Recruiting: Should Yale target locals?

This article has been corrected. You may view this article’s correction here.

For the past 25 years, the average number of freshmen in each Yale class from New Haven could be counted on two hands. Elm City residents currently comprise less than 1 percent of Yale College’s student population. And only a portion of those students attended one of the city’s public schools.

While the Yale admissions office offers year-round tours and interviews, it does not have exclusive recruiting initiatives to target students from New Haven public schools.

Sandra Puchi, a guidance counselor at the Cooperative Arts High School in New Haven, feels Yale could do more to reach out to reach out to high school students in the Elm City.
Sergio Zenisek
Sandra Puchi, a guidance counselor at the Cooperative Arts High School in New Haven, feels Yale could do more to reach out to reach out to high school students in the Elm City.

Six guidance counselors from New Haven public schools said in interviews that Yale should pro-actively reach out to local public school students. But Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel said Yale’s existing programs — such as information sessions held at local schools upon request and an annual conference to which public school students are invited — demonstrate the extent to which his office already offers support.

“With Yale being so accessible and so close to these schools, we feel that the hospitality that we afford and the outreach that we do [is] substantial,” Brenzel said in an interview.

Still, none of these programs are unique to New Haven public schools. Local guidance counselors said their time is too scarce to help every rising senior who wants to apply to the University, and they are not alone in thinking that Yale should be more aggressive in its assistance.

“You’ve got to help [New Haven public school] kids once they’re in high school,” said Pedro Noguera, a professor at New York University and one of the nation’s leading scholars on urban education. “Affluent kids, they’ve got tutors, they’ve got huge advantages — you have to try to level the playing field to give less-affluent kids the opportunity.”

It is about fostering good will with the community, Noguera said, and about making Yale a resource for New Haven.


Cynthia Ortiz serves as a guidance counselor at New Haven Academy, a local public high school serving high-achieving low-income students. Until she was contacted by the News, she had never heard of Yale’s new financial aid policy.

“I’ve heard it for Harvard. I hadn’t heard that Yale gave it to a low income family,” she said when reached by phone two weeks ago. “I never knew that until now.”

Of a half-dozen guidance counselors from New Haven public schools interviewed by the News, three — all of whom were from magnet or specialized schools — had not heard of Yale’s financial aid reforms.

While some counselors may not have exact knowledge of Yale’s new financial aid policies, Brenzel said he would be “very surprised” if a counselor did not know Yale meets all students’ demonstrated financial need, as it has done for more than four decades.

“The changes in the incremental amounts in Yale’s financial aid is going to be a very low item in their list of priorities as a counselor,” he said.

Claudia Merson, director of Public School Partnership for the office of New Haven and State Affairs, said it was “astounding” that several local counselors ­— including one from New Haven Academy — were unaware of Yale’s new financial aid policy.

Ortiz said high school students can be intimidated by Yale and need outreach from the school to feel comfortable applying.

For these reasons, Yale needs to inform local students of its financial aid policies and erase perceptions that the school is inaccessible or impossibly selective, said Kenneth Wong, chair of the Education Department and director of the Urban Education Policy Department at Brown University.

“Affordability is a big concern,” Wong said. “If Yale is already committed to helping low-income families, all these counselors need to be fully aware of that.”

Merson said Yale’s approach has been to educate local students and parents about the college application process in general, rather than focus exclusively on Yale.

Ortiz said Yale has not yet sent an admissions officer to her school, which was founded three years ago. The same holds true for the Sound School, a local magnet school with an annual enrollment of about 300 that specializes in math and sciences through the study of marine life and aquaculture.

Although the Sound School has several applicants to Yale each year, guidance counselor Gloria Haney said, she cannot recall a visit from a Yale admissions staff member in her 10 years working at the school.

In response, Brenzel said Yale would send an admissions officer to host an information session if the school requested one.


There is established precedent for universities to actively recruit students from their local areas. Through its “Baltimore Scholars” program, Johns Hopkins offers full scholarships to about 20 public school students from the city of Baltimore each year. There are 76 Baltimore public school graduates currently studying at Johns Hopkins as Baltimore Scholars, Associate Dean of Admissions Jameel Freeman said. All public school students admitted to Johns Hopkins from the Baltimore public schools who meet simple eligibility criteria automatically become Batimore Scholars.

The program began in 2005, after several years of low application rates from local public schools, Freeman said. In 2005, Johns Hopkins launched the program, contacting local high school counselors and principals about the program. That year, Johns Hopkins saw 121 applications from Baltimore public schools — only three years earlier, that number had been 25. The number has held steady around 130 since then, Freeman said.

“It’s our job in admissions to make sure that students know about the opportunities at Johns Hopkins and that we break down the mystique around the school,” he said. “It’s probably the same with Yale and New Haven — probably more so. Kids see the admit rate — 8 or 9 percent — and they’re probably not going to come to campus.”

Freeman says the admissions office works as a “catalyst,” initiating contact with public schools and then working with the schools to arrange information sessions and on campus visits, although he admitted that Johns Hopkins has not necessarily formed close ties with every local public high school and counselor. And Baltimore public school students have no special advantage in the Johns Hopkins admissions process.


But while only some college counselors said they still need Yale to visit their schools, all those interviewed said they thought Yale should take a more proactive role in bringing students to their campuses.

“We’re so close, we don’t schedule any tours to go to visit Yale,” said Sandra Puchi, a guidance counselor at the Cooperative Arts High School in New Haven. “It would be great if something could be organized by the admissions office to make us feel welcome.”

But because Yale is so close and already offers outreach through the “Multicultural Open House” and information sessions, Brenzel said inviting individual school groups to campus is not a consideration.

“The campus is so accessible to New Haven students, it isn’t something that would have occurred to us given how easy it is for a student to explore Yale at any length they desire,” Brenzel said.

The disconnect between Yale and New Haven public school counselors is clear: Asked whether Yale facilitates visits for New Haven public school students, Merson said, “In the course of compulsory education, there is not a single one of the 23,000 students [in New Haven] that has not been on the Yale’s campus.”

Not true, Ortiz said.

“People right around the neighborhood around Yale never set foot on campus because they may perceive Yale as being of limited access,” she said.

Ortiz said she had been attempting to contact the admissions office since January to schedule a tour, but after three weeks of e-mailing back and forth with Yale, she gave up, frustrated.

“Considering the fact that we come from these low-income schools, we don’t have the manpower to do all the follow up,” she said.

Brenzel said he felt badly for this mix-up, noting that the office hosts over 30,000 visitors per year and works to accommodate all groups that request visits.


In many ways, Yale provides support programs for the New Haven public schools, not so much through the efforts of the institution, but rather thanks to the work of dedicated undergraduate and graduate students. Most guidance counselors from local schools gushed with praise for the efforts of Yale students in their schools.

Merson said Yale makes a special effort to inform local college counselors and pairs a group of about 20 undergraduates with New Haven public schools through a special internship program run by Dwight Hall. Through this program, she said, Yale students are able to “help the school make good use of Yale resources.”

Katherine Monohan, a guidance counselor at Wilbur Cross, said Yale students frequently work with her students for tutoring and special-needs programs.

“The Yale students have been a good example for our younger students, and they’ve given them encouragement and academic goals,” she said.

Puchi also pointed to a group of Yale Law School students who come to Co-op to help juniors and seniors with their college applications and essays.

And last year, the Yale College Council kicked off Eli Days, a program that brings in students pre-selected by their guidance counselors from three area public schools to visit Yale for a day. The admissions office provides financial support and assists with programming for Eli Days, although the initiative itself was spearheaded by YCC.


Some disagree on whether Yale does enough for local public school applicants, but Brenzel said Yale indisputably offers them help in the admissions process.

In a policy mirroring those at other institutions such as Harvard, an applicant’s status as a local resident is viewed favorably, Brenzel said.

He said students from New Haven public schools are admitted at a higher rate than the national average, a trend that he expects to continue.

But so are students from local private schools, such as the Hopkins School, which saw an acceptance rate to Yale better than one in three for the class of 2012, according to Hopkins’ Director of College Counseling Susan Paton.

Brenzel pointed out that many students at local private schools are from low-income backgrounds or are members of underrepresented minorities.

But Dean Chen, a graduate of local Wilbur Cross high school and current Duke University freshman, said he finds the advantages for Hopkins students unjust.

“I think it’s an unfair process in that Hopkins already has a lot of advantages over public schools like Wilbur Cross,” said Chen, who was rejected from Yale. “Usually their counselors understand Yale better, and their parents are more likely to be closely tied with Yale.”

But Wilbur Cross graduate Jules Bolton ’09 sees things differently. While Hopkins is bursting with students interested in Yale and qualified to attend, relatively few students from New Haven public schools are ready for the academic challenge of a school like Yale, he said.

“I think the New Haven public school kids get an advantage just because there are so few who could matriculate at Yale,” Bolton said.

In the fall of 1933, 838 freshmen stepped onto Yale’s campus as freshmen — 93 of those New Haven residents. Seventy-five years later, the number has fallen from more than one in 10 to less than one in 100. In September, only a handful of Yale’s newest undergraduates will carry diplomas from New Haven high schools — since 2001, that total has never risen higher than 14.

It is a mark of Yale’s history — and a question for Yale’s future: The University’s helping hand can span the globe, but will it pause to reach down the street?


  • Y'12

    It seems to me that a tour request from a local public school should not even be going to the same e-mail account as a tour request from the general public, let alone go unresolved for weeks.

  • Alum

    Yale should focus on helping New Haven improve the quality of its public schools and the values espoused by parents in New Haven's neighborhoods. If every school were run like Amistad Academy, you'd have plenty more applicants from New Haven.

    Also, the premise of this article supposes that kids want to attend college in their home town. More often than not, highly qualified kids would like to leave the place of their upbringing to experience a new setting as part of their higher education.

    All of those things aside, a spot in Yale College should not be given to anyone who won't survive academically. Just like everyone else, New Haven students need to show they'll be able to swim with the sharks in Yale's pond, or else they may have wasted someone else's opportunity.

  • J'accuse!

    "Of a half-dozen guidance counselors from New Haven public schools interviewed by the News, three — all of whom were from magnet or specialized schools — had not heard of Yale’s financial aid reforms."

    Uh, so Yale is on the hook for these counselors not knowing the FA policies at the major university a few blocks away? Doesn't that fact say at least as much about them as it does about Yale? And can we linger on the question of how many of their students are actually prepared for Yale? Don't get me wrong: access to higher education is an urgent national issue, but that obviously doesn't mean that every high school senior, regardless of their training and ability, should be admitted to Yale. I look forward to a day that's different for kids in New Haven, but the implication that the Admissions Office is negligent is the wrong angle. Is spending limited resources of time, ebergy, and money on recruiting in New Haven public schools a cost-effective way to honor an admirable (and inarguable) institutional commitment to racial and socioeconomic diversity? Are we doing everything we can to improve the neighborhood in which we live (even if for that's only 40 months over 4 years for 5300 Yalies)? Are tutoring programs run through Dwight Hall doing as much as we'd like to think they are? There are better questions to ask about these issues, YDN, than you posed here.

  • Anonymous

    Wow! If local admission counselors are so clueless that they don't about financial aid policies at local universities, you really have to wonder how well equipped they are and how well advised local kids are. It's not as if the information is secret -- its a webclick away and has been in the media. Isn't it their job to be knowledgeable?

  • Yale '77

    Shame on the local guidance counsellors! If they are uninformed about Yale's financial aid policies, or about how to arrange an Admissions tour, they are simply not paying attention or doing their job. Simply reading the Yale Daily News, or the Weekly Bulletin & Calendar would keep them up on the recent developments, and exploring Yale's web site (rather than dialing the same phone number over and over) would help them figure out whom to call or email.

    Yet another opportunity for local students to visit Yale is the Yale Book Awards program, sponsored by the Yale Club of New Haven and the AYA. Each year a promising junior from each of the 40+ high schools in and around the city are awarded a book prize and brought to campus for a ceremony, a presentation by current students, lunch in a residential college, and campus tours.

  • Rob

    Why should locals get any special treatment?
    It's New Haven that benefits from Yale, not vice versa.

  • Y '09

    I think in the bigger picture, this author should also be considering the number of students from surrounding areas like West Haven/North Haven/Fair Haven (the "Greater New Haven area"), many of whom come from even less well-off backgrounds than students in New Haven. Saying Yale should recruit more people just from New Haven is like saying Columbia should recruit more people just from Manhattan (and not the rest of the boroughs).

  • Y09

    The laziness exemplified by these guidance counselors is a clear indication of how deteriorated the public school system has become. Here they are in Yale's backyard passively waiting for someone to do all the work that they are hired to do, while plenty of Yalies from public schools in far-flung states, myself included, still managed to attend a local info session or to locate a fascinating little website called Is this the new age we live in, where government or our institutions have to do all of the work for you?

  • alum

    Yale needs to do more to attract students from New Haven. It is more socially and environmentally sustainable to have students come from areas that are closer, rather than areas that are farther away. In the early 1900s, a quarter of the Yale freshman class came from New Haven.

  • American Citizen

    Yale should definitely stop recruiting only the wealthy from Arab countries and focus more on lower income families within the United States.

  • Y11

    If they're qualified, by all means, eat 'em up.


  • anon

    Keep in mind that the number of new haven students the article mentions matriculating each year (somewhere below 14) is actually higher than the number of matriculants each year that come from some entire states. The admissions office has made it quite clear that they already give a preference to local applicants, so i don't think that's really a big issue. However, the fact that school counselors don't know about college financial aid policies in general is something that should definitely change, and if Yale could help do that, it would be doing everyone a great service!

  • jeff g

    #7 Fair Haven is in New Haven. Special treatment should'nt be given to anyone.Let the students earn the right to go to Yale or any other college. The well connected should not be admitted without merit.(Bush)

  • Yale 08

    Those who have been involved with Yale long enough are well aware of the large number of efforts -- run both by Yale and among Yale's students -- to provide outreach to surrounding high schools. New Haven students can be mentored by Yale students, participate in a number of extracurricular opportunities organized by Yalies, and even take classes at Yale and receive Yale credit for no charge. Yale and its students want to work with area schools -- articles such as this merely highlight individual cases of miscommunication or outright incompetence among school counselors and are in the minority.

  • Yale Alum

    As a poor kid from the south who attended Yale undergrad in the 90s, I did my own research about colleges when I was in high school. I certainly was not going to leave such an important matter up to the counselor.

    As many have said on this post, how is it possible that local high school counselors do not know about Yale's financial aid policy? Isn't that their job? Unlike 20 years ago, all of this information is on the web. How about this as a simple admissions test? If you, the high school student, do not have the drive and initiative to find out about your target school's financial aid policy, then you probably should not be admitted.

  • Andrew G

    This article is dead-on. Those New Haveners who do attend Yale are almost always high-income Hopkins graduates from the Westville and East Rock neighborhoods whose parents teach or work at Yale.

  • Townie

    Certainly, especially those of us who live along Congress Avenue, Dixwell Avenue, and the Boulevard.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, New Haven guidance counselors are, for the most part, very well informed about Yale activities. They have helped their students participate in a wide variety of joint activities and classes. This is from my personal experience with the New Haven public school system, not an assumption or a generalization. Mrs. Puchi was misquoted in the comment regarding tours and admissions, and I am sure it will be corrected in a future article. It is thanks to help from counselors like her that New Haven public school students have learned about and participated in Yale-New Haven partnership classes and educational programs, as well as visiting campus for programs like Eli Days.

  • y'09 ct native


    FYI, New Haven isn't like New York City. It is largely surrounded by affluent small towns. Fair Haven is a neighborhood in New Haven. North Haven is a comfortable suburb. While East Haven and West Haven are not the wealthiest, I would argue that regions of serious poverty exist only in New Haven. My point is that if you are looking to use local populations to improve socioeconomic diversity at Yale, your primary target should be New Haven proper. If this was a real priority, Yale might consider investing somehow in the educational improvement of New Haven's elementary and high schools; unfortunately by the time colleges application season hits, Yale is far out of reach for most of these kids.

  • Yale 08

    Andrew G -- good point; that being said, the article's comparison with yesteryear (wherein 93 of Yale's 838 freshmen in 1933 came from New Haven) is -- I'm sure -- also largely the result of students who lived in New Haven but attended private, rather than public, schools. It would be interesting to see data that breaks down this 1933 statistic based on the type of school attended.

  • Daniel Webster

    It's always in Yales best interest to have a Bd.of Ed stealing the kids blind
    I can name name and incidents that will make even Calhoun spin in his grave
    The Law Firm that you all bow before in New Haven still has it's hands in the kids pie
    if they achieve by some miraculous St.Judes Novena ,they just can't afford it
    And they might just speak up about things like University properties,Hospital expansion, Union objection,control

  • Anon

    I don't see this specifically as a minority/low-income student issue or specifically as a New Haven public school issue. I see it as a much broader accessibility issue. The perception is there that high achieving middle- or working-class New Haven County (East Haven, West Haven, Wallingford, Meriden, etc.) students aren't welcome at Yale (or other Ives, frankly). I wonder how many of the recipients of the Yale Book awards apply and are offered admission to Yale?
    I don't know Yale's specific policies, but I know most Ivies and other highly competitive colleges and universities have significant national and even global outreach programs to recruit their desired applicant pools. Why not a program that pairs undergraduates and/or alums with local schools to encourage high-achieving students to apply to Yale and other Ivies?

  • Bsd

    I think we should target locals with the harpoon guns mounted on our baller yachts.

  • Romp


  • CT in the game

    To be fair (esp. #22), Yale has more students from CT than any state except perhaps CA, NY, and MA …

    I think it definitely IS a "minority/lower-income student" issue …

    Hopkins kids don't forget to apply to Yale …

  • Anonymous

    "Brenzel said he felt badly for this mix-up."

    Felt badly? Were his hands numb?

    If this is at all representative of the current state of English instruction at Yale, maybe New Haven's public school kids are better off looking elsewhere.

  • East Rock resident

    This article makes no mention of the honors program at Wilbur Cross High School. 11th and 12th grade students in this program who receive some minimum score on their PSATs (not sure what the cut-off is)are able to take Yale undergraduate courses as part of their curriculum - for FREE. This is a wonderful entre for them. Many of these students go on to attend Yale and other Ivy League level schools.

    As for the comment about all New Haven public school students being on the Yale campus at some point - I'm sure this is true - all come on field trips to the museums and to concerts and events.

  • Yeah…

    Guess what?? Not everybody lives to attend Yale. Get over yourselves.

  • Mike

    Yale should definitely target locals.

    After all, locals have been targeting Yale for decades.

  • No

    Yale should not target townies.