The Silicon Valley TigerTrek is Princeton’s annual Fall Break trip that brings 20 of Princeton’s most exceptional engineers and aspiring entrepreneurs — selected from more than 250 applicants — to Silicon Valley for a week of visits with tech luminaries.

Year after year, this trip transforms the ideas and career goals of students who go on the trip and of students back on campus.

A week of Q&A’s with legendary founders and CEOs later, the students return excited to pursue alternative career paths — continuing the spirit of the Valley.

Along the way, they meet mentors from the Princeton alumni community in the Bay Area. And back on campus, they spread the lessons and wisdom they’ve learned from being embedded in Silicon Valley with fellow students.

Highlights from Past Trips

Sal Khan, Khan Academy

Jack Dorsey, Twitter, Square

Matt Rogers, Nest

Bill Campbell, Apple, Google, Intuit

Paul Graham, Y Combinator

Keith Rabois, Khosla Ventures

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook

Meg Whitman, HP

Sam Lessin, Facebook

TigerTrek, at a glance

Over the last 5 years, over 50 speakers and 100 participants have joined the TigerTrek community.

Every year, 250 apply and 20 students are accepted — from Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, and many other departments.

For each of the last few years, at least half of students accepted job offers from companies we visited, and several started their own companies.

The Silicon Valley TigerTrek is one of Princeton University’s most seminal and influential entrepreneurship programs.

Every year, during Fall Break — which falls on the last week of October — students from departments across Princeton travel together to Silicon Valley, the heart of innovation and entrepreneurial culture. They are embedded with the top minds of the Valley for one week of Q&A sessions — about what the startup lifestyle is like, about how these legendary founders and investors make decisions, about what it means to take an alternative career path and work on high-tech entrepreneurship.

Back on campus, the students spread their experiences amongst the community, encouraging friends to participate. The trip is followed by other entrepreneurship events at Princeton, including a speaker series, a pitch competition, a hackathon, and more. And mentors made on the trip continue to inspire for years to follow. We’ve gathered a collection of blog posts written by students who’ve gone on TigerTrek on this website.

Silicon Valley TigerTrek is brought to you by the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club, with its sister program NYC TigerTrek that takes students to visit companies in the Big Apple. The E-Club also organizes many of the other entrepreneurship events on campus. We’re also very grateful for the generous support of Princeton Departments, the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students — as well as alumni, for their time and mentorship.

Why a trip to Silicon Valley?

College students have started some of the most groundbreaking companies of the last few decades – from Microsoft to Google. Princeton's students can leverage their liberal arts or engineering education to build great careers and pioneer ventures, yet a life in entrepreneurship can often seem distant to bright Princetonians.

This trip enables participants to:

  • Hear the stories of entrepreneurs, investors, and leaders who have been a part of transformative companies
  • Gain awareness of different career paths and opportunities
  • Build relationships with firms, startups, and alumni mentors

In addition, the trip teaches students to apply an entrepreneurial mindset to other areas of their life regardless of the field they choose to pursue after graduation. Furthermore, the participants on the trip form a close knit community and are very involved in leading entrepreneurial programs on campus once they return from the trip.

Before the trip

Applications for the trip open when the fall term begins in September. The TigerTrek team hosts info sessions in residential colleges to spread the word about the trip; over 250 applications applied for the 2015 TigerTrek.

After a few weeks, applications close and the faculty selection process begins. We have a team of faculty judges who review the applications and select students to interview, ultimately narrowing down to 20 participants. The 20 students we invite to the trip are chosen to be strong representatives of all different parts of Princeton — they are both technical and non-technical — who we believe will be very inspired and will spread their experiences widely at Princeton.

In past years, we’ve asked students to cover $500 of expenses, with financial aid available.

Between selection and the trip itself, we ask the participants to join us for several events to meet others going on the trip and for some training — to make sure students go in with very good background knowledge about the speakers we are visiting and are prepared with insightful questions. We also pair students with a mentor in the Bay Area, who they will then meet during the trip itself.

During the trip

When we arrive in the Bay Area, the students on the trip move into a house where they live and eat together. Each day, they visit a few speakers, usually with an hour-long Q&A and a tour. Some visits include lunch with Princeton alumni working at these companies, giving students a taste of what life after Princeton can be like.

Between visits, students debrief the discussions together. We invite a faculty member to join us during the trip, and they help guide these conversations.

Some highlights amongst the trip events:

One evening, we host an alumni reception in partnership with the Princeton Club of Northern California. Last year, over 250 alumni joined us. This helps alumni in the Bay Area stay connected with Princeton and have a direct impact on shaping the lives and careers of current Princetonians.

During the reception, students meet with the mentors with whom they were paired. They have time to speak and discuss what they’ve learned from being embedded in Bay Area culture so far.

We also set aside some time to visit local landmarks. For example, we spend an afternoon at Stanford near the beginning of the trip. And on the last Friday, we visit San Francisco and spend time together to share our experiences and wrap up the trip.

After the trip

Mentorship continues after the trip — and we hold meetups to help the TigerTrek group stay in touch as they apply the principles they've learned from the trip to their own lives.

Then, we focus on spreading the messages from TigerTrek to the broader campus population. Many of the students on TigerTrek are involved in E-Club and other campus organizations, and they bring in speakers and host events fueled by what they've learned.

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