From Financial Aid to Fully Funded Experiences

October 13, 2021
Patrice McGivney

When people ask me, “Why Princeton?” I often answer that I liked the size of the school (not too big and not too small), the liberal arts curriculum, or that it offered the specific department that I wanted to concentrate in Slavic Languages & Literatures.  But the real answer is the need-based financial aid that Princeton provides.  

Financial aid was one of the top factors for me when choosing a college, because I didn’t want to graduate with a mountain of student debt and didn’t have any other options for paying.  Princeton’s financial aid package aims to allow students to get the whole “Princeton experience” without needing to borrow money, in a need-based model that estimates how much you and your family can afford to pay.  Prior to coming to Princeton, I was worried that even with such a generous financial aid package, I would have to spend a lot of time working or borrowing money anyway.  But it turns out that I didn’t need to worry at all.

My very first experience with Princeton’s financial aid reassured me that I was making the right decision.  After being offered admission into the Class of 2023, I, along with all other prospective first-year students, were invited to one of two Princeton Preview sessions on campus where we could tour campus, learn about Princeton and even spend a night in the dorms with a “host” student.  I jumped at the chance, as I didn’t know much about the University and hadn’t ever visited campus before.  Because I would be receiving financial aid from the University, Princeton offered to reimburse me for travel costs in getting to campus.  Because of this, I was able to visit Princeton for two days with my mom before committing officially to the University.  

Such an experience is only one example of the ways in which Princeton looks out for its students and is mindful of their financial needs.  There are lots of funded opportunities for all students, not just those receiving financial aid.  For example, residential colleges often offer free or low-cost trips and activities for students, like museum visits, Broadway shows and sporting events.  Princeton also offers many funded summer internship opportunities, so students can gain valuable internship experience with positions that might otherwise be unpaid.  Individual departments have funding for undergraduate independent work, and some classes even involve free travel!  I saw "To Kill a Mockingbird" on Broadway, a Boris Godunov opera at the Met, interned at a nonprofit and traveled to Italy for a freshman seminar to conduct climate research in just two years at Princeton, all things I likely wouldn’t be able to afford at a different school.  

So… why Princeton?  I think the answer would be all of the opportunities I’ve been able to experience because of the way Princeton approaches financial aid.