Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Up Close with a Yale Admissions Officer

Dinner with the girls at Temple Street Grill (Matt decided to stay and eat at the Dining Hall)

Greetings! Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit down with the Northern California Undergraduate Admissions Officer, Alex Richardson. He happens to be a graduate of Yale himself so I feel very fortunate to have been able to pick his brain about what Yale looks for in a prospective student. Alex was very amiable and quite engaging. We left the hustle and bustle of the quite crowded Admissions Office and retreated to a more quiet coffee shop close by. Here is what I gathered:

Financial Aid- Annual tuition is roughly $50,000 a year and that includes everything- room and board, books, classes, etc. The good news is that there is financial aid available. Families earning less than $60,000 annually will not make any contributions toward the cost of their child's education. Families earning $60,000 to $120,000 annually will typically contribute 1% to 10% of total family income. The contribution of aided families earning above $120,000 annually will average 10% of family income. 65% of the student population has some sort of financial aid.

What does Yale look for in prospective incoming freshmen? As in all top-notch Ivy League schools, Yale is looking at a number of components: strong SAT/ACT scores (average SAT score is at least 680 and higher says Alex), good grades, transcript (AP/Honors classes, challenging courses throughout high school career), and strong and personal letter of recommendation. Alex strongly recommends that students have teachers/counselors write letters of recommendation who truly know the student and it shows in the letter.

Student Essay- Alex really emphasized that students put a great deal of effort and their own personality in the college application essays. Not everyone will have a "challenging obstacle that they overcome that has made them who they are today" and that is okay. However, just be yourself and let it shine through in your essay. Why do YOU feel like you will be a good fit at Yale? What makes you stand apart from the rest of your peers? Be yourself! That is truly all they want.

Interview- Our Ivy Scholars are fortunate enough to practice their interview skills with Yale seniors this week and next and are really getting a feel for what the true interview would be like. Alex reiterated that while the interview is important, it is not everything they look at. He kept it simple: "Be yourself, be prepared, and give good eye contact." Really, these were some of the things he highlighted. Go into the interview knowing as much as you can about that particular school. It's like any job interview you'll have. You need to show the interviewer that you are prepared and are truly interested in them otherwise you are wasting their time. Have thoughtful questions to ask (questions that can't be answered on their website!!)

A few other important facts-
  • Yale will fly admitted students in who fall under the $0-$60,000 annual income in April after they are admitted for a brief orientation, welcome, etc.
  • Students must declare their major by the end of their sophomore year
  • Student to Professor ratio is 7-1
  • Students have the opportunity to "shop for classes" prior to making any final decisions on classes they want to take. They can try out classes and then decide what they want to take!
  • A few of the main attractions in New Haven to Yale students are the Shubert Center for the Performing Arts and Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History. There is also the Yale Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art.
  • New York City is just 70 miles south and is 120 miles south of Boston giving students an opportunity to visit these major metropolitan cities.

Yale's ultimate goal is "the creation of a well-rounded freshman class, one that includes not only well-rounded individuals but also students whose achievements in one or several areas is extraordinary."

When I asked Alex if he had any final words of advice to our young, aspiring students he said, "Tell them to find their passion in life and be sure to maintain balance."

There it is, you guys. Find your passion. Who cares what Suzy Lou is doing who sits next to you in AP Lit. What do you love to do? What excites you? What could you do every day if you had the opportunity to do so?

I hope this has been helpful. I was able to have a meal and check-in with the girls tonight. Matt stayed behind at the dining hall. As you can see by the times they are posting their blogs, these guys are staying up LATE trying to get all of their work done. Their priorities are in the classes and assignments at hand and therefore they will be posting photos and blogs only when they have "spare time" to do so. We don't want this interfering with their coursework or stressing them out.

Matt, Jessica, Stephanie and Yohanna are doing quite well and are learning so much every day. I can honestly say that they are truly benefiting from this wonderful experience. Good night for now!


  1. Sarah,

    Another nice photo.

    Good info in getting into Yale. The emphasis on the grades, test scores, types of classes and letters of recommendation is useful and helps an applicant to focus on these items of importance to the people making the decisions about who gets in and who stays at home.

    Much of what you wrote is something I would expect from a high school guidance counselor—wait, aren’t you a high school guidance counselor? Do we allow you to do this kind of stuff when you’re working with our students during the school year?

    That whole concept of shopping for classes is so vastly different from lower division classes at Cal where it seems that you feel so lucky just to get into your third or fourth choice of classes that you need for your major.

    Keep it coming, Sarah.

  2. Hi Sarah,
    Thanks for the excellent job you're doing as chaperone for the four preparatory Yalies. You're like a proud family member covering their milestones. The photos and videos are heartwarming for us back here who are missing them. You gave us peace of mind when you expounded about the safety of the campus. I enjoyed your blog on Yale facts especially hailing Hale's valiant loyalty. Apreciate your photos of View from within the Yale Walls as well as your panoramic shots of antique edifices. They give us a good glimpse of this revered institution. The information you picked from the Admission Officer's brain is truly helpful for our school district's Ivy League exploration. Thanks for being their safe haven and support after a day of intensive and extensive lectures.
    Best regards,
    Youra Doronila Pepa

  3. Hi Youra,

    It has been my pleasure! I feel lucky to have such a great group of students! You are right in saying that I do honestly feel like a proud family member! I can see them grasping so much and it has been a joy seeing them experience this from my standpoint.

    I hope all is well on the west coast! We will keep you all posted!