Campus Visit: Princeton University, Princeton NJ

Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist. John Nash, mathematician. Eric Schmidt, executive chairman, Google. Just three names out of countless notable individuals who graduated from, acted as faculty members at, or were closely associated with, Princeton University.

Walking on campus and visiting its key sites, one gets a distinct sense that Princeton University is a place of consequence. Its heritage buildings – exquisite pieces of Gothic architecture – help establish Princeton’s reputation in a visitor’s mind. Blair Hall, Firestrone Library, McCarter Theatre, Nassau Hall and the University Chapel are just a few outstanding structures that cannot be missed. A number of abstract sculptures, spread around the campus, provide an aesthetic connection between its distant past and its dynamic present.

English: Nassau Hall, Princeton University, NJ

English: Nassau Hall, Princeton University, NJ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Established in 1746, Princeton is a private research post-secondary institution, currently with a smaller overall enrolment than most other Ivy League universities (about 7,600 students). At the same time, it has the largest per-student university endowment in the world (some US$ 17 billion, in total). Despite its motto – Dei sub numine viget (Under God’s power she flourishes), a legacy of its Presbyterian origins – Princeton in an organization built on secular and liberal principles. 

It is not a university offering a broad range of research and doctoral programs, such as schools of medicine, business or law. Princeton’s focus, instead, is primarily on social sciences, the humanities, natural sciences and engineering. At both the undergraduate and graduate levels, expectations are high relating to students’ research-based, independent work. All Bachelor of Arts students must complete a senior thesis and all Bachelor of Science in Engineering must complete at least two terms of independent research.

The estimated cost of attendance for undergraduates in 2012-2013 is around US$ 55,000! The university provides a break-down of that figure as follows: tuition $38,650, room charge $6,950; board rate $5,680; and estimated miscellaneous expenses $3,500. “The room charge and board rate are standard for University dormitories and meal plans.  Estimated miscellaneous expenses include the residential college fee, activities fees, class dues and a one-time transcript fee.  […] This estimate does not include the cost of travel, which may range between $100 and $2,500. Students who are not covered by a family health insurance policy must purchase Student Health Plan coverage for $1,850. University charges are likely to increase modestly for 2013-14.”

Princeton provides financial aid to students in need, based on their family circumstances. An “estimator” tool is made available on the university website, designed for U.S. and Canadian applicants. The administration “encourage[s] all qualified applicants to consider Princeton, regardless of whether they can afford the full cost of attending.” The admission process is “need blind” and the university financial aid is based solely on financial need, not on scholarly merit. In addition to university grants and external scholarships, students can also apply for part-time campus jobs. (For example, a student whose gross family is between $80,000 and $100,000 a year may still receive an average grant of $43,650, covering the full tuition and 40% or room and board).

For potential applicants or simply individuals interested in visiting one of America’s oldest universities, Princeton organizes campus tours, year-round, seven days a week. Reservations are not required for groups under 15 people, but the timing and the number of daily tours vary depending on the month of the year. For up-to-date information visitors are encouraged to check the university website, which also provides suggestions on campus parking. Access to information offices may be limited during the summer months, as a smaller number of staff are present. A number of campus areas, including public and residential buildings, seem to be poorly accessible to disabled people.

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