Sometimes, Yale’s intense academic scene may seem to whirl out of control. For those particularly desperate moments, or even for calmer times when a little assistance may go a long way, Yale offers a multitude of lifelines to help you stay afloat.
At the beginning of freshman year you are assigned a faculty advisor who may or may not be relevant to what you’re interested in studying.
For some, the advisor can impart wisdom about his or her department or academic life at Yale and may even invite you to lunch in dining halls.
For others, the advisor’s primary function will be signing your schedule at the beginning of each semester, meaning a total of ten minutes tops of getting-to-know-you time over the course of the year.
Either way, advisors can provide advice in concert with your residential college dean, favorite professor or freshman counselor. And by the end of your spring semester, you will have the opportunity to find another advisor for your sophomore year.
So however your relationship with your faculty advisor develops freshman year, the situation need not be permanent.
Writing and Math/Science Tutors
Each residential college has both a writing tutor and a joint math and science tutor who hold office hours so students can walk in for instant help or schedule appointments for later times.
The writing tutors are all teachers at Yale who are willing to work on any piece of writing students bring in, including independent writing projects.
“This is not like staying after school and having your teacher correct your grammar,” said Margaret Spillane, the resident writing tutor for Pierson College. “We’re talking to you writer to writer.”
Most of the math/science tutors are Yale students who have specialties ranging from inorganic chemistry to all levels of economics. Students may seek help from any tutor, not just the one assigned to their own college, although during crunch times, like the end of the term, tutors give preference to students in their own college.
Credit/D/Fail: Panacea or Pain?
When you turn in your schedule at the beginning of each semester after shopping for classes, you can opt to take certain classes Credit/D/Fail. This option resembles a pass/fail system, although should you earn a D, it will show up on your transcript.
You can decide to take a grade in these classes if you notify your dean by midway through the semester, but you cannot start the semester by taking a class for a grade and then switch to Credit/D/Fail if you bomb the midterm.
Not all classes have this option, so look in the Blue Book to determine which classes can be taken Credit/D/Fail.
Credit/D/Fail is ideal if you just want to dabble in something that seems interesting and test out the waters without getting in over your head, and it also helps to balance out a schedule you suspect may be overloaded. But be careful: you only can take four classes Credit/D/Fail during your whole Yale career, and there are limits on how many you can take from any one distributional group.
One complaint about this seemingly perfect way to take classes and avoid much of the work is that it calls for the fine art of knowing how to ease up while still avoiding the dreaded D. And then of course there’s the occasional shame of turning in sub-par papers both you and your TA regret ever saw the light of day.
Perhaps, then, the best course of action with Credit/D/Fail is to use the option for a class you are merely exploring. If the first midterm goes surprisingly well, switch to a grade, and if it doesn’t, breathe a huge sigh of relief and be glad your parents will see that you passed the class but never know the grim details.