What is it like to Attend Princeton University?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Sarah graduated from Princeton University in 2011 with a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. She currently tutors in Phoenix, specializing in numerous subjects including Calculus tutoring, MCAT prep tutoring, and SAT prep tutoring. See what she had to say about her time at Princeton:

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

Sarah: Princeton is a campus that is very easily navigated. The vast majority of students walk to class, and I would say on average, it took me 5-10 minutes to walk from my dorm to a class. There are some students who ride bikes, but they are mostly Engineers who live in the dorm that is on the opposite side of campus from the Engineering buildings.

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

Sarah: Academic advisors are incredibly helpful. You are assigned a professor who will be your academic advisor (until you declare a major at the end of sophomore year) before freshman year. This professor advises only about 8 students, so there is plenty of one-on-one time. I remember we first met our advisor group at a barbeque the week before classes started. There are also numerous academic advising fairs where you can speak to professors, upperclassmen, and advisors, grouped according to discipline. 

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

Sarah: Dorm life is the reason I chose to go to Princeton. Students live on campus all four years, and the university is divided into 6 residential colleges. Each residential college has a dining hall, intramural sports teams, and various fun events. Each residential college has multiple dorms, and then each dorm is divided into ‘Zee Groups’ which usually have about 24 students. Each Zee group has an RCA (Residential College Advisor) who is an upperclassman who is there for support and facilitating all sorts of social and cultural activities (I was an RCA). I think that some of my best friends from Princeton were people who were in the same dorm as me.

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? 

Sarah: This is varied. I remember there being a lot of Economics and History majors, but I’d say that every department at Princeton is phenomenal. 

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman?

Sarah: Making friends was easy freshman year because of the way we were grouped with others, and all of the activities that were organized for us during Freshman Week. It’s nice having the Residential College system, and not all being thrown into one big pond at once.

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

Sarah: I only ever went to the Health Professions Advising center, which was very helpful. They made sure I was taking all the pre-requisites for medical school, and that I completed all of the steps that I needed for applications. 

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

Sarah: I love and miss the old libraries. Princeton reminded me of a castle, and there were always fun places to explore. I remember there being an old library in the basement of one of the old stone buildings that was incredibly beautiful. There is everything you could want—numerous libraries from ones that have been around for over 100 years, to modern and interactive study spaces. The other thing that was nice was that printing was free and very accessible.

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? 

Sarah: The town of Princeton is absolutely gorgeous. There are many local independent shops and historic sites. Honestly, I chose Princeton because of the university and not because of the surrounding town. There was so much happening on campus that I honestly sometimes forgot that there was a world outside.

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

Sarah: I think the student body was over 5,000. This made it so that you were constantly running into people you knew, but you never knew everyone in your class. This would have been an overwhelming size for me if it hadn’t been broken up into the residential colleges.  

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

Sarah: There are too many to count. I guess one example would be that in high school I absolutely dreaded History. I was upset that I was required to take some type of History class at Princeton for our ‘core distribution requirements.’ I signed up for U.S. History: 1920’s until Present, because I thought that at least I would have a good knowledge of important events.

The professor was Kevin Kruse, and after the first lecture, I was hooked. He lectured in a way that was much more story-telling than lecturing. I was engrossed, and looked forward to going to class. Even the material that he assigned was fascinating.

Another example was the reason I decided to become an Anthropology major. I took a class with Alan Man called Human Adaptation and Evolution. Dr. Man put many of our medical problems as a society today in the context of human evolution. One example is the compromise we made, becoming bipedal and at the same time having larger skull sizes. This made the angle of the femur greater for women for child birth. This greater angle helps explain ACL injuries in women. 

Check out Sarah’s tutoring profile.

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