Story | Xie Yihui, Staff Editor
Graphs | Martin Choo, Designer & Xie Yihui, Staff Editor
Yale-NUS College’s Class of 2024 arrived on campus and embarked on their university life as planned despite the global chaos and uncertainties. To the community, the arrival of the first years was a sharp reminder that a new phase of campus life has begun.
The Octant had the opportunity to sit down with the Admissions Team and learn about the profile of this batch of students. Besides releasing nationalities, female-male ratio, and acceptance rate as per previous years, The Octant gathered data such as the overall proportion of students on financial aid and proportion of students from different types of Singapore-based schools, which were made public for the first time.
Other indicators of diversity were either unmeasured or inaccessible, including data about ethnicity, gender non-binary, standardized test scores, first-generation status, and percentage breakdown for local and international students on financial aid.
The Class of 2024 consists of 234 students representing 32 nationalities. Unsurprisingly, Singapore remains the largest country represented overall, with Indian nationals constituting the largest population among international students for the second year in a row. Furthermore, students from Malaysia, China, and South Korea also constitute a large proportion of international students matriculated (see Figure 1a,b).
Yale-NUS also welcomed the first student from the Dominican Republic in its history.
While there are nine students who reported more than one citizenship, to avoid double-counting, this data only indicates their primary citizenship.
The class has a female-male ratio of 52% to 48% (see Figure 2).
The acceptance rate for the incoming class remained low, at 6% (see Figure 3).
The proportion of all students receiving need-based financial support for each class is around 50%, which remained consistent from Class of 2021 to 2024 with a fluctuation of no more than 4%.
In Singapore, students from different types of government schools tend to divide over social-economic lines. Speaking of this, Jasmine Seah, Director of Admissions, said, “I have to say that we have been really committed to work with over 40 schools in Singapore, so our representation of students from Singapore-based schools is wide.”
However, the demographics of enrolled students still show an over-representation of 22 junior colleges. Among 140 students from Singapore-based schools, 76% are from junior colleges and similar schools including School of the Arts, Singapore Sports School, and Millennia Institute, 13% from international schools and 11% from polytechnics (see Figure 4).
This is in contrast with the national figure (see Figure 5) published in a report by the Ministry of Education. Among the Primary 1 cohort enrolled in 2009, only 29% were admitted to junior colleges in 2018 and similar schools and 49% to publicly-funded schools that offer diploma courses including polytechnics, the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), and arts institutions such as Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) and LASALLE College of the Arts (LASALLE).
There are also no admits from special education schools. Ms. Seah explained that usually, students with disabilities apply from the schools that are already within their reach. “It is important to consider the applicant’s academic preparedness. We take into account the graduation certificate and the curriculum that the student underwent,” she said.
She emphasized that “a disability, visible or not, does not disadvantage an applicant in the admission process.”
The admissions Team has declined to disclose the acceptance rate breakdown for domestic and international students. Ms. Seah told The Octant that the number of global applicants are significantly higher than the local ones, thus the breakdown of rates is not an “accurate representation” but they did not clarify what the representation is.
“The College’s policy is to only release a total admit rate,” she said. “An applicant’s chance of being admitted is based on their individual achievements and fit for the college.”
Unlike other local universities and U.S. colleges, Yale-NUS does not publicize a grade profile or information about students’ standardized test scores.
Many local universities, such as the National University of Singapore and Singapore Management University, disclose their Indicative Grade Profile, which is a table that shows the A-Level performance of students from the 90th and 10th percentiles and the breakdown by faculty. So far, Yale-NUS has only disclosed the median and 75th percentile of standardized test scores for Class of 2017.
When explaining why Admissions published a grade profile only for the inaugural batch, Ms. Seah said that SAT scores are optional for Singapore-based applicants and some students submit ACT instead of SAT scores.
Furthermore, she said that “we are committed to a holistic admission philosophy and we do not want students to self-select”.
A diverse student body is important for Yale-NUS, so much so that the word “diverse” appears three times in its mission statement.
The avowed commitment towards diversity is echoed in Admissions. “We make offers to the best-fit students, taking into account all dimensions, including gender, academic interest, and things like extracurricular or personality,” said Ms. Seah.
Yet, relevant data is not made available to the Yale-NUS community. While The Octant requested the percentage of students declaring non-binary gender identities, neither Admissions nor the Dean of Students Office collected the data.
Other crucial data such as race is not well measured. Ms. Seah explained that the race-related questions are not consistent across the three channels through which students can apply to the college—Common Application with Yale-NUS or Yale University or directly through the Yale-NUS website.
In the Common Application, students are asked to declare their race using terminologies from United States (White American, Black or African American, Native Americans and Alaska Native, Asian American), whereas the Yale-NUS website asks students to declare along with the Chinese, Malay, Indian, Others model established and institutionalized by the Singapore government (Figure 6 and 7). Race questions are optional on both platforms.
While the ethnic data is not comprehensively monitored, Ms. Seah said that “we are very aware of the global conversation on race. When Admissions assess students, race is considered in the contexts of histories and social mobility in the country of residence as well as family background.”
Speaking of the racial privileges in Singapore, Ms. Seah acknowledged that it is a “very difficult” challenge for Admissions to consider taking steps towards confronting the inequities that have persisted for decades, such as working with “a wide range of schools in Singapore” and “ensure that students know that Yale-NUS exists and might be an option for them, regardless of socioeconomic background” supported by “robust financial aid policy supports this approach.”
“We also provide professional development with no charge, to educators and teachers, to enhance the support they provide to students in the college search,” she said.
Yet again, there appears to be a lack of data that reflects the socio-economic profile of the student body.
For example, while Admissions is interested in the number of first-generation college students, they have not asked the students to declare their first-generation status in their application form.
Ms. Seah said that “first-generation” is a difficult label to define. Sometimes, one may have a family member who went to technical college and still has a considerable experience gap when attending a four-year residential college. She also said that they are considering asking students to declare first-generation identities in the coming years, and ensure access and participation to empower students in a higher education setting. However, the implementation of it is still in discussion.
Diversity of socioeconomic background has been a hot topic in Yale-NUS since its inception and has become even more salient when the school is shifting to being need-aware for international candidates beginning with the 2021 admission cycle, according to an email sent by Tan Tai Yong, President of Yale-NUS College, on May 21, 2020.
The new policy means that the total amount of financial aid received by international students will decrease and so will the number of international students receiving financial aid. The Octant has requested relevant data to monitor the change in demographics of Yale-NUS after the significant shift in financial aid policy.
While Admissions released the overall proportion of students on financial aid, they declined to make public the proportion of international students receiving financial aid packages over the years. Ms. Seah explained that “the financial aid schemes for two groups are very different and that the tuition fees for Singaporeans are much lower. Hence, international students need more financial aid.”
The issue of financial diversity is getting more important as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, as reports by the International Monetary Fund show that teleworking has worsened global income disparity.
Ms. Seah said that the students applying during the 2021 admission cycle have a dedicated space on the application form to explain how COVID-19 has impacted them. Standardized scores such as the SAT and ACT are also made optional for this cycle only, in line with many universities in the U.S.
Previously, students whose educational curricula were not in English were recommended to provide proof of their English proficiency. From the 2021 cycle onwards, Admissions will integrate Duolingo English Test, which can be purchased online for around $67, as one of the test options to “increase students’ access to take proficiency tests,” said Ms. Seah.
During every admission cycle, online college applications forums such as r/applyingtocollege, College Confidential see a flood of posts enquiring about Yale-NUS’s relevant data.
Within the Yale-NUS community, students have mixed views about data disclosure.
Muhammad Naeem Shehryar ’23, speaking in his capacity as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion in the Yale-NUS Student Government and also as a concerned student, said that “the school must release these statistics—and must hold itself up to scrutiny—what can we do better to create an institution that sees diversity beyond PR-facing photos of a ‘multiracial’ group of students on campus.”
However, Mathew Ramos ’23 holds a different view. He said, “I do acknowledge that for some interested parties, more data would be good for making sure that college admission is fair. However, some of the missing metrics might not be that easy to record, or clear-cut, such as ethnicity. Privacy might be another concern affecting the release.”
In another article on admission, Ms. Seah said: “As a young institution, we are in the process of evaluating our institutional goals, philosophy, and beliefs.” It remains to be seen how our data disclosure policies will evolve as the college nears its 10th birthday.