My Yale Interview我的耶鲁大学面试经历
This is my first American college interview, and Yale is my priority "match", so I got really excited about it (I';m Yale EASC, hit it at my very first try J). I didn't do much preparation, actually less than my parents did~ my interviewer, Chiansan Ma (it's his first interview, too~) had also told me to relax and enjoy beforehand. He said that he would be there to see me more as a person than as an "achiever". We made an appointment to meet at his apartment at 11:00 a.m. on DiDa campus. I found the place 30 minutes earlier but waited until eleven to knock his door. Then he directed me to a nicer restaurant of two restaurants on the campus and we started the interview.
I wrote it down one or two days after the interview. Unfortunately, some details are still lost, but hope it helps!
GOODLUCKEVERYONE!!! YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY APPLY TO YALE！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！！
C: Tell me about your high school.
L: Oh, I enjoyed it. Most of my friends are there, and I've loved almost all my classes, except the one with political sciences.
C: What's with the political sciences?
L: It's because all those big concepts are really hard to remember. Every time we cram for the exams we recite those things like crazy.
C: (amused) What about the other classes?
L: Like Chinese, Maths, Physics, Chemistry…I like them all. They are fun. My favorite class is Chinese and I took some elective courses.
L: Yeah, we read a lot, mostly about ancient Chinese philosophy.
C: What books you read?
L: For example, Analects of Confucius, Dream of the Red Chamber, Records of the Grand History…We studied about this famous scholar from Qing Dynasty, Mr. Wang Guo-wei (now leave out some description about him), he chose to die because he couldn't bear that the Qing Dynasty and the old culture he loved so much was dying.
C: What elective courses you take now?
L: I don't take elective courses now because they're not offered to seniors.
L: It's sad that while the school policy states that students can drop one or two classes in the senior year, they actually make us drop music and art and elective courses. They just gave us the schedule and we have to study only those subjects on which we'll take exams to colleges.
C: So elective classes are offered only the first two years of high school?
L: Right. There're a lot of them. But some students will still go to the Olympic Maths class or Olympic physics. I took a math class the first year, physics class the second year, and a reading class for two years.
C: But now you do not take any elective classes.
L: I wish I could, but I don't have any time now. Last week I just took the mid-term exam on seven subjects. You know GaoKao is very competitive and one has to work really hard on it. Even in the first two years of high school, we took classes from 8 in the morning to 4:30 in the afternoon, and we only had about one hour for electives.
C: What does your father do?
L: He is an editor.
C: So can you actually get a lot of books from your father?
L: Oh yeah, and they're all free stuff. It's cool.
C: Hehe, free things are always good.
L: They just published a series of books on Architect Lin Huiyin. I love it very much. Do you know her?
C: No, I don't. A series?
L: An biography and another book someone else wrote about her. The author is her husband's late wife.
C: That's weird…
L: It's true.
C: So what does Lin Huiyin do? What buildings did she design?
L: She's a great architect, one of the first architects of China. Her husband was also a great architect, Liang Sicheng. Actually her priority was to protect China's ancient architecture. She designed People's Memorial on Tian'anmen Square. She also designed a few school buildings and some stores on Qianmen street.
C: Stores on Qianmen street?
L: Yes, that used to be a commercial street.
C: So her most important design was People's Memorial?
L: I think so. She's also a great writer, a poet like poet Xu Zhimo. You heard about him?
C: A little. So you study Xu Zhimo in school, right?
L: We do.
C: What poems did Lin Huiyin write?
L: Eh…let me see how to translate it…A Day in April?
C: OK. Do you learn western poems?
L: Very few. We learned Keats, and Byron etc., and all in Chinese translations.
C: What books you read in English?
L: Right now I'm reading "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austin. Classical English, tough at times.
C: Oh, Austin! Everyone knows Jane Austin. In America, most students read Jane Austin in high school, and they are like "Wow, it's Jane Austin again!" (laughing)
L: I know. I've also read "Secret of the Ruby Ring"?
C: I don't know about that.
L: Oh, and some fairy tales of the Grin Brothers.
L: And quite a few abridged versions, like "the Hound of Basketville".
C: Yeah. "The Hound of Basketville" is actually one of the longest stories of Konan Dorr. If you could get the book, it's like this thick. You should first read it in abridgement. So you are reading Pride and Prejudice now, what books you plan to read next?
L: I'm not sure. Maybe I'll go to the bookstore and have a look…
He was emphasizing all the time what books I actually read IN ENGLISH, but I've been a "good student" all along and didn't have much time. I';m starting to read ambitiously this year… hope 11's and later will have more to answer in questions like this *u*~~~
About one hour later.
C: OK. I'm tired. You ask.
L: Tell me something about Yale's residential colleges system. (I know much more about it, so ask me if anyone is interested to know, hehe)
C: Yale has 12 residential colleges. All of them are in the same quart yard for 2 exceptions.
L: Two exceptions, what do you mean?
C: That I'll come back. OK, when you enter Yale, you'll draw a lottery that says, "Person X gets a double room, a triple room or …" and when the lottery is done, you cannot change it. All the ten colleges at Yale are in the same quart yard, the other two elsewhere. There're not many private rooms for freshman as there're for graduate students.
L: Did you get a private room?
C: No. I shared a room with four people, four including me. We have this big living room for all, and two bedrooms. It was really convenient. For freshman, I think everyone has to live on campus, but there're some who live outside the campus, or if you have money. And you can change your roommate every year.
L: Every year?
L: Wouldn't it hurt your roommate if he knows you do not want to live with him?
C: Oh, yeah, when you think about it, there're all things to worry about. But… you know…everyone is different and it's totally okay.
L: Do you have a separate room where they provide you a microwave, or something to cook? For when I first visited Hong Kong, I stayed at Hong Kong Chinese University, and each floor there has a common room for cooking.
C: The dining halls have microwaves. Usually students do not cook because they're too busy, they don't have the time. (still, I';m learning to cook right now~)
L: Ah, yes. But do you have a refrigerator that is college provided?
C: Some colleges do. I mean residential colleges, buildings. Now some of the colleges are being renovated, they have more things in there, much like a hotel.
L: Wow, that must be good.
C: Well, not really.
L: Do you have a wardrobe that is college provided?
C: The college provides one with a bed, a desk, a closet that usually you have to share with someone else. You have to bring other things, like if you want a TV in your room.
L: My friend at Harvard told me that Harvard students are not as lively as MIT students who love to play more. So what about Yale?
C: Yes, MIT students do like to play. For Yale, eh…you know this is just general talking… (this is important, everything is general talking, so I'd advise everyone to hear as diverse opinions as possible!)
L: Right, I know it's just in general.
C: And by "play", what do you mean?
L: Maybe they like to travel, or to party…
C: MIT students do party a lot. At Yale, some are too busy even to hold a party. As for traveling, still, some do that.
YALE's residential college system rock!!! They're the very best among US colleges, and not to mention the food~~~wow~~
CHECK this out from a friend: "it';s all you can eat, including hot food, cold food, salad, sandwiches you make yourself, icecream both in cones and in paper cups with all kinds of toppings and fuges, coffee, teas, puddings, jellies, fruits, juices, milks and drinks. Since Yale';s dining services has some kind of non-official ';taking out'; policy, you can take food with you every time you eat. Well, I basically take a cup of icecreams, sometimes a couple of fruits and sandwiches for late night. For Saturdays and Sundays, except for Calhoun and Morse, other dining halls don';t serve breakfast, since not many people would actually get up to eat. Whenever you miss any meal, you can always go to the Law School dining hall to get food. (They';ve got some kind of convenience store facilities in their dining hall so that you can get snacks, protein shakes, fabulous bottled drinks like Snapples, sushi, candies, haagen daz icecreams, you name it.
L: About the classes, how do you choose the classes that are best for you?
C: Before you go, they mail you a book with all the courses. We call that the "blue book". It's about this long, this wide, and this thick (measuring amusingly). You read it, knowing what the courses are, their description, the professors, credits. For freshman, Yale has advisors to help you decide which courses you want to take. But it's all your choice.
L: You can choose whatever courses you like for the first two years, right?
C: That's right. I didn't decide on my major until the third year.
L: That's so nice. You know what, this is exactly one of the reasons why I want to apply to American colleges. In China, we have to decide which major we want to pursue before we enter. It's probably not the major we will like and that's gonna be not so good. I feel that there're so many things out there I haven't even heard of, and Yale is a great place to discover many of them. For me, I haven't really decided my major, but my two priorities are urban planning and environmental sciences.
C: Urban planning?
L: Yes. As I saw people pulling down old houses everywhere in Beijing, you know, Siheyuans and hutongs, and replace them with all shapes of skyscrapers, I decide that there must be something to be done about it to protect its historical appearance, keep the cultural meaning of the city. I think it's a problem of many cities in China now, with the rapid pace of urbanization, the old things are disappearing and that's so sad.
C: Do you think there is a city department that specializes in city planning?
L: Of course there is. They are the one that decides how to use a certain area of land. But now for economical benefits, the corrupt officials just… you know.
C: I see. Interesting. And you mentioned your another field of interest, environmental sciences?
L: Yes. I am an environmentalist…
C: (a little amused) Oh. How?
L: I am. Like I keep three large basins in my bathroom to collect shower water. I never throw away a piece of paper unless it's full on both sides. And there is this science project I undertook in high school…(Since it's an essay of mine, here skips thirty minutes' talk, talk, talk… Chiansan is Chemistry major, so he appeared very much interested in my experiment and kept asking in detail how I conducted this experiment or that one, during which time he recorded down some of our conversation from time to time. Nice experience)
L: How can you be sure that you gonna like the classes you choose?
C: Ah, that I forgot. I'm sorry, I was gonna mention that. It's one of the good things about Yale. During the first two weeks of each term, it's free for you to try all kinds of classes, lectures or seminars… We call it "the shopping period". If you don't like the class or the professor, you can just leave.
L: That's good.
C: Yeah. Yale has a requirement of 36 classes in four years, and that's 9 classes for each year. Most students take 4 or 5 for each term. It you take 5 classes a term, others will say, "Wow, you take five", but it's necessary. So after the shopping period, you make out your schedule and give it to the dean. If you take 6 classes, the dean will ask "are you sure you want these?" If you say "I'm fine" it's OK, because it's all your choice.
L: That's sound not that hard, I mean, just four or five classes for each term?
C: No. It may not sound too many, but it's not necessarily easy. I enjoyed most of my classes the last two years outside my major, because then I'd found out something about choosing courses.
L: The blue book would indicate the course, its form, lecture or seminar, the professor, but would not indicate if it's easy or hard?
C: No. Well, you can always ask other students, or advisors about whether a course is hard or not.
L: How do professors decide what credits they gonna give you?
C: You mean grades?
C: It depends on the professor. Some may give you an essay, some a test, and some would ask for both. (Also, I know much more, now, ask me~)
L: I heard that since a lot of classes are seminars, you have to be really active and speak up a lot. Otherwise they gonna ignore you and…
C: It's always true. But you don't have to speak every time. If you talk a lot and say something interesting, you speak. But if you talk a lot and it's not interesting, they wouldn't listen to you.
L: Are every Yale students very competitive?
C: Some are, but most are not like that. For example, the professor gives the highest essay an 85, you cried because you only got an 84…hehe… They don't rank.
L: What about the top three?
C: There're always those top students. But not many people care about that. The professors seldom talk about it, say "that student is top three, and that one is not so good". No they don't. if they do, they would just put your number next to it so you can see "who gets the highest grade".
L: Do students argue with their professor if they get a B when they think their essay is worth receiving an A?
C: It depends. Some would go argue with them. You can always ask and try to persuade them. Sometimes a TA scores an essay, if you think it's unfair you can go ask your professor to see if they agree with TA or with you.
L: Is it easy for you to talk to your professor when you want to? Or do professors willing to go out of way to help you even it's not their office hours?
C: That depends on if the professor teaches you. If he does, you can always go at office hours. Or you can make an appointment and go at other times, if you have very good reasons. They are mostly very nice. I've never had a problem talking with a professor. They are always willing to be of help unless really mean.
L: How busy can a Yale student be?
C: As busy as you want.
About two hours later, when I had asked almost all my questions, he took out his notebook, saying that he still had some questions to ask me. Well, it's because I've mostly led the pace of the interview…
C: Have you taken the TOEFL? What's your score? Have you got the SAT scores? I may put that down in case they need it.
L: Can I ask what have you gained most from Yale?
C: … (thinking)… You mean what is the most important that I've gained from Yale?
C: … I think, it's how to write and think. Yale really helped me to write better and to think critically to everything, asking where they'd come from. College is a place where you grow as a person. Everything is about writing and thinking.
We talked a lot about classes and professors at Yale, as well as the "science hill", the "blue book", the shopping period", the lottery residential colleges, the city of New Haven etc., much of which I've never heard before. I directed much of the interview, which lasted about 3 hours 45 minutes opposed to the 45 minutes Chiansan had mentioned in his email.
I think Chiansan was really interested in what we were talking about, not just for the purpose of getting me to talk. For example, he carefully put down "architect Lin Huiyin", "Southern Weekend"(my favorite newspaper, one that I continue to read now) etc. and go in depth with me discussing each specific topic. He was asking an awful lot of questions each time until he became satisfied with what he knew. He even emailed me after the interview, asking if I could give him some more detailed calculations of turf grass maintenance cost as we'd talked. My Yale interview was truly a special and enjoyable experience, a "green" hand interviewer making possible a pleasant talk, instead a rigid, boring and serious Q & A session.