Only about 14 percent of first years who took Directed Studies in the fall semester withdrew from the spring semester portion of the class — a significant drop from last year’s 20 percent.
According to the University’s Online Course Selection, the number of students enrolled in D.S. dropped from 106 in the fall term to 91 this spring. While 17 students in the class of 2021 withdrew from the program midyear, only 15 from the class of 2022 decided to pursue an alternative course of study.
Directed Studies Director of Undergraduate Studies Kathryn Slanski and Senior Administrative Assistant Constance Pascarella did not respond for comment.
David Hou ’22, who was one of the 15 students, said that although he had a positive experience in the fall, he was looking for a differently structured course to take this semester.
“I wouldn’t say my experience necessarily led me to drop but [dropping D.S.] comes from what I’m looking for [in a course],” Hou said. “The pacing and emphasis on breadth over depth struck me as something I didn’t want next semester and didn’t enjoy as much as other aspects of D.S.”
Hou noted that his literature section discussed just two out of the hundreds of ancient Greek poetess Sappho’s fragments, a piece of literature he found “more interesting” compared to all the other works the class covered.
It was during reading period that Hou realized that he did not want to continue his enrollment in the program.
“The way the program is laid out is designed to expose you to everything but not take a deep dive,” he said. “During reading period, it was a real struggle to find a way to bring everything together without cramming.”
This semester, he plans to enroll in classes with less works on the syllabus and a greater focus on critical reading. Still, Hou admitted that he did not regret spending the first half of his first year in D.S., listing class size, a “tight knit” group and access to Yale’s “best professors” as positives of the program.
In alignment with last year’s decrease in D.S. enrollment, this year also had a smaller D.S. class size. Compared to the 124 students who enrolled in the fall of 2016, only 101 first years enrolled in the program last year and just 106 participated in the program this year.
Jen Huang ’22, another student who left the program this spring, said she felt relieved to no longer have the rigidity of a predefined schedule.
“I’m really happy, honestly,” said Huang. “I’m relieved to be taking classes that I like better. I’m glad I tried [the program], but I wanted to explore more classes.”
Huang said that she initially felt drawn to the program because of a panel she attended at Bulldog Days in April 2018. On the panel, then-students of the D.S. program said that it was “the best thing that ever happened to them,” and encouraged interested students to give it a try.
Though Huang knew that the program required enrollment in three reading-heavy courses, she did not expect that it would be such a large time commitment. She explained that though the close reading skills she acquired allowed her to engage more fully with philosophical works, she felt that most of the reading was long and dry. Overall, she said she decided to drop the program because it did not align with her personal interests.
“I regret [taking D.S.] to a certain extent because there are some courses I wish I took during the first semester that would help me with prerequisites now,” said Huang. “But I don’t 100 percent regret it because now I know so much more about what I do and do not like.”
The Directed Studies program was founded in 1947.
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