College Panel: Yale University
Want to learn more about what it takes to apply to, and attend Yale University? Join Yale alums Neida Moreno and Mariko Rooks, as they discuss their admissions and undergraduate experiences. Come ready to learn and bring your questions!
2022-07-17 – College Panel: Yale University
Hi everyone. My name is Juliana Furigay and I’m your moderator today. Welcome to the Yale University College Panel. To orient everyone with a webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation. Then answer your questions in a live Q&A on the sidebar. You can download our slides and you can start submitting questions in the Q&A tab.
Now let’s meet our panelists.
Hi everyone. My name is Mariko Rooks. I graduated from Yale, um, twice, actually from undergrad in 2021 as a double major in the history of science and medicine and ethnicity, race and migration. And again, just last year as part of the five year masters in public health program. Hi everyone. Uh, my name is Neida and I graduated from Yale in 2019, um, from the undergrad college, uh, with a degree in psychology and yeah.
Nice to see all of you.
So now we’re gonna shift over to a poll which I’ll release over here. What grade are you all in? Um, and while that, while the poll results are coming in, um, I would love to ask the, both of you, what’s your favorite spot on campus?
I can go first. Um, my favorite spot on campus was a tie between the school of forestry building, because it has a really nice view and it’s a really good study spot. And my college courtyard.
I think for me, definitely the two spots were cross campus, which is sort of the center of campus generally. It’s where Sterling Memorial Library, which is one of the main libraries is and, um, a couple of different residential colleges, especially during C that was like the place to be, um, because it was outside and it was safe to see everyone.
And also my residential colleges common room, which was very cozy in the winter. Yeah. Those sound like cool spots. Thanks for sharing guys. Um, so I see here that 2% of you are in eighth grade, 3% in ninth grade, 18% in 10th grade, 48% in 11th grade and 28% in 12th grade. So we have a pretty broad range of students here tonight.
Now back to the presentation.
All right. So I’ll get us started by talking a little bit about what my college application process was like. So I was in a bit of a unique situation being a first generation college student. That means my parents didn’t go to college and they didn’t really know anything about college admissions in the USA.
So, uh, my application process was very confusing. I had to kind of learn as I went along and it was very uncertain because I didn’t know if what I was doing was going to help me out. I just kind of heard that I should do AP classes or that I should do clubs to help me gain admission, but I wasn’t sure if it would work.
Um, ultimately financial aid was a big factor for me for that same reason that I was first gen. So I had to focus on. um, Ivy’s, just because they would need blind and they would have a lot of good financial aid. Uh, I chose schools solely based on need. So I, I couldn’t afford state schools. That’s how poor I was.
Um, so I couldn’t go to a state school because I wouldn’t be able to afford it, which is why I applied to Ivy’s and other Ivy like schools. And I kind of had an all or nothing approach where I was like, I need to get in here because I can’t afford to go anywhere else. Um, so that was what my application process was like.
Um, I asked for help from my teachers and guidance counselor, and thankfully they were really helpful and they helped me build a college list and do all the necessary steps. So it was a bit confusing, but you know, I got to the end point, I got to Yale, so it all worked out in the end and moving on.
So when I was applying, like I said, my main focus was on schools that had generous financial aid policies, just because of, you know, the personal reasons behind that. Ultimately, I only considered Ivy’s because thankfully I was admitted to a few and I could compare financial aid packages. Uh, at the time I was considering between Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, their financial aid packages were pretty much the same.
So, and at that point, it came down to social factors and academic factors. And I ultimately chose Yale for a few different reasons. Um, they actually sent me a likely letter, which is like a letter that I got in the mail in like January telling me that I was a shoe in for admissions in. You know, April when they come out.
So that got me thinking about Yale before I thought about any other acceptance. It helped me get to know the school before other acceptances came rolling in for me. So I got to know professors at Yale early on, and I got to kind of interact with the school before my admissions, to like Harvard and Stanford came out.
Um, because of that, I ended up signing up to attend bulldog days, which is Yales admitted students, um, like weekend. When I went to bulldog days, I saw that it was a really welcoming place. Everyone that I met was willing to help me. I am from Florida. I have never experienced a winter before. So when I got there I didn’t have a coat. And the girl that was hosting me gave me her coat for free. She was like, have my coat. And I thought, well, everyone here is so nice and supportive. I got a free coat out of it. Like what? And yeah, basically I felt like I was a student there already. I didn’t feel like I was visiting campus.
I felt like I was coming home as cheesy as it sounds. I saw that there was a vibrant community of like first gen students as well. And I met specific professors that were doing really cool research that I was interested in, like Marvin Chan, he was doing FMRI research and I, I just like fell in love with his research.
And I was like, I need to go to this school because I was a psychology major. And that was my thing. So that’s my reasons for choosing Yale and to round it all to round it all. Uh, why did I choose psychology? So I chose psychology when I was in high school. It was my favorite subject. I loved my AP psychology class.
My AP psychology teacher told me don’t major in this. You won’t get a job, but I did not pay attention to him. And I decided that that’s what I wanted to do because I could never get bored while learning it. And while I was at Yale for bulldog days, like I said, I met cool professors and they told me, you know, you can do research with us if you come here, as soon as you attend, like as a first year student.
And there were also some really cool classes, like the psychology of psychopaths that I was like really interested in, or like the psychology of learning, the psychology of babies. There are so many like cool research labs that are happening at Yale that are psychology based. So. I knew my choice would be the correct one.
I also chose it because it was very flexible. I had the option of writing a one semester thesis as opposed to a full year thesis, um, to graduate. So that was really helpful for me. So I didn’t have to stress about the thesis for the whole year. I just did it in my fall semester of my senior year. And then in the spring I can relax and have fun.
It also went really well with my pre-med. I was pre-med when I started college. So psychology meshed really well with pre-med. It allowed me to take the pre-med classes like bio and chem and get credit for them in the psychology major as well. and lastly, um, it also allowed for study abroad because I was premed for maybe like 75% of my time at Yale.
I considered majoring in biology and doing like psychology on the side for fun, but the biology major was pretty strict and demanding and it wouldn’t have allowed me time off to do study abroad, which is something I really, really wanted to do. But psychology was flexible. They said, you could take, you know, the summer off and you won’t be behind.
So that was another really important reason for me. So yeah, that is why I chose psychology. Um, I kind of went in knowing that that’s what I would do, but meeting certain professors and seeing the research that was being done really cemented that as the right choice for me. So that is it for me, I believe.
And I will pass the presentation forward. All righty. Thank you. Neida, super interesting journey, um, to Yale and psychology. Um, so now a poll for all of you guys, where are you in the application process? Um, and I’d love to hear from the both of you, you know, what was your favorite class that you took at Yale?
I think I can go first for this one. Um, my favorite class at Yale was, and I’ll talk a little bit about on my presentation. So this is kind of a spoiler, but sickness and health in African American communities. It’s one of Yale’s newer courses started in 2018 and it’s taught by an absolutely brilliant professor who really engages in histories of health and health disparities in a way that is not really being taught at most schools right now.
And it was like absolutely life changing for me.
For me. Um, like I mentioned, I really enjoyed the psychopathology of like psychopaths. I think it was called, um, I’ve always enjoyed watching like true crime and like listening to crime podcasts. I liked watching, you know, Sherlock the TV show. And when I saw that that class was being offered, I was like, of course I’m taking it.
It was really insightful. And it’s kind of a topic that’s a little bit taboo in terms of talking about it in psychology. It’s not really mentioned a lot. And this professor is like the expert in the field. She does research on psychopaths. Basically her research takes place in, uh, Connecticut State Prison.
So it was super interesting and eye opening and it made all these like true crime shows that I was watching very realistic and it made me kind of. Understand what was going on in those, in those criminals. Great. Well, those sound like really cool classes. Um, I’m personally a big fan of true crime and I also study like ethnicity and race studies at my college too.
So both super cool classes. Great to hear about that. Um, and yeah, onto the poll results looks like 15% haven’t started yet. 52% are researching schools. 22% are working on their essays and 11% are getting their application materials together. Um, and moving back to the presentation.
Okay. I guess it’s my turn to share my story. So thank you guys so much for, you know, sitting and coming in tonight. Um, and for hearing us chat about our experiences. So for me, my process was a little bit different than Neida’s. I was being athletically recruited to play softball at a number of different universities.
And so was doing both that and academic admissions sort of based on what schools I liked and based on with athletics, right? What schools want you, what schools have room for your position and your year and that kind of thing. So those two things were also on a little bit different timelines, um, for folks who are maybe interested in playing sports in college and.
Are thinking about either walking on or being a recruited athlete, you tend to start communication with coaches at the Ivy and sort of Ivy level academic schools, really in your sophomore and junior year. And so I had a pretty good idea of where I was maybe going to go to school probably by the end of my junior summer, which is a little bit more unusual than, um, folks who are doing academic admissions.
However Yale was actually one of the very few places where I hadn’t been recruited at all. Um, I met their coach. I liked their coach. They weren’t looking for someone in my position for my year, but I really loved the vibes of the school. And so that’s that second bullet point is for me, a lot of the Ivy’s were a bit hit or miss on vibes.
And that actually was a really good thing. I think a thing I tried to really emphasize in the college process is if you have the privilege of choosing which Ivy’s to apply to, if you can visit or spend some time with folks who have been to the school or get a chance to talk about and explore the school, um, online and in real life, not all of the Ivy’s are the same.
And I think there’SATendency to always want to apply to all eight plus Stanford plus MIT, because these are the schools that you’ve been told are the top schools. And if you do that, that’s totally okay. But I think. A lot of the Ivy’s also know that folks are gonna do that and they have specific essay questions that will ask you why us?
Why not Stanford? Why not Harvard? Right. Implied. But most importantly, what do you like about us? And so for me, being able to really genuinely talk about the school and talk about specific things that I knew resonated with me at the time was really important. And that was not something that I had felt from every Ivy I had visited.
And that was totally okay. That just was me. Right. Um, and as soon as I stepped foot on Yale’s campus, I knew that this was a place that I could see myself for the next four years. And I had an incredible tour, which I was really lucky about, and I was really privileged to even be able to visit. And so.
Yale. I was like, you know what, I’m just gonna go ahead and go through and apply. I have no support whatsoever. I don’t know if I’m gonna make it onto the softball team, but I’m gonna do it. And actually like Neida, I also got a likely letter, which made a huge difference because I knew early in January that Yale was interested.
And also because they kept calling me every week to say, hi, this is like, you know, I’m such and such student from Yale. I heard you’re interested in this, this I’m majoring in the same thing. Do you want to chat a little bit about it? And actually the students who called me ended up being some of my good friends at Yale, which did not see that one coming either.
So that really helped. And that’s that last point of right going where you’re wanted is I think that if a school spends time and energy and thought in reaching out to you, um, versus the schools that are like, oh, sure. Like, we’d be like, you know, you can, we can have you here. Right. I think that makes a huge difference in terms of the level of support that you might end up getting at that school.
And I think it’s sometimes easiest for us to choose the brand name school automatically without hesitation, because that’s the one we’ve heard the most about that’s the shiniest, but if there’s a school that really wants you and is really going to be dedicated to your success there, I think that that is something really worth recognizing and really worth sitting with.
And to be fair, Yale is a brand named school. So I kind of got lucky in that regard, but definitely something that I would advise as you move through the college process to recognize that feeling of sort of personal settledness, which is tough to measure in metrics or in SA in average SAT scores. But I think is something that you can really feel in yourself.
Okay. So was I, was I considering other Ivy’s? Yes. I was considering a couple by the end of it. Um, Dartmouth and Pomona college, which is not an Ivy, but is definitely sort of on that level of academic selectivity were my final choices. And so, as I mentioned, had not been recruited at Yale to play, which was also something that I was factoring into this entire bubble.
But when I got to Yale and I also did bulldog days, which is the, you know, pre pre pre admitted students program, I found that there was an extraordinary amount of institutional support as a first year. You’re given. Literally five or six people whose job it is to make sure that you don’t fall through their cracks and to make sure that your transition to Yale is successful.
And as someone who also yeah, I’m from California had never experienced winter, had no idea what I was getting into. Um, didn’t have a ton of, of family or sort of larger network support. That was really important to me. So I had everyone from my first year counselor who is, you know, assigned a group of 10 to 15 students and they meet with you almost weekly, your first semester to check in with you and see how you’re doing and their seniors.
They also live with you to having a Dean and ahead of my college and a pre a professor who was assigned to be my advisor, right? All of these different layers of academic and social support that made sure that I was not going to fall through the cracks. And then secondly, the social structure and the way that the university encourages you to make friends was something that was really useful and important.
And I got really lucky with, um, but that’s something that I knew that I wanted. And so we’ve thrown around residential college a couple of times. And for those who, who aren’t aware, um, because it is this sort of interesting term, residential colleges are like dorms, but on steroids, um, they’re a lot more like Hogwarts houses than they are dorms and they have everything from a gym to a dining hall, to a library, to a late night student run cafe that are all sort of combined into one building, which is great in the winter. And one of the things that’s unique about residential college living that is not necessarily true for every other school is that you live in a suite of normally between four and six, your first two years.
And that suite has sort of a common room or a living room, but, you know, you’re not just sort of in a dorm room at the end of a hall, you have that built in support structure. And that was really important to me and my suitemates. My second year onward were some of my, like very, very good friends at Yale, and I would not have met them if it had not been through housing.
And lastly, for by POC or black indigenous and people of color students that are on campus, Yale provides some of the strongest support structures at the Ivy leagues. Definitely hands down, um, There are four, five now cultural centers, which are three story buildings dedicated to, um, for example, like the Afro-American cultural center or the Asian American cultural center, different communities that have historically, and sometimes currently struggle to find their place at Yale.
And so those communities also will assign you students your first year called pure liaisons, who are there to check in on you, who are there for support. They have events, they have smaller student organizations that you can be a part of. And they also have two full-time staff members who are professionals that are trained in, right, like student learning that are from these communities that are there to help you and support you at all times.
And that was huge for me because I had didn’t really have that kind of support in high school, at least at an academic institution. And I ended up working at two of them. Um, that was a huge part of my life. And I was really, really grateful for that. And the last thing that I would say is that I think Yale’s approach to learning in general is something.
Really drew me to Yale specifically. I think that one Yale is not a very directly competitive place, at least in my experience. Um, maybe if you’re pre-med, you know, it’ll, it’ll be a little bit, it’ll be a little bit tougher, but if you’re not, um, I found that even though people held themselves to an extraordinarily high standard to.
Sort of, they wanted to accomplish, I didn’t feel any of that sort of directly competitive. I need to prove that I’m better than you sort of backstabbing toxic academic culture that I think, you know, can be part of the application process, whether you want it to be or not. And instead, I found that even though my friends often had nothing in common with what I was doing, that they would be a hundred percent eager and supportive to hear about what I was working on and what I was trying to accomplish that week and would be definitely in my corner if I had something tough to finish or I didn’t feel like I believed in my myself or I wasn’t confident enough, you know, in my ability to be there.
And I really valued that both how passionate people were about learning for the sake of learning, as opposed to learning, you know, for the sake of putting something on your resume, but also how supportive and collaborative that process was, um, outside of the classroom. And that was something that was really important to me.
Cool. Okay. And so, yeah, I had two majors that had really long names, uh, but the reason why I chose to focus on the history of public health and ethnicity and race studies, um, I knew going in that I was probably gonna do the history of public health because I was really interested way back in the day when I was applying in Yale’s five year program, which is a program where you get both your masters in public health, and you finish out your undergrad in the span of five years.
So you apply in as a junior and then you spend two and a half years doing sort of two years worth of combined work. But you, you get the whole thing done in five years as opposed to the traditional six. And the application process is way more chill. And so I knew going into undergrad that in order to get into this program, I needed to do some kind of major that expressed that I was interested in public health, which I was and interested in sort of how do we make our communities healthier?
And so. I sort of chose that one at random, seeing the, seeing the thing, public health in it. And then once I got into the major, I realized I really loved it. It combined history and science, which were the two things I liked in high school and didn’t know like could be one major. And I was also really lucky to have incredible faculty mentors.
Um, specifically the professor who taught sickness and health and African American communities. And I’ve been able to do remarkable things. I’ve been able to get published. I traveled to Europe for free for an entire month to do archival research, um, on medicine and the slave trade. And I’ve learned so much about not just healthcare, but how healthcare came to be in ways that I think are really important for making the system better.
And when it came to ethnicity, race and migration or ERM cuz Yale loves acronyms. Um, actually the main thing for me was the 2015 and 2019 student protests. I think that Yale is doing a lot to make itself more welcoming and a more equitable institution, but there’s certainly a lot of work that still needs to be done.
And a lot of that work happened in 2015 before I got there. But in 2019 when I was a sophomore and, um, you don’t declare your major until after sophomore year. So was not a hundred percent solid in what I was doing still. And taking part in those and taking part in that collective action, which was really focused on hiring more professors, um, who were more diverse and expanding class options for students and making sure professors had tenure and support.
and then seeing it be successful, which I think was also huge, um, because not all student organizing leads to results, but at Yale I would actually say that probably 90% of the time it does. It’s a lot of work and it’s really exhausting, but the administration does eventually listen, which also wasn’t a thing I had experienced before.
Um, really made me invested in the department because we had done so much work to ensure that it was getting the proper resources and the proper funding and the proper attention it deserved. And so having so many friends and community majors in the, in, in members in the major as well, was a huge part of that.
And also the requirements were pretty flexible. So I was able to slot it in as a second major, despite also doing this master’s.
Righty. Thank you so much. That’s the end of the presentation part of the webinar. Um, so I hope you found this information to be helpful and remember that you can download besides from the link in the handouts tab. Um, now we’re going to move on to the live Q&A, so be sure to, you know, send those questions into the Q&A chat, um, as a heads up, if you’re Q&A tab, isn’t letting you submit questions.
Just double check that you joined the webinar through the custom link in your email and not from the webinar landing page. Um, so some of you guys already submitted questions when you registered for this webinar. So I guess I can start off with those. Um, so for the, both of you, I would love to hear, um, both of you guys got likely letters.
So for, for those of us who aren’t familiar, uh, what is a likely letter and how do I improve my chances of getting one.
Yeah, I can talk a little bit about that and native feel free to jump in, um, at any point, but a likely letter is basically a letter that is sent, be between regular admission, between early decision and regular admission. So you didn’t apply early decision in November or early action November. You applied through the regular cycle, but they’ll tell you almost right after they tell the early admission students like, Hey, unless you do something really crazy and go on a spree of, of, of craziness you’re getting in, in, in April.
And it’s sort of just a, like a heads up and. It mostly means that you had an admissions officer who read your portfolio and said, not only are you, um, super qualified, but we think you’d be a really good match for this school in particular. And, um, I will say they are a little bit tough to get at random, right?
That we don’t have any control over it. It’s an, it’s an individual admissions officer and it means that also your application has bypassed the normal committee review, um, and has gone straight to the Dean of these admissions. And it’s been already checked off. Um, but I will say the things that I know, um, because I ended up actually being pretty decent on pretty decent terms and still chat with my admissions officer, um, are that having a really well rounded portfolio helps a lot and also again, right.
Having those really concrete reasons why you’re choosing this particular school, um, because they’re not going to send a likely letter to someone who doesn’t. Who they don’t think will be a good match for it. So having really solid reasons and being able to write really authentically and honestly, which is to be very easier said than done, um, about the institutions that you’re applying to will definitely not hurt in that process.
Yeah. I think I spoke to my admissions officer when I landed at Yale. Um, I actually did a pre-orientation program called first year scholars at Yale, which is for first gen low income students. Um, and it’s by invitation only, I think. Um, but when I went to Yale beforehand, um, I met my admissions officer and she told me that the reason why she had really pushed my application was that she could see the genuine interest and passion in what I wrote and what I was interested in.
I applied to Yale as a psychology, double major with art history and. In Spanish I didn’t end up following through with it, but I was really passionate about it. I wrote about my favorite paintings and I wrote my short answers, very passionately about like, why I wanted to do those things. And she said, you know, I could really see that through your writing.
And I was like, well, that’s great. I didn’t personally, you know, have anyone helping me with my essays. Um, I just got my English teacher read over them. Like, I didn’t know, CollegeAdvisor existed back then. So, um, you know, I think just genuinely showing your passion really, really helps in making them, you know, want to push forward and admit.
sure. So kind of on that note, I have a student wondering here, do you have any advice on how to show your interest in a school before applying? Um, so I think just demonstrated interest in how to foster that while in high school.
I do think touring, if you can, um, is, is part of that. I know again, between the ongoing global pandemic and the resources that it takes to tour, it’s tough, but there is a record of that, and that is something that, um, it’s not a big thing, but it does also help you definitely write those supplemental essays.
I also think that some colleges have area or regional, um, admit days, or, sorry, not admit days, but. College fair type structures that you can go and you can like actually drop in and visit and they’ll have admissions officers there and you can talk to them to get a better sense of the application process as well.
Um, which I think that’s not recorded necessarily, but can be really useful in, in demonstrating interest beforehand and in being able to just chat with folks. Yeah. I definitely think you should do your research. Um, for my Yale essay, I picked a very specific thing to write about. I picked the residential college system, and then I also wrote about the very specific professor that I was interested in.
Marvin Chan. You’ll see me talk about him all the time, because he was my freshman year advisor and I knew about him before going to Yale. So I like mentioned him in my essay. I was, I was like, I wanna work with this man, let me in so they could see that I had done my research and I like knew what was available at the school.
Yeah, definitely. I feel like that’s so important. And I know NAA, you explained a bit about what you, um, wrote about in your ye essay. I’d love to pose the same question to you Mariko. And for both of you guys, any advice on how to make a unique Yale essay that really stands out. Absolutely. So my Yale essay talked about actually some of the things I talked about in this presentation, I described that.
I, I described how folks talked about learning and how folks approached the things that they were they cared about. And I think one of the tough things in the college admissions process is like, you’re constantly asked, like, what is your passion? What are you really driven to do? And at 17 or 18, it’s totally okay if you are not a hundred percent sure what you want to do and not a hundred percent sure what that looks like.
I definitely didn’t know for sure what I wanted to do in the field of public health. When I entered college, I just knew that I wanted to help folks on a large scale in a way that felt meaningful. And that, that field was a really solid way to do that. I did not see the perpetual job security of the current world situation, but right.
Um, and so I wrote a little bit less about those things, but I did hit on number one. The academic culture at Yale, the things that I really loved hearing about from older folks that I knew who had went there from my tour guide, um, from the way that they approach academics in terms of giving you flexibility and choosing your major in terms of getting to take multiple classes through the way that they structure their curriculum.
And I would really advise looking at the curriculum portion for all of the different Ivy’s, um, that you end up applying to, and for all the schools in general, but that tends to vary significantly, um, between places like brown that have no required classes at any point and places like Columbia that have a ton of required classes in their core curriculum and Yale falls somewhere in the middle of that.
So I talked about that. I talked about how I really loved that approach. And I talked about, um, also some specific things that I had been interested in as well. Um, I don’t think I named a specific professor. It’s also very funny cuz Marvin Chen was the Dean starting my first year. So we knew him as like Dean Chen and he was also part of recruiting me into Yale.
Uh, so hats off to him. Um, but you know, I, I did have, I think really specific things that I was able to pull out about institutional culture and, um, the way in which Yale was structured, that I think showed that I had done my research and also showed that I really thought about the fact that I wanted that for me.
And that like, to the best of my ability, that was the academic structure that I felt was something that genuinely actually would work for me. And it did. I think it, I think it worked out really well, except for the one computer coding class I had to take.
Um, do you have any advice Neida on how to craft a unique Y E L S A? I think, yeah, just finding out what you like about the school. And articulating it. If that means that you have to go on a tour, may it be a virtual tour, if you can’t actually travel there or just reaching out to students who already go there, I know it sound, it may sound scary to just cold call people or like cold email them, but you’ll be surprised at how nice some people are.
Maybe, you know, I don’t know how much high school is used, like LinkedIn, but, um, it’s easy to find like people who go to certain schools through there, um, more so than it is on like Facebook or something. But yeah, like if you can get your hands on someone’s contact info, just reach out and be like, Hey, do you mind answering a few questions?
Just doing your research and then finding out the things you like and mentioning those in the essay very specifically, you know, it’s not good to be vague and to be like, oh, I like the curriculum at you. No, say what you like about it. You know, the specific is the best way to. Definitely. And remember, in terms of the network that if you’re here at CollegeAdvisor, you have all of us, right?
So if you have questions for us, as you start your application process, you can email both of us or anyone else that you see in the network, uh, in the directory that went to Yale. And you could ask your primary advisor too, if they could put you in contact with someone as well. And I think that’s huge, right?
That you have so many people that can offer you different perspectives on the same school and that we are all available to meet via zoom. I would a hundred percent encourage using that resource because it was something that I think both of us would’ve loved to have, um, talking to older students is big.
Definitely. Um, and yeah, the student here is wondering about the transition to college life in Yale. So, you know, what was the hardest part of acclimating into university life? Was it, you know, the academic rigor being away from family, something else, how was that for you guys?
It was so cold compared to California. That is my honest answer. I think I really struggled with being super far away from home. Um, not just from a family perspective, but just from a general regional difference perspective. LA and Connecticut are very, very different places in terms of, from how people interact with each other on the street and at the checkout line at the grocery store to the kinds of food that you can get.
Um, the lack of year round produce was very tough for me, which is a silly thing to complain about, but really got to me in like November, December. And so I think that large environmental shift, rather than any one specific thing was really tough and also right. To switch into an environment like Yale, where you worked so hard to get there.
Um, but I think once you get through this sort of like, okay, Now what, right. And right. Can I succeed in this kind of place? Um, because it’s definitely not gonna be the same for me as high school, unless you go to a really, um, you know, intense private prep school. And certainly everything I think was much harder, but I think it was more that like really stark environmental shift for me took me maybe two and a half years to get over completely.
Um, but the more that I found friends who were going through the same experiences and the more that I was also just able to build and develop a network of support simply by being there, the easier it got until by my fifth year, I was like, okay, I can do winter. It’s fine. Yeah. I think the weather shift was intense for me.
Um, like I said, I didn’t know any coats or boots in Florida. The lowest it goes down is maybe like 65 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. So yeah, it was so cold. Same thing with the produce. I wanted my strawberries in December and Yale was like seasonal produce only you get to eat yams and pumpkins. So I was, you know, it was a bit of a shock to just be in a different environment.
And also the campus is open. It’s integrated with the city and I come from the suburbs. So I had never been in city traffic. I would walk out of my dorm and I would be on the sidewalk with cars zooming past, and it was kind of strange and hard to get used to it. And, you know, looking both ways before crossing the street and like making sure I didn’t get run over.
Uh, but yeah, that was kind of the hardest part for me was just the atmosphere and weirdly enough, like time management in high school, , you know, I had a very set schedule. I had school, I had extracurriculars, I had homework. I had, you know, bedtime in college classes were all over the place. And it, I really struggled to figure out when to wake up.
Um, like when was the best time to wake up and like how much time I needed to get ready in the morning to like walk to class and make it there on time. That was my biggest struggle in acclimating was time management and like life stuff, basically 100%. That makes sense. Um, so correct me if I’m wrong, but both of you guys applied regular decision to Yale, right.
Um, so definitely interested in hearing. Did you apply early to any school? Um, you know, what was the decision there? Like whether to apply to school early versus regular? Some students are wondering here, the distinct yes. Um, Well for me again, right. Athletics were part of that. So I actually did apply to Pomona college early, um, because I knew I had a spot on their team and that’s sort of the general process, um, for some schools, if you do athletics, that’s binding, um, for Poona it wasn’t, which was part of why I made that decision.
And so my experience is maybe like, not the norm in that, but I think in general, with early decision or early action, you know, that you want to go to that school, right? It has to be locked in that that’s probably gonna be your first choice or one of your first choice schools if you’re applying early to an IV.
Um, and also that can sometimes offset if you’re academic portfolio is maybe a little bit, um, you know, not as strong as they’re strong as candidates, but you can like sort of, uh, balance that out a bit with. Distinct and determined interest in that school. Also, I see there are a lot of questions about the athletics part.
I can just like really quickly sort of sum all of that up. Uh, in, in a couple sentences, I did not end up playing softball at Yale. That was a large plot twist. I ended up playing water polo there, which was my secondary sport in high school. Um, and that ended up being a very good fit for me. Uh, water polo at Yale is club, but there is no higher level than club.
So it was really actually the sort of same commitment as a high school, varsity sport. Um, albeit with like a slightly harder schedule because the people you’re playing against are much better, um, from a like, well, not better, but definitely older. And so, uh, when it comes to balancing academics and athletics, I actually thought that for the most part, like pre COVID, um, It was actually pretty useful.
Athletics do, do take up a large chunk of your time, um, regardless of what level you play at, if the team that you play at is competitive. And for me, that really sort of NATO was talking about that, like difference in time management between high school and college. Definitely. There was a difference in the kind of work that I was doing and how long it took to write an essay versus like, you know, fill out answers on a worksheet in high school, but it really blocked off my time and like, well, I have to get worked up between, you know, three and five, because if I don’t, I will be in the pool for the rest of the night and there is no choice there.
Right. And so I actually really appreciated that part of, of athletics at Yale, even though there were definitely. When we were competing and traveling a couple of weeks that were pretty exhausting, but I would say that’s the biggest difference is the time management and balancing. That is something that I think everyone struggles with a little bit, but you have your coaches and you have your team to support you.
And you have, um, folks that are, you know, have done this before, that can help you walk through and make those kinds of decisions and, um, really support you through that process.
Yeah, I think, um, the question was, why did you apply regular? Um, I think, like I mentioned, financial aid was very important and I kind of needed to have the financial aid packages in hand before I made a choice. Uh, I thought of applying through QuestBridge, which is a program where you rank schools and it’s kind of guaranteed that you’ll get really good financial aid, but you had to rank the schools and.
I wasn’t really comfortable picking a school and committing to it without visiting and I didn’t have the money to travel. So I ended up not doing that instead. I applied regular everywhere because I didn’t really wanna commit anywhere if I hadn’t been there before. Uh, I know now days there are early action programs that are non-binding and that help with admissions odds.
So I didn’t know those existed back then. Um, but I probably would’ve applied, you know, early action, the early non-res non-restrictive early action to some of these schools if I had known, but I just didn’t know. So regular decision, it was. Yep. That makes sense. Thanks for sharing guys. Um, so that brings us to the end of the first half of the Q&A, um, so interrupting here for a little bit of a plug and CollegeAdvisor.
Uh, so for those of us in the room who aren’t already working with CollegeAdvisor, um, we know how overwhelming the admissions process can be. And we have a team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts who are ready to help you and your family navigate everything through one-on-one advising sessions.
Um, so you can sign up for a free, I know it says here it’s. Actually, it doesn’t say the time here, but it’s a free 45 to 60 minute strategy session, um, with an admission specialist on our team. Um, and you can sign up using the steps on the screen. Uh, so during this meeting, we can help answer whatever specific questions you have, um, review your extracurricular list, application strategy, um, discuss how they line up with your college list and kind of outline the tools that you need to stand out, um, in college admissions.
So moving back to the Q&A now, um, so some students here are wondering about, you know, common app and, you know, only if you’re comfortable with sharing, you know, what did you write your common app essay about? Um, and if you’re not comfortable sharing, just any advice you have on, you know, how to craft a really creative and compelling common app essay,
I can start. So my own common app essay, I. I was really lucky in that I had a junior year English teacher who made us write our common app essays junior year as our like final project for junior year English. Otherwise I would’ve been so lost. I would’ve written it the night before it was due. That’s the kind of person I was.
So I’m so glad she made us do that. And she was very strict and harsh, which I also really appreciated. My first essay was about my, you know, growing up and being, you know, first gen with immigrant parents. And my teacher was like, this is terrible. It’s a sob story. It’s cliche. And she was like, fix it. I was okay.
I was like, okay. Okay. Um, but I really, you know, looking back, I really appreciate that she did that because while it is a cliche topic, I managed to frame it in a way that wasn’t cliche and that really helped me out. Um, my main, you know, advice is to brainstorm a lot, come up with a bunch of ideas and write down everything that you can think of, even if it seems small.
And then, you know, if you’re part of CollegeAdvisor, you can work with your advisor to expand on those ideas and make them into a full essay. And just being yourself and focusing on showing how you have grown and change throughout high school is the main takeaway of that essay and like what it has to show, and it has to show your growth.
And it has to show that you’re like college ready. So for me, um, ultimately my last common essay draft showed how I had overcome. the adversity, it sounds dumb when I say it, but I had overcome the adversity of having to learn English as a second language and having to, you know, go to school in English when I didn’t know any and how that affected me, you know, as a high school student and made me a better student.
So, you know, I did write about a cliche topic, but I managed to make it sound not cliche with the help of my teacher.
For me, my main common app essay that I sent to most schools was about. A theater program that I had helped start in middle school that was like completely student run. And so talking about that experience and being able to do a bunch of cool stuff for the first time, um, as a middle school theater producer.
Um, and I think for me, the main thing was I also had a teacher who made me write about it my junior year, get it started early because there will be 8 million drafts of that big, common app essay. Um, I think I went through at least maybe 16 in total. I mean, obviously like two of them were just line at its right.
But it, it iSAThing you stick with for a long time. So getting started early is super important. Um, and yeah, I think really being able to find that line of like the goal of this essay isn’t just to flex, right. Um, you have your resume, you have your extracurricular activities, portions of the common application to really just be like, this was all the stuff that I did.
And I think it was really cool. And I think that like, you know, This should be brought into, and I think that’s why it should be brought into this particular college. But I think your essay is, is, is an interesting sort of balance between, like you do wanna talk about, you know, something that’s meaningful or important, but it’s really that side of you where you get to show your character, right?
You get to show your authenticity and personality, right? You get to show your weakness. Um, there are no new essay topics, right? Like it’s not about what you’re writing about because tons of people have similar stories. I am not the only theater kid out there. Right. Neida’s not the first like first generation or like English is a second language student to ever attend Yale.
But it’s about. What you are saying and your story and getting your voice to shine through it, doesn’t have to have the most sort of proper five syllable words, right. That go throughout the entire essay. But what it does need to have is your voice. And I think that can be really tough coming from AP IB classes, where everything sort of time and topic specific and you get it out and it’s really fast.
But I do think it also really prepares you for any writing you do in college, because that’s actually more of the pace and the sort of level of personal depth that you have to have in those kinds of essays. So I, that would be the thing that I would advise the most is figuring out how your voice stands out in the essay portion and really at the end of the day, right?
If a college. Admissions officer doesn’t vibe with your essay. One they’re reading tons and tons a day. Um, sometimes it’s just luck of the draw and that’s okay. That doesn’t mean you’re not qualified. And two, if your voice doesn’t resonate with a particular place, that’s not anything about that. Bad about you as a student, it just means that you may be aren’t the right fit for them.
And that’s okay. Cuz you don’t want to go to a school right. Where you wouldn’t feel comfortable fitting in there anyways. And so really being able to trust that you have something to say, and it is important and your words and your experiences and your take on life is valuable and is something that’s worth putting out into the world is something that I don’t think we’re often told enough during this process, but is something that I would really encourage you to hold onto.
As you start drafting that first large essay that goes to all the schools you apply.
Sure, thanks so much for sharing that guys. Um, so we have a couple of students wondering, I’m just gonna loop all these questions together, but you know, what do you think were the most important components that got you into Yale? Um, were you a well rounded student or did you do something special within your extracurriculars?
You know, what made you stand out as an applicant in your opinion?
So, oh, go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead. Um, I was curious to say, you know, I don’t necessarily think I was well rounded in the traditional sense. I was more of a passion project type of student. I. Like I said, because I was first gen and I had no idea how college admissions worked. I didn’t really start thinking about it until my junior year.
So it was kind of late to start extracurriculars or, you know, things that would look good on my resume. I had to just work with what I had and what I had was not that extensive. Um, I did math club and I did like quiz bowl and model UN. And that was it. I didn’t do any sports. I hated sports, um, you know, props to you for the softball and the water polo.
I couldn’t, but I, yeah, I, I, when I found out during my senior year, when I was applying that, you know, it was good to be well rounded and do like a sport and stuff like that. Well, I thought, well, I missed the memo and, uh, when. I was applying. I did have something in, in my favor, which is, you know, that passion project thing where I didn’t have a lot of extracurriculars, but the ones that I did have, I was very passionate and involved in, I did math club all four years and I like worked my way up the ranks and like level leveled up.
If any of you have done like Mu Alpha Theta, you would understand. Um, and in model UN I helped found the club and I was the president for two years. And I didn’t do that because I thought that it would be good for college admissions because honestly it didn’t know, I just did it because I liked the club and my friend really wanted to start it.
So I helped her start it. So kind of things kind of just worked out in my favor overall in my application, I really, really talked about model UN and how much I loved it and why I was so passionate and so into it. And even, um, I had like a Yale alumni interview me, uh, and he asked me about model UN and I spent the whole interview talking about it.
And he was like, I can really see how passionate you are about this. And you know, this passion would be really great at Yale. So any tips for me would be, you know, just the things that you do do them because you care, don’t do them just because you think they’ll look good on a resume. If you hate model UN don’t do it just because you think it would look good, do it because you like it.
And if your interests are like far out there, like if, if you really like woodworking or like carpentry, for example, and you think, oh, that’s weird. I’m not even gonna mention it. No, mention it. If that’s your passion, because that will really show through in your application and in your writing. I would definitely echo that, right?
Being able to talk about things that genuinely make you wanna get up in the morning. Um, whatever that may be, if it’s being a big sister, if it’s model UN, if it’s right, doing work for your community, whatever that is, I would hands down say that that is huge and resonates in your essays. It resonates in your interviews like they can, and we can tell who’s doing things because it looks good on their resume and who’s doing things cuz they actually care about the things that they’re doing, but also really echo data and say, if you have things that you’re interested in doing, finding, not just roles but leadership roles and the ability, not just to sort of continue what other folks have done, but to create your own pocket in whatever it is, are two things that are really looked for in, in the application process that I think make a huge difference, right?
It’s not, are you a member of like 10 clubs? You could be. Being the president of one club versus being a member in 10 clubs. Right. Um, you have to sort of weigh what that looks like. And I think Yale talks a lot about in the application process about breadth and depth of extracurriculars, you can have, right.
A ton of depth, right. Start your own model UN club and be really involved in really committed to it. Or you can have a little bit more breadth. I think I did a lot of stuff in high school, um, in addition to sports. Um, and I remember getting actually that feedback from my admissions officers like, wow, you just did a lot of things.
Um, and that’s okay, too. Right? Whatever, whatever it is, whatever that kind of balance is. And I think for me, I didn’t have right. One or two things that I really knew that this is like what I wanted to do with all of my time, but I kind of liked everything and I kind of just sort of went for it right.
With anything that I thought was interesting or that I wanted to learn more about. That led to being really busy, um, in high school and also kind of in college extracurricularly, but right. Was what was the most sort of authentic to me and what was the, the most sort of right. Uh, relevant and meaningful to me at the time, because like, I didn’t know what I wanted to do and thought, well, a lot of things were cool and that, and either approach is okay right there.
Isn’t one direct approach that it’s gonna get you in. There is no magic formula. Right. And, but it’s really about sort of, not like, just what are you doing, but why are you doing it? And how are you gonna talk about it?
Yep. Thank you guys. Um, so some students are wondering here about different things that would like either lower your chances of admissions or like, um, higher your chances of admissions. So, um, you know, now with a lot of schools going test optional, the student is wondering like, do I have lower chances of being accepted if I go, um, test optional, and maybe you guys can talk a bit about, you know, your scores and numbers there.
Um, and alternatively, someone’s wondering like if I apply early, does that increase my chances? Um, as opposed to regular admissions? So kind of a pack question, but yeah, absolutely. And again, right, there is no magic formula, right? So, um, we can tell you that some things that are in terms of test optional, the thing that I’ve noticed in sort of college consulting for the past few years is that, um, One for these kinds of schools, right?
Like there’s always sort of been this unspoken understanding that there’s a certain baseline test score that gets you through the door. If your schedules, if your, if your test like scores look really, really, really good, um, that might be able to offset, uh, right. You know, struggling in one or two classes in high school.
But for the most part, it’s sort of like, okay, this is a box. This is, and this was pre COVID. This is just a box that we’re gonna check, right. If you make X or above, right on your ACT SAT cool. We can sort of move forward from there. And if not, okay. Small, red flag that we have to weigh against your grades, and we have to weigh against the classes that you took.
But now with things being test optional, one of the first thing that I will say is that if your test scores are not really, really high. Folks aren’t sending them in, which is jacking the average of what the average test score is to get into a school like Yale or, um, another IV over the past couple years.
So that’s something worth considering is right. It’s that sort of benchmark for submitting your test scores has gone up somewhat. Um, but also recognizing, right. What role do test scores and serve in the overall admissions process, right? They, again, right. Can offset maybe struggling in one or two classes.
If you have really high scores, um, they can sort of match the rest of your portfolio, but at the end of the day, they are really not an intrinsic part of what will get you into a school like Yale as long, like compared to the rest of your application. Right? Because again, at the end of the day, everyone has the grades.
Everyone has the test for it. That’s like sort of the baseline to get into Yale or to get into a similar. Like school. So it’s gonna be about right. The extracurriculars, the way that you care about your extracurriculars, um, you know, what, you’ve, what you’ve chosen to do with your life outside of academics, as well as right.
Maintaining this sort of record that you’re gonna need to get in to this kind of school. So that would be my main thing is that, and I think we all tend to fixate on test scores because they’re one of the few measurable metrics, right. That we can see from year to year. But I know tons of kids who got perfect SAT and ACT scores that haven’t gotten into the Ivy’s and tons of kids who were in the, you know, 27, 28 range that did get into schools like Yale.
So it really is just one small part of your overall application. Um, albeit one that has sort of right, curved towards shooting really high over the past couple years because of this test optional policy.
Yeah, I definitely agree. Test scores are not everything, but you know, it is kind of easy to compare because they’re published. Um, in my own personal experience, my SAT score was not in the range for Yale. It was below the range, but I applied anyway because I was desperate. no, um, I just really liked the school and I thought, well, my grades are good, so they could make up for the lower SAT score.
And after I sent in my application, my ACT scores came out and they were within the range for Yale. So I thought, well, if the CTS in the range, then, you know, it’s good enough. Even if the score came out, post application submission, but yeah, I’m with it being test optional now, too, in, in some colleges. I don’t think test scores carry as much of a weight.
They are good. If your grades are maybe a bit lower or if there’s a blemish on your report card, if you have a good test score, then they’ll be more willing to maybe overlook a lower grade that you got like sophomore year or something. I know a lot of students trying to fixate on that. They’re like, I gotta see I’m not getting in anywhere, but like you’ll, you’ll be fine.
Um, and test scores are a good way to kind of show that you are competent. Um, but yeah, I don’t think they’re the end all be all of your admissions. Great. Thank you so much. Um, so I know we’re a little over now, but I’d love to just ask you guys quickly. Um, you know, what’s the last piece of advice you wanna leave everyone with tonight?
I would just say to trust the process, which is a really scary thing to say. I know at this point, when you are trying to sort of frantically get everything together and you have no idea what the results are gonna be, but that, you know, college and getting into college, and what you do with your undergrad is a really important, informative time in your life.
And also it is only four years of your life. And so wherever you end up, um, it’ll be okay. And if you don’t like where you end up, you can always transfer. Uh, so I think, you know, trusting that whatever the outcome is of this process, um, every single school has things that you can take from it, things that you can learn from it, um, things that will take you to where you need to be.
Whether it’s scale or another school that will always be the case. And I think that being honest with yourself, with what you write about with how you approach the application process is so, so, so important in being able to trust that process. Right. Um, you may not have it all figured out. You may not have it all together and you shouldn’t because no one does.
Right. Um, and definitely not anyone in high school and that’s totally okay. Um, but being as honest and authentic as possible about where you’re at in life, what you love to do, what you’re passionate about, what makes you curious? Right. Um, even if you don’t have one particular dream or one particular goal, right.
Being able to talk about those things in an honest way, That’s what’s gonna get you through the process. And that’s also what will make you feel like at the end of the day, when you do put everything out on the table, right? That you can make a decision you’re confident in once these sort of admissions results can roll in.
Yeah, I agree. You should not know what you wanna do for the rest of your life at age 17. And it’s okay if you’re unsure or if you change your mind and also, you know, prestige isn’t everything. I was just talking to a student who wants to do a major that is not very big at Yale. It’s not very well known, but she loves Yale.
And I told her well, prestigious in everything, you know, Yale is great. It has a great academic program. Sure. Maybe the engineering program you like is more robust at MIT, but does MIT have residential colleges? Does MIT have liberal arts classes? Um, so, you know, prestige is not everything. So if you don’t get into Harvard or Yale, then, then you do get into another school.
You’ll still have a great time because college is really what you make of it. I had some acquaintances at Yale who hated it because they didn’t take the time to really do the things that Yale offered to attend the activities, join the clubs, or, you know, make connections with their fellow classmates. So college is really what you make of it and how much effort you put into it.
And if you don’t go to Harvard, that doesn’t mean you. You’re not gonna have a good college experience. And like I said, it’s fine to change your mind as well. if you apply to Yale as like a pre-med and then you change your mind. It’s fine. I did that Yale didn’t come after me and say, Hey, you lied. You said you were gonna be a pre-med biology major and you’re not, um, they won’t do that.
So yeah, it’s always, you know, something to keep in mind is that you get as much as you put in. And if you don’t put in much, then you won’t enjoy your college experience regardless of where you go. But if you put in the effort, you’ll enjoy it. No matter where you are.
Great. Well, thank you so much guys, for sharing. Um, big thank you to, to Neida and Mariko, uh, our panelists tonight and thank you everyone for coming out. Um, we had a great time telling you about Yale and over here we have our July series. So 18th, we have a Common App Deep Dive. We have Starting Early to Stand Out in College Admissions, AO Advice: Crafting the College Essay, How to Earn the Highest Grades You Can. Um, we have a Harvard Panel. We have What Makes a Strong College Application, and we have Applying to College as an International Student. Well, thank you so much again, everyone for coming out tonight and I hope you have a good one. Bye.