Yale’s newest freshmen have diverse backgrounds and interests, with the same zest for learning

Friday, Aug. 28 marked one of the most anticipated days in the Yale College academic calendar: freshman move-in day. Hundreds of upperclassmen volunteers joined President Peter Salovey, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway, and the masters and deans of 12 residential colleges in welcoming the 1,364 members of the Yale Class of 2019.

In addition to suitcases and mini-fridges, the new freshmen brought with them an expansive collection of achievements and experiences from around the world.

“By nearly every metric, the Class of 2019 is the most diverse in the history of Yale College,” said Holloway. “We know that over the next four years these students will enrich each other’s learning experience in countless ways, while leaving an indelible mark on the College.”

Members of the freshman class attended nearly 1,000 high schools in 49 states and 60 countries, including 13 African nations. In addition to the 11% of the class who are international students, a record 41% are U.S. citizens or permanent residents who identify as members of a minority racial or ethnic group. This includes the largest group of African-American students and the largest group of Hispanic/Latino students to matriculate in a class at Yale. The number of freshmen who identify as Asian-American, African-American, Hispanic/Latino, or Native American has increased 17% in the past five years.

President Peter Salovey takes a selfie with students during freshman move-in day.

More than 14% of the freshman class will be the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree, and more than 18% of domestic students received a federal Pell grant, a program for undergraduate students with high levels of financial need. The number of freshmen receiving Pell grants has increased 43% in just the past two years. A record 88 members of the class were finalists in the QuestBridge National College Match program, which serves high-achieving low-income students. In June, Yale announced that it had met or exceeded the nine public commitments the university made to the White House in 2014 to increase college opportunity and socio-economic diversity. In the last academic year 64% of Yale students received financial assistance, and the average scholarship grant for students receiving a Yale financial aid award was $42,230.

Where in the world do Yale freshman come from?

Incoming freshmen also expressed a broad range of academic interests. About 25% of incoming freshman said they plan to major in a social science field, 20% plan to study the arts and humanities, 28% indicated an interest in one of Yale’s physical science and engineering majors, and 16% plan to pursue careers in the life sciences. The number of incoming freshmen planning to major in physical sciences and engineering has risen 17% in the past five years. Yale College students formally declare a major at the end of sophomore year.

Yale is also welcoming 31 new students who were admitted through the transfer program and Eli Whitney Students Program for non-traditional students. Before coming to Yale these students attended a broad range of institutions, including the University of California-Los Angeles, Stanford, Monroe Community College, and Miami-Dade Community College. Three of the new Eli Whitney students are veterans.

The freshman class was selected from more than 30,000 applicants from around the world. Members of the class include (among many others) a student who has lived on a boat for the past seven years; a student who performed as Billy Elliott on Broadway; a student who spent a gap year building and restoring pipe organs; and a student who won a national contest to name the Mars rover, “Curiosity.”

Remarking on the freshman class, Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions said, “Many years ago, former Yale President Kingman Brewster wrote that selecting future Yale students was ‘a combination of looking for those who would make the most of the extraordinary resources assembled here, those with a zest to stretch the limits of their talents, and those with an outstanding public motivation’ — in other words, applicants with a concern for something larger than themselves. Our goals remain the same today. Decade after decade, Yale graduates have set out to make our world better. We are looking for a diverse group of students we can help to become the leaders of their generation in whatever endeavors they wish to pursue.”

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