Welcome to the Great Class of 2025! As students quickly find out, Princeton has an abundance of resources, advice for navigating academics to tips for managing relationships with peers. With all that the University has to offer, it’s easy to feel like you’ll forget something.
So, as you look forward to coming to campus, arrival activities, and orientation, here’s what we feel you should know about Princeton and a few things you might want to check out during your first week here.
1. Try all the dining halls
I quickly realized that there are limitless sources of food on the University’s campus. From free snacks sponsored by clubs to late meal at Frist Campus Center (while you’re studying hard at 2 a.m.), you have many options for where to get your next meal or snack — even into the late hours. However, you will likely be getting most of your meals from the residential colleges’ dining halls. While it is tempting to stick to the dining hall closest to where you reside, I encourage you to venture across campus to other halls (the walk is always worth it!).
Each dining hall carries with it unique ambiances, food options, and perks. For example, Forbes usually has stellar Sunday brunch options like acai bowls and a huge chocolate fountain, as well as quiet study spots, while Rocky-Mathey (RoMa) Dining Hall is a convenient place to meet friends given its proximity to Firestone Library (not to mention its impressive Harry Potter-esque structure). Finally, don’t forget to check out the Center for Jewish Life (CJL) for kosher meal options!
2. Don’t forget your prox (especially when you go to the bathroom)!
Consider yourself lucky if you don’t forget your prox (Princeton ID card, TigerCard) when leaving your room at least once in your first week at college. If you do forget your prox, and your roommate isn’t close by, stay calm and don’t try testing other students’ proxes to get into your room. Contact your RCA for assistance or call the Undergraduate Student Housing Office to be granted a Loaner Card that you can pick up and drop off at New South Building. To avoid future lock-out situations, I recommend investing in an adhesive card holder to hold your prox.
3. Visit Lake Carnegie
Lake Carnegie, located near the south end of campus, is a space for wildlife, nature lovers, students, and community members. It’s a great place to venture for a brisk afternoon walk or weekend bike ride. Moreover, the University’s rowing teams use the lake to train and host competitions that you can watch. Finally, even though the lake is owned and maintained by the University, community members can often be found rowing, kayaking, canoeing, or fishing on its shores.
4. Figure out where your classes are
With orientation events and welcoming ceremonies taking place the week before the semester begins, it can be easy to forget about classes (remember to choose those on TigerHub!). To make things easier for yourself when the semester begins, I suggest reviewing your schedule to identify where each class is and physically visiting each location. This way, you’ll be able to get a sense of how long it takes you to travel from one class to the next and in-between break times. Of course, getting a bit lost in the first few weeks of classes is inevitable, but preparing beforehand might leave you with a bit more time before your first class!
5. Catch up with people you’ve met online/social media — invite them to get a meal
Many of you have clicked on Zoom meeting IDs for potential clubs to join, commented on other students’ Instagram posts, and connected virtually with peers through social media — now, you’re almost on campus! As you take in everything that the University has to offer be sure to connect with those whom you have chatted with online. Ask them to grab a meal — this is a great way to explore new dining halls — study together, visit shops on Nassau, or go to a theatre performance. As described by many students and alumni, friendships are a cherished feature of the Princeton experience.
6. Don’t bring too much stuff (you don’t need to bring your entire closet!)
I know it may seem like you should bring everything that you’ve ever owned with you when you’re first moving on campus, but you really don’t. First, keep in mind that the dorms are small, and if you are sharing a room, you are unlikely to have enough space to store all of your belongings. Even if you do manage to squeeze everything into your room, more items also means that you’ll be responsible for more cleaning and organizing — trust me when I say that there’s going to be way more exciting things you’d rather do once you get on campus. Besides, more belongings will clutter your room, which will leave less space for unwinding after a long day of classes (yoga or meditation, anyone?). I personally feel calmer and less stressed if my room looks orderly, especially during exam season.
To prevent yourself from bringing too much, first try creating a tentative list of things that you think you’ll need before moving in. Then, go through each item on the list and ask yourself, how many times am I actually going to use this? Will I even have time to use this? If you have friends or family who have already experienced living in a college dorm, you can ask them for advice about what really is or isn’t necessary. After this process, you can start to narrow down your list to the essentials.
7. Explore Downtown Princeton
Nassau Street is a great place to hang out with friends, especially if you are hungry. Nassau offers a wide selection of snacks; since it’ll likely be hot during your first week on campus, consider treating yourself to some ice cream at Halo Pub, which is not only delicious, but affordable. You can also try out the other ice cream shops, such as the Bent Spoon and Thomas Sweet. The Prospect reviewed ice cream from all three shops in a previous article: check it out here.
Nassau also has a collection of pizza shops, such as Jules’ Thin Crust, as well as a diverse range of cuisine from around the globe, like spicy Szechuan Chinese food at S.C. House, pad Thai at Lil Thai Pin, and Mediterranean at Mamoun’s Falafel in Palmer Square.
Also, for all my bubble tea fans out there, there’s plenty of options for you: Kung Fu Tea is right in front of Fitzrandolph Gates, and the recently opened Junbi also makes some quality bubble tea. Read one Prospect writer’s takes on Nassau’s bubble tea in this article.
There are also retail stores if you are ready for some upscale (or window) shopping at places like Ralph Lauren. Labyrinth Books is also a wonderful place to discover some new books — and support a local bookstore! Many people also order their textbooks through Labyrinth.
8. Locate your resources on campus!
Just as you should figure out where your classes are, you should also learn about what resources are available to you on campus! For example, set up a meeting with your academic advisor and get to know them better — they are a tremendous help when it comes to picking classes, and you’ll be working with them for the next year.
Also, find out where the Writing Center is located. When classes start, you’ll definitely want to make a stop there, where you can get feedback on your essays from other peers. Also, look for the McGraw Center, where you can find group tutoring and one-on-one consulting for students on topics ranging from managing your schedule to developing better study habits. You can also find the Carl A. Fields Center, which encourages understanding and discourse about people of different races, classes, and genders.
You can find a list of all of campus community Centers and offices here. You’ll thank yourself later in the semester if you find and learn about these resources early on — you never know when you’re going to need them!
9. Hang out with your zee group!
Your zee group consists of other first-years who share your RCA, so it’s worth your time to get to know them better! Some of them might even share the same interests or have the same classes as you. Even if they aren’t exactly like you, it’s always nice to know people from different disciplines. I’ve found that I really cherish my friends who are in different concentrations or have different hobbies since they often help me consider things from a new perspective.
Also, your RCA will be organizing fun events — and offering free food — for your zee group throughout the year, so keep an eye out for that too!
10. Go to Dillon Gymnasium
Get in, loser, we’re going shop — wait, we’re going to gym?! That’s right. Dillon Gym is open to all students, regardless of whether you’re a varsity athlete or not. The gym boasts the Stephens Fitness Center, where you can run on a treadmill or lift some weights. There’s also the Cardio Annex room, which offers an additional supply of cardio machines. The pool is also open for recreational swimming. If you stop by the right time, they might even be playing “Good 4 U” on the speakers while you work out.
Your first week at Princeton is a great opportunity for you to explore, socialize, and learn about college life. But don’t worry if you don’t have enough time to do everything in your first week, or if you don’t feel comfortable with campus yet. Things will fall into place eventually — you’ll build a routine, find your friends, and take classes that truly interest you. You got this, ’25s! Go Tigers!