As part of University-wide efforts to transform Yale into a world-class science research institution, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions has made recruiting science and engineering students a top priority.
The Admissions Office’s outreach efforts, which began around five years ago, include programs that exclusively aim to boost both the number and quality of science students at Yale. A new science and engineering viewbook was published this fall to supplement the original version, and prospective applicants who are interested in the sciences can now watch an online video about research opportunities, take campus tours of science and engineering facilities and receive school visits from student ambassadors.
Jeff Brenzel, the dean of undergraduate admissions, said the Admissions Office is also overhauling its recruitment presentations with new multimedia. So far, the efforts have seen moderate success, in the form of a small increase in the number of prospective science and engineering applicants over the past several years, Brenzel said.
“We are hoping to see a few more science majors, while at the same time, our efforts are primarily focused on making sure the very top science students in the world choose Yale,” Brenzel said.
The Admissions Office tries to win over exceptional science students in a more personal way, by giving students’ contact information to professors with related interests, said Meg Urry, chair of the Physics Department.
“[The Office of Undergraduate] Admissions lets individual professors know if there is a prospective freshman who has particular synergy or related interests,” Urry said in a e-mail Sunday.
Urry said she has one to three of these conversations each year, tailoring them to each prospective student’s specific interests, and how those interests would be well served by the Yale academic experience. For example, she said, on Sunday morning she called a prospective freshman who is interested in both physics and the issue of women in the sciences. Urry said they discussed the Perspectives on Science freshman program, about which she said the student was excited. They also discussed the Yale Drop Team, she said, which does micro-gravity experiments with a NASA “zero-gravity” plane that flies up and free-falls down.
Throughout the year, science and engineering department chairs are constantly discussing new ways to recruit interested freshmen, said Tom Pollard, chair of the Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Department.
Pollard, too, has made many such calls, including one to a student who had done research for four summers at the university level. The student now wants to work in his lab, Pollard said.
In order to distinguish Yale from its peers, Pollard said, he touts the University as an institution with top-notch sciences that also allows students to pursue a well-rounded education and an active social life.
“Yale students have much more fun than MIT students,” Pollard said.
But within the Admissions Office itself, broader outreach efforts center on increasing the visibility of Yale’s science and engineering programs. A special section of the Admissions Office’s Web site is devoted to science and engineering, featuring several links, including one to the Web site of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Applicants can also ask questions about the sciences at Yale via a special e-mail address connecting them with current science and engineering students. Another link leads to the new 40-page viewbook highlighting Yale’s billion-dollar investment in campus science and research facilities and featuring profiles of students and faculty involved in various research projects on campus.
This month, the Admissions Office also added a link on its Web site to a promotional video produced by the Yale Office of Public Affairs. Titled “At Yale, the World is My Laboratory,” the 11-minute clip shows Yale students participating in field research opportunities around the world.
Beginning last year, the Admissions Office has also sent Yale students to the nation’s top high schools during semester breaks to promote the University’s science and engineering programs. The initiative is an offshoot of the Admissions Office’s main student ambassadors program, which was designed to attract high-achieving low-income students, Brenzel said.
“Yale has made a really big push with its science presentations,” Laurie Kobick, college counselor at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., said. “We have had admissions representatives as well as student alumni come and speak at our school.”
Eric Bersin, for example, a senior at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Ill., said Yale’s biomedical engineering program and campus upgrades were among his primary reason for applying early in the fall. (Bersin was deferred.)
A WORK IN PROGRESS
But convincing prospective students that Yale offers an excellent science education will take time, college counselors said.
“Most of our students don’t put Yale at the top of the list when they are applying to college,” Barry Baker, director of college counseling at the California Academy of Math and Science, a top-ranked magnet school in Carson, Calif.
Science ambassador Katelyn Martin ’12 said the students at Southwest DeKalb High School and Pace Academy, in Decatur and Atlanta, Ga., respectively, were more attracted by Yale’s generous financial aid incentives than by its science research opportunities and facilities.
Still, for science students who do apply, gaining admission appears to be no easier. And despite the professors play in luring talented students to Yale, Urry said they have no input regarding admissions decisions.
“As far as I know, we have no influence at all,” she said.
And this fall, over a dozen students applied early to Yale from the Bronx High School of Science in New York City, but only one student was admitted so far, said the director of college counseling, Darby McHugh.