Sophie Henry

The big day has finally arrived. You’ve packed your bags, kissed your parents goodbye and reinvented your entire personality. Yale, here you come! 

What follows will surely be four years of excitement, growth, and hard work. But before all that, you will experience a mysterious phenomenon often alluded to but seldom defined: “Camp Yale”. 

It’s Yale, but without any of the school. It’s like summer camp (or for you nerds, like coding camp) (except maybe with more women?). It’s a Yalie’s introduction to campus, in which approximately 1,500 jittering, freshly independent first-years capitalize on their newfound freedom in a flurry of FroCo meetings, highfalutin traditions and abbreviated social interactions. 

It’s a lot.

So to prepare you, I will tell you about six experiences that you will absolutely have when you embark on Camp Yale — and how to survive them. 

One. You will meet precisely six million smiling new faces. You will meet new faces sharply primped and polished in chic clothing (this is a performance), new faces that seem much more confident than you will ever be (this is a mirage) and new faces that feel like home (this is just nice). 

You will drudge through the boilerplate Yale get-to-know-you greeting countless times (name, hometown, college, and — if we’re feeling fruity — a fun fact). You will forget mostly everyone’s names. You also might meet your instant BFFLS, with whom you’ll spend the next four years studying, partying, and loving. You also very likely might not. 

Two. You will burn out. 

You’ll get to Yale, and for 24 hours it will be batshit crazy. We’re talking no sleep, sobbing on the phone, shaking five trillion hands crazy (I’m writing this as though the coronavirus pandemic will magically disappear in August, because how else can I advise you here? I don’t know how Zoom breakout room meet-and-greets would work). Drink coffee, if you’re so inclined, and if you’re not so inclined, maybe drink coffee anyway? (There is no more opportune moment to develop a caffeine dependence). 

You will wear your best outfit and you will smile nonstop and at the end of the day, you will flop down on your comically-creaky bunk bed in your tragically barren dorm room, mere feet away from an absolute stranger, exhausted. Then you will do that again and again, still wired but wearing down, until Camp Yale is over and everyone finally chills out a little (this is kind of a lie, mostly everyone here is gloriously un-chill).

Three. You will have fun. 

Four. You will think everyone is having more fun than you. 

You will hear about parties, and there will indeed be parties, but they are mostly going to be at frats, and they will mostly be terrible. Go to them if you want. But you’re not missing out if you instead stay in, staring at the Instagrams of all the high school friends you left behind. There is time for moving on, and it’s not the first forty-eight hours. 

This is an excellent time to cry.

Five. You will meet someone called your FroCo. This FroCo is a very precious resource and also probably a very nice person. They are wise and cool and accomplished seniors who could be doing a million awesome things and are instead choosing to spend their time nurturing you, a soft and frightened child. Cherish them! 

Six. You won’t know what to do. 

I often wish that when I got to Yale, someone just explained it to me. I wish someone just sat me down and told me what Yale was, what it meant to be here, how to use it and love it and fit in it. I wish someone had boiled down the world, Mean Girls-style.

No one will explain Yale to you. The beauty is that you have to fumble through it yourself. You have to audition for the wrong groups and strike out with the wrong people. You have to hate a class you thought you’d love and forget the old heuristics you relied on in high school. This is a time of rapid, almost unnatural change. Embrace it.

(Do I sound like Goop yet?)

Okay. So. Bonus tip.

Six-point-five. You will be okay. 

Camp Yale is just one week out of the many wonderful and treacherous weeks you will have during your Bright College Years. It’s a unique opportunity wholly unrepresentative of how your time here will go. Put yourself out there. Make friends. Frolic about! 

But if at the end of Camp, you’re doubting whether you’ll be happy here, take a deep breath. This is just the weird, buzzy, stilted beginning to the Yaliest four years of your life. 

Drink water. And buckle up.


Zoe Larkin |