Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Michelle Greenfield ’18

Phoenix, Arizona • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology View Profile

Peer Academic Advising

A look inside Princeton's peer advising system

When you first get to Princeton you are inundated with acronyms. Don’t forget to listen to your RCA and PAA’s advice. Did you go to the SHARE panel? What about the ODUS discussion? Did you ask OIT for help with wireless connection? Do you have a JRC?

There are so many names and positions that it’s hard to keep them straight. That’s why I wanted to focus on one of these acronyms so that hopefully you as a reader can gain a better appreciate for what it is other than a few letters smashed together in a phonetically appeasing way.

PAA – Peer Academic Adviser.

A PAA works closely with an RCA (residential college adviser) to mentor a group of first-year or sophomore students. PAAs are typically juniors and seniors who have volunteered their time to offer advice and guidance to younger students. While PAAs often focus mostly on the academic side of things (hence the name), that doesn’t mean they are limited to the academic realm.

I serve as a PAA for a group of first year students in Mathey College, one of our six residential colleges. Since my primary role is to provide academic guidance for my "zees" (what we call our group of students, since they are our advisees), I often find myself at meals with them discussing classes for the following semester or what major to consider. As a first-year, I took advantage of this resource and constantly went to my PAA for advice, so now it is my chance to give back to the community that helped me so much. In addition to academic advising, I also work closely with my RCA to host fun study breaks for my zees. This year, we’ve held a Halloween makeup design workshop, a summer application and resume workshop and many fun weekly study breaks featuring some kind of exciting food (Qudoba and sushi are always a hit). We also have a family dinner every Sunday evening in the Mathey dining hall where all of our zees are invited to get a meal together and catch up with one another.

My role as a PAA also extends outside of my zee group. Any time there is a first or second year student interested in ecology and evolutionary biology, my director of studies forwards their information to me. Over coffee or meals, I get to meet other students who are interested in my major and offer them advice regarding curriculum and opportunities within the department.

The PAA system is spectacular and is one of the special aspects of the Princeton experience many visitors do not always learn about. Therefore, I hope this provides an idea of what PAAs do and how great of a resource they are for first- and second-year students.