Princeton University - Comments and Student Experiences|
The University takes great care to select students who are not simply strong academically, but also excel in other areas. Everyone does at least one extracurricular activity (some do dozens), and that helps to create a vibrant undergraduate community. Indeed, it was my experiences outside the classroom in which I think I learned and grew the most.
The people at Princeton are exceptionally bright, and it's almost guaranteed that you'll meet some of the most unique and talented people you've ever met. I learned a lot from my friends, and to this day, I consider my friends from Princeton the most cherished of all.
The other great thing about Princeton is that it is a welcoming community. People from all walks of life get along very well, and the snobbery is actually quite a bit less than what you'd find at a larger institution. I was a humble kid from a small Midwestern town, and I counted some of America's "royalty" as my close friends. There is very little pretense.
All in all, Princeton is an exceptional experience, and one that I would recommend to anyone!
Tips for H.S. Students interested in Princeton:
1) Be involved with school activities and in your community. Princeton will take a diverse and active individual with a 3.6 GPA and 1200 on the SAT over a straight A student with 1600 SAT who does nothing else but study. They expect you to contribute to the betterment of the campus community, not just the betterment of yourself.
2) Complete the optional essay on the application, and seek a regional alumni interview. They're extra and not required, but Princeton students always venture beyond what is required.
3) Apply early if you're serious about the place. It's binding if you get accepted, but early applications do have a better success rate.
4) If you're expecting a straight-laced, conservative, and "serious" environment, look elsewhere. People are very laid-back, and cutthroat competition doesn't fly. If you're not a team player, they'll eat you alive. The campus also has a very liberal bend to it (as do most places where intelligent people are encourage to think freely). The campus also has a very irreverent sense of humor, and most dinner conversations have overtones that would fly on The Daily Show or in The Onion. People are serious, but certainly don't take themselves seriously.5) Princeton has always offered need-blind financial aid, but now the aid is rendered in the form of grants and not loans, so students graduate debt-free. This is made possible by the fact that close to 95% of all alumni donate generously within their means. It will still sting your family's wallet, but they will be willing to work with you to make it possible to attend. Note that no aid is offered on merit... it is all purely need-based.
As with almost anything, you'll get out of your classes, extracurriculars, and social life what you put IN. The possibilities here are endless--the avenues of study innumerable, the students (and faculty) fascinating; that being said, the only thing that may be handed to you on a "silver platter" is a few free T-shirts during freshman week; you're expected to take a little initiative and figure the rest out on your own (academic, peer, and faculty advisers are readily available--but you need to be the first to ask for advice!).
Everybody here tends to be incredibly busy; just when you think you know everything about a person, you'll learn that they're a concert pianist, that they speak five languages, or that they worked in a lab helping to find a cure for cancer during a gap-year before college. Yes, it can sometimes feel like it takes a little while to really get to know people; but the truth is: almost everyone here looks around and gets intimidated by the students around them at SOME point in time. Be the first to break the ice, and you'll find that even the most seemingly unapproachable perfectionists carry on with "the illusion of Princeton" as a front to keep others from seeing their own insecurities. So talk to people, and eventually they'll open up; there are quite a few geniuses around here, but in the end, we're all only human! I've found that other students have been an incredible resource here: to learn FROM, to learn WITH, and as friends in general. Even if it feels like it takes a while to identify true "best friends" amidst a ton of "friendly acquaintances", once you've found them, the friendships you'll make here will last a lifetime. Life here can be challenging (and Princetonians seem to have truly mastered the art of complaining). But the rewards are twice as worth it. As we often say: Work hard, play hard! ...At least that's what I've found in my nearly four years here...
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