For high school seniors, a weekend focused on arts, humanities offerings
Tim Vasen, director of the Program in Theater, leads a workshop on theater directing.
Tim Vasen, director of the Program in Theater, leads a workshop on theater directing.
Frank Wojciechowski

More than 100 high school seniors from around the country spent a late-September weekend getting an all-expenses-paid introduction to Princeton’s creative arts and humanities programs. 

The program, which has existed for more than a decade, was started by several professors who “thought high school students interested in the arts and humanities might not be aware of all that Princeton had to offer,” said Michael Cadden, chairman of the Lewis Center for the Arts. “This is a hands-on way of communicating to students what we do here.” The students attended precepts and workshops offered in filmmaking, poetry, musical theater, and other topics, all taught by Princeton professors, and stayed in the residential colleges with current undergraduates. The students were selected by the admission office after being nominated by their guidance counselors.

“It’s great because Princeton took care of all the expenses,” said Benjamin Yeh, a cellist from Cypress, Calif. “I always had a stereotype for Princeton, but I came here and I saw it’s way more diverse” than he had imagined, he said. “I can actually fit in at this school.”

Classics professor Joshua Katz, a faculty coordinator of the program and one of 20 professors who participated, called it “a totally unpressured pitch. There’s no compulsion for them to apply.” Each year between 24 and 32 of those attending the program have ended up enrolling, Dean of Admission Janet Rapelye said.

At a discussion with four Princeton seniors, the high school students asked about athletic life, eating clubs, study abroad, and how much sleep undergraduates get. High school students often want to know why Princeton doesn’t have majors in the arts, “and tend to come to campus with the misconception that therefore Princeton doesn’t take the arts seriously,” said Tim Vasen, director of the Program in Theater. “Many students are pleasantly surprised at how deeply rooted the arts are here.”

For Jack Scaletta, who is from Baltimore and is involved in theater, Princeton “was not even on my radar,” but it is now one of his top choices. “I realized these people are just like me,” he said. “They just happen to be really smart.”