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When I started to write this column, I intended it to be about freshman seminars. Apply, I was going to say, because they are the best courses you will ever take. I began to relate my experience — how my first freshman seminar professor let me join him at his home on the coast of Tuscany, or how my second professor had been a trailblazer in the field of science she now taught.

Then, I learned that the deadline to apply will have passed by the time you’re reading this column.

The lesson here: deadlines at Princeton pass quickly, often before you learn about the opportunity in the first place. That’s true for the professional world, too. Want an internship at the FBI? Those applications open in August before you even get to school. In October, they close. My internship in the Department of Justice, by contrast, had a relatively late application deadline in December.

If you didn’t apply to a freshman seminar, don’t worry. You can apply in November for the next semester’s classes. And there’s no sense in getting antsy over summer plans just now. Remember, though, that the deadlines will come up far sooner than you think. If you’re not vigilant, you won’t even hear the swishing sound they make when they pass by.

I’m telling you this because I’ve fumbled too many deadlines to count. There was the time freshman year that I learned about the deadline for poetry classes two weeks after it had passed. By some miracle, the department was apparently reviewing applications as I reached out to them; they told me that, if I applied within half an hour, I would be considered. I did, I was, and I got picked to be in a 10-person seminar taught by Tracy K. Smith, now the nation’s poet laureate.

There was the time sophomore year when I thought the deadline for PICS — Princeton Internships in Civic Service — was at midnight on December 7, when it was really at 5 p.m. That one I missed and couldn’t make up.

There was the time junior year that I checked the course catalog several weeks before class sign-ups to find that a journalism course I wanted to take was application only. You guessed it: the deadline had passed. I immediately submitted an application and the professor generously considered it. For a second time, I had lucked out.

I’m not always so lucky. Last fall, inside the elevator of Robertson Hall, I saw a flier advertising the Arthur J. Liman Public Interest Fellowship. It’s an opportunity I could have benefited greatly from earlier — my freshman summer, perhaps — but I couldn’t go back in time and apply. I had missed that deadline by nearly two years.

Newby Parton is a Wilson School major from McMinnville, Tenn. He can be reached at He can be reached in his capacity as opinion editor at The deadline to apply to write for Opinion, by the way, is Sept. 28.

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