Princeton University Top Questions

What is your overall opinion of this school?

David

Generally, I love Princeton. It's been the ideal size for me - small enough to always see a friendly face, but large enough to retain some privacy and anonymity - and the campus is absolutely breathtaking. Being in such a picturesque area has its price, however. The town of Princeton isn't the most college-friendly; all of the shops and restaurants are fairly pricey and shut down early, and off-campus housing is impossibly expensive for undergrads. That said, there are still gems waiting to be discovered off-campus, like at the Princeton Record Exchange (an awesome music/video store) or the fried-food-Mecca that is Hoagie Haven. Understanding life on campus is a little tricky, in large part due to the "eating clubs" that kind of dominate the campus social scene. Upperclassmen have the opportunity to join these co-ed social/dining clubs, headquartered in mansions on "The Street" (aka Prospect Ave). While only upperclassmen actually eat in the eating clubs, they throw parties every weekend, so sometimes people compare them to frats...except they really aren't frats (frats and sororities ARE on campus, in fact, and just had the ability to hold freshman rush taken away - big controversy), so most Princetonians give up explaining them to their non-Princeton friends. Of course, they'd only try to explain the clubs if they've copped to attending Princeton. Most Tigers will try and dodge the "college question" by saying they "go to school in New Jersey". It's not a shame thing (there's an absurd amount of school pride - Reunions is a complete spectacle every year); rather, it's just a kind of modesty, deserved or not. Students also love to gripe about grade deflation (the school has a policy that suggests restricting grades to a curve in each department), but in the end we all bond over it. All considered, I wouldn't trade Princeton for anywhere else. Every moment, good and not-so-good, has been totally life-changing. I'll never forget finishing my first English essay after a frantic all-nighter in Campus Club, nor the first time I stepped on stage with the talk show I founded (named "All-Nighter"). I've had the opportunity to both tour the backstage of Saturday Night Live and give a presentation to the United Nations Disarmament Committee, all thanks to classes I've taken. I've made some awesome memories, and really awesome friends.

Haley

I really do love Princeton. The community is difficult to describe, but it's so exciting and supportive and challenging all at the same time. Campus is a great size where you always see people you know without ever feeling like you know everyone. One thing I never considered before coming here that I've really come to appreciate is the alumni support, traditions, and overall school spirit. There definitely is a sense of being part of something bigger than yourself (as a student, Reunions is just about the coolest thing ever). Most people love it here and continue to love it for the rest of their lives. On the less positive side, the social constructs that define campus can be a bit limiting. Eating clubs divide up the classes between upperclassmen and underclassmen, and freshman are generally their own sort of subgroup. That being said, no one is antagonistic to people just because of their year. It's just harder to make older friends as a younger student, and you usually meet them through extracurricular activities (Of course that's probably true at any school).

Julie

This school is a huge game board. You can make it into a fun experience or into a competition. You might win but you might also fail... though in the end you'll leave having learned something. Princeton provides you with everything a college could possibly offer. It's really what you do with those game pieces.

Gabriel

There are a million things to say about how amazing Princeton is: the picture perfect campus, the top-notch teachers, the wonderful friends I've made, but I think the most impressive part of Princeton is the sense we get that the faculty and administration really are trying their hardest to make everything at Princeton the best it can be for us undergraduates. Of course, Princeton already has a reputation as the best in many areas, but even the small things have been perfected: the printing is free, the laundry is free, I have more advisers than I can shake a stick at. If there is any problem, no matter how small, I firmly believe that Princeton will help me fix it.

Lucy

Like any other school, Princeton has its pros and cons. Personally, I find that the pros greatly outweigh the cons. Sometimes it can be a struggle to balance academics and extracurriculars, but the tough times are also the most rewarding. Coming from a public school in Texas, I've experienced tremendous academic and cultural growth during my time here. The people I've met inspire me in so many ways, and the best part is that after graduation, Reunions gives us an excuse to come back often and keep in touch.

Stefan

I literally could not be happier with time here at Princeton. Aside from the fact that the classes and professors are all top of the line, the people I have been exposed to here has been the real treasure. Princeton attracts such an interesting group of students that I have learned just as much from my peers as from the professors. The school is a very personal experience on one of the most beautiful campuses.

Andrea

could describe how highly i think of this school. There is literally nothing I would change. The rather small size of Princeton, though not ideal for everybody, is perfect if you want the opportunity to meet almost all the people in your class, yet you will never have the feeling that you are limited to spending your time with 10 people... whether you like them or not. School pride here is incredible. People here love the school, and it generally seems that the school loves the people back too. Classes are tough, yes, but will be well worth the effort. Overall, if I could have restarted and picked any school in the world, it would have been Princeton.

Aparajita

No doubt why Princeton consistently ranks as the best undergraduate school in the nation. The quality of classes is great, and the faith put in student's academic potential allows students to find their niche. The attention given to undergraduates is uncommon at universities of this calibre.

Eric

Love it here. Love the people. Love the resources. Love the support from the school - opportunities, financial aid, etc. Love the campus.

Ryan

Princeton's location is a double-edged sword. Objectively I can say it is probably the most beautiful college campus I have ever seen and is extremely safe and peaceful. However, over the four years you spend there as a student you gradually become more and more disconnected from the real word and realize you've become accustomed to living in la-la land. If you're looking for somewhere to pursue your studies in peace or be able to pass out on a bench and wake up the next morning without something terrible having happened to you, then Princeton is the place.

Emily

I had a lot of trepidation about going to Princeton, mostly because I was worried about the negative stereotypes about the social scene, and because (I confess it) I'm a legacy--my mom went here for both undergrad and grad school, and I was (and still am) ashamed that my mom's status probably tipped the balance in my favor. That said, though, I really changed my mind after a few weeks' adjustment period. I believe I go to the best school in the country--it's probably because we do have the highest per-student endowment in the country, but believe me, that shows. You wouldn't believe the opportunities that get thrown at all of us, because we have resources to rival Harvard's or Yale's but not nearly the huge student body. I think it's the perfect size: we have 5,000 undergrads (though it's going up in the next few years), which is enough that there's a social group for everyone, but not so many that you get lost in the cracks. You definitely get individual attention, which for me is really important. There are also 2,000 grad students, which means they don't get any more attention than or overshadow the undergrads, but that they're they're to enrich the university community. Basically, if I can say anything to debunk your Princeton stereotypes, I will. My class, the Class of 2012, is the first in Princeton's history to be equally male-female, and that spirit of modernity shows in study abroad opportunities, the LGBT Center, and the wide range of campus publications, to name just a few aspects of student life. Yeah, there are a lot of problems with conservatism and entitlement--take the recent grade deflation initiative, for example, which I am behind but which received a lot of flak from students and alumni. By and large, though, the current university president, Shirley Tilghman, has done worlds of good to make Princeton a place where someone like me can without question belong--that definitely wouldn't have been the case when my mom was a student. Today, I feel like a definite part of the social fabric, whether it's in the eating clubs or at my college master's house.

Ryan

When I tell people I go to Princeton, sometimes they give me a funny look. It's not your typical college. But I wouldn't trade it for anything. The best thing about Princeton is the people - a lot of incredibly quick/bright/witty people. There's not much I would want to change either. The size of the campus ~5000 undergrads is just right, the classes have been great, etc.

Ryan

Taking a drive down Nassau Street and past the front gates of Princeton will tell you a lot about what you can expect from your time as a student -- at least in terms of ambience. If you are totally at home in a place where the Mercedes outnumber the Toyotas in the parking lot, and where shopping at the Gap is slumming it, then you will easily find yourself at home on campus. That is not to say that you will necessarily hate Princeton if you prefer thrift shops, used cars and coffee houses, but you may have to search a little harder to find comrades in arms. You will eventually find them, though -- there are people of all types at Princeton. But you should be aware that it is much easier for some people to fit in at Princeton than others. If you are, say, coming from an urban public school where only 15% of the students are white, you may find that Princeton's claims of racial and socioeconomic diversity ring false. If you don't like the idea of having to prostrate yourself before your peers in order to prove yourself worthy of socializing with them, you may find the notion of eating clubs distasteful. And if you are on financial aid and don't want to bankrupt your parents, you may be disappointed to find that the (typically quite expensive) eating clubs dominate the upperclass social culture. But even if you felt all these things, you could still find a place. There is a four-year residential college now, and you can find a social niche that suits you if you look for it. But you may have to look for it unless you are coming from a place like Choate (in which case, you will fit right in with very little trouble). In terms of daily life as a student, it depends somewhat on whether you're a science/engineeering student or a liberal arts major. If you aren't taking a science, chances are good that you'll have Fridays off. Seriously -- three-day weekends are the norm for a lot of students, and that's part of the reason that Thursdays are a big party night on campus. If you're a hard science or B.S.E. major, forget about it. It's normal weekends for you. Either way, you'll probably spend more time studying than you do in class. That's not because class time is short, but rather because classes are challenging, and you have to be prepared. Many social gatherings revolve around study groups. But most students at Princeton are used to working hard, so it's generally not too overwhelming. You'll still have time to go out to The Street (if you want to) on weekends, or to take frequent study breaks with friends at Hoagie Haven or the Wa, or just at the Frist center. For all the studying, nearly all the students find time for a social life. To be honest, one of the best advantages to going to a school like Princeton comes after you graduate. The name recognition -- worldwide -- is instant and impressive. The mere fact of having gone to Princeton undeniably opens doors that might otherwise have been closed. (Sometimes you will have to work to convince them that you are not a snob as you put your foot in that open door.) And those are the advantages before you consider the alumni network, which is quite strong. Alumni of Princeton tend to be extremely devoted (and generous) to the school. If you choose to be a part of it, the Princeton experience can continue quite actively for the rest of your life.

Jesse

It's cold in the winter. I'm from NY, so this may sound silly, but there's a difference between taking a bus or driving to school and walking across campus in the cold and snow. Luckily, the gorgeous Princeton spring completely makes up for it.

Mackenzie

The best thing about Princeton is the fact that it is a large, ultra-smart, hugely ambitious community. Every student, from the drunken frat boy to the physics nerd, is interesting and smart. In order to get into Princeton, you need to do something that sets you apart from the rest of the applicants, and for the most part that is clear when you meet the student body. Although someone may seem completely normal and friendly, he is actually a medal winner in the National Spelling Bee or an Olympic fencer. You never know who you will meet or who they will one day become.

Jim

Princeton is sweet. The students here are extremely intellectually curious, and yet very normal at the same time. It's easy to think that everyone at Princeton must be a total loser who spends every waking moment buried in a textbook, but everybody's actually real chill. Like any internationally renowned university there are definitely some freakishly smart, socially apocalyptic kids at Princeton, but your average Princetonian is normal. The town is wonderful too and is filled to the brim with quaint mom-and-pop boutiques and preppy shopping. School pride is pretty high: it's hard to believe there's many people that aren't proud to go to Princeton. The basketball and football teams draw a solid crowd if they're playing well but the stands tend to be empty when the teams suck. Lacrosse is big too and their games are pretty sick. Students complain about college administrators regardless of where you are and Princeton is no exception, but they do a good job in general. All in all it's a great school.

Pete

Best thing about princeton is the campus. The place is beautiful, and such a joy to live in. The people here are great as well - they know how to work and how to party.

Jody

the eating clubs make the school. the casual afternoons on the TI front lawn will remain as some of my favorite times. the night life is also centered around the clubs and generally, I have enjoyed it, although the limits the social options a bit.

Laura

Size is great, not too big, not too small. Princeton the town is a little small, but there are 5 malls within a 5 minute drive, so you can't really complain; you don't need a town with a 'nightlife' because the eating clubs provide that, and for free, for everyone with a student ID card. The administration is great and undergrad-focused, with the grad students often having to plead for attention since the faculty, money and resources give first priority to undergrads. Some of the recent controversies have been grade deflation, elimination of early decision, expansion from 2-year to 4-year residential colleges, and changes in the alcohol policy. School pride is probably greater here than at any other school in the nation--almost every alumni gives money back to the university after graduation, and a large majority return EVERY single year for Reunions.

Gene

My favorite thing about Princeton is everyone living on campus together and there being a strong sense of community. That being said the smaller size can make for some awkward interactions with people you sort of know or dislike. The town is endearingly small. Going into town definitely does not feel like getting off campus, and having a car and doing things like going lasertagging on Route 1 is refreshing.

Andy

it's good here. the school funds tons of really good events and lectures, and some of the lectures you may go to will at some point humble you. no matter what you choose to do in the future, you will take away with you a much greater and deeper appreciation of the world and its infinite subtleties.

Devin

Overall I am enjoying myself at Princeton fairly well. The classes are actually harder than I even anticipated, the competition gets very annoying at times, and the social life gets monotonous, but there are so many other aspects to Princeton that save it in my eyes. The diverse community, the limitless programs and organizations designed to introduce and support all cultures and activities, and just the ridiculous amount of opportunities to do some amazing things really helps take the edge off the workload.

Andy

- Best thing about Princeton is that you get an amazing intellectual experience by taking small classes with amazing professors and other smart, involved students - Social life is fun but kind

Toby

In my opnion, I could not imagine spending my 4 years of college anywhere other than princeton. Princeton had everything that i needed and more. My only regret was that I did not have enough time to take advantage of all that the school and city had to offer. Its suburban campus, with proximity to NYC and Philadelphia was ideal.

Janice

The academics are amazing- teachers both give to the classroom and look forward to taking away. The town is quaint and quiet with some nice restaurants and ice cream. The peers are challenging and intelligent. Princeton is a great size- there are enough people walking around who you know, and enough who you don't know to get you excited.

Andy

The size of the school is great, and the town is well suited for the school. The administration seems to have the students best interests in mind but have recently made life for all students much more difficult with their grade deflation policy. I would say this is one of the most frequent complaints about the school, along with the alcohol and drug policies being too strict. People tend to think that the kids that go here are just amazing people, but the only qualification to be accepted is that you're intelligent. The school certainly has its share of self-centered and egotistical kids, and the sense of entitlement is at times overwhelming.

Andy

Princeton's size is ideal - there are just enough students to make studying here dynamic and fun, and to justify ridiculous expenditures on everything from student plays to bizarre scientific experiments. Princeton spends about $90,000 a year on every student, and it really spares no expense in making sure that you can achieve what you want to do. The town is a little quiet, but "the Street" which contains the eating clubs brings everyone together and is, perhaps surprisingly, a unifying rather than divisive social factor. New York is a short train ride away, and overall social options are diverse. The administration is a bit autocratic, enacting some changes with little to no consultation. Overall, though, Princeton is a school that prides itself on not denying its students anything.

Alex

The best thing about Princeton are the academics and the professors. I have loved all my classes up till now and its easy to get to know your professors and get in contact with them. I would change the rigidity if the courses offered, they are very straightforward and its very hard to find any slightly creative, original classes. great college town, there are delicious restaurants and nice shops.

Virginia

The campus is incredible. Residential college system is great for freshmen and sophomores.

Ron

The best thing about Princeton is the amazing campus, the incredible academics, and the its proximity to New York. If I could change one thing, I would put up a bunch of bars that didn't card. The biggest recent controversy is Juicy Campus.

Sean

The absolute best thing about Princeton is the very diverse people that you will meet. I have friends from all around the United States and the world. Also the level of intellect on campus is amazing. You can count on having "intelligent" conversations with most people and the faculty is simply brilliant.

danny

best thing about princeton is the people. i would change the study abroad program. at times i feel it is too small, but i generally like the size. people are usually very impressed i go to princeton. some are intimidated by it. spend most of my time in my room, at eating clubs, frist campus center, library, soccer fields. the town is nice but i dont spend that much time there. i dont have much of an interpretation of princeton's administration- seems like they do a pretty good job. the biggest recent controversy on campus would be lawsuits against several eating clubs. they have been rescinded i think. there is a lot of school pride. the eating club scene is unusual. the students are also pretty impressive which i think is unusual. they are unusually impressive i guess. i think most people are happy to be here. i will always remember being front row at lawn parties watching reel big fish. mosh! students might complain about weather, workload, waking up, repetition of the social scene.

Brendan

The "big picture" at Princeton inevitably includes the Princeton name. This isn't meant in a snobby way at all because I truly believe that the vast majority of people apply to Princeton for reasons other than simply being able to say they went to Princeton, but there's a certain connotation when the name rolls off your tongue. It can be good in the way that the university has fostered academic excellence for years and continually ranks among the top research universities in the world, or it might not be so great when people think of the typical stereotypes about Princeton. Yet, the Princeton name is something you begin to take ownership of once you arrive on campus. All of a sudden, you're part of over 200 years of tradition and you begin to understand a subtle language of "precepts," "the Street," and "zee groups," among other things. You feel and are an integral part of a community and so you become part of that name, which carries so much weight. And I think you have a little more pride when you say the name, the more you feel like you own part of it.

Blake

Princeton is a bredding grounds for the rich and famous. If you are not a certified genius (can you see your self in a PhD program at 17?) or you last name is not Rockefeller, Whitman, Frist, Tanger, or Wilson, your life here, in short, will be a fish bowl view of the rich and truely gifted. It will suck for you.

Michael

It's great! Sometimes, a bit too much work, too much stress. But hey, it's education, that's what we're here for.

Josh

Considered to be the most conservative of the Ivy Leagues but still seems extremely liberal to republican kid from the south. Sports definately take a back seat compaired to most other schools. Most unique aspect of student life is the eating clubs, which aren't found at any other school (I don't think). They are kind of like coed fraternities where upperclassmen eat all there meals, if they choose become a member that is. Most of the nightlife/social scene revolves around "the Street" where all the eating clubs are located. Multiple clubs are open to all students, regardless of membership, on most Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Academics are very challenging, although engineering seems to be even more so than humanities. I typically spend anywhere from 10-30 hours per week doing homework. Some people complain about the town being too small and there not being anything to do off campus, but I like it. It's quieter than a city, and everything you need is within walking distance. Plus there are always things to do on the weekends with all the student group productions (music, dance, plays, etc). We always complain about the administration. Especially their "war on fun," or the constant attempts to crack-down on underage drinking, and on-campus drinking in general. Grade deflation (placing a cap on the number of A's a department can give out every semester, and hence drag down your GPA) is also a huge point of contention.

Andy

The best thing about Princeton is the campus--it's beautiful. Also, the size of the student body is pretty nice because it's not too large or too small. I would definitely change the grade deflation-it's a sad excuse for elitism in an overly pretentious institution for higher education. Ultimately, it unfairly biased against 70% of the student population simply for the reason of maintaining an unnecessary exclusivity. The administration is great, but the professors in the sciences are not nearly as available as college guides and tours let on. Most of the time, they're too busy with research to care about student questions. You often have to hound them to get help, although when you finally do receive it, they are very knowledgeable.

josh

if i could change one thing on campus it would be to reduce the amount of homework. right now it is too much and as a result you do not have enough free time to explore and get involved in life outside of school work

Alex

Princeton is a great school. It's the perfect size for an undergraduate body, and the focus on undergraduate education is palpable. The town of Princeton is nice, although certainly not one of the main focuses of the school. The eating clubs are a huge part of the undergraduate experience as most students will join one their junior and senior years.

Shelby

I think the best thing about Princeton is its diversity of personalities. I've never met so many interesting people with such unique interests. Almost everyone I met is passionate about a unique issue. Some people were really interested in politics and would spend some of their breaks campaigning for candidates. Other students were really interested in community service and started their own community serviced projects through the Student Volunteers Council. When I look back at Princeton now, I realize I learned a lot just through the all the different types of people I met.

Paige

Princeton's a great school with too many opportunities for its students. The school is relatively small, which allows the students to feel like they know many members in their class. I'd say the best thing about Princeton is the opportunity to meet so many different groups and types of people, and the opportunity to partake in activities ranging from special guest speakers to cultural events. Princeton isn't really a "college town", but it's nice to walk off campus into the "town" of Princeton for a change of pace. In my opinion, there is a lot of school pride, both on and off campus.

Mary

Princeton is great because it is small, and there is a small grad student population. that means that the great professors (who at princeton often are very well known and well published) pay attention to you, and lead their own precepts, etc. ALso, alumni connections are great, and help out for getting jobs and internships and in general they enable lots of things to be freer than they would be. we have free laundry, good food, beautiful campus, tons of activities. it is a college town, but the town is very clean, and fun. the administration does a pretty good job on most things, and definitely needs to work on other things. THere are lots of controversies on campus and mostly they get fought out via the princetonian, the daily princeton newspaper. there is tons of school pride.

Alexis

-Strong emphasis on academics, while simultaneously encouraging students to have a well-balanced college experience (taking classes outside of their concentration, getting involved in various extracurriculars on campus, attending different cultural events, etc.) -A TON of school pride. Every May, ALL the alumni come back for Reunions... 3 solid days of festivities.

Lindsay

Like any outstanding organization, Princeton's greatest strength is its people. Admission does a fantastic job of composing a talented cohort of diversely gifted students, but the magic really happens once they arrive on campus and spend four years working, learning, and living with one another. It sounds hard to believe, but Princetonians' loyalty to the University and one another rages early and lasts a lifetime. Illuminating examples: - Princeton clothing is always acceptable attire - An overwhelming majority of students would rather stay on campus than go abroad for a semester (perhaps misguidedly...) - Over one hundred alumni from the class of 1964 registered for their 45th reunion 16 months in advance of the celebration The quality of human capital at Princeton doesn't stop with the student body, though. In fact, I would argue the caliber of Princeton faculty and administration is second to none. Each of them, most importantly, is dedicated to the undergraduate experience. And for this institutional focus to resonate at a research university is truly exceptional.

olivia

I was not sure that princeton was the right fit for me until i got here and spent a whole semester giving it a chance. I am now extremely happy. academics are challenging, but extremely rewarding, professors are readily available to help with anything from course work to summer internships and jobs. The social scene is fun and active, but not overwhelming or consuming. The town is boring but in the same way that most other college towns are boring. We all complain about being stuck in the "princeton bubble", but in the end princeton students are spoiled by the opportunity to be part of such an all around incredible college experience.

Daver

Every year approximately one million and thirty-seven Princetonians return to campus for reunions. People frequently go back on 'in-between' years, not waiting for the multiples of five. This is partly because Princeton is awesome, but it's mostly because Princeton knows how to put on a good show. The school is good at talking with the undergrads and trying to impress them. And that's pretty cool.

Jordan

The best thing about Princeton is the people. I would change the negative stereotypes that the media and prospective students tend to hone on instantly. My school size ended up being fine for me, but frankly, as time goes on, you become more accepting of your school's characteristics. People tend to regard Princeton with a mixture of disgust, awe, and impressiveness, the level depending on their own background. I spend most of my time on campus in my room, other people's rooms, the various libraries, and coffee shops. The Princeton administration functions well but does not appropriately seek student input (or give the image of at least trying to more importantly). Being an alum, am unsure of the biggest recent controversy on campus. There is quite a bit of school pride, evidenced by the large gatherings at Reunions. Princeton is unusual in its ability to maintain its strong alumni base.

Vick

I would say the big picture is simply: awesome academics in a tight nit friendly community. The interaction that you have with Princeton's incredible faculty, as well as the opportunities for research with JPs and the thesis really give the Princeton education a special quality. The big picture socially: Don't expect an urban nightlife or the cultural trappings of Nyc. But Princeton can still be a lot of fun, the social scene revolves around the eating club and such revolves around dancing/drinking games/hanging out.

Gene

Best - The rigor of the faculty, and their commitment of time to undergraduates. Not just the famous ones, and not just the ones that are great pedagogues. They're (almost) all first-rate. Worst - People need to take themselves much less seriously. There's no worse a turn-off than a sophomore who, when making introductions, begins to rifle off paragraphs from his/her resume. A lot of the people who come off as the best and brightest of the Princeton crowd have turned out, in my experience, to be smoke and mirrors. That aside, the Princeton administration, though notoriously unjust in disciplinary matters, sluggish in responding to student concerns, and to a lesser degree incompetent, takes very good care of students, if students seek out help with any matter, academic or not.

Devin

Best things: heavily focused on undergraduate studies, looking to expand the arts, prestigious Change: add a few degrees, e.g. journalism; less elitism within eating clubs Good size People are usually taken aback when they hear I went to Princeton, usually impressed too Most time on campus is spent in my room doing work, sleeping, watching tv, etc. Not a huge college town really The admin is decent I suppose, perhaps a little slow and stubborn to react to student suggestions/complaints Grade deflation controversy Lots of school pride Unusual: eating clubs Always remember: community action Student complaints: the gym/fitness center, grade deflation, eating club selectivity