An Interview On
Princeton University

Background

Interview Date:February 2020

Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: Biracial: White & Hispanic
Sexual Orientation: Bisexual
Graduation Year: 2022
High School Experience: All-girls private high school outside of McLean, VA with a graduating class of about 80 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First-Generation College Student: No
Major: Undeclared – Deciding between the Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs and Sociology.
Minors: History and the Practice of Diplomacy and Near Eastern Studies double minor
Extracurricular Activities: I mentor a local middle schooler and I [have a leadership position] in the mentorship club. I’m on the Student Volunteer Council, and I’ve helped out with Habitat for Humanity. I’ve also done a lot of work with non-profits that help women with breast cancer.

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience? 
The biggest impact for me was the mentor program I do. I’ve mentored the same girl the past two years so I’m not only her mentor, but I’m her tutor and her friend. She’s kind of like my younger sister at this point, and it’s made a huge impact on me and allowed me to be part of the community and not just campus. She’ll be part of my life that I’ll carry beyond Princeton.

Academic Experience

Can you describe your weekly coursework for your classes so far?
I took a Sociology class called Poverty in America, where I went out and talked to people. I focused on poverty in undocumented people so I was in communities talking to lawyers. I do a lot of reading. Last semester, I had coding in my statistics class, along with big problem sets due throughout the semester. For Sociology, there are lots of essays and long research papers.

Is there anything you feel Princeton has done especially well or poorly academically?
I think the humanities courses do a good job presenting the material in a way you can absorb and process it in a way that’s best for you. We have precepts, which are basically TA taught classes in addition to lectures. We do a lot of discussion-based stuff, and a lot of people enjoy that in the community. We’re able to talk and get a better grasp on things. Something they do poorly is that professors can have really high expectations for students, and they sometimes disregard how prepared people are for a class because people come from so many backgrounds here. Some people could be really prepared, and some people may not have the same resources as others.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I think it’s a good mixture of both. People work really hard here and because everyone is in the same boat, everyone can be really supportive of that and people study together. It’s also a good way to spend time with your friends. I don’t think it’s necessarily competitive, I think people have so much to do that they just focus on their own thing and not worry about what other people are doing. If you do poorly in a class, no one really wants to talk about it or seek help from their friends because they feel like they should know that material better.

How accessible are your professors?
They’re pretty accessible. I find it fascinating that every professor has to teach an undergraduate course. There are teachers who’ve won Nobel Prizes and are teaching classes like Physics 201. It’s nice that you can ask those people questions, and they all have office hours you can go to. It depends if you’re willing to go out of your way to get help from them. People can be very unresponsive sometimes. My professor was my academic advisor last year. I adore her and she’s a great professor, but she’s horrible at responding to emails. That can be hard if their office hours don’t fit your schedule.

Do you feel that people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
When I think schools of thought, I think it’s interdisciplinary. I think some people stick to what they know and are comfortable with. Politically, Princeton is more liberal and progressive so if someone’s [very conservative], people won’t like them and they’ll be known as having that political view. In classes, people bring up a lot of points and they aren’t afraid to argue their own political beliefs or opinions and theories.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on and around campus?
Freshman: Bloomberg Hall in a single

Sophomore: 1976 Hall in a quad with one roommate and three other suitemates

How do you like the residential college system?
I like it and it reminds me of Hogwarts and the different houses, but there’s no real competition between them. I see it as a way to have more resources on campus because each residential college has its own theme and academic advisor you can go to. We also have RAs on the hall who do a lot of study breaks. I’ve seen it as a support system with resources to go to.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
It’s a very safe place. It’s public and sometimes if you go up to campus in the historical part, there are lots of tour groups. It’s very safe among the students. We leave our laptops open and backpacks on the table while we go get food. I don’t worry about people stealing my things. I’ve never felt super uncomfortable on campus.

Pros and cons of being located in Princeton, NJ?
Pros:
1) Being in a small town is nice because you get to walk everywhere. You don’t have to have a car too much here because they have transportation.
2) It’s a small campus so it feels homey and you get to meet a lot of people.

Cons:
1) Because it’s a small school, it can feel very confining.
2) We can’t have cars here, so if you want to get off campus you may have to Uber.
3) It’s nice that we’re close to Philadelphia and New York, but because we have so much work, I feel like a lot of people don’t leave to visit other cities.

Social Opportunities

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
The eating clubs have parties, and I like going out with my friends. Because there are only a few houses and it’s the same street every time, it’s only fun when you’re having a good time with your friends. Yesterday a bunch of us were hanging out and listening to music. If we’re free we’ll go to New York City, but for the most part, it’s pretty chill.

What nights of the week do you regularly do things?
Most people typically go out Friday and Saturday nights, but some parties happen on Thursdays as well.

How happy are you with the weekend options at Princeton? Is there anything you would change about them if you could?
I’m pretty happy with them. People also throw [small parties] before going out. It’s kind of the same thing, you go to a small party then you go to the street, so it can feel very routine. It would be nicer to go to New York City, or a bar or a club besides just doing the same thing every time.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
We have a week-long orientation as a freshman. There are three types of orientations, including Outdoor Action, Community Action, and Dialogue and Different and Action (DDA). I was in DDA, which is a social justice retreat. I met all my best friends from that. DDA has about 50 people so I was able to meet a lot of freshmen and upperclassmen who were leading it. I met other people through mutual friends.

How would you describe the overall social scene at Princeton?
It’s kind of divided between eating clubs. Everyone’s in a different social sphere, and each one has different people, for example, one eating club has mostly athletes. There can be a difference between sports teams and people who aren’t athletes. Some people stick with those groups.

To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
Our friend group has a lot of different sexual orientations and sexual identities. For the most part, people are mostly White. It can be self-segregating sometimes based on race. I know some of my friends who’re Asian only want to hang out with Asian people. [The undergraduate population is 44% White, 12% Hispanic, 9% Black, 25% Asian, and 5% multiracial.]

How did your social life differ before and after you joined an eating club?
There are two types of eating clubs: bicker and sign-in. For sign-in clubs, if you want to join that, you just get on the list and there’s no real rush process. I bickered [an eating club] in which they give passes out, so I was selected to be in the club. It definitely changes social groups. A lot of your best friends will join different eating clubs. If grabbing a meal is a major way you keep up with friendships and see people, but then you have to eat at different places now, it can be really hard. Now that I’m in an eating club, going out is easier because I know more people in a bunch of different clubs and I can easily get in anywhere.

How would you describe the LGBTQ community on campus? How strong is it?
It’s pretty strong. We have an LGBTQ affinity space. They have fellows from the LGBTQ who help teach anyone on campus about what it’s like to be in the community. You will find people that say homophobic things, but for the most part, people are very open to it. I’ve found that a lot of women are more open about being bisexual than men.

How do you like the size of Princeton in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How has it impacted your experience? [There are about 5,300 students at Princeton.]
I like that it’s small and you can meet a lot of people. You’ll see them around and can make friends by seeing them at the campus center or at late meals. I’ve made a lot of friends by seeing people in the same spaces. On the flip side, because it’s a small school, if you don’t like someone or if there’s bad blood between people, you will see them. You can’t escape people here which can be challenging.

Careers

Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Last year I worked in a teaching organization and the guy who ran it was a Princeton alumnus. I’ve met alumni by going on different trips to New York. They’re very receptive and love to help the students. For the most part, Princeton has tons of resources either through the career center or with professors.

What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
They’re very helpful. Last year I used them for going over cover letters and a resume. They gave me advice. I also did a Princeternship for a day where my roommate and I went to New York City to meet alumni that work in urban planning and social justice.

Have you learned any computer programs or computer languages that will be helpful professionally?
Last semester, we learned how to use R, which was helpful because I’ve never coded before. By the end of it, I felt comfortable with the program.

Additional Services

Have you used any mental health or counseling resources through the school?
I’ve used it a lot this year. It’s easy to make an appointment and they have drop-in hours. They have a lot of different resources. I see someone regularly and it’s free and there’s not a cap on the number of times you can go.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about Princeton before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew that it’s okay to take breaks and it’s okay to address your needs like taking a nap or asking for help when it comes to academics.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
You’d miss the lower part of campus. It’s important to explore more off-campus when you visit.

Reasons to attend Princeton:
1) If you like being challenged academically and intellectually.
2) If you like meeting a lot of extraordinary peers that will inspire you to be better.
3) If you’re willing to let yourself fail, mess up, and grow from that academically or socially.
4) We have so many resources and amazing professors, TAs, alumni, and friends who will give you opportunities you won’t find anywhere else.

Reasons to not attend Princeton:
1) If you want to have a really good GPA in college.
2) If you want to have a good time in college and cruise through it, you can’t come to Princeton.
3) If you want to be at the top of your class but also have a party life.
4) If you want to be in a city or are used to being in a really big space.

Notice: Princeton University is a trademark. Induck uses it for descriptive purposes, not to imply affiliation with, endorsement from, or sponsorship by Princeton University.

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