Ambassadors recruit applicants over breaks

Over Thanksgiving Break, 80 Yale students representing the Office of Undergraduate Admissions received enthusiastic welcomes as they visited 140 high schools around the nation, according to those involved in the program.

Student ambassadors gave presentations on the University’s offerings, the application and admissions process, and financial aid to a total of 884 students, Yale Admissions Director of Outreach and Recruitment Jeremiah Quinlan ’03 said. This is the second year of the Ambassadors program, which has been modified this semester to have Yale participants visit each high school more than once over the course of the year. The goal is for Yale to foster long-term relationships with the high schools, which are chosen for their high-achieving, low-income student bodies.

Quinlan said these statistics are only early indications of the full extent of the outreach that will occur over the course of the year. In 2005, Thanksgiving break was the only vacation during which ambassadors visited schools, while this year, they may visit schools during Thanksgiving, winter, spring, and summer breaks, he said.

“There are 85-plus visits scheduled for January, and very few of these will be the second visit to a school,” Quinlan wrote in an email. “By the end of the year, we will have conducted many more visits to more schools and met with many more high school students than last year.”

130 Student ambassadors visited 203 high schools during last year’s Thanksgiving break, reaching almost 1,500 high school students in 35 states and the District of Columbia. Student ambassadors plan to visit 335 schools in 37 states and D.C. this year, Quinlan said.

The admissions office considers high schools’ standardized testing scores and average income levels of their students to identify the schools that will benefit most from ambassadors’ visits, said Lindsay Ullman ’08, who worked as an undergraduate recruitment coordinator to develop the Ambassadors Program for last year.

Most Yale ambassadors said the students at the high schools they visited listened enthusiastically to their presentations. The visits, which they conduct in their hometown regions, allow them to show students that it is possible for everyone to attend Yale, even though it may seem unrealistic for financial or geographic reasons.

Esteban Tapetillo ’09, who conducted three visits over Thanksgiving break in his home state of Arizona, said he addressed many students’ fears about adjustment to the colder weather. But some challenged his assertion that any family could pay Yale’s hefty fees.

“Most importantly, what I definitely want to do during my presentations is bring up the idea of tuition,” Tapetillo said. “When they see $40,000, they think ‘There’s no way I could ever afford this,’ but Yale has taken so many measures to make it possible for any family in any situation to pay for kids to attend this university.”

In the spring of 2005, Yale removed the parent contribution for students from families earning under $45,000 and reduced it for students from families earning between $45,000 and $60,000.

Carolyn Nguyen ’09, who visited her alma mater Garden Grove High School in California, said she drew from the Ambassadors training she received from the admissions office as well as her personal experience to give helpful responses to students’ many questions.

“A Yale student can offer a unique student perspective, having been through the process and actually working and living at Yale,” Nguyen said. “Especially being part of the Student Ambassadors program, you’re a native of the area and are familiar with the people there.”

Susan Real, a guidance counselor at Garden Grove, said she was happy with the level of enthusiasm reflected in the students’ reactions. Garden Grove is a relatively low-income community in which few graduating seniors choose to leave the state for college, she said, but three are applying this year in part because of Nguyen’s supportive talk.

Some ambassadors expressed dissatisfaction with their experiences at certain schools, but attributed mishaps to miscommunication or the need for an actual admissions officer to visit the school. Chris Palencia ’09 said the students at one of the Southern California schools where he presented were unlikely to be convinced by a student — as opposed to a more authoritative figure — that it was worth it or realistic to leave California for a private East Coast college.

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