Advice for First-Generation College Applicants

One in three Yale students is a first-generation college student or from a lower-income family. 

First Generation at Yale: Advice to Applicants

Applying to college can be overwhelming and intimidating for anyone. For an applicant who is the first in their family to attend a four-year college, the application process can be especially daunting. Decisions about where to attend, how to apply, whether to leave family, and how to afford the cost of college can pose hurdles for first-generation college students. The resources on this page feature insights and advice from first-generation students at Yale to assist prospective students through the process of applying to and enrolling in selective schools like Yale. 

First Generation at Yale: The Community

Leaving Home

College is a time full of learning and discovery, but the transition away from the familiarity of family and friends can be challenging. This challenge is further complicated by a rigorous academic curriculum and many hours dedicated to extracurricular activities. While students must weigh the particulars of their situations and make a personal decision about how far from home they are comfortable going for college, Yale has many support systems to make leaving home easier.

Another consideration when comparing in-state and out-of-state schools is the cost of attending different types of schools. Oftentimes, in-state schools offer residents lower tuition and private schools are comparatively more expensive. However, Yale is one of many top private institutions that has a robust financial aid program that meets 100% of a student’s demonstrated financial need and does not require students to take out loans. In fact, Yale is one of the most affordable colleges in the country for families with less than $200,000 in annual income - significantly less expensive on average than attending a top public university, even as an in-state student.

Families who earn less than $75,000 per year are not expected to make any financial contribution. Estimate your cost in three minutes using Yale’s Quick Cost Estimator. To learn more about Yale’s financial aid policies - including how to apply for aid - visit Financial Aid In-Depth

First Generation at Yale: Taking the Leap

The College Transition

Going to college is a big transition for most students. Yale offers many campus resources to make the transition as smooth as possible. All undergraduates participate in the Residential College system at Yale, which helps students find a home away from home. Residential colleges are small, tight-knit communities where undergraduates live, eat meals, and interact with a diverse group of peers. The moment first-years arrive on campus on move-in day, they are also greeted by FroCos (First-Year Counselors) who serve as peer advisors throughout the year. 

Yale’s Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning houses the Office of Educational Opportunity, which runs a popular FGLI peer mentorship program and a STEM Navigators program that serves hundreds of first years and sophomores. Through academic strategies sessions, one-on-one and group tutoring programs, and writing support, students have access to all the resources they need to succeed in and out of the classroom.  

Cultural houses provide an additional community resource for Yalies. Many of the cultural houses and some student groups organize “families” of students where upperclassmen act as “big sibs” to mentor first-years. One example of this type of family-style community is the Peer Liaison (PL) Program.

First Generation at Yale: Support Systems

Understanding a Liberal Arts Approach

Students graduate from Yale with a liberal arts degree – meaning they have successfully completed courses across many academic disciplines, while also completing the requirements of a major. An engineering major may also take literature and history courses; an art major may take economics and biology courses. A liberal arts program cultivates students’ intellectual curiosity, personal growth, and research skills by providing perspective on a wide range of academic disciplines.

Employers are attracted to graduates of liberal arts programs because of the critical skills these students have developed, including the ability to think critically and creatively, the capacity make connections across fields, and the fluency to communicate with different kinds of people in a wide array of situations.

Yale students and alumni also receive career development advising and pre-professional school advising and opportunities through Yale’s Office of Career Strategy in many focused areas including:

  • Medicine: For students preparing to attend medical school, Yale offers ample support to ensure that undergraduates fulfill medical school course requirements and find opportunities to conduct medical research either at Yale or elsewhere. Learn more about Yale’s Health Professions Advising Program.
  • Business: Yale students interested in business often enroll in Economics, Statistics, or even Applied Math courses spanning a wide range of business-related subfields including finance, accounting, international development, trade, and political economy. These students learn the core analytical, quantitative, and critical thinking skills required to excel in business upon graduation or on the GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test), which is required for entrance to most graduate business schools.
  • Law: Yale provides pre-law advising to interested undergraduates. Although Yale does not offer a pre-law track to undergraduates, the liberal arts curriculum prepares undergraduates interested in the law for the logical reasoning, critical thinking and analytical skills necessary to create a successful law school application and to test well on the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test).
  • Journalism:  The Yale Journalism Initiative offers admission to a selective advanced seminar in the craft of journalism; resources and financial support to find a summer internship in reporting; and career counseling and assistance in reaching alumni already in the field. Students who finish the requirements receive the designation Yale Journalism Scholar, which has become a respected credential among journalists.

In each of these areas, and many more, most Yale students will participate in summer internships or study abroad to further their experience in a field of their interest. Learn more about International and Summer Study

First Generation at Yale: Understanding Liberal Arts