Admissions materials go bilingual

The admissions office’s efforts to reach out to Spanish speakers might soon have some singing, “Por eso escogí Yale!”

In addition to providing subtitles for the hit admissions video, “That’s Why I Chose Yale,” in several languages including Spanish, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions’ new Web site, set to launch this summer, will include both English and Spanish versions of key pages and possibly downloadable documents of admissions materials in Spanish. These efforts are part of a national trend among colleges and universities to provide admissions information to prospective Latino students whose parents are not fluent in English.

Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel noted that prospective students must be proficient enough in English to understand admissions material without translation; these new efforts are instead aimed at parents, he said.

“We also recognize that a growing number of first-generation college candidates come from Spanish-speaking families,” he said in an e-mail.

Indeed, on top of the pressure of filling out applications, writing essays and attending interviews, some Latino students said they have the added task of explaining the college admissions process to their parents who are not fluent in English.

Alma Zepeda ’12 said many Latino families she knows back home in Los Angeles have concerns about sending their children to distant universities without the means to understand what exactly those schools are like.

“Coming to the opposite coast was extremely difficult, especially to a school [my parents] hadn’t heard of,” she said. “They didn’t know where I was going, what I was studying or where I was living.”

Zepeda said having admissions material that Spanish-speaking parents could better understand will help future admitted students to navigate their college decisions more easily.

Nelson Mendoza ’13, who is from Houston, said an admitted student Web site featuring information in Spanish would help parents. Still, he said when he applied to college, other schools, such as MIT, did a better job of reaching out by providing information sessions at community centers rather than in far-off suburbs.

To address some of these concerns, Yale has student recruiters and admissions officers who can speak to parents in several languages, including Spanish. The admissions office also plans to launch a series of videos on its admitted students Web site in which first generation college students at Yale speak in their native languages.

Brenzel noted that La Casa Cultural sent out letters last year to parents of admitted students who indicated on their applications that Spanish was spoken in their homes. Hannah Peck DIV ’11, a graduate student assistant at La Casa, said the organization will continue with this initiative this spring.

This month the Associated Press reported that a number of East Coast colleges and universities are taking similar initiatives to appeal to Hispanic families. The University of Pennsylvania set up Spanish recruiting seminars last fall in Los Angeles and Miami and translated the school’s financial aid brochure into Spanish last year. Bryn Mawr College this year launched a Spanish version of its Web site, translated by a native-speaker student intern, and complete with application instructions and student profiles, said Naté Hall, the senior assistant director of admissions at Bryn Mawr.

Yale also uses Spanish-speaking alumni to answer questions at host receptions in several cities, Brenzel said.


  • Recent Alum

    Traditionally, I thought the YDN joke issue was in the fall, at the time of the change of the YDN board. Why the change this year? It’s not April Fools either, last time I checked.

  • Inconvenient

    To #1: Your response underscores the rationale behind the development of admissions materials that promote inclusivity without compromising quality. Parents of families who have not had the opportunity to pursue higher education are often reluctant to send their children to an unwelcoming and hostile environment. Making Yale admissions materials available in other languages addresses this potential pitfall of losing out on a rather large pool of talent. Bear in mind that the material is not meant to pursue students who are not proficient in English. The idea is to tone down parental fears of having to send one’s children away from the support of their families and into the realm of individuals who share your unwelcoming views. Thanks so much for providing the low hanging evidential fruit to support the rationale behind initiatives such as these.

  • @Recent Alum

    “These efforts are part of a national trend among colleges and universities to provide admissions information to prospective Latino students whose parents are not fluent in English.”

    What’s weird about this?

  • yale11

    I’m all for the move to bilingual admissions materials:

    However, I think in the case of That’s Why I Chose Yale, the subtitles were a big mistake…

    There has been a lot of criticism of the new admissions video, but I really like it myself. Yet, its greatest strength is not found in the words of the lyrics or the musical itself, but in the video’s visual stunning-ness. Adding the subtitles severely detracts from that, so either change the subtitles to something more discreet or take them away. Leaving it as is severely inhibits the video’s impact and aesthetic.

  • Alum

    Will Yale OPA issue a formal pledge not to offer admission to applicants who are in the country illegally?

  • anonymous

    So what about all the other language groups – Chinese, Hindi, Ethiopian? Ignore them? Why this special preference to one language.Since it is not possible to have it in all languages, perhaps skip the pc and just have in english.
    YDN – how about some investigative reporting and analysis? Within the US, how many applicants come from Spanish speaking homes? How many from outside the US come from spanish speaking homes? Is it a reasonable policy?

  • anglophone

    I’ve had enough professors and TAs teaching in broken English that this may be an improvement.

  • joke


  • Yale ’08

    #6, Ummmm, why would Hindi or Chinese or Ethiopian be a target language? This is Amurka, and guess what: Spanish is the second most spoken language here. On top of that, Hispanics are underrepresented at top schools. Understand the bias now?

    And #5, I hope you’re joking.

  • y’14

    I agree with #6. The investigative side of a number of YDN articles (especially ones related to admissions) is becoming virtually nonexistent…

  • anon

    Just for the record, “Ethiopian” is not a language. There are a variety of dialects spoken in Ethiopia, some of the most popular being Amharic, Oromiya, and Tigrinya.

  • Be careful, Yale

    While I understand the need some families have for this kind of material, I was highly offended when another university called my house in Spanish because I had marked Hispanic on my application. They would not be calling Chinese families in Chinese or French families in French and what it told me was that they were assuming that my parents did not have the proper education to understand English. I felt discriminated because of this and promptly decided not to go to that school. Yale should be careful to avoid this type of situations. Having information on the website in Spanish is fine, but directly targeting families with phone calls or letters in Spanish is unacceptable.

  • Skeptic

    Why do I somehow get the feeling that this is part of an effort by the admissions department’s to keep the number of applications growing?

    We (and other colleges as well but especially at Yale) have an obsession with getting our admit rate down as low as possible. Since the numerator does not change much, that means doing everything possible to get the denominator higher and higher, regardless of whether those applicants are in any way actually qualified.

  • robert99

    Any Yale prospect who cannot explain in to his parents in their preferred language “why Yale” maybe shouldn’t be applying. I assume from this that it will now be acceptable to write exams in the language the student is comfortable with.

  • Thanks

    Dear YDN:

    Thanks for deleting my post about people being too sensitive.

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