Princeton University Top Questions

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


From the start, one of the best things you can do is try to be as familiar as possible with schools before you apply, and only apply to schools you'd realistically want to attend. Once you're accepted, visit the schools if you can, and take advantage of all the orientation programs and information available to incoming freshman, it really helps a lot. Once you've picked a college, be enthusiastic! If your school has some kind of pre-orientation trip or event for freshman, go on it. It'll help you get comfortable before the year starts. If you know ahead of time who your rommates will be, get in touch with them over the summer. Once you're moved in, an upbeat attitude and a phone call to Mom can be the key to avoiding homesickness. And then, dive in! Take classes that sound interesting to you. Get involved in extracurriculars-- keep up with something you enjoyed doing in high school, but try something new too. Most of all, find people you enjoy spending time with and a subject you enjoy studying, and you'll make your college fit you, not the other way around.


There is, sadly enough, a great deal of luck involved in finding the "right college." You can tour all the schools you want, talk to professors, students and alumni, but in the end, it's a completely personal decision. However cliche it may sound, often enough you do get a special feeling when you find "the one." The school will feel like home, like there's nowhere else you ought to be. Above all, my advice to someone looking for the right college is to trust your instincts, regardless of school's prestige or reputation. Remember that reputation is simply what other people think about the school, and not necessarily what you will think. That being said, the college-finding process need not be a stressful one. In all likelihood, you'll be quite happy wherever you end up; the students at nearly every school will be motivated, unique, and fun, and you will most certainly be able to find classes that interest you. Remember that once you're there, the hard part is over-now all you have to do is find classes, friends and activities to do that are exciting and challenging. That's where the fun begins!


The best way to find the right college is to go with your gut feeling. Visit the school, get to know the kids, and if you don't feel comfortable, even if you don't know why, then I wouldn't consider that school. You will know the feeling when it comes, but it should be "love-at-first-sight". When I visited Princeton, it was pouring and cold. That can really ruin your outlook on a school, but I still fell in love. Every part of campus was screaming my name, and I knew it was a perfect match. In addition, it is always a great idea to go to the information sessions. They clarify a lot about the college: you can see how the school is organized and what resources are available. Also, make sure you are proud saying that you go to that college. It shouldn't be something of which you are ashamed. College will be the best time of your life. I didn't believe that before I came to Princeton, so take it from someone who had been clearly mistaken. Get out, try everything, you won't be able to once you've graduated.


Be sure you are choosing a school for the right reasons. Don't choose a school because of it's name or because of ideas you have about it. Visit the school, learn about the good AND the negative aspects of it. No school is ideal but you should be able to find one that optimally suits you. Also, don't be too pressured by others. That is not to say that you shouldn't consider the opinions of others when deciding on a school but ultimately it is you who will have to learn there for the next four years so make sure it is a place where you can thrive. "Above all, be true to yourself" --Hardy D. Jackson


During the search for the perfect college campus, I remember being bombarded left and right with advice from people whose opinion I trusted. Amidst the vocal chorus of suggestions, the most resounding piece of advice was, ?Make sure the college is the right fit for you.? But what does it mean for a college to be the right fit? For me, I realized I wanted a college in which I would be most able to achieve my goals, mainly entrance into medical school. But every student is different, that is why the most important task in finding the right college is for the student to reflect about him or herself. Make a prioritized list of your ambitions, goals and values, and then envision yourself at each university to determine at which college you will fulfill the most items on your list; because at the end of the day it doesn?t matter which university?s labs are better if you are not interested in research. Understanding your own desires will allow you to choose a college in which you will be able to grow and develop the most, and ultimately a college that will be the right fit for you.


College can be an amazing experience. I am a firm believer that if you follow your heart, wherever it may lead you, whether it be your state school, a small private college, or something completely outside of the norm, you will be happier and more likely to take advantage of what your school has to offer. Do not get too caught up in the 'name' of the college and how it makes you look to others. Your college decision is completely yours. I believe that anyone can exceed at any college if you put effort into it. It all depends on how you as a student invest your time in your studies, whether you get to know your professors and other college faculty, your ability to utilize the hundreds of resources available to you through different venues, and your efforts to become involved in social activities that will provide you with friendship and support. In the course of only four years, you can accumulate so many memorable experiences by doing what you love, putting your whole heart into all that you do, and creating the networks that will carry you far in to the future. Good Luck to you!


Students should pick a school because they feel it is the right match. Parents should be productive in helping the student through the application process, but ultimately the choice should boil down to the student's desires. There is so much to consider that it feels overwhelming, and many schools may seem like good fits. My advise is to go to the campus, talk to the people there, attend a class or two in your interest area, and get a general vibe. Your insticts will most likely lead you in the right direction, and your scholarly years will be thoroughly enriching


College is first and foremost a time for self discovery. Your experience will be not be defined by the name on your diploma or a GPA, but rather by how much insight you gain into yourself. Never be afraid to search for and purse your passions, even if they seem trivial or frivolous or unrelated to your primary studies or goals. It may be difficult, but keep yourself out of the daily rut. Always be open to trying new things and taking on new challenges and responsibilities. Because the worst feeling in the world is to be standing in that cap and gown receiving your diploma, and being flooded by regret for the things you didn't do, for the challenges you backed away from and the experiences you missed out on. Any multitude of schools can provide opportunity for exploration and self discovery. Ultimately the duty falls on you to take control of your education, to seize the opportunities your school offers, to push yourself constantly to reach and surpass your limits and limitations. With that attitude, every college is "right" and you will succeed in your passions no matter where they lie.


Send your kids to the best school academically, even if they don't like it socially.


Spend the time exploring who you are and what you want . Don't rush yourself to get on a specific "path". I would also highly recommend that incoming college freshman take a "gap" year before college.


The number one thing I would recommend to prospective students and parents is to visit the schools where you are thinking of spending the next four years of your life. Searching for the college can be a stressful process, but visiting schools and talking to students can help you more than any internet search. It doesn't matter how good a school looks on paper if you are going to be miserable there and don't feel like you fit in. As for making the most of your college experience, please take academics seriously. Remember, this is probably the reason your parents are sending you to school and paying money for you to go. Sports, music, and extracurriculars are important and provide a great opportunity to interact with fellow students, but academics should be your primary focus. Work hard and remember that professors (at least good ones) are always there to help you. Now, I am not saying to study 24/7 and never have any free time for friends. One of the most important things you'll learn in college is how to balance things and prioritize. Just remember that academics should be at the top of that list.


Flash forward to that inevitable car ride--the car ride mom has been dreading: your parents are pulling out of your new dorm's parking lot. Their arms are tired from hauling boxes up four flights of stairs. Their eyes are wet and their shoulders are slouched. Mom looks over at Dad, her head tilting and brow squinching--how does she feel? Does she feel safe leaving you, her baby, in this new, strange place? Does she have faith that this college is the right fit? And what about you, that son or daughter-- are you anxious? Excited to investigate extracurriculars, make new friends? Some fall day, the college search will be distant memory. Thinking about this moment-- when student is left alone and parent drives into the distance-- is a good way to better understand what the college search is all about: choosing a place to live, a place to learn, a place to be. Choose a college where both mom, dad, and student will be excited on move-in day, then live each day with that same excitement, making the most of your college experience by reminding yourself why you chose your college in the first place.


Do not let money affect your decision more than it needs too. Do not miss out on a great education because you think you can't afford it. Find the school you want to go to and do all you can to enter it. Seek advice from current college students and ask them about the application process.


Not everyone gets that "This is the place for me" feeling when they step onto a campus. Look at the people around you, think about whether you want to spend 4 years with these people. If there's doubt in your mind about your decision, you should probably reevaluate why you picked a school.


The most important thing to do when choosing the right college is to visit the campus. There are cases where geography makes this inconvenient, but this college will be your home for four (or so) years, and your happiness will largely be influenced by your life on campus outside of classes. See the school, get a feel for who the students are, what they do with their time, and what they're satisfied or dissatisfied about. Once you get to college, take some time to think about what you want to learn, both in your major and outside. People tell freshmen they have plenty of time to make decisions, but it goes by so fast that you should be thinking ahead. Also, make sure you make the most of the student groups on campus. You will likely never be in another community with so many interesting people your age who are likely to share so much in common with you as you are in college. Join a singing group, a dance group, intramural sports, debate team--whatever piques your interest. Make lots of friends to help you through your academic trials as well as to make lots of memories. Enjoy!


Go where you'll have the most fun.


Finding the right college isn't necessarily about academics, because you will change your mind on your major as you go along. The three most important things are housing, financial aid, and social life. As for making the best of your college experience, the best advice I can give is this: don't worry about what everyone else is doing. Worry about what YOU are doing. Everything else will fall into place.


I applied to twenty-five colleges. That meant twenty- five applications, twenty- five potential alma maters, and twenty-five potential rejections. Through my rather extreme experience, I want to assure you that you can make your own "dream school." Finding the "right" school can be a challenge. My advice is to look at college brochures, visit your top choices if you can, but do not be scared if you cannot seem to find your "perfect" school. Every institution has its virtues and flaws, and no single university is perfect, even if it may appear to be. Each college offers a distinct set of opportunities and challenges, and I feel that you create your own college experience. Take me for example. I had over twenty choices by the final stage of my process. How did I make my decision? I have a younger sister, and I knew that I needed to think about her education as well. Princeton University offered me a great financial aid package. So, I accepted, and I am so glad that I did. I have used the opportunities here to create my own "dream school." The truth is that you control the quality of your education.


The right college is the one which has the most opportunites and support structure for intellectual and artistic development. Look up the scholarship record of the professors, the size and specialization of the library and the guest speakers it tends to attract. The most important rule, though, is to be absolutely realistic about what college can do for you. If it means accumulating exorbitant amounts of debt, it's not worth it. College does not guarantee a higher paying job. Keep other options open. But if college is for you, don't let yourself be taken in by glitzy brochures. You choose the college; it does not choose you. Use the time wisely. This is not the time to laze around all day and party all night. It's the time to invest in your future.


Do not decide to attend a school just because it is well known or thought to be a "good" school. Consider what is best for you and follow that path.


There are many great colleges outside of the Ivy League, so there is no need to be caught up by getting into the colleges with the highest ranking. Look beyond grades. Look deeper into the things that truly interest you. Don't be afraid to experiment with different projects. If you want to initiate something, just do it. There is no need to wait. Always learn from other people, because EVERYONE has something worth learning. Feel extremely lucky to be able to learn, because not everyone has the privilege to do so. Lastly, have a good heart, because it is the most important element that will get you anywhere you want to go not your GPA.


While rankings are important indicators of the seriousness of academics and the quality of professors, within a certain range they tell you very little. Visit a school, and make sure you are comfortable with the social scene (i.e. talk to students and do what they do). It is important that you are comfortable with the people around you to get anything out of your education. Find a school that is strong in what you want to study. Overall, be happy, but don't be compacent.


Many students just "want to get away" from home, and are ready to go across the country "to be free." Most of my college friends who initially had that mindset have come to realize that one can be free and independent without having to go away very far. No matter the location, every college experience will allow students to learn independence - the students simply need to be driven to make it happen. College is what one makes it, and I have chosen to make the most of it by finding the perfect balance of academic, social, and extracurricular activities. Everyone should go to college to be challenged - academically and personally. Students should not fear a rigorous academic environment - they should feel stimulated by their classes and other activities. I believe that other members of the University are the determinants of one's experience. If one cannot connect with his classmates and professors, then perhaps that is not the right place for him. I have loved my two years in college because of the people I have met and because of the many ways they have positively influenced my life.


With all of the emphasis placed on attending the most prestegious college or university possible, it's important to remember not to chose a school only based on it's standing in newspapers and magazines. If, as a student, you visit a university and it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't the right choice. You will be spending some of the most fomative years of your young adult life at the school of your chosing, and while it's an option to transfer, it's best for developing a strong eductation and a stable social life to remain at the same university for the full term of your college education. When you tour a campus, see if you can attend a lecture, notice the bulletin boards scattered around campus, hang out at night to see the social scene, and try to get a feel for the town in which the college is situated. All of these things, while they might not be obvious from rankings in magazines, will necessarily play a large part in determining whether the personality of the school matches your personality. Do the necessary research, but don't be afraid to trust your gut instinct.


Don't underestimate financial aid at Ivy League schools. It is a common misnomer that they're too expensive--if you get accepted, the universities will make it affordable for your family.


Don't worry about what your friends are going to think or get into a competition about rankings of school. Find the place where you think you'll have a good time and still get work done.


Look for financial aid!!!


Visit the campus, speak to current students, and, if you're torn or uncertain, go with your gut. Omce there, attend as many events and classes as you can, because you'll regret it if you don't.


Let the kids do the research!


Most people I know went to the most academically rigorous school they got into, because it was the "best" school. If you're sure that that's what you want, go for it - but know that it means you're really going to have to work hard if you want to do well, because everyone else is going to be just as qualified as you are. Also: VISIT your schools. Go where you feel happy. Don't agonize about it, because, after all, isn't that what everyone wants - to be happy? If you're happy, you'll be more successful, make more friends, and get more out of your experience. Don't worry about what anyone else is going to say about your school.


The first step to selecting the right college is to first ask yourself what you want out of your experience: from abundant research opportunities to making life-long friends, these primary guidelines in the selection process enable you to identify the college that best suits your interests and needs. The second step is get a taste of the said college of interest, not by necessarily looking up a biography or profile on a website but rather by visiting the college or talking to a current student. This more personal interaction in the college selection process truly benefits you as it will mirror what you would experience if you selected that institute of higher education. In order to make the most of your time while in college, always remember that it is a period for exploration and fun: work hard, follow your interests, and don?t be afraid to make mistakes. The feeling of independence upon entering college will shape and guide you along your journey, and living every day in fear will only limit your potential.


Finding the right college is like finding a lover: Yes, there are hundreds of fish in the sea. But is there only one "perfect" match? Or are there many potential matches? When I was applying to colleges, I was trying to decide between Princeton, Stanford, and USC. I chose Princeton in the end, but was that really so much better than Stanford? Or Georgetown? Or USC? They all have their own personalities, their own pros and cons, but in the end I chose Princeton because I thought it would provide me with a new life experience: the opprotunity to live on a new coast, see another side of the country, immerse myself in a different culture. I could have easily been happy at any of the others, and successful as well. This is how you must look at college: there is no "perfect" college. You define your own college experience. At first--especially if you go away to school--it can be hard to realize that you will find your place, your niche. There is a place for you at the school you choose, and there are people who you will connect with.


College is a very important part of one's life and truly is a time of personal growth. With that being said, from personal experience, I believe picking a school where you're most comfortable and feel at home is one of the most important deciding factors. Visiting a prospective school, interacting with current students, or even sitting in on a lecture are all great ways to discover how comfortable you feel. Although it is tempting to pick a school based on academic or athletic prestige, picking a school solely on these aspects is a bad idea for more than one reason. After all, I truly believe that not only should the prospective student pick the school based on the level of comfort the feel from the campus and surroundings but more importantly from the sense of a special feeling that ignites for the first time when you step on campus, feel as though you belong, and as though they too have something to give back to the school and community from their upcoming college experience!


The most important thing to keep in mind is that wherever you end up, your happiness or misery is up to you. College is what you make of it. A bright student can excel academically as much at a state school as at an ivy league university, and an outgoing person can find a great group of friends at a large or small college. With that in mind, find places that match your personality and interests. The most fun part of the process is when you get excited about a college that really turns you on. At the same time, you need to stay detached enough not to become too invested in any one school before being accepted -- the environment is simply too competitive, and it's devastating to find yourself rejected by a "dream school". The best approach is to find several schools at which you could see yourself and apply to them all. It's natural to have a favorite, but managing expectations to suit the difficult reality of the process will keep you sane while your friends ride the emotional roller coaster. Do your research, and relax -- you're about to have the time of your life.


Everyone finds their niche and the right school. You'll end up where you're supposed to be. Don't stress it. As for college itself, embrace every opportunity. All the time.


Marissa talks about other schools she applied to (besides Princeton). She also gives advice to high-school students.


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.