What Is It Like to Attend Princeton University?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

View of Princeton Main Building

What Is It Like to Attend Princeton University?

Many people dream of attending an Ivy League institution, but few have actual insight into what it’s like to be a student at one of these esteemed universities. Princeton University, renowned for its commitment to undergraduate education and impressive campus, is of particular note. This article will delve into the life of attending students on the Princeton campus.

Understanding Princeton University’s Prestige

Princeton University has long been a symbol of academic excellence and prestige. It is consistently ranked among the world’s leading universities, and its alumni network is populated by renowned scholars, intellectuals, entrepreneurs, and more.

But where did this prestige come from, and how does Princeton University maintain its highly respected status?

The History of Princeton University

Founded in 1746, Princeton is one of the nine Colonial Colleges established before the American Revolution. Its historic status lends it a certain charm and esteem – walking on the campus gives a sense of connection to centuries of academic history.

Princeton’s founding can be traced back to the desire of religious leaders to establish a college that would provide an education grounded in the principles of the Presbyterian Church. Over the years, the university has evolved and expanded its academic offerings, but it has never strayed from its commitment to intellectual rigor and the pursuit of knowledge.

One of the auditorium in Princeton

Since its inception, the university has been committed to nurturing top-notch minds. It has produced 75 Nobel laureates, 16 Fields Medalists, and numerous Rhodes Scholars over the years. These achievements are a testament to the university’s dedication to academic excellence and its ability to attract and cultivate exceptional talent.

Princeton’s Academic Reputation

Princeton’s academic reputation is undeniably impressive. It has a rigorous curriculum, a small student-to-faculty ratio, and a slate of distinguished faculty. Every department is strong, but Princeton is especially known for its humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering programs.

Princeton’s commitment to academic excellence is reflected in the caliber of its faculty. The university boasts professors who are leaders in their respective fields, conducting groundbreaking research and contributing to the advancement of knowledge. These professors impart their expertise to students and serve as mentors, guiding and inspiring the next generation of scholars.

Moreover, Princeton is distinctive in its commitment to undergraduate teaching. It values the creation of a close-knit academic community where students and faculty can engage in meaningful discussion and collaboration. The university encourages students to explore their intellectual passions and provides ample opportunities for research, internships, and experiential learning.

Beyond the classroom, Princeton offers a vibrant campus life that enhances the overall educational experience. There is always something happening on campus, from student organizations and clubs to cultural events and athletic competitions. This rich extracurricular environment fosters personal growth, leadership skills, and a sense of community among students.

Overall, Princeton University’s prestige is the result of its rich history, commitment to academic excellence, distinguished faculty, and vibrant campus life. It continues to attract the brightest minds from around the world and provide them with an exceptional education that prepares them for success in their chosen fields.

The Princeton Campus Experience

Moving beyond academics, a university’s physical and social environment significantly shapes a student’s experience. Princeton’s campus, often referred to as the “Orange Bubble,” has plenty to offer.

Campus Facilities and Resources

The grand architecture of Princeton is striking, mingling the old with the new. Verdant greens sprinkled with works of modern art create a pleasing contrast. As you stroll through the campus, you’ll be captivated by the sight of Nassau Hall, the university’s oldest building, standing tall and proud. Its historical significance is palpable, reminding students of the rich heritage they are a part of.

Princeton boasts a state-of-the-art library system, providing students access to extensive books, journals, and digital resources. Whether you’re conducting research for a paper or simply seeking a quiet place to study, the library offers a serene and intellectually stimulating environment.

For those inclined towards scientific exploration, Princeton offers a wealth of research facilities equipped with cutting-edge technology. From advanced laboratories to specialized equipment, students have the opportunity to engage in groundbreaking research across various disciplines.

Art enthusiasts will find solace in the numerous arts and cultural venues scattered throughout the campus. The Lewis Center for the Arts, with its modern design and innovative spaces, serves as a hub for creativity. Students can immerse themselves in diverse artistic expressions, from theater performances to gallery exhibitions.

Apart from academic facilities, Princeton also provides ample amenities for recreational activities to its attending students. The Dillon Gymnasium, the university’s main fitness center, is a place to stay fit and a vibrant social hub. With state-of-the-art sports equipment and a variety of fitness classes, students can maintain a healthy lifestyle while forging new friendships.

Additionally, the campus is home to the Princeton University Art Museum, a treasure trove of artistic masterpieces. Housing over 112,000 of art, the museum offers students the opportunity to explore different artistic movements and gain a deeper understanding of cultural heritage. The museum is a source of inspiration and intellectual stimulation, from ancient artifacts to contemporary installations.

Housing and Dining at Princeton

Most of Princeton’s undergraduates live on campus in the university’s seven residential colleges. These colleges aren’t just places to sleep and eat; they provide a sense of community within the larger university context and offer social, cultural, and academic programming. Living in a residential college allows students to form close bonds with their peers, creating a support system that extends beyond the classroom.

Each residential college has its own unique character and traditions. From themed events to intramural sports competitions, students have the opportunity to actively participate in shaping the culture of their college. These vibrant communities foster a sense of belonging and provide a platform for personal growth and exploration.

The dining options at Princeton are equally impressive. The university takes pride in providing various options and works hard to accommodate different dietary restrictions. The dining halls offer a wide range of cuisines, ensuring students can find something to satisfy their taste buds. Whether you’re craving a hearty meal, a quick snack, or a specialty dish, the campus dining facilities have you covered.

For those who prefer a cozy café atmosphere, several coffee shops and eateries are scattered across the campus. These spaces serve as gathering spots for students to socialize, study, or unwind with a cup of coffee. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee fills the air, creating a comforting ambiance that enhances the overall campus experience.

In addition to the dining halls and cafés, Princeton even has its own bakery, where students can indulge in freshly baked goods. The bakery offers a delightful treat for those with a sweet tooth, from warm croissants to decadent pastries. Moreover, a small grocery store on campus ensures students access to essential food items and supplies.

As you navigate the Princeton campus, you’ll discover that it is not just a place of education but a vibrant community that nurtures the mind, body, and soul. The physical and social environment, with its rich history, artistic allure, and diverse amenities, creates an immersive experience that enriches the lives of students and fosters personal growth.

Academics at Princeton University

Now, let’s delve deeper into Princeton’s academic culture. Princeton University is renowned for its rigorous academic programs and commitment to intellectual exploration. With a wide range of majors and interdisciplinary programs, students attending Princeton have the opportunity to tailor their education to their interests and goals.

Overview of Majors and Programs

Princeton offers 36 majors, spanning the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering. This diverse array of options allows students to explore multiple disciplines before declaring a major, fostering a well-rounded and interdisciplinary approach to learning.

But Princeton goes beyond traditional majors. The university also offers a variety of interdisciplinary programs that draw upon several departments. These programs provide students with the opportunity to delve deeper into complex issues that require a multidisciplinary perspective.

For those interested in research, Princeton provides numerous opportunities to engage in cutting-edge scholarship. Undergraduate students have the chance to collaborate with faculty members on research projects, gaining valuable hands-on experience in their chosen field.

Additionally, Princeton places a strong emphasis on independent work. Senior theses and junior papers are a crucial part of an undergraduate’s academic journey, allowing students to delve deeply into a topic of their choice and demonstrate their research and analytical skills.

Faculty and Teaching Style

At Princeton, you are taught by professors – not graduate students. The faculty here are scholars at the top of their fields and highly committed to teaching. They bring their expertise and passion into the classroom, creating a dynamic and intellectually stimulating learning environment.

With a low student-to-faculty ratio, Princeton ensures that attending students receive personalized attention and have the opportunity to develop strong intellectual relationships with their professors. This close interaction fosters mentorship and allows for in-depth discussions and collaborative projects.

student using laptop computer at a university lecture

The teaching style at Princeton emphasizes active participation. Classes often take the form of seminars or discussions rather than lectures, encouraging students to engage critically with the material. This interactive approach cultivates analytical thinking, effective communication, and the ability to articulate and defend ideas.

Furthermore, Princeton values the diversity of perspectives and experiences attending students bring to the classroom. The university actively promotes an inclusive and respectful learning environment where students are encouraged to share their unique insights and challenge each other’s ideas.

Princeton University offers a rich and vibrant academic experience. With its wide range of majors, interdisciplinary programs, dedicated faculty, and interactive teaching style, the university prepares students to become lifelong learners and leaders in their chosen fields.

Social Life and Extracurricular Activities

Yet, life at Princeton is not all about studying. The university offers a vibrant social scene and a wealth of extracurricular activities.

Student Clubs and Organizations

With over 500 student clubs and organizations at Princeton, there is something for everyone. From service organizations to music ensembles and cultural groups to sports clubs, the opportunities to plug into campus life are manifold.

Participation in these organizations not only provides an outlet for students to pursue their passions outside of academics but also serves as a means to form meaningful connections with peers.

Sports and Fitness Opportunities

If you’re a sports enthusiast, Princeton has plenty to offer. The university has 38 varsity teams performing at the Division I level in the NCAA, and it also offers a variety of club and intramural sports. Whether you’re an athlete or a fan, you’ll find that sports events, particularly the traditional rivalries, often form the highlights of the social calendar.

Princeton offers many facilities for those who prefer non-competitive fitness activities, from the Stephens Fitness Center to Dillon Gym, where various classes, from pilates to kickboxing, are offered.

Support Services and Resources

At Princeton, student support services are vast and readily accessible.

Academic Support and Advising

Princeton offers a plethora of academic support resources to attending students, including the Writing Center, McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, and comprehensive advising structures. An advisor is assigned to every student, serving as a mentor and guide throughout the student’s university journey.

Additional academic support comes in the form of peer tutoring, workshops, and resources for those with different learning needs. With the vast array of resources available, Princeton ensures every attending student can realize their academic potential.

Health and Wellness Services

No university experience would be complete without a robust health and wellness support system, and Princeton is no exception. University Health Services provides medical, mental health, and wellness services to support students in maintaining their physical and mental well-being.

In addition to the standard health services, the university offers various wellness programs, such as stress management workshops, mindfulness sessions, and even therapy dog visits. In doing so, they create a comprehensive well-being framework that supports the whole student – body, mind, and spirit.


As you can see, attending Princeton University is about more than just attending lectures and studying. It’s an all-encompassing experience steeped in academic tradition, campus culture, and comprehensive support systems.

Princeton commencement exercise

Whether you’re soaking in the rich history, engaging with the vibrant student life, or making the most of the academic opportunities, being a Princeton student is a unique, enriching experience.

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