The Princeton University Preparatory Program (PUPP)

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

View of Princeton University Building

The Princeton University Preparatory Program (PUPP)

The Princeton University Preparatory Program (PUPP) stands as an opportunity for high school students from underserved backgrounds, paving their way to success in higher education and beyond. In this blog, we’ll delve into the essence of PUPP, exploring its mission, admission process, and the comprehensive support it offers to its scholars.

Admission to PUPP

PUPP sets out to address the historical marginalization of students by providing them with the tools, knowledge, and support to achieve their dreams of attending selective colleges and universities. High school freshmen who aspire to become PUPP Scholars must be prepared to embark on a transformative journey.

To be eligible for consideration, they must attend one of PUPP’s partner high schools in Mercer County, NJ, which include Ewing High School, Lawrence High School, Nottingham High School (Hamilton, NJ), Princeton High School, and Trenton Central High School.

The selection process prioritizes students who are trailblazers in their families, aspiring to become the first generation to attend a traditional four-year college. PUPP Scholars also come from families with an annual income of less than $55,000, ensuring that those facing financial barriers have the opportunity to thrive.

A tiger statue, the inspiration behind Princeton official mascot

What Does The PUPP Experience Mean?

Once chosen as PUPP Scholars, students embark on a transformative journey. They participate in a multi-year, tuition-free program designed to nurture both their educational and personal development. PUPP Scholars undertake a comprehensive program that includes:

Summer Institutes: PUPP Scholars attend three intensive six-and-a-half-week summer institutes at Princeton University. These institutes provide immersive academic experiences, broaden their horizons, and foster a sense of belonging on a college campus.

School-Year Programming: During the academic year, PUPP Scholars benefit from weekly after-school academic enrichment sessions. These sessions offer valuable support in various subjects and help students excel in their coursework.

Cultural Excursions: PUPP Scholars have the opportunity to participate in a series of cultural excursions, expanding their cross-cultural awareness and exposing them to diverse experiences.

College Application Support: PUPP continues beyond high school. During the senior year, PUPP provides vital guidance and support for the college admissions and financial aid process. This ensures that each PUPP Scholar is well-prepared to take the next steps in their academic journey.

Beyond Graduation: A Lifelong Commitment to Excellence

PUPP’s commitment to its scholars continues after high school graduation. The program provides continuous support to alumni as they transition to college and throughout their collegiate careers. This unwavering support ensures that PUPP Scholars have the tools and guidance they need to excel in higher education and beyond.

The Princeton University Preparatory Program (PUPP) is a transformative program that empowers students from historically marginalized backgrounds to achieve their dreams of attending selective colleges and universities.

It offers a comprehensive, multi-year experience that goes beyond academics, instilling a sense of belonging, self-assurance, and the belief that excellence is attainable for everyone, regardless of their background.

PUPP Scholars are not just prepared for higher education; they are equipped with the skills, knowledge, and resilience needed to succeed in all their endeavors. PUPP is a testament to the power of education and opportunity in shaping a brighter future for all.

The Princeton University Preparatory Program (PUPP): Mission

The Princeton University Preparatory Program, commonly known as PUPP, is a comprehensive and highly engaged initiative designed to empower students who have historically been marginalized, unlocking their potential and guiding them towards a successful journey through higher education and beyond.

View of the campus of Princeton University, New Jersey, under snow after a winter storm.

A Holistic Approach to Development

PUPP’s mission centers on a holistic approach to college preparation and success. It fosters the development of students by cultivating:

Passion for Learning: PUPP instills in students a deep passion for learning and a firm commitment to academic pursuits. This commitment forms the bedrock of their educational journey.

Individual Perspectives: Through critical and creative thinking, readings, discussions, personal interactions, extra-curricular activities, and life experiences, PUPP encourages students to explore and form their unique perspectives on the world.

Academic Excellence: PUPP Scholars are guided to achieve a breadth and depth of academic excellence in areas including writing, literature, social and natural sciences, mathematics, and cultural arts.

Leadership and Personal Development: PUPP equips students with vital leadership skills, self-esteem, intellectual courage, self-reliance, personal responsibility, and a focus on wellness. These skills enable them to thrive both academically and personally.

Community Responsibility: PUPP places a strong emphasis on personal responsibility within the program and among its constituents and partners, fostering a sense of community and collaboration.

Cross-Cultural Competence: In an increasingly diverse world, PUPP promotes cross-cultural competence and understanding, preparing students to navigate and thrive in a multicultural society.

Creating a Supportive Environment

In the pursuit of its mission, PUPP is unwaveringly committed to providing an environment and program that:

Enhances Individual Talents: PUPP recognizes and celebrates the unique talents, strengths, and interests that each student brings to the program. It believes that diversity is a source of strength.

Maintains Academic Excellence: The program maintains rigorous academic, personal, and social principles to ensure that every student has the opportunity to excel.

Builds Partnerships: PUPP fosters mutually supportive partnerships among its staff, students, and their families. Collaborative efforts are key to the success of the program.

Explores Diverse Experiences: PUPP engages students in a wide range of academic and cultural experiences, broadening their horizons and nurturing a well-rounded perspective.

Collaborates with the Community: PUPP collaborates with partner schools, community agencies, university personnel, and college access networks, recognizing the importance of a collective effort in guiding students towards higher education.

Equips Students and Families: PUPP ensures that students and their families have access to the information, resources, and guidance needed to make the most compatible choices for post-secondary education and beyond.

Overall, the Princeton University Preparatory Program (PUPP) stands as a dedicated, inclusive, and transformative initiative. It offers students who have historically been marginalized the tools, guidance, and support to not only gain admission to selective colleges and universities but also to excel in their academic pursuits and contribute positively to their communities. PUPP’s holistic approach to development and unwavering commitment to its mission makes it a beacon of hope for students aspiring to a brighter future.

students posing for a picture

The Evolution of the Princeton University Preparatory Program (PUPP)

Foundation and Early Years

In the summer of 2000, the genesis of the Princeton University Preparatory Program (PUPP) emerged from discussions between Miguel Centeno, a distinguished Professor of Sociology at Princeton University, and Dr. John Webb, the Director of Princeton’s Program in Teacher Preparation.

Collaborating with university faculty and educators from three Central New Jersey school districts, their shared vision was to establish an intensive program tailored to high school students traditionally underrepresented in selective institutions due to socioeconomic status. The outcome of these deliberations was the birth of PUPP.

With unwavering support from the University and individual donors, PUPP took its first step in 2001, welcoming its inaugural class of rising high school sophomores from three local schools: Ewing High School, Princeton High School, and Trenton Central High School. Dr. Richard Carter assumed the role of PUPP’s first Principal from 2001 to 2004, while Torey Wilson joined the PUPP team in 2002, serving as Assistant Principal and later as Associate Director until 2017.

Together, they embraced the vision of Centeno and Webb, laying the foundation for the program’s early years. They initiated the first few Summer Institutes and crafted academic enrichment sessions in collaboration with graduate students from Princeton University’s English Department.

In 2004, Dr. Jason R. Klugman assumed the role of PUPP Director, further expanding and enriching the program.

Adaptation and Growth

Over the course of its first decade, PUPP continually evolved, making necessary improvements and adaptations to meet the diverse needs of its program participants, who were later coined “PUPP Scholars” following a strategic planning process in 2008.

PUPP Scholars engage in a transformative six-and-a-half-week summer institute on Princeton’s campus for three consecutive summers, commencing the summer after their sophomore year.

Each summer begins with a formal Opening Ceremony at the Princeton University Chapel, where new scholars and their families are welcomed into the community, and returning scholars reaffirm their commitment to their academic and collegiate goals.

Annual leadership and community-building retreats at the Princeton Blairstown Center are integral to helping scholars transition from the school year to the PUPP summer through trust-building activities and physical challenges.

Summer Institute courses encompass various subjects, including art, writing, science, literature, mathematics, and the “college prep track,” focusing on personal development, test preparation, and College Admissions 101.

Additionally, scholars participate in a four-part yoga and mindfulness course each summer and visit local colleges, universities, and cultural institutions in Philadelphia, New York City, and Central New Jersey.

Throughout the school year, PUPP sophomores and juniors actively participate in weekly after-school enrichment sessions, where they hone critical communication skills, such as reading, writing, listening, thinking, and speaking, under the guidance of PUPP Teaching Fellows, many of whom are Princeton graduate students.

PUPP seniors continue their college admissions course during their senior year, focusing on application submissions for admission, scholarships, financial aid, and their transition to undergraduate life. Additionally, juniors and seniors take part in test preparation courses.

Expanding Horizons and Strengthening Networks

PUPP Scholars are exposed to a rich cultural landscape, attending 6-7 theatrical performances annually, which includes local and regional theater productions, Broadway shows, and an annual trip to an Opera Philadelphia performance at the Philadelphia Academy of Music.

Furthermore, juniors and seniors embark on 3-4 day, overnight fall college tours, visiting approximately 30 colleges and universities over the course of their time in the program.

Under the guidance of Dr. Klugman, PUPP’s outreach has extended its reach to students and schools in Mercer County and gained a national reputation as a model college preparation program.

In 2006, with the generous support of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, PUPP hosted a national working forum to address the challenges of preparing low-income youth for success in selective colleges. The resulting conference white paper, “Opening Doors and Paving the Way,” has been distributed to university leaders, admissions professionals, and college preparation experts.

professor teaching in class

A manual for developing programs akin to PUPP, an outgrowth of the forum and a decade of work at Princeton, is now accessible.

After a strategic planning process in 2008, PUPP expanded its reach by adding two more partner schools: Lawrence High School in Lawrence, NJ, and Nottingham High School in Hamilton, NJ.

Furthermore, under Dr. Klugman’s leadership, PUPP introduced a full-time PUPP counselor who provides one-on-one guidance to scholars throughout their high school years and during the summer institutes.

This personalized college counseling extends beyond high school graduation, encompassing a “Transition to College” workshop and extensive support for alumni to ensure a continued basis of guidance and support during their college years. QuinnShauna Felder-Snipes succeeded the first PUPP counselor, Michael Hannon, in 2010.

In 2012, Princeton alumni Rob and Alicia Lovelace provided support for the PUPP Alumni Fellowship, a 30-month entry-level program assistant position aimed at supporting PUPP alumni in their college and post-college journeys, as well as managing various administrative and programmatic tasks.

The first Alumni Fellow, Jackie Hernandez, hailed from the PUPP Class of 2008.

In 2017, PUPP underwent an organizational shift, relocating from the Program in Teacher Preparation to the Office of the Dean of the College at Princeton. This strategic move aimed to align PUPP with broader university initiatives supporting college opportunity and success for first-generation and low-income students.

As part of this reorganization, Quinnshauna Felder-Snipes assumed the role of PUPP’s Assistant Director for College Counseling and Scholar Development, and Anna Cabrera, a graduate of PUPP’s inaugural class of 2004, became the first full-time Program Coordinator.

Princeton University Preparatory Program Components

PUPP, the Princeton University Preparatory Program, is a year-round initiative that offers a diverse range of opportunities and experiences to low-income students. This comprehensive program focuses on enhancing the skills and knowledge of its scholars, fostering personal and academic growth. Here, we explore the key components that shape the PUPP experience:

Year-Round Enrichment

PUPP’s commitment extends throughout the year, ensuring scholars have continuous opportunities for growth. During the school year, scholars participate in weekly enrichment sessions. These sessions hone their collaboration, presentation, listening, and debating skills, which are vital not only for academic success but also for personal development.

students looking out into the university

Summer Institute

The cornerstone of PUPP’s year-round efforts is the transformative Summer Institute, a six-week program that covers a diverse range of courses, including writing, literature, personal development, math, and critical thinking. These courses are carefully designed to nurture a well-rounded academic skill set and a deep sense of personal growth.

1. Science and Math Education

PUPP’s approach to science education is immersive and inquiry-based. Scholars engage in hands-on experiments in Princeton University laboratories, exploring real-life scientific questions and challenges.

They actively apply the scientific method, allowing them to deepen their understanding of scientific concepts and develop essential skills in honest data reporting and scientific writing. Each Summer Institute concludes with a “Research Symposium” where scholars present their findings, fostering their communication skills and scientific literacy.

PUPP’s math curriculum is dynamic and focused on preparing students for the demands of college-level mathematics and life beyond high school. Scholars collaborate in groups to solve complex problems, engage in enrichment projects, hold mathematical discussions, and deliver oral presentations. This approach not only enhances their mathematical proficiency but also nurtures crucial communication and teamwork skills.

2. Writing and Literature

PUPP places a strong emphasis on writing skills. Scholars undergo a rigorous writing curriculum during the Summer Institute, focusing on the mechanics of good writing. This involves the development of persuasive and analytical essays based on evidence.

In their final summer as rising seniors, the program shifts its focus towards helping scholars develop personal perspectives and voices as writers. This prepares them to craft compelling personal statements for college applications, a pivotal aspect of the admissions process.

The literature component of PUPP encourages scholars to think deeply about reading, its processes, and its purpose. Through the exploration of specific novels, scholars engage in discussions that span across cohort groups.

They delve into complex themes, creating original compositions, critiques, and dramatic events that combine their words with classic texts, resulting in unique collaborative productions. This comprehensive approach to literature involves reading various authors and works, from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to Toni Morrison, stimulating critical thinking and literary appreciation.

3. Social Science Research and Writing

During the summer of their junior year, scholars delve into a double-block class in Social Science Research and Writing. This comprehensive course provides scholars with a broad introduction to major themes and areas of research that social scientists, particularly sociologists, explore.

Scholars examine topics such as disparities in education, health, and wealth across race, class, and gender categories. A vital element of the course is conducting independent research, which involves working with large, publicly available data sets, researching articles, and constructing their own surveys.

The culmination of this effort is a 7-10 page research paper. Scholars have the opportunity to present their findings during the annual Summer Institute Research Symposium.

4. Art

Art plays a vital role within the PUPP Summer Institute, forming a profound connection with the overarching theme of each summer and the program’s objective to cultivate cultural knowledge among scholars. The PUPP Art Studio course provides a nurturing environment where scholars create art.

This course serves as an introduction to the fundamental aspects of visual arts and the artist’s role. Scholars engage in a variety of activities, including projects, readings, class critiques, video analyses, slide presentations, and visits to significant cultural institutions in the region.

The collaborative partnership between PUPP and Princeton University Art Museum enriches the Art Studio course, offering scholars a broader perspective.

Throughout their PUPP journey, scholars have the opportunity to explore the Princeton University Art Museum, along with the public art installations that adorn Princeton’s campus.

Additionally, PUPP scholars participate in various summer excursions with a focus on art. These excursions include visits to cultural destinations such as:

  • Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • The Barnes Foundation
  • El Museo del Barrio in NYC
  • Philadelphia Mural Arts Tour
  • Philadelphia Fabric Workshop and Museum
  • Museum of Modern Art in NYC
  • Rubin Museum of Art in NYC,
  • Studio Museum in Harlem, NYC.

A young woman relaxing in a Yoga mat

5. Yoga & Personal Development

Each new cohort of PUPP Scholars embarks on a Personal Development course during their first summer institute. This course empowers scholars to understand their unique strengths and areas for growth while fostering leadership skills and community-building.

As part of this course, scholars engage in a 4-part yoga class, which introduces them to both the physical and mindfulness aspects of yoga practice. This holistic approach to personal development helps scholars build a strong foundation for their academic and personal journeys.

6. Research Symposium

The culmination of PUPP’s academic efforts is the Research Symposium, held toward the end of each summer institute. During this event, scholars present research posters that showcase their work in science and sociology. The symposium includes poster sessions and presentations, allowing scholars to demonstrate their research skills and findings to their peers and the broader community.

7. Princeton Blairstown Center (PBC) Retreat

PUPP commences each summer institute with a two-day leadership and community-building retreat at the Princeton Blairstown Center (PBC). This retreat provides an opportunity for the newest cohort of PUPP Scholars to form important social connections.

Rising juniors and seniors reunite with their peers, preparing for the challenges of the upcoming academic year. Scholars engage in adventure-based activities in a wilderness setting, which serve to strengthen their problem-solving, teamwork, and leadership skills.

PBC provides a respite from the daily distractions and routines of their typical environments, allowing scholars to tap into their potential and build a close-knit and supportive community.

In summary, the Princeton University Preparatory Program (PUPP) offers a well-rounded curriculum that empowers scholars to excel academically and personally. Through rigorous courses, research opportunities, and community-building experiences, PUPP Scholars develop the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in higher education and beyond.

Eligibility Criteria

PUPP, the Princeton University Preparatory Program, is a transformative initiative that extends opportunities to students who meet specific eligibility criteria. The program’s rigorous selection process and comprehensive support are designed to empower scholars to pursue higher education successfully. Here, we explore the key eligibility requirements and the application process:

Acceptance into PUPP is contingent upon various criteria that collectively reflect a scholar’s potential and commitment to higher education. These criteria include:

  • Academic Record: Scholars are evaluated based on their academic achievements and performance, highlighting the importance of a strong scholastic background.
  • State Exam Scores: Standardized test scores play a significant role in the selection process, demonstrating scholars’ academic abilities.
  • Writing Sample: Scholars are required to submit a writing sample that showcases their writing skills and ability to articulate their thoughts effectively.
  • Household Income: The economic background of applicants is considered, with a focus on providing opportunities to those from low-income households.
  • Small Group Interview: Scholars participate in small group interviews, where their communication skills and personal qualities, including leadership potential, are assessed.
  • Commitment to Pursuing Higher Education: An essential criterion is a scholar’s genuine commitment to pursuing higher education, reflecting their dedication to personal growth and academic success.

Typing in a laptop on a table.

Application Process

The application process for PUPP is structured to identify and invite eligible 9th graders to apply for the program. The steps involved are as follows:

  1. Invitation: Scholars must be invited to apply for PUPP during their 9th-grade year. This invitation serves as the initial recognition of their potential and commitment to higher education.
  2. Online Application: Scholars submit an online application that provides essential information about their background, academic history, and aspirations.
  3. Writing Sample: As part of the application, scholars are required to submit a writing sample that demonstrates their writing skills and the ability to convey their thoughts effectively.
  4. Teacher Recommendation: Scholars secure a teacher recommendation, which serves as an additional measure of their academic and personal qualities, supporting their candidacy.

The PUPP selection process is thorough and designed to identify scholars who exhibit the qualities and potential necessary for success in the program.

Once accepted, PUPP Scholars embark on a transformative journey, participating in intensive summer institutes, year-round programming, and receiving guidance and support throughout their high school career and beyond, as they transition to college and pursue their dreams of higher education.

In summary, the Princeton University Preparatory Program (PUPP) is committed to opening doors to higher education for students who meet specific criteria and are dedicated to their academic journey. PUPP’s comprehensive support ensures that eligible scholars are equipped to achieve their aspirations and thrive in college and beyond.

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