nice. Make sure to go to games, parties, date a lot of people, and travel. Hey! Don’t seek anyone’s approval or acceptance of who you are! You are God’s creation and it’s the only justification you need. Knowing you, you will yes me to death.

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Dear Parents and Prospective Students, My main piece of advice to you is to follow both your heads and your hearts. The reasons Yale was my dream school on paper are obvious -- it's the best in the world academically and in almost every other way, it offers wonderful financial aid and student support. The reasons I finally chose it -- and adore it to this day, a year after graduation -- are less obvious but equally important. Yale is the kindest, most open and most vibrant place I have ever experienced. I would not have been happy at college -- and so enabled to succeed afterward -- had either one of those factors been missing. Weigh what the college offers you academically equally with what it offers your soul. You need both. If you hate your environment and everyone in it, you are likely to fail. If your environment offers nothing besides good times or comfort, you are also likely to be dissatisfied -- only perhaps a bit later in life. Finally, most importantly, don't be afraid to take risks! Ignoring that tiny voice telling you to dream bigger (whatever the situation) is the worst thing you can do. Good luck!!! Helen

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The last years of high school are so laden with concern over standardized tests and GPA, it is easy to forget that the four that lie ahead should be the finest days of your life. They are the days you'll return to in your mind--pleased with the passions you voiced and the challenges you accepted. The only parlous cloud lurking in your sunny horizon is coming down with a case of Expectitis. Expectitis is a spectrum disorder which can result in a mere annoying rash or can, in its most extreme form, be fatal to a college experience. Expect great things from yourself, but not if those expectations are so unreasonable that they keep you locked in a library, away from the diversity of humankind and human thought that brought you to college. You are not your GPA. It is no coincidence that when Presidents and uber-succeeders are asked to recount their happiest moments, they focus on college days which preceded their "success." So, remain interesting, open and inquisitive. Do not hide in the carrels in search of only the holy "A." Let joy and discovery be your expectation during this, the greatest adventure of your life.

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Tina, I know it's intimidating. You're about to go to Yale University, where everybody is supposedly smarter than you and very capable of doing important things with their lives. But here's one thing you HAVE to keep in mind from the very start: DON'T COMPARE YOURSELF. Yes, they are all motivated, world-traveled, multi-instrumentalists who have huge accomplishments under their belts, but you need to focus on learning from and with them instead of focusing on your inadequacy. Here's a secret-- everyone tends to think they're inadequate here. But everyone's incredible. Including you. Also, be involved in many different activities, try them out. But DON'T fall in to the typical Yalie trap of overcommitting yourself and then complaining about it. Never feel bad about not being too busy. Value that free time in your schedule, treasure it. Use those hours to go to masters' teas, movie screenings, potluck dinners; don't give in to that pressure to be in charge of everything. Sleep a full eight hours a night, or stay up late with friends. Don't always stay up late with homework. This is a unique place. Live it up.

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Dear High School Self: Life gets a whole lot better once you leave DHS. After you graduate, you're going to learn more about yourself than you ever imagined. There will be some bumps in the road, but you'll grow stronger and wiser because of them. The people who you thought you couldn't live without will become strangers, and you'll be better off without them. Your college plans will change drastically, but you will recognize that you ended up where you needed to be, and you'll find happiness in unexpected places. Your writing talent will be appreciated and encouraged, and from this, you'll find your calling. As you take courses that interest you, you'll recognize education's power to change your life, and this will motivate you in your pursuit of a degree. Most importantly, as you make your way through your collegiate experience you'll realize that high school was irrelevant. It won't matter who you are right now as you read this, because the future version of yourself is refined - smarter, more mature, and more comfortable with herself. Just wait until you throw off your cap - things are going to change.

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