First-year? Upper-level? A guide to Yale College’s usage

Marvin Chun, Dean of Yale College

September 7, 2017

Dear YCDO colleagues,

When I arrived in the YCDO this summer, the informal practice of substituting the terms “first-year” for “freshman,” and “upper-level students” for “upperclassmen” was in wide and seemingly expanding usage, not just here in SSS but also among students. I want you to know that this terminology now appears in the Undergraduate Regulations and the First-Year Handbook, and my hope is that by the start of the 2018-2019 academic year it will appear in all Yale College’s publications and communications.

At the same time, I recognize that the terms “freshman” and “upperclassmen” are deeply ingrained in our everyday language and in Yale’s history, and I expect that the members of our community, ourselves included, will continue to use these terms as they or we see fit, without feeling that anyone is out of compliance with an official policy. The change is simply to show how Yale College now refers to its students, without presuming to dictate to the community.

Questions of usage, punctuation, and capitalization will surely arise, so a brief guide now appears on the staff section of the YCDO website. If you find instances that the guide doesn’t address, please write to

Yours sincerely,

Marvin M. Chun, Ph.D.
Dean of Yale College
Richard M. Colgate Professor of Psychology; Neuroscience; Cognitive Science