Hey everyone, it’s Josh. The first round of Princeton Preview was just days ago, but there have been so many people on campus recently! Studying in Frist seeing high school seniors roam around awkwardly with their parents reminds me of myself last year, and the excitement I had leading up to the moment I flew to the States. I wrote a bit about why I chose Princeton in my introduction post, and the process I went through to narrow down my choices. Today, I will skip all the research I did about each swim team, each college campus and their various “stats”, all the email and Skype exchanges I had with the many coaches from different colleges, and my busy visit to three colleges literally a week or so before I committed to Princeton. Instead, I think I will try and go into further detail about the final days I had to decide between Harvard and Princeton.
When smaller is better!
All my life, I have been at relatively small schools. I don’t remember ever being in a school where there were more than 100 people in my grade. I knew everyone in my grade, and everyone (I hope) knew at least my name. Coming from a background like this, the smaller size of Princeton appealed to me over say, a big school like Michigan University (5-6 times the number of students at Princeton) or Harvard (2 times the number of students).
One of the selling points of Princeton is that you can develop meaningful relationships with your professors. As a guy who is more of an introvert, I didn’t really expect myself to be that one person in your class who sucks up to all the teachers and makes small talk with them. Still, even for me, I found it really easy to just email a professor and ask them a question, or ask them to talk in their office. Over spring break, I had the opportunity to talk to two of my professors about helping my choose a major. In each of my conversations, I felt like they genuinely cared for me and my decisions, as evidenced by them patiently listening to me as I incoherently rambled on about things I like, classes I’m struggling in, my worries, and a whole slew of other things. I think that this is something that is unique to Princeton, and something that makes an undergraduate experience infinitely better.
Quick side note! Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to major in! One of the beautiful things about Princeton, and American universities in general is that you don’t need to declare a major until your first or second year! Part of the fun is trying out different classes and finding what you love! sometimes you may just surprise yourself. I certainly did when I found that I was doing decently well in my computer science class. For once at my time here, people were asking me for help with their work. Never in high school did I expect to like programming like I do now.
More than a team
Another thing that was important when choosing a school was the swim team on campus. I would be training with them 20 hours a week for four years, so I had to be sure that I would get along with the coaches and the swimmers. Our season ended in February as I have mentioned many times already, and although I didn’t perform as well as I’d hoped, it was everything I could have ever wanted in a collegiate athletics team. The team is committed to swimming fast, not just individually, but as a group. We are all in on the same boat, so we share our struggles and successes. I’m currently training to swim at New Zealand Nationals in July, so I’m in a perpetual state of “in-season”. However, people are supportive of my decision, and some have even joined me in my full-time training schedule. This doesn’t mean we don’t have the time to relax and chill out, because now that “all” of us are off-season, there has been waaaay more opportunities for the guys to come together and have a good time.
Now I get to probably what might be the biggest reason why I chose this place over anywhere else. When I first visited this place, my gut told me that this was the place. I honestly cannot explain why I felt this way, but I felt a pull that I didn’t feel in UPenn or Harvard, the other two schools I was able to visit in my short trip to the east coast. Looking back and actually typing this up, it is surreal to think that one of the biggest reasons I’m here is because I had an unexplainable urge that told me that I should study and swim here.
Going back to my decision to major in computer science, I also spent a lot of time thinking, only to be swayed by my gut feeling. At one point I was really tempted to switch to an econ major to try and free up more time to swim. While that is certainly still a possible backup plan, I went ahead and listened to my gut, which said that I should continue with BSE, even if it meant that it will be extra work for me.
So yeah, I think this is a pretty good representation of why I chose Princeton in the end. You might get to the point where it’s hard to choose between the schools you may have been accepted into, but sometimes you may just have to trust your gut and hope for the best!