While some undergraduates may be catching up on sleep and homework during their nine-day Thanksgiving break, 131 Yalies will spend their time serving as “student ambassadors,” visiting low-income high schools across the country in an effort to recruit a more diverse pool of University applicants.
The ambassadors, selected from a pool of more than 300 applicants last month, will visit 249 high schools in more than 40 states. The Yale Ambassadors Program, which was launched this fall, will send students to three or four public schools near their hometowns to present information about Yale and its financial aid program in an effort to boost the number of applications from these high schools.
Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel said he will assess the success of the program based on the turnout of high school students at the visits, and eventually, on the number of applications from students at these schools and the feedback from the student ambassadors.
“I’m looking forward to hearing from the students when they get back,” Brenzel said. “We’re not really going to see the effects in applications until regular decision.”
But Yale College Council President Steven Syverud ’06 said he thinks it may take as long as a few years to determine if the program will significantly impact high school students’ choices.
“I want to be cautious in setting expectations,” Syverud said. “I think Thanksgiving break is a good time to influence juniors who are looking at colleges, but it’s pretty late in the timeline for people who are seniors right now.”
The council organized the program with the help of the admissions office, YCC representative Wells O’Byrne ’07 said. The admissions office was initially receptive to the idea, he said, but did not have the staff to organize and plan the program.
For many of the students serving as ambassadors, these visits will mark their first foray in the world of admissions recruiting.
Dylan Stern ’08, who is working for the admissions office for the first time, said he plans to travel to three schools in Indiana during Thanksgiving break. Stern said he feels prepared to visit high schools and communicate that despite applicants’ financial concerns, it is still possible for them to afford a Yale education.
“The main goal of the program is to explain to these kids who might not apply to Yale that there are options,” he said. “Hearing it from a current student really has a chance to make an impact.”
Yale’s financial aid policy underwent sweeping changes last year, when the University removed the parental contribution for students from families earning under $45,000 and reduced it for students from families earning between $45,000 and $60,000. The Ambassadors Program was launched in an effort to ensure students from low-income high schools were aware of these changes, Brenzel said.
Jamal Fulton ’08, a YCC representative who worked on administrative aspects of the program, said student ambassadors will present the basics of financial aid policy at each high school and direct further questions to the University’s financial aid office.
“We want the ambassadors to explain the changes that have been made,” Fulton said. “Students shouldn’t let financial aid resources be a barrier.”
Fulton said he hopes the program helps bring students from lower socioeconomic brackets into the Yale community.
“Economic diversity is very important,” he said. “I think it’s one of the cool things about college. It increases the quality of education, in my point of view. The more talented people on campus, the better.”
Jeremiah Quinlan ’03, the acting director of student outreach and senior assistant director of admissions, said the selected high schools were chosen from a pool of approximately 430 public schools across the country. He said the ambassadors program gave priority to schools with students that had higher average standardized test scores and lower average family incomes. Quinlan said he also received feedback from Yale admissions officers about which schools they believed were “worth a second visit.”
The program will most likely occur next year again, Quinlan said, though most likely in a somewhat altered form.
“We are rethinking the program for next Thanksgiving,” Quinlan said. “There are always immediate ways to improve.”
Quinlan said Yale students may also visit low-income high schools over spring break.
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