How Do I…?

Academic Support

What should I do if I’m not doing as well as I’d like in a course?

Whenever you encounter difficulty in a course, we urge you to seek help as soon as possible. The Support section of this website lists the many academic resources available to Princeton undergraduates, including tutoring, study halls, writing center conferences, workshops on academic skills, library assistance and more. All services are free of charge. Your first and best source of support, however, is your course instructor, who knows the course materials and is in the best position to advise you about how to improve your performance in the course. Your dean or director of studies is also an important source of advice about the best resources available to help meet your particular needs. They may direct you to the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning: for example, if time management is one of your challenges, they might recommend you attend a McGraw time-management workshop or schedule an individual “learning strategies” consultation for “blueprinting” the course syllabus. 

What happens in “office hours” and when should I go to a professor’s office hours?

To get the most from your courses, you should seek out and engage opportunities for learning beyond those afforded by class time and in assigned texts. You might want to go to a professor’s office hours to pursue a topic more deeply than class discussion or readings have allowed, or because you are encountering difficulty with assignments or quizzes. You should definitely visit office hours if you are struggling in a course, as the professor is the best source of advice on how to improve your performance. If you are not sure what kinds of questions to bring to office hours, a learning consultant at the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning can help you to frame course-specific questions to ensure that your meeting will be productive. Most professors post their office hours on Blackboard and on the course syllabus. If hours are not posted, ask your instructor when he or she is available. 

What happens at the McGraw Study Halls?

The McGraw Study Halls are the first place to go for tutoring in introductory chemistry, economics, mathematics, physics and statistics. Experienced, trained, undergraduate tutors are available four evenings a week to guide students through learning strategies for course material, thinking through problem sets and the concepts underlying them, and preparing for exams. Rather than feeding students answers, tutors help students to discover them. Emphasis is placed on the development of strategies and techniques crucial to quantitative problem solving. Study hall also provides a good space for study groups to meet, or for informal group work with classmates. For more information, visit Study Hall @Frist.

Who is eligible to request help from a peer tutor?

Before requesting a peer tutor, students are expected to seek help from the course instructor and to attend any review sessions and study halls that are offered for that course. Individual peer tutoring is not intended to replace conversations with instructors or any other course-based support. Sometimes a professor will recommend peer tutoring, or a student may continue to have difficulty after making initial use of these resources and wish to request individual tutoring through the residential colleges. Tutoring is only available for introductory course, not for upper-level departmental courses.

How do I request a peer tutor?

To request a tutor, click on the peer tutoring website and complete the Request a Peer Tutor Form. You must then follow up by making an appointment with your dean or director of studies, who will assign a tutor after a conversation with you about the particular course, your overall academic situation and your goals for tutoring. All tutoring is free of charge.

How can I make the most of my peer tutoring session?

It’s important to prepare for your tutoring sessions by attempting some sample problems and identifying particular concepts where you are having difficulty. One of the best ways to use tutoring sessions is to go over sample exams from previous years. You should discuss with your tutor the times and frequency of meetings, and agree on your goals for the sessions. If at any point you feel the tutoring is not productive, please make an appointment to meet with your dean or director of studies, who can assist you in finding a new tutor or other form of support.

When should I consider scheduling a learning strategies consultation at the McGraw Center?

A learning consultation is particularly helpful when you have a question about how to study rather than about the particular content of a given course. For example, if you are finding the amount of vocabulary in a foreign language course formidable, you could schedule a meeting to discuss strategies for memorizing and organizing your vocabulary study — in contrast to a tutoring session, where you might do drills of particular words. Juniors, seniors and graduate students from a variety of disciplines are trained to collaborate with you to develop an individualized approach to learning that draws upon your unique profile of strengths and is tailored to the specific demands of each of your courses. Sign up for an hour long one-on-one session with a learning consultant at the McGraw Center website.

When should I consider making an appointment at the Writing Center?

Any student can benefit from a free one-on-one conference with an experienced fellow writer at the Writing Center. Every writer needs a reader! The Writing Center fellows are trained to consult on writing projects in any discipline. You’re welcome to bring writing in any form — ideas, notes, an outline or an early draft. Writing Center fellows can offer advice about the writing process, from getting started to revising, and they can work with you on the essential elements of academic writing, such as thesis, organization, use of sources and clarity of ideas and sentences. To make an appointment or to look up drop-in hours, visit the Writing Center’s website.

How can I improve my exam preparation and note-taking skills?

Every semester, the McGraw Center offers a series of hands-on, active and process-focused workshops in which students learn and apply strategies designed expressly for the demanding Princeton context. Topics include organization and time management, managing large amounts of information, exam prep, effective reading and lecture note-taking, as well as overcoming procrastination. Students sign up for workshops in advance on the McGraw website.

What does it cost to use academic support services at Princeton?

All academic support resources for Princeton undergraduates are available free of charge.

What should I do if I continue to struggle after getting help for a course?

If you have been getting help from instructors and tutors, but still find yourself struggling, make an appointment to meet with your residential college dean or director of studies. They can review your overall academic program with you and make sure you know all your options, including adjustments to your course load and schedule.

Counseling and Disabilities Support

What should I do if I’m experiencing a personal crisis or family emergency?

In most cases, your first point of contact should be the director of student life at your residential college, who can help you access campus resources and provide a safe, confidential space to discuss your concerns. Contact information for the directors of student life is available on the college websites. If your academic work is affected, you should also contact your residential college dean or director of studies, in order to discuss accommodations that might be needed.

How do I find help if I’m stressed out, anxious or depressed?

Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) provides a variety of mental health care services to all students at Princeton. They are particularly sensitive to the stresses of undergraduate life and the many academic and social pressures that you may encounter in your years at Princeton. You may contact CPS directly for an appointment by calling 609-258-3285.

What should I do if my problems are not “serious”?

Each year, about 1000 students use Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) for both individual and group counseling; about 40% of undergraduates use the services sometime during their years at Princeton. It’s not a sign of weakness to take advantage of the resources on campus that are available to you. Students turn to CPS to cope with a wide range of problems, and you are encouraged to come in to discuss any type of concern — roommate difficulties, loneliness, lack of self-confidence, procrastination, sexual orientation and gender identity concerns, grief or cultural/ethnic issues. 

Does anyone find out that I’ve been to counseling?

Any counseling that you seek out for yourself will remain completely confidential. If you discuss your situation with your dean, director of studies or director of student life, they too are bound by the rules of student privacy to maintain your confidentiality at the highest level. No information about visits to CPS may be released to deans, parents or professors without your explicit permission.

What do I do if I have a physical or psychological disability?

If you believe that you qualify for academic accommodations in your classes, you must first register with the Office of Disability Services. Registration is a voluntary, confidential process and may occur at any time during your course of study. If you are an incoming student, this process may be initiated by completing the Disabilities and Other Special Needs form in the matriculation packet and submitting documentation to ODS. Current students should make an appointment at ODS to discuss its services and complete the online registration form. Submission of documentation may precede or follow an intake interview.

Financial Aid

How do I re-apply for financial aid?

The Princeton Financial Aid Application should be submitted by May 1 each spring to apply for aid for the next academic year. The application is evaluated according to the same need-based guidelines that were in effect when you were admitted. More information on financial aid for current students is available on the Financial Aid website.

Will I receive the same amount of financial aid each year?

The University’s policy is to meet students’ full demonstrated need each year. Award amounts may vary from year to year, based on changes in your family's financial circumstances and Princeton's cost of attendance. If your family situation worsens during the year (for example, a family member loses employment) you may request a review of your award based upon new information covering the most recent calendar year.

How do I apply for summer earnings replacement?

Most financial aid recipients are expected to work during the summer. If you decide to pursue an activity other than work during this time, or you are employed but fail to meet your savings expectation, you are eligible to apply for summer earnings replacement. Funds are available to cover a summer savings shortfall, usually through one-half University grant and one-half self-help. The type and amount of aid will be determined during an interview with an aid counselor when you return to campus in September.

Is it possible to borrow a student loan if I need one?

Under Princeton's financial aid policy, student loans are not required in initial aid awards. But loans are available upon request, and students most commonly use them to replace their campus job if they can’t work, to purchase a personal computer or to help with the cost of an approved summer school course. A financial aid counselor must determine your eligibility for need-based loans; you can make an appointment by calling 609-258-3330.

Do I have to maintain a minimum GPA to remain eligible for financial aid?

There is no minimum grade point average requirement to remain on financial aid, but students must continue to maintain satisfactory academic progress.

How does my campus job work?

If a job amount is included in your award, you may find job openings on the Student Employment website. Students are paid directly, just like a part-time job, and may use the money for books and other expenses.