One of the most common questions I get asked is, "What made you choose Princeton over the other schools that you applied to?" and the answer isn't as simple for me as it is for some people. For some, it can be a specific program that attracts them to a specific school, and for others, it can be the relationships that they form at a specific school. Moreover, it can be as simple as a desired location. When I was making that decision over three years ago, I thought I was faced with an impossible choice.
When I was choosing a college, in my eyes, Princeton was an academic powerhouse. It had the program I thought I was interested in, it had world-class faculty that I would have the opportunity to work with and it had the opportunities for extensive research as an undergraduate. Additionally, it had a very strong community. They viewed themselves as one large family and that was something that really appealed to me. Being able to get all of those things at Princeton was something which made my college choice much easier.
The Princeton community is, in my opinion, unparalleled. The feeling of community at Princeton begins with your first day on campus, when you meet your advisee group for the first time, which is often the first group of friends that you'll make at Princeton. During the Pre-rade, an event in which you walk into campus through the Fitz-Randolph gates as the symbolic beginning of your time at Princeton, alumni and current students line up to welcome the incoming first-year students as they commence their four years at the University. During reunions, an experience impossible to truly describe to those who have not attended, there is the P-rade. All the alumni in attendance (roughly 25,000 of them) line up along Elm Drive with the eldest alumni at the top of the parade route and the current senior class at the end of the route. The alumni then march down the street, wearing clothing that is only socially acceptable during Princeton reunions (think bright orange blazers, dress pants and hats) and then sit in bleachers set up on Poe Field. As a graduating senior, you watch decades of Princeton alumni parade past you, then you walk into this stadium of sorts where you're greeted by the roar of 25,000 alumni welcoming the newest class to the ranks of Princeton alumni. The P-rade is merely one of the many of examples of how strong of a community really exists at Princeton, not simply in terms of networking and career opportunities, but also when it comes to supporting one another and being what truly can be described as a family.