Graduate School’s Ph.D. preview event sends a message to prospective students

Sixty prospective Ph.D. students from across the country visited the University Sept. 19 as part of the Graduate School’s efforts to attract a more diverse student body.

“We have to make Princeton feel more accessible to people who may otherwise opt out or choose not to apply,” said Diana Hill Mitchell, assistant dean for academic affairs and diversity at the Graduate School. “It’s critical that we do that outreach to students who otherwise don’t see Princeton as an accessible place, whether it’s due to perceptions of how their groups have fared historically or due to lower income.”

The event was open to anyone interested in attending Princeton, but was geared toward minority students and women interested in science and engineering. Mitchell said about 20 students received financial assistance from the University to attend. 

“This is very helpful for an African American like myself to actually see that Princeton does believe in diversity,” said Ola Williams, a Cornell alumnus interested in the politics program. “To see them talk about it and have an open dialogue with us — I think it’s fantastic. I’m applying to a couple of other schools, and they’re not doing this.”

According to Mitchell, preview events that emphasize diversity are unusual for Ph.D. candidates. She said inviting prospective students to meet with deans, professors, and current students was essential to help make campus feel more familiar to students before they begin the application process. 

According to University statistics, underrepresented U.S. minorities made up 5.2 percent of applicants to the Graduate School last year and 7.4 percent of those who enrolled this fall. In the natural sciences and engineering, 26.6 percent of applicants and 32.5 percent of those newly enrolled were women.

The Graduate School plans to monitor how many of the 60 attendees apply to Princeton, how many are admitted, and how many enroll next fall.

Several prospective students had to be turned away after the event filled up, and Mitchell said she hoped that another preview day could be scheduled for later this semester.