With application season nearing for the Global Affairs and Ethics, Politics and Economics majors, interested students are preparing for yet another harrowing round of competition — a process seemingly ingrained into the Yale identity.
The demonstrated interest in Yale’s two competitive academic majors has followed an upward trend. The number of applicants to EP&E, which boasts a steady 50 percent acceptance rate, rose from 79 in 2013 to 86 in 2014. Last year, the Global Affairs major received approximately 250 applications, with hopefuls vying for around 50 spots. This year, around 60 spots will be available to students interested in the major.
When the Global Affairs major was first introduced in 2010, it replaced the International Studies major, which did not have an application process; students interested in the application-based Global Affairs major outnumbered those interested in its nonselective predecessor.
“Yale students are competitive by nature,” said Sigrídur Benediktsdottir GRD ’05, the director of undergraduate studies for Global Affairs. “And as the major gained the reputation of being competitive, more people seem to apply.”
Benediktsdottir described the increasing competitiveness as “highly troubling.”
But George Gemelas ’18, an EP&E major and office assistant for the major, believes the increased interest in EP&E is due to the growing relevance of a liberal arts education that involves critical thinking spanning different fields.
“The world is asking us to understand the intersections of various sectors, and EP&E is an embodiment of that trend,” Gemelas said.
According to Gemelas, the limited size of majors is a product of administrative constraints such as a lack of professors, especially for EP&E because it is “hard to find professors who are deeply knowledgeable in all three areas.” Budgeting is also a concern: Although they are well-populated, Global Affairs and EP&E are interdisciplinary majors and not departments with their own budgets.
“The competitiveness isn’t something we like,” Benediktsdottir said. “It’s competitive enough getting to Yale. But it’s inevitable because we value student input in our small seminars.”
Still, some view the selectiveness as a positive. Andrew Sady-Kennedy ’20, a prospective Global Affairs applicant, said the application process “helps differentiate those who are interested in actively pursuing their studies and those who are in it just for the extra line on the resume.”
On Monday afternoon, with fewer than two weeks left to apply to Global Affairs, the Jackson Institute hosted an information session for anxious sophomores eager to learn more about how to earn a coveted spot in the major. Although there are no official major prerequisites, there is a culture of informal requirements as the institute evaluates each applicant’s course history.
“If your stated interest on the application doesn’t correspond with your courses taken, it simply wouldn’t be very convincing,” Benediktsdottir said. “The application would be difficult to evaluate without any history of foundation courses or language courses.”
The Global Affairs website includes a recommended timeline of classes interested students should take from their first-year fall semester through their senior spring semester. Prospective Ethics, Politics and Economics students are encouraged to take introductory classes in all three areas to build a strong application.
Students accepted into the majors enjoy certain exclusive opportunities. Seniors in Global Affairs can participate in a capstone project on behalf of professional clients, while EP&E students benefit from senior essay research grants and study abroad programs.
Students in both majors are also given preferred selection in capped seminars. Lily Sutton, director of student affairs for Global Affairs, emphasized the easy access to popular courses taught by Jackson Institute Senior Fellows as one of the program’s biggest academic advantages.
Applications to Global Affairs are due Nov. 17, while EP&E applications are due Dec. 1.
Nicole Ahn | email@example.com