High school seniors in China and Sri Lanka are among the hundreds receiving offers of admission to Yale-NUS College this year, a group which reflects the institution’s continued ability to garner interest from prospective students outside Singapore.
As it works to finalize the fifth class of students to matriculate at Yale-NUS, the admissions office continues to employ a wide variety of strategies to recruit students and fulfil what former Yale President Richard Levin said was one of the primary goals behind the University’s decision to help start a new college in Singapore — to bring a liberal arts education to Asia.
“Our recruitment efforts take various forms, ranging from conducting outreach talks and events at high schools in Singapore and overseas, to workshops on the Yale-NUS campus,” Yale-NUS Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Laura Severin said in an email to the News. “We also host our own Yale-NUS Open House and other visit programmes on the Yale-NUS campus.”
Singaporean students make up about 60 percent of each of the college’s first three classes. In response to a query about the existence of a quota system in place for admissions, Severin noted that a prospective student’s is not a critical factor in his or her application.
“While we plan to have the majority of the student population be Singaporean, this must be complemented by a significant international cohort,” she said.
Severin said the admissions team relies heavily on social media to engage with prospective international students, in addition to hosting college counselors on campus.
Jeffrey Neill, director of college counselling at the Taipei American School, was one of the counselors hosted. He said he thoroughly enjoyed his time on campus, and that he would encourage students at TAS who are looking for a nontraditional higher education experience to think of Yale-NUS as a potential college destination.
According to Neill, his school has seen a growing awareness of the Singaporean college. In the past five years, six students from Neill’s school have been admitted to Yale-NUS, with two choosing to matriculate.
“For many of our students here at TAS, there is a goal to receive a terrific education and to return to Asia,” Neill said. “For this sort of student, Yale-NUS is such an ideal place because of the launching pad that Singapore and the college seem to be.”
Admitted students interviewed had a range of responses when asked about their decision to apply to Yale-NUS.
For Jay Wong, the decision to apply to Yale-NUS and potentially stay in Singapore after spending his whole life in the local school system was motivated by the chance to explore Western ideals within the conservative Eastern hallmarks of an institution based in Singapore.
“I trust Yale-NUS in cultivating its own unique style of education that is of a genuine liberal arts tradition and suited for a country like Singapore,” Wong said.
Michelle Leow, who is currently studying at the Western Academy of Beijing, said she was excited by the prospect of studying at a young college because it would afford students significant discretion in paving the direction the college may take.
Leow added that though she initially had doubts about the feasibility of pursuing a genuine liberal arts education in Singapore, her concerns were assuaged by conversations with current students.
Noting that growing up in Singapore has acclimated him to the limitation on free discourse, Wong said he could see why such concerns regarding restrictions on expression persist among prospective students and critics of the school, but did not think that they affected academic freedom at Yale-NUS. The multitude of study abroad opportunities offered at the school facilitated exposure to other environments, and the purported restrictions themselves need to be better understood, he said.
“I believe the restrictions faced in Singapore is also many a time more cultural than concrete, so it is certainly mitigated by the Yale-NUS community’s diversity and open-mindedness,” Wong said. “Something critics often make the mistake of assuming is that a college being located in Singapore makes it a microcosm of Singapore — I’ve visited the college, and I think that’s not too accurate.”
With the May 1 deadline for accepting Yale-NUS’ offer of admission looming, the two had still not made a final decision. Wong said will most likely commit to Yale-NUS, though he is weighing a financial aid offer from a university in the United States. Leow “is 100 percent into it,” but had yet to make her decision official because of personal nonacademic concerns not related to the college.
“The class of 2021 has gotten to know each other very well across various social platforms, and deep bonds and an intricate sense of community has already been forged,” Leow said. “The diversity in culture and personality that you can only find at Yale-NUS has me committed in heart.”
Yale-NUS received more than 8,000 applications for the class of 2020.