We’re exploring Yale as we continue our “Schools Like” series where we’ll highlight different popular, elite colleges (read: Ivies and reach schools) and give you a list of schools that we’ve found to be similar.
Yale University is known for its undergraduate “experience.” But what does that really mean? To us, it speaks to the wide range of classes and extracurricular activities that Yale offers. The combination is what truly sets it apart and makes it such a unique place. The extracurricular activities that you choose at Yale very much shape your experience there, and the smaller group of students with whom you share interests and passions are the people who you spend a significant chunk of your time with and ultimately become your Yale community. Their residential college system also fosters a further sense of community—each college has its own Master, Dean, dining hall, library, etc. so you sort of exist and live at a college within a college from the beginning.
New Haven, CT is not really anything to write home about. No offense. It has a lot of pizza options (there is a huge debate amongst students and nearby residents about Frank Pepe vs. Modern apizza vs. Sally’s), some great museums, and NYC is just a quick ride on the Metro-North away. But other than that, you’re going to Yale for Yale, and that’s what makes it such a special place to spend four years. That said, there are a number of schools that are a lot like that and we’ll break it down for you.
Location: New Haven, CT (small city)
Size: ~5.4K undergraduates
Faculty to student ratio: 6:1
Schools Like Yale:
Location: Middletown, CT
Size: ~3.2K undergraduates
Wesleyan is a school that truly defines itself by its students in a way that few other colleges do. The range of student interest drives the energy on campus, and it’s indeed infectious. At Wesleyan your student community based on your interests will become your closest friends and allies, whether you join the college’s locally sourced food co-op, any of the college’s 40+ activism groups (ranging from Art for Social Change and Climate Ambassadors to Planned Parenthood and Radical Reading Group), or create your own independent organization or project, Wesleyan and Middletown will help you find your voice.
Washington University St. Louis
Location: St. Louis, MO
Size: ~7.5K undergraduates
Wash U is an incredible place. We personally and professionally love it. It has rapidly become a top tier school where everyone wants to be. St. Louis is a notable city with lots to do and the campus itself is gorgeous, situated a bit west of central St. Louis. There are a wide range of extracurricular activities and the professors are incredibly reputable. It's known to have one of the highest rates of student satisfaction and quality of life—read: the student communities are self-driven and you have the opportunity to have a huge influence on your organizations and campus as a whole during your time there. Students are incredibly involved and take their extracurricular activities almost as seriously as they take their classes, in terms of scope and intensity. We find that students at Wash U. are motivated and inspired in every way that a person can be, which is always the goal.
Carnegie Mellon University
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Size: ~6.1K undergraduates
The college is known best for its undergraduate and graduate drama and creative arts programs, much like Yale, but offers students a rigorous academic experience regardless of their liberal arts or even science focus (CMU’s engineering programs are world-renowned). Pittsburgh is also a city that has a mixed reputation, much like New Haven, but is known for its grit, personality, and as of late, incredibly innovative restaurant scene. The mood on campus is active and energetic but intense in the way that makes you feel like you’re definitely surrounded by changemakers. It’s exciting.
Wake Forest University
Location: Winston-Salem, NC
Size: ~5K undergraduates
WF is a sort of an intellectual haven that gets forgotten about because its students are so immersed in student life on campus. The campus itself is gorgeous, situated in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The emphasis on undergraduate academics is notable: students can choose from a combination of any of the 35 majors and minors that the school offers. Some of the more unique programs are Elementary Education, Interdisciplinary Mathematics, Business and Enterprise Management (rare for a liberal arts school), or Cultural Heritage & Preservation Studies, as well as others that cover your typical liberal arts academic landscape (think Anthro, Sociology, Political Science, Classics). This range draws a truly rare intersection of students, much like Yale does, that makes the campus buzz with curiosity.
Location: Claremont, CA
Size: ~900 undergraduates
Ah, Harvey Mudd—the creative STEM intellectual’s west coast paradise. Our students who apply to and attend Harvey Mudd are some of our most uniquely ambitious. Harvey Mudd’s emphasis on the overlap of science and liberal arts is executed in a way that we’ve found nowhere else. The school celebrates individuality while offering world-renowned programs in engineering, math, and science with a true liberal arts bend. At HMC you’ll find yourself studying amongst engineers who are actors and longboard around campus, mathematicians who play the drums and dabble in oil painting, and robotics experts who are combining that interest with their passion for media and cultural studies. The college is also one of the Claremont Colleges, which means that you can take classes at any of the four other colleges in the area: Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, Pomona and Scripps Colleges
Location: Williamstown, MA
Size: ~2K undergraduates
Williams is also a residential college, similar to Yale, and their campus geographies have a lot in common. The emphasis on student and teacher relationships is also similar to Yale’s focus on cultivating mentorship opportunities. While Williams is definitely the most remote of the colleges on this list, it’s worth considering mostly because of the cultural component. Williams has incredibly strong liberal arts and specifically arts-focused programs for both undergraduate and graduate students. The faculty: student ratio comes close to Yale’s at 7:1 and the majority of classes are under 20 students.
Location: Norton, MA
Size: ~1.6K undergraduates
We like to think of Wheaton as a school that combines the best parts of Yale and Brown. Wheaton students are a little bit crunchy and a lot a bit intellectual, driven, creative, and eager to strive for change. The college’s proximity to both Boston (50 mins) and Providence (30 mins) makes it feel like a true scholarly sanctuary. This means that students aren’t running off to “the city” every night, making the social and extracurricular scenes on campus varied and stimulating. Students who attend Wheaton enjoy the depth of academic creativity, something Yale students speak about as well. Students rave about Wheaton’s engaging “connections” curriculum which requires students to take courses (or create their own) that combine two seemingly disparate interests. For example: “Genes in Context” which links the two courses: Computer Science 242 (DNA) with Philosophy 111 (Ethics) or “Food” linking an anthropology and science course.
Location: Evanston, IL
Size: ~8K undergraduates
Northwestern students are true to their school and exercise a pride that runs deeper than most. The student culture on campus is undoubtedly competitive, due to its rigorous nature (and much like Yale in that sense), but the school emphasizes creativity and collaboration in such a way that it’s not cutthroat or aggressive. Students who attend Northwestern often go into creative or artistic fields, which Yale students often do as well. The school is also only 30 minutes from Chicago, which is a big plus.
Location: Poughkeepsie, NY
Size: ~2.5K undergraduates
Vassar’s campus is truly lively and exciting in a way that you don’t expect when you roll up to quaint little Poughkeepsie, NY. Vassar is a place that’s more than meets the eye, which is why we personally love it so much. The extracurricular activities and wide range of student groups on campus is a thing to pay attention to, though. Because of the proximity to NYC and the heavily creative student body, the vast array of artistic exhibitions, musical performances, events, films, the list goes on, is truly impressive for a relatively small school. That also extends to its variety of student organizations, all fully student-run and covering interests as common as Improv and Debate, and as unique as Quidditch and The Camerata Ensemble. Vassar students are dedicated to expressing themselves, making it a lively and highly exciting place to be.
Let us know if you have any questions after reading this. Of course, you might like Yale for a very specific reason that we haven’t delved into here, and we want to help you find a community that makes you feel excited and motivated. Call or email us and we’ll help you do just that.