And so it begins...
The anxiety and anticipation of the college admissions process is fading, and you and your child are looking forward to beginning a new journey at Princeton in the fall.
Your Path to Princeton, the website for incoming students, opens on May 1. It contains a wealth of information intended to help students and families plan for the fall semester and begin the transition to University life. The P2P site covers both academic and social aspects of a student's first year, and new content is added as it becomes available, so plan to make frequent visits and see what's new. Both Princeton staff and current students are available to answer questions, so your child should feel free to let us know if they need any answers that are not provided by the website, or by any of the myriad other websites maintained by the University.
Near the end of May, students will receive their login ID and password for Princeton's online network, and may then enter the Matriculation Online system. These important forms allow us to confirm student and family contact information, learn about housing and dining preferences, and review a host of healthcare topics. While the matriculation process may appear daunting at first glance, most of the information can be submitted fairly quickly.
In mid-July, students learn which of the six residential colleges they will call home for the next two or more years. They also learn their roommate assignments and start to visualize life in a dorm. The college experience becomes a little more real as they browse their college website to view pictures of the buildings and college staff.
All incoming students will participate in one of three student-led, small-group experiences organized by Outdoor Action, Community Action, and the Department of Athletics. These programs are wonderful opportunities for new students to meet fellow first-years before the start of classes, while everyone is equally new, excited, and free of the future pressure of studying and homework.
A limited number of new students are invited to attend the Freshman Scholars Institute, a summer program that gives selected students a head start on their Princeton experiences. This is another opportunity that invited students should evaluate seriously, and family support is especially important.
Finally, some students will elect to take a gap year and defer their entry to college for twelve months. This can follow a strictly personal agenda, or leverage Princeton's Novogratz Bridge Year Program. Either way, there is never harm in delaying entrance to the first year, and students who hold off may arrive feeling even better prepared than those who attend without a break.
What your student may experience:
- The euphoria of graduating from high school does not pass quickly. Students are proud of completing twelve long years of school, likely graduating near the top of their class, and generally feeling invincible. They may not want to think too far ahead to the fall just yet.
- Summer plans - travel, family vacation, camp, summer jobs - are important. Students often view this as the "last summer of freedom," anticipating that summers in college may be consumed with internships and other activities in preparation for eventual entry into the workforce or graduate school.
- As the end of August approaches, apprehension may set in. Will I get along with my roommates? Do I have the right clothes? What if I don't make any friends?
What you can do to help:
- First of all, talk with your child and listen to any concerns they have. Family support is a critical component of a happy and fulfilling college experience, no different than the support needed through all of the previous years of your student's life.
- Gently encourage their engagement with Your Path to Princeton and Matriculation Online. They will likely need your assistance with financial and medical questions. Resist the impulse to complete the forms for them. This is a good opportunity to let them shoulder the responsibility for their college experience, which will include many decisions they will need to make on their own.
- Review the Families Handbook for useful background information on the University and vicinity, as well as contact information for key offices. You may want to add some phone numbers to your cellphone contact list for future reference.
- If your student is the first in your family to attend college, please be aware that we have resources available to provide guidance and support. Many of our faculty and staff were the first in their families to attend college, and they are eager to share their experiences.
- If your student has been invited to attend the Freshman Scholars Institute, acknowledge the difficult choice of attending school in the summer versus earning money, spending time with friends, or taking a break from studying. Starting Princeton coursework early is not an easy decision to make, but it is an extremely rewarding - and fun - experience for those who take the plunge. Family support in the decision is essential.
- If your student decides they want to take a year off, family support is essential there as well. A structured experience like the Bridge Year Program can seem intimidating, but is invariably a positive and life-changing experience for those who participate. Other gap year activities can be equally rewarding if planned appropriately, so take the possibility seriously.
- Of course, part of the summer will be spent planning, packing, and otherwise getting organized for the first year of life in a new environment, surrounded by a group of strangers who will ultimately evolve into good friends. Encourage your student not to overthink their packing effort; there are many options on and near campus for acquiring supplies that were overlooked.