A Liberal Arts Education

Art & Science

Breadth & Depth

Yale is committed to the idea of a liberal arts education through which students think and learn across disciplines, liberating or freeing the mind to its fullest potential. The essence of such an education is not what you study, but the result: gaining the ability to think critically and independently and to write, reason, and communicate clearly – the foundation for all professions.

There are no specific classes you must take at Yale, but you are required to learn broadly and deeply. Depth is covered in your major. Breadth is covered in three study areas (the humanities and arts, the sciences, and the social sciences) and three skill areas (writing, quantitative reasoning, and foreign language). A Yale education instills in students the values, goals, skills, and knowledge they need to pursue inspiring work, to take joy in lifelong learning, and to lead successful and meaningful lives.

Choosing a Major

Yale encourages students to let their choice of major be shaped by their academic experiences here. In most of the humanities and social sciences, there are few prerequisites, which means a variety of courses taken first and second year are likely to position students well for advanced study. The natural sciences, engineering, and foreign languages and literatures require more careful planning. During the first year, students lay the groundwork for these majors by beginning a sequence of courses that must be taken in a specified order throughout their four years of study. Explore majors and academic programs.

Distribution Requirements

Unlike liberal arts programs with core classes, Yale’s system of distributional requirements means students choose from among hundreds of humanities, social science, and natural science courses throughout their undergraduate years. This approach ensures diverse intellectual pursuits for all Yale College students while encouraging flexibility and freedom to expand on individual interests, explore new curiosities, and take academic risks.

“Shopping” for Classes

Yale is one of only a handful of universities that allow students to try out classes before registering. The first ten days of each semester are known as “Shopping Period” – a time to visit dozens of interesting classes and make informed decisions about enrolling.

During Shopping Period, students meet with academic advisors to sort through a breathtaking number of academic opportunities. They gather together at “Blue Book parties” to collaboratively tackle Yale’s massive course catalog, known as the “Blue Book.” They build their class schedules as they shop, sitting in on lectures or seminars to get a feel for the teaching styles, syllabi, class dynamics, and topics that best match their intellectual goals for a given semester.

Practically speaking, shopping for classes gives students time to craft their most fulfilling academic semester. Philosophically, the practice upholds Yale’s commitment to each student – to challenge, expand, and ultimately better understand the life of one’s own mind through undergraduate study.