The Editorial Board recently ran a piece rightly criticizing Princeton Preview and emphasizing that its unilateral shutdown of all the eating clubs presents an unrealistic picture of what life on this campus is like. As the weekend’s name suggests, Preview is supposed to give students a teaser of what it means to be a student here, which, of course, it does not.
The Board proposes that the eating clubs offer meals to prefrosh and hold social events without alcohol, which sounds pretty lame, but I guess it’s the best they can do. At the very least, I’m glad it’s been suggested that some effort should be made to emphasize the role that the Street plays in the Princeton experience, but this is treating the symptom of what makes Preview so lame, not the cause. The Street needs to be a part of Princeton Preview for the same reason it needs to be a part of Princeton: It’s where the fun is.
Preview, as it exists right now, is almost entirely empty of fun. If you’re the kind of prefrosh I was, the only kid from your high school here, and you don’t have a pack of friends and friends of friends from other high schools to run around with, and you don’t know anyone from scholarship weekends at peer institutions, and you don’t have any older siblings, you’re going to spend a lot of time during this weekend feeling lonely. There’s “This Side of Princeton,” open houses and barbecues, but they’re mostly awkward and mostly things that are Preview-specific, saying nothing about what Princeton students actually do on a weekend, let alone during the rest of the week.
The best things I did during my own Preview were the ones that weren’t in the brochure. Two moments stand out: The first was when, searching for the comp lit open house, I got lost. Somehow, I found myself in the junior slums, and I was walking around, rotating my map, when a good-looking soccer player noticed my lanyard and my plight and offered me a ride in his golf cart back up campus. During this, he assured me not to take this weekend too seriously, that Princeton was not normally like this, which was nice. Also nice was the fact that, miracle of miracles, I was talking to a college boy.
The second was when my mother, in a moment of extraordinary helicopter parenting, arranged for me to meet with a professor who talked to me at length about the creative writing department. As we spoke, she realized that there was a small seminar being held upstairs about Spenser’s “The Fairie Queene.” After asking the professor if it would be OK if I sat in on it, she led me inside. It was a six-person class, two boys and four girls, each of whom was friendly, articulate and intelligent. I was in awe and had, for the first time, some idea of what it means to be a student here, surrounded by people like this, studying important works of literature.
Other than that, I was bored. The only classes I was interested in were on Thursday, so I spent the rest of the weekend wandering around with a group of boys who already knew each other, having spent last weekend at MIT Campus Preview, where they stayed up all night and ran around on rooftops and had an amazing time. In comparison, my Preview experience seemed pathetic. Even as I decided Princeton was the place for me, a deep panic took root: Who would be my friends? What would I do here? Would I ever have any fun?
The answer, of course, was yes. Though this year, prefrosh will have to take my word for it, I hope that in the future, Princeton does something to make the weekend more fun — maybe by putting prefrosh in groups for an hour or two and playing stupid icebreakers, maybe by having a more coherent schedule of events, maybe by matching host and prefrosh more effectively. My only hint, prefrosh, is to be brave: Talk to us. See what we look like, where we hang, what we do, because we’re the ones who know what it’s like here, and not all of us are the dancers and singers and comics Princeton will parade across a stage for you, as good as they look and as talented as they are. There’s a lot to do here, a lot to learn and see, and, if you search, you’ll be able to find it. And, if you try hard enough, it might even be kind of fun.
Susannah Sharpless is a sophomore from Indianapolis, Ind. She can be reached at email@example.com.