Last weekend, Yale had more visitors than usual. Slightly confused-looking kids wandered around in herds, mostly staying close to Science Hill but occasionally straying into the heart of campus. They were here for Yale Engineering and Science Weekend (YES-W).
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The goal of YES-W is to impress prospective students by playing up Yale’s resources in science and engineering. YES-W epitomizes Yale’s efforts to recruit top science and engineering students. Prefrosh sat in on science classes, were shown science facilities and attended a science-themed extracurricular bazaar.
According to Deputy Dean of Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan, the admissions office will evaluate YES-W in May to determine any changes that need to be made to the relatively new program. I don’t know how Yale should change YES-W, but I have a suggestion: Add another prefrosh weekend. Only this time, make it for students who would otherwise attend small liberal arts schools.
It seems that YES-W is Yale’s effort to out-MIT MIT. This science-heavy recruiting effort has become too myopic. Instead, Yale should recruit students who would otherwise go to a school like Williams, Pomona, Swarthmore or Amherst.
Yale is never going to out-MIT MIT. But we might out-Williams Williams. Our science resources may be top-notch, and our engineering classes may have low student-faculty ratios, but students who truly want to study nothing but the sciences are going to go to MIT or Caltech. Those schools are engineered for that type of student. Yale simply focuses too much on ensuring that each student has a well-rounded liberal arts education and enjoys his undergraduate experience.
Yes, you may say, we may never get the intensely focused science kids, but aren’t we already getting liberal arts kids? Isn’t Yale already known for our humanities and social sciences? Yes, but that isn’t the point. Yale may get many liberal arts kids, but it is losing out on a whole type of student: those who want the small school feeling.
I have several friends who only applied to these small schools. They didn’t want the big-school ambiance, they said, but a small-school environment, where the emphasis is on small classes and the overall undergraduate experience.
Yale has that! At least, much more than it has science facilities to rival those of MIT or Caltech. (That is not to diminish Yale’s science facilities, but MIT and Caltech just have the best of these facilities in the world — because that’s all they have.) Yale may not be a small school in size, but it is in atmosphere.
We have the residential college system, which is unique and an excellent substitute for a small-school feel. Students truly get to know other members of their college as well as their master and dean. Only at Yale can students have the small-school experience within the context of a larger research university.
Yale also has the small-school benefits of small classes, numerous caring advisors and a well-rounded liberal arts curriculum. But many colleges can claim to have these. Yale’s inimitable qualification is its atmosphere. That is why we must have a weekend specifically geared to win over small-school kids, just as YES-W attempts to win over science kids. This weekend will show small-school kids that Yale’s atmosphere — that ineffable aura — is exactly what they think they would get only at a small school. The sense of happiness, friendliness and the focus on the undergraduate experience is as present at Yale as it is at any other school across the nation.
This is what we should be telling prefrosh. We can let them feel for themselves Yale’s undergraduate-centric atmosphere. At the very least, we should target these kids far more than we do now.
I was almost wooed by the allures of the small-school experience. I very strongly considered attending St. John’s, a tiny liberal arts school in Maryland that emphasizes reading the Western canon. It was only through visiting Yale that I fell in love with the place. We should make sure that happens more often.