Neehaar Gandhi, Senior Photographer

97 applicants to Yale College’s class of 2027 received phone calls last week offering them early acceptance as Yale Engineering and Science Scholars. 

The YES program will expand existing offerings for highly qualified STEM applicants as part of the University’s wider push to increase its STEM standing. YES Scholars who matriculate to Yale will now receive guaranteed funding for one summer of research. According to Associate Dean of STEM Education Sandy Chang ’88, the yield with the existing YES Scholar program — which historically did not include guaranteed research funding — has been in the mid-30 percentages. The University wants this yield to continue growing.

“YES Weekend is our way to attract the most STEM-savvy high school students to Yale, and the program is great, but I was dismayed that our yield [for YES Scholars] even after YES Weekend is only 34 or 35 percent,” Chang said. “One of my ideas [to increase yield] was why don’t we offer guaranteed summer funding to our YES Weekend cohort? Many of our students are already getting funding, so why don’t we guarantee it upfront and aleve the anxiety?” 

The YES Scholars program is not new. Starting in 2011 — concurrent with the University’s push to elevate its STEM offerings — the Office of Undergraduate Admissions brought “superlative STEM scholars” to campus for a weekend in February, according to senior assistant director of undergraduate admissions Reed Srere. Dubbed YES Weekend, the goal was to showcase what STEM at Yale is like and increase Yale’s yield rate of highly-skilled STEM undergraduates.

Six years later, the admissions office combined YES Weekend with its more well-known Bulldog Days program, during which all admitted students are invited to experience campus life before the May 1 matriculation deadline. The YES Weekend functioned as an addendum to Bulldog Days, offering additional days for YES Scholars to experience STEM at Yale. The University also covered the cost of travel to New Haven for YES Scholars. 

“Over the past 15 years, we have seen more and more of the most accomplished and promising young scientists and engineers include Yale in their college search process,” Mark Dunn, senior associate director for outreach and recruitment at the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, wrote in an email to the News. “We have found that many of these students are attracted to Yale for its diverse and supportive communities, the residential college system, and the incredible array of extracurricular organizations, but they often know less about Yale’s STEM departments and the experiences of current Yale STEM majors.”

Now, with the program’s integration of research funding and other STEM-specific opportunities, the goal is to increase the YES Scholars yield rate. 

In addition to research funding, Chang aims to use the YES program to foster a “community of like-minded STEM students” throughout all four undergraduate years and beyond. He plans to offer workshops, alumni teach-ins and other talks from industry professionals — among other offerings — on a monthly basis for all YES Scholars. 

Students can use their research funding the summer after their first year or their second year, which Chang said is to allow students flexibility in their summer plans — for example, if a student wanted to study a language abroad after their first year, they would be able to use their YES Scholar research funding the summer after. 

According to Srere, the admissions office made their calls to 97 YES Scholars last week. These students will soon receive their official “likely letters,” which are sent to a selected group of students who are informed of their acceptance earlier than the April 1 decision date as part of a specialized recruitment strategy. 

After receiving notification of their admission, Srere told the News that newly-admitted YES Scholars will have the opportunity to connect with student employees called STEM Likely Representatives and learn more about Yale’s STEM offerings. This pool of employees is a combination of the admissions office’s STEM tour guides and current YES Scholars.

“The goal is to increase the yield rate,” Chang said. “If we go from 30 percent to 40 percent, that’s a big victory. I’m hoping for 50 percent or more.”

Srere said he hopes the expansion of the YES Scholars program will encourage students to more seriously consider matriculating to Yale to pursue studies in STEM by better advertising Yale’s STEM-related offerings.

He named Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania as two examples of peer institutions that employ similar recruitment programs. Srere said the goal is for YES Scholars to “have a larger scope” and form a community available to students for their entire time at Yale.

“I hope, and Sandy [Chang] does too, that this will give these students immediate access to research and help admitted students get an even clearer idea of how and where they might opt to engage in research once they start at Yale,” Srere said.

Chang noted that other cohorts, like Science, Technology and Research Scholars as well as the Hahn Scholars, involve workshops and mentorship, so Chang thinks it will be very feasible to implement similar programming for YES Scholars.

The YES program differs from STARS, however, in that STARS is geared specifically toward increasing diversity and equity within STEM. The program offers advising, research funding, laboratory experience and other forms of mentorship specifically to first-generation and low-income students and underrepresented minorities — such as women and gender minorities as well as students of color. 

YES Scholars, however, are selected solely based on the merit demonstrated in their applications, according to Chang. Criteria for selecting YES Scholars may include previously published research in prestigious journals, outstanding letters of recommendation or prizes from major research competitions. 

Last year marked the first Bulldog Days to take place on campus since the spring of 2020. Due to persisting public health restrictions around COVID-19, last year’s Bulldog Days did not include an extra weekend for YES Scholars. Instead, YES Scholars in the class of 2026 had the opportunity to participate in specific programming — such as meetings with STEM faculty and panels about research opportunities — that ran concurrently with the rest of Bulldog Days. 

According to Srere, the 97 students receiving likely letters through the YES program generally form about 40 percent of all likely recipients, as between 130 and 150 students, roughly, receive likely letters separately from this cohort. This year, however, the portion of likely letters given to YES Scholars is closer to 50 percent, as 108 applicants will receive likely letters separate from this cohort. 

All regular decision applicants will hear back from Yale by April 1.

Anika Arora Seth is the 146th Editor in Chief and President of the Yale Daily News. Anika previously covered STEM at Yale as well as admissions, alumni and financial aid. She also laid out the weekly print edition of the News as a Production & Design editor and was one of the inaugural Diversity, Equity & Inclusion co-chairs. Anika is pursuing a double major in biomedical engineering and women's, gender and sexuality studies.