Admissions over the Years
story Regina Marie Lee
The third round of applications to Yale-NUS College has closed and come August, the Class of 2019 will matriculate. The Admissions Committee plays a very important role in shaping the College. The department itself, now fourteen strong, has seen changes across the years.
Admissions was one of the first staff departments formed at the College in 2011, giving them lead time to recruit students. Round 0 of admissions began in Spring 2011 and lasted until Round 3 in June 2013. Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Kristin Greene said, “My predecessor started before we had a president, before we had RC4.” Most of the Admissions material presented to students then was about a liberal arts education, as faculty and curriculum had not been finalized. “Eventually you need to show [to prospective students] presidents and faculty and curriculum, and so it was great as the pieces came together,” Ms. Greene added.
Inaugural Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan agreed that the team initially faced a lot of uncertainty. He said, “[We were uncertain of] who would actually come, how successful Experience Yale-NUS weekend [EYW] would be, who would accept our offer of admission … even how many students would apply.”
This uncertainty on the yield rate meant Admissions had to guess. He added, “At Yale [University], we have hundreds of years of data for which to measure [the take-up rate for offers] … if we guessed wrong on the percentage of students who would take up our offer, then we were in a tough position.” Mr. Quinlan left Yale-NUS in May 2013 to become the current Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Yale.
EYW, when admitted students visit Yale-NUS and Singapore, has proven to be effective in getting admits to enrol. Two are held each year. According to President Pericles Lewis, more than two-thirds of those who come to EYW join the College. He added, “If we didn’t have the equivalent of EYW it would be very hard to admit international students who haven’t been to Singapore. We think it’s a very cost-effective programme.” EYW will be a regular part of Admissions for “at least the medium-term future”.
Ms. Greene and Mr. Quinlan agreed that the first class was pivotal in setting the tone and quality of the College. Mr. Quinlan said, “We were looking for many of the same [qualities] that we are looking for at Yale … but also that je ne sais quoi that would make them great community members, to be pioneers, to be entrepreneurs, to be founding members of the community.”
Ms. Greene was amazed at how the student culture developed. She said, “I see aspects of the community I never could have predicted that are just amazing … [Something] that really touched me is how the cleaning staff were recognized in such a personalized and public way, [showing] that our students are so thoughtful, open and kind.”
As the College’s culture evolves, so do the qualities that the Admissions team looks out for. Ms. Greene said, “We take into account who our community is when we are looking at who we admit. So for example, while we all want really kind students, I couldn’t have predicted how caring and supportive this community is. Things like that that help us refine the whole admissions process.” How well a potential admit will fit into the community matters.
Mr. Quinlan shared that admitting students at Yale was very different, due to in part to size. He said, “We are looking for a class of 1360 students, not 157 students … At Yale-NUS, I knew every student’s file. I knew every student. I met you all at Experience Yale-NUS weekend.” Other factors, such as varsity athletics and legacy admits also matter. “Yale-NUS was sort of the unified vision of what you are looking for. At Yale there are definitely a lot more factors that have to be going into balancing your class,” he said.
Admissions continues to revise its presentation of the College as it develops, said Ms. Greene, citing new electives, student groups and Student Government. “I’m asked about those things and we’re still revealing the details as they come out,” she said. Admissions will continue to evolve as the College grows.
Spandana Bhattacharya and Yonatan Gazit contributed reporting to this story.