Two years ago, I received one of the most life-changing messages of my life: Congratulations! I had been accepted to Princeton.
The adrenaline kept me excited for days. I scoured Princeton’s website as I imagined my future life as a tiger, and I pinched myself to see if I was dreaming! After a week or so, it started to sink it. But at that point, I also started to feel some nerves.
Coming from a small town in northern Idaho where I had attended a public school, I had to question if I was really prepared for Princeton. Did they really mean to accept me? Not many of my relatives had even gone to college, and my excitement about Princeton was coupled with uncertainty. I was definitely no legacy student, and I had not been groomed since childhood to attend an Ivy League school. In fact, I didn’t know they even offered financial aid, which would have been a huge concern for me coming from a low-income family, until I attended the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program the summer before my senior year of high school.
Furthermore, I felt more questioned than congratulated by my community about why I wanted to study at Princeton. I had not anticipated having to justify why I wanted to attend an Ivy League school, and it got to me after a while. Not only was this new for my family, it was different for my community. Was this right for me? During the month of April, several questions kept fluttering through my mind: Should I say “yes”? Could I actually do the work? And could I afford it?
If you are wondering or worried about any of these questions as well, let me try to offer some answers. First of all, you can, in fact, do the work. The fact that you were accepted without having had access to all of the resources that other students might have had is a testament to your hard work and drive. In fact, the resilience that you bring is an advantage. What came as a surprising relief to me was the plethora of resources that are available to help freshmen adjust to the academic workload at Princeton. Between the special Writing Seminars tailored to help freshmen learn how to write at college level, the workshops and one-on-one tutoring sessions provided by the McGraw Center, and the enthusiastic willingness of my professors to meet with me outside of class, I felt that I adjusted rather quickly to Princeton’s expectations.
With respect to financial aid, I cannot emphasize Princeton’s generosity enough. By the time I graduate, Princeton will have invested well over $250,000 in my education, and this is truly empowering. I am so thankful. To know that the University and alumni care and believe in me as a student is incredible, and it has made me feel like I do indeed belong here. To be honest, there have been times when I have been stunned at the wealth of some of my peers. But I’ve also been surprised by how many friends I have met who come from low-income backgrounds similar to mine.
In sum, my take is that you should most certainly say “yes.” I’ve realized that the question is not so much if you fit the perceived profile of Princeton students, but rather how you can use a Princeton education in your life to achieve your goals. The question is how you will use Princeton as a way to make a difference, and the University indeed empowers you to do just that. Finally, to those readers who have recently been accepted: A huge congratulations to you!