Courses offered at Yale College can be tough, if not downright painful. But many undergraduates in search of academic rigor beyond the typical college curriculum look toward Yale’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Many Yale undergraduates enroll in graduate school classes, lured by the challenges of advanced study in their majors beyond the college level.
Getting into graduate school courses as an undergraduate can take some effort, however. Not only does the student need to have the course instructor’s permission, he or she must have the approval from both the director of graduate studies as well as the director of undergraduate studies. Beyond these initial steps, the student also faces the possibility that the desired class is capped at a limited enrollment number.
Nevertheless, many undergraduate students every year are able to take advantage of the academic opportunities offered by the graduate school, and discover that the initial bureaucracy is often not a hindrance.
“If the class is capped, you are obviously on the lower end of the pecking order, but it often isn’t a problem,” said Sara Aviel ’02, a four-year combined bachelor’s and master’s degree candidate in political science.
Students who elect to put forth the extra effort to get into graduate school courses find that they are often rewarded.
David Corson-Knowles ’03, a political science major taking two courses in the graduate school this term, said his experiences have been “just plain amazing.”
“You have a lot of people in the class who already have incredible real-life experiences in the field you are studying,” said Aviel.
While many Yale undergraduates said they are fortunate that they are able to participate in graduate school courses, administrators said they are happy to have college students in the upper-level classes.
“Having advanced undergraduates participating in graduate courses is a benefit to everyone,” Graduate School Dean Susan Hockfield said. “They bring a different perspective.”
While students report that their experiences in the graduate school as an undergraduate have been generally positive, they are quick to note the drawbacks.
“There are thousands of wonderful undergrad classes that you give up on,” Aviel said. “You have a lot more reading, and grad students can seem intimidating at first.”
Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead said it takes a certain type of student to be successful in graduate school courses.
“Graduate classes can be conceived very differently from undergraduate classes,” Brodhead said. “You want to make sure that people are taking classes that are at the appropriate level for them.”
Brodhead further added that when he teaches graduate classes, he generally assigns twice as much reading as he does for undergraduate classes.
Nevertheless, students said they find that the skills set required to be successful in undergraduate courses can be applied directly to graduate school courses.
“I don’t think the skills needed are any different,” Aviel said. “There’s usually more reading and longer papers, but the skills are the same.”