Vaibhav Sharma, Photography Editor

On April 2, the Yale College Council launched an online database to help connect current students who are considering a leave of absence with those who have either taken one already or are currently on one.

The new mentorship initiative comes after a surge of students took leaves of absences this past academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The database currently includes more than 50 mentors and contains each mentor’s contact information, along with their intended majors and summaries of how they spent their LOA. Students interested in an LOA are encouraged to email the mentors listed on the database with any questions they may have.

The mentors listed on the database are students who filled out a Google form that was promoted by the YCC through social media, as well as by the Academic Strategies Program and the Office of Career Strategy. Those who filled out the form agreed to meet virtually with each student who contacts them, to share their experiences and to offer advice.

“We hope to enhance mentorship and guidance opportunities for students,” YCC President Aliesa Bahri ’22 wrote in an email to the News. “This is particularly important this year because the state of public health in the fall is still unclear.”

The uncertainty around public health conditions and the ensuing stresses on students were the main driving forces behind the YCC’s decision to establish the database. Zoe Hsu ’24, YCC equity chair and co-founder and co-leader of its Asian affinity network, created the database with the help of Karin Gosselink, the founding director of the undergraduate Academic Strategies Program.

Like Bahri, Hsu believes that the database is especially important because of the unique challenges students are facing during the pandemic.

“Forming a plan, such as finding jobs, internships, or other opportunities, is much more difficult because of the pandemic,” Hsu wrote to the News in an email. “Students taking a leave of absence need assistance with making plans or general advice.”

According to Hsu, this project offers students an extra support system at every stage of taking an LOA.

Even under normal times, taking an LOA posed numerous challenges for many students. Sidney Velasquez ’24, an LOA mentor who is currently on an LOA, described “feeling incredibly overwhelmed” when she was initially planning her LOA.

“For many people who take an LOA, this is the first time we have so much freedom to construct our time,” Velazquez wrote to the News in an email. “Some people may see that as freeing, but for me it was terrifying.”

Over the course of her LOA, she has been working, interning and staying involved with Yale organizations while living in Spain. As an LOA mentor, she hopes to give students “as much advice and guidance in finding opportunities and dealing with the hardships that come with an LOA.”

The database is open to all Yale students, regardless of their enrollment status, according to Bahri. This database will therefore also cater to recently admitted students who are considering deferring enrollment to the fall of 2022.

A record-breaking total of 324 students originally admitted as the class of 2024 postponed matriculation this past academic year.

Michael Paz |