Weeks in Review 2/19-3/5/17

The events from the beginning of the school year seem as if they were a very long time ago. But I had just applied to Princeton at this time last year and that doesn’t seem to be too far in the past. Time perception is weird.

As midterm examinations approach, everything is getting busy. I hope that it slows down a little after spring break.

On a different note, the trip to France and Spain is only two weeks away!

Monday— I attended a town hall that President Eisgruber hosted for University faculty and students. He was a marvelous public speaker who defended his initiatives like a lawyer. He began by talking about recent political events and explained the University’s purpose as a place of, “rigorous and vigorous debate.” I think that he said this line ten times throughout his speech. Then, he transitioned into tackling the issues of financial aid and diversity before taking questions from the audience at the end.

Tuesday— Tiger Tuesday occurs once every year for accepted early action students. It is their opportunity to tour the campus before officially committing to the University. I signed up to host a lunch conversation with some students in the Whitman dining hall. I like to think that I did the best job of all the hosts because my students stayed (voluntarily) a whole 45 minutes after the scheduled ending time. The Great Class of 2021 will be another excellent group of Princetonians.

Later, I attended a Whig-Clio debate about sanctuary cities. During the presidential campaign season, there was a man who sat in front of Fitz-Randolph Gate with a Trump sign nearly every day as the more liberal college students passed by and heckled him. He came to the debate and gave a speech from the floor. I think that the entire Whig side hissed at him and the Clios pounded the armrests. The Whigs won in a 19-12 vote. The gap narrowed for the Clios. Voting record

Wednesday— This night marked the beginning of my training to become an Outdoor Action leader. I learned basic CPR and will gain other first aid skills in the future.

Thursday— Earlier in the day, I had received an e-mail saying that the tryouts for the Princeton Debate Panel had been highly competitive and that few people were accepted. It told me to wait in my room during the evening to hear a response. I interpreted this to be a rejection. But at 10:00 PM, a bunch of people pounded on my door chanting, “Pi-Delta-Phi” and informed me that I had been accepted before whisking me away to a party. “Pi-Delta-Phi” is there humorous way of making themselves sound like a Greek fraternity (Pi-Delta-Phi=PDP=Princeton Debate Panel). They are one of the many clubs that do “pick-ups” at Princeton.

Friday— After classes, I went to my weekly Bahamas group meeting with Emily and Adam. These science papers are becoming slightly easier to read but are still appear to be written in a different language.

Since I had some free time, I decided to play with the Princeton Band at the Brown hockey game. Sometimes, the Brown Band played part of a song until a timeout ended and then the Princeton Band would continue it at the next song, trading back and forth. At the end, both bands joined together to play a few tunes.

Saturday— In order to fill the void between Opening Exercises and Alumni Reunions/Commencement, the University created an event called “Alumni Day” to recognize outstanding alumni and encourage others to donate. This year’s two big prize winners were President Pablo Kaczynski of Peru and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. I decided to wake up at 7:30 AM to watch them speak at Richardson Auditorium. When I got there, I tried to go in by trailing behind a large group; however, the security guard saw me and told me to leave because I hadn’t purchased a ticket. In short, I woke up at 7:30 AM on a Saturday for nothing.

Sunday— The Graduate School has been serving increasingly exquisite dishes each time that I go. For brunch, they offered eggs benedict.

This week was very busy. I had two quizzes, a paper due on Friday, and all of the usual homework crammed into six days.

Monday— I took a driving test to become van-certified for the University. This will allow me to rent cars, operate vans, and take campus jobs that require driving.

Even though I have already committed to the PEI internship, I decided to take the interview for Princeton in Argentina anyways. I wanted to practice Spanish before going to Spain. The professor asked me questions about my interests and what I wanted to do in Argentina.

At night, I went to my first meeting for the debate team. The club’s president showed us, the new members, the rules and format of debate competitions. We meet every Monday and Thursday night.

My fifth article was printed in The Daily Princetonian. I wrote a follow-up column about judging Calhoun’s legacy and those of all people with names on buildings at college campuses.

Tuesday— I received an e-mail from an alumnus who praised my “Prince” article. He has ties with Sewanee: The University of the South and sent me links regarding their debates about evaluating the school’s legacy. Essentially, it was founded for the sole purpose of repelling “northern aggression” but did not actually admit students until after the Civil War.

Later, I went to a Whig-Clio watch party for President Trump’s special address to Congress. It was heavily attended by conservative members. I just wanted the Chick-fil-a that they were serving.

Thursday— I went to my second debate meeting. There, I watched a full round of debate about the motion, “This House supports the use of violence by the anti-Fascism movement.”

Friday— My zee group watched the Oscar Award-winning movie “Moonlight.” One person in my zee group has a parent that works for a productions company and is able to get movies like this long before they are released to the public.

Saturday— After working on homework all day, I watched the play “Speech and Debate” at Theatre Intime. It was casted and directed by students.

I walked around Prospect Avenue to observe the usual weekend activity.

Sunday— I organized a group service project with the Princeton Conservation Society. Two other students went with me to join other volunteers with the D&R Greenway to help build a trail near Hopewell, New Jersey.

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Weeks in Review 2/5-18/17

I am back on campus after the break of Intersession. It is the one awkwardly placed vacation each year where the well-to-do students go skiing with their families, the kids from the eastern seaboard go home, and everyone else is stuck in a purgatory where they take a jumble of classes about random topics that are provided by the student government’s Wintersession program.

The college calendar runs by semester, so the campus feels the same as it did back in September. Clubs are trying to recruit new members, pick-ups are loudly abducting students in the middle of the night, and acapella groups are out singing. There is one primary difference though.

Throughout the fall semester, the eating clubs were courting sophomores in the hopes of attracting them to apply. They offer a number of open house events where students can go in to try the food for free (I intend to take full advantage of these) and meet club members.  When everyone returns from Intersession, Bicker Week begins. During this time, sophomores select which eating clubs that they want to join through a convoluted online system. From what I understand, it goes like this:

  • Students who want to join an eating club, but do not want to bicker, can rank their top three sign-in eating clubs: Terrace, Quadrangle, Colonial, Cloister, and Charter. This will enter them into a weighted lottery for these clubs based upon their preferences.
  • People who want to Bicker can do so for up to two clubs: Ivy, Cannon Dial Elm, Tower Cottage, Tiger Inn, and Cap & Gown. Bicker is similar to Rush for fraternities.
  • If someone gets “hosed” — the term for rejected — from his or her Bicker eating club(s), then he or she can choose sign-in clubs. This process has been significantly improved from the past so that everyone who wants to be in an eating club has the opportunity to be in one.
  • Once admitted, sophomores become part time members. They can go to all club events and parties but have a limited number of meal passes that does not cover three square meals per day.

St. Archibald’s bicker occurred in the middle of Bicker Week, and it helped garner attention to their cause. I intend to bicker an eating club (probably Ivy) for the sole purpose of being able to report on the experience. If accepted, I am not sure if it is worth paying the fees in order to get an insider’s perspective of a club.

On a similar note, I found this article from The Daily Princetonian about a secret society. They allow freshman to rush, so I will be on the lookout for it.

  • Sunday— I arrived back to a quiet campus. Even though it was Super Bowl Sunday, I decided to read in the evening instead of watching it.
  • Monday— Classes began on this day. Mondays and Wednesdays will be especially busy for me as I will have at least 3 1/2 hours straight of class. I think that physics will be the most difficult class of the semester.
  • Tuesday— St. Archibald’s League held its bicker.
  • Wednesday— I went to see Hamlet at the McCarter Theater. It was excellent. The troupe performed it “theater-in the round” style by walking through and around the audience. They wore modern clothes instead of costumes but kept some of the older elements like swords. My $40 ticket was paid for by Whitman College.
  • Thursday— A storm came in overnight and blanketed the campus in powdery white snow. Rather than stay indoors, I bundled up and walked all over campus to take pictures. Some of my photos are blurry because my lens got foggy or I could not clear away all of the snowflakes on it.
  • Friday— My third “Prince” article was published. Also, I was selected for the Bahamas carbonate summer internship through the Princeton Environmental Institute. I thought that I would be working on a professor’s project, but it is actually quite different. I will be an assistant to a sophomore who is beginning work on her senior thesis. This research project will eventually transform into an ongoing study that will attract graduate students to Princeton. In the simplest terms, we are studying chemicals in rocks at the Bahamas to see how they record sea levels from the past. We meet once a week to discuss scientific papers and trip logistics. I am also swimming to get in shape.
  • Saturday— I went home for the weekend to attend Nentego Lodge’s banquet. It is my last Scouting-related duty as the outgoing Lodge Chief. I probably will not be at another Scouting event for quite some time.
  • Tuesday— I got sick and had a fever. Despite my illness, I stilled dragged myself to class because missing them would have been worse. I also had to write an essay this week. This is definitely reflected in my feverishly circuitous logic and sentence structures.
  • Wednesday— Yale University decided to change the name of its residential college “Calhoun College” in response to student protests. It was similar to how the Black Justice League organized people to protest Woodrow Wilson. John C. Calhoun was a senator in the mid-1800s who believed in white supremacy and vigorously fought to defend slavery. At the same time, he was a marvelous political philosopher who greatly contributed to constitutional theory and was one of the greatest orators in the nation’s history — along with Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. In response to this change, I wrote an article about how we cannot judge our past leaders with our present morals because they lived in a different — dare I say barbaric — time. As part of newspaper policy, my editor got a columnist to write a response to my opinion. It was rather vitriolic. She misinterpret my words “activist hysteria”; I never had the intention of attacking their new name or the act of protesting itself, though I can see how my words are misleading (perhaps I should have said “activists’ hysteria”). Nevertheless, it was the exact kind of response that I expected. I admit that she had a few valid points. We’re all still friends in the opinion section even if we write against each other. No hard feelings.

Some interesting articles on the subject from the Yale Daily News: one, twothree

  • Thursday— I am getting back into the routine of going to the graduate school for dinner with a friend. They had an excellent Italian pasta dish. Then, I went to try out for the debate team again. I have not received word on their decision. My guess is that I probably was not accepted. Afterwards, I went to see the Islands episode of Planet Earth II for the Princeton Conservation Society. There was a big crowd. I would recommend watching it 8/10.
  • Saturday— Just a regular day of studying over the weekend as usual.

The semester is starting up again and I am studying a lot. It will probably only get busier.

 

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Archibald’s Temptation: A Criticism of Elitism

On Monday, February 6, The Daily Princetonian featured an article in its opinion section that chastised the Bicker system and featured a link to Club Revolución, the club that opposes it. After reading the column, I did not think much about the topic. Anti-bicker groups have existed in Princeton for many years, though they have not been visibly active since I arrived. They were nothing new in the school’s history. Various groups had tried unsuccessfully to end this practice.

I checked my e-mail account on Tuesday morning and found a mysterious note that advertised admissions to, “Princeton’s newest, coolest, and most exclusive club” called “St. Archibald’s League.” There was a link to the club’s website. When I first looked through it, I was in disbelief. It sounded so realistic that it seemed untrue; much of their activities seemed like a compilation of the eating clubs’ reputations. As I read through more of their material, I smelled a rat. Their address of “5 Prospect Avenue” is Campus Club — the once mighty eating club that was bought by the University after going bankrupt — and their contact e-mail address was connected to Club Revolución’s website. Still, I decided to go to their “admissions” event that evening.

Fog blanketed Princeton like a mask as I hurried to Prospect Avenue. Upon arrival at Campus Club, two protesters stood on the sidewalk shouting, “Be inclusive! Do not let them fool you into thinking you are not worthy!” and, “Do not create power structures where none are needed.” A student in a suit guarded the opening through the hedge next to a sign reading “Bicker St. Archibald’s.” About fifteen students gathered around as he told us to wait until the previous group was complete. I recognized him from PCCCV and as the author of the article in the “Prince.” The protesters then handed us a “flyer” about the cruelty involved in the making of Canada Goose parkas. A few “hosed” students — the name for those who are rejected after bickering — walked out of Campus Club. Once they left, we were lead in by a lean short-haired man with narrow eyes who wore a Canada Goose Parka.

We were informed that we were to only answer the questions given to us. Our responses were to be witty but not “show offy” or “obsequious.” We were also informed that our membership or rejection to this club would determine our careers and friends for life.

Inside, we were split into groups of three to answer questions from “club members.” The questions seemed simple but our answers were met by our interrogator’s judgmental silence. Her only role was to complete a form. Questions included:

  • What is your last name?
  • Where are you from?
  • Where did you go to high school?
  • Why do you want to join this club?
  • Based on my (the interviewer’s) appearance, how many people do you think I’ve hooked up with?
  • Rank the other twelve eating clubs (there are only eleven) from best to worst. Which is the weirdest? Which is the coolest?
  • How racially diverse are your friends?
  • Who in the group do you think has the richest family?
  • What’s great about this eating club and what’s wrong about it?
  • If you had three wishes, what would they be?
  • Are you related to anyone famous?

(From what I can gather from external sources, all of these questions were taken from actual Bicker interviews.)

After completing the questions, the interviewers left the room and then returned to say that we were all admitted. The group was subsequently seated around a large table in the dining room. The club’s “president” handed everyone an envelope, saying that it contained our passbook to club events. I opened it and found a note that defined the word, “elite” along with a card for Club Revolución. At that moment, the club members started banging the table and chanting, if I remember correctly, “we need a new system because we are always right.” They were referring to the need for inclusivity. That ended the evening’s show.

Everything about St. Archibald’s stint was a parody of every eating club ever, from its invitation to the realistically fake Bicker. It could easily be a Saturday Night Live imitation of Princeton. Club Revolución showed that unwarranted elitism continues to pervade social life here and has taken a bold approach to address it through satire. While the diversification of the student body has led to a decline in the strength of certain once powerful organizations, the power structures themselves are still intact.

Bicker and the eating clubs will never go away. There are too many alumni and too much money involved for that to ever happen. But Club Revolución did highlight ways in which students can take action to diminish the strength of eating clubs in a manner unlike that of previous anti-Bicker groups.

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Article on Bicker

Article on Ivy Club Bicker

 

On High School and College Preparedness Part II

As we pass the halfway point in the academic year, most of the college applications have probably been submitted. All that remains is for students to wait for their acceptance letters to come in. By this time last year, I remember that I began to think about college life. The light at the end of the tunnel was near, but few people, beyond my college interviewers, had given me any hints as to what college life would be like. Yes, I had a few friends who had graduated; they usually gave me vague answers such as, “you get to sleep in more” or, “the papers are longer.”

Today I will give you, the high school senior, a definitive preview of academic life at an American university. Princeton is not like most other schools, however “the daily grind” is about the same everywhere. For that reason, I will illustrate a semester in the life of Liam O’Connor to give you an idea of how you’ll be in seven months.

…..

Schedule

Wherever you go, your schedule will be much more open than it was in high school. This does not mean that you will not be busy, but you will have more flexibility in how your time is allocated. State laws usually mandate that students attend school a minimum of seven hours every day, five days per week for K-12 public education. There are no such laws for a university. They are independent institutions that set their own rules.

As a result, a college student may spend less time in class on average than a high schooler and at sporadic intervals. Take a look at my spring schedule below. On Tuesdays, I am in class for only an hour. On Wednesdays, I will spend six and a half hours in class.

This extra time will usually be dominated by three things: sleep, homework, and clubs.

screen-shot-2017-02-04-at-4-50-05-pm

Spring 2017 schedule

Class

College classes are much more condensed than those of high school; they are rather skeletal, providing only the information that you need and nothing you don’t. Gone are the days where you will spend time working on homework, worksheets, or projects in class. All of this must be accomplished during your free time — and they will consume a significant portion of it.

Instead, classes are almost always delivered as a lecture. A professor will stand at the front of the class and unload his or her knowledge in a long speech. Sometimes, there are debates or interactive sessions, however they are rare.

For my friends at CR, take Mr. McCormick’s classes. They are exactly what you’ll encounter in college.

Introductory classes may have 100-300 students in a large lecture hall. I have been told that Economics 101 (microeconomics) at Princeton has 250 students sitting in the uncomfortable wooden seats of McCosh Hall. On the other hand, my Spanish class had only nine in it.

At Princeton, classes are not much longer than those in high school, lasting 50 minutes on average. A few, such as labs, will last 90 minutes or longer.

Workload

Ultimately, you will spend about as much time on school-related activities in college as in high school; the majority of it, though, will be completed outside of class. Homework  includes: completing sets of problems, writing papers, creating presentations, programming computers, or reading various documents. These assignments will require three or more hours per day.

Juniors, you can help your transition into college by scheduling a busy senior year (but not too busy because you’ll need time to write applications). If you take easy classes and slack off as a senior, then you will have a very difficult time acclimating to college life during your freshman year. I took five college-level classes as a high school senior and stayed busy with club activities; this adequately prepared me for managing time in college.

Take a look at some of my homework assignments.

Exams

Midterm and final examinations will closely mirror those administered by College Board for Advanced Placement classes. Most college exams will last two to four hours.

There is one significant difference between college and AP exams. The AP classes usually teach you “canned” problems that are repeated every few years because there is a limited amount of material that College Board can include on the test. A professor will teach students a new way of thinking and a sphere of knowledge. The students must then learn how to apply this newfound logic to a challenging set of problems that they have never seen before.

Professors also give quizzes, but they only consume the duration of a class.

Princeton tries to replicate Oxford’s education system. That means there is a lot of weight placed on a student’s exam performance with little else in the class swaying the results.

This leads me to…

Grades

In college, no one really cares about your grades like in high school. Your class grade does not matter as much to peers, unless you fail. General college advice: don’t fail classes. This will cost additional money when you have to retake them. Also, don’t flunk out. If you do, be sure to create a Silicon Valley start-up like Facebook or become a world renowned writer like F. Scott Fitzgerald. But that doesn’t happen to everyone.

That being said, you will (or at least should) spend your time trying to learn the material and not fretting about your score on the quiz. If you learn it well, then the good grades will follow.

Standardized Tests

Supposedly, the SAT is a good indicator of a student’s success in their freshman year of college. Personally, I think that is a marketing ploy. I do not see any way that the SAT’s trick questions reflect academic life here at Princeton. Sure, people who score better on test have usually spent more time preparing for it and are therefore more diligent students. But this is true for just about any test.

If you didn’t score well on the SAT, breath a sigh of relief. You’ll do fine in college as long as you keep working hard.

Clubs

When going on tours, you have probably noticed that each school boasts about its 300 clubs, 50 acapella groups, and Quidditch team. For the most part, this is true. Colleges have a lot of clubs that fill nearly every niche. You name it and there is a club for it.

Some clubs focus on a certain academic skill to hone. The Princeton math club is supposed to be really strong. Others teach professional skills, like Speak with Style.

Musicians can choose one of two paths. One is to major in music. This will provide the maximum number of opportunities to practice an instrument, but it can be very difficult for those who are not naturally talented and do not have a lot of free time in their schedule. The other path is to join a casual band. Some can be very good.

High school athletes have one of three options they can choose if they want to continue their sport:

The first is to join the college’s official varsity team. Their training schedules are very demanding. Your entire life will probably be split between class and sports with little time for anything else.

The second option is to join a club or intramural team. Club sports may be just as demanding as a varsity sport if your college has a very good team. Intramural sports may be casual teams that are formed within departments, dorm clusters, or separate clubs and compete against each other.

The third option is to pursue the sport independently. Nothing stops you from running early in the morning or swimming in the evenings. A few schools have really nice exercise facilities.

Disclaimer: I neither played sports in high school nor in college. I am only speaking from my experience with friends who did.

In general, college clubs are better funded and more active than those in high school. Some clubs at Princeton have a crazy amount of funding. The debate team, for example, can afford to travel to a competition every weekend. Also, clubs usually do not have a faculty adviser, meaning they are more independent and truly student-lead.

Social Life

There is much variability in this. It all depends on what each student chooses to do in their free time. Be careful, it is true that people tend to go wild in college. Remember, the law still applies to you. Even here at Princeton, people occasionally get arrested for drug possession or driving under the influence. There are much stricter crackdowns at other colleges, especially state schools. No one is forcing you to do any of that.

My Advice: Stay relatively (compared to others) simple. Go to a movie with friends. Watch Netflix. Go to a hockey match. Take a train or bus to a nearby city. Stroll through town.

Other

Generally speaking, being a college student is a nice lifestyle. You create your own schedule and pick your adventures without having to worry about a job or family. Even when there is a lot of homework, I take a few minutes to savor the moment. It is also important to schedule a few breaks. I went to New York City on a Saturday to “get away from it all.”

At the end of the day, you are going to college to pursue the truth in whatever field that you choose to study. Do not forget that. Academics always comes first; that is why your family is paying $10,000-$60,000 per year for you to go to school. It is this constant pursuit of truth that has lead humanity to accomplish great feats and overcome enormous challenges. Now it is your turn to contribute to the ever-growing sphere of human knowledge.

…..

Keep up the good work! There are only four months remaining in your senior year of high school. College is still far enough away that you do not need to worry about it too much. Just keep waiting for the acceptance letters to come in. I know that you can do this.

A Note on College Interviews

A majority of college applications for competitive schools are due on or before January 1st. While this may seem like the end of a process, you would be dearly mistaken to say so. Yes, the application form itself is the bulk of the application process, but it is not all. The next step is mysterious experience called the “alumni interview.”

Almost every competitive University offers applicants the opportunity to have an interview. They are not mandatory. But always do them. Just like a job, you do not want a résumé to be the sole source information about yourself if you can supplement it with personal contact.

Interviews are not the most important part of the application. I believe that they are pass/fail for most people. A few schools, like MIT, have a “one in a million” box that interviewers can check if a student that they meet is exceptionally remarkable. Unfortunately, the odds are that this will not happen to you. No matter how well you do in an interview, it will not completely sway your application toward that magical acceptance letter. However, you will go towards rejection if you do poorly. The alumni will probably write something good about you unless you are an arrogant jerk. General life advice: don’t be one of those.

Interviews accomplish two things. First, they show the school that you are truly interested in attending. Second, they provide an opportunity to show that you are a genuine human being and not a robot in a schoolroom. This is your time to show off your personality.

These interviews can occur at a variety of places. Some, like Yale, have the option to do them on their campus; this option will not give you an advantage. Only select it if: (A) this is feasible with your school schedule and (B) you have not yet visited the campus and really want to see it. Otherwise, go for the local interview. It will probably be at the alumnus’ office, a coffee shop, restaurant, library, or other public space.

Most interviews are initiated by the school. They will send your contact information to someone in their alumni network who will then contact you, usually by e-mail. Be careful; a few places will require you to contact the alumnus first. MIT is one such example. If this is the case, schedule it as early as possible. For Princeton, the interviewer contacts the applicant.

Scheduling may pose a problem. It is likely that both of your schedules will not align perfectly. Consequently, you will probably have to send a bunch of e-mails back and forth to find the right time for the interview.

The people who conduct the interview are graduates of the school. They probably attended it anywhere from 1 to 60+ years ago. On the young end of the spectrum, I know of a Princeton 2016 graduate and CR alumnae who signed up to be an interviewer this past fall. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I met an MIT interviewer in Ohio who graduated in 1958 (and ironically went to Princeton for graduate school later). Regardless of their age, the alumni are very friendly. Treat them as you would with any other new adult. They are eager to meet the next generation of smart college students. Ultimately, interviewing applicants is a way for them to give back to their school, so they are always happy to do it in whatever way is possible.

In my humble opinion, an interview for college should be no different than one for a job. There are a few simple, timeless rules that apply to all interviews.

  1. Relax. Be the best version of yourself.
  2. Wear a suit. I don’t care if they say it’s in a casual setting, wear it. This shows that you are serious about applying.
  3. Come a few minutes early. No one likes waiting for you.
  4. Give your interviewer a firm handshake.
  5. Know how to make small talk and casually converse. Although the interviewer will guide the conversation, you always want to avoid those awkward empty pauses.
  6. If your interviewer offers to buy you food, do not get the most expensive item on the menu. Pick something cheap and light. The focus of the occaision should be on the interview, not the food. Be sure that you know table manners.
  7. Always thank your interviewer for their time at the end. Send a thank you e-mail the next day. (This would usually be a thank you note for a job)

Practice interviewing with friends and family. From my experience, the interviewers ask straightforward questions about your interests and experiences, though a few have been known to throw in some wild cards. Do not fret if you get one of these. Give it your best shot and have fun. There shouldn’t be any litmus test questions. This is merely a college interview, not a Senate confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court. Here are some questions that I received from all of my interviews:

  • Why are you interested in applying to this school?
  • What would you like to study? Why?
  • What have been your favorite classes in high school and why?
  • What advice would you give to a new freshman coming into your high school?
  • What extracurricular activities have you participated in and why?
  • What wakes you up in the morning?
  • Why do you want to go to college?
  • What is your greatest accomplishment?
  • What is something that you would like to tell me that does not necessarily appear on a résumé or you application?
  • What is your greatest strength?
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • If I asked your friends to describe you, what would they say?
  • What three words describe you best?
  • If you could go back in time and meet anyone, who would it be and why?
  • Who inspires you and why?
  • What is your favorite book?
  • Will you do anything differently in college than you did in high school?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What about college most excites you?
  • If you could switch places with any person in the world for a day, who would it be?
  • How do you express yourself?
  • What makes you unique?
  • Who do you most respect?
  • What core principles guide your life?
  • If you could invent anything, what would it be?
  • If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?
  • What do you like about yourself?
  • What do you not like about yourself?
  • How do you improve yourself?
  • What kind of career do you want to go into?
  • What is your dream job?
  • What does service mean to you?
  • What is the meaning of life? (Just kidding)

You can’t really predict what they’ll ask you. There is one question that is always asked for Princeton interviews: “Will you uphold the Honor Code and why?” Briefly read through the Honor Code. Your answer should be “yes,” but think carefully about the second part. What compels you to tell the truth and not cheat on exams?

Questions, like the application essay prompts, should be answered with a focus on “why.” Dig into the question to expose a deep part of yourself. Watch this Ted Talk again.

Do your research on the school beforehand. Memorize a few programs or features that interest you. Mention them during your interview. This will show that you are drawn to the school for academic reasons and not simply prestige.

To look even better, ask some questions about the school or your interviewer at the end. Don’t ask about acceptance. This will only make you look desperate to get in. Instead, focus on the aspects of the school such as coursework, research, study abroad, and distribution requirements. I would even advise that you ask about your alumnus’ career or their greatest lesson from college. These are ways that you can show interest in the school without having to do much talking.

At the end of the day, don’t get too nervous about the alumni interview. As I said, it will probably not make or break your application. Go into it with a smile on your face. Enjoy the occasion and learn something about college from your interviewer.

Weeks in Review 1/8-28/17

1/8— I returned to Princeton after a nice Christmas break.

1/10— I attended a workshop on speaking for interviews at Career Services. It was a lot of fun.

At night, a few people from Whitman gathered in the common room to watch President Obama’s farewell address. I was captivated by his speech.

1/11— The weather was really weird. When I went to bed, it felt like it was 30ºF with a 15 mph wind and there was snow everywhere. When I woke up, it was 55ºF without wind and all of the snow had melted. It was as if it had instantly disappeared.

1/12— My geosciences class went on a field trip to the Museum of Natural History in New York City. We started in the Hayden Planetarium and then went to a few geology exhibits. All of the students had to complete a worksheet about what we saw. I then went with a group of friends to look at the dinosaur exhibits.

1/13— The Daily Princetonian published its annual joke edition. I didn’t write for it but enjoyed reading through the various articles. Some of them seemed like realistic stories.

I spent most of the day at the graduate school for a retreat with the PCCCV. We set a schedule for the Pace Center for the coming semester.

1/14— In the evening, I played in the Princeton band for the men’s and women’s basketball games against Yale. It was a lot of fun. We spent most of the time watching the games but played during time outs and at halftime. The Superstars show in the middle of the game was very funny.

1/15— As usual, I went to brunch at Forbes College. When I arrived, I saw a friend with Whig-Clio and decided to eat with him. His roommate was with him too. While we were eating, he asked for my name and instantly recognized it even though we had never met before. I learned that he was in a writing seminar called “Speech Acts.” The final assignment of the class (due on Dean’s Date) was an op-ed. His professor allowed the class to choose between two articles to use as an example: a column from the New York Times and my essay on the sanctuary campus movement. The students chose my column. So, I guess there are at least three people who read The Daily Princetonian.

In the following weeks, I met two other people who told me about this. One was a friend that I made on the art trip to New York City in November. The other was one of the freshman class officers when I went to pick up some Princeton gear. On January 25, I received my writing seminar placement for the second semester. I am in “Speech Acts.”

1/16— A number of Dean’s Date eve activities occurred.

1/17— Dean’s Date has arrived and no one is happy about it.

1/19— I went to the twelfth floor of Fine Hall (not the professor’s lounge) at night. It had a pretty vista of Princeton, though I believe that the view during the day is better.

1/20— I had my physics exam on this day. I thought that it was not too difficult. After it ended, I went to the Whig-Clio inauguration party to watch Donald Trump get sworn in as president. Did this really just happen?

1/21— I went to New York City for a day.

1/22— Instead of going to Forbes, I ate brunch at the graduate school.

1/24— My math exam was today. I thought that it was difficult. Afterwards, I had an interview for a PEI internship that goes to the Bahamas.

1/25— I had a second interview for the same PEI internship.

1/26— The geosciences exam was in the afternoon. It’s over. Free at last!

1/27— I took the trains from Princeton to Wilmington, arriving at the one and only Joseph R. Biden station. Thanks Joe Biden!

1/28— I went back to the north with a Scouting event at Carroll County Community College called #LEAD. It was good to see some friends again.

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A Foray into New York City

I have wanted to go to New York City on a whim without much prior thought since I arrived at Princeton. Seeing that there was no homework during Reading Week and exams, I decided to do it. After purchasing the tickets to a few attractions on Thursday, I was ready to go on Saturday.

I woke up (relatively) early in the morning to take the bus to Princeton Junction. There was an unusually large number of people waiting at the stop. I would not understand why until later. Upon arrival at New York Penn Station, I traveled to the Empire State Building observatory. Even though the sky was cloudy, I decided to ascend it. Their elevators were very cool. It featured a television screen on the ceiling that showed what it looked like to travel up the building as it was being constructed. At the 80th floor, there was a museum on the construction of the Empire State Building. I then took another elevator to the 86th floor observatory. I could not see much. This part of the building was in the clouds. Still, I walked around the outdoor platform through the mist. It certainly was not the “usual” experience.

After descending to the bottom, I strolled northwards — switching between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. At the New York Public Library, I noticed that there were a bunch of protesters in pink hats. I guess that the Women’s March was scheduled for this day. I figured that something would probably occur in the City, being that it was the day after a controversial president’s inauguration, but had no clue that this would happen.

I went into the library and looked around. It was classy. The New York Public Library definitely beats Firestone in fanciness but does not surpass the Boston Public Library.

I continued along Fifth Avenue, eating The Halal Guys while sitting in Central Park. After my déjeuner, I walked further northward to The Explorers Club headquarters on 70th Street. Unfortunately, it was closed.

As I headed south to find a subway station, I turned around a corner and found myself in the middle of the Women’s March. I don’t quite know how this happened, but I had to stumble through the crowds to reach a train. The police were warning people against civil disobedience on some loud speakers. I went to Union Square and looked around a bit before taking another train.

The sunny skies of Midtown soon turned to gloomy clouds as I arrived in Downtown Manhattan. I arrived at One World Trade Center (I’ll call One) barely in time for my slot. This place was rather deserted. I didn’t have to wait in any lines.

The experience started with a geology exhibit on Manhattan Schist. It was followed by an speedy elevator ride to the top. One, like the Empire State Building, had a cool effect in the ride. All of the elevator’s walls were television screens that showed the evolution of the New York skyline over time. Dually, it made it seem as if you were gaining altitude along with it and showed One being constructed when the time arrived. At the top, an attendant played a brief movie before the screen raised to reveal a dramatic view of Manhattan — or what would be a dramatic view if it were not for the clouds.

Fortunately, One was high enough that it was above the stratus layer blanketing the city. As a result, I had an airplane-like view as I gazed out over the tops of the fluffy marshmallows. I could see airplanes rising up into the sky and a few other buildings poking though the top, including that ugly cube skyscraper. It was cool to see One’s shadow on the cloudtops. I looked around for a while. One boasted a very expensive restaurant and gift shop along with an education center. I could feel the building sway under my feet during strong gusts of wind. No one else seemed to notice. After 45 minutes, I went back down.

I looked around the World Trade Center memorial at the building’s base. There was a somber atmosphere. Seeing that it was 4:30 pm, I began to walk north to catch a train into Soho. I stayed in this part of town for an hour before going to Grand Central Terminal and then taking the spur to Times Square. I enjoyed all of the advertisement for 10 minutes and then walked south to Penn Station. I was in a rush to catch the train, so I ate at a Johnny Rocket’s for dinner. The train was packed full of people, especially protesters from the Women’s March.

In all, I enjoyed this trip. It was a great way to relax following a long week of study. I would highly recommend it to other Princeton students who are looking for ways to burst the Orange Bubble. Very little planning is needed, only a computer and a bit of money. With the exception of the tickets for the building observatories, this trip was not too expensive.

I will probably return on a weekday to check out the Explorers Club and Princeton Club of New York.

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Reading Week, Dean’s Date, and Exams: Social Life (or lack thereof) at Princeton Part VI

Princeton has an academic calendar that is different from the majority of other colleges. We start classes in the middle of September, have a three week winter break at the end of December, and then return for exams at the beginning of January. It has been this way since the 1940s. All of my friends already took their exams before winter break. Consequently, this results in a strange limbo period for students.

Dean’s Date is the semesterly day on which all final papers, projects, and assignments are due. Exams start after it. The week preceding it is known as “Reading Week.” It allows students to have time for studying. There are no classes or other activities happening during this week.

As I write this, the campus is a monastery. Everyone is holed-up as they study for final exams and work on their projects. I was walking around last night, a Friday, at 11:00 PM and there wasn’t a single dorm party. Nearly all of the eating clubs were closed with the exception of the Tiger Inn. Firestone Library was packed. It is always busy, along with the other libraries, during Reading Week. It’s quiet around here.

I study in a different area that few know about: the Seminary Library. It is always extremely quite and almost deserted. It is a long walk, but it is worth it.

As a science major, Dean’s Date won’t be that bad for me. I have to write one paper, for a Spanish class, and submit an assignment for geosciences. Other than that, I only have to study for final exams. Some of my humanities friends are swamped with papers and essays.

More will happen around Dean’s Date. I will continue to update this post and its photo gallery throughout the next two weeks.

UPDATE (1/15/17)— The students are packed like sardines in the libraries for the final 36 hours before Dean’s Date. I walked around Firestone and Marquand Libraries at 9:00 PM. There are more students in them now than I have seen the rest of the semester. Everyone is in a last minute crunch. I added some photos to the gallery.

UPDATE (1/16/17)— I joined the band for a semiannual Princeton tradition. Every Dean’s Date Eve, they walk through the campus’ libraries in uniforms and play a few tunes. We all gathered at Woolworth Hall at 8:30 PM before walking toward Frist Student Center. The band opened with “Tequila” on the ground floor followed by a lobster performance in the cafeteria where surprised students were dining on their late meals. Then, we traveled to the lobby of Lewis Library. A few computer science majors were not amused. Firestone Library was the main act. As we circled around the inside, students rushed out of the Trustee Reading Room and down the stairs to watch us. Their were +50 onlookers. The security guard didn’t look too happy. Our show ended with a performance outside the glass windows of Marquand Library. Overall, it was a terrific experience that I was happy to be a part of.

The residential colleges also have their own traditions. Tonight, they served late night breakfasts to help nourish the minds of panicked students who are cramming in their final papers during the wee hours of the night. There were A LOT of people in line for this. The photo gallery has been updated.

Also, I can’t cover all of the Dean’s Date activities. Fortunately, the University Press Club has multiple writers around the campus who are covering all of the events on their live 24/7 blog.

UPDATE (1/16/17)— About 40 students gathered in the south courtyard of Whitman College at 11:59 PM for another semiannual tradition called the “Whitman Wail.” This provides for a designated time for all students to voice their suffering from Dean’s Date assignments in a singular primordial cry of pain. As soon as the clock struck midnight, a student let out a yell and was soon joined in by a chorus of others. Slowly, windows opened around the courtyard. More and more students joined in on the Wail until it abruptly stopped.

I quickly raced northward towards Rockefeller College in the hopes of also witnessing the Holder Howl. Alas, a rabid rabbit in the middle of the sidewalk delayed my arrival, and I just barely missed it. Along the way, I could hear the cries emanating from Butler and Wilson Colleges. At that moment, I realized that we were all in this together.

A video was added to the photo gallery.

UPDATE (1/17/17)— Happy Dean’s Date everybody! Today is the day where papers go to die. Nothing fuels quality work like a can of Red Bull and the sense of imminent failure in life if its not submitted on time.

I went to breakfast at my usual time of 8:00 AM and realized that the dining hall was a bit emptier than usual. Only six to eight people were eating in there. Afterwards, I looked in two nearby libraries to monitor their activity. The Whitman Class of 1963 Library (called the Cry-bary by Whitmanites) was mostly devoid of students. There was one person, though, who had obviously pulled an all nighter. Next, I strolled over to the Julian Street Library in WuWilcox Hall. This one had possibly fifteen to twenty students. Someone was sleeping in the back corner. My friend, who was laying on a couch outside of the library, said that he had been there for twelve hours and that some in “J. Street” had been in there longer.

Eight hours remaining until everything is due!

UPDATE (1/17/17)— An e-mail was sent out to the students saying that the Dean’s Date celebration was moved to the Campus Club at 4:30 PM. Band was cancelled due to the possibility of rain, so Yours Truly went to investigate.

There was a very long line around the corner. I went to the back and didn’t get inside for 15 minutes. They were giving out free Princeton beanies along with pizza, Krispy Kreme donuts, cookies, hot cider, and hot chocolate. To my dismay, nothing exciting happened at 5:00 PM, not even a countdown. Dean’s Date was sadly anticlimactic. But, there’s another one in May.

UPDATE (1/17/17)— To celebrate the end of the Dean’s Date deadline, several eating clubs are having parties tonight. I can already hear the drunken students walking into the courtyard on their way to The Street. Also, I can’t go to sleep because the strong base from a stereo is propagating through the walls.

UPDATE (1/26/17)— All of my exams are done! Yay!

UPDATE (1/28/17)— Reading week and exam period is a pretty boring time at Princeton. Not much happens other than studying and writing. Some people leave campus after Dean’s Date. Others stay through intersession. I would recommend that students plan a few activities during this time to prevent getting cabin fever from studying all of the time.

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Out and About

There are many nice place around the town of Princeton to which few students ever go. On Wednesday, I discovered another one of them.

The Battle of Princeton was fought on January 3, 1777. Although it is not as famous as the Battle of Saratoga or Yorktown, it definitely had a pivotal role in the Revolutionary War. In it, General Washington displayed his signature tactical brilliance and mustered the courage of his fleeing troops to fight the advancing British army. After the American victory, morale increased as more colonists were inspired to join the revolutionary cause.

As I walked to the Seminary Library, I stopped at Princeton Battle Monument Park on the western end of Nassau Street. It is a nice little urban park within a larger community. Trees lined a path to a larger monument. To the right, there was a bust of Albert Einstein and a man reading a newspaper.

The main spectacle was the Battle of Princeton Monument. Its carvings take inspiration from the Arc de Triomphe. This monument pays homage to Washington’s victory and displays the death of General Mercer, who is also commemorated in the opening lines of “The Room Where It Happens” from Hamilton. Several other monuments were to its left.

One of Delaware’s favorite sons had a crucial role in the Battle. A marker explained the role of Colonel John Haslet in leading the American soldiers to victory. Colonel Haslet lived in Milford, Delaware, a 15-minute drive from my town. I also won a scholarship from the Daughters of the American Revolution that has helped me afford Princeton. The local chapter that sponsored me was named after Haslet. He was friends with Caesar Rodney too, a resident of Dover and for whom my high school was named. Even though these men are gone, their legacies live on.

Back in the day, Princeton was a happening place. The Triangle Club wouldn’t have been able to write the line, “nothing ever happens in Princeton” during colonial times. This park reminded me that history always surrounds us at this university, and that we should take the time to learn about it.

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