Welcome Letter to Families

Dear Families of the Class of 2024,

On behalf of myself and my colleagues in the Office of the Dean of the College, I’m delighted to welcome you to the Princeton community. I’m sure you’re eagerly anticipating the start of your student’s college career. I’ve just written to your student to welcome them to Princeton and to update them on our plans for the fall, given the ongoing Covid-19 emergency.

Because of continuing public health concerns, this fall will be atypical. We now know that first-year students’ orientation, for example, will be organized as a remote, rather than a residential, experience. Our staff, however, is working diligently and creatively to use every means at our disposal to make your student’s welcome to Princeton as warm and effective as possible.

Princeton’s president, Christopher Eisgruber, prizes our residential teaching, learning, and living community, and continues to hope for a full return to campus this fall. He is studying reports from public health officials; from our own faculty, many of whom have important perspectives on this debate; and from New Jersey’s Governor, Phil Murphy, whose state executive orders have guided our campus policy since the pandemic’s start.

As he noted in his recent message to the campus community, President Eisgruber very much wants to bring the Class of 2024 to campus along with all our undergraduates, but he’s determined do so only when and if we can keep your student and our whole community healthy and safe. We’ll provide your student with detailed information about the University’s plans for the upcoming academic year so that you can make informed decisions about how to proceed. We plan to announce if fall semester will be offered residentially or remotely in early July.

You no doubt have many questions. I encourage you to read our COVID-19 information webpage, which we’ll update as our plans for the fall and next spring firm. Your student now has access to “Path to Princeton,” the web portal where all their enrollment and matriculation business will be conducted and addressed. The site was created to assist our new students’ transition to campus, but I invite you to browse the site as well. It includes answers to frequently asked questions about different aspects of learning at Princeton, as well as a timeline of important deadlines and a special section especially for families.

Incoming students will soon receive a “NetID” from the University, along with instructions for activating their Princeton email account. This will allow them to access the interactive portions of Your Path to Princeton, including “Matriculation Online,” which contains all the forms they must complete before the fall semester begins. Do ask your student to walk you through this site, since much of the information posted there will be useful to you, too.

We communicate with students primarily through their Princeton email account, so please encourage your student to check regularly and to keep you informed. In mid-July, students will be notified of their assignment to one of our six residential colleges, which will be their academic, co-curricular, and (eventually) residential home for two or more years. Details about our residential college system can also be found on Your Path to Princeton. Your student’s residential college will be the locus of their academic advising, as well as their relationships with faculty, deans, and the co-curricular staff who enhance their education.

I would also like to call your attention to our Tiger Family Hub website, on which you can update your own contact information so that we can communicate with you throughout your student’s Princeton career. Tiger Family Hub also provides easy access to University resources that will be most useful to you.

For example, you’ll find links to the Tiger Families page, Health Services, Public Safety, Student Accounts, and the residential colleges. The site gives you a broad overview of our campus and makes it easy for you to conduct your official business with the University. As soon as your student fills out the Permanent Address Information in the Matriculation Online portal, you will receive an email with directions about how to set up your Tiger Family Hub account.

We provide students with lots of help during the orientation process. Fall-term courses at Princeton begin on September 2nd. During the orientation period, our faculty advisers will work with student peer advisers through the residential colleges remotely to help new students put together a schedule that will introduce them to their new studies.

I also encourage you and your student to note the Freshman Seminar option. These are small-group courses in which first-year students learn from distinguished Princeton faculty. Freshman seminars are offered across a wide range of topics and prove a wonderful introduction to some of Princeton’s very best instructors.

Finally, I understand that because of current uncertainties, your student might be thinking about deferring their enrollment. Consistent with our standard process, students who want to defer their matriculation at Princeton for fall 2020 should write to the Office of Admission for approval. Please know that, as always, the University plans to approve gap years for specific, established reasons, such as military service, religious study, pre-professional arts programs, and unforeseen health challenges that arise prior to matriculation.

For those students who defer their matriculation at Princeton for fall 2020 for other reasons, we will let their admission offers stand, consistent with our policies. But depending on the number of deferrals, because of enrollment and housing constraints, we cannot guarantee matriculation in a student’s preferred year. To be clear: students deferring their matriculation for fall 2020 may not be permitted to matriculate in fall 2021; they may have to wait one or more years than they would have hoped.

Because of world-wide disruptions, I hope your student will think carefully about which opportunities may or may not be available for a year away from campus, since we’d want them to use the time constructively. Know, too, that because of our rigorous and highly structured program of undergraduate study, we don’t permit students to return from leaves or deferrals mid-year. If they defer their enrollment this fall, they won’t be permitted to come to campus until at least the fall 2021. Depending on the number of deferral requests we receive, some students might have to delay their start at Princeton even longer, to fall 2022 or beyond.

But let me promise you this: If the COVID-19 emergency requires that part of the coming academic year be delivered remotely, our peerless, ever-creative and committed Princeton faculty and staff will do their utmost to provide an education that will challenge, engage, and make your student proud of being a Princetonian. Our academic deans and faculty are even now editing the fall course schedule, so that if we must continue teaching remotely, we can adapt our courses to offer the most engaging contents in the most effective formats for all of our students. And we’re considering the particular needs of entering students, so that we can advise them toward choices that will help them best begin their Princeton career. We’re considering many options, from special interdisciplinary courses that address the pandemic to smaller precept and course sizes that will facilitate whatever remote instruction is required during the next academic year. We’ll communicate these plans as we continue to refine and institute them.

Congratulations, again, on your student’s choice to attain the best liberal arts education imaginable. What they can accomplish and experience here is vast, varied, and transformative. I urge you to help your student think broadly and expansively about their future at Princeton. Encourage them to take imaginative leaps with their studies; to think outside their established comfort zone; and to look forward to four years of intellectual, personal, and cultural growth.

With all best wishes,

Jill Dolan
Dean of the College
Annan Professor of English/Professor of Theatre