Inside the Yale Admissions Office Podcast

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.

Listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, SpotifySoundCloudAndroid Podcasts, and Google Podcasts. All episodes are embedded below: 

Standardized Testing Series

Episode 38: Standardized Tests – The Big Picture

Part 1 in a 3-part series on Yale’s test-flexible policy. Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan shares his thoughts on the role and value of tests generally, and how students should consider their scores during the college search process. Hannah and Mark discuss how admissions officers incorporate test scores in Yale’s whole-person review process, and they bust some persistent myths about testing. Transcript

Episode 39: Standardized Tests – The Details

Part 2 in a 3-part series on Yale’s test-flexible policy. Hannah and Mark reveal the details of Yale’s newly announced test-flexible policy, which goes into effect for first year and transfer applicants for fall 2025 admission. They explain how applicants will fulfill Yale’s requirement and describe the questions that will appear on Yale’s application. They address concerns and questions about the new policy and share advice for how applicants can put their best foot forward with their available scores. Transcript

Episode 40: Standardized Tests: How We Got Here

Part 3 in a 3-part series on Yale’s test-flexible policy. Over four years, Yale’s admissions office went from requiring the ACT or SAT, to being fully test-optional, to adopting a new test-flexible policy. Hannah and Mark give a quick history of the factors that led to those changes and an overview of what happened to Yale’s applicant pool in the wake of the pandemic. Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan joins to discuss the data and analyses that persuaded the admissions office to update its testing policy in early 2024. Transcript

Episode 41: Bonus Episode: Standardized Tests and the Baseball Analogy

To help listeners better understand what test scores can and can’t say about a student’s relative strengths, Mark outlines an analogy he devised that connects standardized tests to his favorite sport. Dean Quinlan joins to discuss how applicants often overemphasize testing, the many ways applicants can show academic preparedness, and famous New York Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Transcript

Reading and Committee

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 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. Transcript

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. 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 34: AI and College Essays: Wrong Question, Wrong Answer

The sudden availability of Large Language Models (LLMs) like ChatGPT have raised new questions about authorship, plagiarism, and fairness in college admissions. Hannah and Mark discuss why they think these tools are unlikely to help applicants gain an advantage in Yale’s selection process and why questions about generative-AI are the wrong starting point for understanding how to compose an effective college essay. LLMs can appear very knowledgeable, but they are inevitably ignorant of the foundation of any successful application: the unique person applying. Transcript

Episode 33: Application Update 2023-2024

At the start of the 2023-2024 admissions cycle, Jackie joins Hannah and Mark for the second annual preview of the new and updated questions that will be on Yale’s first-year application. The admissions officers discuss the annual process of reviewing and revising the Yale-specific questions and the staff’s thinking behind each one. This episode is an update to Episode 6: Essays: The Little Stuff, originally released in summer 2020. 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

Application Components

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 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 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

Admissions Advice

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 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 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. Transcript

Admissions Pathways

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 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. 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

Fun and Games

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 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. Transcript

Mythbusters and Q & A's

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 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 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. 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. Transcript

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. Transcript


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. Transcript

Episode 31: Yield Season

Yale admissions officers always look forward to April, when their focus shifts from selecting students to working closely with admitted students deciding where to matriculate. Throughout the whirlwind month, admissions officers, current students, faculty, and campus partners make countless connections with newly admitted students and their families. These efforts culminate in Bulldog Days, a three-day open house event produced by the same admissions officers who review applications. Hannah and Mark share some of the strategy behind Yale’s yield efforts and reveal an exciting plan for their next episode. 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

Live Events

Episode 32: Bulldog Days Live!

A live audience of recently admitted students joins Hannah and Mark for a special episode recorded at Bulldog Days, a three-day campus preview program. Special guests Chandler and Marty share insights on how admissions officers plan and execute Bulldog Days with the help of current students and campus partners. Three admitted students reflect on their experience navigating the college search and application processes, and the hosts share dozens of pearls of wisdom submitted by audience members to help future college applicants. Transcript

Episode 42: Bulldog Days Live 2024

Recently admitted students in the Class of 2028 join Hannah and Mark for the second annual Bulldog Days Live episode, recorded during Yale’s three-day campus preview program. Admissions officers Becky and Julian discuss how admissions officers enjoy meeting admitted students in person and the conversations they have with Bulldog Days attendees. Three admitted students reflect on navigating the process of selecting a college after receiving admissions offers, and the hosts share dozens of pearls of wisdom submitted by audience members to help students navigate the process of making a final college decision. Transcript

Episode 35: Mythbusters Live

In September 2023 Hannah and Mark hosted a special live virtual event for high school seniors. Responding to questions submitted by audience members, the hosts addressed common questions about essays, activities, intended majors, and the review process. They also shared their advice for navigating the application process during senior year. Transcript

Episode 37: Mythbusters Live – EA Deadline Edition

With just days to go before Yale’s early action deadline, Hannah, Mark, and special guest Moira hosted a special live virtual event for students preparing their Yale applications. The officers answered questions about standardized testing, the activities list, essays, and short answer questions, while busting a few myths and dispelling rumors about the selection process. Transcript

Topics in the News

Episode 36: What’s the Deal With That Supreme Court Case?

In June 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in two cases about how admissions offices can consider an applicant’s race and ethnicity. Hannah and Mark explain the basics of the ruling and how it affects the work of the admissions office. Special guest Jeremiah Quinlan, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid, joins to share his insights on why the ruling should not affect how applicants and educators approach the college application process, as well as the details of Yale’s strategy for responding to the ruling to ensure that Yale’s student body remains diverse along all dimensions. The ruling changed the court’s interpretation of the law, but it did not change Yale’s values. 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 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