written by
Taylor Morgan

Princeton Financial Aid Guide: How I Paid for College

Financial Aid Guides 11 min read
Photo courtesy of Princeton University

Hi everyone! My name is Taylor, and I graduated from Princeton University in 2016. I really enjoyed my time at Princeton and am thankful for the opportunity to have attended. I did so thanks to their generous financial aid and commitment to student success regardless of socioeconomic background. Though each experience is different, I hope that mine can help you understand how the Princeton financial aid process works.

Before Princeton: Saving Up in High School and College Applications

Admittedly, saving solely for college tuition was not my main priority in high school. I knew that I would be applying for financial aid. I also anticipated, even before receiving a financial aid package, that I would require student loans to finance my schooling.

During high school, I worked a few different jobs, including as a soccer referee, field hockey coach, and babysitter. Though I did earn a few bucks, this money ultimately didn’t contribute to my college funds. Looking back, I could have worked more diligently to save for college. Luckily, Princeton University’s generous financial aid package made it possible for me to attend regardless.

Although my high school paychecks did not make up a significant portion of my college funding, these jobs remained valuable for other reasons. By learning to balance a hectic schedule of work, school, sports, and relaxing, I developed skills that would become integral to my later success. Since academics and athletics took up much of my time at Princeton, it was helpful to have experience balancing my priorities.

Application Fees

The application fee for Princeton University is ~$100. However, the university waives this fee for those applying from low-income families. Princeton understands that for many families, even an application fee can be an extreme hardship. This mindfulness transcends their entire application as well as their financial aid, move-in, and campus job processes. The Princeton Office of Financial Aid is extremely accessible to students and families. They are always willing to work with applicants (as well as enrolled students) during the financial aid application process.

FAFSA

During the college admissions process, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to apply for federal aid.

I am the oldest in my family, and neither of my parents knew much about the college application process in general, let alone what a FAFSA was or how to fill it out. When I applied for financial aid, I researched how to fill out and submit a FAFSA. I then used this information to help my parents fill out the parts they needed to complete. There are many resources available online to help explain the financial aid and FAFSA completion process. Bullseye also offers assistance in completing and submitting the FAFSA!

Completing the FAFSA can be overwhelming and confusing for those who have never been through the process. Speaking to others about the process can be hugely helpful. I would encourage anyone to reach out to Bullseye for help with FAFSA completion. Our experts can help you make sure you fully understand the forms and meet all of your deadlines. We love helping you reach your full potential and always look forward to working with students.

For Princeton, in addition to completing the FAFSA, applicants are required to complete the Princeton Financial Aid Application (PFAA). This is a Princeton University-specific financial aid form that helped the Financial Aid office determine an applicant’s needs for tuition assistance. This application, like the FAFSA, is typically due in the winter after regular decision deadlines have passed. Princeton’s financial aid application also typically requires other paperwork based on your specific family situation, such as W-2 forms or tax returns.

See here for more information on when and how you should fill out the FAFSA.

Scholarships

Because Princeton offers solely need-based financial aid (more on this later), it does not offer merit-based or athletic scholarships. This focus on need-based aid makes it possible for students of all socioeconomic backgrounds to attend the university.

However, there are plenty of resources available for additional information on merit-based scholarships and other similar opportunities. These resources include high school guidance counselors, fellow students, or even just an online search! Our Bullseye team can also be a great resource. From understanding which scholarships might be right for you to completing your applications, our team of experts can help you every step of the way.

Image courtesy of Princeton University

Choosing Princeton

When I was an underclassman in high school, I had no idea where I was going to go to college. Though I always knew I wanted to go to college, I did not have my mind set on a particular school. It was not really until senior year that Princeton even appeared on my radar.

I fell in love with Princeton for many reasons, including the renowned academic caliber, the incredible financial aid, and the extensive alumni network. However, the main reason I chose Princeton was the incredible people I met on the track and field team when I visited campus during the fall of my senior year of high school. I felt such a warmth and connection with the team, and I eagerly welcomed the opportunity to join the program.

From a financial aid perspective, I likely could have gone to another school on an athletic scholarship. However, I decided that it was worth taking on some student loan debt for the accolade of a Princeton University degree. The Princeton experience is extremely valuable, both during undergraduate education and as a graduate. With a loyal alumni network, the Princeton name has helped connect me to people across the country and world.

Additionally, Princeton’s financial aid package is nearly unmatched. With a reputation for its generous financial aid packages, Princeton aims to provide aid to all families who need it. My family received a generous aid package from the university that greatly reduced the financial impact of attending Princeton.

Princeton Financial Aid

I was able to attend Princeton almost solely because of the university’s generous financial aid package. As I explained before, Princeton University offers need-based financial aid (rather than athletic or merit scholarships), so any tuition coverage I would receive was based on my family’s needs. Thankfully, the university was extremely accommodating, and I was able to attend for a fraction of the full tuition.

Because Princeton University’s aid system operates based on need, it does not account for the talents or achievements of its applicants when calculating financial aid packages. This model allows people like me the opportunity to pursue a Princeton education, and I respect and value it immensely.

Part of my initial financial aid package breakdown included a line item for a student work-study job on campus. This work-study component suggested that I would use money earned on campus to pay part of my tuition. See below for more information about work-study job opportunities at Princeton.

Job Opportunities at Princeton

Freshman Year

When I started my freshman year at Princeton, I was extremely overwhelmed by the adjustment to college. I ultimately decided to forgo my campus job for the time. Instead, I increased my borrowed loan amount from Princeton. This let me use my extra time to focus on my studies and acclimate to life on campus.

Though this decision was not easy, it was ultimately the right choice for me. Not taking a campus job allowed me to adjust to the academics of Princeton as well as to college life in general. Once I began work, I did so as a college student more confident in her academics, athletics, and social abilities. This ultimately led to a more successful undergraduate experience for me.

My Campus Jobs at Princeton

After my first semester at Princeton University, I felt much more adjusted to campus life. I then proceeded to hold several jobs across campus. My first campus job was as a sort of “buddy” - my job was to work with graduate students whose second language was English. We would meet up once every couple of weeks to a month for an hour or two. During our sessions, we would talk and play games to help them practice their English speaking skills. It was super fun, and I got to meet some incredibly bright and interesting people along the way.

Another job I held at Princeton was working the front desks at the two Princeton gyms, Jadwin and Dillon. At Jadwin, I recorded tennis court reservations, answered visitor questions, and closed up at the end of the night. At Dillon, I checked out basketballs, recorded gym memberships, and answered visitor questions.

Finally, my last job at Princeton was as part of the athletic laundry team. A few times a week, a friend and I would wash, dry, and hang all of the varsity athletics laundry loops. I got such great work experience through my jobs at Princeton, and I was able to put some of this extra money towards my tuition costs.

Overall, I probably spent five to ten hours a week at a campus job. These hours were typically spread out over the course of the week, so it was manageable for me to balance my work commitments with the rest of my Princeton experience. Some Princeton students choose to commit more time to a campus job, and those opportunities are certainly available to those who desire them. However, my more moderate workload made the most sense for me both logistically and financially, and I am happy to have had my campus job experiences. As I did through my jobs in high school, I learned about how to balance my work commitments with my academic, athletic, and personal commitments.

Princeton has so many jobs available across campus. Additionally, many of these opportunities are specifically designated for those under a work-study financial aid program. Students can work at the Frist Campus Center, at the libraries across campus, and at the dining halls, among many other options. Princeton is cognizant of its students’ various financial backgrounds and levels of financial aid, and the university offers many of these positions to help students manage their tuition costs.

Overhead shot of a lady working in an office
Photographer: Kiefer Likens | Source: Unsplash

Budgeting at Princeton

When I was a student at Princeton, I focused most of my budgeting efforts on how to manage my eventual student loan repayment. Even though I held multiple jobs while I was a student, I ultimately could not make a significant dent in my loan amount, as my summer internships were stipend-based and my campus jobs only totaled up to a few hours a week.

Note: As I mentioned previously, I was able to accept internships that were stipend-based. However, keep in mind that there’s many ways to approach your summers at Princeton — many of my friends accepted paid positions over stipend-based options.

When I could manage to, I did make payments on my accrued loan interest. No matter how small, I knew these payments would help minimize my overall amount due once I started my repayment.

If you have any questions about financial aid, I’d recommend reaching out to the Princeton Financial Aid office. When I was at Princeton, I spoke with members of the Financial Aid office, who warmly welcomed my questions about my student loans. They even helped me understand how to best approach my loan repayment.

Princeton also has a network setup for first generation and low-income students at the university. The Scholars Institute Fellows Program helps first generation and low-income students thrive at Princeton. This program currently has about 250 undergraduate members. Overall, Princeton strives to provide all necessary resources for its students, regardless of financial background.

I can happily say that I was able to repay all of my student loans in a few years. Through Princeton, I am thankful to have had the resources available to set up a successful repayment program from the start.

Summer jobs and Princeton Career Services

During my summers as a Princeton undergraduate, I held a couple of internships that were made possible by the university. Both of these internships were supported by university stipends rather than salaries. These stipends allowed me to take unpaid opportunities. For each of my positions, I received funding from Princeton University to help cover living expenses. However, I did not receive a significant amount of extra money for actually participating in my internships.

I was fortunate enough to let my desire for travel drive my internship decisions rather than needing to seek out the most compensation I could find. My two internships were through various Princeton programs. Each included an appropriate stipend for the location and associated costs of living. I spent one summer in Nanyuki, Kenya, doing field research for a Ph.D. candidate; I spent another summer in Manila, Philippines, as a business development intern for a solar company. These were both such incredible experiences! I am so thankful to have had these opportunities to travel, gain experience, and live in places so vastly different from where I was raised.

At Princeton, students are fortunate to have valuable resources available through the Career Services team. Princeton Career Services holds career fairs, provides career planning services, and advises students in their internship and job searches. Princeton students undertake a vast array of summer internships to fit their individual wants and needs for the summer months. From banking on Wall Street to community partnerships in one’s hometown; from summer classes in London to startups in San Francisco — Princeton students have done it all over the summer.

Princeton is extremely supportive of students’ desires for how to spend their summer time, and it was always such fun to come back after summer break and hear what my friends and classmates had been up to all summer!

Image courtesy of Princeton University

Final Thoughts

I am so thankful for the opportunity to attend Princeton University, and I gained so much from my college experience. Please reach out to our Bullseye team so that we can help you apply to Princeton or the school of your dreams!


This essay guide was written by Taylor Morgan, Princeton University ‘16. If you want to get help with the college admissions process from Taylor or other Bullseye Admissions advisors, register with Bullseye today.

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