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FOCUS on New Haven

FOCUS on New Haven is a weeklong pre-orientation program for first-years and a fellowship for sophomores, transfer and Eli Whitney students who are interested in learning about community engagement, social justice, and activism. Through volunteering at local non-profits, meeting local change-makers, and participating in discussions, students will wrestle with how systems of oppression play out in the context of the relationship between Yale and New Haven, and will reflect on ways in which they can understand and have an impact on the city Yale calls home.

Participants will live on Old Campus and explore New Haven's diverse neighborhoods, delicious restaurants, and unique culture while forming close friendships within their FOCUS families (groups of 6-12 students led by trained student leaders).

It is important to note that the first-year program is separate from the sophomore/transfer/Eli Whitney program, but they run parallel to each other. The two concurrent programs have different themes and are framed specifically for these different populations with distinct perspectives on Yale and New Haven.

We ask that participants make a $200 donation to the Dwight Hall Center for Public Service and Social Justice at Yale in lieu of a participation fee. This donation will cover housing between August 18th and 23rd, three daily meals, transportation between service sites and Old Campus, and entrance fees for cultural activities. If this donation is a financial burden for your family, please email and aid will be granted.

Poke around our website for more information! Incoming first-years, please apply here. Rising sophomores and incoming transfer and Eli Whitney students please apply here. Applicants will be accepted on a rolling basis (and you are encouraged to apply early to receive a spot), but the final deadline to submit the application is July 1, 2018 at 11:59 PM. If you have any questions, please email

Portal Information


Established in 1991, FOCUS on New Haven is an end-of-summer, weeklong preorientation program designed to introduce incoming first year students to the city of New Haven and help returning upperclassmen take a closer look at the city they’ve already lived in. FOCUS encourages students to step outside of the boundaries of the Yale bubble and explore their place in the greater community. FOCUS participants, along with their upperclassmen leaders, meet with local leaders and examine controversial issues in a wide breadth of urban issues, including immigration, education, politics, race, economic development, and town-gown relations. They learn about New Haven as a whole, taking part in tours of neighborhoods, discussion panels, and meetings with community leaders. In addition to this general view, FOCUS participants also get to engage directly with individual local non-profit organizations through small group service projects at a local non-profit. Having viewed New Haven from multiple perspectives over the course of the program, FOCUS challenges participants to reflect on their present and future roles in their community, gaining a better sense of both the city in which they live and the role they can play in it.