Are Princeton Students Competitive?

Prior to college I led my large public high school’s Model United Nations (MUN) team to various regional and national competitions. MUN, much like other intellectually-centered competition clubs, attracts striver-type students who enjoy the intellectual rigor, attention, and accolades associated with the activity. Many of the students on my team and on teams across the country aimed for and eventually attended rigorous colleges and universities across the country, in part because of the competitie drive that motivated their academic and co-curricular discipline. 

When I arrived at Princeton, I naively assumed that most of my classmates would resemble the students I encountered at these competitions. Those kids, who wanted to stand out in the sea of thousands of young adults, were fiercely competitive. 

What I discovered once I stepped on campus was that Princeton students however—even the ones who participated in MUN like myself—were a different story: 

The folks I sat next to in lecture, who I caught glances of while they messaged their friends under the guise of notetaking, giggled with when our Professors unknowingly said something humorous, or commiserated with at the end of a difficult discussion, became the basis of my first study groups. Our time together transformed from brief moments of connectivity in class to hours of tackling our work under the bright lights of the Butler College lounge.

What I found in my first few in-person classes was the spirit of collective action that is a defining trait of Princeton’s student life. This is in part enabled by the structure of Princeton’s academics which provides a framework for students to see one another as collaborators instead of competition. Princeton’s Honor Code is the backbone of academic life and it is the set of regulations that protect academic integrity in our classes. In the case of most of my classes, students were not just permitted but encouraged to collaborate with peers to complete assignments. In the case of my Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) classes, this took the form of informal Problem Set (PSet) groups. In the evenings, we would meet in a study room to cover course material and propose solutions to our PSET problems. In my non-STEM classes, my classmates and I would share course notes with one another and, at times, discuss our readings following class.

This is not to say that all of my classmates are my best friends. What stands out to me, even more than the close friendships that have formed through academic life, is the mutual respect my classmates hold for one another in supporting their academic journey. This mutual respect is definitely a privilege: I think students at Princeton can lessen their competitive selves because they perceive their status as a Princetonian as ensuring some level of security in the years beyond. Perhaps this sense of security empowers students to be gentler to one another in an environment that can, at times, keep us pretty busy.

The humming seats of Firestone Library have been the launchpad for some of my treasured relationships here and the subtler interactions between my peers provide me a feeling of comfort that I am truly appreciate of.

Beyond the Gates: Last Summer, Internships, and Preparing for the Future

The search for my final summer at Princeton is finally starting and I couldn’t be more conflicted. While my finance, consulting, and engineering friends already secured their internships, I find myself with a big question mark over my head. Princeton, because of its vast array of opportunities, makes it so hard to decide what’s the best way to spend my last summer. The biggest challenge is not finding something to do but deciding on one thing. Do I continue to research with the lab I’m currently doing my independent work with? Or do I apply for another international internship and spend my summer in a new country? Perhaps, I should stay within the US and intern at a non-profit organization through Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS). When people say there are endless opportunities at Princeton, they aren’t lying. As I navigate my choices, I realize I'm preparing for what comes after the orange bubble. It's about equipping myself with skills, experiences, and memories that will shape my career and how I will remember my time here. I decided to do a bit of a rundown on the people at Princeton I reached out to help guide my search. 



Seminars are one of my favorite class formats at Princeton and I’m currently taking a seminar called “The Psychology of Adversity.” Prof. Rebecca Carey is teaching the course and she is also my advisor for my junior paper. One thing I love about being a part of her seminar and lab is moving from the seminar room to our lab room. I love talking with her about our discussion topics from class and also hearing her insight about doing research. Soon, I’ll be meeting with her to discuss general questions regarding her journey applying to graduate school and her experience throughout. I love to sit with anyone who has the time to talk to me about their experiences because it allows me to gather different perspectives and within that, figure out which route I’d like to take. 


The Princeton Psychology Society recently had a Career Expo where students were able to meet various professionals in the field of psychology. The goal of the event was to have an informal discussion surrounding various career paths and create connections with alumni who were invited to speak. I was excited to talk with an alumnus who was a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), self-employed in private practice. Her path to landing as an LCSW was very interesting and it taught me that there is no linear way to achieving my end goal. While I might be trying to find the best way to become a practicing psychologist, her experience shows that I don’t have to be too worried about making all the right decisions. 

Career Center 

The Career Center is such a useful resource for anything related to career planning. I’ve used the resources multiple times whether it be for finding a winter break internship (aka Princeternship, read about mine here), guidance regarding graduate school and this time around – to find a summer internship. I remember my first time stepping into the office, I was a sophomore already worried about graduate school. Now, I’m still worried about graduate school but I’m more focused on what this summer means for my applications. Taking my degree into consideration, the staff at the Career Center advised me to continue with research as that’s a typical route for those applying to graduate school. They also offered other suggestions such as working with children in a camp setting or finding open positions on Handshake (an internal Princeton platform for exploring internal resources and external opportunities). 

Student Veterans on 'Why Princeton?'

Luke Hixson '25

Prior to Princeton, I served five years in the Navy as a Fleet Marine Force Corpsman attached to 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. I’m currently a Junior in the Department of Neuroscience, a researcher in the Peña Lab, and a member of the Glorious Tiger Inn. After graduating from Princeton, I plan to attend medical school.


Princeton University is more than just a “prestigious institution;" it's a place where diverse communities come together to foster growth, inclusion, and support – a place where veterans can find an understanding and appreciative environment to transition back into civilian life while pursuing their academic dreams. The warm embrace I received from the Emma Bloomberg Center, fellow student-veterans, and the extensive resources available here made my transition from the military to academia seamless. But it doesn't stop there. Princeton's broader community is equally exceptional, nurturing a culture of collaboration and intellectual curiosity. The friendships I've formed with students from all walks of life have enriched my educational experience beyond measure. So, Why Princeton? It's the unique combination of a strong student-veteran community and the vibrant, inclusive spirit of Princeton as a whole. It's a place where I can grow academically, personally, and socially.


Victor Reynoso '26

I am from the West City of Puerto, Mayaguez. I left Puerto Rico when I enlisted in the U.S. Marines at 17 years old. I received an early Honorable Discharge from the Marine Corps so I could pursue my education at Princeton. I started here last year as a 22-year-old freshman, and I am a dog-dad of the two cutest dogs you will ever meet, and excited about the opportunities that Princeton offers me to explore my areas of interest before deciding on which major to pursue.


If I had to articulate what it is like to be a Princeton student, I would say that Princeton has the same mentality my drill instructors had; we train how we fight. In this regard, to Princeton, it is paramount that students receive a rigorous education, emulative of great real-world challenges. To better explain this, I can say that as a low-income student, I had never taken a computer science class before Princeton. However, three weeks after I started my first class at Princeton, we were asked to program a simulation of the solar system that took into consideration mass and gravitational forces. To be candid, this programming assignment had the most massive learning curve I’ve ever tackled. Nevertheless, it had to get done. So, I went to office hours, and I did not leave until it was finished – I refused to believe there was an “impossible” assignment. Personally, I think, that’s what Princeton is all about, constantly doing novel things that seemed impossible just three weeks ago. So, yes, Princeton academics can be grueling at moments, but they're also inspiring and stimulating. What's more, at Princeton, you are never alone, and someone is always willing to help. That's why I would not have it any other way.   


Minh Truong '27

During high school, at 17 years old I enlisted in the Army National Guard and have been with the state of Pennsylvania for four years. I am still drilling monthly with my state and have two years left with the Army. I was accepted into Princeton's Class of 2025 but deferred for two years for Army training and a deployment last year. I just came back to join the Class of 2027 as a first-year. I plan to major in Economics and minor in Visual Arts, maybe also Finance, and am considering law school after graduation.


Students at Princeton can choose to participate in clubs and student organizations that allow for professional and personal development outside of the classroom, which I have found to be very rewarding and also practical.

The University is very generous in its support of student co-curricular organizations; this allows for very well-organized clubs run by students and community members who are genuinely committed to and passionate about their activities.

Clubs can vary widely based on interest, with everything from pre-professional, to sports, to affinity, to hobby-based. I am involved with a business club and a finance club, both of which provide me with valuable professional development opportunities, such as regular conversations with industry leaders, working on an endowed project, trips to national business conferences, networking, etc. I am also involved in a badminton club, and a literary publishing club for which I am a book cover artist. These spaces allow me to explore personal interests outside of academics that engage my hobbies in structured and funded environments.

All the co-curricular programming available on campus is diverse yet accommodating and void of superficiality. Commitment-intensive clubs require applications and interviews that single out those who really want to commit themselves to the organizations, while other groups are more low-key and open to all. Being a service member has been a great asset in these spaces; the experiences, knowledge, and work ethic obtained in the military sets veterans far apart from others in their potential contributions to these communities. So far it has been very rewarding to commit myself to activities that allow growth beyond the classroom, and I highly encourage those considering Princeton to look at all these offered opportunities.


Kenneth Simmons '27

I was the product of a military family and my parents decided to settle down in Fayetteville, North Carolina. When I enlisted in the Army, I knew that I needed to mature and grow as a person. I had the privilege to work as a laboratory technician and medic in Special Operations and in clinical settings. The lessons I learned were invaluable to me taking the next step in my career. 

After separating from the Army after 14 years of service, I began my pursuit of higher education and enrolled in community college. This past summer I graduated from Fayetteville Technical Community College with my associates degree in science. I plan to major in philosophy here at Princeton, with the hopes of attending law school where I will begin a career in ethics for emerging technology. 

Support Resources

I chose Princeton for many reasons; the sense that I would be welcomed into the Princeton Community and that accommodations were made for non-traditional/veteran students were among those deciding factors. As a parent, dog parent, and 14-year Army Veteran, I knew I would be very different from my classmates. At Princeton, there are many resources to make your transition out of the military and into higher education seamless, unlike any other institution I applied to. You have the option to live on campus in the undergraduate residential colleges, or if you have a family and pets, you can opt to live in graduate housing or off campus. This flexibility addresses a significant component of any student’s success–ensuring that things are okay at home. My two dogs Cali and Cloud, enjoy going on walks and admiring campus, and it is normal to bump into classmates and professors and strike up a conversation. Princeton also has world-class physical and mental health services, ensuring my physical and mental health needs are addressed. Thank you, Princeton, for knocking down barriers to education and allowing me to share my talents with this community.

Editor's note: A few other resources include the transfer and veteran programming though the Emma Bloomberg Center for Access and Opportunity, the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, the Writing Center, professors' office hours, advising in the residential college offices, and the Center for Career Development.


Andres Solorzano '26

I am from Long Beach, California. Before attending Princeton, I enlisted into the United States Army in 2016 and served in various components of the Army until the beginning of this year. I was a M1 Armor Crewman in the 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment out of Fort Stewart, Georgia. 

I am a first generation Guatemalan-American student. I am grateful to Princeton for giving me an opportunity unlike anything I could have ever dreamed of. I am looking forward to being challenged in the coming years, and I am ready to grow academically and personally alongside the amazing students here on campus. Upon graduating from Princeton, I plan on immediately pursuing an advanced degree. 

Financial Aid

Applying to Princeton can be very daunting. There is a lot of uncharted territory to navigate, particularly for student veterans. One of the biggest questions is always: “How will I be able to pay for this?” There’s no way I can afford it so why even bother applying, right? Wrong! Last year, Princeton enhanced its financial aid policy, guaranteeing independent students and families with incomes up to $100,000 a year will pay nothing.

Let’s not forget your earned educational benefits. Your GI Bill? Save that for graduate school! You do not have to utilize your benefits unless you decide that you want to use them. Many factors go into deciding where you will go to college, but don’t let money be a barrier--at Princeton, it isn’t anymore. Financial aid is one of the many ways we experience this university's recognition of the great value that veteran students bring to the campus population.

Introducing My Professor, Dr. Rivera-Lopez and Her Reflections on Teaching, Impact and Latinx Representation

Without a doubt, every student at Princeton will tell you there was one class that completely changed their perspective on a topic, a field of study or even life. Courses like these are available at Princeton, they make you reevaluate what you think you know and even spark curiosity to learn something new. As Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month comes to an end, I’d like to share one of my professors from the Latino Studies program that has challenged me to think critically about the way I view Latinx representation not only in media and literature but also my past education and narratives I’ve consumed. In my sophomore fall semester, I took “Introduction to Latino/a/x Studies” with the amazing Dr. Keishla Rivera-Lopez, a lecturer in the Effron Center for the Study of America. The course explored themes such as identity, culture, belonging and Latinidad. She has taught me countless lessons through her courses and with each one, my intellectual curiosity has grown. I invited Professor Rivera-Lopez to share more about her experience as a Latina professor at Princeton, how she came up with such interesting/engaging courses and what her main goals are in teaching Latino/a/x Studies courses.

Read Dr. Rivera-Lopez's piece, 'A Brief Reflection on Teaching, Impact and Latinx Representation.'

A Brief Reflection on Teaching, Impact and Latinx Representation


An introduction from blogger Melissa Ruiz '25

Without a doubt, every student at Princeton will tell you there was one class that completely changed their perspective on a topic, a field of study or even life. Courses like these are available at Princeton, they make you reevaluate what you think you know and even spark curiosity to learn something new. As Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month comes to an end, I’d like to share one of my professors from the Latino Studies program that has challenged me to think critically about the way I view Latinx representation not only in media and literature but also my past education and narratives I’ve consumed. In my sophomore fall semester, I took “Introduction to Latino/a/x Studies” with the amazing Dr. Keishla Rivera-Lopez, a lecturer in the Effron Center for the Study of America. The course explored themes such as identity, culture, belonging and Latinidad. She has taught me countless lessons through her courses and with each one, my intellectual curiosity has grown. I invited Professor Rivera-Lopez to share more about her experience as a Latina professor at Princeton, how she came up with such interesting/engaging courses and what her main goals are in teaching Latino/a/x Studies courses.


Dr. Rivera-Lopez

My short time at Princeton has been the most impactful and memorable teaching experience for me. It is in these classrooms, through dialogues that I realized my students have a hunger for more, more discussions about the popular culture or media that is supposed to represent us though many times it falls short and disappoints us. Though, sometimes, there are glowing renditions of our culture that give us immense pride. My students want more book and film recommendations that can, hopefully, endeavor to fill the gaps of knowledge they were deprived of in our primary and secondary education systems. They ask if I’ll be teaching more classes to satisfy their intellectual questions, which, in turn, makes me feel very needed and valued at this institution. This idea of more is not a coincidence when it seems like we’re often excluded from the curriculum or in other facets of society, and these moments remind us we’re often offered less. So, it seems my role here has been to provide more to my students, and it reminds me a lot of my experiences as an undergraduate seeking more knowledge and information regarding my homeland and culture to not only be included, but done so in an authentic and positive light. I know what it felt like to not see my history or my communities represented in mandatory literature or history classes throughout my education or that I belonged in those conversations or spaces. I had an immense feeling that learning my history and culture was a personal project, a solo trip I had to take and fulfill for myself. So, I majored in Latino and Caribbean Studies and immersed myself into finding out more.

My students’ introspective natures remind me of myself - this is why I went to graduate school and pursued a career in academia in the first place. As an undergraduate in a “Latino Literature” course, I rediscovered a passion for reading when I was no longer required to reread the same books and narratives that were recycled year after year in my high school education. I was finally not bored in a literature class and felt like I had to make up for years of no exposure. It untapped a desire for more in me - this is why I see myself in my students. This class cultivated a new worldview and way of understanding how and why my family came here - my dad in Brooklyn and my mother in Chicago and later settling in New Jersey within a Puerto Rican and Dominican enclave. I learned these enclaves aren’t a coincidence - they erupt from waves of migrants, like my family, who had to leave their homelands. I reflect on the meaning of education and its accessibility because most of my family hasn’t received a college education. I think about how I represent my own family history in the classroom as a first generation scholar, a Puerto Rican woman from an urban working class city, a Latina in academia and how it has given me a unique approach to teaching. Being a Latina is deeply rooted in my pedagogical approach and scholarship. 

And, within the liminality of representation or course offerings, I hope my classroom is a space for interesting and thought-provoking dialogue, one that offers historical context about migration and labor that help my students better understand Latino communities and activism while also providing nuances about culture and identity that help them better define and construct Latinidad for themselves. I hope my classrooms are a safe space to discuss the current happenings within Latino music, aesthetics, literature, and media so my students feel represented in the classroom and can discuss how iterations of the past inform the present. Or, why, for example, we can, and we do, discuss big cultural icons like Bad Bunny, Karol G, Cardi B, JLo, etc. in productive and meaningful ways.

I believe representation weighs heavily in the way a college experience is shaped and felt, so my job here in front of the classroom isn’t miniscule. I want to underscore the reason I have the role to be in front of the classroom in the first place is because of a dedicated and passionate professor, Dr. Yomaira Figueroa-Vasquez, who became my mentor and invested in me while I was an undergrad. Mentorship is critical to the retention and success of working-class, underrepresented, and first-gen students. She also taught me an invaluable lesson outside of the classroom - my history and experiences matter and, I too, belong in institutions, like academia, even though they don’t necessarily always make space for our stories, contributions, or us. Furthermore, I’m proud to be here and be able to do this work. This rhetoric pushed me through many moments of doubt, imposter syndrome, and hardship in graduate school, and now, as I navigate academia.

I am so lucky to be in conversation with and teach students because I learn so much from them. Their kind words and honest feedback make me feel truly valued and appreciated as a Latina at an ivy league institution. Though it is an enormous task, I endeavor to impact my students through in-class instruction, mentorship and dialogue that emulates the way my mentor helped and shaped me. Ultimately, my students inspire and motivate me to keep developing courses and different projects to maintain their engagement and interests. I am thankful for their contributions to class discussions, intentional reading, and their feedback that lets me know what my classes mean to them. I hope I can fulfill their need(s) for more in their quest to obtain and understand Latino Studies discourses of culture, literature, and histories.


Students sit around a round table with an orange table cloth, holding up books.
Caption from Melissa: This photo is from a book event with one of the authors on the syllabus for the Latinx Narratives: Literature, Music and Culture class. Dr. Rivera-Lopez moderated the conversation with the author and many of her students, past and present, attended! 


Things I Missed The Most About Princeton While Abroad

For the spring semester of my junior year, I studied abroad at Hertford College, Oxford University (blog post to come). While this was a welcome change of environment and pace, I did find myself missing various aspects of Princeton, especially when faced with the prospect that I would only have one year left in the orange bubble when I returned. In the hopes that you take advantage of all the wonderful things Princeton has to offer before you become a senior, here are some of the things I missed the most about Princeton while abroad.

  1. Coffee Club
    • As someone who loves (or needs, rather) coffee and frequents Coffee Club at least once every other day, if not more, I missed my vanilla matchas and the anticipation  of a new array of drinks with the change of seasons. Admittedly, good coffee shops exist all over the world, but Coffee Club stands out to me in the way that it features students in the managerial and customer service aspect, but also in the live performances by student artists. 
  2. Classes/Lectures
    • This is something that is pretty specific to Oxford, which is that visiting students have optional lectures and instead spend most of their week writing a 2,000 word essay (if you’re a humanities student) that you discuss in an one hour “tutorial” every week. Though I really appreciated the flexibility that this presented, I also missed the hustle and bustle of Princeton during hours of the day when people have class. Tutorials for visiting students were also offered one-on-one which definitely allowed me to challenge my learning for the week, but I missed bouncing my ideas off of my peers. 
  3. Murray Dodge Cookies
    • The students who work at Murray Dodge bake cookies and have them available as snacks all throughout the day, which is an experience pretty unique to Princeton and something I thus missed a lot. There is nothing quite like walking back from the library and making a quick pit stop at Murray Dodge for a late night snack. 

Ultimately, I enjoyed my semester abroad very much. I felt very supported by Princeton but also by the program I was a part of, and made great friends and pushed myself out of my comfort zone in ways that I had not imagined I would. I felt challenged academically and feel more prepared than ever to write my senior thesis. However, coming back to Princeton has reminded me of all the little things that make Princeton feel like home. I hope you make the most of your time here, I know I will.

McGraw's Best Kept Secret: The Study Partners Program

As a humanities/social sciences student, readings dominate my life at Princeton. It’s why in my first semester, I left large gaps in between my classes. This way, I could spread my assignments throughout the day, and spend time with my friends at night.

I also mostly worked alone in my first semester. I thought doing homework with my friends would be too distracting. I love to join in on conversations, but sometimes we’d get so deep in discussion that my plans to read that next page, write that next paragraph, outline that next paper went out the window. Additionally, I was surrounded by STEM students in my Zee Group. They were not interested in, nor did they ask about, my readings, and likewise, I was not interested in, nor did I ask about, their problem sets. Yet the more I worked alone last September, the more I missed having somebody to parallel play with while still socializing.

Enter the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning. Beyond the peer tutoring sessions, academic strategies workshops, and learning consultations, there is also the fairly new Study Partners Program. You first fill out an interest form, after which McGraw matches you with your study partner via email. From there, you and your study partner exchange contact information and decide where/when you want to study.

White background with words in Black, Times New Roman font letting the student know that they were matched with a study partner through the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning.
This is the email I received when I was matched with my study partner!

All of the selections are random, which I appreciated when I was a freshman. While it is important to befriend students in your home residential college, often by way of your zee group, it’s equally important to branch out and meet students in other residential colleges. Who knows? They could have the same academic interests as you! 

I lucked out with my study partner, who I now consider one of my closest friends at Princeton. He lives up north at Rockefeller “Rocky” College, and I down south at Forbes College. But despite being on opposite ends of campus, he, too, loves the humanities and social sciences. During our study sessions at Firestone Library, he would annotate his Politics readings and I would annotate my Philosophy readings. We also took turns discussing what we were learning. It’s not unusual for us, even now, to exchange book recommendations from our classes (with dashes of us sharing our extracurricular activities).

Having a study partner has also not been as distracting as I previously thought. We hold each other accountable by setting personal goals, as well as offering help to each other. For instance, he helped me brainstorm for my papers when I took my writing seminar last spring, and I offered encouraging words while he studied for finals. It’s because of this reciprocity that more often than not, we achieved our goals. 

Don’t get me wrong. Some students work better aloneI do if I’m under a major deadlinebut regardless, I highly recommend the McGraw Study Partners Program to all incoming students. Not only will you be building yourself a support system and finding someone to parallel play with, but you might also make a friend in the process.

My Journey to Anthropology

I recently celebrated one of the most exciting days for a Princeton student this past April: Declaration Day! This day is when rising juniors “declare” their concentration (Princeton’s version of majors!). Everyone wears their traditional class year sweaters and gathers on Cannon Green to take pictures in front of their department banners. As you can tell from the featured photo, I declared… Anthropology! I’m super excited about my decision, but it certainly isn’t one I came to super easily. Let me tell you about my journey:

Going into my freshman year, I originally thought that I was going to concentrate in Sociology. Truth be told, I wasn’t even really sure what sociology really was, but after perusing the department’s website, it seemed to align with a lot of the fields I was interested in exploring: education, media, non-profit work, etc.

Long story short, I didn’t love it. Sociology just didn’t seem like the right fit for me, perhaps because it wasn’t as people-centric as I’d hoped for. The faculty were really helpful and the courses were interesting, though, so I could definitely see myself taking more classes in the department just for fun.

Following this, I was unsure of what to explore next until a friend of mine suggested that I take a psychology class with her. She was definitely going to be a PSY concentrator, and it was always a field that I was interested in learning more about. So I agreed! I started taking classes like PSY254: Developmental Psychology, PSY309: Psychology of Language, and PSY251: Quantitative Methods. It was the last of these three, a statistics class that was a prerequisite for declaring the concentration, that made me realize why psychology wasn’t a good fit for me either. The field required working with programming languages like R and lots of data visualization and analysis. I’m personally not a huge fan of math or statistics, so I found doing this quantitative work wasn’t as interesting or rewarding for me as qualitative work I experienced in other classes. Having explored two majors now with no luck, I didn’t know where my studies were going to take me.

Enter: Anthropology. As with sociology, I hadn’t really heard of what anthropology was before coming to Princeton. But I had taken two ANT courses during my freshman and sophomore years: ANT311: Food, Culture, and Society and ANT201: Introduction to Anthropology. The former, I absolutely loved! It was taught by Professor Hanna Garth and involved a lot of hands-on activities, such as the one day when we had class outside and did a series of taste testing! Unlike psychology, anthropology also afforded me the opportunity to do a lot more personal, people-centric work. For projects, I got to interview students on campus and family members, as well as conduct human observations for research. All of this felt much more fulfilling and made me excited to learn.

As Declaration Day approached, I was still weighing the pros and cons of each of these three concentrations. Something that I did to help me to make my ultimate decision (which I suggest every student do!) was attend the various open houses for each major. During the spring semester, this is something that every academic department does to help students (not just sophomores!) learn more about each concentration. After going to the ANT, PSY, and SOC open houses, I knew what I wanted to do. Call it a gut feeling or a good vibe, but I really felt like the ANT open house solidified for me that this was the concentration for me. So, on April 14, 2023, I declared Anthropology and haven’t looked back since!

All this to say, you by no means have to come into Princeton knowing exactly what you want to study. In fact, college is the perfect time for students to do the exact opposite: explore! Test out multiple different concentrations and certificates, take classes that genuinely interest you, and find what you’re truly passionate about. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up majoring in something you’d never even heard of!

Four females students with 2025 sweaters posing on the steps of Clio Hall
My three best friends and I repping our Class of 2025 sweatshirts on Declaration Day!

Embarking on the Senior Thesis: Reflections on Junior Year and Thoughts for Senior Year

My junior year has come to a close, meaning that, amazingly, I will begin my last year of college in September (time really does fly!). At Princeton, a defining feature of your final year is the senior thesis, a year-long independent research project in your department. There is an unofficial vocabulary of terms for referring to thesis-related phenomena (thesis-ing, thesis fairy, PTL (post-thesis life)), and underclassmen are generally advised to avoid asking seniors about the thesis at all during the month of April, for fear of unleashing a panicked thesis ramble. Given all this, the thesis can definitely seem pretty daunting, and while I'm certainly nervous, I've also realized how my first three years have really set the stage for the thesis to be much more doable than it seemed when I first started at Princeton. As an incoming first-year, the thesis looked very unapproachable, because I really didn't have the skills then for an independent project. But now, after the experiences in my first, sophomore, and junior years, I feel that I know how to approach original research and believe I can produce meaningful work for my thesis. I know that the road will be bumpy, but I at least feel that I'm in a well-equipped vehicle for the ride.

One of the most important experiences preparing me for the thesis was my writing seminar. All first-years take a writing seminar ("writing sem"), where you learn how to structure a research paper and to situate your original work within the existing literature. On every draft, your professor writes you a detailed feedback letter describing where and how to improve, and you then submit a final, polished piece several weeks later. Your professor also holds individual meetings with you to discuss ideas and approaches to your topic. It's a challenging but incredibly rewarding course, and it allows you to conduct a half-semester long mini-thesis where you practice the process arc you'll use for your senior thesis (Also, the different topics available are endless—the theme of my seminar was "Systems of Play," and my second major paper was about LEGO advertising).

In my sophomore and junior years, I started conducting research in my concentration, environmental engineering (moving forward from LEGOs to organic contaminants and solar energy!), through Independent Study courses with professors in the CEE and ECE departments. I became familiar with the literature and methodologies specific to my field, all while using the same skills and process arc I'd learned in writing seminar. Now, in the summer before my senior year, I'm working for Dr. Bourg to begin the research for my thesis. I'm not entirely sure yet where the project will lead, but I feel prepared and excited for the journey.

two students holding placards reading "almost seniors" in front of ivy-covered building

Bridging the Gap Between Academics and Advocacy: A Panel on “Crimmigration”

Princeton Students for Prison Education, Abolition, and Reform (SPEAR) is a student group focused on educating and advocating against the carceral state of the United States. SPEAR consists of a variety of committees, including Students Against Policing, the Re-Entry Committee, and Project Solidarity. Over time, I had become very passionate about the intersections between the criminal justice and immigration systems, and was excited to learn about, and join, SPEAR’s Immigration Committee.

The Immigration Committee works closely with other organizations in central New Jersey fighting for justice for local immigrant communities. In the past, the Committee has welcomed representatives from these organizations to speak about state-wide initiatives. For example, in the Fall of 2022, we hosted various organizers to raise awareness about the New Jersey Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. SPEAR also partners often with Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA), a non-profit organization just off campus on Witherspoon Street. With ULA, Princeton students teach English as a Second Language (ESL) classes every Tuesday and Saturday, welcoming local residents to join, no matter their current English proficiency.

One of the highlights of my sophomore year was getting the opportunity to organize a panel specifically on the criminalization of immigration, or “crimmigration” as it is often called in the literature. This is the idea that, over time, immigrants in the United States have been increasingly criminalized, both in the media, but also in immigration proceedings. In the fall, I took a class called The Politics of Crime and Punishment, where my final paper had focused on this shift in immigration law and the consequences that it has had on migrant communities particularly through the lens of procedural justice. At the time of this panel, I was also taking another course with Dr. Amelia Frank-Vitale on borders. Particularly, the class explored how borders are not only geographic, but can also be reproduced by systems within a country–in this case policing.

Through our panel, we wanted to raise awareness within the student body by inviting Princeton professors to speak on the topic, as many people often don’t know about this intertwinement of criminal and immigration laws. However, we also knew gaps in knowledge can arise from looking at these sorts of issues through a purely academic lens. Therefore, over the course of two months, we set out to bring together a group of diverse perspectives and organizers, both as academics and as activists. In the end, we welcomed three Princeton professors and three representatives from local organizations, although it’s important to note that all of the professors on our panel also considered themselves to be activists. A few days before the event, we designed our flyer to circulate across campus. As I would be moderating this event, I prepared our list of questions, which ranged from asking our panelists to define “crimmigration,” as well as elaborate on what this looks like within their work, and how it affects the ways in which they carry out ethical research and activism.

Flyer advertising SPEAR's panel discussion on the criminalization of immigration.

Perhaps one of the reasons this panel had such a big impact on me, besides the obvious ability to share something that I care deeply about with fellow classmates, was the fact that it enabled me to see a tangible connection between the things I have learned and studied during my time at Princeton, and the sort of work that can be done, especially with the help of Princeton’s resources. I believe the ability to take the lead on these sorts of initiatives–whether it be organizing panel discussions, proposing a new volunteering experience or club, or receiving funding to engage in social impact activities–is something that is uniquely possible for Princeton students, and something I look forward to replicating in the future.

Princeton student speaks at podium next to six seated panelists at the front of a classroom.