Yale-NUS plans first admissions cycle

Although Yale-NUS College will not open its doors until August 2013, students will begin applying to the school this winter.

The liberal arts college in Singapore that Yale and the National University of Singapore have founded together will hold an inaugural round of admissions this winter and spring, in which the school will accept a portion of its first class. Jeremiah Quinlan ’03, deputy dean of admissions at Yale, and dean of admissions and financial aid for Yale-NUS, said the school is “not looking to fill the majority of the class” this year, but added that the early round will give students with a strong interest a chance to express their enthusiasm. Rather than model its admissions policies after Singaporean colleges or most institutions in Asia and Europe, which evaluate students primarily on test scores, Quinlan said Yale-NUS will use a holistic approach like that employed at Yale College.

Yale-NUS admissions held information sessions in Singapore at the end of July to spread the word about the early round, and about the college itself, Quinlan said.

“We have a lot of educating to do, not only in what Yale-NUS will entail but also what the benefits of its offerings are,” he said. “Why are residential colleges so unique, why is the curriculum so great, why the breadth and depth of a liberal arts education is so valuable for [students’] future careers. We have to start raising awareness now.”

Quinlan, Charles Bailyn, inaugural dean of faculty at Yale-NUS, and Lily Kong, vice-president at NUS and acting executive vice-president at Yale-NUS, held three information sessions in Singapore at the end of July for prospective students and parents. Quinlan said around 1,000 students total attended the sessions, as well as around 400 parents or other adults.

The college hopes to attract around 150 students for its first class, and will eventually build the number of students up to 250 in each graduating class and approximately 1,000 in the school, Quinlan said.

Bailyn said he was happy to see the clear interest in the school that students expressed at the info sessions.

“We presented the outline of what we want to do, and there was tremendous interest in this — we packed out these large auditoriums,” said Bailyn, also a professor of astronomy and physics at Yale. “It was nice to realize that this thing we had planned was indeed interesting to the most important people, the students.”

While Quinlan said he did not think students would have difficulty adjusting to the broader criteria of this admissions process, he added that teachers in Singapore might not be accustomed to writing recommendations for their students. In an effort to help ease the transition, he is returning to Singapore this week to hold eight to ten teacher recommendation workshops at some of the top junior colleges and international schools.

Quinlan said the composition of the Yale-NUS student body will likely include a larger percentage of international students from outside Singapore than Yale has students from outside the United States. “The majority of the students will be Singaporean, but we will have a diverse student body from Asia and the rest of the world,” he said. “Singapore has a long history of being a place where people from around the world gather and collaborate, and Yale-NUS can further that tradition.”

This international student population may include students from the United States. Though Quinlan said has yet to determine whether Yale-NUS will appeal to American students on a large scale, he said some have already emailed the admissions staff to express interest in the college.

Quinlan said Yale-NUS is “very interested” in attracting Singaporean males — all of whom have a national service obligation of two years after they graduate from junior college — in the inaugural admissions round. Students who are in the midst of their service requirement could start at Yale-NUS in 2013; those who will begin the requirement next year would enter college in 2014.

Broadening the concept of a liberal arts education to include institutions outside the United States could take a while, according to Barry Leibowitz, one of the owners of International College Counselors, a company of college advisors that works with students from around the world who are applying to colleges in the U.S.

“From what I’ve seen from the international market … a lot of students are still looking to do their undergraduate coursework in the United States,” he said. “I’m not sure how they’d feel about having a location in the Orient to do their studies from.”

Quinlan also said Asian students have become accustomed to associating a liberal arts education with studying abroad, adding that he and other Yale-NUS administrators will prioritize raising awareness of the benefits of a liberal arts college in Singapore.

In its first full cycle of admissions, Yale-NUS will hold three rounds of admissions. Students will not be restricted to applying only to Yale-NUS regardless of when they apply, and earlier applicants may be deferred to later rounds before a final decision is made.

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