Amid soaring application counts and plummeting acceptance rates each year, one trait that holds steady in Yale admissions is the diversity of the University’s incoming class.
This year’s new freshmen follow in the footsteps of the class of 2016 — which boasted the most racially diverse incoming student population in the University’s history — in terms of socioeconomic and racial diversity. Among the 1,360 students, 37.1 percent are U.S. citizens or permanent residents who identify as students of color, compared to 40.6 percent last year. Additionally, roughly 50 percent of both the class of 2016 and class of 2017 qualified for University financial aid.
Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan said that over time, the Admissions Office has seen more and more students in Yale’s applicant pool come from first-generation or low-income backgrounds. Growing numbers of students also have identified as multiracial.
“Year-to-year comparisons are often difficult, but over time, I think we’ve seen increasing diversity, and this is another year of increasing that trend,” Quinlan said.
In the class of 2017, 12 percent of students are the first in their families to attend college, and 10 percent hail from abroad. More than half of the students are from public high schools, and around 15 percent of the class self-reported more than one ethnicity, compared to 14 percent identifying as multiracial last year.
Although the effects of diversity in universities are hard to quantify, James Onwuachi, college counselor at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Ga., and a former admissions officer at Vanderbilt University, said diversity’s importance to a college education cannot be underestimated.
“I think that diversity in higher education is vitally important because that’s a reflection of what America is going to be in the next 30 to 40 years,” Onwuachi said. “It teaches and enlarges experiences.”
Similar to some of its peer institutions, Yale reports students’ race in multiple categories if students identify as multiracial. In the class of 2017, roughly 60 percent of U.S. students identify as white, 20 percent identify as Asian, 10 percent identify as African-American, 10 percent identify as Hispanic, 2 percent identify as Native American and 10 percent are international.
Though the overlap in those reporting as multiracial creates a total of 112 percent, Quinlan said Yale counts these students in multiple categories in order to present a holistic picture of the University’s diversity.
“We have numbers over 100 percent because we want to count students for each ethnicity for which they self-identify,” Quinlan said.
Terry Kung, co-director of college counseling at Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles, said she believes enrolling a class in which 37.1 percent of students identify as people of color is a “respectable accomplishment” for Yale. Still, Kung said she believes universities cannot set a national benchmark for what a “good level of diversity” should be, because the goals and values of different institutions vary so widely.
Quinlan underscored the importance of assembling a diverse incoming class, though he added that each application is still evaluated holistically and individually.
“We are actively looking for students of color and low-income students who will be incredibly successful at Yale,” Quinlan said. “[But] we are looking for the top students in our pool, no matter their background.”
For the class of 2017, Yale admitted 1,991 students from a record pool of 29,610 applicants.