First-Year Guide

The Center for Career Development is not where you go when you feel you have your future figured out; it's where you go to get started figuring it out. 

Career development is an ongoing process unique to each person. Since there is no one-size-fits-all approach to career development, the journey can seem ambiguous at times. 

We are here to help. Make an appointment with a career adviser to talk about how you can get started.

Tips, resources and events to explore during your first year at Princeton

Two students walking down a path towards Holder Hall

Discover Your Interests & Values

Your first year is the perfect time to pay attention to what excites you and start reflecting on what you may be interested in pursuing at Princeton. Understanding your values, interests, skills, and identity can help you determine what you may want to try in the future. 

Brainstorm a list of things you may want to learn about or explore more over the next four years, including:

  • Academics and research
  • Co-curricular opportunities
  • Internship and volunteer activities
  • Career possibilities
  • People you’d like to meet
  • Experiences, including joining student groups, clubs and communities, and domestic/international travel 

Jotting these down and periodically revisiting them will help you learn how your values, skills and interests change over time, which will be helpful in informing post-graduate decisions. 

There are many ways for you to actively learn more about yourself during your first year:

Meet with an adviser

Career advisers are here to help you reflect on your interests. You can make an appointment to just talk through your interests and possible options, you do not need to have anything prepared to meet with an adviser.

Career Advisers

Explore Different Fields

When you have identified a few career fields that interest you, start to learn more about them by researching online; connecting with alumni, employers, and other professionals in the fields; and attending our programs. 

  • Use Career Compass to learn about fields, find related resources and ways to gain experience while at Princeton
  • Browse Vault Career Guides to find detailed industry guides and career profiles
  • Learn about the pre-health path at Princeton
  • Attend the career fairs to learn about different fields, and internship and job opportunities they offer
Jaisnav Rajesh '26

Planning advice from a PCA

Meeting with career advisers truly helped me better understand my interests and set long-term development goals.

- Jaisnav Rajesh '26

Connect with Others (Networking)

Connecting with others is one of the best ways to learn what the day-to-day looks like in different career paths. This is often called "networking". 

Networking has many benefits, and we encourage you to start connecting with others during your first year at Princeton.

John Mulunda

Networking advice from a PCA

Take time to speak to students and professionals in your area of interest — they are always willing to give constructive, eye-opening advice! Also, don't be afraid to cold email professionals as I am sure they will be happy to speak to you!

- John Mulunda '24

Use Winter Break Thoughtfully

During winter break, make sure to find time to relax and reflect on the fall semester and the spring semester ahead. Princeton offers many opportunities to participate in fun activities, professional development work, academic development and more:

  • Sign up for Wintersession and additional career exploration opportunities 
  • Set aside time to reflect during winter break. Reflecting can be done in many ways including journaling, talking with a friend or meditating are a few examples. As you reflect, you might consider the following:
    • What have you learned about yourself, your interests and skills during your first term at Princeton?
    • How can you learn more about yourself through activities (e.g., student groups, volunteering, etc.) and courses? 
    • How can you build in opportunities to reflect when the spring term begins and throughout your time at Princeton?

Think About Your Summer Plans

It is important to think through how you would like to spend your summer after your first year. There is no right or wrong way to plan your summer. Some students prefer to relax at home, while others might participate in a job/internship, academic study, or alumni-sponsored or independent projects. 

There’s no pressure to pick something that aligns with your career aspirations. No matter what you do, there are ways to connect with your future career possibilities.

If you are interested in pursuing a summer internship or Princeton program, we have resources available to help guide you through your internship search experience. You can find a list of service and social impact internship opportunities funded by Princeton on the Learning and Education Through Service (LENS) website, which includes our Summer Social Impact Internship Fund.

If you need assistance weighing options for summer, career advisers can help you put together a plan that is right for you.

Related programs

LENS Internship Showcase
Sep 29, 2:00 pm
Enzo Miguel Kho '26

Advice on exploring your interests from a PCA

Don’t be pressured about how your major will play a role in your career in the future. You can always talk with your professors and schedule appointments with the Center for Career Development to assess and consider your options. You can ask them to guide you in creating a game plan!

- Enzo Miguel Kho '26

Prepare to Apply

Regardless of your summer plans, you should learn how to prepare effective application materials. 

It can be helpful to put together a master resume to keep track of your experiences and reflect on your accomplishments this year. We also recommend getting a sense of how to write convincing cover letters and setting up your LinkedIn profile to create a professional online presence.

You can schedule an appointment in Handshake to have a PCA or career adviser review your resume, cover letter and your LinkedIn profile.


Cover Letter



Leena Memon '25

PCA advice on helpful resources

Drop-in hours and one-on-one advising appointments are a great way to receive personalized advice from a professional and learn about resources available through the Center for Career Development. If you come in with a few questions or talking points, you will leave with specific action items!

- Leena Memon '25

Practice Wellness

As you move forward through your sophomore year at Princeton, check in with yourself about your thoughts, feelings, observations, and progress. College is a time of growth and discovery, and you should be proud of yourself and your accomplishments. We encourage students to celebrate their victories, big and small, throughout their college journey. 

It is important to find and practice wellness activities that work for you. Think through activities that can help you feel balanced and motivated. Examples include:

  • Reaching out for help
  • Discussing your thoughts and feelings with others
  • Staying physically active
  • Music, mediation and/or yoga
  • Reading and journaling

You can meet with Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) for broader confidential counseling and psychological support and/or a Center for Career Development adviser for career strategy and planning support. Both CPS and career advising are dedicated resources that welcome conversation about these topics.  

Remember: career development is ongoing and, at times, it is full of decisions outside of our control. Go at your own pace and try not to compare your journey to others. Our career advisers are here to support you in your journey every step of the way.