From the U.S. Army to Princeton University, from a Veteran Transfer Student

February 13, 2023
Taehwan Kim

It still feels unreal that I am a student at Princeton University. Last year, I was in a completely different position compared to a lot of other freshmen. While they were juggling between classes, sports, and clubs in their high schools, I was serving in Korea in the U.S. Army. Back then, I never thought I would be attending Princeton University, let alone any of the Ivy League schools. I knew I wanted to continue my education, but I was quite uncertain as to how to go about the process. Most people around me stayed in the military, so they could not provide any guidance about my academic journey after enlistment. However, I soon found out about the non-profit organizations Service to School and the Warrior-Scholar Project, which support and empower military veterans to successfully transition into the classroom. With their help, I was able to gradually navigate my pathway to find the right school and start the college application process.

I had countless Zoom meetings with many elite universities to learn more about their schools, but my meeting with Princeton's Alex Bustin, senior associate dean and director of transfer, military and international admission, was the most memorable of them all. I was especially drawn to the fact that Princeton was a liberal arts institution geared towards the undergraduate student body. This meant that I could utilize all the academic, research, and professional resources available as an undergraduate student. Moreover, I felt that Princeton was sincerely invested in the success of their students. In addition to the academic resources like the McGraw Center and the Writing Center, Princeton’s commitment to making education affordable and accessible for everyone is truly commendable. Princeton offered an extremely generous financial aid package, especially for veterans, to remove the financial burden of pursuing higher education. After my meeting with Dean Bustin, my mind was set. I believed that transferring to Princeton was the step in the right direction for my academic journey (I took some community college classes after high school, before joining the military).

It is almost March, which means the transfer application deadline is approaching. Crafting the college application can be extremely challenging. You may be overwhelmed with uncertainties and doubts about where you will end up and what your future looks like. Looking back, I remember frequently asking myself if I was good enough to get into any of the schools I applied to. To provide some guidance for future transfer applicants, I would like to share two pieces of advice. First, you have come so far already, so do not give up now! Transferring to a different school is a big commitment that takes a lot of time and effort. It is admirable that you want to be in a different environment that challenges you in every way. With only a few weeks left, you are so close to the finish line. So please, do not give up on yourself. Second, it is not about where you end up, but what you make of it when you get there. If you make the most out of your experience wherever you go, I am certain that you will be able to find yourself at home in any school.

Three people sit around a table in a restaurant booth
With new Princeton friends!