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Devising an accurate test of University admissions policy University admissions policy

Musing on the month, Shakespeare once said, "Proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim / Hath put a spirit of youth in everything."

Will was a smart guy. April certainly hath brought the inner child bubbling to the surface, usually wearing a lot less clothing than the outer adult.


For Princeton students, it's time to pretend we're at Stanford, work the UV rays and enjoy the passing window of pleasantness that the New Jersey clime allows between a gloomy winter and a muggy summer. For University photographers, it's time to snap 90 percent of the pictures that will appear in next year's brochure. For graduate students, it's time to pull those curtains down a little tighter and make sure that pesky sunshine doesn't get in.

However, for high school seniors waiting to find out if they can start mass purchasing Princeton attire, April can be the cruelest month. Dean Hargadon has sent out his thick envelopes of love and Ivy acceptance to the chosen, along with those thin and sickly epistles that inform their recipient, in somewhat kinder words, "Better luck never."

April 3 of last year, I opened my mailbox and was greeted by the thick envelope. Well, it didn't actually greet me; it just sat there taking up space and radiating importance.

I was surprised, to say the least. I had the feeling I'd pulled something over on someone in the admissions department. I'd been told that Princeton was the realm of intellectual giants, unworldly students with 1600 SATs, 5.0 GPAs, 10,000 hours of community service and the ability to pat their head, rub their stomach and spout Shakespeare all at the same time.

Then I got here and discovered that I had been somewhat misinformed. Princeton students weren't all intellectual super-people, masters of the entire academic spectrum. Their minds went different ways. Some wanted to crack equations, while other wanted to write poems. Some could talk philosophy all night, while others would rather design engines until four in the morning. Some, like me, spent their time wondering why they were here, while others spent their time wondering why lots of other people were here.

Recently, though, there's been some criticism that the University doesn't extend itself enough to recruit intellectually motivated students. This derives to some degree from the rather clichéd notion that Princeton is no more than the minor leagues for Merrill-Lynch. I myself have yet to meet anyone here who admits to planning a career in investment consulting. I have, though, met people who aspire to be doctors, writers, engineers, concert flutists. While it could be that the hard realities of life simply have yet to break our spirits, I'd like to think that Princeton students, all different, have more than money on their minds when they're cramming for the econ problem set, or the English paper.


Intellectuality shouldn't be narrowly defined. It can take many different forms – all valid. The engineer and the poet. The philosopher and the biologist. The classicist and the economist. The athlete and the artist. Different strokes for . . . well, you get the point.

But maybe the criticism is sound. Maybe Princeton students should have to demonstrate that they're the right sort of intellectual before they can open up that U-Store account.

Fortunately for the University community, I've devised a series of questions to test whether the individual student is really an Ivy class heavyweight. So sharpen your No.2 pencils, sign that honor pledge and find out whether you really belong at Princeton! (Note: If your last name is Rockefeller, Forbes, Fitzgerald, Firestone or Burr, please disregard this quiz.)

1. Analyze the position of Issac Newton as the last of the mystics.

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2. Explain the dual wave-particle nature of light.

3. True or False: Programmed cell death is mediated by special intracellular proteases, one of which cleaves nuclear lamins.

4. Translate from the German: Der kluge Mann kennt sich, um ein Dummkopf zu sein.

5. Explain how more rapid growth in the Japanese economy would affect the U.S. economy.

6. Explain the difference between a post pass pattern and a flag pass pattern.

7. Analyze the various filial relationships in Hamlet.

8. Write a computer program, in C language, which replaces substrings of more than one blank in a given string by exactly one blank.

9. In two pages or less, prove that you exist – then disprove it.


10.The point of this column is: _________.