2020 by the numbers: Tracking beliefs and experiences

2020 by the numbers:
Tracking beliefs and experiences

Published on August 28, 2016

In the past few days, freshmen have milled about — in dining halls, in courtyards, across Old Campus and Cross Campus — repeating the same introductions: name, hometown, residential college.

While these initial meet-and-greet moments only skim the surface of who the class of 2020 really is, these freshmen, who hail from all 50 states and 50 countries, who play competitive sports and who have excelled in academic and artistic fields alike, have begun to build the connections that will follow them through their next four years. And through late-night buttery trips and bluebooking parties, Yale’s newest undergraduate cohort will begin to uncover what renders the class multifaceted: their backgrounds and experiences.

A News survey distributed to the class of 2020 earlier this summer sheds light on these personalities. Nine hundred and forty-two members responded, yielding a response rate of 69 percent. The results were not adjusted for selection bias.


The class of 2020, 1,373-strong, is more diverse than its predecessors. Just over half the class is Caucasian, and 19 percent is Asian-American, according to admissions office data. 11 percent is African-American, an increase from 10 percent in the class of 2019. The percentage of Hispanic/Latino students has stayed steady around 13 percent. In the News survey, 17 percent of respondents, identified with more than one ethnicity.

Slightly more than half the current freshman class attended a public school. Of the 48 percent who did not attend a public, noncharter school, almost two-thirds went to a nondenominational private school. Just under 10 percent of respondents attended parochial school.

The News survey indicated a correlation between type of high school and students’ preparedness for Yale: About 38 percent of students who attended a public, noncharter high school felt academically prepared for Yale, while 53 percent of students who studied at a private, nonparochial school felt the same.

Just under one-third of the class come from families whose annual income is $250,000 or greater, putting them in the top 5 percent of the national income distribution.

For nearly 60 percent of students, Yale contains a little bit of home. Though one-fifth of the class said that nobody from their high school had attended Yale, 58 percent said someone from their high school was currently at Yale. The remaining 22 percent said that somebody from their high school had matriculated at least three years ago.

Another fifth has some type of family connection to the University, as 20 percent indicated that a family member — parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or another relative — received an undergraduate degree from Yale.

These legacy students had slightly different expectations than nonlegacy students. As opposed to the 42 percent of nonlegacy students who said they felt academically prepared for Yale, 51 percent of legacies said they felt prepared. Legacies’ and nonlegacies’ expected majors also differed: one-third of legacies indicated they wanted to pursue a major in a STEM field, as opposed to 46 percent of nonlegacies, and 19 percent of legacies said they wanted to major in the humanities compared to 11 percent of nonlegacies.

Fifty-one students admitted to the class of 2019 took a gap year before arriving on campus and an additional 38 students admitted to the class of 2020 deferred their enrollment to join the class of 2021, according to the admissions office.

Of the survey respondents who indicated they had taken a gap year, 47 percent were international students.

“There are advantages to being international and a little bit older,” Rob Brinkmann ’20 said. Brinkmann, who hails from South Africa, had begun studying at the University of Capetown when he decided to take a gap year, tutoring and interning before arriving at Yale in what he calls an “interesting journey.”


The class of 2020 also arrived with a broad cross-section of experiences with drugs, alcohol and sex.

As freshmen have reported in previous News surveys, the most commonly used substances were alcohol and marijuana. Almost 16 percent of the incoming class arrived with a fake I.D. and 6 percent of the class said they drink alcohol at least once a week. 2 percent said they smoke marijuana multiple times a week.

Still, drugs and alcohol do not appear to be the class of 2020’s favorite pastime. While 45 percent of respondents said they drank alcohol at least once a month, 34 percent of the class self-identified as teetotalers. Of the third of the class that said they did not drink alcohol, 52 percent said they did not intend to begin drinking in college. An additional 34 percent said they were unsure, and just 13 percent said they planned to drink.

“I don’t plan on drinking — alcohol doesn’t really appeal to me,” Marie Gaye ’20 said. “It’s still possible to have a good time without drinking.”

(Michelle Liu)

A much larger percentage of incoming freshmen — 71 percent — said they have never tried marijuana, and three-quarters of those students said they do not plan on trying it. An additional 20 percent said they were unsure, and only 5 percent said they wanted to try marijuana.

Only 14 students said they have tried ecstasy, molly or another MDMA-based drug, and 37 said they have taken study drugs such as Ritalin or Adderall.

A greater percentage of students raised in an urban community said they had tried alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and study drugs than the percentage of suburban and rural students who had experimented with the same.

The 60 percent of respondents who said they have never had sexual intercourse is lower than years past, as approximately two-thirds of the classes of 2018 and 2019 identified as virgins according to News surveys.

Over a quarter of respondents said that, at the time of the survey, they were in a relationship. About a third of those respondents did not anticipate staying together in college — and more of their peers might join them by December, after the inevitable Thanksgiving turkey dump.

Almost 5 percent identified as bisexual or pansexual and 6 percent reported being gay or lesbian. An additional 4 percent said they are questioning their sexuality.
The current 11 percent of students who identify as either bisexual or homosexual is similar to numbers of years past, as the past two News freshman surveys revealed that 12 and 10 percent of the classes of 2019 and 2018, respectively, identified as bisexual or homosexual.

About one in five incoming freshmen said they have sought out mental health counseling in the past. This figure is consistent with Yale Mental Health and Counseling’s estimate that 20 percent of the student body accesses services during their time at Yale.

Of this fifth, the greatest percentage came from the pool of students in the top two income brackets from families with combined incomes greater than $250,000 per year.


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