We offer these samples of actual interview reports or excerpts to highlight the kinds of commentaries that help the admissions committee make careful, informed decisions. For contrast, we’ve included examples of write-ups that could have been more influential with the addition of supporting detail. This selection is not fully representative of the many effective reporting styles used by ASC volunteers, but we hope it serves illustrative purposes. We’ve changed names and other identifying characteristics.
Talking with candidates in person is always the most desirable option, but this report demonstrates how a volunteer can conduct a revealing interview without the benefit of face-to-face contact.
This interview was conducted over the phone because Lindsay and I live more than two hours apart. In short, it was a privilege to talk with Lindsay, and she is easily the top candidate I have ever interviewed for Yale. Please know that Lindsay comes across as very humble and understated, so most of her accomplishments were expressed in a “by-the-way” manner to help explain something else. Lindsay is very direct as well, and the more engaged she became in a topic, the more informative and insightful her discussion became. She exudes a refreshing confidence and maturity hardly typical of even a very talented high school senior. In sum, she’s exceptionally bright, comes across like a motivational leader, and seems poised to accomplish whatever she sets out to do. That she comes from a region marked by rural poverty gives me true hope for the future. What follows are the details of our conversation in support of my claims in this paragraph.
Lindsay told me about her high school. The A.P. courses she takes are not offered by her high school but through a virtual high school run by teachers throughout the state. Lindsay was the first to do this at her high school. She recommended this to her high school and inspired other students to participate.
Lindsay is active in the Youth Council which engages students throughout the area. Lindsay puts most of her energies into anti-tobacco and anti-alcohol efforts, but she also brought a music program to preschool children who don’t get experiences with instruments. She also participates in other activities, including the school marching band and the community orchestra, as well as student government. Lindsay is employed by her church as their vocalist, and she hopes to pursue her service and musical interests while in college.
As further evidence of her academic initiative and preparation, Lindsay participated in the MITES (Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science) program at MIT. Lindsay has been the only student in her region ever selected for the Leadership Conference and the MITES program, but she says many students give up without even learning about opportunities. During the program, Lindsay was particularly fascinated by a molecular biology experiment in which she saw how Parkinson’s research findings were tied to the human genome. She was totally enervated by the design and implications of the experiment, and seemed eager to design new experiments that built upon what she had seen.
She said she’s had a strong upbringing from her parents but it’s not only that. She’s had a lot of encouragement and doesn’t see limitations that she feels might constrain others. She said that her friends would describe her as a leader who sets precedents, as someone who believes it is possible to achieve her dreams, and also as someone who is “moral,” because of her involvement with teen tobacco alcohol programs.
One of many refreshing qualities about Lindsay was that she clearly had a sense of tribal identity and that serving the tribe is something she’ll always do. At the same time, she showed no sense of entitlement because of her modest background or ethnicity. She sees herself as someone who will pursue her dreams because of her motivations and abilities. She did a lot of research about offerings in biological biomedical sciences and engineering sciences and believes that Yale would be the best place for her.
Lindsay asked me questions about my experiences at Yale that were on a level that I hadn’t experienced in other ASC interviews. I enthusiastically recommend Lindsay for admission. I feel we’d be very fortunate to have her—Lindsay’s contributions to the Yale community would extend well beyond her four years as an undergraduate in New Haven!
This report offers potentially significant contextual information along with strong detail about Frank’s academic appetites.
The interview started slowly, so I asked Frank about sports. He has played high school football and also runs track. His favorite event is the 300m hurdles and he also runs middle distance. He would like to continue sports in college on some level, but he is more focused on the academic opportunities that Yale offers. Like other schools in the district, his is not considered strong academically. Students receive no college counseling beyond the brightest being encouraged to attend a state school; it’s likely that Frank has not benefited from a counselor or mentor in his college application process.
Reading between the lines, Frank seems to feel constrained by high school but, naturally looking for the positive, he was quick to point out the school’s outstanding music program. Recognizing the caliber of the teacher who runs the music program, Frank joined chorale this year as a baritone. He feels this is a way to help him to get the most out of the school’s offerings. While he seems very motivated, Frank has likely not benefited from the type of experiences that would show him how much opportunity is out there. But he seems passionate about doing something with his life that has impact, most likely in the area of Engineering and Environmental Science. His favorite writings are those by Aldo Leopold, which he finds thought provoking, prophetic and admirable because it shows how his beliefs evolved during the course of a life. Frank’s admiration for Leopold is consistent with his own perpetual growth throughout life.
Frank has a vast respect for the natural world, both its forces and its delicate balances. He has a passion for the outdoors and tries to spend as much time in the woods and on the lakes and rivers as he can. He knows that forestry is not a major offered by Yale, but he is excited by the idea of doing research at the School of Forestry (which Leopold happened to attend!). Speaking of trees, Frank spends a good deal of time working for his father who is a carpenter.
Frank discussed his belief that a liberal arts education is important for anyone pursuing science. I was convinced that he wasn’t throwing that in gratuitously when he expressed how his readings of Dostoyevsky novels had influenced his thinking about nearly every aspect of his education.
This young man impressed me greatly. The interview was remarkable in that I felt I was talking with an adult. I can easily picture Frank soaring at Yale, and I hope he gets the chance to do so.
An excerpted paragraph that effectively documents one of Ruth’s genuine academic interests.
She engaged me in quite a conversation about the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (something I loved as an undergrad as well) and is very interested in doing research there. Ruth also is very interested in what goes on at the Peabody Museum because her first academic interest is evolution and mammals. This has been a strong interest of hers since she was very young, enhanced because she lives in an area close to abundant nature. She’s extremely concerned about the rate at which nature is disappearing, feels it’s not right and wants to do something about it as a scientist (vs. an attorney or politician). She’s particularly interested in animal behavior and related research and has read much in psychology textbooks belonging to her mother that she found in her house. This led to a discussion about the work of Temple Grandin and also the life of Nim Chimpsky. Ruth feels that classes utilizing
either the Beinecke or the Peabody would be a great academic fit for her as it would enable experience, seeing and doing as part of the learning process.
It’s not necessarily the brevity that makes this report less helpful than others, but complimentary phrases without supporting descriptive commentary diminishes the impact of the assessment.
Simply put, Neal is an amazing candidate–he is perhaps the most intellectually curious candidate I’ve ever interviewed. He combines that curiosity and love of learning with a desire to make a difference in the realm of electrical engineering or possibly in computer engineering, the space between programming and electrical engineering. Neal also stands out because, unlike most candidates who have somewhat stressed, overscheduled aura about them, he presents himself as genuinely very happy and relaxed.
Neal also loves to read. Neal has read science fiction and fantasy since he was young, and during high school has branched out into literature more broadly.
Neal comes across as an extremely mature, poised, comfortable, humble, highly engaged, intelligent eighteen year-old. Based on the interview, I believe Neal would fit in very well socially at Yale and likely have an easier time of it than the average Yale freshman. He’s very comfortable in his own skin. I enthusiastically recommend Neal. He’s one of the most impressive candidates I’ve ever met and I expect he will be brilliant in his field.
An example of a very balanced report, with plenty of evidence to indicate why the interviewer was ultimately doubtful about Jerod’s “fit” with Yale.
A very engaging communicator, Jerod would like to use his ability to listen, talk, and sell to make the world a better place. He feels his greatest strength is communicating ideas more effectively so that people who normally disagree can agree. He would like to be a lobbyist, and if he develops his current interests, I have little doubt of his future success. Jerod is a great talker with a naturally likable personality. But as the interview progressed, I noticed that there were questions he’d avoid. My reservation with Jerod is his academic motivation based on what he discussed (or did not).
When he was in middle school, Jerod had a passion for architecture. Jerod initially described his academic interests as marketing and public relations and seemed surprised that Yale does not have a major in those subjects. We discussed how Yale offers a liberal arts education, and that the many Yale alums who pursue marketing or PR after college. That being said, Jerod thinks he would be most likely to pursue a major in the social sciences, perhaps psychology, as his strengths lie there much more than the numbers side of, say, marketing or statistics. He said he’s very eager to experience the many offerings in college and try new activities—and also to meet people from all over the world, of different cultural backgrounds, with different ways of perceiving and thinking.
Each time we started talking about academics, he shifted the conversation to his ideas about his future and what he’d like to bring to Yale. For example, Jerod believes that there is a “perfect” product, one that everyone would like to have; he believes he can discover at Yale what that product is and how to “market” it. I pressed him to say what that product might be and what motivated him to think along those lines, but he mainly indicated that he was fascinated by the process of product development and the art of selling. He says the idea of a “Think Tank” intrigues him and he could imagine working at one some day.
Jerod says he appreciates the diversity of his array of friends of all socioeconomic backgrounds and of a variety of sexual orientations. He’s bothered when people aren’t accepting of others because of differences. He believes that better communication between people will breed better understanding and solutions to problems. Jerod has enjoyed participating in the Junior State of America’s Winter Congress. He was very engaged by the process and how bills either passed or failed. He observed that how effectively the bill was sold mattered more than the content of the bill.
Jerod had been to a local informational session about Yale and came to the interview with two pages of notes and questions. He is very enthusiastic about heading to college and seems very interested in Yale, but, truthfully, I got the feeling that he is attracted more by Yale’s prestige than by the actual academic programs and overall experience. The fact that he hadn’t understood that pre-professional majors aren’t offered, and that he seemed to steer away from talking about real academic subjects made me wonder about his fit for Yale. And, while I genuinely enjoyed meeting Jerod, it seemed like he was giving me some answers he thought were what colleges would want to hear. He has talents, but perhaps that would be best used at another college?
This excerpted paragraph offers the kind of insight that helps the admissions committee distinguish among candidates with similar academic credentials but different levels of intellectual maturity.
In fact, the biggest challenge in this interview was to encourage Hans to elaborate on his thinking. My sense is that he is bright and concise such that he sees no need to explain because everything is quickly clear in his own mind. He also seems to prefer the abstract to the tangible, and I was pushing towards the tangible in an effort to understand how he thinks. I believe that Hans will develop the ability to elaborate and give more complete explanations, but he’s not there yet. I don’t mean that Hans isn’t an excellent candidate, simply that it might not come across. He’s not shy but does not talk unless there is a reason. This could indicate a potential for abstract mathematics, and he does seem to eat up math.
Just as a highly favorable report need not be pages long, one that is rather doubtful or relatively neutral can be crisply efficient. In this example, the interviewer provides just enough descriptive texture to make the conclusion drawn seem very reasonable.
Richard is a very nice guy easy to chat with, easy to get along with, easy to like. He seems very comfortable with himself, and was not even slightly nervous during the interview. He was confident without being arrogant, and very articulate. As his application probably shows, he is very involved with athletics, playing both baseball and football for his school. He is not sure he wants to focus on sports in college, recognizing that school is more about learning and also that he will likely find lots of stuff to do that would interest him that he doesn’t yet know about.
Richard said that his main passion in life (other than his family) is poetry. He described it as a ‘catharsis of feeling.’ He says he stops to write poetry whenever he feels strong emotion about something. I will say, however, that when he discussed what he said was his passion, I did not detect any special spark in
him. When asked the ‘Why Yale?’ question, he responded that he wants to get away from California to experience something new, and that he liked the history, legacy and tradition of a school like Yale. While I enjoyed my chat with Richard, nothing really spectacular jumped out at me about him. He struck me as a smart, athletic, nice guy. He seems to be a solid candidate, but not a standout.
A report that paints a fine portrait of the applicant, and also illustrates the potential rewards of allowing interviews to unfold fully before forming firm impressions!
Every now and then, a person needs to be reminded not to rely on first impressions. My interview with Trevor provided just such a reminder. When I first greeted Trevor in the reception area of my office, he was slumped into the sofa, and he promptly gave me a very weak handshake. My first impression was that this was going to be a somewhat painful interview with a quiet, wimpy kid. Boy, was I wrong. This kid is great. When we began the interview, Trevor lit up like a light bulb. He is well-spoken, engaging, charming, polished and obviously very bright and thoughtful.
I started by asking him about his professed interest in International Studies as an intended major. Normally, in an interview this question prompts a response something to the effect of, “Sounded interesting,” or “I liked my class in high school on the subject.” However, in Trevor’s case, his interest in the area is well thought out, and he has followed this interest with action in the past several years. His dad is a biologist, and he has done well in that subject, but a high school class in world politics got him reading about the subject, and that initial spark turned his academic interest away from science. His parents have taken him traveling all over the world since he was a small boy, and he took all the opportunities offered by his high school to participate in foreign exchange programs to China, France and Germany.
He rattled off the names of several books he’s read in the past year on Middle East politics, including coincidentally one written by a classmate of mine from Yale. When I poked/prodded/tested him on the subject, asking about current issues, he was very knowledgeable and insightful in his commentary and you should have seen the spark in his eye when he was talking about it. He also showed me a copy of his school’s Journal of Political Science and Economic Analysis, and his two international affairs articles in that issue. I skimmed them quickly, and I will say the analysis was far beyond what was found in my high school newspaper.
The conversation flowed very quickly during our interview. He is very easy to talk to, very funny and very mature. In fact, I had to remind myself I was talking to a 17 year-old. I can easily see him as a Yale undergraduate, mining the whole educational experience for everything he can pull out of it. He offered up that Yale was his choice for early action because he felt that Yale offered more of a complete educational experience than other (even similar) schools i.e., the out of-the-classroom learning opportunities just being part of the community. One observation he offered that I thought was both very cool and very accurate: After a tour of the northeastern schools (the usual suspects), he had acquired a good sweatshirt collection. He commented that when he wore his Yale sweatshirt, random strangers would approach him, introduce themselves as Yalies and start talking to him (and then trying to recruit him, once they found out he was still in high school). He said that this did not happen to him when wearing any other sweatshirt. He wants to be a part of a community that engenders a kind of experience that people want to share.
Trevor is very impressive and would make a very good add to the Yale College Class of 20xx. He is one of the best I’ve seen in a while, and should be given serious consideration.
The extensive detail here accentuates the interviewer’s delight with the conversation, but also bolsters her assessment of Serge’s academic and personal strengths.
Serge is truly one of the most impressive students I have ever had the chance to meet, not just in the context of alumni interviewing, but in general. While I am not familiar with the academic content of his application, nor have I had the chance to review his work, in conversation Serge displays the kind of stunning brilliance, broad-based passion, and depth of thought that is unmatched in any applicant I have met, and, truthfully, uncommon even in comparison with the vast majority of students I met during my time at Yale.
One note of disclosure before jumping into the interview: Serge went to my high school, though I did not know him. I do not believe this had any bearing on my opinion of him, however, either insofar as affinity for my high school or the ‘type’ of candidate it produces.
What I found most exceptional about Serge was the sheer breadth of his interests and how multitalented he is. Serge is exceptionally involved in music. He not only plays the banjo, mandolin and trumpet, but also is composing original music for the high school play. Academically, Serge is interested in languages and medieval history and literature. He speaks or reads Latin, Ancient Greek, Spanish, Old English and Modern Irish (the last two through classes taken at a local university), and has taken classes in Saga Literature, the 12th Century ‘Renaissance’, and medieval history. On the side, Serge works as an assistant to a Master Printer to satisfy his interest in printmaking, as well as assisting two highly respected teachers at his school. In his spare time, Serge also managed to find time to play on the school soccer team, and the League Champion baseball team.
Besides having a broad variety of interests, one of the other impressive things about Serge is the depth with which he pursues those interests. Serge displays a genuine intellectual curiosity uncommon in college students, let alone someone his age. In talking about his interest in medieval literature, Serge alluded to and explained several journal articles he had read on the topic of Skaldic (Viking) and Irish poetry, mostly having to deal with differing interpretations of the meaning implied by the grammar and syntax employed in the Saga of the Orkneys and the Ulster Cycle (an Irish epic), respectively. While a bit above my head and out of my area of expertise, his descriptions of the authors’ use of linguistic nuance and construction to enhance, influence and even change the literal meaning of the text was very interesting and reminded me of similar devices used in Latin literature, particularly the Aeneid.
In other areas of our conversation, Serge was similarly able to bring in material from books or articles (often clearly of the type that would not be covered in class) he had read on various topics outside of his stated areas of interest. We had an extensive discussion about whether a more regressive tax structure and conservative social system in Ireland played a part in exacerbating the depth of the financial crisis there, as compared to other European countries. We also had a more philosophical discussion about whether/how the business world’s prizing of extroverted industriousness played a part in the lack of oversight/overenthusiasm that allowed the financial crisis to occur, and if so, what could be done to limit such excesses in the future without choking off innovation and the ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ for lack of a better term.
Serge comes across as a genuinely nice, fun person who I would be happy to spend time with outside of a classroom context. Serge is interested in going to grad school and becoming an academic, and views going to college, particularly Yale, as the best way to gain the academic exposure and rigorous base necessary to embark on such a path. Serge has very carefully thought about how Yale in particular will best allow him to do this. Besides Yale’s resources in medieval history and literature, Serge mentioned that he was attracted to Yale because of its art department and the JE Press, which will allow him to pursue his passion for printmaking. Needless to say Serge’s interest in Yale seems to stem from a far deeper understanding of what Yale can offer than the typical candidate – these answers were far better than the vague allusions to academic excellence and the residential college system that I usually get.
I realize that the highest praise is supposed to be reserved for the truly exceptional, one-in-a-hundred type applicants, and I realize that I have limited experience interviewing candidates having done only seven or eight interviews this season. However, I truly think Serge is that outstanding - one of the brightest and most intellectually curious people I have ever met. Meeting applicants like Serge is the reason I wanted to get into alumni interviewing in the first place. Not only do I believe that Serge would thrive and contribute to Yale in multiple meaningful ways, I would dare say that Yale would be lucky to have him.
Here we have evidence that an interview report does not have to be lengthy to be rich with relevant detail and persuasive conclusions.
Ravi is a gloriously unrepentant, “programmic,” linguistics nut. After talking to him for about half an hour discussing signal processing herd behavior syntax and machine learning, I couldn’t resist telling him that he was really, really going to enjoy college. In response, he beamed and practically rubbed his hands with glee. Talking to Ravi it had quickly become clear that he is a very, very smart young man with an intense passion for computer science and an admirable facility for abstraction and problem solving.
Drawing on my experience as an ESL teacher I asked him how he would get a foreign student to understand the difference between the ‘L‘ and ‘R’ sounds in English if those sounds are not distinct in the foreign student’s own language. Ravi broke down the problem with speed and confidence using a combination of intuition and iterative analysis. Not only did he correctly distinguish between issues in detection recognition and production but suggested an idea for a computerized teaching aid. It seemed abundantly clear that he could do great work in computing or any field where computing can be applied (he also described with startling clarity how computers might be taught to recognize human facial emotions).
With this clear, I wanted to find out more about the rest of his personality. Strangely this was both aided and hampered by Ravi’ s highly expressive fireworks display of ideas. On the one hand, he generated a nearly unstoppable stream of examples supporting data and reasonable assertions; indeed listening may not be his strong suit, and this offers a helpful glimpse into the workings of his mind. On the other hand, that deluge of left brain musings seemed to crowd out discussions regarding self-discovery, emotion and social life. His taste in humor, popular culture, and role models is unashamedly geeky but also suggests that he is really just beginning his journey of self-discovery. When I asked him which fictional characters served as role models, or at least provided food for thought, he cited (with complete sincerity) Legolas, Darth Vader, and Ash from Pokemon. I am extremely fond of young people who are happily nerdy. I was rather like that myself and I love the fact that Yale provides a safe and nurturing home for such people to follow their passions and grow gently into adult life.
Although the tone of this report is enthusiastic and the interviewer rated Lilian very highly, the comments contain mostly information that is readily available in the application. We are also left with stated impressions that would be more helpful with further development. Did the level of “stress” shown during the interview appear to be a characteristic of the person or merely momentary anxiety? Did Lilian actually display signs of leadership potential, or was an assumption drawn based on the “resume” item?
Lilian is an exceptional young lady whose energy and excitement for life were clearly evident. Within about an hour, we discussed so many topics passions and interests of hers that I needed to grab an extra page of paper for my notes. This is also partly due to her being an extremely fast talker. We began our discussion by talking about academics which she seemed a bit stressed about having just finished with her semester exams. Whether it was the stressful week or maybe she is more passionate about her extracurricular activities, she seemed much more relaxed when the conversation moved to her interests.
She started tumbling at the young age of four and this has since turned into one of her biggest passions, Varsity Cheer. She is the captain and was incredibly passionate about the progress that she has made with the team since her freshman year. It was obvious that this was something that she really cares about and would have an interest in continuing at Yale. She is also heavily involved in music as she plays the violin. Finally she has been a part of student council since her freshman year and has held positions from class rep to the treasurer. She seems to have really grown as a leader within the school community because of her experiences with student council.
Her questions at the end of our talk showed great interest in Yale and I got the impression that she would truly try to get the most out of her Yale experience if admitted.
In this case, the volunteer’s summation fits very well with the tone and content of the report as a whole, and is a common assessment for a large number of our applicants who are perfectly admissible, but are unlikely to stand out in the pool.
Theresa is one of those people who have a spark in their eyes. You can just see the intellect in there, and it manifests itself in different ways. She has a dry sense of humor (when she lets it out) and picks up on amusing things in the normal world in a Seinfeld-like way. While not an overtly outgoing person in our interview, I could tell there is a fun person lurking just below the surface.
Theresa moved to the US with her family at age four. Her family bounced around the country a bit, following their extended family and work opportunities, until finally landing here. From a young age Theresa has wanted to be a doctor, treating patients. To further this interest, she has volunteered at a local hospital, but seems to have been relegated to office work rather than patient contact work because of shift scheduling. I detected a certain amount of disappointment in her when she mentioned this. I asked her why she wanted to be a doctor, and I first got her “funny” answer: “I’m good at science, and I’m Asian, after all…” I then got the real answer: she enjoys science and math as disciplines and her mother was a nurse in their former country, and she has a very positive view of helping people for a profession.
Theresa also has an artsy side that seems to be a bit suppressed in her. She has played the piano for several years, loves listening to music and likes to dance. In fact, when I asked her what she really likes to do what she would do if she could only do one thing she said she would dance. Again, I think there is an expressive person somewhere deep down that will ultimately come out when given the chance.
Theresa is also a very pleasant conversationalist. While outwardly a bit quiet, she is fun to speak with nevertheless. In the Yale pool, I think she is solid but not extraordinary.
Besides offering vivid details about Denise’s appealing personal qualities, this report also provides very helpful contextual background, which places her accomplishments, attitude toward learning and willingness to accept challenges in perspective.
I have had the privilege and opportunity to interview a handful of Yale applicants over the years. Denise is the strongest candidate I have had the pleasure of meeting yet. Denise is special, and she will do great things with her life whether Yale and that other school in Cambridge admit her or not. It would be Yale’s loss if she went elsewhere.
Denise comes from a predominantly working-class Latino community in the middle of several freeways, but not close to any. My limited exposure to the community suggests it is somewhat insular. The students I knew there – great kids did not venture far from their community, possibly in part due to limited public transportation. It is my understanding that most students living in her town do not graduate from high school. This is not too different from the neighborhood of my early childhood.
Denise is not like those students I got to know at her school, or anywhere else for that matter. I got a sense that Denise was special within a few minutes of talking to her on the telephone when I called to introduce myself. In determining when we could meet, she mentioned she takes the bus to a high school near a highly industrialized part of the city. I began to get the impression then that she was the kind of person who sought out better and more challenging educational opportunities for herself, no matter the location or environment. While we spoke on the telephone, she was articulate, cheerful, engaged and enthusiastic. I was really looking forward to meeting her.
When I found Denise in a Starbucks filled with high school students chatting and playing with their phones, she stood up and smiled warmly as she greeted me. At the beginning of our conversation, I asked what schools she applied to and if she had visited any of those campuses. I wanted to try to gauge whether she felt ready to leave our Western state and experience what likely would be a very different way of life for her. She named several schools, nearly all of which are out of state on the East Coast and Midwest. She said she her only airplane trip was in the eighth grade (for a conference I believe) to visit Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. She recalled her trip with fondness, and she laughed when she described the huge geometry project she completed while on the road. I got the impression that her trip to the East Coast had a positive life-changing impact on her. She saw life outside of her home town and she cannot wait to explore new places and new cultures.
I also got the impression from her description of the math project she completed while on her trip that she has long had focus and commitment to academics. Later during our conversation she mentioned with enthusiasm a few classes that were far more advanced than what was available to me in high school. She talked about what she got out of those classes. In her geometry class the teacher required her and her classmates to show him how they arrived at their answers. She was surprised when she did poorly on her first geometry test – her answers were correct, but she did not show how she arrived at the answers. She expressed pride as she recounted how she worked hard over two semesters to meet his challenge and excel on that topic.
Later, Denise asked about the competitive nature of Yale students. I told her that I could only speak about my experience: students were competitive with themselves and not each other, and I never experienced a “cutthroat” environment at Yale. She mentioned that she and another student currently are both tied for Valedictorian, and their classmates have expressed surprise, or skepticism, to Denise that she could be friends with the other student. Denise did not understand her classmates’ reaction. Denise said she liked her co-Valedictorian and she welcomed the friendly competition with her friend because Denise felt it pushed her to excel even more. Denise seems to thrive on intellectual challenge. She displayed a very high level of critical thinking and intellectual curiosity. She can handle the curriculum at Yale, and she loves to learn.
Denise is one of the most highly empathic persons I have ever met, regardless of age. It truly was a pleasure to meet her.