Yasmine Halmane, Photo Editor

For the first time since 2019, incoming first years arrived on campus this week for Bulldog Days, Yale’s three-day orientation program for accepted students. 

Between April 25 and 27, current students welcomed prospective members of the class of 2026 into their suites for several days of programming and a chance to experience life on-campus in advance of the May 2 commitment deadline. This week marks the first time Bulldog Days has been held in person since 2019, after two years of virtual programming due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Yale’s greatest asset is its people, and Bulldog Days is designed to help admitted students make connections with the amazing people who live, study and work here,” Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions Jill Carrera ’17 said. “We are delighted to showcase Yale’s diverse supportive community and its incredible resources on campus again.”  

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan said that bringing back on-campus Bulldog Days was a year-long priority for his office. He added that admitted students seem to be just as excited about the event as the admissions staff and that “interest in the program from admitted students exceeded our initial expectations.”

Fortunately, pandemic developments have rendered the on-campus event possible this year, and Yale’s COVID Response Team, Yale’s COVID Policy team and the Admissions Office have worked closely to ensure that Bulldog Days will be safe for those who choose to attend. All Bulldog Days visitors must be vaccinated and boosted and are required to test before arrival and upon arrival at Yale. Bulldog Days attendees who test positive will move into isolation housing on campus or be allowed to arrange for private transportation home.

New Haven-based events are dedensified for public health concerns and the Admissions Office is also hosting virtual programming for students unable to visit the Elm City. The University hosted panels, master classes, an extracurricular bazaar, an academic fair and a performing arts showcase. Individual student organizations have also arranged programming geared towards incoming first years. 

The options, incoming first year Evelyn Jiang ’26 told the News, were so varied that they could be daunting. 

“It was kind of overwhelming, but it was also super exciting,” Jiang said. “All of my friends and I were just like, ‘Oh, there’s so much to do here.’ We’re just overwhelmed by how many activities there are and how much Yale has to offer us.’”

For incoming first years staying on campus, integrating themselves into campus life has also meant close engagement with current Yale students, many of whom are hosting accepted students in their dormitories. 

Tony Whelan ’26 told the News that on his way to New Haven from the airport, he met a graduate student who was also headed to Yale and who helped him find his way. 

“Because it was my first time visiting New Haven, I was unfamiliar with the route and directions,” Whelan said. “He stayed by my side and took me to [Grace] Hopper College.”

In Hopper, Whelan told the News, his student hosts were “all very nice people” who made an effort not only to provide a comfortable living situation, but also to build friendships. 

Jack Pan ’26 said that his hosts were “really great” and had been looking after him during his stay at Yale, although he noted that they were also “messy.” 

“Our kids have asked really strange questions but have been entertaining and good fun,” Josh Guo ’24, Pan’s host, told the News. “Sorry for giving them a realistic depiction of what a college suite looks like.”

Jiang opted to stay with a friend from high school instead of a random suite but told the News that staying with the friend had brought them even closer together. It was especially nice, Jiang said, to get a better sense of what her life on campus would look like next year.

Paola Milbank ’26 agreed, adding that living in a suite had been one of her favorite parts of her experience on campus for Bulldog Days. 

“When I got back to my room at around 2 a.m. everyone was sitting in a circle and talking and it was such a nice environment,” Milbank told the News. “My host was also very nice to me — I asked her a bunch of questions and she was so nice about it. … Another person in my suite had breakfast with my friend and I and answered a lot of our questions too. I thought it was really kind of him to take time out of his day to chat with us and make the effort to be available to us to ask him everything.”

Both Jiang and Milbank told the News that in addition to meeting current students, they were especially excited by the opportunity to spend time with their future classmates — both new faces and those who they had met online since their acceptance to Yale. 

The University also arranged academic programming for prospective students, including masterclasses taught by powerhouse professors including Jay Emerson GRD ’95 ’02, Akhil Amar, Anne Fadiman, Laurie Santos, Daniel Martinez HoSang, Crystal Feimster and Shelly Kagan.

Emerson, a professor and the Director of Graduate Studies for Statistics and Data Science, is teaching a master class on Wednesday titled, “Lies, Damn Lies and … Olympic Judging Systems.” He said he does not remember when he first began his involvement with Bulldog Days. 

“These young men and women are facing difficult choices,” Emerson wrote in an email to the News. “I simply hope to offer a talk that educates, entertains, and effectively represents the spirit of what Yale offers.”

Fadiman described her Wednesday master class, “Writing from the Inside Out and the Outside In,” as “a class about my classes, and more generally, about Yale’s writing culture and writing opportunities, both in class and extracurricularly.”

Both Emerson and Fadiman said they hope their classes will attract admitted students to their departments.

Although the event is intended to orient incoming first years to life at Yale, some members of the class of 2026 were not able to attend.  

“I couldn’t attend BDD because visa wait times were close to a month after decisions came out, so I wasn’t sure if I’d get one in time,” Sahana Kaur ’26, an international student from Malaysia, told the News. “My A-Level exams start a week after BDD, so I was also worried about getting COVID and not being able to sit for the papers.” 

Ava Canney ’26, an incoming international first year from Ireland, also told the News that she had to forgo Bulldog Days to study for A-Level exams, and that many other students have found themselves in the same position. 

“I was hugely disappointed that I couldn’t attend Bulldog Days, as I have yet to visit campus,” Canney told the News. “In 2021, I had hoped to get on campus with [Yale Young Global Scholars] but it was moved online. However, I am being kept well up to date by another girl from my country who is at Bulldog Days.”

Canney added that she had “basically been getting a personal virtual tour” from her friend, as well as taking several calls with a current Yale student from her home in Ireland. 

In the absence of Bulldog Days, Canney said, she had been scouring the Yale website for any updates pertaining to the class of 2026, researching extracurricular activities and keeping up to date with the Yale 2026 group Instagram page. 

But like many of the students who were able to attend Bulldog Days, Canney has already made the decision to commit to Yale. 

Jiang told the News that although she had already committed, being on campus made her even more excited to come to Yale in the fall — now, she said, Yale feels less like an institution she had to get into and more like a home.

“I committed to Yale in January,” Milbank agreed. “But I actually told my friend last night that I would want to commit all over again if I hadn’t.”Yale admitted 2,234 students to the class of 2026.

Lucy Hodgman is the editor-in-chief and president of the News. She previously covered student life and the Yale College Council. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, she is a junior in Grace Hopper majoring in English.
Jordan Fitzgerald serves as a University editor for the News. She previously edited for WKND and wrote about admissions, financial aid & alumni. She is a senior in Trumbull College majoring in American history.