I arrived at Yale as a transfer student in the fall of 2020. As I started my first shift with the Yale Daily News, I realized that my situation was a bit different than the other folks who were starting with me. I was often the only transfer student in the (virtual) room, and I had already completed two years of college.
Within my first weeks at the News, it occurred to me that I was the same age as the senior management of the News and that I was older than my desk editors and fellow staffers.
I was never made to feel excluded or out of place by anyone. Quite the opposite. 202 York St. became a home when I really did not feel like I had a space on this campus. Being in the News made me feel like a part of the broader campus community and led me to form some of the most meaningful relationships of my life.
Being a transfer student already presents a complex dynamic for building community. Like all first years, you are new to the school. We do not benefit from all of the institutional norms and structures that traditional first years are invited to take advantage of — namely the outreach and programming directed towards them as new members of the Yale community. Compounded with the pandemic and the decline in traditional outreach, I had to push myself to find a space where I felt welcomed. And I found that at the News.
But so many organizations in the Yale community, including the News, are not expressly designed to reach out to upperclassmen. This is evident by the type of outreach done by these clubs, from open houses during Bulldog Days to the extracurricular bazaar targeted for first years in the fall. For juniors and seniors, there is not as much outreach.
Students should have a fulfilling experience while at Yale, and organizations should strategize on ways to best reach out to students at any point in their college experience.
To be fair, students have evolving priorities and obligations that may naturally lend themselves to not joining clubs or trying new adventures later in their collegiate careers. Students have seminars to attend, research projects to complete, senior essays to write. There is also the matter of post-graduation plans to contend with, whether that be graduate school, employment or any other path one takes.
There are also plenty of on-campus organizations that do not focus recruitment solely on first-year students. For example, a cappella groups often recruit students of all class years — two of the most prestigious groups exclusively admit seniors. There is no shortage of groups that senior students can join and thrive in a new space.
However, just because students are not prevented from joining these organizations later on in undergrad does not mean that they feel appropriately reached out to or that they will feel welcomed in these spaces.
As young people, we are often encouraged to explore. We are reminded that we have all the time in the world to find out who we are and what we want to do. On-campus organizations should more readily adopt this sentiment in their outreach efforts for new members.
Perhaps clubs can have meetings or info sessions specifically targeted at juniors and seniors. For journalism organizations like the News, they can emphasize that there is no expectation that one has to join the staff to take on assignments (though they can if they would like to). Considering that students may have new responsibilities in their junior and senior years, clubs can build a culture where students can engage as much as they would like, at whatever stage of their Yale experience they are at.
This does not mean clubs should stop their current strategies in reaching out to first-year students. In fact, they should keep doing so. Finding spaces for belonging and community is essential at all times, especially first year.
But the hope for a fulfilling college experience does not stop after your first or second year. A desire to build community and make new memories stays with you always. Clubs should embrace this and be intentional about wanting to make new memories for Yalies at any point in their time here.
Jose Estrada-Ramirez is a graduating senior in Pierson College. He previously was a Production and Design Editor at the News.