10 Fun Facts About Yale

March 21, 2016

Known as one of the top schools in the world, this Ivy League university offers more than just prestige and beautiful Gothic architecture. It is also home to some of the most notorious and mysterious secret societies and happens to be a feeder for the CIA. Here are ten traditions and fun facts about Yale University.

1. Originally named The Collegiate School, Yale University took on its new name in 1701 in honor of Elihu Yale, the governor of the East India Company, for his gifts to the school. Yes, THAT East India Company – the one tied to the Tea Act that led to the infamous Boston Tea Party boycott which was one of the major events that led to the American Revolution.

2. Being the third oldest university in the country means you can probably claim a bunch of “oldest ____” superlatives. Yale is home to the oldest collegiate daily newspaper still in existence. Printed five days a week since January 28, 1878, the Yale Daily News lives up to its moniker. Yale also claims the oldest and most well known a cappella group: the Wiffenpoofs have been singing on Monday nights since 1909.

3. One of the most exclusive and obscure college clubs has to be Yale’s secret society Skull & Bones. Students tapped for membership tend to be campus leaders, such as team captains, newspaper editors and members of the political union. Only fifteen male and female juniors are chosen for admission each spring. The society’s most well known members include both George Bush senior and junior, William Howard Taft, and John Kerry. The group also allegedly stole the skull of Geronimo from his grave and keeps it encased in a glass display.

4. Yale University is organized into 12 self-governing residential colleges, each with its own dormitories, dining halls, library, and social events. Each also has its own proud traditions, including: jello wrestling, weekly group screams at 11:00, stripping down during the third quarter of football games.

5. Yale freshmen are treated to a formal holiday banquet each year akin to a Harry Potter-style Hogwarts feast. Picture: formal servers carrying around huge platters topped with food, holiday lights, ice sculptures, gingerbread houses, and elaborate swan-shaped pastries.

6. Nathan Hale, America’s oldest (and arguably worst) spy was a Yale graduate who famously uttered the phrase, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” In 1914, Yale commissioned a statue of the renowned patriot. Legend has it that the CIA later made an offer to buy the statue, and the university refused. CIA operatives were then sent in during the night to cast a mold of the statue to make a replica. Some stand by the claim that the statue was successfully swapped out and the original is the one now standing at CIA headquarters.

7. On the subject of the CIA, the nation’s spy network has historically proven to be a popular career choice for many Yale graduates – most notably former President George H.W. Bush ’48 and legendary operatives William Bundy ’39 and James Jesus Angleton ’41. Yale’s undergrad career services director Philip Jones attests that student interest in the CIA has remained consistently high.

8. Yale’s Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscripts Library boasts features fit for a spy lair. To protect its books, in the event of a fire, you have 30 seconds to get out before the library is flooded with lethal (but fire-suppressing) gas. In the case of any other threats to the books collection, that entire cube structure drops down into an underground vault that sucks all of the oxygen out of the air.

9. Some college dorms are built to be better than others. That’s an understatement when it comes to the Vanderbilt suite at Yale. Vanderbilt Hall was built by railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt as a memorial to his son, who sadly died from typhoid fever as a junior at Yale. The room above the building’s archway was built more lavishly than the rest. The suite (known as VC-22) features a chandelier, marble fireplace, and ornate molding and paneling. Rumor has it that the room is reserved for members of the Vanderbilt family while they’re attending Yale. The last Vanderbilt to stay in that room? Anderson Cooper, Class of ’89.

10. One Yale graduation tradition dating back over 140 years involves graduates receiving clay pipes along with a small packet of tobacco that you’re supposed to smoke and crush afterwards to symbolize the end of an era—a legendary 4-year era.

Are you looking to apply to Yale? Make sure to search through profiles of students accepted to see essays, stats, and advice. See how they got in, and how you can too!


About The Author

AdmitSee Staff
AdmitSee Staff

​We remember our frustration with applying to college and the lack of information surrounding it. So we created AdmitSee to bring much-needed transparency to the application process! Read more about the team here.

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Yale Class of 2019

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