First-Year Scholars at Yale set to expand enrollment and academic programs

The first group of students to participate in First-year Scholars at Yale program.
The first group of students to participate in First-year Scholars at Yale program.

Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun and Associate Dean for Yale Summer Session Jeanne Follansbee announced the expansion of the First-Year Scholars at Yale (FSY) Program for incoming students from low-income and first-generation backgrounds. The 2019 program will expand by 20%, to serve 72 students, and will include a new half-credit quantitative reasoning course in addition to a full-credit writing course. The program will expand from five weeks to six to accommodate the changes.

First-Year Scholars live on the Yale Campus the summer before their first year, participating in coursework, seminars, and activities designed to facilitate and enhance their transition to Yale. All students receive mentoring and guidance from Yale faculty and a residential staff of Yale students, and meet with academic advisers and representatives from campus resource centers, including the Center for International and Professional Experience, the Writing Center, the Yale Library, the Chaplain’s Office, the LGBTQ Resource Center, and the cultural centers. The program, which is free to participants, launched in 2013 with 34 students. Following positive annual assessments from the Office of Institutional Research, the program expanded to 48 students in 2015, and to 60 students in 2016.

FSY involves an amazing amount of teamwork across departments and offices,” Follansbee said. “Residential college deans, faculty, advisers at the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, admissions officers, members of the Yale College Dean’s Office, and Yale Summer Session staff work closely together throughout the year to make the program run smoothly. The expansion represents an important commitment from the entire Yale community to support our students.”    

The new quantitative reasoning modules — three distinct curricula for students of different interests and previous math experiences — are the first-ever expansion of the program’s academic offerings. Participants who successfully complete FSY will begin their first semester at Yale with 1.5 credits already completed.

Chun, the Richard M. Colgate Professor of Psychology and professor of neurobiology, helped to spearhead the creation of the new quantitative reasoning modules, and identified them as especially valuable for students interested in pursuing work in Yale’s science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) departments. “The breadth of opportunities in STEM for our undergraduates is remarkable. Regardless of major, our students have access to world-renowned faculty scholars, cutting-edge research projects, and unparalleled support for undergraduates,” he said. “The new FSY quantitative courses will help ensure that all students are prepared to take advantage of these resources and are set up for success in all their academic pursuits.” 

With the opening of Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray Colleges, the undergraduate student body is expanding by approximately 15% to approximately 6,200. The incoming first-year class arriving this fall will be the third to matriculate into 14 residential colleges. Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan said the expansion — and the changing composition of the undergraduate student body — have helped drive FSY’s growth. “In the past five years, the number of first-generation college students in the first-year class has increased 75% while the number of first-year students qualifying for Pell Grants for low-income students has nearly doubled,” he said. He also noted that the number of incoming students expressing an interest in a STEM major has increased by 33% during that time. “As we continue to bring more strong students from a more diverse set of backgrounds to Yale, I am proud that Yale is providing the support our students need to be successful in all facets of the Yale experience. The student body is changing, and Yale is changing to serve our students.”

FSY participants are nominated by staff at the Yale Office of Undergraduate Admissions and receive invitations to join in the spring. Nominated students who choose to participate receive tuition, room and board, a travel stipend to help cover the cost of travel to and from campus, a $250 living stipend, and a waiver of the first-year student share component of their financial aid award.

Yale announced plans to continue expanding FSY in the fall of 2016 in one of a dozen public commitments made in partnership with the American Talent Initiative, a national initiative to substantially expand the number of talented low- and moderate-income students at America’s top-performing undergraduate institutions. Yale was one of the 30 founding members of the coalition, which now includes more than 100 colleges and universities spanning public flagships, small liberal arts colleges, and all eight Ivy League institutions.

Yale College Director of Development Alison Cole said that financial support for FSY, which totals more than $5.3 million in gifts to date, has come from a group of enthusiastic alumni and parents. “FSY has been an important area of support for our philanthropic community because of its incredible success rate and robust programming. For many alumni, attending Yale was a transformative experience, and they are eager to support the next generation of diverse Yale College students. Providing intensive and sustainable support to 72 FSY students is an expensive endeavor, and our generous donors make it possible.”

The first cohort of FSY students graduated from Yale in 2017. This year’s participants will be the seventh group of incoming first-year students to benefit from the program.

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