Asked about: Yale University

Yale is super competitive to get into - but once you're accepted, are the students still really competitive? Or do things mellow out a bit?


Brian Ha, Yale '05

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I think James's first sentence is key: It is what you make of it. It's a diverse campus and different majors have vastly different academic challenges. If you want to take it easy once you get to school, you certainly can, and there are programs that will accommodate that desire (with the big caveat that even the most lax student at Yale will likely be more driven and competitive than your average student anywhere else).

But I think that those kinds of students are a minority. Think about the types of students who apply to Yale; they are, by nature (or nurture), driven and competitive people. That's not going to change once you're in school. BUT what is different is the environment you're in. In high school, you are one of a few who compete at this level. That makes you stick out and seem overly competitive. Once you're at Yale, you're surrounded by people who all have the same drive. We embrace that drive together and frankly, that what keeps Yale an elite school. No one is ashamed of drive and ambition at Yale, it's celebrated.

So are students still really competitive at Yale? Absolutely. Does it feel like a problem? Not one bit.

James Rohrbach, Yale '05

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Like most things, it is what you make it. Of course there are a ton of hyper-competitive folks on campus. But my experience of the overall Yale culture was one of people who are really into whatever their niche thing is, more than a bunch of lemmings all gunning for 4.0s. There's a spirit of positive & diverse energy on campus more than one of competition or stress. My sense is that this is notably different from Harvard, which has much more of a monoculture of competition. My armchair theory on that is it's a result of natural selection: all the same students get in to both schools, but all the ones who care most/only about resume value & socially defined achievement pick Harvard.

This is all relative of course. If your benchmark is basically anything other than the other most elite schools, then Yale is of course a very academically driven environment.

Eve Fairbanks, Yale grad

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I think your experience will reflect who you are. I found it incredibly nurturing and mellow, but I chose a major I was less objectively "good" at because it interested me, so all I worried about was doing the best that I could, not the very best. I will say, I didn't find I heard other people complain about the competitiveness very much.

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