I felt older than dirt yesterday, when I (a member of the Yale Class of 1970, which arrived in New Haven in early September, 1966) got to read, via the Yale News:
Members of the Yale College Class of 2020 will arrive on campus today, taking part in one of the universityâ€™s most beloved traditions: freshman move-in day. The 1,373 new freshmen traveled from all 50 states and 50 different foreign countries to New Haven, where Yale President Peter Salovey, Dean of Yale College Jonathan Holloway, the deans and heads of the 12 residential colleges, and hundreds of student volunteers will officially welcome the newest members of the Yale community. …
More than 12% of the class attended high school abroad, and more than 60% of students from the United States attended a public high school [Up a whopping 2% in 50 years! –JDZ].
Students in the class speak more than 60 different languages, and 36% of freshmen speak a language other than English at home. Their hometowns range in size from fewer than 200 to more than 10 million. More than 200 freshmen are eligible for a federal Pell grant for low-income students, and 52 will receive a new Yale College Start-up Fund as part of the new $2 million undergraduate financial aid initiative announced last December. …
The Class of 2020 will include more U.S. citizens or permanent residents who identify as a member of a minority racial or ethnic group (43%), more students who will be the first in their family to graduate from college (15%), more international students (12%), and more students who are planning to major in a science or engineering field (46%) than any previous class in the universityâ€™s history. The class was selected from Yaleâ€™s largest-ever freshman applicant pool, which saw record numbers of applications in all of the above groups. A detailed profile of the Class of 2020 is available on the undergraduate admissions website, admissions.yale.edu. …
[T]he new freshmen all share an impressive record of academic success, extracurricular accomplishment, and community engagement, said Quinlan, noting that admitted students have reached some of the highest possible levels of achievement in the performing arts, scientific research, creative writing, global and community-based service leadership, athletics, entrepreneurship, technology, and political activism.
Members of the freshman class hold patents and run their own businesses. Their scientific pursuits have earned recognition from Intel, FIRST Robotics, the Siemens Foundation, Google, and Apple. They have performed at the White House, Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center. They have designed software that thousands of people use around the world. Their activism has spurred the creation of new academic courses, new laws, and new international organizations. Their writing has reached thousands of people through international publications and prestigious award programs. They have won state, regional, and national athletic competitions. Many have balanced their academic and extracurricular pursuits with extensive paid work experiences and caregiving responsibilities to support their families.
Yale 1970 differed from Yale 2020 in being about a third smaller. Our class was made up of 1025 “male leaders.” No coeducation yet back then.
But Yale was no less boastful back then about Yale’s commitment to meritocracy:
[T]he Class of 1970, arrived on campus in the fall of 1966. It was composed of 58 percent public school students, the highest percentage of high school students of any class in Yale history, and a jump from 52 percent the previous year. The class drew on more public schools than any other class (478), but also more private schools (196).
For the first time, the rate of matriculation of financial aid applicants was higher than for non-financial aid applicants. Financial aid jumped to nearly $1 million, 30 percent above what it had been the year before; gift aid from the University increased by almost 50 percent. The class included more minorities of every kind. …
The Class of 1970 entered with the highest SAT scores in Yaleâ€™s history; a student who scored its mean SAT verbal mark of 697 would have been in the 90th percentile of the Class of 1961, and the 75th percentile of the Class of 1966. Put in a national context, half of the incoming freshmen scored in the top 1 percent nationally on the verbal SAT. These SAT marks were higher than those scored by the incoming class at Harvard, also a first for Yale. By yearâ€™s end, the Class of 1970 would score an average mark of 81, another school record. [Grades were numerical and very stingy back then. -JDZ]
How else were things different?
I expect you would have seen a lot fewer freshman moving in dressed in short pants.
There were a lot fewer African Americans, and those who were admitted got in much more on the up-and-up. Totally blatant Affirmative Action had yet to arrive. There were basically no Asians or Hispanics or Amerindians at all. A 43% class composition today of self-identified whiny minorities vulnerable to trigger warnings and looking for safe spaces, lest somebody fail to protect them from uncomplimentary Halloween costumes, strikes me as very possibly excessively large.
We certainly had nothing like a third of the class coming from non-English-speaking homes.
We had, we thought, pretty good geographical distribution from all over the United States, but nothing like 12% of foreigners. When, one wonders, did Yale acquire such a major and distinct responsibility for supplying international leadership?
Looking at the detailed 2020 Class profile, I see that 13% are legacies. I am smiling reading that, because the 1999 “Birth of a New Institution” article was bragging that Inky Clark reduced legacy admissions (for my own era) to between “14.5 percent and 12 percent.”
1970 vs. 2020:
58% public school vs. 60% public school
“between 12 and 14.5% legacies” vs. 13% legacies
La plus Ã§a change, plus c’est la mÃªme chose!