Directed Studies influences college decisions

Directed Studies, the intensive humanities program for freshmen, proved to be a substantial factor in the choice to attend Yale for some freshmen.
Directed Studies, the intensive humanities program for freshmen, proved to be a substantial factor in the choice to attend Yale for some freshmen. Photo by Zoe Gorman.

For some Directed Studies students finalizing the first of their weekly five-page papers today, the decision to matriculate at Yale and join the D.S. program were inextricably linked.

Each year, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions works closely with the program to recruit applicants who demonstrate both a strong academic record and an interest in the humanities, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeffrey Brenzel said Wednesday. Though the majority of the 125 spots in D.S., which focuses on the major works in the Western canon, are reserved for incoming freshmen who apply for it over the summer, about 30 to 50 students are offered guaranteed admission to the program before arriving on campus, he said.

Four of six freshmen interviewed who were offered a guaranteed spot in the program said their early admittance played a significant role in their decision to matriculate at Yale, and four of nine students who were not admitted early also said the potential to join D.S. pushed them toward choosing Yale last spring.

“This is part of our efforts to recruit the most competitive applicants to Yale,” Brenzel said. “Having taught in the D.S. program in the past, I can say we are just as interested in attracting the top humanities students to Yale as we are the top science and engineering students.”

Brenzel added that students preadmitted to D.S. are contacted by current freshmen in the program to see if they have any questions, and they are encouraged to attend D.S. classes during Bulldog Days, Yale’s three-day event for admitted students in April.

Jessica Leao ’16, who learned of the program only after receiving an invitation to participate, said D.S. made Yale a more attractive option compared to other top schools.

“D.S. encompassed much of what I liked from the humanities sequences and core curriculum of other universities I was accepted to,” Leao said. “Focusing on what I truly enjoyed studying and having the D.S.-Yale community was a great start for freshman year.”

For Isaac Hudis ’16, who was not preadmitted to D.S., the program still factored into his decision to come to Yale, as D.S. was “indicative of the environment he wanted to be a part of in college.”

Darcy Tuttle ’16, another student who applied over the summer, said though she did not know about the program when she was applying to college, Yale became her “first choice” after she learned about D.S. in her alumni interview.

But Brett Davidson ’16, who also was not preadmitted, said D.S. did not factor into his college choice at all, adding that he is happy he ultimately decided to apply over the summer.

Yale College Dean Mary Miller said D.S. went through an expansion about a decade ago — when Yale did not have freshman seminars — in order to allow more freshmen to participate in the program. Even after the expansion, the program’s content has not changed much since its inception in 1946.

“Directed Studies plays a key role in being able to have this intense, scripted intellectual experience,” Miller said. “It still remains absolutely the best way for undergraduates to immerse themselves in history, literature, philosophy, politics of the greatest classics that the Western world has ever produced.”

D.S. comprises three lectures and six seminar meetings per week.

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