What’s Distinctive About Princeton
Princeton’s 5,100 undergraduate students benefit from studying in one of the world’s foremost research institutions, where faculty devote much of their time and energy to teaching and advising undergraduates. Chartered in 1746, Princeton is the fourth oldest college in the nation. It is located in a cosmopolitan town (population 30,000) in central New Jersey, with easy access by train to Philadelphia and New York City, each about 55 miles away. Visitors often remark upon the natural and architectural beauty of the 500-acre campus.
Princeton University is a community of learning that is enriched by the wide variety of experiences and perspectives of its students, faculty and staff. The University is committed to building a diverse campus community to ensure that students explore their interests, discover new academic and extracurricular pursuits, and learn from each other. More than ever, Princeton is making its distinctive education accessible to students from a broad range of cultural, ethnic and economic backgrounds.
Our curriculum encourages students to explore many disciplines and to develop a deep understanding in one area of concentration. In the words of Princeton’s president, Shirley M. Tilghman, at the heart of a Princeton education is the "idea that learning should be an act of discovery."
Students apply to Princeton University, not to individual departments, programs, or schools. Once enrolled, students may pursue either the Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) or the Bachelor of Science in engineering (B.S.E.) degree. Within these degree programs, students can choose from among 34 departments (computer science offers both A.B. and B.S.E. degrees) and 46 interdepartmental certificate programs. A.B. programs also are offered in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the School of Architecture.
During their first two years at Princeton, students in the A.B. degree program are encouraged to explore the curriculum. They are required to complete 1 or 2 courses in each of seven general areas: epistemology and cognition, ethical thought and moral values, historical analysis, literature and the arts, quantitative reasoning, laboratory science and technology, and social analysis. All A.B. students must demonstrate proficiency in English composition through a one-semester writing seminar. They also must become proficient in a foreign language. Princeton offers courses in more than 18 foreign languages. In the spring of their sophomore year, students choose a major to pursue in their junior and senior years.
The B.S.E. degree is granted by the School of Engineering and Applied Science. About 15-20 percent of each class is enrolled in the B.S.E. program. At the end of their freshman year, engineers choose to concentrate in one of the six engineering departments.
In their first two years, students in the engineering program fulfill requirements in mathematics, physics, chemistry and computer science, as well as taking a freshman writing seminar. Engineering at Princeton is taught within the context of a liberal arts approach to education. Engineering students are required to complete at least seven Princeton courses in the humanities and social sciences. Because engineering disciplines evolve and change, much of the teaching of engineering and applied science at Princeton is directed toward mastering fundamental principles: the why and not just the how to.
Whether they are in the A.B. degree program or the B.S.E. program, during the junior and senior years all students conduct independent research in their home department, culminating in the senior thesis, working one-on-one with a faculty mentor. Some students conduct their research in the library or the lab. Others travel to do field research or undertake a creative project such as a novel or a series of paintings.
The freshman seminars and the preceptorial system are two defining components of a Princeton education. Limited to 15 students and led by some of our most distinguished professors, approximately 70 freshman seminars are offered yearly, each hosted in one of our six residential colleges.
Most lecture courses at Princeton include a preceptorial, a small discussion group that meets weekly to further explore the topics from a course’s lectures and readings. In preceptorials, students are encouraged to voice their views and challenge each other to look at issues and ideas from new perspectives.
The student to faculty ratio at Princeton is 6:1. From freshman seminars to senior theses, faculty are deeply engaged in undergraduate teaching, and they are readily available to students outside the classroom for individual conferences and informal conversations.
Princeton guarantees students on-campus housing for all four years and 98 percent of students live on campus. During their first two years, all students live on campus in one of six residential colleges, which offer a variety of academic, social, cultural and recreational programs, as well as academic advising. The colleges are designed to give students what President Tilghman calls “a residential experience that takes the fullest possible advantage of the diversity and educational opportunities at Princeton.”
Committed to equality of opportunity, Princeton admits students without regard to their financial circumstances. This policy applies to both domestic and international applicants. We provide grants and campus jobs to meet the full demonstrated financial need of all students offered admission. Our groundbreaking no-loan financial aid program makes it possible for students to graduate from Princeton with little or no debt.
Sixty percent of Princeton undergraduates receive aid. Careful consideration is given to each family’s financial circumstances as presented in Princeton’s free online aid application. The amounts parents are expected to contribute toward the cost of attendance vary according to their resources. Families with lower incomes are asked to make relatively small contributions, in some cases zero, and receive the largest grants. Middle- and higher-income families will pay more toward Princeton’s costs; however, they still benefit from grants based on their individual level of need. Students also meet a portion of their college expenses through summer and term-time earnings; no student is required to take a loan to pay Princeton’s costs. Individual need-based grants awarded by the University range from $5,000 to more than $50,000. Princeton expects to award grants totaling nearly $110 million to more than 3,100 undergraduates in 2011-12.
Members of Our Community
The University provides its students with academic, extracurricular and other resources—in a residential community committed to diversity in its student body, faculty and staff—that help them achieve at the highest scholarly levels and prepare them for positions of leadership and lives of service in many fields of human endeavor. Through the scholarship and teaching of its faculty, and the many contributions to society of its alumni, Princeton seeks to fulfill its informal motto: “Princeton in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations.”
We invite you to meet some members of the Princeton community in the student, faculty and recent graduate profiles and to learn more about the many features of a Princeton education.