Residential Colleges

Fourteen Colleges.

One Yale.

Diversity and Community.

Big and Small. 

living at yale

The Residential College housing system is at the heart of the Yale experience. Before arriving as a first-year each student is randomly assigned to one of fourteen residential colleges, giving Yalies a built-in community from the moment they arrive. Most Yale students quickly become convinced that their residential college is the best. Each close-knit community, housed in stunning buildings centered on a green courtyard, serves as a microcosm of Yale’s diverse student population, while preserving the intimacy of a smaller college experience.

  • A student sits on a wall to read while another lounges in a hammock on a Residential College lawn.
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  • Students enjoying spring weather in the Timothy Dwight College courtyard.
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  • A wall adorned with several Residential College shields.
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  • Students eat a meal in the Berkeley College dining hall at sunset.
  • A flowering tree brightens The Branford College courtyard in Spring.
  • A Diverse group of Calhoun College students and staff at a cookout.
  • A student waving a Jonathan Edwards College flag at an outdoor event.
  • Columns and arches line an avenue connecting the Saybrook and Branford Residential Colleges.
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  • A group of students enjoying a meal in the Pierson College dining hall.
  • Students pass under a brick archway into the sunlit Pierson College courtyard.

Residential Colleges Defined

Far more than dormitories, Yale’s residential colleges serve as a home away from home for students. Each college has its own distinctive architecture, courtyard, dining hall, library, and activity spaces such as a movie theater, music room, recording studio, dance studio, and gym. 

The term “college” can be misleading. Yale’s residential colleges have nothing to do with majors or academic interests. Before arriving as a first-year each student is randomly assigned to a college, where they will spend all four years. Each college creates a microcosm of the undergraduate student body as a whole, allowing students to have the cohesiveness and intimacy of a small school while still enjoying the vibrancy and resources of a world-class university. The residential colleges are among the most diverse communities at Yale; they are also the most significant in the everyday lives of Yale students.

The colleges provide an exceptional opportunity to meet and learn from students with different interests – people students might not otherwise encounter in their courses or extracurricular activities. While many students form their closest and most enduring friendships through their college, students can choose to engage in residential college life as much as they like.

The colleges also bring together faculty and students to form an integrated support system. Each College hosts guest speakers, fellowships, and cultural events. With programs of formal advising, seminars, and activities that encourage students’ extracurricular interests, the colleges create a dynamic bridge between academic and social life.

Now more than 75 years old, Yale’s residential college system is perhaps the most distinctive feature of undergraduate life at Yale.

Head and Dean: The Head of the College and Dean of the College are professors who live in the college, eat meals with students in the dining hall, and serve as the college’s leaders.

Buttery: In the basement of each college is a snack bar that sells cheap food late at night. It often serves as a gathering place for students in the college to take a break from working.

College Tea: Each Head of College hosts afternoon teas throughout the year at which students can gather in small groups to interact with a guest speaker. Some recent guests include Denzel Washington, Brian Williams, R.L. Stein, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Whoopi Goldberg.

Study Break: College Heads and Deans make sure students take plenty of breaks from studying, so during finals time they host nightly study breaks in their homes with plenty of food.

Dining Hall: Each college has its own dining hall where students eat. In addition, each college has its own library, gym, TV room, music practice room, and other facilities like theaters.

Tyng Cup: Each college competes against all others in over thirty sports, ranging from soccer to ping pong. The college that performs the best gets the coveted Tyng Cup.