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Yale 62

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Yale Attracts Record Applications for Class of 2023; Finds Itself Involved in Admissions Controversies (complete article)
Dean Jeremiah Quinlan Provides the Details.

By Al Chambers

Once again, with the announcement of the Class of 2023, I felt certain I would not have made it if I were applying now. I continue to be so grateful that I was admitted in 1958.

A record number of almost 37,000 youngsters applied this year. Final numbers are not available yet, but about 1,550, near 5%, are expected to arrive for classes. Even with Yale’s two new residential colleges, this will not be the largest first year enrollment. The largest freshman class came to Yale just after World War II.

It is, as always, a dynamic time in New Haven, but not without its challenges. The Admissions scandal involved Yale in a variety of different ways. Because of a combination of Yale’s prominence, plus its early identification as having been involved, our alma mater drew the most initial media coverage last March. As it has turned out, the far higher number of people connected with the University of Southern California has become more the focus. “Varsity Blues,” as the investigators named it, has nothing to do with Yale, but references a 1999 movie with a vaguely similar storyline.

At the same time, the scrutiny and concern has spread to a number of long-time topics of debate having to do with privilege and inequality at the nation’s top colleges. Although Yale’s efforts have been open and transparent, there surely is concern about reassuring stakeholders and future applicants about the strength and fairness of the Admissions system.

It is not surprising that other admission-related topics now are drawing more attention and debate. Two major ones are the Asian American affirmative action case against Harvard, which seems destined to reach the Supreme Court and the increased attention to the fairness and importance of College Board test-taking, preparation and tutoring.

Dean Jeremiah Quinlan with studentsDean Jeremiah Quinlan (’03 – Morse College) is the first leader of the recently combined Admissions and Financial Aid structure. He brings with him an impressive record, including having guided Admissions during the first years of Yale’s expansion to Singapore in alliance with the National University of Singapore.

Dean Quinlan was generous with his time and in sharing his ideas when Yale62.org asked for comment about both the intense competition for admission and the increased scrutiny and questioning on Admissions’ procedures in the nation’s finest colleges, following the disclosure of the athletics scandal.

The Dean explained, “Like President Salovey, I was shocked and dismayed by the ‘Varsity Blues’ scandal. Since learning about it in March, I have been working extensively with my colleagues in admissions and athletics to ensure that this type of fraud will not happen again. Yale is conducting an internal audit. We believe that former women’s soccer coach Rudy Meredith provided fraudulent athletic endorsement to two applicants only. One was denied admission despite the endorsement, and the other was admitted. As such, we have already made changes in the athletic/Admissions interface.”

Both President Salovey and Dean Quinlan were quick to issue information and apologies when Yale’s involvement in the national scandal became public. Quinlan’s excellent note was sent to Alumni who volunteer to conduct interviews with both Early and Regular admission applicants and submit written evaluations. I have done this for about 20 years and tremendously enjoy the chance to talk with such impressive young people. I have learned over and over again how competitive admission to Yale has become. In my view, it gets tougher every year.

“Part of my job,” Dean Quinlan emphasized, is “to try to be an ambassador for the process. I want to get out there and tell how and why it works.”

With that in mind, I asked Dean Quinlan to explain the most important objective of the Admissions process. He responded, “Our job in admissions is to bring together a class with the widest possible array of talents, aspirations, backgrounds and outlooks that we can find among the world’s best-prepared students.” He added that a primary benefit of the system is that “it provides those students selected with an even more extraordinary experience and opportunity. And it is the same for the University’s unequaled faculty.”

He emphasized, “We are very aware of the challenges to the process and are truly interested in integrity. Our committee concentrates on giving applicants a better opportunity to put their best foot forward.” The record, he said, shows that “we are not admitting anyone who is not qualified. We know that there are vast inequities in the K-12 systems in the United States and around the world. At the same time, there has been great improvement in Yale’s socioeconomic balance in the past five or six years.”

Quinlan reminded me, “Admissions is always a high visibility issue,” and expressed concern that much of the media coverage of “Varsity Blues” suggested “everyone involved was guilty without reporting on the enormous care that goes into the system.” One example he explained was, “ the stringent requirements for Ivy League schools to be certain that athletes need to be representative of the entire student body.”

When I asked if he thought “Varsity Blues” would have a lasting effect or pass over, he strongly advocated, “we are always going to continue what we are doing, particularly knowing that affirmative action cases such as the Asian American suit against Harvard (where Yale has supported Harvard’s defense), are advancing through the court system, with the District Court ruling from Massachusetts due at any time.

Quinlan also wanted to make it clear that fraud was not something new to Yale or the other top schools. Each year, there are examples. He mentioned that entire SAT sittings in various locations around the world have been dismissed because of suspicious circumstances. Still, he also offered praise for the College Board’s process and data, including their Environmental Context Dashboard, which includes what media has recently described as an expanded Adversity Index to identify the challenges facing different applicants with different backgrounds.

Looking more closely at Yale’s enormous responsibility in its Admissions process, many key elements from 60 years ago continue, such as grade point (with some schools always grading higher and others lower), College Boards (and now ACTs), Advanced Placement classes and tests, and extracurricular activities including competitive sports, music, theater and so much more.

Now, there are other considerations, beginning, of course, with women now having been at Yale College for almost 50 years. There are increased applications from all states and many countries around the world. The changes, innovations and complexity of Yale’s Financial Aid programs provide opportunity for families that could not have participated previously, and that broadens diversity and creates greater socioeconomic balance.

One of the outstanding attributes of Yale’s Admissions and Financial Aid systems is that following the “blind” admission process, Yale guarantees that the University will meet 100% of an applicant’s demonstrated financial need, as determined by Federal and Yale systems. Last year, more than 50% of the class received such grants, averaging more than $53,000, and almost 20% were first-generation attending college. Public school graduates totaled almost 65%.

Today’s Yale receives applications from young people enrolled in Public District schools of choice, magnet programs, and charter schools, and now increasing numbers graduating from STEM and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs. Thousands of applicants include their public service, mentoring and other school and community activities.

The Yale Admissions Committee understood and balanced all of these attributes when it considered a 2023 pool that was more than ten times greater than when we applied, but only was able to admit a class that will be, at most, 60 percent larger than ours in 1958.

There is so much more that could be said, but I want to close with a story connected with my Class of 2023 Alumni interviews. Each year, students admitted to Yale in Southeastern Michigan are invited to a low-key reception to be congratulated and to meet fellow young women and men who may be joining them in New Haven. Interviewers who met with successful candidates also are invited. When fortunate enough to be there (some years, none of my interviewees are accepted), I try to sit at a student table rather than joining their parents or the other interviewers. Young at heart, I guess.

In April, I spent a delightful few hours with a group of seven of these “admits.” The subject of “Varsity Blues,” not surprisingly came up, and they of course were all aware of Yale’s involvement. They weren’t critical, and none were athletes, but they quickly agreed that they did not see why Yale needed to in effect recruit athletes. I explained that any athletes receiving special attention from athletic teams were in the 90% of applicants to Yale, who are qualified within Yale’s general guidelines. That was a surprise to them. I added that most of these athletes were applicants who wanted to continue in their sport at the Division 1 level. They could quite possibly make the teams at Yale, but almost certainly not at the larger public universities or at some of the private schools in different athletic conferences that permit athletic scholarships.

All seven knew that Yale’s 2019 basketball team again had gone to the NCAA “March Madness” and had performed well, though losing in the first round. After further discussion amongst themselves, these impressive members of the Class of 2023 changed their minds, and agreed that athletes almost certainly were important members of the college. I understand that the subject also was a “live” conversation at the annual Bulldog Days, when hundreds of kids travel to New Haven to be certain that Yale is indeed the right place for them.

Yes, Yale is such a different place from when we matriculated to New Haven in the late summer of 1958.

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1 comment to Yale Attracts Record Applications for Class of 2023

  • chris cory

    Belatedly, I found this, and found the update useful, especially the paragraphs on Studnt athlete applicants. Nice digging and clear explaining.

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