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My Princeton experience: more than the vlogs show?

Credits: Kyle Tsai

Before arriving on campus on the fateful Aug. 26, I had done my homework. Not looking over the pre-reads for courses, but the binge-watching of Princeton student vlogs. I started with Ella Morgan ’24, who I was drawn to by our shared first name, and quickly fell down the rabbit hole of watching seven-year-old testimonials of the “average day in the life of a Princeton student.” I watched dorm tours, complaint videos, and student dance group performances. I consumed every corner of Princeton YouTube content.

And yet, my own Princeton experience does not feel reflective of these YouTube videos. I had expected the vlogs to be like movie spoilers, but instead, they felt like a misdirection.


All of the footage presented had been of the “Hogwarts-esque” buildings from Northern campus. Vloggers’ B-roll footage captured the grandiose, neoclassical architecture of Firestone Library and the dark, elegant charm of East Pyne. Shrouded from view, however, was the stress and anxiety that these buildings often house. Moreover, as a resident of Yeh College with classes almost entirely contained to Fine and McDonnell Halls, I rarely see the gorgeous buildings that I had once admired from my phone at home. I was unprepared to arrive at a campus largely under construction, whose most beautiful buildings I infrequently visit.

As depicted in the vlogs, the beauty of Princeton’s finest buildings with calming lo-fi music playing in the background and video highlights of time spent with friends presented an image of a somewhat low-stress environment. Undoubtedly, studying is less entertaining than playing pool with a friend or going to student group performances, so it is only reasonable that these engaging activities would make up a higher concentration of footage. Yet, as a prospective student, I was definitely misled. In reality, I have found that the only time I can really socialize during the week is at meals. I still participate in the activities displayed in the vlogs I watched, but I spend far more time studying. Of course, attending a university and spending the majority of the time studying is predictable, but that does not negate the fact that, for the most part, Princeton vlogs often romanticize the daily life of a Princeton student — especially to high school students.

Acclimating to Princeton’s culture came with a certain level of culture shock — some things that the vlogs had not prepared me for. One of these shocks is the prominence of electric scooters. I had seen Kyle Tsai ’25’s electric skateboard, but I was unprepared to be almost run over on my walks up Washington Road. Each time a scooter approaches, I am faced with the conflicting feelings of jealousy that the riders get to so easily navigate campus and pride that I have avoided the temptation to buy a scooter and risk looking like an athlete (despite my somewhat feeble appearance).

I was also shocked by the intimidating Honor Code, the presence of which was absent in the vlogs I had viewed. I was not prepared to fail my affirmation of the Honor Code twice and attend long orientation workshops discussing its importance. I was ignorant of the pain it has caused and the fear it has induced.

But Princeton YouTube vlogs, while sometimes portraying a more positive representation of campus than I experience, still contain truth. They show the daily lives of students on campus; however, I did not expect each student’s day-to-day to differ so much. Emmy Song ’24’s frequent late nights contrasted with Ella Morgan’s early 7:45 am breakfast. Nicolas Chae ’21’s cramped Whitman single containing both a couch and a chair looks very different from my own spacious Yeh double filled with Squishmallows. Perhaps I should have put less emphasis on predicting my own experience based on individuals who are so different from myself.

Now that I have settled into the life of a Princeton student, I can appreciate the amount of work these content creators invested into their videos amidst the days full of classes. While their daily lives differ from mine, I will always enjoy sitting down to catch the next episode of “A Day in The Life of a Princeton Student.”


Ella Colby is a contributing writer for The Prospect at the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at, or on Instagram at @ellacolby.

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