The freshman advising system here is widely criticized for being inadequate at guiding Yale’s youngest through putting together their first schedules. Humanities majors are frequently paired with math professors who don’t know the first thing about Yale’s English Department. And if you’re like the average freshman, you’ll spend a grand total of 20 minutes dealing with your adviser at the beginning of each semester to get your schedule signed: 10 for tracking down an obscure office in an obscure building, and 10 more handing your advisor a pen to sign off your form while the two of you exchange pleasantries (“Refresh me with your name again –“). “Tuesdays with Morrie” this is not.
But Yale doesn’t leave you completely high and dry. You can find a new faculty advisor at the end of the year, and you won’t have any trouble finding a professor related to what you’re interested in studying. Keep in mind, too, that freshman counselors, college deans, approachable professors and friendly upperclassmen can be great sources of help. At the beginning of each semester, students like to throw “Blue Book parties,” where you can be openly obnoxious about your Yale education. Share nightmare stories about past classes, rave about the unusually attentive profs and lambast lousy TAs with your friends and neighbors. It’s not quite a party (alcohol optional), but you’ll find out all you need to know.
Once you have your schedule in place and the work load starts setting in, you might at times find yourself in over your head. Each residential college has both a writing tutor and a joint math and science tutor who hold office hours and are also available by appointment. Some people are on a first name basis with them, and others don’t know they exist. But they’re there to help you when the need arises. Writing tutors will also work with you on any piece of writing you bring in, so if you’re a poet, novelist or short story writer on the side, you can have them take a look at what you have.
“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.”
The first place to turn for help is your professor or TA. Go to office hours. Everyone says it, more people than you might think do it, and it can’t hurt. Some professors are not as helpful as others, but you’re better off getting your answers direct from the source. And if you hit it off with your prof, here’s your chance to ditch your faculty adviser for a better one. Plus, if you’re the kind of person who is wary of being vocal in seminar-style classes but has done the reading, office hours are the perfect time to show your professors that you are engaged with the ideas being discussed.
Another way to lower the stress is to choose the Credit/D/Fail option for one of your classes. Look in the Blue Book to find out which classes are offered with this option, though students complain that not nearly enough are listed. If you do well on the midterm exam, you can always switch to taking the class for a grade; but sadly, you can’t switch from grade to Credit/D/Fail. The idea of Credit/D/Fail is that students can experiment with classes they might not ordinarily take for fear of a bad grade. But choose wisely — you can only count four Credit/D/Fail classes toward graduation during your fours years at Yale.
— Yale Daily News