As high school students weigh Princeton's offer of admission to the Class of 2019, a group of undergraduate bloggers for the Office of Admission has been reflecting on why they decided to come to Princeton.
The reasons are varied. They range from Princeton's focus on undergraduates and the opportunities it offers for undergraduate research, to its very generous financial aid package and the quality of its academics.
But not all the decisions were based on such weighty considerations. For some it was the quality of ice cream and mac-and-cheese sold by local merchants. For others, it was New Jersey's weather, believe it or not, which was judged not so bad compared with Chicago.
Read in their own words why they chose Princeton. To follow their ruminations on other topics, visit the Office of Admission blog "Speaking of Princeton."
Cricket Gullickson, Class of 2015
On the day that acceptances came out, I had no idea I wanted to go to Princeton. I had been accepted early at another Ivy, and thought that I would be going there. I had become so used to the idea that I had even started to get college gear from that school as gifts from family members. In early April, I learned that I had been accepted to Princeton and another great school as well. Ultimately, it came down to Princeton and the other Ivy because Princeton offered me a financial aid package that was just as generous as the Questbridge Scholarship I had been offered at the other Ivy.
I liked Princeton for its emphasis on independent work, but there were compelling reasons to consider the other Ivy, too. I was stuck; I couldn't make a decision, and the advice I heard again and again was to see how I felt when I stepped on campus. "You'll know," advisers and friends told me. "It'll just feel right."
Both Princeton and the other Ivy generously helped to cover the cost of a visit, and I was able to see both campuses, and while I was skeptical of the advice it turned out to be true for me — Princeton felt right. Certainly it's hard to judge a school from a two-day visit, but I felt a stronger sense of community at Princeton. Coming from a small town and close-knit boarding school community, this was important to me. Ultimately, I felt that Princeton's focus on undergraduates would allow more opportunities to learn from faculty and participate in meaningful research.
Wendy Li, Class of 2015
Over the past four years, I've studied everything from molecular biology to performance art. Although I didn't know where my four years at Princeton would take me, I knew that by choosing Princeton I would be able to explore so many new worlds and have so many resources at my fingertips. By picking Princeton, I chose an adventure that would take me to Paris, rural China, Trinidad and Washington, D.C.
I've thought about careers in law, diplomacy, business and art. Princeton made all of these explorations not only possible but attainable, providing the resources for me to ultimately make own decisions and control my own destiny.
Libby Tolman, Class of 2015
My acceptance to Princeton came with an incredible financial aid package. It was many, many thousands of dollars better than all but one of the other schools that accepted me, so by the time Preview came around I was only considering Princeton and that other school.
I still remember the moment that made that final decision crystal clear. I was sitting in the beautiful Richardson Auditorium for a forum with faculty, and one of the professors said something like: "We love working with undergraduates on research. In fact, sometimes we give undergraduates the strangest and most challenging problems, the ones we aren't certain we can solve." He said that with such enthusiasm that I knew Princeton was an incredible place and the place for me. Four years later, I still agree.
Lauren Frost, Class of 2016
To be honest, I picked Princeton for a bunch of boring reasons. I liked the size, the location, the academics and the architecture. I wish I could say I chose Princeton because of the fantastic creative writing department, the active and ever-expanding comedy scene, the beautiful collection in the art museum, Wawa's life-changing mac-and-cheese, and the times I've showed up at a friend's door at 2 a.m. in pajamas just to talk. (Translation for the uninitiated: Wawa is a convenience store within walking distance of the dorms that sells macaroni-and-cheese dishes.) Those are the things that have defined my Princeton experience and convinced me that I made the right decision. I guess the first reasons are why I came, but the second reasons are why I stayed.
Thomas Garcia, Class of 2016
I picked Princeton because of its rigor and diversity. I wanted to enter an intellectual world that would enhance the way I understood literature and writing. I also yearned to meet students from different backgrounds to broaden my worldview.
Tomi Johnson, Class of 2016
I knew I wanted to come to Princeton even before the start of high school. I was committed to it … until, at some point during the dreary Chicago winter of my senior year, I decided what I needed most was to be somewhere "warm."
Not long after receiving my acceptance letter, my dad and I flew here for a one-day campus visit on a Monday afternoon in mid-April. I don't know if it was the surprise of landing in near 80-degree weather, compared with Chicago's mid-40s weather, or my dad's constant commentary. "On sunny days, you can study on this lawn." Or, "When we come to visit you, we can have lunch here." But as we toured the campus, I could really see myself at Princeton. I loved the walkability of the campus and the intimate, suburban feel. It was also more beautiful in person than what could be conveyed in photos.
The biggest selling point, though, was probably the Woodrow Wilson School. For anyone hoping to study policy, it's unparalleled. Ultimately, Princeton just felt like the right fit, and I'm confident I made the best choice for me.
Aliisa Lee, Class of 2016
If I was on the fence about school choice, Princeton's campus gracefully shoved me off. Visit in April, when the green earth ushers you through a fairy-tale campus, and you'll know what I mean. But my choice was not purely superficial. It also had to do with ice cream! And academics!
I knew if I pursued both English and visual arts at university, I would really thrive. Guess which school had incredibly strong programs allowing me to do both? Princeton. Finally, I was drawn by the vibrant Christian ministries on campus. While I was touring pre-enrollment, my Orange Key tour guide spoke really joyfully about how he had matured in his faith while at Princeton, largely because of the strong and fun Christian fellowships. So I knew Princeton had faith, academics, beauty, legendary ice cream shops, all in conjunction with generous financial aid. The rest is blogger history.
Avaneesh Narla, Class of 2016
I picked Princeton because of the incredible amount of resources available in the sciences for research, and because of its heavy focus on undergraduates. It seemed unbelievable to find a major research university where the undergraduates participate in research. I have been proven right so far, as I have received numerous incredible opportunities for research, including working at CERN (l'Organisation européenne pour la recherche nucléaire), the European Organization for Nuclear Research, near Geneva.
Rachel Newman, Class of 2016
I first thought of Princeton when two alumni from my high school headed here after my freshman year. They had been seniors when I was a freshman; they had participated in the theater group as I had and through that had become sort of older siblings to me. I recall coming to visit during my senior year of high school, hoping to be as happy on campus as they were. I found that I was, but for reasons different from what I had expected.
I had heard that the Jewish community was on the smaller side, growing steadily, and this was my only reservation coming in to my visit. But I found the community to be tight knit like a family and wonderful because of its size, and since I have been here I have seen it grow. As the Jewish community has expanded, it has maintained what I like to call a small feel — that is to say we have doubled in size, but people still feel like the community is directly dependent on their involvement, as is the case when you're little. I am excited to say that here I have found the best of two worlds.
Brandon Scott, Class of 2016
Three choices — two were dark shades of red and one orange and black. I sat on my bed four years ago (four years already?) and wondered what colors would I don for a while. Each place seemed good, each seemed like a place where I wanted to be. But it was only one place at that time that offered the chance to venture out on a supported gap year. So after nine months out in Ghana on what we call Bridge Year, I came back in to Princeton. The choice has been without regret.
Makenna May, Class of 2017
I picked Princeton because of its undergraduate focus, its multitude of international opportunities and its unparalleled financial aid. I knew that studying at Princeton, where the support and opportunities are tailored to undergraduates, would be the most empowering learning environment. After exploring the host of international experiences made available to students, I also knew this was the place where my personal desire to study and intern abroad would be satisfied.
Additionally, it was crucial for me that Princeton's generous financial aid would allow me to focus on my studies and personal growth without having to worry about my family's financial situation. The University has more than exceeded my expectations on all fronts!
Kevin Wong, Class of 2017
I picked Princeton because it offered a small-time feel, but big-time resources. Coming from an international school with only 160 people, I wanted a college that wasn't overwhelmingly large. Princeton, with its undergraduate focus, close-knit student body, and relatively small population, fit the bill. As I walk around campus, I invariably run into a large number of people I know; it is this very sense of familiarity that makes this place feel like home.
At the same time, though, I wanted the opportunities afforded by a larger school. Fortunately, Princeton is exceedingly generous with its vast resources — funded internships, trips abroad and close faculty attention are hallmarks of the education you'll receive here. I was also attracted by names I recognized; as a philosophy major, I had previously read the work of both Peter Singer and Alexander Nehamas before getting here. Two years later, I've taken classes with both of them.
In short, Princeton offers in some sense the best of both worlds — the intimacy of a small liberal arts college, yet the reputation and benefits of an institution much larger.