Princeton Preview, a special time when admitted students decide whether they would like to officially join the Orange Bubble, is an equally important opportunity for current students to think about and evaluate what Princeton means to them. Recently, students have considered the same question and, it seems, regretted their decision to attend Princeton.
In a Tiger Confessions post asking whether current students would choose Princeton again if they were given the chance, many students commented some variation of “no.” A couple people went into more detail, stating they feel pressure from Princeton-specific activities and engagements as well as impossible academic standards that make it hard to thrive and enjoy other passions.
Sure, Princeton has its faults — whether that be infestations in the residential colleges, the lack of air conditioning in certain colleges, or even the fact that many of us don’t get more than five hours of sleep — but elements like the fact that Princeton classes are difficult, deadlines are tight, and expectations are high should not be a reason to believe making the choice to attend was a bad decision.
So, what would you say to admitted students if they asked why you chose Princeton? Would you give an honest answer — one where you were able to separate your frustrations and share some of the special moments you have had here — or has the stress and anxiety wrapped up in assignments, tests, and grades all but erased the excitement you first felt when you saw that orange “Congratulations!” on your acceptance notification?
For many of the admitted students coming to Preview, their experience talking to current students may have ended up being a crucial part of their decision to enroll — or not to. Personally, Preview itself did not give me an epiphany moment that Princeton was my destiny. While I enjoyed programming like “This Side of Princeton,” I didn’t feel at home on the campus the same way so many of my peers did when they visited their top schools. It wasn’t until I met a sophomore who shared with me such an enthusiasm for Princeton and its unique opportunities that I realized how much I wanted to love Princeton.
I told myself that if she felt that great of a connection to the school, it must be a pretty spectacular place. Of course, she did mention the extensive amount of work and the demanding schedule, but she also made sure to talk about the moments that made her appreciate coming to Princeton. Even though much of what she said was aimed at her love for her athletic team and her courses in the Woodrow Wilson school, she demonstrated a sense of confidence and ardor for her life at Princeton that I could tell was partly the product of the school itself. She was honest about the University, but in a way that didn’t scare me, and instead, made me feel incredibly lucky to have the option to matriculate at such a place.
It’s important to remember that your words about Princeton and your perspective, as harmless as it may seem, could potentially change the mind of an individual who is thinking of this university as the stepping stone into the next stage of their life. Sure, everyone has a different experience while in college, and it is important to take that experience into consideration when discussing Princeton with prospective students.
Those differences in experience, however, are what makes it even clearer that any conversation that starts with “What’s Princeton like?” — or, even more specifically, “Is Princeton really that hard?” — should be done in a manner that is helpful and encouraging. It should not devolve into a gossip session on how much you hate X course with X professor and “if I was at Harvard I would have gotten an A.”
You are a representative of Princeton; be proud of your university. Personally, I’ve found myself having to stop from telling admitted students my exact feelings about Princeton, because those feelings depend on the day and how much stress I am under and are not a real representation of my actual opinion of the school. I try not to be too pessimistic, especially when people show so much excitement for having been accepted.
So, admittedly, I rehearsed a sort of script that made sure to include the specifics of Princeton’s tight-knit community, the amazing and innovative student-led organizations — so many of which showcase incredibly talented artists, dancers, and beyond — and the immense focus on undergraduate success, whether that be research opportunities or world-renowned professors at our fingertips. It’s a base to build on when I’m happy to be attending Princeton and a safety net to fall back on when all I want to do is go home.
Yes, this school can be an absolute nightmare at times, but take Preview as a reason to think about why you decided Princeton was the right school for you — though that may have changed — and ask yourself what genuine advice you would give to admitted students if asked.
Reflect on your first feelings about Princeton. What was it that made you decide that this was the school at which you wanted to spend the next four years of your life? I think that Princeton does a great job of providing an incredibly overwhelming experience for its students, and because of that, our original sense of joy to be a part of the Princeton community easily gets swept aside. But that’s why it’s so important to take this time as admitted students begin their journey into the Orange Bubble to remember, “Why Princeton?” Who knows, you might even start to enjoy being a student here.
Brigitte Harbers is a first-year from New York, N.Y. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.