Science recruits invited to Yale

With a new program in February, Yale is hoping to attract more science and engineering students who will one day walk up Science Hill.
With a new program in February, Yale is hoping to attract more science and engineering students who will one day walk up Science Hill. Photo by Jane Long.

Yale is launching a new science spinoff of its “Bulldog Days” program for select applicants interested in science and engineering.

The weekend of Feb. 19, Yale will host the top science and engineering recruits among its regular-decision applicants for two to three days at what the University has named theYale Science and Engineering Weekend, or YES-W. The 60 to 80 prospective students will attend discussions with professors and students, tours of the University’s facilities, and presentations on Yale’s science and engineering offerings. The admissions office has planned the weekend as part of a larger effort to attract the best science students.

Yale wants to change its reputation as a school that is much weaker in the natural sciences than in the humanities or social sciences.
Yale wants to change its reputation as a school that is much weaker in the natural sciences than in the humanities or social sciences.

“We want to make sure we’re recruiting the top students in these areas,” said Jeremiah Quinlan ’03, deputy dean of undergraduate admissions. “We face very strong competition for these students from our main competitors…the idea is that April, our traditional recruitment month, is so compressed that we would like to give them an extra opportunity to explore what is available in science and engineering.”

Quinlan said YES-W is a new phase of an initiative to advertise Yale’s science and engineering programs to prospective students. Over the past few years, Quinlan said, these recruitment efforts have been focused on outreach. The admissions office has created a separate science and engineering viewbook in addition to the University’s general viewbook for prospective students and hosted three science and engineering forums spanning the East Coast this fall.

But, he added, YES-W will focus on a phase of recruitment that begins after applications have been submitted: convincing students to matriculate at the University.

The applicants invited to YES-W have not yet been accepted to Yale because they applied under Yale’s regular decision program. But, Quinlan said, they will receive “likely letters” – notifications from the University that indicate that the candidate will likely be admitted to Yale unless there is a significant shift in their academic performance.

Michael Koelle, associate professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry, said he and his colleagues are optimistic that YES-W will contribute to changing the University’s reputation in terms of its emphasis on science.

“There is a perception among high school students that Yale is more of a humanities and social sciences university,” Koelle said. “This is a misperception – there are incredible opportunities for students to do individual research here.”

Vincent Wilczynski, deputy dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, helped plan YES-W and said his colleagues have been overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the event, which they see as a means of connecting personally with the high-quality candidates who may attend Yale.

Invitations to YES-W will be mailed starting this week, Quinlan said. Koelle said he and other professors spent a day last week reading through applications choosing which students to invite to the weekend.

“We were looking for the most outstanding applicants who are definitely interested in the sciences and engineering,” he said.

During YES-W, prospective Yalies may attend a undergraduate research symposium, a science-focused extracurricular bazaar far smaller than the bazaar held during Bulldog Days, and a tour of the Medical School led by David Hafler, chair of neurology at the Medical School and professor of immunology. In addition, the attendees will have lunch with professors from various science and engineering departments, at which they can discuss the professors’ research and opportunities for student participation.

Quinlan said the program is also intended to allow the prospective students to meet and make friends – hence the need for events such as “Junk Yale Wars,” at which prospective students will be divided into teams and asked to build a “Rube Goldberg-esque device” with provided materials, and a movie and game night at which liquid-nitrogen ice cream will be served. The admissions office reached out to scientists and engineers in the student population and asked them to host the YES-W invitees, he added.

“We’re asking [the prospective students] to come out here in February and it’s going to be cold and snowy,” Quinlan said, “so we want to make sure there’s a lot for them here.”

Quinlan said that since YES-W is a pilot program, it is small this year both in the size of the invited class and in its budget. But, he said, if the program is successful, the admissions office will host it again next year. Quinlan also said some of the events – such as the lab tours and the research symposium — may be replicated at Bulldog Days this year.

Over the past five years, Yale’s number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics applicants has increased by about 52 percent, compared to a 40 percent increase in overall application numbers. During this time period, the number of enrolling students who say they wish to major in one of these areas has increased by about 18 percent.

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