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World Reputation Rankings 2017: navigating Yale University

Yale University is one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Two students explain how they balanced studying, making friends and extracurricular activities there

  • Rankings for Students
  • Student life

Sara Tabin


Gabriella Borter

June 15 2017
Yale coat of arms


The top 50 universities by reputation

Sara Tabin is an English major at Yale University 

I decided I wanted to attend Yale while visiting my sister, who was an undergraduate there when I was five years old. As a child, Yale meant visits to the Peabody Museum, carrot cake from Claire’s Corner Copia and ivy-covered stone walls. In high school I went to see the campus again, and was impressed by the kindness of the students I met and the opportunities that Yale could provide.  

Although receiving my acceptance letter filled me with joy and excitement, Yale was initially not what I expected. I had trouble making friends and felt lonely and homesick for most of my first semester. I frequently compared myself to my peers and began to feel depressed about my relative lack of accomplishments and skills, a feeling exacerbated by numerous rejections from clubs and fellowships. I knew that attending Yale was a privilege and felt guilty for not fully appreciating it.

However, I have loved all of my classes even though some were challenging. I have been able to take many classes outside of my major including astronomy, creative writing and Chinese. All of my professors have been approachable, helpful and passionate about their subject matter.  

I chose to focus on psychology, in part because of a class I took in my first year with Professor Karen Wynn, whose work at Yale’s Baby Lab had piqued my interest in high school. Her course focused on cognition in infants and animals and I found myself interested by everything I learned. Last semester I enrolled in social and abnormal psychology classes and found myself eager to learn more. 

It took time, but I have found friends and activities that I love at Yale. Last year I lived on campus with seven incredible suitemates who helped me feel like Yale was home. I am a Yale Daily News reporter, a Harvest pre-orientation leader and a member of the Party of the Left and have met amazing and kind friends through these organisations too. I have not stopped receiving rejections, but I am okay with not being the best.

More student perspectives on university reputation

THE World Reputation Rankings 2017: life at the University of Cambridge
THE World Reputation Rankings 2017: the University of Toronto student perspective
THE World Reputation Rankings 2017: studying at Princeton University

Gabriella Borter is an English major at Yale University

On the morning of the first day of classes at Yale, the dining halls are full of students by 8am. The energy is palpable and smiles are big. For the first two weeks of school, students can sit in on any of the 2,000 courses offered to decide which to take that semester. Even as I approach my senior year I can still get excited contemplating which courses to fill my schedule with.

The start-of-semester “shopping period” epitomises the variety of academic life at Yale. I chose to study here because the students have radically different backgrounds, talents and aspirations, as well as a passion for learning.

I’ve learned a lot from professors and students alike, from people who are experts in their fields and from people whose life experiences are nothing like mine. When I considered colleges, I wanted a student population that was demographically and intellectually diverse, and Yale has fulfilled that.

I also knew that, as an English major, I would not find better than Yale’s arts and humanities programmes. I was reminded of this during my sophomore year. The course on major English poets is a requirement of my degree, and I wanted to sit in on a few classes taught by different professors to see which I liked the best.

During the third class I visited, the professor, a veteran teacher of this course in his 46th year at Yale, passed out a love sonnet by John Donne and began the class by reading it aloud slowly. By the end of the sonnet, he was choking up. He stopped and apologised to the silent room: “This one gets me every time.” It’s rare to find a professor with such a passion for 17th century poetry but when I did, I knew I was privileged to take his class.

There have been many such moments at Yale, when I look around the classroom and realise the intellectual breadth of my peers and the brilliance of our professors. It makes staying up until 3am in the library tolerable, knowing that my education is a blessing that few receive (although I wish those nights didn’t happen so frequently). The work at Yale is ceaseless but so is the reward – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The full searchable World Reputation Rankings table can be found here 

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