Students write blogs for budding Bulldogs

Last winter, Reny Diaz ’08 described a typical day at Yale.

“Anyways, I’ve spent the day marveling at the amount of fellowships and internships available through Yale’s Office of International Education and Fellowships,” he wrote on his blog for Yale’s admitted students Web site. “Once I get tired of doing that, there’s a SigEp mixer that I’ll probably show up to in the evening, and then a few private parties. The semester is picking up quickly!”

Undergraduate Recruitment Coordinator Michael Nedelman ’08 is one of a group of Yalies who are paid to share reflections on a Web site for admitted students.
Rachel Engler
Undergraduate Recruitment Coordinator Michael Nedelman ’08 is one of a group of Yalies who are paid to share reflections on a Web site for admitted students.

For the first time last year, the admitted students’ Web site included Bulldog Blogs, a weblog documenting the lives of current Yale students and a message board where admitted students could ask admissions officers and student recruitment coordinators questions. While not all admitted students said the Web site’s enhanced features were helpful, they said the blog and message boards offered an insider’s view of Yale life to students choosing among several top schools. As early admissions decisions will be released in December, the admissions office is now recruiting new students to write for this year’s blog.

Bloggers said their main goal was to show that Yale students are a diverse and passionate group of people who utilize the opportunities described in the admissions view book. Emphasizing Yale’s student life, bloggers said they wrote posts about a cappella concerts, cultural shows and masters’ teas to show that Yalies do not spend all their time cooped up in library.

“I think it is really important to show that academics isn’t the beginning or the end of a Yalie’s life,” Student Recruitment Coordinator and blogger Olufunmilayo Showole ’08 said.

Director of Student Outreach and Recruitment Jeremiah Quinlan ’03 said in the three weeks after regular decision notification last year, 65 percent of admitted students had visited the Web site. In total, admitted students spent 112,000 hours on the admitted students’ Web site, averaging 61 hours each. With its posts and pictures, students said, Bulldog Blogs gave them a real glimpse into the lives of current Yale students.

“It was extremely informative about the student’s perspective of the school, which is something you can’t get from a view book that is written by an adult in the admissions office,” John Riley ’10 said.

Undergraduate Recruitment Coordinator Michael Nedelman ’08 said he does not see blogging for the admissions office as a job, but as something that is fun and exciting that he would write anyway. He said he often crossposts his personal Live Journal posts on Bulldog Blogs.

“It is very student driven; it is not an administrative thing where we hired someone to take pictures of campus,” Nedelman said. “It was my photos of Branford or WLH during the fall with the leaves everywhere that we posted.”

Nedelman and Showole said they hope to include some video blogs this year.

Last year, the four main Bulldog Bloggers were all student recruitment coordinators who wrote as frequently as they could, but this year the admissions office is looking for any students to fill a team of eight to 10 bloggers who will be paid per entry. The admissions office hopes by expanding the number of bloggers and increasing their posts to a minimum of one blog for every two weeks, admitted students will be able to read about a greater diversity of experiences.

“The bigger we make it, the more we involve different types of people, the more we will be able to get students to identify with us,” said Diaz, student recruitment coordinator and blogger.

Nedelman said the success of last year’s Bulldog Blogs, which was inspired by the Class of 2009 LiveJournal, can be shown by the dramatic decrease in the number of students in Yale 2010 LiveJournal Community. There were 148 members in the Yale 2008 LiveJournal community, 187 the 2009 LiveJournal community and 67 members in the Yale 2010 LiveJournal Community.

Because some students are limited by geographic distances or financial circumstances, Showole said, Bulldog Blogs gives those students who are unable to visit the campus a better idea of Yale life. She said she is eager to help students of color dispute the myths and stereotypes that Yale is a place full of wealthy, academically overeager and competitive students.

“I hope that reading a blog written by me — as an African-American, female, lower-to-middle class — students can realize that Yale really is a place that they can call home,” Showole said.

Diaz said, in particular, shy admitted students who do not actively contact current students or admissions officers benefit from reading the blog.

While other schools, such as MIT, have blogs which can be read by all prospective students, Yale student recruitment coordinators said limiting the blog and the message board to admitted students helped create a more intimate discourse for students Yale is actively trying to recruit. Quinlan said the primary reason for restricted access was that last year was the first time these features were tested on the admissions Web site. He said the admissions office has considered moving the blog to the undergraduate admissions home page and opening it to all prospective students, but not before perfecting the feature.

Current freshmen said the fact that Yale’s admitted students’ Web site was more interactive and sophisticated than those of other colleges showed how much Yale cared about them.

“Brown’s Web site was very informal, and the message boards weren’t used very often,” Riley said. “Whereas on the Yale Web site you would respond within hours, on the Brown Web Site you had to wait days.”

Yale admissions officers spent a total of 12,000 hours on the admitted students’ Web site answering questions, Quinlan said. Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions Christopher Hanson posted his own blog on the site.

But admitted students who had close friends who attended Yale said they felt more comfortable asking their friends questions about Yale life than asking student recruitment coordinators on the message board or reading about it in the blog. And admitted students who said Yale was their first-choice college said they found no need to visit the Web site since they had already been convinced to attend.

“I didn’t really have to check it,” Ian Janer ’10 said. “I knew I was coming. I wasn’t worried so much. I was prepared about Yale, since I was pretty good at doing the research beforehand.”

While most bloggers said they tried to be as honest as possible in their posts, they acknowledged that they did not want to scare away prospective students. They said they generally tried to include a positive outlook when touching upon difficult issues such as the sophomore slump.

“If we did talk about something that was negative, we did sort of mediate it,” Diaz said. “From our end of the spectrum, if you are already at Yale and you read something like that, you identify with it. But if you are a prospective student, and you read midterms are a horrible season at Yale and didn’t read one with respect to Princeton or Harvard, then you may say, ‘I do not want to go to Yale.’ When in reality, midterms are midterms wherever you go.”

Diaz said he also blogged about controversial issues on campus such as the Rumpus’ article on Asian fetish and the YCC’s spending $16,000 for the Gunther concert.

Most freshman said they thought Yalies who blogged and answered questions in the message boards took it upon themselves to be as honest as they possibly could without trying to sound too negative. Coming from Texas, Kyle Briscoe ’10 said he remembered asking about the liberal Yale atmosphere.

“[The bloggers] said the majority of the school is definitely liberal, but there are organizations you can get involved with if you are conservative.” Briscoe said. “They would provide two perspectives to a generalized statement.”

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