An unusual letter arrived on campus recently from the mother of a freshman: “I need to give back in some way,” wrote Kuntal Parikh, whose son, Agastya, receives scholarship support. “I do not have financial resources to contribute, but am more than willing to do anything else…absolutely anything, from filling envelopes to filing to making calls to making endless cups of Indian chai lattes or dinners or anything else that you can think of.”
Kuntal and Agastya Parikh moved to this country from Bombay in 2006. As a toddler, Agastya dreamed of being a pilot; his mother supported his ambition, urging him to “reach for the stars—and beyond.” When nearsightedness precluded that goal, he decided he would build planes instead.
Kuntal worried that her son—although he excelled in high school—had few options for college. "We knew that some schools might offer financial aid, but we had no idea how much," she said. "Our finances were limited, so we didn't know what might be within our reach."
The Perfect Program
Despite financial challenges, Princeton topped Agastya’s short list. His science fair projects all revolved around airplanes, and he stayed up late poring over research papers from Princeton. These led him to the University’s aerospace engineering program. Then came the clincher: Princeton students could combine classes from multiple disciplines. Along with aerospace engineering, he could pursue his passions for international relations, physics, and languages. “This sounds like the place for me,” he told his mother.
Because they were not U.S. citizens, Agastya did not qualify for most scholarships. But, as she had throughout this life, Kuntal urged her son to aim high. “This is what we came here for,” she told him. “You get into Princeton—that’s your job—and we’ll raise a loan.”
The day they got the news from Princeton, Kuntal stood behind her son in his bedroom as Agastya opened the email. There was the orange tiger—admitted! “I cried with joy,” Kuntal said.
Thanks to Princeton’s no-loan scholarship policy, Agastya received a grant covering 100 percent of his need, with no requirement to repay. “Agastya understands the enormity of what the University is doing for him,” she says.
And he shares his mother’s commitment to giving back. “I’m definitely going to work hard and do well in my studies,” he said. “Once I graduate and start earning, I'll make sure other students are able to get the gift of access to an amazing education."
Alumni, parents, and friends of Princeton who contribute to Annual Giving play a crucial role in Princeton’s ability to offer loan-free scholarships. Endowed scholarships are also vital for giving deserving students access to a world-class education.
To learn more about the importance of Annual Giving and its Parents Fund, visit Giving to Princeton; for information about scholarships at Princeton, contact Jim O'Boyle, associate director for leadership gifts, at 609-258-1782.