Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Aidan Gray ’18

Bethesda, Maryland • Classics View Profile

Competition or Cooperation?

What is the Princeton community like?

It’s understandable, I would argue, for a high schooler to imagine life at Princeton to be highly competitive. After all, to be admitted, don’t you need great grades and high test scores, don’t you need to excel at extracurriculars? And wouldn’t that likely translate to a school full of hyper ambitious people, fighting each other for the top spot in everything? Wouldn’t it become that current buzzword for schools and businesses: cutthroat?

Well, the answer is: not at all. This is perhaps the thing I feel most strongly about, a big motivation behind giving tours and talking to prospective students. The fact is that it was clear to me from my very first campus visit that Princeton’s community is characterized by cooperation. Not just in classes like lab sciences, or scenarios where you need a partner, but it really permeates every area of campus life. There is an inherent friendliness to Princeton unlike any other community I know.

The classes are challenging, certainly, but the spirit I’ve always found among my classmates has been that it’s all of us, together, trying to learn the material. Informal study groups, review sessions, and helpfulness abound. Why is this? Real high-level research, such as what goes on at Princeton University, cannot be done except collaboratively. The result is that the Princeton student body is chock full of people who aren’t competing against you, but with you. Without that sense of warmth, friendliness, solidarity—call it whatever you want—I think my four years here would have been impossible.