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Slow down to swim rather than sink into overflowing inboxes

A slackline is suspended between two trees on the edge of Cannon Green on a sunny day. A woman is walking across the slackline, and other people are laughing and talking in the area.
Students practice slacklining on a sunny day. 
Timothy Park / The Daily Princetonian

The first few weeks at Princeton come with a whirlpool of feelings, one part exhilaration and the other anxiety. Inboxes are bursting with emails, each offering a shiny new opportunity: a mind-expanding lecture, a fantastic club event, or — best of all — free food. There are so many options, and students are torn between diving in head-first and running away full of fear of missing out. It’s a curious spot to find ourselves in: inundated with invitations but with a gnawing feeling of not quite fitting in. It’s like standing at the world’s most fantastic buffet but feeling too overwhelmed to choose a dish — fearing that picking one might mean missing out on something even better down the line.

So, what’s a Princeton student to do when faced with the paradox of plenty? How do we steer ourselves in a direction that feels genuine without succumbing to this never-ending fear of missing out? To foster authenticity and mitigate pervasive FOMO, Princeton students should actively engage in self-reflection and pursue passion over prestige.


First off, let’s take a breath. The early days at Princeton are all about adapting and exploring. While it might feel like you must grab every opportunity with both hands, it’s perfectly fine to take a step back because rushing into commitments can hinder genuine self-discovery and personal growth. I remember feeling overwhelmed in my first week, trying to attend every club meeting and social event. It was only when I slowed down that I found my true passions. Slowing down has many benefits, including increased creativity, well-being, and productivity. So give yourself the space to breathe, look around, and find your groove at your own pace. In this, you might just stumble upon something that resonates with your true self. 

The fear of missing out will always be there, waiting to mess with our self-esteem and sense of belonging. But it’s fine to miss out on things: doing so allows us to create more meaningful and enriching experiences with the opportunities we do choose to pursue. We shouldn’t stretch ourselves so thin trying to keep up with everything that we miss out on the joy of the experiences we do choose. 

To discover what truly sparks joy and interest, start by reflecting on past experiences and activities that have made you feel most fulfilled. Having a journal to jot down moments where you feel most engaged and alive can be helpful, noting the specific aspects that bring you joy. Marie Kondo’s philosophy of keeping that which “sparks joy” can be an excellent guide, as it focuses on what genuinely brings you happiness and fulfillment.

Princeton should be more than just a backdrop to this personal journey — it’s a living, breathing entity that can lend a hand in this adventure. Our University, steeped in tradition and knowledge, plays an active role in students’ lives; it is not merely a place where we learn but an environment in which we are permanently molded. The University’s vibrant community and myriad opportunities also make it a partner in our exploration. So could we, perhaps, imagine a Princeton that not just throws opportunities our way, but also helps us navigate them?

Could Princeton be a place where seniors sharing interesting opportunities with younger students and workshops on mindful decision-making become as much a part of the “Princeton experience” as late-night pizza at Frist? Will it require intentional action on the part of students and the broader University community to bring out this more deeply involved environment? 

With its diversity and resources, Princeton offers a dynamic backdrop to student life. But to fully unlock its potential to actively contribute to students’ journeys, we need a more concerted effort from both students and the institution. Students need to proactively engage with the opportunities and communities around them — and the University can facilitate this by fostering an environment that encourages genuine exploration, self-reflection, and deep, rather than superficial, connection.


So let’s step into this academic year with the spirit of adventure, willingness to explore, and gentleness to allow ourselves the space not to have it all figured out. It’s a big, bustling, vibrant sea of opportunities out there. But it’s perfectly fine to take our time to find our unique place in this Princeton puzzle. After all, these four years will be a journey of self-discovery in the heart of Princeton’s world of opportunities, and amidst the chaos and the noise, we might find the places and people that feel like home.

Maria Luisa Vieira Parada is a sophomore from São Paulo, Brazil, intending to major in physics. She can be reached at

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