A Student Review of Yale University

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Andrew graduated from Yale University in 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in English. He specializes in ACT prep tutoring, Reading tutoring, and Writing tutoring in New York City. Check out his review of his experience at Yale University:

VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Andrew: Yale University is integrated with the streets of New Haven, but it maintains a distinct campus feel. Most of the undergraduate areas are completely walkable—the furthest distance from one side of campus to the other is about 15 minutes, at most. Yale University also provides shuttle buses that loop at regular intervals for students who do not want to walk, particularly to Science Hill. Bikes are useful but not necessary, and cars are definitely unnecessary.

VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Andrew: Professors, advisers, and teaching assistants are all incredibly accessible at Yale University. Most hold regular office hours, and others are available by appointment. They are also great about responding to emails; I never remember having to wait more than 24 hours.

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Andrew: Dorm life at Yale University centers around the residential college system. Before the start of freshman year, each student is randomly placed in one of 12 residential colleges. During a student’s four years at Yale University, he or she will live within his or her residential college for three years. Freshman year is the only exception. All first-year students live together on Old Campus, located at the heart of Yale University and truly a campus favorite.

Generally, students eat their meals in their residential colleges; however, anyone is welcome to eat in any residential college for every meal except Sunday family dinner. It is easy to grab dinner with friends in other colleges and enjoy different dining halls.

Yale University is full of social groups, from a cappella singing groups, to sports teams, to theater and arts groups. Essentially, anything you want to do, you can find. And not only can you find it, but you can find a group of other students who are as passionate and excited about it as you are.

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

Andrew: At Yale University, most majors and programs are absolutely fantastic. I chose the English major with a concentration in Creative Fiction Writing. Choosing a major is about deciding which classes are the most exciting. For me, I enjoyed English classes the most, and I knew I wanted to pursue English as a major. The English program is definitely one of the best in the country—they have amazing professors, beautiful facilities, and a real tradition of excellence in the subject.

I also chose to pursue a concentration in creative fiction writing, which meant I was permitted to take more creative writing classes than other non-concentration students, and I wrote a long-form fiction piece for my senior project. The writing concentration has some incredible faculty: Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cunningham, National Book Critics Circle Award winner Anne Fadiman, Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Margulies, New Yorker writer Cynthia Zarin, and more. These classes are definitely difficult to get into—they take applications and are often oversubscribed—but with a little persistence, it is definitely possible.

While Yale University has traditionally been known as a real epicenter for humanities study, they have also been pouring a lot of funding into their science programs to ensure the offerings are on par with some of the very best.

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Andrew: Yale University’s social network is embedded in the residential college system. The moment you enter campus, you feel like you have a group of friends already: the 120 or so other freshmen in your residential college. Beyond that, it is easy (and exciting!) to join social groups on campus. It is so easy to make friends.

Greek life plays a very small role at Yale University. It is definitely there for people who are interested in joining fraternities or sororities, but it hardly dominates the social scene. There are plenty of non-Greek parties happening all the time for people interested in nightlife, but not in Greek-life. (In fact, most parties are non-Greek.)

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Andrew: The Career Center is really dedicated to helping people who ask for help. It is all about making an appointment, meeting with a career counselor, and working towards a goal.

Yale University also has a great career database with regular job postings and openings all over the world, including summer internships sponsored by the university. They also host a huge career fair each fall with all the big names. The career fair is mostly directed to people interested in finance or consulting, and I found it a little more difficult to get solid career support at the fair for arts-related jobs.

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Andrew: Yale University has the best libraries. And everyone has a favorite. Each residential college has its own library, and then there are also many other larger libraries on campus, including Sterling (the biggest), Bass (underground, state of the art), the Arts library (for harnessing good energy), and more. There are so many that they are hardly ever too crowded to find a table (except Bass during midterms or finals, when everyone is trying to cram a half semester’s worth of work into one night).

It is during its most crowded time (finals week) when the Sterling library is perhaps the most interesting. An undergraduate group named the Pundits does a naked run (for all students interested in a quick study break) through the nave of the library and down into Bass. It is fun and refreshing during a really stressful time. And they hand out candy to the desperate, potentially traumatized, studiers.

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus? 

Andrew: New Haven is definitely on the smaller side, but it is famous for its food. New Haven has some of the very best pizza in the world, in addition to a variety of other amazing restaurants and bars. They have a fantastic artisan cheese shop featuring local Connecticut fare (Caseus), the craziest sushi you will ever eat (Miya’s), a microbrewery with delicious pizza (BAR), and some really fantastic bars (Rudy’s, Ordinary, Anna Liffey’s).

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Andrew: The student body is very manageable—nothing ever feels empty and rarely does anything feel overcrowded. Yale University caps its seminars at 18 people at most, and some seminars are capped even smaller. (The creative writing classes are all 12-person maximum.)

Sometimes, this means it’s difficult to get into the really sought-after classes (Anne Fadiman is always unavailable), but generally, there are enough classes that even people who are rejected from the most exclusive classes still fare extremely well.

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Andrew: My favorite class by far was Advanced Nonfiction Writing (we called it English 469) with Anne Fadiman. She won the National Book Critics Circle Award in the late 1990s for her book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, a look into Hmong culture in southern California. She has written for all the major publications, and she understands writing (and students) more than anyone I know.

For each assignment, she met with each student for one hour in her office, working on everything from major themes to line-by-line editing to teach us how to effectively edit our work.

Check out Andrew’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.