The Ivy Coach Daily
June 27, 2023
Inside the Yale University Admissions Process
Originally Published on February 10, 2019:
A few years ago, The Yale Daily News, the newspaper of Yale University, released a podcast episode entitled “Inside the Yale Admissions Machine.” The podcast featured an interview by Yale undergraduate Allison Park with Yale’s Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan.
And while much of what Quinlan said likely wouldn’t surprise Ivy Coach’s loyal readers — since we’ve described the admissions process at highly selective colleges like Yale extensively over the years — it’s always wonderful to hear from a sitting dean of admissions. Dean Quinlan remains Yale’s admissions leader even now in 2023. So what did Dean Quinlan have to say?
Yale’s Admissions Process, as Described by the Dean of Admissions
During this sit-down, Quinlan walks listeners through how Yale evaluates each applicant to the university — including how an admissions file is considered from start to finish.
As Quinlan says, “We have 25 admissions officers who are responsible for applications from all over the world and we divide up the world into geographic portfolios. So there’s someone who is responsible for reading all of the applications from Virginia or all of the applications from Michigan, all the applications from Eastern Europe. And that person opens up the file and looks at testing and the transcript and tries to ask themselves, ‘Can this student do the work at Yale?’ Fortunately for most of our applicants, the answer to that question is yes. So they read the rest of the application regardless.”
Quinlan goes on, “But if they really find the student would also — in addition to being able to do the work here — would be able to contribute in a really, really valuable way to the classroom, to the Residential Colleges, to extracurricular activities, to the New Haven community, then that person would probably be passed on to be read a second time. Now since it’s all virtual, the person would read the application, send it back to the area officer and then the area officer is responsible for presenting the strongest applicants from their geographic area to the admissions committee.”
He continues, “The admissions committee at Yale consists of usually around five folks: three members of the admissions staff, a member of the faculty, and a dean in Yale College. And the presentation is made about the specific applicant and then the application can be reviewed in the admissions committee room. So you can see five people around the table with a screen and they would hear the presentation, look at the credentials of the student-applicant, and then review different parts of the application — live in person as a group, discuss different parts of the application, and then vote on the application of that specific candidate. So by the time a student gets admitted to Yale, their application has been read twice and then seen by a five-person committee.”
The Yale Admissions Process Resembles All Top Universities
Many prospective Ivy Coach clients ask, “How is the admissions process different at Yale compared to Brown or Yale compared to Harvard?” No matter the schools these prospective clients cite, the answer is always the same: there’s little difference.
You’re being misled when someone tells you that Yale is looking for this and Harvard for that. All highly selective universities in America seek the same thing: a singularly talented change-making student. Together, these singularly talented students form a well-rounded class. Note that we did not say that elite colleges seek well-rounded students — because they do not.
But it’s not like Yale is looking for astrophysicists while Harvard is looking for art historians. A compelling singular hook works at every elite university in America. The only difference is that each school, except for Harvard (since it’s Harvard), wishes to be loved, so students must prove to each school that it’s the school they most want to attend.
So while it’s always fun to hear from an admissions czar at an Ivy League institution like Jeremiah Quinlan on the ins and outs of a school’s admissions process, know that while the procedures at each school may vary slightly, it’s all more or less the same. Yale may have five people around a table. Brown may have six. But the important stuff remains the same.
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