September 2017

The Yale College Dean’s Office has adopted in its publications and communications the terms “first-year” in place of “freshman” and, to refer collectively to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, ”upper-level students” in place of “upperclassmen.” Here are the guidelines that Yale College uses for these terms.

Phrasal adjectives and compound modifiers

The terms “first-year” and “upper-level” are phrasal adjectives, or compound modifiers, and follow these rules of usage:


In most cases, hyphenate both terms.

Hyphenate when the phrasal adjective precedes the noun it modifies.

The first-year students move in the Friday before classes start.

Do not hyphenate when the phrasal adjective follows its noun.

Those students sitting together in the dining hall, all of them first year, signed up for Organic Chemistry.*

Do not hyphenate when the two words are not used as a phrasal adjective.

She moved into her residential college after her first year.


In titles, capitalize all elements unless they are articles, prepositions, or coordinating conjunctions.

Deadlines for Upper-Level Students

In sentences, however, capitalize only the first word if it is the first word in the sentence.

Upper-level students move in the Wednesday before classes start.

“First-year” as Noun

For the informal “first-year” or “first-years,” to refer individually or collectively to first-year students, use a hyphen.

She got a spot in the class even though she is a first-year.

*Those students sitting together in the dining hall, all of them first-years, signed up for organic chemistry.

Please send questions, suggestions, or corrections to the Yale College Dean’s Office.