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Princeton University

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What should every freshman at your school know before they start?

In high school, I was an Eagle Scout, I had been a national leader for Students Against Violence Everywhere, and I was ranked first in my class. Though proud of my success, I was eagerly awaiting for the catalyst that would give me the tools and knowledge to reach previously untapped potential; college proved to be that catalyst. At Princeton, I met other first year students who were accomplished athletes, researchers, writers, and artists. Meeting other dedicated students was a truly inspirational experience. The classes I took, Social Psychology, Epistemology and Metaphysics, and International Relations, made me grapple with questions I had never previously considered, and stretched my thinking and understanding of the world in ways I found exciting and refreshing. It is this world-class education that will prepare me to create change on the global scale I’ve always aspired to achieve. The tools and vibrant diversity of thought that college provides are essential to succeed in nearly any enterprise one chooses to undertake. College is an invaluable experience that is giving me the inspiration to reach higher and the preparation to succeed in what I choose to do, bringing my fullest potential to mind and to fruition.

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Parents, welcome to High School, where students compete in America's most vicious sport: Getting In to College. Forget about your fond memories of Senior Prom and Cheerleading. Today's kids have been groomed since birth with club sports and SAT tutoring. Fascinated by the insanity surrounding college admissions, I wrote a comedy , "Getting In, the Musical", and produced it at my high school. Because the main character was the 'College Admission Officer from Hell', my parents did not want me to include this play with my admissions packet. Actually, they were furious that I dropped Varsity Water Polo, "my ticket to college", in order to write this musical. LESSON ONE: LET YOUR CHILDREN FOLLOW THEIR PASSION Not only did I discover my passion for writing with 'Getting In', but I also know that my Early Admission Acceptance to Princeton was due, in large part, to that writing sample. Princeton's Creative Writing Department is amazing and turned out to be the perfect school for me. LESSON TWO: LET YOU CHILDREN FOLLOW THEIR INSTINCTS IN SELECTING A COLLEGE. Their first impressions of a school are usually correct. COLLEGE IS AMAZING: BE BRAVE, BE OPEN TO NEW EXPERIENCES ACADEMICALLY AND SOCIALLY.

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No one forces me to go to 9 AM class or stay in before an exam. There is no one to stop me from doing just enough to get by - except myself. Have high expectations for yourself, but believe in yourself too. College is a chance to delve deeper into old passions and discover new ones. Far from detracting from your education, devoting time to groups and projects outside the classroom facilitates lasting friendships, teaches valuable lessons about cooperation and time management, and provides an outlet for real world application of knowledge. Strive to maintain balance between major priorities: health, academics, social life, and extracurricular activities. Never forget that so many would love to be in your place. Everyone deserves the opportunity to study at a university that encourages independent thought and supports its students in every endeavor. Yet only a fraction of the world's population gets a chance - for millions, like an African student whose every penny goes towards paying for his malarial sister's medication, a college education is merely a dream to be fantasized about in rare moments of rest. Embrace every opportunity so that your education will matter beyond your four years on campus.

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If given the chance to give advice to my high-school self, I would tell him (me?) to prepare to take advantage of as many new opportunities available to the college student as possible. Some opportunities in college will be familiar from high school. For example, people with athletic or artistic interests will find club teams or performing groups fulfill a similar role in college as they did in high school. However, there are many new opportunities for the college student to pursue if they have the initiative. There are chances to study abroad all over the world. If you have an interest in a particular region or culture, chances are that there is a program that will let you experience it firsthand for a semester or more. In the college setting, you will also have the opportunity to meet and work alongside your professors. If you have an interest in research, engage your professors, and you may find yourself working on scientific research as an undergraduate. Travel abroad and undergraduate research are just two of the new opportunities that accompany the independence of college. You could benefit greatly from them if you have the necessary initiative to pursue them.

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The courses, extracurriculars, and dorms are all a great part of college life, but it is the people I have met that define the most important part of my college experience. Amazing professors breathe life into material that might otherwise seem flat and dull, actually triggering a hidden interest that I never knew I had. Knowledgeable advisers and alumni provide outlooks on how life during and after college can be like, opening my eyes beyond textbooks and the lecture hall. However, my friends, my colleagues, are the real gems of the college treasure trove. Differing, clashing views encourage me to go beyond my own narrow opinions. Sharing experiences and cultures with people from all over the world enriches my thoughts in ways words cannot describe. Being surrounded by advanced intellectuals has also shown me what it feels like to be intimidated. Yet at the same time, I was able to experience the exhilarating rush of having fear turn into excitement, because I could see the challenges that awaited me. Such moments have helped me change into a better, fuller, more open-minded individual and I hope I will continue to do so while helping others change as well.

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I would advise myself to go with my instincts and to keep an open mind. As a high school senior, I was eventually admitted to my first-choice school, which was in my home state of California. Having applied early to this school and been deferred, however, I would advise myself to not apply early. Applying early just increased my stress levels, and getting deferred was a huge disappointment. Instead of applying early, I would advise myself to keep considering all schools and to really think about the possibility of going across the country for college. I ended up choosing between two schools, my initial first choice in California and another school in New Jersey, about two hours before the deadline. Ultimately I chose the New Jersey school, but seriously considering that possibility from the beginning of the process might have made my decision easier. I remember that at the end, I was almost crying from the enormity of deciding to leave home. Thinking about that possibility earlier might have made the process less emotional. But most importantly, I would tell myself to have faith that my college experience would be worth the pain of applying.

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If I could counsel myself as a high school senior, I would impart this advice: high school is more than just the training wheels. For many, high school was a means to an end. From our first days as freshmen to our last ones as seniors, we were inundated with the message that the destination was not where we were but where we would be after graduation. Just as training wheels are a necessity of learning to ride a bike, we were taught that high school was an essential, though temporary, stepping stone to college. This ideology fails us. It focuses on an intangible future goal and obscures the opportunity in front of us: the enjoyable and fulfilling process of learning and being challenged in the vibrant environment that is comprised of hallways, lockers, and cafeterias. As a result, many kids spend their entire high school careers focusing on the wrong things: good grades instead of actual learning, insincere “resume-builders” instead of genuine pursuits, and blind preparation instead of real enjoyment. Our focus on making sure the training wheels are clean and shiny tends to blind us to what we are really doing: we are already riding the bike.

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Princeton University taught me what power really is. Power is having the resources and ability to change the world. Princeton has the power to nurture her students to become the best in their fields, whatever they may be. With a neat apron around her neck, she tends to every single one of our personal needs, making sure we may flourish under her arms. Indeed, her motto "Under God we flourish," reflects this magnanimous maternal attitude, one that only a truly powerful institution could ever afford. At Princeton, I have gotten a life's worth of lessons in my personal, academic, religious and social spheres. I have learned how to describe the vibrating membrane of a drum mathematically, and I have learned that that the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus is the center of our biological clocks; I have learned that God is with me when I am glad and when I am not, and I have learned that putting together a professional rock concert is something teenagers can do. I have learned I will never quite have learned enough. Princeton enabled me to flourish, with her wondrous love and experience, and I will give back to her in the future.

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Your greatest danger is fear: fear that, perhaps, you will not live up to your college's or parents' expectations; that your talents in high school will not impress your new peers; that your personality will not win over new friends; worse yet, that the admissions department made a sloppy mistake. College should be a great experiment, where others' perspectives enrich and enlarge your own world-view so that you can see what is possible. To make college such an experience, however, you must banish this fear. Do not ask whether Alice will find you intelligent or attractive enoughfor her tastes, but rather what you can learn from her example. Do not ask whether the auditions director will hate the fact that your C-sharps are just a little flat or your quarter notes a bit fast, but rather whether playing violin is a true passion and a worthwhile pursuit. You fear in the moment that others judge you and only later will you regret all those missed oppurtunities. But, while your fear lasted an instant, your regret will extend far beyond the moment and harass you years later with a series of "what if" 's and alternate outcomes.

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During the college selection process I learned that I was missing a very important piece of advice: liking the "idea" of something is very different than being able to realistically picture it fitting with who you are as a person. I applied to seven colleges. Looking back, only 2 of those colleges (one of which I attend) actually fit with what I needed in a university, even though the others that didn't "fit" were highly ranked by USA Today. When decisions came, I was devastated after receiving my first letters that began with "We are sorry to inform you..." I was so upset that I didn't want to open any more mail that month. Luckily, my parents convinced me otherwise and I found out that I was admitted to other schools, like Princeton where I now attend. Reflecting back, I realized that the schools where I was not admitted did not have what I was looking for (as far as extra-curriculars, campus setting, and matching my personality). I liked the "idea" of attending these schools, but it was not realistic. Sometimes rejections are painful, but for the best---allowing us instead to find our "true home" elsewhere.

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