Marisa Peryer

For many Yale seniors, Thursday and Sunday nights are defined by their society. On these nights, groups of approximately 15 carefully selected students gather to meet, socialize and bond.

Although there are now more than 55 of these exclusive groups, the process to join them remains elusive.

“Going through the tap process is inevitably stressful as there is a decent lack of clarity to how the process works,” Harry Pew ’24 told the News, reflecting on his society tap experience last year. “You hear about friends and classmates receiving letters and interviews for weeks while many choose to not talk about it at all.”

This year’s tap process officially began on Thursday, Feb. 15, when societies were permitted to begin contacting prospective members, according to an email from the Yale College Council to the junior class. Some — but not all — societies offer interviews, which were permitted to begin on Thursday, Feb. 22, per the message.

Yalies will begin to officially receive membership offers in April, with “Pre-Tap” on April 11 to kick off  “Tap Week.” Over tap week, societies extend bids to rising seniors, and on “Tap Night” — on April 18 — those students may formally accept an offer. 

“As they have every year now for over a decade, nearly all of Yale’s senior societies have agreed to follow the same dates, procedures, and code of conduct during the Tap process, and to communicate this information to the junior class,” YCC President and Vice President Julian Suh-Toma ’25 and Maya Fonkeu ’25 wrote in their Feb. 14 email, which included a letter signed by the Society Assembly. “They do so in an effort to be as transparent as possible with juniors who may wish to join a society and to ensure that the Tap process is a safe and rewarding experience for all who participate in it.” 

While the oldest societies were founded as all-white and all-male groups, they have become more diverse since their inception. Skull and Bones — Yale’s oldest society, formed in 1832 — tapped its first Black member in 1965 and did not admit its first woman until 1991.

Skull and Bones is part of a select group of “landed” societies, Rhea Cong ’24 said. This means that the society owns a “tomb,” or a private building, on or close to Yale’s campus. All of the so-called “Ancient Eight” societies — Skull and Bones, Scroll and Key, Wolf’s Head, Elihu, Book and Snake, Berzelius, St. Elmo and Mace and Chain — are landed.

Cong explained that for her society, each member is allowed to ‘tap’ four juniors for consideration in the group’s longer selection process. Each society’s tap process is unique: for Samantha Prince ’24, each member of her society is permitted to select three juniors for consideration. Membership offers are not extended until April’s “Tap Week.” 

“We try to go for a mix of people,” Cong told the News. “Some people you know really well and some people who you think would fit the group well, but maybe you’re not best friends with. There’s definitely a lot of diversity in who gets tapped because we want people who can each contribute something different to this space.” 

Alumni have varying levels of engagement with their societies. Prince’s society has an Alumni Coordinator who communicates with the larger alumni base. Other societies have active Boards of Directors that help facilitate the tap process. Some societies do not allow their alumni to contribute to the tap process at all. 

Following the first round of initial taps, many societies conduct one to two rounds of interviews. Invitations for these interviews are delivered in secret. Some invitations, Prince said, do not even disclose which society they are from and usually just include a time and meeting place. Some include a mysterious message, like “We’ve been watching you.”

“The style of the interviews can vary a lot between societies,” Pew told the News. “The society will then deliberate and come to a consensus for which juniors to push forward to the next interview round and so on until they have around 20 remaining.” 

Pew, Cong and Prince are all in different societies. 

Following interview rounds for the societies that conduct them, Pew said, there is a “pre-tap” night when selected juniors are told they have spots in societies. According to Pew, selected juniors are often invited to parties or gatherings to meet with current society members and other selected juniors offered spots in the group. From there, they can decide whether or not to accept. 

For juniors who receive multiple “pre-taps,” these events are crucial in determining which society to join. For juniors who do not receive any pre-taps, the spots that end up opening up are their final chance to secure membership in one of the groups. Prince described this as the “scramble week,” which this year will begin on April 11. 

“The scramble is basically what happens when people who don’t have taps for society try to find them and societies with open spots, maybe from people who had multiple taps and turned them down, try to find people,” Prince told the News. “That process is very stressful.” 

Prince speculated that there is a spreadsheet among the society tap chairs — the seniors in charge of the process for each group — containing lists of those who have not received taps and who have or have not confirmed their tap. She noted, however, that she was not sure about its existence this year. 

Cong, Prince and Pew all touched on the fact that the societies try to fill specific demographics and “niches” for their group every year. Some of the niches that they pointed to were a cappella singers, fraternity members and varsity athletes. This is in an effort to make the group as diverse in perspective, interest and background as possible. 

Prince also touched on the concept of “tap lines.” The examples she gave included a gymnastics team tap line and a Rhythmic Blue dance group tap line. This would mean that every year, a member of these groups would tap a rising senior on their team or in their club for their society in order to keep the line going. 

“I think there’s at least some value to the tap lines,” Cong said. “Because you know that these people will have had very different Yale experiences. You’re going to hear these people’s life stories, and you’re going to hear more about different corners of campus.” 

All three, while they have greatly enjoyed their time in society this year, described the tap process as “stressful” — especially since students and their friends may fill the same niche and thus may be competing for the same singular spot in many of these societies. 

“I would tell rising seniors to realize that it is out of your control,” Prince said. “Try not to judge yourself. Let the purpose be to just meet a new group of people that you wouldn’t have met otherwise.”

In their joint letter, the societies pledged “to avoid any hazing” in the tap process, “from interviews through Tap Night.”

Kaitlyn Pohly is a sophomore in Silliman College. She serves as the Student Life Reporter for the University Desk and previously reported on Student Policy and Affairs. Originally from New York City, Kaitlyn is a History major. Outside of the classroom and the newsroom, Kaitlyn dances with YaleDancers.