Next Steps: Planning for Life Post-Princeton

In the thick of my thesis and deep in finals preparation, graduation feels like a very distant prospect at the moment. But come May, I will be donning my cap and gown to process through Fitzrandolph Gate as a new alumna. Seniors are preparing now for life outside the Orange Bubble, and there are many different options to consider. What do Tigers do after graduation?

Some students enter the workforce directly after graduating. My friend Ben, for instance, was offered a position at the company where he interned over the summer. Other students meet potential employers through events like the HireTigers career fair or through the website Handshake. The Center for Career Development is always available to help search for jobs, refine your resume, and conduct mock interviews.

Other students, around 20% in recent years according to the Daily Princetonian, continue their studies in graduate school. This could be a master's program, doctoral program, medical school, or law school. A master's program is generally one to two years and consists mainly of specialized courses. My friend James, for instance, intends to do a one-year master's before becoming a practicing structural engineer. A doctoral program is a longer commitment, typically 5-6 years, that consists of courses and then several years of research.

Some students apply for special one to two year fellowships, like the Rhodes, Marshall, or Gates Cambridge, that provide funding for research experiences. These are often country or university-specific. The Gates Cambridge, for instance, is for several years of graduate study at the University of Cambridge in England. The Office of International Programs hosts information sessions on campus for each of these throughout the year for interested students.

Through my research experiences at Princeton, I've discovered that I really enjoy the problem-solving process of academic research, and I know I'd like to pursue a Ph.D. after graduation. Throughout the summer and fall, I researched different potential programs and advisors in order to prepare my applications for doctoral programs. Most are due mid-December, and I'll hear back in March (stay tuned).

While my preparations for life post-graduation are well underway, I fully intend to cherish my last semester and all its traditions. I'm truly looking forward to all that this coming semester will bring.

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). 

A Not-So-Foolproof Guide To Navigating Junior Independent Work

At the beginning of the year, in most seminars or precepts, professors will have students introduce themselves with their name, year, and major. It felt so weird to say “Hi, my name is Melissa, a junior majoring in psychology and minoring in Latino Studies”. Time at Princeton truly flies by and I couldn’t believe that I was already halfway through my time here. Junior year definitely comes with its own sets of challenges, it is the year all A.B. majors begin their junior independent work. For psychology majors, it is recommended that students find their own advisor that aligns with their research interests. So I began the search for an advisor and lab.

I instantly fell in love with the Adversity and Relationships in Context (ARC) Lab. The research topics were fascinating and thought-provoking and I immediately knew I wanted to be part of it. Even during my interview which is usually meant to be nerve-wracking, the lab manager and graduate student interviewing me opened up with a silly question: pancakes, waffles or french toast? (I obviously answered french toast.) This immediately told me everything I needed to know about the environment of this lab and made me very comfortable for the rest of the interview. When I received the email inviting me to be part of the ARC lab, I couldn’t have been happier. I was both excited and nervous about starting the work that so many upperclassmen talk about. 

We are now halfway through the semester and I’ve just completed my midpoint presentation for my junior paper. Psychology majors have two junior papers, one in the fall and one in the spring. The fall paper I’m working on is a literature review where I look through various articles on my research topic and it's meant to be around 10-20 pages in length. To check on the progress of our research, the psychology department conducts a presentation with a group of four to six psychology majors and a faculty member. While not intended to be a stressful check-in, I couldn’t help but be nervous leading up to the presentation. I had done an extensive review of the literature but I also remained undecided of what I really wanted to focus my research on. My friends who are also majoring in psychology were so helpful during this process. They were able to listen in and help me brainstorm ideas while also providing some insight into explaining my topic to an audience that may have never heard of it before. 

Alongside the support from my friends, being part of a lab is one of the best things about working on my junior paper. While I love the cozy and familiar nature of working with everyone in the ARC lab, I also value the experience and knowledge they’re able to use to help orient my research. Before my official presentation, my lab had all juniors present as a practice round to get some constructive feedback. I think this was one of the most useful aspects of my lab experience because they were able to provide me with specific advice about my research and gave me useful pointers that I can use as I continue to work on my first junior paper. After we had those practice presentations, my lab hosted a lab social! We made pizzas, decorated cookies and some people even painted mini pumpkins. 

Even though balancing my coursework, extracurriculars, and independent research can be difficult, I'm grateful for my support systems. They remind me to take breaks and enjoy life in between. I would love to say that independent work is simple or easy but instead, I’d rather say it presents a challenge that forms my academic career at Princeton. Everyone here is working on such innovative research, we’re learning how to be independent and creative while also having guidance from some of the leading researchers in our fields. I just know that these experiences will be markers of my future success in the field of psychology and also form an integral part of who I am.

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!

A Glimpse Inside a Res College Office

This past September, I started working at the front desk of the New College West Office — the one-stop shop where you can get answers to any of your “Westie” questions. It’s also home to many of the valuable people and resources that are available to help students throughout their Princeton journeys. Besides getting to earn a little extra money, this job has given me unique insight into the behind-the-scenes operations of my residential college and how one office helps keep the whole community running.

If you’re not a Westie, don’t fear! Each residential college at Princeton has an office just like ours. This is where you can find your college’s specific leaders, such as your Director of Student Life (or DSL for short), Dean of Studies, Residential Life Coordinator, and the Head of College. They all serve different purposes, but ultimately are there to support your needs, both academically and otherwise.

To find out more about your college’s team of awesome staff, click one of the links below! :

Over the past few months, I’ve gotten to see people come into the office for a variety of reasons. For example, at certain times during the week, the deans will have Drop-In Advising Hours, where any students can walk-in and meet with their respective dean to discuss academic concerns, like picking classes or managing workloads. I’ve also experienced students coming in to propose a community-building or club event that they want to see happen. And more often than not, we have students simply pop in the office just to grab some free chocolate or say hi!

My favorite part of working at the NCW office has to be our weekly res college tradition: Coffee in the Commons! Every Friday, as a study break, we help organize an event where students can gather and enjoy free coffee, tea, and some sort of treat or pastry. Most of the residential colleges do some variation of this event (like Yeh College’s “FriYEH” or the weekly “Teahive” for Butler College Bees), but Coffee in the Commons will always hold a special place in my heart. Most recently, we did a Mardi Gras-themed Coffee in the Commons, complete with king cake and donuts!

Three Mardi Gras king cakes on counter top
King Cakes at Coffee in the Commons, Mardi-Gras Themed!
Boxes of donuts on counter top
Donuts at Coffee in the Commons!

The colleges and their offices are truly another community within the Princeton community. I would highly recommend stopping by to meet the friendly staff members and mentors that will guide and support you throughout your four years here (and, while you’re at it, maybe consider applying for a job there, too!).

Where to Begin: Starting Junior Independent Work

One of the facets of the Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) degree at Princeton is that you are required to complete junior independent work (in addition to the famous senior thesis). Some departments require two, one for each semester, while others only require one for the academic year. As an East Asian Studies concentrator, I have to write two junior research papers, the first of which is written in conjunction with the mandatory junior seminar (EAS 300) and under the guidance of the designated faculty adviser –– the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the department –– while the second is written with any available adviser of the student’s choosing. 

For East Asian Studies, there are no set parameters for our projects for either semester, meaning that we are genuinely allowed to write about anything that interests us. The freedom is both liberating and daunting, especially since I now had to consider my certificate requirements in my independent work. Two of my certificates: Gender & Sexuality Studies and Translation & Intercultural Communication, require me to write about a topic related to my certificate for at least one of my two junior papers. I remember walking into my classroom on the first week of the semester and sitting in a semicircle with the rest of my classmates when one of the first questions our professor asked us was, “Why don’t we go around in a circle and talk about what your junior paper topic is?” My mind went completely blank. I had a vague subject matter I wanted to research, but one that was nowhere near the stage in which I could share it with other people. I blurted out that I wanted to write something about the feminist movement in Korea and then sat around nervously as my peers described (what seemed to be) well thought out ideas for their independent work. 

However, as the weeks passed, my favorite part of the seminar soon became seeing how other people’s junior paper topics changed and evolved –– and how mine did as well. Now, I am writing my junior paper about the historical legacy of the patriarchy in South Korea, comparing the government response to the Gangnam Murder Case of 2016 with that of the general public, namely women. 

Although my junior independent work is far from finished, here are a few tips I have gathered from the past semester:

  • Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm! 
    • The more you brainstorm and think about your project, the easier the writing itself will become. 
  • Work a little every day, whether it be 5 minutes or 5 hours. 
    • You will have accomplished more than you think by the end of a few weeks. 
  • Ask questions, and ask for feedback.
    • Find a few people to bounce ideas off of and tell them to ask you questions to test gaps in your logic. 
  • Don’t be scared!
    • I spent weeks putting off working on my Junior Paper (JP) because I was overwhelmed, but once I started that it really is an enriching experience once you take it one day at a time. 

Breaking Out of Princeton: Spring Break in NYC

Going to college thousands of miles from home is always both exciting and stressful. However, I found this statement to be especially true during breaks. Often, shorter breaks (like Thanksgiving, fall break and spring break) can seem too short for a trip home to be worthwhile, or even possible. My first year, going home just was not an option for me. Fortunately, Princeton allows many of its students to stay on campus during short breaks. So I never had to worry about access to housing or food during those times. For those who decide to, staying on campus during breaks can be rejuvenating. It is a chance to experience Princeton without the hectic life of being a student, dining hall crowds and (sometimes boring) early morning lectures. It can be a chance to make new connections and catch up on overdue assignments and dining hall dates. That said, for those seeking thrills and excitement, Princeton also offers a number of alternative break plans run by various departments and clubs on campus. These opportunities range from trips to see live Broadway shows or go restaurant hopping in New York City, to free boxing workshops, to class-sponsored trips within the United States or abroad and much more. For my spring break, I spent a week in NYC and it was genuinely one of my best experiences so far as a Princeton student.

5 students posing for a photo in front of a restaurant
Last day in NYC with the group! 

I was part of a cohort of students who spent the week in NYC learning about immigration to the city through the lens of food. The trip was organized by the PACE Center, which is the department that manages most of the service-related initiatives for the University. During this week, along with a group of five Princeton students and a staff member, I engaged in conversations with community leaders in Brooklyn and the Bronx about the journeys of refugees in NYC and the role that food and the restaurant industry play in their experiences. I was also able to socialize with and befriend other Princeton students, many of whom I had never met before. Moreover, I was able to live in NYC for five days and eat quality New York food… For free!

Bowl of stew in shallow bowl on table
Our meal from Emma’s Torch, a nonprofit that prepares immigrants to enter the workforce.

I enjoyed the opportunity this Breakout Trip gave me to branch out and learn more about nearby communities and the challenges their residents can face. Princeton is not huge, but it is certainly big and busy enough to make you forget about the outside world if the intentionality to get out of the "bubble" is lacking. Our supervisor, Geralyn Williams, also made sure we learned about the most effective ways to approach service beyond our spring trip. We learned about empowering and contributing to established initiatives put in place by the locals rather than one centered on saviorism. Additionally, this trip provided me with many opportunities to reflect on how I might pursue my dedication to service in a way that truly serves others while respecting their own resourcefulness and commitment. I gained new insights into the worlds of social work, immigration law and human rights, all of which are areas that interest me deeply. I also had the opportunity to engage with social workers and CEOs of nonprofits and social enterprises and learn about their daily responsibilities, their challenges and the impact they have or aspire to. Following these conversations, I always felt deeply inspired.

Man holding chicken in farm building
Meet Poulette whom I met in an Urban Farm.

When I returned to Princeton, I felt that my sense of purpose had been redefined and sharpened. I felt more confident entering my classes and engaging in my extracurricular activities knowing that what I was learning was going to help prepare me for the life and career I desire. Even during my break time, Princeton accompanied me in my personal journey and it felt incredibly reassuring. In the days following this trip I had a heightened sense of awareness--I felt I was at the right place.

This Post Is Not Sponsored By The Writing Center

I still don't know exactly what my concentration will be. When I applied to Princeton, I thought I was going to concentrate in the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA). However, in the middle of my first semester, I started to have doubts. I began to seriously wonder if SPIA was the right path for me. A semester later and I am more unsure about my concentration than I have ever been. What contributes to my uncertainty is the fact that Princeton offers so many interesting opportunities that I am torn between so many departments, research and funding options. While I am still unsure about what my concentration will be, one thing is certain, I will write. A LOT!

I remember reading somewhere that Princeton is one of the universities that places emphasis on writing. This is one of the reasons why all students are required to produce a senior thesis before they graduate. This is also why all undergraduates are required to take a Writing Seminar, either in the fall or spring semester of their first year. Writing seminars are intended to introduce first-year students to academic writing. There are several seminars that students can rank before they are officially assigned to one. I attended mine, WRI 167/168: Justice Beyond Borders, in the fall. I remember one day, as we were discussing Kant's main claims in "Towards Perpetual Peace", a staff member walked into the room and introduced us to a wonderful resource: The Writing Center.

Lounge of the Writing Center

Essentially, the Writing Center offers free 50-minute and sometimes 80-minute one-on-one appoinments to students in which consultants help them work on writing assignments, ranging from 3-page essays to 20-page research papers. Consultants are undergraduate students who are trained to provide guidance on writing assignments. Personally, I see the Writing Center as an accountability checker. I schedule my appointments days (even weeks) before the deadline for my essays. My thinking is this: if I have a writing consultation scheduled, then I need to have something written. There are even times when I don't have an essay to receive feedback on. Sometimes I only have rough outlines or just broad ideas. However, scheduling a consultation forces me to set time aside to at least think about my writing assignment and to get someone else’s perspective on my initial ideas.

The consultants that I work with always listen to me and ask questions that help refine my ideas and push them further. When there is really nothing to think about, they propose exercises that encourage reflection on specific parts of my essay. Wherever you are in the writing process, they've got you! That's the beauty of the Writing Center. In fact, the consultations I found most useful were the ones where I didn't even have a draft. It is important to note that while no two consultants are the same, at the end of every appointment, I always feel ready to embark on my next step in the writing process.

I see the Writing Center as a group of students who not only listen to me talk about my ideas, but also help to formulate them into words, and ultimately in a "coherent, sensitively argued and well-written essay" (by the way, these are the comments that one of my teachers made on an essay workshopped by the Writing Center. It really works guys!)

This is just my experince with The Writing Center and while others may have a different take, I can say that it has been a helpful tool for me and it may be helpful to you as well. And who knows, maybe I will be a Writing Consultant by the time you come to Princeton and I will consult your essay!

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Taking difficult courses in one of the world’s most prestigious universities, topped with moving to a new and different country seemed daunting at first. Coming from Poland, I didn’t know if my academic preparation was enough to thrive in a Princeton classroom and whether I’d fit well in the American college social life. As these thoughts began to fill my mind when I entered the walls of the beautiful Princeton campus, I remembered a piece of advice that has helped me succeed throughout my life: don’t be afraid to ask for help. I never would have thought that this piece of advice could make such a difference in my transition to college. 

As I progressed through my first fall semester, I quickly realized how many resources Princeton offers when you’re seeking advice. When I was choosing courses or became worried about my progress in them, I spoke to my wonderful academic adviser, Gene Grossman, a professor in the Department of Economics and Princeton School of Public and International Affairs who always knew exactly how to put me on the right track by both challenging me with exciting course choices and encouraging me to strike a work-life balance. Although he knew I was a prospective economics concentrator, he encouraged me to take Freshman Seminars which seemed to be very loosely connected with my concentration (one of which focused on the importance of failure in life, while the other on the constitutional debate over freedom of speech). These courses allowed me to discover areas of knowledge I never explored before and provided a healthy break from learning about economic consumption patterns and supply & demand. 


Antek standing in front of Blair Arch with his Class of 2024 banner.

When I found my days getting disorganized and unproductive, I scheduled mentoring sessions with the McGraw Academic Life & Learning Consultants who helped me organize my academic life. When I feared I’d never secure a summer internship after my first year I spoke to the advisers at the Center for Career Development who helped me polish my resume and land an incredible summer opportunity. With their support, I had a wonderful experience working for Magma Partners during my first-year summer: a venture capital investment fund that focused on supporting fintech and insurtech startups in Latin America. 

Finally, when I worried about adjusting to life in the United States I found a robust community at the Davis International Center. The Davis IC helped me effectively transition to living in a new culture. It allowed me to surround myself with people who found the same things about the United States to be different from their home countries and Davis IC empowered us to adapt to them together. I can certainly say that although Princeton has been a challenging experience, I was able to navigate through it well, without being afraid of failure. I proudly wear orange and black as I know that here I’m always surrounded by the right people who will help me succeed no matter what obstacle I encounter.

Coming to Princeton from Kenya

Hello! My name is Yujin Angolio and I am an international student from Nairobi, Kenya. I am a Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering concentrator in the Great Class of 2023.


Yujin Angolio holding the national flag of Kenya

Coming to Princeton from Kenya was definitely both daunting and exciting. As I bade my parents farewell, I could feel my heart begin to quiver. I would miss them. I would miss my siblings and my friends. I would miss my country and its people. I would miss the food and culture. I would miss hearing people speak Swahili and their vernacular languages. I would miss more things than I could think of at the time. Even so, I was comforted by their words of encouragement: “More than we wish you could stay with us, we wish that you be brave and confident as you go out into the world. You are not alone. God is always with you.


Yujin Angolio on the right side of her friend Tiffany

It was the faith I knew my loved ones had in me that would keep me going. On the countless days I felt homesick, I would reminisce about the times spent together with family and friends and smile. The phone calls, WhatsApp chats and Zoom calls with them helped me through the homesickness while also allowing me to keep connected with people at home. With all the activities and programs that Princeton brings, one may occasionally lose focus of important things like relationships and faith. It takes a great deal of intentionality to shut out all the noise and decide to take time to pursue those meaningful things. If I had the chance, I would caution my younger self that doing so is not as easy as it sounds. I would tell myself: 

“As the days roll by, and you feel like life is slowly taking a toll on you, remember to pause and do those very things you think you are ‘too busy’ for. The call with a friend from home, the dinner in the dining hall with a friend from Princeton, the prayer in the morning before you dash off to class, the stroll around campus as you watch the leaves fall around you, the quiet reflection and meditation time before you go to bed...those things. Take the time do those things because that is ultimately where you find strength, life, assurance, and comfort. 

Yes, there are things you miss, but there’s certainly much more that you will gain!”