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Goals Regarding Undergraduate On-Campus Social & Residential Life

In its undergraduate admission process, Princeton University looks carefully at two sets of characteristics. One set focuses on academic qualifications and capacities, while the other encompasses extracurricular activities, leadership potential and a broad range of personal qualities. Both sets of characteristics are important because while Princeton is first and foremost an academic institution, it also cares deeply about developing each student's non-academic interests and talents and preparing students to live healthy, productive and meaningful lives that include opportunities for leadership and service to others.

Residential Life

Because of the importance it attaches to the residential experience, Princeton requires all freshmen and sophomores to live on campus in one of the six residential colleges, and it provides housing for all juniors and seniors who wish to live on campus, as almost all do. One of the core goals of the University's recent campus planning project was the preservation of "walkability" as a defining feature of the Princeton campus, in part to sustain its strongly residential character, which in turn sustains a strong sense of family among Princeton students, and later in life among Princeton alumni. One student said on our website: "I think Princeton should keep itself a compact, walkable campus; proximity creates a lot of social opportunities."

The introduction of the residential college system, and its recent expansion to include four-year colleges, was intended to provide all freshmen and sophomores, along with interested juniors and seniors, not only with housing and dining, but with guidance and resources to help them take the fullest advantage of all that Princeton has to offer. Juniors and seniors outside of the colleges are provided with an array of choices that let them shape their upperclass residential experiences.

Through all four years Princeton provides a diverse array of extracurricular activities and organizations, athletic teams, opportunities to engage in cultural and artistic expression and the spiritual dimensions of life, opportunities to get to know and socialize with students from a broad range of backgrounds and interests, and opportunities to practice the skills of citizenship and service to others.

  • The residential experience is intended both to create a strong sense of community, collaboration and mutual respect, and to support individual initiative and personal growth. As one student said: "The University should be focused on helping students reach their full potential and really figure out what they love."
  • It aims to help students develop such core values as honesty, integrity and fairness, and to encourage creativity, curiosity, collegiality, resourcefulness, a capacity for leadership and a sense of responsibility for their own well-being and the well-being of others.

Social Life

Social interactions allow students to learn from and about each other; develop important life skills; and enhance their health and well-being. In providing students with opportunities for social life, the University's goals include the following:

  • Help students develop as intellectual and social beings who have the skills necessary to build a sense of community and shared experience and to live a balanced life; this requires an ability to play as well as an ability to work.
  • Help students develop a sense of connectedness with each other and with the larger community in which they live; connectedness can lead to positive health outcomes and help create a constructive and optimistic outlook on life. As one student said: "I think the University's overall goal should be to create a caring, loving campus community."
  • Encourage students to get to know other students from backgrounds unlike their own and experience new perspectives in a safe space and in a context of shared values and aspirations. As one student said: "It is possible to celebrate diversity while also fostering unity."
  • Help students see the world through the eyes of others and develop the empathy that is necessary to be able to understand their needs and motivations. If students are going to make significant contributions as citizens and community leaders, they will need to be able to demonstrate this empathy, work collaboratively with others, and communicate effectively outside of work settings.
  • Provide an outlet from the pressure of academic life; part of life is making time to be refreshed and have fun. As one student said: "Princeton is such a stressful environment — many students focus so heavily on academics that it's hard to make time for fun."
  • Foster friendships and support systems. As one student said: "There is inherent value in sharing the presence of another person." Another said: "Sometimes it feels like we are just here to take advantage of Princeton instead of to enjoy living and interacting with each other."

From the Website

Several students and alumni captured these goals well in the suggestions they made through our website. We would like to conclude this section of our report with their thoughts:

  • "The University should provide a safe, comfortable and beautiful environment which encourages healthy lifestyles (such as walking and biking), conversation (such as easy meal exchange between on-campus choices and the Street), informal gatherings and student-driven activities (lots of performance spaces, practice rooms, etc.). Outside areas to play, relax and study are important too."
  • "I think the goals for social and residential life should be about creating opportunities for meaningful interaction, to prepare students for life beyond the University, and also to provide a social network that ensures that they have support and guidance and the strength of community. I also think that there must be an expectation of responsible, thoughtful, engaged participation for all campus community members in the social life of the campus."
  • "I think the University's overall goals should be continuing to emphasize diversity and promoting a heterogeneous experience for students, as opposed to one dominant experience that students can feel left out of."
  • "Please, please, please find some way to soften this notion of 'work hard, party hard' where students seem to engage in risky behaviors in order to counterbalance their intense studies. Swinging between extremes is simply not healthy, mentally or physically."