Now that Princeton is your home, where will you live?
If you were a first-year at Hogwarts, you would currently be eagerly awaiting your life-changing moment with the Sorting Hat, hoping to be placed into your favorite House (or perhaps just anything but Hufflepuff).
Although Princeton is a hell of a lot like Hogwarts (Mathey dining hall, much?), unless you are a freshman with family and friends who have told you a lot about the University, you probably don’t know much about the residential colleges (other than to hope for anything but Forbes). Not to worry, The Daily Proph—er, The Daily Princetonian is here to give you the ins and outs of each one so you know what to expect.
We’ll begin with Rockefeller College, better known as Rocky, which sits on the corner of Nassau Street and University Place. Rocky consists of gorgeous collegiate gothic buildings, which were on campus as individual dorms long before the residential college system was instituted. As such, you’ll find the occasional bug as well as a lack of air conditioning in these rooms.
However, as former Rocky residential college adviser Ryan Shyu ‘13 pointed out in an email, the iconic buildings of Rocky College are often chosen by brides and grooms for wedding photos. “It’s the residential college that goes on brochures with pictures of our gothic buildings, and it’s just a sweet part of campus.” (As an RCA in Whitman, I do envy Rocky’s proximity to Starbucks.)
Rocky has arguably the most beautiful common room and dining hall on campus. “Our dining hall looks just like the one in Harry Potter and is by far the best for having a conversation,” Shyu said. “When I want to have a meal involving a nice long talk, I think of Rocky as the place to go.”
Rocky and its sister, Mathey College, are often confused with one another, but Shyu insists they are different. “Rocky represents a chill-ness that no other res college can match,” he said.
Shyu also cited Rocky’s movie theater and location near Alexander Beach activities as some of its best amenities and lauded the college staff, particularly English professor and Rocky Master Jeff Nunokawa (who even non-Rocky students love.) So if you’re heading to Rocky this fall, be prepared to contend with bugs and the other problems that come with outdated building interiors, but you’ll have plenty to look forward to as well. “Rocky is one sweet res college. If you end up here, get ready for a very nice two years. If you don’t, feel free to be jealous,” Shyu added.
While Rocky is one of Princeton’s two-year residential colleges, its sibling college Mathey is a four-year college. It’s possible that after two years in Rocky you’d move into Mathey, or you can also be placed right into Mathey as a freshman. Lesson number one in not sounding like a freshman: It’s pronounced “Maddy,” not “Math-ey.” (For more lessons, check out the dictionary in the back of this section.)
If you don’t live in Rocky or Mathey, it can be very hard to tell which buildings belong to which college; Campbell and Buyers are both Rocky, but in between them are Joline and Blair, which are Mathey. The dining hall is shared between the two as well; the servery connects the Rocky sitting area and the Mathey sitting area.
The pros and cons of Mathey are very similar to those of Rocky: gorgeous brochure-ready architecture and buildings rich in Princeton history, but inconveniences such as bugs and old design. Many of the buildings in Rocky/Mathey are designed with entryways rather than hallways; when you walk into the building, there’s a staircase, and rooms, study spaces and bathrooms are located just off the stairway. Sometimes entryways will connect inside, but not always. This can result in students having to go up a flight of stairs to get to the bathroom. Consider it a workout.
But bugs and bathrooms aside, Mathey is remarkable for its community. “The Mathey community is really strong and amazing to be a part of,” Mathey RCA Victoria Worthen ‘13 explained in an email. “We do well in activities that support the community of the college, such as Clash of the Colleges and [intramural] sports.”
There’s no doubt that Mathey students do well in these areas; their college chant at Clash of the Colleges last year was frankly a bit frightening. Worthen also mentioned the Mathey dining hall as a great place not only to eat, but also to study (All of the colleges keep their dining halls open as study spaces at night; it’s awesome.), in addition to the Rocky-Mathey library.
The Mathey common room is a stunning place to study as well. Outside, Mathey has a huge courtyard complete with a sand volleyball court. This area is always really active in nice weather. “Mathey is a great place to live,” Worthen said. “We have a strong community where it is easy to make a network of friends and people to eat meals with. However, if you have any concerns at all, the staff, RCAs and even your peers are very accessible and there to help you out.”
Moving down campus, we find the illustrious Whitman College. I’ll be up front and tell you I may have a bit of bias here since Whitman is my college, a place where I have absolutely loved living these past three years. Whitman, a four-year college, was built in 2007, and as such has none of the problems associated with old dorms. You’ll have air conditioning, few-to-no bugs and well-designed hallways instead of entryways.
“One of the best parts of Whitman is the hallways,” Whitman RCA and ‘Prince’ cartoonist Adam Mastroianni ‘14 said in an email. “Hallways are more conducive to forming friendships than entryways. Sure, you still technically live near other people in an entryway, but you have fewer of those random encounters that coalesce into friendships,” he explained.
These friendships also can be fostered during College Night, a Whitman tradition in which Tuesday nights of each week feature a special themed dinner in the dining hall that only Whitmanites are allowed to attend. This tradition, as well as many other Whitman-exclusive events that occur throughout the year, often leads non-Whitmanites to believe that we are a bunch of spoiled kids. The jealousy runs deep.
In addition to incredible events, Whitman is also remarkable for its college office staff, dining hall staff and building services staff. Everyone in Whitman becomes friends with the dining hall card checkers very quickly; last year one card checker was an avid Princeton athletics fan and posted his own ‘Whitman Laudatory’ to congratulate Whitman athletes each week.
Whitman is also currently the only residential college with an official mascot (the Whitman Whale). Really, the only bad things about Whitman are being thought of as a snob by everyone else, mediocre IM sports performance, a library with very poor lighting and its distance from the Street and academic buildings.
Speaking of distance, Whitman’s sister two-year college is Forbes, which is located in a different zip code than the rest of the University. Any Forbesian will tell you that Forbes is “worth the walk,” but considering the trek to classes each day, it’s got to be worth a lot for that adage to ring true.
I must admit that parts of Forbes are really quite nice; the view of the golf course is incredible, and since the building used to be an inn, a lot of the rooms have private bathrooms. Also, from 10 p.m.-2 a.m. there is a “cafe” of sorts where you can purchase candy for cheap.
The most well-known positive aspect of Forbes is the amazingly delicious Sunday brunch, which draws students from across the campus.
“Foreigners will invade our turf on Sundays to partake of the fine foods such as brie, a chocolate fountain and perfect omelets,” Kanwal Matharu ‘13, a Forbes RCA, noted in an email. But according to Matharu, more important than all of these amenities is the unique community that develops in Forbes. Since Forbes is a far walk from the other colleges, students tend to stay in the college once they arrive at Forbes for the night. This leads to close friendships with other Forbesians. They also probably commiserate about their long commute to classes (and well, everywhere) and about being called the Hufflepuff of Princeton.
Next we have Wilson College, a two-year college that is paired with Butler as its four-year sister college. Wilson is located in the heart of campus near Frist Campus Center, unquestionably one of the best parts about this college. Wilson also has the shortest walk to the Street, which is definitely a plus in bad weather or in painfully high heels.
The dining hall shared by Wilson and Butler is arguably the most popular dining hall on campus — the food is fantastic, and due to the central location, if you have a precept at night you’ll have no problem grabbing a quick meal and not being late. Wilson also has a great sand volleyball court which is used all the time (although sometimes it’s for tanning rather than actual volleyball), and a pottery room which is super cool and isn’t used enough.
Wilson also houses the Julian Street Library (J Street for short), which is a popular study space.
“Wilson seems to be the most balanced and college-feeling residential college of the six,” Wilson RCA Ray Auduong ‘13 said in an email. “There are always people lounging in the courtyard and playing music out their windows.”
Last we have Butler College, located across Elm Drive from Whitman and running along Poe Field. Butler edges out Whitman for the newest dorms by two years, and thus boasts many of the same pros. Bloomberg Hall in particular has great rooms and is really well-lit compared to other dorms on campus.
“It has everything,” Hilary Bernstein ‘14, chair of the Study Break Committee on the Butler College Council, said in an email. “Butler is new, has great rooms, private bathrooms, kitchens, good location, good study breaks and many fun college-sponsored trips and activities.”
However, Butler does not have a central common room like some of the other colleges, and some of the halls are cut off from other halls (which Bernstein pointed out is still better than entryways).
Truly, no matter where you end up, you’ll find some really great things and very few not-so-great things. If the “Hufflepuff” of your school has incredible brunches and a view of a beautiful golf course, you know it can’t be that bad. So wherever you’ll be living, welcome to your home.
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