July 24, 2020

Dear first-year students, 

We are very much looking forward to the fall semester, whether you will be enrolling in residence or remotely. We know that many of you who are planning to come to campus are waiting for guidance about moving in, quarantine requirements, and testing protocols. That information will be available as soon as the public health officials provide it, and you will able to find it on Yale College's FAQ page.

As you start thinking about classes, we would like to provide you with an update to our message on June 22 about course registration and pre-term advising for the fall term. As we explained in that message, Yale College is asking students who plan to enroll for the fall term, whether remotely or in residence, to pre-register for courses before the term begins. We provide additional information below and refer you to the Yale College FAQ page for more, but we first call your attention to the following important dates:

  • July 31: Deadline to complete High School Math & Science Survey and online placement exams
  • August 2: Expanded course descriptions for fall 2020 first-year seminars available in Canvas 
  • August 3-5: Students apply to first-year seminars
  • August 7: Students informed of admission to first-year seminars; expanded course descriptions for all fall 2020 courses available 
  • August 7-12: Students submit preferences for other limited-enrollment courses
  • August 17: Students informed of admission to limited-enrollment courses 
  • August 21: Deadline for students to submit a preliminary course schedule
  • August 25: Course schedule adjustment period (“add/drop”) begins
  • August 31: Classes begin
  • September 4: Final schedules due

High School Math & Science Survey. It is important for all incoming students to complete this survey by July 31, regardless of intended major. Departments use this information, sometimes in combination with an online placement test, to recommend an initial course placement in science, math, and economics courses. 

Placement Exams. Please review the Placement Exams and Information page for information about which departments offer a placement exam. They need to be completed by July 31.

Course Information. You can begin now to explore fall-term courses through Yale Course Search (YCS), Yale’s online course catalog. It allows you to search for courses by department and keyword, as well as by many other attributes, and to create sample course schedule worksheets. Brief video tutorials for making the best use of YCS are available here. After August 1 for first-year seminars, and after August 7 for other courses, the “Syllabus” button on each course description should link to an expanded course description. 

First-Year Seminars. First-year seminars provide an opportunity for a small group of first-year students to enroll in a discussion-based seminar. In most cases, no previous background in the material is expected. Students may apply to up to five first-year seminars, and admission is determined by lottery. Enrollment is limited to 15 students. While many of the seminars are extremely popular and cannot accommodate the many students who apply, students who are flexible about the subject matter and meeting time can usually find a space in one of them. Students must apply by 5 pm on August 5 and will receive notification of admission by 5 pm on August 7. A link to the application site can be found on the Preference Selection and Preregistration Applications page. 

Applications to Limited-Enrollment Courses. In addition to first-year seminars, other seminars and some lecture courses have limited enrollment, and students must apply to them between August 7 and August 12. Many courses commonly taken by first-year students, such introductory English, math, and language courses fall into this category, and you can find links to those applications on the Preference Selection and Preregistration Applications page. Students will be informed of their admission to these courses by no later August 17. 

Advising. We hope you will take advantage of the advising resources in your residential college: your college dean, first-year counselor, and college adviser. You will receive more information about these advisers from your college dean during the week of August 10. In addition, academic departments will be offering virtual advising sessions in the early weeks of August, and these sessions will be recorded. Each department also has a director of undergraduate studies who will be available for office hours by video. Information about how to access the schedule of these sessions will be made available in the coming weeks.

We are grateful to you for your patience and flexibility, and we are also grateful to the many Yale faculty and staff members across campus who have been working hard this summer to prepare for your arrival. The fall semester will have the highest faculty-to-student ratio for undergraduates in modern history, and many senior faculty members are team-teaching innovative courses at both the introductory and upper levels. Other faculty are arranging for authors, artists, and composers of works they are teaching to join classes (virtually) for the sessions when their works are discussed. And we are encouraging all instructors to imagine new ways to increase opportunities to interact with students, individually and in groups, in keeping with Yale’s commitment to be the research university most committed to teaching and learning. We are excited about the semester ahead, and we hope you are, too.


Marvin Chun, Lynn Cooley, and Tamar Gendler
Dean of Yale College, Dean of the Graduate School, and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences