DEFIESTA: Yale, the best place

City Limits

Welcome, prospective students. You’ve been admitted to the best place in the world, where you’ll make lifelong friends and deepen your well of knowledge.

defiestaThis is a school filled to the brim with cheerful a cappella groups, huge theater productions and every publication imaginable (including the News, my drug of choice!). Yale is a place where you’ll stay up deep in conversation, where you live in your very own Hogwarts house, where you can experience something once characterized by the late Marina Keegan as the “opposite of loneliness.”

Also, at one point or another, you’ll probably hate it here.

Oh, I know, we’re not supposed to say that. A Monday email from President Peter Salovey implores us to welcome you, to “[show you] why we think Yale is the best place in the world to be an undergraduate.” The goal of Bulldog Days, as Deans Marichal Gentry and Jeremiah Quinlan wrote in another Monday email, is to ensure that you “experience the best that Yale has to offer…”

We’ve got you covered on that front. You’ll be courted by hundreds of clubs and see some awesome performances. Campus will be abuzz with beaming students throwing frisbees; there will be free food literally everywhere.

We know Bulldog Days works because we asked. Last year, over 85 percent of Bulldog Days attendees called it “better” or “much better” than other programs. We win — now come to Yale!

But in putting together Bulldog Days every year, in painting Yale as utopian, University administrators and students are doing you a gigantic disservice. We are building expectations for your bright college years so high that they’ll be impossible to match once you finally arrive.

Take the extracurricular bazaar. You’ll go wild signing up for as many organizations as you possibly can, from the do-gooders at Dwight Hall to the weird display of state pride that is the Minnesota Club.

Yet once you get to campus, you might start to feel out of place if your every day isn’t spent hopping from one club to another. You’ll compete with your peers over who slept less the night before. You’ll probably feel pressured to commit to so many organizations that you end up prioritizing them over homework or friends.

Look, too, at the classes you might attend. Maybe you’ll stop in at one of the Master Classes and be intellectually challenged by the resulting discussions with your future peers.

In reality, some of Yale’s biggest academic celebrities fare poorly as teachers and you probably won’t get into their classes anyway. And for all the insistence on Yalies’ academic curiosity, your peers will trip over one another for a seat in Structure of Networks, a class renowned for its lack of work or attendance requirement.

The smiling hosts you’re staying with are probably stressed with papers, exams, their love life (or lack of one). They may also be dealing with mental health issues: Around half of undergraduates will seek support at Yale Mental Health and Counseling throughout their four years, with many more seeking the help of unofficial resources, but you won’t see those figures quoted in any admissions materials.

The free pizza and ice cream will also disappear.

This is all a really long-winded way of saying: We are, all of us, putting on a gigantic performance. It’d be unfair to pretend other universities aren’t doing this as well, but, as 85 percent of last year’s attendees said, none of them are quite as successful as Bulldog Days.

Unfortunately, by only experiencing “the best Yale has to offer,” you are being set up for failure. Between outreach efforts, the tour guide program and Bulldog Days, the Admissions Office has painted a picture of the Perfect Yale Student, a super-being passionate about their major and obsessed with their a cappella group who writes for a magazine in between Dramat productions. They are attractive, happy and head over heels in love with Yale.

This is a standard perpetuated each year by Bulldog Days to which you will naturally compare yourself. When you don’t find yourself matching up, you’ll feel like you don’t belong. Even President Salovey’s email assumes all of us see Yale as the best place to be an undergraduate; to believe otherwise is to be an outcast.

I don’t tell you this to discourage you from coming to Yale. If I could rewind four years to my own Bulldog Days, I’d still make the same decision.

But I’d also push my 18-year-old self, as I hope prefrosh do now, to get beyond “the best Yale has to offer” and ask current students the tough questions: How has the campus sexual climate changed after the Title IX investigation? How far do Yalies venture into the city? How do students deal with stress and mental illness at Yale? What do you regret?

And most importantly, are you happy here?

Nick Defiesta is a senior in Berkeley College and a former city editor for the News. This is his last column for the News. Contact him at nick.defiesta@yale.edu .

Comments