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College tour impressions: Yale

We started our college-touring itinerary aiming pretty high – with the better of the two Ivy League schools on our list. It is arguable whether you want to be comparing up or comparing down later on when you go through such exercise, but I will not strongly defend our choice to designate the best school on the list as the very first visit. Our itinerary just happened to work out the way that, of all the Saturday day-trips in our plans, Yale ended up as the opening act.

Given Becky’s erstwhile lukewarm reaction to Princeton, I was somewhat fearing that she would find another top-notch institution as stuffy and snotty and devoid of vibrancy that she is looking for. My fears proved unfounded. In fact, both her and my standard answer to the question of “Did you like it?” in the couple of days since we visited has been a question in reply – “What’s not to like?”

Beautiful semi-urban setting – the campus feels both well-defined in itself and also well-integrated into a city of reasonably small size. Architecturally pleasing: Important edifices do stand out with only a hint of being pretentious, while general-use buildings cannot be called “nondescript” to any degree.

That Yale academics are beyond comparison with most of schools in the nation is fairly obvious without saying. That academics are supplemented not only by excellent research facilities but also by superb residential accommodations is an attractive point in itself. Each residential college has all essential facilities contained within its own walls – on a rainy Sunday those so inclined could never venture outside and still avail themselves to the full range of study, play, dining and entertainment. Plus, there are plenty of uncommon facilities – say, a recording studio – that are available to all students on campus.

The people we heard on campus served their cause well. The kid who led our tour, for instance, was talkative and engaging and interesting all by himself, and not for a second he gave us an impression that he was working from a script (which he undoubtedly was). Somehow, my mental picture of a young person with a bright future fit that kid perfectly and made it very easy to identify the university with that type of a student. Which is obviously a selling point for a parent who wants his child to have a bright future of her own.

There were a number of things we heard that were real selling points for Becky – the “shopping period” at the start of each semester, during which students can go to any number of classes without having to register for them until they are happy with their choices; the structure of the degree requirements; the availability of studying abroad for a semester or two; the breadth of quality programs in the disciplines Becky is most interested in; the well-established Hillel organization – which we technically either already knew or could have learned through online resources, but hearing them directly from people on campus somehow made them more significant.

All in all, we could not find any single point to put into a “con” column, while the list in “pro” column grew to over a dozen bullets. The university is super-selective, accepting only a small fraction of applicants, but we will not know if we do not apply. Yale seems a no-brainer to apply to, no matter what the chances are.

And come next Saturday, we are off to another institution.