September 7, 2023
To the Yale College Community,
We write to provide an update on the work of Yale College in response to the Supreme Court’s June ruling about the consideration of race in admissions. Over the past ten weeks we have met with students, alumni, faculty, and staff who have shared their concerns and ideas for moving forward. In these meetings we heard clearly that Yale College should build on existing programs and take new concrete steps to attract exceptional students from underrepresented communities and continue providing an educational environment that fosters a strong sense of belonging.
Our priorities today remain unchanged from June: fully complying with the law, continuing to support a diverse and inclusive community, and maintaining a world-class admissions process that considers each applicant as an individual. We are confident we can preserve these priorities going forward.
Students for Fair Admissions
As you may know, Students for Fair Admissions, the organization that sued Harvard and the University of North Carolina, also sued Yale in 2021. That case was stayed pending the outcome of the Harvard and UNC cases. Following the Supreme Court’s June ruling, the stay was lifted. We are pleased to share the news that, after hearing Yale’s description of the steps we will take to comply with the ruling, SFFA has decided to dismiss its case.
Updating Yale’s Undergraduate Admissions Process
Beginning this week, admissions office staff will receive extensive new training on reading and evaluating applications for undergraduate admission. Reviewers will not have access to applicants’ self-identified race and/or ethnicity, and admissions officers involved in selection will not have access to aggregate data on the racial or ethnic composition of the pool of applicants or admitted students.
The Supreme Court’s ruling does not prohibit application reviewers from, in the words of Chief Justice Roberts’ majority opinion, “considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected the applicant’s life, so long as that discussion is concretely tied to a quality of character or unique ability.” Fortunately, Yale’s whole-person review process is designed to consider each applicant as an individual, and to examine what they personally have to offer to the Yale community. No single criterion determines an admissions outcome. Decisions are made by a committee, which considers quantitative, qualitative, and contextual insights.
To further facilitate Yale’s whole-person review, the admissions office has updated its application questions for the upcoming admissions cycle. Applicants will now respond to one of three short essay prompts, and may choose to reflect on an element of their personal experience, their membership in a community, or an experience discussing an issue with someone holding an opposing view. We believe these questions will invite students from all backgrounds to reflect on the experiences that have shaped their character and strengths.
Beginning this fall, admissions officers will also incorporate new place-based data from Opportunity Atlas, an ambitious nation-wide mapping project that measures economic mobility at the census tract level. These data will complement the dozens of race-neutral and place-based datapoints included in the College Board’s Landscape tool. Since 2017, admissions officers have incorporated Landscape into the whole-person review process and have found that it improves the committee’s evaluation of applicants from under-resourced areas and has contributed to a rapid increase in enrollments from lower-income students.
Expanding Admissions Outreach and Building New Talent Pipelines
As we look forward, we are rightly proud of the progress we have made in increasing access to a Yale education in just the past decade. The first-year class that arrived in New Haven last month is 21% larger than the class that arrived in fall 2013; the number of Pell-eligible first-year students this fall is 130% higher than it was a decade ago; the number of first-generation first-year students is nearly 115% higher; and the number of students of color in the first-year class has increased by 96%.
This change is the result of a sustained commitment to all aspects of the admissions office’s work. But it is largely the product of successful investments in strategic outreach initiatives, which have helped students from underrepresented backgrounds learn about Yale’s remarkable breadth of academic opportunities, its supportive campus culture, and its exceptional need-based financial aid.
Before the selection process begins, our first priority is ensuring that Yale’s pool of applicants will include high-achieving students from all backgrounds. To achieve this, the admissions office will:
Hire two new full-time admissions office staff members to increase year-round engagement with college access organizations and oversee new student-focused outreach initiatives that will incorporate current students and alumni.
Expand participation in the popular Multicultural Open House and launch a program to provide travel support and overnight stays to a group of prospective students.
Increase the reach of the Yale Ambassadors program, which has connected current students with tens of thousands of prospective students in all 50 states since 2005.
Launch new outreach events and programs for students from rural and small-town backgrounds through the new Small Town and Rural Students (STARS) College Network.
Create new outreach partnerships with other colleges, including several public flagship universities.
Expand the distribution of the Diversity Viewbook, which highlights Yale’s commitment to multi-dimensional diversity, to more than 70,000 high school students annually.
Additionally, we will work to create long-term initiatives that support a pipeline of high-achieving applicants from diverse backgrounds. The admissions office will:
Develop new admissions programming with Yale Pathways for New Haven public school students and strengthen the admissions office’s partnership with New Haven Promise.
Produce a suite of early educational outreach material designed for students in grades 8-10.
Expand opportunities for students affiliated with college access organizations to visit campus and engage with the Yale community.
Develop new relationships with leaders of college access organizations and school counselors who serve students from underrepresented backgrounds.
Bring a high-impact college preparatory summer program for high-achieving students from underrepresented backgrounds to campus within the next two years.
Supporting a Culture of Belonging in Yale College
The Supreme Court’s ruling changed the interpretation of the law, but it did not change our community’s values. We will continue to welcome students with a range of experiences, perspectives, goals, and strengths, and work to ensure that everyone can thrive at Yale.
Yale College now enrolls more students who identify as people of color than ever before. Our four cultural centers—the Afro-American Cultural Center, La Casa Cultural, the Asian American Cultural Center, and the Native American Cultural Center—are pillars of strength for our community. We celebrate their work, and we will continue investing in them. Starting this academic year, the centers will receive additional funding to enhance their missions and additional staff support from the Office of Student Engagement.
The new Office of Educational Opportunity will centralize resources to ensure that all Yale College students have access to the educational, advisory, and co-curricular opportunities needed to succeed. The office will make many of the Poorvu Center’s popular mentoring programs, workshops, and dedicated resources more visible and accessible. In just its first two months, the new office has seen a significant increase in student engagement: nearly 200 first-generation and low-income (FGLI) first-year students have signed up for FGLI peer mentorship groups, and the STEM Navigators program is serving over 400 first years and sophomores. New and expanded collaborations with the Office of Career Strategy, Office of Fellowships and Funding, and the cultural centers are helping students explore their intellectual, personal, and pre-professional pathways. We plan to add new staff, including a new Assistant Director of FGLI Support, later this academic year.
The Road Ahead
Less than sixty years ago, Yale College enrolled only men and almost no students of color. Fifteen years ago, fewer than 1 in 3 students identified as a person of color and only 42% qualified for need-based financial aid. We believe change is possible because we have seen it. But change requires sustained commitment and a willingness to think and act creatively.
As we continue crafting and executing our response to this summer’s rulings, we will keep listening to your ideas, your concerns, and your hopes for Yale College. We will also keep the community informed of our efforts on this webpage. Finally, we hope you will support these efforts in your own way by encouraging the next generation of Yale students to join our supportive community, where we believe diversity is essential to innovation, strength, and excellence.
Dean of Yale College
Douglas Tracy Smith Professor of Comparative Literature
Professor of English
Dean of Undergraduate Admission and Financial Aid