17 Life Hacks Every Yale Freshman Should Know

As a senior, there are many things I wish I had known as a freshman. Sure, there were weekly emails from my dean and tips from my froco to help me navigate through the unique landscape of Yale, but no one gave me real advice (for instance, that I wasn’t chained to CT Limo as my only option to get back to Yale).

Here are the top life hacks that I’ve found most practical over my 3 years and will hopefully help make your life more convenient too!


1. Hundreds of new apps will be vying for attention every year, but these are the ones that have lasted on my phone: TransLoc, GroupMe, Venmo, Uber, and Yale Dining.

TransLoc: Please do yourself a favor and get this now. I have met seniors who still patiently wait at their stop, praying that the shuttle will come eventually. Stop it! This app is literally so good. You can see how quickly the shuttles move, if the shuttles break down, and what other shuttles are available to ride, so you can time your exits out of your res college and to your stop perfectly.

GroupMe: It’s not the best, but how else are you going to stay in the loop?

Venmo: There was once a time when I avoided eating out with my college friends because of the social awkwardness of having to split a $224 bill 9 way. Luckily for you, freshmen, you can 100% avoid that at the onset of your college career by using Venmo! Nobody likes trying to find change for cash or even hold cash for that matter, so everyone wins when people just pay/charge digitally.

Uber: Uber is great for emergencies because there are a lot of Uber drivers everywhere. Make sure to take advantage of Uber’s “Refer a Friend, Get $20” promos so you can save them up and treat yourself to the occasional indulgent ride up Science Hill. (Usually ~$5 by the way).

Yale Dining: Self explanatory.

2. If you don’t eat all of your meals, switch to the 14 meal plan and get $150 in Durfee’s credits.

Do we really need 3 meals a day? I personally don’t feel hungry all of the time and don’t mind sticking to 2 meals a day with an occasional 3rd meal at Durfee’s. It’s a really simple fix– just go into your Yale Dining tab in your SIS and click “change meal plan”. I also save money since I’ll buy detergent, toiletries, etc. with my Durfee’s credit at the beginning of the year.

Disclaimer: You can’t switch back once you start so think carefully.

3. Won’t ship to a PO Box? Ship it to 135 Prospect St addressed to your res college.  

When it comes to clothes, I try to be a proactive online shopper since my unintended visits to Broadway will leave me broke for a few weeks. The problem is affordable stores like Forever 21 don’t ship to PO boxes, but luckily you can find out how to ship it here.

4. Make an easy $10-$15 every Friday at the SOM behavioral lab.

I’m serious. It’s just cold, hard cash for a few minutes of your time, usually filling out a survey. I do this to feel less guilty about eating out or when I’m already near the School of Management. You can sign up here. You can also find similar opportunities in the Psych department.

5. Learn how to tango at Payne Whitney.

Or salsa, fencing, karate… There are tons of classes every semester that you can join to both keep in shape and have fun. Check out the schedule here.

6. Get Microsoft Office for free (and other software).

Yale ITS offers several discounted software for students, but the ones you’ll probably need the most is Microsoft office, Box, and maybe Adobe Creative Cloud. Take advantage of this early on so you’re not paying money for something you should be getting for free.

7. Deposit/withdraw money at the hidden Bank of America ATM inside Bass Library or withdraw money at the ATM machine inside Durfee’s.

The easiest bank to access at Yale is hands down Bank of America. If you’ve been walking all the way across the green or down Broadway to get cash, there is really no need.

8. Use to check which laundry machines are open.

For some reason, Yale Mobile no longer works. This is really helpful so you don’t haul all of your laundry down to the basement only to haul it back up because none of the machines are open.

9. The best ways to get to/from the airport? Rent a car at Hertz for $35 using your Yale discount code or (if you can) split an Uber ride with a fellow Yalie. 

You can find the Hertz discount code here. This is cheaper than a day rental with Zipcar (~$70) and cheaper than using CT Limo (~$54). If you don’t know what CT Limo is, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. A typical experience will consist of waiting 40 min for the shuttle to arrive, driving back and forth New York airports until seats are filled, taking twice as long as you should to get to Phelps Gate, and occasional arguments between the driver and the guy next to you (awwwkward).

Disclaimer: You have to book a car at Hertz many days in advance for that price.

10. If dining hall brunch doesn’t cut it for you, go to bagel brunch at Slifka every other Sunday. 

Ahh bagel brunch. Make sure to get there early because it will be packed, guaranteed.

11. Always google your textbooks before you buy them.

Especially if you’re taking a class with textbooks that have been around for years. Usually there’s a pdf version you can snag. If it’s been around for centuries (philosophy), not only will you find the original text online, but you’ll also find pretty good summaries/notes that people have created to speed up your learning process. You’re welcome.

12. The fastest way to sell your items is through Free & For Sale. 

Free & For Sale is a Facebook group for Yale with over 6,000 members. It is by far the most efficient way to get rid of your stuff and make money in the process. I have sold all my off-campus furniture in <1 hr and had it out of my house that night– way faster and easier than my Craigslist posting. The trick is to actually sell things that people might want, sell it for cheap, and post high quality photos.

13. Use Amazon Prime for six months. 

You can be strategic and share with a friend the first six months, then switch to his or her account the next six months.

14. Rent a camera at Bass Media. 

Bass Media has so many things you can borrow: high quality cameras, laptop chargers, HDMI cables, etc. If you make reservations early enough, I have found this to be an easy, painless process, so take advantage of it if you want to do any creative work or need equipment for your student organization.

15. Go on a tour to see Harkness Tower. 

I used to think only people who were friends with the carillonneurs (the people who play the bells) could explore the Tower, but actually anyone who signs up for a tour can. I recommend it! You can also request a song at Harkness if there’s something you’re dying to hear.

16.  Be friends with dining hall workers.

Sometimes you will lose your ID or run out of guest swipes and if you have a relationship with dining hall workers, your life will be infinitely easier. This also applies to professors, administrators, and other gatekeepers in your life.

17. The morning after pill is available at Yale Health for a low cost. 

Same with birth control and testing for STI’s. These services are offered at an affordable cost. It is really important to regularly check up on your health throughout your entire time at Yale. While Yale Health isn’t always the best, there are definitely ways to take advantage of this facility.

What else would you add to this list? What else are you curious about? Write in the comments below. If there is enough interest, I will write a Life Hacks Part 2 next week!