The Secret Syllabus: A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of College Success

Saturday, January 20, 2024

This talk is the first lecture of the Princeton-Yale Ideas Series.


Event Time

Saturday, January 20, 2024


9:30 - 10:00 am

Presentation and Q&A

10:00 - 11:30 am


Yale Center Beijing 
36th Floor Tower B of IFC Building 8 Jianguomenwai Avenue Chaoyang District, Beijing (Yong'anli Subway Station, Exit C) 


Registration and Fees

Please click “HERE” further below to register.

Please send an email to if there are any problems. If you encounter any payment issues, please attach a screenshot that identifies the issue.

Ticket: Free for students and faculty (subject to approval); RMB 30 for Yale and Princeton alumni, and participants of past Yale Center Beijing programs; RMB 60 for regular admission. 

*The registration fee for the event is non-refundable. Unless due to a force majeure reason, Yale Center Beijing will not refund any part of the registration fee if a participant fails to attend the event.

Walk-ins will not be accepted.

The language of the event will be English. 

Note: Seats are available on a first-come-first-served basis.


The Event

The Secret Syllabus equips students with the tools they need to succeed, revealing the unwritten rules and cultural norms and expectations not included in the official curriculum. The book draws on authors and Harvard graduate school classmates Jay Phelan and Terry Burnham’s experiences with thousands of undergraduate and graduate students. Weaving engaging storytelling with practical, actionable advice, they illustrate both productive and counterproductive approaches to achieving academic excellence, and highlight the importance of setting and attaining goals, nurturing strong relationships, developing resiliency, and more.

Join us on January 20 at Yale Center Beijing as Phelan (Online) and Burnham (Online) engage in an in-depth discussion on their book, with Yale College alumna Mingrong Weng '11 (in-person) as moderator.


The Speakers


Jay Phelan MES '87
Biology Professor, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Jay Phelan is a biology professor at UCLA. He received his PhD in biology from Harvard and his master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Yale and UCLA. His main area of research is evolutionary genetics and aging.

Jay is passionate about equipping students with the skills they need to succeed, in college and beyond. He is experienced in coaching struggling, unfocused students as well as award-winning college instructors and researchers.



Terry Burnham
Finance Professor, Chapman University

Terry Burnham has a PhD in Business Economics from Harvard University. He is a finance professor at Chapman University and, before that, was a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, the University of Michigan, and the Harvard Business School.

Terry has garnered rich experiences from decades in the classroom and in business. His non-academic experiences include working for Goldman, Sachs & Co., being the President of Progenics Pharmaceuticals, Inc. a start-up biotechnology company, and being the director of economics for Acadian Asset Management, an institutional money manager.


The Moderator


Mingrong Weng '11
University and Careers Advisor, International School of Beijing

Ming was born in Fujian, China and moved to the United States at the age of eight. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree from Yale University in East Asian Studies, she spent two years as a middle school teacher in rural China, marking the beginning of her journey in international education. With nearly eight years of experience counseling students regarding various topics in international education, she has guided many students through the college application process to the United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, China, Korea, Japan, and Singapore. As a university and careers advisor, she loves working with students to identify their interests and passions and guiding students to pursue their academic goals. She believes fervently in the concept of Best Fit when it comes to making a college list and works with students to enhance and best highlight their strengths on their college applications worldwide.