The Ethics, Politics and Economics major, known for its selective application process, became even more popular this year.
The number of student applications to EP&E rose from 79 in 2013 to 86 in 2014, echoing the trend of increased applications to other competitive majors such as Global Affairs. Administrators said each program accepts roughly half of the applicants while seeing higher application numbers in recent years.
Both EP&E and Global Affairs majors are given special privileges, including preregistration for EP&E classes and preferred access to the Jackson Institute.
While some students and faculty interviewed felt that major selectivity is unnecessary, others argued that application processes ensure the academic commitment of students to the majors.
“In my opinion, competition for seminar space has less to do with the competitive nature of EP&E and more to do with the fact that seminars are almost always cross-listed with multiple departments,” EP&E Director of Undergraduate Studies Andrew March wrote in an email. “Yale students tend to be intellectually curious and adventurous, and EP&E will always be attractive to students who want to push themselves.”
Forty-four applicants were accepted to EP&E, with 43 of those choosing to enroll in the major. According to Nicholas Sambanis, the program’s director, EP&E had a “very strong pool of applicants this year.”
Michelle Kelrikh ’17, an EP&E major accepted this year, said she felt the application process was stressful but necessary. Unable to preregister for EP&E classes as a sophomore in the major — only juniors and senior EP&E majors are able to preregister — Kelrikh could not fulfill all her requirements for EP&E because she did not gain spots in capped seminars.
Professors interviewed also indicated that because only some students are able to preregister while the rest engage in Shopping Period, offering capped seminars is particularly challenging.
“There is a problem with having both preregistration and free-for-all shopping,” said political science professor Jolyon Howorth, who teaches seminars in both political science and EP&E.
For the 16 available spots in his seminars, Howorth said he often has around 120 students registered on Online Course Information. Because a majority of those 16 spots are already taken by EP&E and political science majors who are able to preregister, most students are unable to get into the class. Howorth called this a “ridiculous waste of time,” and recommended that Yale either require preregistration for all classes, or none at all.
Although Global Affairs majors are unable to preregister for classes through the Jackson Institute, they are given preferred access to capped seminars.
This academic year the Jackson Institute will offer 79 seminars. However, of those, only one or two required a formal application through the Jackson Institute, said Jim Levinsohn, director of the Institute, in an email.
Still, one senior Global Affairs major who wished to remain anonymous condemned the application process as “stupid,” adding that he felt as if he was being obstructed from studying what he wanted to study.
Levinsohn, in fact, did not entirely dismiss the notion that the Global Affairs major could benefit from less competition.
“I don’t think the competitive nature of the Global Affairs major is necessarily a good thing,” Levinsohn wrote. “I’d love to be able to take every student who wants to major in Global Affairs, but we just don’t have the resources to do that at present. I’m working on it.”
Despite this pushback, some students and faculty see no chance that major selectivity will diminish. According to March, EP&E has no plans to change its application process. Other majors, such as cognitive science and environmental studies, also require an application from prospective students.
“I think all Yale students like to compete and like someone to compete against,” Howorth said. “That’s just a given.”