BackgroundInterview Date:March 2019
Gender Identity: Male
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Private high school in Baltimore, MD with a graduating class of about 110 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Computer Science
Extracurricular Activities: I’m doing research with a finance professor and I’m working on an iOS app outside of school.
How easy was it to get involved in research?
It was pretty easy. It’s through this program Yale has with the Economics Department called [Herb Scarf Summer Research]. Every summer you can apply for it and look at the projects professors are doing. You find which one interests you and apply directly to those professors. [After that, you’ll get] an email and an interview. I was hired for last summer and continued during the school year.
What is your weekly coursework like for your Computer Science major?
All the Computer Science classes I’ve taken so far have been mainly one problem set or assignment a week. Some of the harder classes can take up to 20 hours a week, and some of the lighter ones can take 5 hours or so. In Computer Science, as opposed to other majors at Yale, the problem sets and assignments have a very large weight in your grade. In some classes, your problem sets count for 60-70% of your grade. The remaining 30 or 40 percent is typically two exams throughout the semester.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
The number of people wanting to major in Computer science has grown immensely in the past couple of years. Unfortunately, I don’t think the department has been able to keep up [with the growth]. Often times you find teaching assistants are understaffed. It can be hard to get help given there are so few graduate students and so many undergrads who are taking the major.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I would definitely say it’s collaborative. The Yale department is pretty fair with grading and doesn’t put strict cutoffs on how many people get As or A-minuses. Partially because help hours are so understaffed at times, students often rely on one another for help and collaboration. When working on assignments, it’s very collaborative and helpful to work with others.
How accessible have the professors in your department been?
The professors have been very accessible. They often have upwards of four to five hours allocated each week to help the students. It’s not so much that the professors are difficult to reach, it’s more so that you’re expected to have graduate students look at your code and find bugs in it. That’s where it’s been pretty difficult to find help.
Why did you choose Computer Science? Are you happy with your choice?
I was always a math and science person in high school. I took AP Computer Science in my junior year, and I found I really enjoyed it. I think the media pushes in our face every day the number of opportunities that Computer Science has, and how important it is. If I’m a math and science guy and I enjoy it, and there is an unbelievable number of career opportunities then it seems like the perfect fit. It’s certainly a love-hate relationship with the major, especially at a place like Yale where it’s a liberal arts college. You’re surrounded by the best history or economic professors in the world. With these resources, you sort of feel that you’re missing out on a broader liberal arts education when you’re putting your head down behind a computer screen for 5 hours a day. You’re surrounded by people who are in the humanities majors. In the end, I am very happy.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Durfee Hall with one roommate and three suitemates.
Sophomore: Branford College in a suite with five people.
How was transitioning from Baltimore to New Haven, CT?
It was a pretty easy transition culturally and location-wise. Weather-wise, I guess it’s slightly colder in the winter. There’s definitely a common culture across the East Coast, and I think Yale does have a disproportionate amount of people from here. [About 32% of the Class of 2022 are from the Northeast.]
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
From what I’ve heard, New Haven was a pretty rough town in the 1980s where the city was ridden by crime, and because of that, students didn’t really get off campus that much. From what I’ve seen thus far, Yale has done a really great job at investing in the surrounding city, making it safer. You totally feel safe everywhere you go, and they have police stationed at different street corners.
Pros and cons of being located in New Haven, CT?
1. I don’t think I’ve really utilized this, but the accessibility to New York City. It’s a quick hour and forty-five-minute train ride, so often times people will like to go there on the weekends.
2. We like to call ourselves the pizza capital of the United States. If you come, you’ll certainly see how great the pizza is.
1. Getting to an airport is difficult. There’s not one great and cheap transportation system to one of the New York City airports, or the airport in Hartford, Connecticut. This has been a drag when I need to go somewhere.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Yale?
I’m in a fraternity, and we typically host events on the weekend during the day and at night. This year I’ve done a good job getting out to sporting events, whether it’s football, basketball, or lacrosse. Those are really fun to go to, and I’d say there is good school spirit. There are also great bars in New Haven.
What nights of the week do you regularly do things? Are there regular places you go or things you do on certain nights?
During the week, people only really go out on Wednesday nights to [Toad’s Place]. That’s when Toads makes it exclusive for Yale students. When you get to the weekends, people go out Friday and Saturday nights. Less Yale students go to Toads on Friday and Saturday nights because it’s open to a bunch of Connecticut schools in the area who come. On the weekend, there are mostly fraternity parties, and there are a ton of great performances. Whether it’s acapella or an improv comedy group, there are really good turnouts for the shows because they are awesome and all the students in them are really talented.
What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
There’s a debate right now whether Greek life has a tight grip and full control over the social scene at Yale. Obviously, this is sort of a controversial topic, and a lot of the fraternities do have Friday and Saturday night events. They often open up their houses to anyone, and I’d say the majority don’t have lists of who can get in and who cannot, which I think is great. Compared to other schools, fraternities probably don’t control the social scene as much. There’s room for improvement, but I think this school does a good job trying to foster alternatives to Greek life. If you register through the school, they will give you money to throw a party in your suite which I think is very unique to Yale. I think the school as a whole wants to promote a social scene within the dorms.
How happy are you with the weekend options at Yale? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’d say I’m pretty happy with my social life on the weekend. As a sophomore, there’s the idea of the sophomore slump where the lack of variety in bars and fraternity parties gets repetitive. Given the size of the student body and city, we do have a lot of fun and do different things on the weekends.
How did you meet your closest friends?
A couple of my closest friends came through my computer science classes. We met there and worked on problem sets together. Coincidentally, a lot of them ended up joining my fraternity in the year I joined.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Yale?
I don’t want to use the cliché “work hard play hard,” but people definitely do work hard throughout the week. The students really look to do different stuff on the weekends. The great thing about the Yale social scene is that people have fun doing whatever they want to do, and there are definitely a ton of options. There are fraternity parties, you can go to the bars, and there are a ton of performances on the weekend. There’s a place to have fun regardless of what your interests are.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
Yale is definitely a very progressive place where people aren’t defined by their race, gender, or sexual orientation. If you go to a fraternity or any other social group, the diversity isn’t perfect, but from what I’ve seen, it’s improving. I wouldn’t say there are strict barriers between the people who go to shows on the weekends and the people who go to fraternities. It’s not very separated amongst those groups based on race, gender, sexual orientation or what groups they’re in. [In 2018-2019, about 43% of students are White, 19% are Asian, 13% are Hispanic, and 11% are international students.]
To what extent do people in Greek life and not in Greek life mix socially?
The great thing about Yale is that because Greek life is relatively small, it certainly doesn’t consume your college experience. Some of my best friends are in different fraternities than me, and that’s great because I’m not sure you could say the same at others schools where a ton of people live in their fraternity house, and where their lives are defined by the fraternity. It’s great having that one spot for me to go to, but to also be very close with people outside of it as well.
How do you like the size of Yale in terms of undergraduate enrollment? [Yale has about 6,000 undergraduates.]
I love the size of it. It’s difficult saying whether I’d appreciate a larger school, but when my friends who go to state schools visit me, they definitely express how interesting and cool the intimacy of Yale is. Everyone seems close with each other, and the colleges really foster a tight-knit community. I think that’s something that students at larger schools definitely don’t experience.
What is the impact of the residential college system on your experience socially?
The residential college system is a great idea in principle, and I think as a freshman student last year it was a great amenity for transitioning to college. You are living with a bunch of freshman in one building, and you have a [first-year counselor], which is our term for an RA. It’s a senior living near you that helps you. It was really cool for the group of us to eat in the same dining hall, have our own personal college dean, and have counselors who hosted events at their houses. Unfortunately, the outside community around Yale has gotten a lot safer, so people are more readily able to live off campus. The residential college system is dying a little bit because juniors and seniors are living off campus. [84% of undergraduates live in university housing.]
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
My freshman counselor from last year graduated and gave me a referral at the tech company she works for. Basically, that ensures a recruiter sees my resume, which enabled me to get an interview. I ended up landing that internship, so that’s a great example of [an alumnus] who helped me get the job I’ll be working at this summer.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
I haven’t used it that much this year because I got an internship pretty early. Last year I definitely used it a lot more, and they were very helpful. They were super helpful about putting me in touch with the Yale alumni who headed Yale clubs all around the country and the world. They have lots of accessible information, will help you write networking emails, and can put you in touch with the right people.
Have you learned any computer programs or computer languages that will be helpful professionally?
In my Computer Science classes, the first language you learn is called Racket, and in the next required classes for the major, you learn a language called C. I haven’t been in the industry, but from what I’ve heard I don’t think those languages are very applicable to the real world. That being said, I think they definitely know what they’re doing with their education when you learn what they consider difficult languages. Picking up any modern language has been very easy for me, given my background in these more difficult languages that I’ve learned through the major. I’ve taught myself Python and R.
Have you used financial aid? If so, accommodating was the office to your needs? Were they responsive to your questions?
Yale has certainly helped my family out significantly with financial aid. They’re super transparent with it. I’ve only visited the offices a few times, but they have hours every week, and I’ve just walked right in and can see someone within 10 minutes or so. They are very helpful with everything, and I think given the size of Yale’s endowment, they are very generous with their financial aid. [During the 2016-2017 academic year, nearly 50% of students received financial aid.]
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Yale before entering as a freshman?
One thing I would’ve liked to know was the importance of free time and truly utilizing all that Yale has to offer. It’s not necessarily unique to me, but you come in and want to take the hardest classes possible being in the high school mindset of taking every AP class and want to get ahead on your major. At Yale, there are so many resources for student life, extracurricular, research opportunities, to really utilize that you might have to take a step back and realize it’s not the best decision to take five of the hardest classes this semester, when in fact you should take three or four and really try to utilize the other opportunities here.
What is something a prospective student interested in Greek life may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
I think there is certainly a stereotype attributed to fraternities, but I would encourage anyone interested to rush and see the diversity of people, interests, and passions in fraternities. There are places where a lot of different people come through, and it’s been a nice place for me to become friends with people who are interested in things completely unrelated to things I’m interested in. Without my fraternity, I don’t think I’d be able to meet them.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Performances on campus. I’m a big fan of going to a lot of the improv group performances. It’s truly remarkable how funny and talented a lot of people are here. I think those performances truly give an accurate representation of what sort of social life and student life is all about.
Reasons to attend Yale:
1. The liberal arts education. At Yale, you’re pushed by people around you get a very broad education in different fields.
2. The residential colleges really foster a tight-knit community. They are an integral part of the student experience, and if you visit you’d see the beauty of these places.
3. The diversity of passions and interests you’re surrounded by. If I went to a straight engineering school or some big state school, I would’ve been surrounded by and living with engineering people all day every day. At Yale, I’m able to go to class and be pushed by some of the smartest math and science students I’ve ever met, then come back and hang out with my friends who are humanities or History majors where we can have political debates.
Reasons to not attend Yale:
1. If you’re looking for a big school, Yale is definitely a place where you see familiar faces every day. You can’t get lost in the crowd there, especially among the people who are social and go out on the weekends. You find yourself hanging out with the same group of people most weekends.
2. I wish there were more big events on campus. We have the Harvard-Yale game every year which is so much fun, but I wish there were more events like that where the whole student body is invested in something.
3. I would consider Yale a funs school on the weekends, but going out is not the most important part of the experience.