Nearly a year ago, as I scrolled mindlessly through the Google search results prompted by “Princeton,” I stumbled upon none other than The Daily Princetonian’s website. Seeking information for my “Why Princeton” essay, I decided to read through recently published opinion and news articles. To my dismay, I found article after article slamming Princeton for its investments, lack of mental health support, construction, and other institutional problems. After about an hour of reading, I wasn’t even sure if I should still apply.
Given that tens of thousands of students apply to Princeton every year, I’d venture to guess that I wasn’t alone in my experience, and therefore, there very well may be high school seniors who decided not to apply to Princeton, at least partially, due to the articles published by the ‘Prince.’ Although I didn’t stumble down this path, this organization's writing may have negatively affected many prospective students’ interpretation of the University — an unexpected consequence.
Undoubtedly, the issues raised by me and my fellow columnists are important. I do believe that the University must take immediate action to work towards solving issues such as the lack of altruistic alumni outcomes, mental health, and accommodations for ill students. These issues, however, are not unique to Princeton and are almost certainly more severe at some other institutions. At Harvard, for example, 22 percent of graduates indicated they planned to go into consulting — the prototypical non-altruistic career — but this figure was only eight percent at Princeton. These issues only seem catastrophic here at Princeton because my writing, as well as that of many of my fellow columnists, exhibits negativity bias: a fixation on the negative aspects of our current circumstances.
To be sure, the negativity bias held by us columnists isn’t necessarily harmful. Rather, it can be beneficial: it allows for the ‘Prince’ to operate as an open forum for students, both on and off of the paper’s staff, to air their misgivings with the University in a format that garners attention. The ‘Prince’ regularly receives responses from University administration, which at the very least lets us know that our voices are being heard to some extent. Raising these concerns is important, but prospective students should survey a variety of perspectives on the Princeton experience beyond our own.
Of course, the negativity is balanced by other sources. At least from my experience, it seems that the University’s websites cherry-pick what they share with prospective students, rarely discussing issues that are prevalent on campus. Princeton’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) website, for instance, seems to be one example of this phenomenon of cherry-picking. The website lacks a space to address student concerns and does not even provide an FAQ. On the other hand pieces in the ‘Prince’ do often highlight problems with its services. In this capacity, the ‘Prince’ works independently to counterbalance the University’s dialogue and offers a more accurate account of what it’s like to be a Princeton student. The positive cherry-picking in University sites, however, leads those interested in student life on campus to seek out our publication, which almost exclusively highlights the negative aspects of being a student here.
While the ‘Prince’ is a valuable asset that works for the benefit of the entire student body at Princeton, I urge prospective students to not take its published articles as their entire representation of the University. Instead, sample a variety of sources, from student vlogs to alumni interviewer accounts, to get a better sense of what your life as a student might look like at Princeton. It might just look a little bit different from what our most recent opinion columns would suggest.
Davis Hobley is a member of the Class of 2027 and intends to major in neuroscience. He hails from Rochester, Mich. and can be reached through his email (email@example.com) and personal Instagram (@davis_20.23).