Many of the hundreds of freshmen arriving at Yale this week will be entering a college environment for the first time in their lives. But for 33 students in particular, transitioning to Yale will not be as daunting an experience.
Freshman Scholars at Yale, or FSY, the University’s first pre-college academic summer bridge program, kicked off in July for a five-week pilot session. Originally conceived in 2008, the program — which is jointly run by the Admissions Office and the Yale College Dean’s Office, while also supported by Yale Summer Session — invited a handful of matriculated students from first-generation college families, low-income backgrounds and under-resourced high schools to partake in a summer term at Yale, for which tuition, housing and transportation costs were completely covered by the University.
Within the program, students lived on campus, enrolled in the English 114 writing seminar and attended a variety of workshops designed to acquaint students with campus resources.
William Whobrey, dean of Yale Summer Session, said he thought the pilot program was a great success and felt that students quickly acclimated to their new environment.
“The responses [from participants] really reflect what we were trying to accomplish in the program,” Whobrey said. “Students were saying, ‘When I come back, I know exactly what to do.’”
Of the 60 students that the Admissions Office invited to the program in May, a total of 33 chose to attend. Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan said most of the students who accepted the invitation replied within 48 hours.
FSY participant Frederic Nicholas ’17, a student from Detroit, said he did not know what to expect from the program before he arrived, as the students had only been told that they would be taking an English class and living in the residential colleges. The whole experience, he said, was an immersion into Yale life before freshman orientation.
Kerry Burke-McCloud ’17, a freshman from Jacksonville Beach, Fla., said he grew close to the other students in the program through attending the same classes and sessions.
“These were really the first friends that we made at Yale, and we all came from very similar backgrounds,” Burke-McCloud said. “As we arrived on campus, we already had that element of familiarity. The friendships we made are long-lasting.”
During the course of FSY, students took one of three sections of English 114, met with writing tutors, visited different Yale buildings, met with deans, and also had unscheduled time to work and socialize. In addition to academics, FSY introduced the students to different parts of Connecticut, including Thimble Island, the Yale Outdoor Education Center and Hammonasset Beach.
Helen Pho ’08, a senior adviser to the FSY program, lived on campus with the students and five student counselors. Pho and the counselors held weekly dinners to check in on the students, in addition to overseeing their residential college experiences.
“From what I observed throughout the program, the Freshman Scholars developed a strong sense of community — they bonded almost immediately after they arrived on campus,” Pho said.
Pho added that the students seemed to be much more confident in their abilities to succeed in college by the end of the program.
English professor Briallen Hopper, who taught a course on American documentary film for FSY, said the intimacy of the program resulted in vibrant classroom discussions.
“It’s important to me to participate in programs that help to demystify higher education at schools like Yale and to make it increasingly welcoming to students from every background,” Hopper said. “Students brought such incredible enthusiasm and insight to the classroom, plus a formidable work ethic.”
Burke-McCloud said he found the many workshops and meetings — which included advice sessions by deans on everything from the structure of Yale classes to tips on “how to manage time and still have enough time to sleep” — extremely helpful.
During FSY, Quinlan and Whobrey said, a working group of deans met weekly to discuss the program. As for FSY’s next session in summer 2014, Quinlan said he believes the major programmatic elements of the five weeks will not change, although it is “too early to speculate.”
The program took place from July 7 to Aug. 9, as part of Yale Summer Session B.