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Applications II: The Return of the Applications

(See: activities, clubs, groups, and almost every other extracurricular at Yale)job-application

When you got into Yale, you probably thought that the hard work was done. You busted your butt in high school, became the president of some clubs and started some others others. And now you’re into one of the best colleges in the world, and the rat race is over: you can do any extracurricular you want.

Little did you know that at Yale, you have to apply for everything you want to do. Nothing could have prepared you for the vast number of student groups, all eager to recruit the wide-eyed students that passed their booths during the extracurricular bazaar. And with each of these groups comes an onslaught of applications and auditions, often time-consuming and shockingly competitive.

Congratulations on getting into Yale! Now, get ready to compete with everyone else who got in too.

Orchestra Groups:

The Hook: You played an instrument in high school, and while you weren’t quite amazing, you certainly weren’t bad. Plus, your parents paid for lessons, so naturally you were obliged to bring your instrument to Yale. Everyone seems really good, but there’s a ton of orchestras, and besides, there are also a ton of instruments. And sight-reading can’t be too important, right?

The Process: Each audition slot is about ten minutes, and by the week of auditions, almost all the slots are likely to be full. The people running the auditions smile and give helpful advice that always goes unheard. Only afterwards does it become apparent that while you did alright, everyone else is not only alright at their instrument, but pretty freaking amazing. You’re likely to have a classic “Yale” moment--woah, everyone here is so talented.

This moment will likely be followed by some self-pitying: Woah, I’m so untalented.

Boy, everyone is amazing at their instrument.

Overall Competitiveness: 8

Improv Groups:

The Hook: On one of your first days at Yale, you might have checked out an improv group. Odds are, you were impressed: their on-the-spot-acting and quirky sense of humor are unique, and best of all, it seems doable! You shouted random words at them, and they turned it into a funny scene: you’ve done that all the time with your friends. And even better, they invited you to their workshops with the promise, no experience needed. We weren’t in improv groups in high school, they say, but now that we’ve picked it up, we love it.

The Process: The workshops are an exercise in pushing through awkwardness. They try to teach you to not laugh at yourself--if you’re laughing, it’s not funny for the audience. They’ll ask for relationships that two people can have, geographic locations, and objects for about two hours until you actually run out of ideas (and then you have to improv). Each audition begins with an aggressively silly warm-up exercise (see: bunny-bunny) and a friendly improv cast. From there, prepare yourself for no one to volunteer to go first in the improv games, intimidation from the people who are determined to be aggressively funny, and if you’re lucky occasional laughter from the group itself.

Overall Competitiveness:

8: Around eighty people will be narrowed down through callbacks, and only 2 - 4 will join the groups.

Cultural House Liaison Jobs:

The Hook: It looked like the perfect opportunity. Not only would you be able to connect with your culture, making your parents happy, you would get paid to do so, making your parents very happy. During your first visit, drawn by the promises of food and like-minded people, the Cultural Houses appeared to be a perfect way to find some peace during the hectic Camp Yale, and the jobs there were the perfect way to get involved.

The Process: The application seemed innocuous enough. If anything, it was generic, with the common string of questions: what can you do, why do you want to do it, and how will you do it, all neatly formatted onto a colorful Google Form. After submitting it minutes before the midnight deadline, you think to yourself, “That was pretty easy.” That is, until an email comes the following day with a date and time for an interview. And when you come, there are other well-dressed people waiting to interview right after you.

Overall Competitiveness:

3 - 7: depending on the cultural house, but certainly not everyone will get a job.


The Hook: You went to the concert at Dwight Hall, but you didn’t expect this afterwards: acapella groups accosting people and herding them to sign-ups. You reluctantly put your name down on a couple groups--it’s college, it couldn’t hurt to try, and it’s not like you’re a terrible singer--and suddenly you’re roped into what is the equivalent of fraternity life on other campuses.

The Process: You show up to an audition, sing with a group, and sing by yourself--this was the part you expected. And then you have the rush meals, and the dessert nights, and you sing again, and then more rush meals  . . .

Overall Competitiveness:

5 - 8, depending on the group.

More Extremely Competitive Groups:

Dance Groups:

Ranging from not extremely competitive to extremely competitive, dance auditions often require experience, time, and a lot of coordination.

Academic Groups:

School seemed competitive enough, but the existence of more academic programs, such as STARS for STEM Majors, just seems a little overkill.

News Publications:

It often feels like there are more publications than students, and while being involved is not so hard, getting read can be a huge challenge.  


The sheer number of plays going on would make you believe that there is a part for everybody--but that’s just not true, and there is a lot of bouncing from audition to audition before you’re likely to even land a small part.

Spoken Word:

You wanted to express yourself through poetry and to move people through the shared universality of all human experience. But wait, you have to be good at it? Oh no . . .

Tutoring / Volunteer Groups:

You’re saying that in order to volunteer your time to help the underprivileged and needy that you have to apply, and often you’ll have to go through involved and extensive processes to narrow down the number of people who can help the community around them?

Are you surprised?



Dean Li
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