Updated: Mar 7, 2021
Response via Quora: Answered on July 2, 2017
Finally, a question I feel rather qualified to answer. I just completed my first year at Princeton and it has been a hell of a ride.
Let’s cut to the chase then:
Expect a challenge. This goes without saying. However, I cannot believe how many people (me included) come out of high school feeling like hotshots and overshoot our marks just to be severely disappointed by the difficulty. Princeton’s reputation as a challenging institution is no mistake. You are not special. Temper your expectations grade wise and don’t overload yourself with difficult courses and too many extracurriculars (a common mistake). Work hard, go to office hours, ask good questions, and find the best students in the class to collaborate with and you’ll be golden.
Do not procrastinate. Also goes without saying but I cannot stress this enough. The curriculum will punish those who wait until the last minute. Be forewarned.
Take advantage of every opportunity. Princeton is awash with opportunities for everyone. The competitiveness of the application process is balanced by the volume of the openings. You will likely be rejected often. Get used to it. Dust yourself off and try again.
Get Creative. Repeat after me — $22 billion in endowment. If you want to start a club, start it. If you want to create your own curriculum for a degree, go right ahead. If you want to come up with a summer research program as an excuse to ride a bicycle down the western coast of Central America, what are you waiting for? Princeton has money, time, and energy to spend on its students. That is why they are known as the greatest undergraduate school in the United States. Take advantage. You’ll only be mad you didn’t.
Reach out. My personal favorite aspect of Princeton is its interconnected student and alumni community. Just show up for one of our Princeton Reunions and you’ll witness one of the greatest spectacles of young and old postgraduates partying together. Access to this network comes with the package and that pricey tuition. Be fearless and utilize your brand new connections to get that internship you always wanted or to find a place to hang out when out of the country. You’ll be glad you tried. Thank me later.
Have fun. When you’re not studying hard, make sure to enjoy your unregimented time. Explore the campus, party with friends, march around town, learn something you couldn’t in the classroom. These four years are the time to make lifelong friends and longlasting memories. Leave your comfort zone and jump right in.
Comment from Gary G. Anderson, Princeton Class of 1967 (circa July 4, 2017):
“I’m impressed at the extent of Okusanya’s wisdom. Having just returned from my 50th anniversary reunion he is telling you facts that many of us only recently realized we had not done while we were at Princeton, and confirmed by talking to the current students working for our class and partying with us at our 50th. Gary Anderson Class of 1967”