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Thanks to Jessica McCurdy and Teddy Tawil for help with this post.


  • Yale EA ran a summer virtual fellowship in 2021, and it was a great success.
  • Summer fellowships can help get excited incoming first years and students who are busy during the semester to do the fellowship.
  • Students often have more time to spend on fellowships over the summer.
  • A summer fellowship lets you be the first extracurricular that first year students get involved with, which is often very important.
  • Outcomes from the fellowship were better than usual, with 5/15 participants joining our organizing board and some going on to do exciting direct work.
  • We recommend advertising the fellowship at your admitted students weekend.


I will lead with a description of the outcomes from our summer 2021 fellowship, because I think they help explain why I am writing this post. 15 fellows began the fellowship, and 12 fellows completed it. Of them:

  • 3 participants completed the Cambridge AGI Safety Fundamentals course concurrently with the fellowship (we promoted this to fellows)
  • 1 participant did an AI alignment theory work trial with Evan Hubinger
  • 5 participants joined our organizing board
  • 1 participant (Teddy Tawil) joined our executive board after the fall semester
  • 4 participants facilitated for our fall introductory fellowship
  • 1 participant now works at the Global Priorities Institute

In total, 6 participants remained involved with the group, 5 of whom were first year students. For comparison, we had 17 people complete the spring 2021 fellowship, and only 4 remained involved with the group.

These outcomes are quite exciting. How did we do it?


In Summer 2020, Yale ran a summer fellowship with students from several schools. The fellowship was a success, and helped start groups at two different schools. You can read more about our experience of doing this here.

That year, we only had one student from Yale participate in our fellowship: Braden Wong. He was about to start his first year, and was looking to get involved as soon as possible, so we invited him to join us. After the fellowship, he stayed extremely involved with our group, helping facilitate the intro fellowship in the fall of 2020 and eventually joining our executive board and running our intro fellowship this fall. Inspired by our success with Braden, we decided to try to run a summer fellowship again in 2021, this time with Yale students.

By running a summer fellowship, we were able to attract a high number of incoming first year students, who had fewer commitments after the fellowship and were more likely to get involved in our group. In general, we found that first year students were extremely excited to get involved with Yale and general, and that this extended to our group.


The main way we promoted the fellowship was at Yale’s admitted students weekend. On this weekend, most extracurricular groups at Yale run information sessions discussing their group, and Yale EA had done this in the past. At the 2021 event, we gave an overview of what EA was and what our group did, but we spent a sizable fraction of the time (maybe 30-40%) trying to promote the summer fellowship. We also circulated a spreadsheet where people could fill out their contact information, and added everyone who did that to our email list. Although we did not have much flexibility in our advertising for this event (since Yale promoted it for us and we did not have access to direct contacts of most prospective students), we had more than 50 students attend one of our sessions. In all, 36 students filled out the spreadsheet and were added to our mailing list.

At the session, we also devoted a lot of time to talking about things unrelated to YEA. Students asked questions about academics and social life at Yale, and we answered them, without necessarily trying to steer the topic back to YEA. This is typical for these events, and I think keeps people at them longer, but it’s possible that we could have spent more time talking about YEA. We also had Braden, who at the time was a first year student, run both events, and I think he was able to relate more to the incoming students than I (then a second year) would have been. We heard anecdotal reports from first years that they particularly enjoyed talking to Braden.

In addition to the admitted students event, we also asked members of the YEA community to promote the fellowship to people they knew, and made a few Facebook posts about it. We also included it in our newsletter. Lastly, we got an incoming first year who was a friend of one of our members to post about it in a first year group chat.

In the end, we had 15 students participate:

  • 1 in the School of Medicine
  • 1 predoc researcher in economics
  • 2 incoming undergraduate third year students
  • 11 incoming undergraduate first year students

Students heard about the event in various ways:

  • 5 from a friend who was not a core member of YEA
  • 4 from our admitted students event
  • 3 from Facebook
  • 2 from our newsletter
  • 2 from a core member of YEA

The fellowship

We had run virtual fellowships before, and ran ours largely similarly to the one described in Jessica’s post, but with the curriculum designed by Oxford. In general, we had a fairly good attendance rate of 82%, which was exactly the same rate we got in spring 2020. The fellowship conversations seemed to be better than usual for a virtual fellowship, perhaps because participants had more time to fully engage with the material over the summer. We encouraged all fellows to sign up for one on one conversations, and seven did at some point during the fellowship.

After the fellowship

After the fellowship, we promoted becoming a fellowship facilitator to our most promising fellows. In the past, we have found that this is a great way of keeping past fellows involved, since it is a weekly commitment, and also that it can solidify their knowledge. We were particularly successful in getting first year students to become facilitators, because they did not have any pre-existing commitments. We had 4 participants facilitate for our fall introductory fellowship; in contrast, no fellows from our spring 2021 fellowship have ever facilitated.

Another crucial step was promoting our fall retreat to fellows (4 attended). We found that the retreat was a great first step to further integrate fellows into the broader YEA community. 3 of those who attended were first year students, and all remained significantly involved in the group after the retreat.


In our summer fellowship, we observed more retention among fellows, particularly those who were incoming first years. In particular, four of our most promising new members came through the summer fellowship, a higher rate than most fellowships.

If you want to attract first year students before they have commitments and when they are extremely excited to get involved with your school, you should run a summer fellowship!


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Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 1:19 PM

Thanks for the call to action, and cool that it has worked so great for your group! :) 

I recently saw a discussion that those programs maybe shouldn't be called "fellowships" anymore, as fellowships seem to usually be understood to involve being paid money. I just realized that you even started this discussion, Thomas. :D Did you change your mind about it?

They are so commonly called fellowships that calling them something else in this post would complicate the message.

I haven't changed my mind, and probably somebody should write a post about why we shouldn't call them that so we can discuss this further. This unfortunately is not currently high on my priority list, but I may do it at some point.