Go inside the admissions process.
Admissions Officers Hannah and Mark share the complex and dynamic work happening inside the Yale Office of Undergraduate Admissions. The podcast gives firsthand accounts of how officers read applications, make decisions within the Admissions Committee, and collaborate with other offices and resource centers. Hannah and Mark give an inside look into the strategies and processes that enable admissions officers to attract promising applicants from around the world, consider every applicant through a whole-person review process, and build a class. Recorded inside the Office of Undergraduate Admissions on Hillhouse Avenue, the podcast pulls back the curtain to reveal some of Yale’s most fascinating and rewarding work.
Episode 1: Reading
Hannah and Mark discuss how officers read applications, make notes, confer with colleagues, and prepare to present applicants to the Admissions Committee. Every year officers read more than 35,000 applications cover to cover and collectively make admissions decisions on each one. Admissions Officers Julian and John join as guests to discuss their strategies for reading and rating files. Transcript
Episode 2: Committee
Every admissions decision is made by a committee composed of five members of the Yale community. Hannah and Mark take listeners inside a real admissions committee discussion and describe how the members reach consensus and make decisions. Admissions Officers Jill and Alfie join as guests to discuss their roles as a committee presenter and a committee chair. Transcript
Episode 3: COVID-19
As COVID-19 causes massive disruptions around the world, Hannah and Mark discuss how the Yale Admissions Office has adapted and will continue adapting to new realities for applicants, admitted students, and prospective students. Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan joins as a guest to discuss how high school students should think about the selective admissions process in the face of the global pandemic. Transcript
Episode 4: Essays: What Works
Part 1 of 3. The most effective application essays help admissions officers understand who students are and the contributions they would make to a community. There’s no formula or perfect essay topic, but Hannah and Mark discuss what makes an essay work for an applicant. Admissions officer Keith joins to share insights on the choices that can be most effective when writing an essay. Transcript
Episode 5: Essays: What Doesn't Work
Part 2 of 3. Application essays are an opportunity to speak directly to admissions officers and share meaningful insights and reflections. Unsuccessful essays miss that opportunity. Hannah and Mark share some of the ineffective choices that regularly appear in essays and discuss why each choice doesn’t work to the student’s benefit. Transcript
Episode 6: Essays: The Little Stuff
Part 3 of 3. Most colleges ask applicants to respond to several shorter questions that are unique to their school. Hannah and Mark discuss what officers look for when reviewing responses to Yale-specific questions. Admissions officer Reed joins to share the admissions office’s process of writing and reviewing those questions at the end of each admissions cycle. Transcript
Episode 7: QuestBridge
The Yale Admissions Office is a proud partner with QuestBridge, a national non-profit organization that connects students from low-income backgrounds with leading colleges and universities. Mark and Hannah interview QuestBridge Founder and CEO Ana McCullough about the organization’s strategy for matching top low-income students with full-need scholarships at top schools. Admissions officer Corinne also joins to share how Yale admissions staff review QuestBridge applications. Transcript
Episode 8: Interviews
Many applicants have an evaluative interview with a Yale student or alum as part of the application process. Hannah and Mark talk with Dara, the director Yale’s interviewing program, about how interviews work and what applicants can expect. They share do’s and don’ts for the interview and discuss how interview reports are considered in Yale’s holistic review process. Transcript
Episode 9: Recommendation Letters
Every application to Yale includes three letters of recommendation – two from classroom teachers and one from a counselor. Admissions Officer Moira joins Hannah and Mark to share advice on selecting recommenders and tips for educators when writing on behalf of applicants. The officers share how effective letters can bolster and enhance an application, and they express their gratitude to the educators who write for their students. Transcript
Episode 10: Supplementary Materials
Applicants to Yale who have highly-developed artistic talents or experience with advanced STEM research have the option to include supplementary material with their application. Admissions Officer John joins Hannah and Mark to discuss Yale’s evaluation process for these submissions. Although most successful applicants do not submit supplementary materials, the officers share how evaluators rate submissions and who can benefit from including an arts or STEM supplement with the application. Transcript
Episode 11: Mythbusters
The first installment in an occasional miniseries. Admissions Officer Jill joins Mark and Hannah to discuss and debunk some of the most persistent admissions myths. The officers review six common myths, covering topics that range from early action to demonstrated interest to online message boards. For each, they discus why the myth is inaccurate while revealing the small kernel of truth at its core. Transcript
Episode 12: COVID-19 Update
Ten months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Hannah and Mark give an update on the admissions office’s rapid changes to work that would normally include thousands of in-person meetings and travel around the world. Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan joins to discuss updates to the selection process, sharing what changed and what stayed the same during the Admissions Committee’s first meetings to select applicants to the Yale Class of 2025. Transcript
Episode 13: What Stands Out
Most applicants to Yale are strong along many dimensions, but only a small group truly stand out. Hannah and Mark discuss how admissions officers try to gauge what an applicant would add to and take from the Yale experience. Admissions officer Keith adds insights about what makes applicants stand out in Yale’s large and diverse pool of prospective students. Transcript
Episode 14: Likely Letters
Admissions officer Ashleigh joins Hannah and Mark to talk about likely letters – a recruiting tool the admissions office uses with a small group of applicants each year. In this mini-episode, the office’s director of recruitment explains why some regular decision applicants receive a likely letter and addresses some common misconceptions. Transcript
Episode 15: Dealing with Decisions
With decision day approaching, Hannah and Mark share advice for understanding and processing each type of decision: denied, admitted, and placed on the wait list. They discuss what each decision means (and doesn’t mean) about an individual, the applicant pool, and what comes next. They share the wisdom of former Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel: “Almost nothing depends on exactly which college admits you. Everything depends on what you decide to do once you get to college. Transcript
Episode 16: Transfer and Nontraditional Students
The transfer and nontraditional students programs make up a small but important part of the admissions office’s work to create a diverse undergraduate community. Hannah and Mark cover the basics of applying through either program and share the office’s approach to reviewing these applications. Director of transfer admissions Marisa shares advice for transfer applicants – especially those enrolled in community colleges – and director of Eli Whitney admissions Patricia shares insights for nontraditional students – especially US military veterans. Transcript
Episode 17: The Choices Game
In the process of putting together their applications, students make countless choices. To help applicants understand which choices are more or less likely to help their candidacies, Hannah and Mark invite their colleague John to join in a game of up-voting and down-voting common application choices. While none of these choices will make or break an application, the officers explain why certain choices are more or less beneficial during the review process. Transcript
Episode 18: Mythbusters 2
The second installment in an occasional miniseries. Hannah, Mark, and Jill review and debunk six more persistent myths about the admissions process. For each myth, they identify a small kernel of truth while explaining why the myth is inaccurate. Topics include international admissions, course scheduling, and essay choices. Transcript
Episode 19: The Activities Section
As part of the whole-person review process, the Yale Admissions Committee consider each applicant’s engagement with “extracurricular activities” – pursuits and commitments outside of typical academic work. Admissions officer Reed joins Hannah and Mark to discuss how application readers evaluate extracurricular activities and how applicants can stand out in this part of the application. The trio expand on some simple advice for selecting and engaging with activities: Be active. At the right level for you. Doing what you like. Transcript
Episode 20: Senior Year Questions & Answers
As they begin putting together college applications, high school seniors around the world will encounter unforeseen issues that can provoke concern and anxiety. Hannah, Mark, and Jill answer some of the most frequently asked questions from seniors, including questions that stem from situations that may seem unusual or unfortunate. The admissions officers explain how the committee considers extenuating or unique circumstances and why those circumstances will not hurt a student’s chances of admission. Transcript
Episode 21: Mailbag
The first in an occasional series. Admissions officer Reed joins Hannah and Mark to answer questions and address topics that listeners have sent to the Inside the Yale Admissions Office email account. Topics include seemingly taboo essay choices, the activities list, teacher recommendations, and when to contact your admissions officer.
Episode 22: Financial Aid 101
In many ways, college financial aid can be even more complicated and anxiety-provoking than college admissions. Financial aid officer Matt joins Hannah and Mark to provide a simple introduction to the four tenets of Yale’s financial aid program: need-blind admissions, need-based financial aid, holistic needs assessment, and a commitment to affordability. The officers share insights on how financial aid applications are reviewed and advice on estimating your cost before applying.
Episode 23: Junior Year Questions & Answers
As they begin their college search journey, high school juniors face a mountain of information about the admissions process. Hannah, Mark, and Jill answer some of the questions that are most frequently asked by juniors. They share strategies for learning about schools, maximizing academic and extracurricular opportunities, and keeping the process in perspective. For juniors feeling overwhelmed or anxious, and for those who don’t know where to start the application process, the officers provide reassurance and advice.
Episode 24: Lingo Bingo!
The world of college admissions and financial aid is complicated enough to have its own extensive vocabulary. Hannah and Mark try to make learning this lingo a little more fun by turning it into a bingo game. Admissions officer Marty joins the podcast to square off against Hannah in a spirited competition to identify terms that admissions and financial aid officers aid use in their daily work.
Episode 25: Final Review
After every application has been read and has gone through an area committee, there’s one final step before decisions are released. Hannah and Mark discuss the last week of the committee process, known as Final Review, when loose ends are tied up and the hard reality of the selection process necessitates that some decisions change. Admissions officer Alfie joins to discuss how officers and committee members work together to finalize the first-year class.
Episode 26: Should I Even Apply?
The highly selective admissions process can be daunting and feel discouraging, especially for students who fear that some aspect of their personal circumstances will put them at a disadvantage. Prospective students often ask “Given the very low rate of admission, should I even apply?” Hannah and Mark share insights on how to think realistically about the foundational criteria that make applications competitive and the wide range of personal situations and challenges that officers routinely consider during the contextual holistic review process.
Episode 27: 2022-2023 Application Update
The first-year application for fall 2023 admission includes several new questions that were written by admissions readers during the office’s annual retreat. Admissions officer Chandler joins Hannah and Mark to preview the additions and discuss the office’s goals for the new questions. This episode is an update to Episode 6: Essays: The Little Stuff, originally released in summer 2020.
Episode 28: Early Admissions
Selective colleges offer a variety of early admissions programs, including early action, restrictive early action, early decision, and early decision round 2. Hannah and Mark explain the differences among these programs and share insights on how the Yale admissions office approaches its single-choice early action program. At Yale, opting to apply through early action does not give an applicant any advantage, but the officers explain why an early program may be the right choice for some students at some colleges.
Episode 29: Mailbag 2
Podcast listeners have continued to send fantastic questions and topic suggestions to the Inside the Yale Admissions Office email account. Admissions officer Deb joins Hannah and Mark to respond to listener inquiries about the honors section of the application, twins, home-schooled applicants, reapplying, and balancing priorities in senior year.
Episode 30: Reading Reloaded
For their thirtieth episode, Hannah and Mark revisit the application reading process detailed in episode 1. They share insights into the office’s new initial review process, which helps officers invest more time in the files that will get a full hearing in the admissions committee, and they detail the notes and ratings officers use when writing application workcards. Despite the significant increase in applications over the past three years, admissions officers still review files one at a time and make decisions via committee discussions.