Each year, Yale rejects thousands of applicants. But Amelia Fink ’04 was admitted twice.
Fink, who transferred from Carleton University in Ottawa last year, was accepted to Yale as a freshman. But she was also offered a chance to serve as a parliamentary page in the Canadian House of Commons. One of the stipulations of her page contract was that she enroll full-time at a Canadian university, which made it impossible for her to enroll or defer enrollment at Yale.
After her year as a page, Fink reapplied to Yale, and against all odds, she was readmitted.
Most transfer applicants, however, are not as lucky as Fink.
Assistant Dean Jill Cutler said Yale took an unusually high number of transfer students this year — 26. This program is smaller than that of other academically comparable schools, many of which accept over 100 transfers annually. Harvard, for example, admitted 55 transfer students last year, according to its Web site, and Wesleyan University typically takes 100 to 130 transfer students per year.
Yale’s admissions pool for transfer students is much larger than the number of students accepted. Cutler said this year’s 26 transfer students were chosen out of a group of close to 900 applicants. But even though they are a select group, Yale transfers have little in common.
Something unusual to add
Shermon Williams ’04 said he was impressed by his fellow transfer students’ uniqueness.
“They weren’t cookie-cutter,” Williams said. “All of them have something unusual to add to the experience.”
Williams spent 15 years as a missionary and two years at Georgia Perimeter College before transferring to Yale. Though he left high school with no intention of attending college, he decided college would make him a more effective social activist.
Alexander Cote ’05, who attended Georgetown University last year, said he had “wanted to go to Yale to begin with.” Cote said he was unhappy with the limited curriculum Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service had to offer and with his fellow students.
“I felt like I was still in high school,” Cote said.
Yali Lewis ’05 also said she felt more at home with Yale’s students. Lewis, who transferred from Princeton, said she thought Yale students were “more artsy and more liberal.”
“I found it really easy to integrate into Yale,” she said. “In general I haven’t found there to be bad consequences to the transfer program being small.”
Lewis, an art major, said she came to Yale primarily because its art program is stronger than Princeton’s.
“If I hadn’t gotten into Yale I would’ve just stayed [at Princeton],” Lewis said. “But now that I’m at Yale, I love it.”
Some, like Fink, said the transition to a new school presented challenges.
“When I got back into Yale as a transfer student I was pretty happy about it, but I was also kind of hesitant to leave all my friends that I had made over my year in Ottawa,” Fink said. “It was kind of annoying having to start from scratch again in terms of making friends.”
But Fink had a plan for her first few days of school.
“I decided to take matters into my own hands and wandered through the entryways of JE knocking on doors and introducing myself as the new kid in entryway C,” Fink said. “Most people were like, ‘Yale takes transfer students?’ After a few days, I had some friends to sit with in the dining hall and life progressed from there.”
Many students said that having to make new friends in a unfamiliar environment was one of the biggest challenges of transferring. And those who come from different educational environments, such as Dan Andrei Iancu ’04, have the additional challenge of trying to navigate a new school system.
Iancu, who came to Yale this fall from Politechnica University of Bucharest, said he wanted to transfer because the curriculum at his old university was almost entirely limited to science classes. The credits Iancu had accumulated when he entered Yale show how limited his old school’s curriculum was — he came to Yale with one credit in Group I and 17 in Group IV.
“There are a lot of changes as far as the school system,” Iancu said.
Consequences of a small program
Cutler said she thought the transfer program’s success was demonstrated by the fact that transfer students seem to assimilate into the student body quickly.
“One indication of the success of the transfer program is, for the first couple of weeks I might see [the transfer students],” Cutler said. “But then they just disappear.”
But Williams said transfer students were easily overwhelmed by their new surroundings.
“I think it’s easy for a transfer to get lost,” Williams said.
Williams said he and several other transfer students have tried to help new transfers assimilate. Where incoming freshmen are surrounded by counselors, big sibs, and advisors, there is no specific program designed to help transfer students adjust.
Cutler explained that transfer students receive less guidance than freshman because they have already completed at least one full year of college. She added that the variety of different experiences transfer students bring to Yale makes it difficult to create a single program to suit every transfer student’s needs.
“There’s not much we can do to help them because they’re all so different,” Cutler said. “On the other hand, we want to welcome them.”
Cutler said she works with incoming transfers’ transcripts and offers them her personal help.
“I definitely invite them to come to me with questions,” she said.
Just as freshmen attend Convocation, “sex talks,” and welcome dinners, incoming transfer students can attend two dinners, during which they meet other transfer students and learn about programs such as the residential college writing tutors.
But many transfer students observed that they only had a short time to get to know each other during the dinners, and some were concerned with the amount of guidance they receive.
Lewis said compared to freshmen, transfer students get little guidance.
“We didn’t get hardly anything at all,” Lewis said.
But Cote said he and other transfers are happy with the low level of administrative intrusion into their lives.
“Once I got here I did feel kind of on our own, but at the same time, I love that,” Cote said.
Fink said she did not think transfer students had more in common with each other than they had in common with other Yalies.
“We’re just a bunch of new students,” Fink said. “When I’m with other transfer students, I feel like being a transfer student is part of my identity. It’s also a part of my identity when I have explain that I never lived on Old Campus, or that I took my microeconomics at a different university and maybe that’s why I thought it was easy — Sometimes being a transfer student is relevant to my identity, usually not.”