Zoe Berg, Photo Editor

While official graduation years cannot be changed at a student’s request, students who have taken a term or more off from enrolling in classes can choose to remain affiliated with their original class of matriculation.

This semester, as the pandemic has prompted changes to campus life, 23 percent of Yale College students took a leave of absence — as opposed to the 1.4 percent of students who took a leave in fall 2019 — potentially putting them on a separate graduation track from that of their closest friends. These students cannot change their official graduation year; that number is tied to a student’s academic progress and is part of their official record. But the students can request to be affiliated with another class year to participate in events and be included in communications.

“The year of graduation is keyed to a student’s academic progress and is part of the official record, and so cannot be changed at the request of a student,” Paul McKinley, senior associate dean of strategic initiatives and communications, wrote in an email to the News. “However, students who take time off can participate in events, including commencement and reunions, for their class of original matriculation. This is true for students who take a term or more off.”

According to University Registrar Emily Shandley, the Registrar’s Office does not keep an official record of preferred class affiliation. Shandley explained that the University Registrar’s Office is responsible for “maintaining the official student record,” which includes student class year and level. When a student returns from a leave of absence, the Registrar’s Office automatically updates their information to reflect their academic progress toward degree completion.

However, before students graduate, they can informally request to receive information for a different class year. According to McKinley, students can request their residential colleges, their class council and, for Commencement, the Office of the Secretary and Vice President for University Life, to include them on the appropriate distribution lists.

According to Vice President for Alumni Affairs and Development Joan O’Neill, once a student graduates and becomes an alum, they can also request a class affiliation change in the alumni database so that they can attend reunions and other events with a class other than their official graduating class.

“The YAA is happy for alums to affiliate with the class that means the most to them, as long as they were at one time part of that class as a student,” Executive Director of the Yale Alumni Association Weili Cheng wrote in an email to the News.

When a student chooses to exercise this option, McKinley explained, their academic record would still reflect their official year of graduation rather than their preferred class affiliation. But they would enjoy all the benefits of being in their original class of matriculation, with a few exceptions. 

On graduation day, students participating in Commencement before completing all of their degree requirements will receive their residential college certificate — but not their diploma. Students are only permitted to participate in one Commencement ceremony.

McKinley added that occasionally, siblings in different class years request to participate in a single Commencement ceremony, often to accommodate elderly relatives who need to travel long distances to attend.

Further, Yale College prizes and awards are usually distributed only to seniors who are in their final term of enrollment, although individual residential colleges may award prizes to students who will still be enrolled in future semesters.

McKinley clarified that this is not a new policy — students who took time off from classes have long had the option to be affiliated with their original class of matriculation.

Whitney Bowen ’24 took a leave of absence this semester, so her true graduation year is now “between” the classes of 2023 and 2024. However, since she feels more a part of her original class of matriculation than she does the class below — which has now become her official class of graduation after taking time off — she is grateful to have the option to be affiliated with the class of 2023.

“As of right now, having spent my freshman year with the class of 2023, I feel much more connected to those students than I do the grade below,” Bowen wrote in an email to the News. “When I initially chose to take time off, I was worried about the social and academic implications of being in a different grade: reunions, housing, classes, email lists, etc. I’m super happy to hear that Yale is allowing us flexibility in this.”

According to the Office of Institutional Research’s fact sheet for 2019-20, 95 percent of undergraduates graduate within five years.

Julia Bialek | julia.bialek@yale.edu