20 Questions I Had About Yale!

I’d gotten in to Yale. What I’d thought was astronomically unlikely had just happened. And now it was time for me to ask questions - of myself, and others - to figure out if this was the school for me! I had a few generic questions left over from lists I’d prepared for college fairs, but those had been for getting at the broad, general idea of whichever college I’d been asking about — but now I needed details!

Here are some of the questions I was asking (and some I wish I’d asked) as a high school senior, and that you might like to ask too!

1. Do I like how it all looks? It might seem inconsequential, but college is also a physical place that you have to live in for four years. If the architecture is… shall we say, leaving something to be desired in your opinion, take that into account! These are the buildings you’ll be studying, living, socializing, and eating in — you should enjoy being in them!

2. How was I greeted when I visited? Your first impression isn’t everything, but it can (and likely will) end up being a lasting memory once you leave campus, if you go visit. A little (or a lot) of warmth at your reception can go a long way in helping you think about campus culture!

3. Well, what’s the vibe? Or put differently, how does how campus seems make you feel? Tense? Relaxed? Excited? It doesn’t hurt to reflect on your own reactions to the cumulative impressions (vibes!) of a particular place. 

4. Are there any professors who I recognize or would be excited to work with? I hadn’t done a huge amount of research on who all taught at Yale before I committed, but there are a number of famous professors and professors doing innovative research here! Seeing if you know any names, or looking into names in departments you might be interested in is never a bad move!

5. Are there any study spaces (again, that I like the look of) that have natural light? As a current student: natural light helps! A lot! Skylights and wide windows can boost your mood when you’re studying in one place for a while.

A dream school can become even more enticing once you look into it further, but it can also reveal itself to be less ideal than you first thought, too. Conversely, a school you initially weren’t considering too seriously might strike you as a missed gem once you unearth more details about its campus life — getting into the particulars can be a huge help during the college decisions process!  

6. Do they have what I want? If not, can they help me get it myself while I’m there? A huge part of why I chose Yale was the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, which among other materials, has handwritten manuscripts and other items from writers I was incredibly interested in, like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. But say a college you’re looking at doesn’t have something - say, an academic program or a research opportunity - you’re looking for. Do they have any resources to help you do it independently? Is there space for you to found or pursue something new there with the college’s support?

7. What are the students on campus like? Collaborative? Cutthroat? Outgoing? Community-oriented? Obviously, you can’t meet everyone on campus, but you might factor in how you felt about the people that you did!

8. Do I think I’d find a home here? Are there any communities on campus you see yourself in? What do you imagine a year of your life in those communities would be like? What kinds of belonging are you looking for? And if you don’t think there’s multiple spaces where you’d feel welcome and celebrated, is that its own kind of answer?

9. Would I be happy here? Sometimes, deliberating doesn’t have to be that deep. It may be useful to try answering this question for yourself in one word, and then returning to it with a longer answer, and seeing how the two measure up.

10. Could I spend four years here? There are lots of great schools out there — but for me, even though many of them seemed inviting, several had cultures that I thought wouldn’t be sustainable for me to inhabit for four whole years. To a degree, whichever college you choose needs to be a environment you feel comfortable setting down roots in. If some aspect of campus life would pose some major obstacles for you and your wellbeing, take that into account!

11. What’s something here that I might not find somewhere else? WORD: Performance Poetry, the Afro-American Cultural Center, the Beinecke, and Heritage Theater Ensemble were just some of the various groups and places that were huge draws for me and felt particular to Yale. But these don’t even have to be concrete things! Intangible ones can be just as crucial, too.

12. What’s the process for getting involved with extracurriculars? Do any of them have applications? What kinds of clubs and organizations are there? How possible is it to get involved with them during your first year, and later on in college too? Can you create your own, and get funding or resources to do that?

13. How much are the residential colleges part of the Yale experience? (Or for other schools, what’s life like in the dorms?) This one’s more Yale-specific, but could be an important one to ask - especially considering different Yalies will supply you with different answers. Are you interested in student life that’s more organized around where you live and close-knit, nearby communities, or less so? What do you imagine being the center around which your time is spent for the next four years? How structured would you like that time to be?

14. How big is Greek life on campus? Do you want to get involved, or steer clear? Is the influence and size of Greek life on campus (or lack thereof) something that deters or excites you? How much does it affect socializing in general?

15. Parties? Yes, just one word. And whether or not you think you’ll go to them, it can be useful to ask about what they’re like at a given school! Do most people dance? Do they wall-hug? Is the music, on average, good? Or is it that most people cannot be trusted with the aux? Do people tend to go out every weekend, for all four years, or do students start to spend their time a bit differently come junior and senior year?

16. What are the most classic first-year mistakes? This isn’t necessarily college-specific, but it can be! Asking about what the usual blunders are (in general, and at that particular school) can give you a helpful heads-up on what acclimating to campus is like.

17. How is the college integrated into the city/town around it? All schools are always more than just their own buildings and spaces — how do you feel about the city or town they’re part of? Interspersed? A more centralized campus? Is walking distance important to you?

18. What’s the weather like? Coming to Connecticut from Colorado, I felt prepared for the New England cold — I was not prepared for the humidity (and uh, through trial and error, had to readjust how much moisturizer I was using). It may seem trivial, but little considerations like changes to how you usually take care of your hair or skin, and whether or not you’d need a winter wardrobe or rainproof clothes can all be worth pondering!

19. What’s the rest of the city/town like? I personally love New Haven, in so many dimensions, and have grown to love it more as I’ve spent more time here. Consider how much time you’ll spend during college that’s not at college!

20. What’s my gut feeling? You might be truly indecisive, or you might just want to be convinced your first impulse was a good one. I know it might seem like trite advice, but if you count to three, and force yourself to shout out a name on three, reflect on what you chose. Sometimes your answer is the first one!