Should I Go To Princeton University?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Sanjiv is a graduate of Princeton University with a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering. He is an Austin tutor specializing in SAT prep tutoring, Calculus tutoring, Geometry tutoring, and more. Check out his review of his alma mater:


VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Sanjiv: Princeton is located in the quaint little town of Princeton, NJ. The campus itself is beautiful, with trees lining the sidewalks and gothic architecture overlooking everything. The campus is very safe, and Public Safety can always be seen patrolling the campus spaces. There are very convenient bus lines to take you to nearby malls, and most restaurants are right at the edge of campus, so I knew very few students who had cars or needed one. We have a train station right at the end of campus as well, to travel 90 minutes to NYC.

VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Sanjiv: Professors and advisors are very available, as the student-teacher ratio is very small. There are usually about 6,000 undergrads at Princeton each year, and class sizes are usually small, around 20-30 students, so you get a lot of attention even before going to office hours. Anytime you want to meet with a professor or TA, they are more than happy to meet with you, and you will often learn as much from an office hour session than the class session itself!

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Sanjiv: It is actually mandatory for students to live on campus for all four years, so you don’t need to think too much about housing options! This enables students at Princeton to really get to know each other in their undergrad years. Housing is divided into five to six different “colleges” (Butler, Forbes, Rocky, etc.), in the same way that Harry Potter’s Hogwarts is divided into several schools of witchcraft! Each college has its own set of dorms and dining halls, each with its own personality and points of pride. The dorms themselves are very clean and top-notch, and dining options are often tasty. This kind of dorm life is amazing, and your freshman year, you will be absolutely certain to make tons of friends in your dorms. 

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

Sanjiv: Princeton is often categorized as a liberal arts school, so it’s no surprise that its top majors include English, History, and Biology. However, Princeton is very much an undergraduate institution, and does not have many graduate programs; for this reason, you can be absolutely certain that every department is top-notch (for example, the Physics and Math departments are world-famous). I studied Electrical Engineering, because of my interest in robotics. The Electrical Engineering department is great, and is top-10 in the country. Like many departments, it is small (less than 100 students per year), so I was able to get a lot of attention, and have my pick of thesis topics in my senior year.

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Sanjiv: As a freshman, it is extremely easy to make friends, partly because of the mandatory on-campus housing rule. Everyone is friendly and you soon figure out that the admissions office has brought together people of entirely different and amazing backgrounds, so everyone wants to find out each other’s story! I highly recommend becoming involved in clubs/organizations/sports as a freshman because you will meet many awesome friends for those four years. There is not much Greek life on campus because fraternities/sororities are not recognized by the university; in place of that are institutions called “eating clubs,” which are not technically Greek, but serve the same functions (hosting parties, charity events, etc.).

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Sanjiv: The Career Center is helpful in your junior and senior years for preparing for internships and job interviews.  However, I would highly recommend the following instead: find an upperclassman or professor who is studying/working in the field you want to work in, and ask their advice on how to get where they are. The Career Center can you give you general advice, but a person in your field of study can give you specific advice on how to pursue that career. Very reputable companies come to recruit on campus in the fall and spring, especially to recruit for internships. It’s not uncommon to be recruited for internships as early as your freshman year. Examples include Google, D.E. Shaw, investment banks, etc.

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Sanjiv: The study areas are almost always easily available and spacious. Right before exams, many students will be spending the night at certain study lounges in the student union, so it’s not advisable to wait until the night before to stake out a space! The dorm lounges are a great place to study, as some serve food even late into the night. 

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus? 

Sanjiv: The surrounding town of Princeton, NJ itself has many restaurants and clothing shops (J. Crew etc.), but as far as theatres or nightclubs, there are very few. The Princeton social life exists 1) on campus, and 2) in New York City. While there are always lots of fun events to attend on campus, many times, students will head to NYC for the weekend. In your freshman year, the dorms will sponsor group trips and very discounted tickets to see plays on Broadway.

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Sanjiv: The student body is quite small, about 6,000 undergraduates, and perhaps a few thousand graduate students. Class sizes were always relatively small, about 20-30 per class, so I could always get help and get my questions answered when needed. One important thing to consider, however, is that because the student body is so small, it can take some time to find your social niche. So, in one respect, bigger schools have that advantage over Princeton.

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Sanjiv: Once, in a math class, during a lecture on “game theory,” the professor mentioned the contributions of John Nash, the protagonist of the film, A Beautiful Mind. A few hours after the class was over, my friend and I were standing in the elevator when Professor John Nash himself walked in. We froze, as we wanted to ask him something, but didn’t know what to ask him that would be worth his time. He seemed very engrossed in a paper he was reading, so we didn’t ask for his autograph. There will be many times when you don’t know whether to treat someone like a professor or a celebrity!

Check out Sanjiv’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.