The Scholars Institute Fellows Program (SIFP) is among various University resources that empower undergraduates, particularly those from first-gen and low-income backgrounds, to thrive at Princeton. The program was launched by the Office of the Dean of the College (ODOC) in fall 2015 to provide mentorship opportunities, academic enrichment, and a support network of students, faculty and staff.
Princeton’s financial aid program is one of the most generous in the country. Approximately 3,100 undergraduates—roughly 60 percent of the student body—receive financial aid assistance, thanks in large part to scholarships created by alumni, parents, and friends. These scholarships are at the heart of the University’s need-blind admission and “no-loan” policies. Need-blind admission means that Princeton students learn with—and from—peers of different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.
When Laura Peña ’19 arrived at Princeton, she thought everyone was “a genius who had it all together.” Despite her stellar high school grades, she felt like an impostor and worried that maybe she didn’t really belong at the University. “If you’re from a background like mine, lower income and first generation, sometimes you wonder, ‘Am I a statistic or am I here because someone sees something in me?’” said Peña, who is from Elizabeth, New Jersey.
In a wood-paneled room in Princeton University's historic East Pyne building, 15 students sit among a circle of desks debating a question: Who was a more effective leader, Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X?
"In terms of effectiveness, I'd say one is not better than the other because they both served the purpose of a practical movement," said Bessie Bauman of Olathe, Kansas.
Soledad Mendoza ’16 is the first in her family to attend college. Jia Ning Cheng ’17 traveled halfway around the world to study here. Garrett Gosse ’16 has four college-bound siblings; his family’s resources must stretch to accommodate them all.
In 1984, Bob Peck ’88 was the valedictorian of his high school class, poised to become the first person in his family to attend college. The son of a butcher who had recently passed away, he planned to apply to schools only in his home state of Texas. A visit from Alumni Schools Committee member Theodore McAlister ’52 introduced him to other possibilities.
An unusual letter arrived on campus recently from the mother of a freshman: “I need to give back in some way,” wrote Kuntal Parikh, whose son, Agastya, receives scholarship support. “I do not have financial resources to contribute, but am more than willing to do anything else…absolutely anything, from filling envelopes to filing to making calls to making endless cups of Indian chai lattes or dinners or anything else that you can think of.”
Princeton's pioneering financial aid program allows students from all backgrounds and from all around the world to pursue their aspirations without being encumbered by debt.