The Bulldog GIFs danced from side to side to the Yale fight song against a navy blue background. I rewatched it over and over, as many times as my parents desired. Yalies can all recognize this iconic video from our accepted students portal: The second-highest-upvoted Fizz post is a screenshot of the admittance screen, complete with an enormous “Congratulations!” and a caption reading, “i wish i could feel this joy again.” I don’t think I’m the only one who hit replay, who wanted to feel that virtual confetti feeling forever.
In the wake of my early acceptance in December 2021, my gushing family members and friends peddled one constant refrain: Yale will open doors for you. But what does that really mean?
Let’s unpack it. You might resort to thinking it refers to a future full of opportunity, a golden ticket to success. And this is the abstract interpretation. But there’s so much more to Yale’s relationship with doors and gates.
Getting handed the keys to such a selective institution feels like hitting the jackpot, achieved by a balance of hard work and sheer luck. We got here by closing other doors available to us in our early teenage years. Prioritizing homework, studying, standardized testing, extracurriculars, community service and application perfecting didn’t leave much room for the doors to the social world, or at least the typical high school coming-of-age experience. Thus, the golden handle of the Yale door shines even more brilliantly to us.
Of course, there are also so-called “back-door” methods for people with tens of thousands of dollars lying around, not even considering future tuition fees. Slap your last name on a library wing, or photoshop your daughter’s face into a varsity crew team’s lineup. It doesn’t matter if you’re Aunt Becky from Full House or if your wealth portfolio places you squarely in the top 10 of the Forbes 500. The most affluent and powerful parents still do all they can to pry the Ivy League door open for their children.
Doors open for anyone who can pad their resume with an elite undergraduate institution. The Yale degree will be an automatically impressive credential. As we’ve established, it’s worthy of academic and monetary sacrifice. But our university provides so much more than just post-grad prestige and a slightly uncomfortable reveal that you go to *that* school in Connecticut.
It’s a four-year open opportunity for specialization and exploration. Classes, professors and peers here are, generally, top shelf. Scroll through CourseTable, and it might feel like there are almost an overwhelming amount of options. But the highly selective courses, upperclassmen seminars and specific major requirements can be closed off to senior priority. Those doors felt worlds away, but the 2023 graduating class might say their time here flew by.
We have no other option than to embody the Yale energy and be selective ourselves! Discern the best fits for you from countless opportunities, and you’ll start to open a succession of doors that are custom fit to your definition of happiness. The specificity with which I approach my interests means I’ve drawn the curtains closed on the financial gain and familial pride I might have received working in private equity, consulting, computer science or medical fields. But I’ve chosen to follow my passions for language learning and creative writing. And of course, I write for the WKND section of this publication in my spare time.
I’ve leveraged my first year at Yale to kick down the doors leading to my own personal fulfillment. I’m currently unsure where they will lead. It’s a little like those revolving doors in Monster’s Inc. Where will I pop out next? I recommend this approach — keep doing what you love. And don’t be discouraged by the plethora of rejections you’re going to get from courses or social groups. Whether it be in New Haven or post-grad, do what fulfills you, then place your trust in the universe that your ambition and passion will propel you into the right place for you. That’s the figurative door Yale opens for students.
Now, let’s shift to a more tangible interpretation of this phrase I was told so many times before my first year. Most every door or gate on campus requires a Yale ID swipe. Without the magical plastic access, the gates are physical barriers that deny entry to outsiders, who can only peer at the carefully curated ecosystem operating within. And past a certain hour, students themselves are restricted to their own residential college amenities, whether it be libraries or butteries, and denied from entering friends’ dorms in other colleges.
I would bemoan this safety precaution as overkill. People leave hangers in entryways and tape their doors all the time! And the puzzle-savvy YSECS group does their fair share of mysterious break-ins, worming their way into secret tunnels and onto closed-off roofs galore. But after that security breach incident on Old Campus in Bingham last semester? Some doors are meant to be shut. It’s for our own good.
The one door that I’m most intrigued by is the Branford gate on High Street. I remember trying to figure out how to enter while its ornate black fencing guarded the sprawling courtyard. But it’s permanently bolted shut! You have to walk a couple of steps further onto a grassy pathway facing JE to breach the Branford walls. Finding your way into the dining hall in that labyrinth of gothic facades is another story.
There is an unverified urban legend explaining why the Branford High Street gate is forever shut: Supposedly if a Yale student walks through the gate, they won’t graduate. Because without some rich mythology or historical lore, I know our student population would be advocating for its opening with the zeal for the implementation of water fountains on Old Campus or free laundry.
I think the lesson here is that college can open all the right doors, but sometimes it closes an arbitrary gate here and there. Don’t be discouraged! Yale opens most doors, and that’s what’s important. After my first year here, I’ve peeked into the doorways of countless exciting realities that I could live after college. And I’ll be sure to avoid the Branford gate before I’ve worn my graduation gown and open the door to life after Yale.
Eliza Josephson is a rising sophomore in Pierson College.