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Jobs & Life After Princeton

Graduate School

If you are considering graduate school, the members of the faculty in computer science are a great resource. Everyone on the faculty went to grad school, knows people who are seeking good grad students, and has opinions on numerous schools. Since they all were relatively successful at grad school (they wound up here at Princeton), they'll all tell you that grad school is a fantastic experience and will be happy to provide specific advice. As when you applied to college, you should do some thinking about where you might want to spend the next 5+ years and what schools might be a good fit for you. There is plenty of good information online. In particular, Clay Bavor '05 has written an excellent Guide to Applying to Graduate School; check out the advice there.  Another great resource is the Career Services Graduate School website, here you find a wealth of information needed to navigate through the process.   

Did you know that you can continue your education with a Princeton Master's Degree.

For Princeton undergraduates interested in continuing at Princeton for a Master's Degree:  There is now a special policy that allows current Princeton students to count up to two courses taken as an undergraduate towards a Master's degree in Computer Science at Princeton. Those two courses must be upper-level COS courses that fulfill requirements of the Master's degree and have been taken in excess of the COS requirements for the undergraduate degree. For example, if you take ten COS departmentals as an undergraduate at Princeton, and two of them are advanced classes that satisfy requirements of the Master's program, then you can count both towards a Master's degree if you are accepted into the program.  This is a way to reduce your expected time to completion by approximately one semester.

Princeton students still have to apply to the Master's program through the regular admission process, and by the December 15 deadline. Admission is competitive. If you are interested in being pre-screened for admission, please contact the computer science graduate coordinator (ngotsis@cs). You will need to submit (1) a one page personal statement describing your preparation to date and why you are interested in the master's program; and (2) an unofficial copy of your transcript. In addition, have two letters of recommendation from COS professors emailed directly to the graduate coordinator. Once these materials have been received, the Director of Graduate studies will perform an informal review and provide feedback about whether admission into the Master's program is "likely," "unlikely," or "possible." This feedback is not binding -- it is meant only to help planning for senior year.


Summer Programming Experience

The Princeton Summer Programming Experience is a six week summer program designed for freshmen and sophomore students who had little to no programming experience before taking COS126.   It is designed to give students programming experience by working on a substantive programming project of their own choosing.   See the Princeton Summer Programming Experience Web site for details. 


Computer Science TAs

The department needs student lab TA's for COS 109, 126, 217 and 226 each semester. Information about becoming a lab TA is available here (http://labta.cs.princeton.edu/info.html). The head TA for Fall '16, Diana M Liao '17, hires lab TAs. The department also hires course assistants for courses from COS 126 to COS 432. Course assistants may be lab TAs for that one course or they may be graders. Maia Ginsburg, lecturer, coordinates grading assistants. She sends email to all CS majors and certificates in late August (requesting fall applicants) and again in January (requesting spring applicants). The deadline for Fall '16 was Tuesday, Sep 6. A few courses may consider applicants past that date. The form is here: goo.gl/4vpw4o.


Other Jobs in the Computer Science Department

Over the summer and sometimes during the semester, some computer science professors hire students to work on research or teaching projects.  Colleen Kenny will post these job announcements -- term-time, summer and post-graduation -- on the undergraduate bulletin board on the first floor. If you are interested in this kind of employment, check the bulletin board or come by the Undergraduate Office (room 210) to see what's available.

Jobs in Other Departments

During the semester there are various jobs on campus for computer science majors. OIT needs helpers trained in computing. And there are research projects in other departments that wish to hire students with programming skills.  Colleen Kenny will send out announcements of these opportunities via email.   

Finding an Internship

Career Services' HireTigers system is the primary employment and internship portal for Princeton students and features a comprehensive listing of all full-time, internship, and fellowship opportunities (and on-campus interviews) posted by employer organizations from a wide range of industries and fields. Career Services also offers extensive programs, services, and resources to assist students with career exploration such as individual career counseling and over 250 career-related events including workshops, career panels, alumni guest speakers, employer information sessions, and career fairs. Individual appointments and walk-ins for engineering students are available at E-Quad on Wednesdays during the academic year in addition to those at Career Services every day. For more information, visit Career Services’ website.

The computer science department gets a lot of requests from companies looking for talented computer science students to help them.  In fact, we typically get so many requests that we cannot manage them ourselves -- the computer science department is not set up to be an employment center.  Consequently, we forward these requests to Princeton's Career services.  (Note:  if you are a recruiter or are responsible for your company's hiring practices and are reading this, please contact Princeton students through Career Services.)

You should be proactive using the web and taking advantage of any information you can find. One of your best resources is likely to be a friend or acquaintance who has a job or recently applied for one at a company you might be interested in. Many companies explicitly take advantage of such connections by sending recent alums as recruiters. If a recent graduate from Company X is giving a talk at Princeton, you can bet that there will be an opportunity to talk to that person about a job at Company X. By the way, once you've navigated the minefield, maybe *you* could help some future grad find a job---we could use a Guide for Job Seekers like the one for grad schools referred to in the discussion of grad schools below.

Life after Princeton

Yes, there is life after Princeton.  The information on Career Service provided above for finding internships is relevant to finding full-time jobs as well.   The Science and Technology Job Fair, sponsored by the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Office of Career Services, is a major event.  This fair hosts both small and large employers offering jobs and internships for students in the natural and applied sciences.  In 2019, it is on Friday, October 12 , 2019.  Companies also host individual recruiting events and interviews on campus.  We recommend that you go to these as well.  Bring a resume!


Frequently Asked Questions: 

So, should I apply to grad schools or interview for a job?

Answer:Both. As when you applied to college, you should maximize your options, then make an informed choice at the appropriate time.

I really think that I need to get a job. How can anyone afford to keep going to school at these rates?

Answer:Graduate school in computer science doesn't cost anything; all the top schools give you a research assistantship or a teaching assistantship that covers full tuition *and* pays you a monthly stipend for living expenses. Salaries for people with advanced degrees in C.S. are not necessarily that much higher than what you might earn by just going directly to work with an A.B. or B.S.E. and getting career advancement and raises. The reason to do it is not just that you would have a different kind of career---in industry you'd have more choice about what kind of work to do, or you might go into academia---but also that it would better prepare you (as does Princeton) for a lifetime of teaching and learning.

I worked at an internship at an awesome startup over the summer. Now they want me to stay on and take a leave of absence from Princeton. What should I do?


This is a difficult and personal question.  Different students in different situations will make different decisions.  Here are some thoughts from some professors assuming that the student is about to enter his or her junior year.

Andrew Appel:

My personal opinion is that one year off won't hurt you any, if you're having fun.  It could be good experience.  But more than one year is a bad idea.  Work out a deal with your boss that even if your startup company takes off like a rocket, you can still have two 9-month leaves, Sept-May a year from now and Sept-May two years from now to finish your bachelor's degree, without giving up your stock options or whatever.  Get it in writing.  Then make sure you stick to it: come back, ace all your courses, do stellar independent work.

Vivek Pai:

Ultimately, the decision has to be one that you're comfortable with, but let me weigh in with what I personal experience I have. I almost took a year off during undergrad as co-founder of a games company. We'd had one semi-successful product, and it was a case of either trying to go all-out or take the chance that the next product wouldn't carry the momentum we had. The issues for me were:

a) how much risk are you willing to take? what happens if the experience leaves you jaded and your time post-return just isn't as successful as you'd imagined?

b) if your parents are funding your education, are they really ok with it, or is it one of those conditional approvals but they secretly pray every night that you don't do it? If it's the latter, it's going to be a pretty rough trek, especially if things with the company start going sour.

c) are you socially ok with it? In the event that you return, will you be ok with your cohort having moved on, and having to watch them graduate as you now have classes with a whole new set of people?

Now, if the answer to all of those is "I can deal with it", then I'd say that Professor Appel's response spells things out pretty nicely. It's not a major issue as far as Princeton is concerned, and the upside can be quite good. My personal observation is that the really successful startup folks have a pretty comfortable position from which they can take risk. In other words, if you know the worst that can happen is a one-year delay in your education, and that your parents and friends will be supportive, it's often a good gamble. In case you're wondering what happened to me personally:

1st company - during undergrad. Decided to not take the year off. Stayed at home instead of on-campus for the first part of the year, and worked on the company as I went to class.

2nd company - had an amazingly good buyout offer, but would have required me to leave my tenure-track position at Princeton, with no real hope of return. Figured I could make money later, but wouldn't have the chance at tenure at Princeton again.

3rd company - had tenure by now, so I had the safety to be more risky. Sold the company and took a leave to pursue it.

Brian Kernighan:

From Princeton's side, taking a year off is not unusual. The reasons vary a lot, but wanting to be part of a startup is certainly one of them. A year away is fine, two years is harder though still manageable, and after that, it's unlikely that you would come back. If you're the next Zuckerberg, that might be just fine; otherwise, I think you would have given up sometime valuable. No matter what, you are likely to lose some of the connection with your cohort, though in return you learn a great deal and have a chance to make money if the company does well. (Do check out the arrangements very carefully if that's a consideration.)

I hear that Princeton imposes some rules on companies that do on-campus recruiting? Is this true?


Yes. You can find these on the Career Services On-Campus Recruiting Polices Web page. Of particular interest is the offer policy. Companies that recruit on campus cannot give you an offer that expires before a specific date. For 2014 the restrictions are:

  • Full-time offers given at the end of the summer to interns: offers should expire no earlier than November 14, 2014.
  • Full-time offers given through fall recruiting: offers should expire no earlier than the later of November 28, 2014 and two weeks after the offer is given.
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