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Graduate Life at Yale vs Princeton (BBS and Molecular Biology)


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I recently attended the interview weekends for Yale BBS and Princeton Molecular Biology within a two week period of each other. I feel confident about both and although acceptance is not a guarantee, I am currently weighing the pros and cons of both universities (in the case I am accepted into both). While the research I will do in a program is the most important aspect of my PhD, the quality of my life during my time as a graduate student is likewise very important to me. If you are affliated either university could you please tell me which undergraduate resources are available to graduate students? 

As of now, this is the information I have about Yale and Princeton. At Princeton, there seems to be a clearly stronger inclusion of graduate students in undergraduate life and overall support for graduate students aside from the research. They have the Princeton Graduate College for housing, you have access to dine at any undergraduate dining hall, can join undergraduate clubs, and have access to eating clubs. The graduate college has it's own dining hall for graduate students (with special events such as an annual ball) and overall seems to foster a close knit community for graduate students. They provide free or highly discounted tickets to concerts and performances. There is also no discouragement from taking undergraduate courses. Unlike most universities (particularly ivy leagues) it appears that Princeton values it's graduate students just as much as their undergrads and does not treat them very differently or restrict the resources available to them. 

At Yale however, we were not even taken to the housing options available to graduate students. Instead we were shown a video of room options available for their off campus apartments that do not seem that close by or part of a community. From what I understand, you can get a meal plan to eat a few times a week at the residential colleges but do not have access to the college itself? I'm not aware if you're even allowed to join undergraduate clubs. Does Yale have a central area for graduate students? If they do I'm not aware of it. Am I allowed to take undergraduate courses in topics I"m interested learning more about (within the sciences)? Is this welcomed or discouraged? Perhaps there are these resources and I was just not informed.

I have several diverse interests aside from research and do not want my 5-6 years to be spent solely in the laboratory. I want to be able to grow and have new experiences outside of science during my PhD alongside while still being devoted to my research. I'm trying to get a sense of the quality of life as a graduate student at both universities. I love the arts, dance, literature, interacting with people, clubs, etc. Overall, I'm looking for a well rounded graduate experience. Any information on this would be most appreciated!

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This is really old information, but my dad went to graduate school at Princeton and he told me he joined the cycling team which was mostly undergrads, but he was welcomed. He lived in the Graduate College and had a meal plan. From what you described it seems things are the same there as they were then, so I would choose Princeton! Sorry I don't have anything very recent to add haha. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I can't really speak to the Universities -- but I think it depends on whether you're looking for your oustide-grad-school-experiences to be tied to the University or not. New Haven has much more outside of Yale than Princeton has outside of... Princeton, and there is plenty to do in the area besides the university itself. I think the locals would also appreciate students getting out of the bubble a little bit. 

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I went to Princeton for undergrad and had some graduate student friends. Princeton has a lot of resources, so there’s plenty for grad students (they would throw money at practically anything), but it’s very focused on its undergrad population. I imagine Yale may be similar, but can’t speak to it. 

The grad life is relatively insular among departments or within grad student housing. Most of my grad friends happened to live off campus or were RGSs so don’t know much about on campus life. I imagine the grad college feels sort of similar to a small liberal arts college from a social standpoint. It is incredibly beautiful out there. There are some student groups that are specific to grad students or include both, and grad students definitely were into intramural sports. 

Princeton grad school is going to be relatively quiet and focused. It’s a quiet/expensive town and you need to travel 1+ hr to get to nyc and philly. I knew some that loved the quiet and some who went to nyc every weekend. Depends on your personality and preference. 

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