10 Things a New Collegiette Must Never Do: A Guide to Princeton

Welcome to Princeton. Welcome to the next four (<four if you become a transfer, which is OK) years of your life. Welcome to an uncommon chance to begin again an effort to hammer out a new and specific dent in the social order. However at Princeton University, a place known for being known, this chance is not so much a “chance” as it is an Olympic Obstacle Course—you’ll have to navigate mental mazes and dodge deft devices non Princeton-going collegiettes won’t have to. Luckily, able to recollect an excess of egregious errors I made as a sparkling, new collegiette, I must caution you against saying and doing (if only cotton shirts weren’t flammable…) things of a similarly irreparable nature. Heed just one of my sanity-preserving warnings and you may find yourself far closer to winning freshman year (yes, it is a contest) than any of your co-collegiettes.

  1.  College is Fun, but Grades are Forever:  You may feel as though College is at long last your golden opportunity to compensate for the utter lack of fun you had in high school. But, in all honesty, Princeton is unabashedly taxing. Mentally, Physically, Emotionally. You may initially attempt to escape this inescapable fact by way of Sex, Alcohol & Drugs or Kisses, Fro-Yo & Gummy Bears.  But if you continue a pursuit of unsustainable recreation well into year one at Princeton you will find yourself hairline-deep in deadlines, past due dates and unsatisfactory grades. Moreover, it may seem like everyone on campus save you is realizing the cultural College dream, but realistically everyone on campus, including you, is at Princeton and in turn has a problem set to begin or finish, a paper to begin or finish or an exam to prepare for. Raging orgies come and go, but semester grades are permanent. Ultimately, once you flee the Princeton nest or rather pop the Princeton Bubble, potential employers and Graduate schools review your transcript, not a facebook photo album titled “…on the pursuit of motherf***in’ happiness” or a meticulously kept scrapbook titled “my first year at Princeton.”
  2.  High School is then, College is now: I beg of you to neglect to reveal each and every prestigious honor, athletic title and AP/ACT/SAT/SAT II score to each and every sociable smile you encounter. Doing so is not only categorically lame, but it also makes you look like someone desperate to prove the perennial question: “Why, exactly, am I deserving of Princeton?” And desperation is not a flattering shade on any collegiette, especially a new one. However, should an instance arise in which not you, but your chat-time partner, be it a potential new friend, rival and/or sworn enemy, begins to describe his hard-fought ascension from a 2220 to a 2380, swiftly interject to offer your score only if it’s the two of you, yours is higher, and you see no possibility of the two of you ever becoming friends. BUT, if there are three or more of you, your score was lower and you Spidey sense that said original two-way conversation could quickly and irrevocably morph into a deafening, not to mention uncool discussion of each speaker’s results of every college entrance exam known to man, then it is your superhuman, no super Collegiette, responsibility to redirect the course of conversation to an ostensibly relevant, far less esteem threatening topic. “Speaking of which, when asked what she got on her SAT, Jennifer Lopez replied—PAUSE—“Nail Polish”—with any luck a snide comment, furtive giggle or hysteria-inducing snort will sound—and will she still be a judge for Idol?” Hopefully one collegiette will join in to contribute whom she would have liked to win this past season, a rousing debate over who should have won will follow, and soon enough, you will have saved all from boorish test talk). Then again, if it’s three or more of you, your score was higher and you actually verbalize such…maybe it is an inherent character flaw—your desperate need for attention, maybe it is an honest mistake and maybe you won’t be deemed an absolute cretin.
  3. Have a Nice Trip; See You Next Fall—Stairs at Princeton:My upcoming “advice” may seem random and needless, being that you are not yet here and as such are not yet able to fathom the astounding number of steps one has to climb at Princeton (or I am just dangerously unfit) and that you and I have a moderate degree of hand-eye coordination which enables us to, typically, climb stairs sans injury, but I cannot tell you how many times (seven) I’ve seen an unlucky collegiette clumsily misstep or worse, fall headlong down a stairway, hopelessly plummeting to his or her social doom. Although the latter is rare, the former is one that, weirdly enough, happens a lot. It may be that each step is not perfectly equidistant from the one before or after it, it may be that a shoe lace is loose or heel too high, but the fact of the matter is this degree of embarrassment can be far too severe to recover from, especially if there are spectators haplessly hovering by—professors, strangers, the Dean. Luckily, prevention of it is far easier to master—

  4. Tie your shoes, tightly.
    I for one don’t wear many shoes that need constant tying being that I am not an athlete or in combat, but I do make sure to tightly tie the ones that do. Thus, be sure to attend to this minor detail before embarking on a journey to class or dinner, because neglecting to do so could ruin/deflate your entire day/mood/night/ego. Avoid high heels. Yes, they enhance physique and burn calories, but they can also do to you what they’ve done to many a collegiette before you: hurt, wound, and cause woeful recitation of verses from Beyoncé’s “If I Were a Boy.” Take the Elevator. Yes, taking the stairs is more proactive (it also burns fat). But, if it’s a particularly rainy day, which it usually is in Princeton (seriously, do pack rain boots, rain coats, and umbrellas), the stairs will be Gross ‘N’ Slippery and you’ll most likely be in a rush to arrive on time, which will only increase the likelihood of slipping and needlessly inflicting injury upon yourself, in which case it is wisest for you to take the elevator. It may be farther away from the stairwell, but you may get to glimpse a ridiculously attractive guy (a surefire mood-inflator), engage in friendly, recommendation-establishing conversation with a professor or find a quick and private opportunity to wring out your hair/clothes/homework before the start of class. You may not, however, have an absolutely mortifying stairwell accident.
  5. Never ask, “Which Arch?”This is the single most absurd question (I will contradict myself in approximately 2 statements, bear with me) you can ask of anyone who has been at Princeton for more than a noncommittal visit. It is the illogical equivalent of asking “which Eiffel Tower?” or “which Leaning Tower of Pisa?” Though asking said fundamental questions of world geography in Paris, France or Pisa, Italy could indeed come across as cute or funny, asking “which Arch” would simply come across as an irksome question. Reason being—it is an entirely reasonable question to ask, especially for a newcomer to so architecturally repetitive a land as Princeton. After all, we do have an abundance of Neo-Gothic style archways. Thus, who, save me, could be so heartless as to fault you for asking so innocent a question? New Collegiette, If a non-freshman should invite you to a thing at “the Arch” and should you proceed to recklessly reply, “which arch?” you may singlehandedly destroy the presumably positive image said non-freshman had of you. Climb the social ladder; don’t miss a rung and bring it down with you. It smarts! To inform you of what I should have pre-tirade—The Arch is Blair Arch. Surely, whosoever asks you to a thing (an arch sing, a meeting, a primal sacrifice) at an Arch will either specify which Arch (meet me at Class of 1879 Arch) or matter-of-factly state, “the Arch.” As in Blair Arch. Where? Blair.
  6. Never Abandon thy Things:(Olde English is a hoot, isn’t it) Chiefly, I am referring to the laundry room (not a particular one) and by belongings I am referring to what one would bring of his own property to the laundry room for purposes of washing and drying. Yes, eventually each of us adopts the irresistible temptation to act as if college is home (evidenced by those who frequently tread common rooms barefoot and fail to use their inside voices). But ultimately, this illusion disintegrates because at home (no offense, but not an apartment complex, an actual house) one usually doesn’t lock one’s room prior to departure or at the end of a cycle, immediately empty the dryer (unless you’re extremely cautious and prompt). New Collegiette, college is no place like home. There are people here who will selfishly and carelessly toss whatever is in the washer or dryer at the end of a cycle, be it delicates, linens, whites (Sacre Bleu!), onto the frequently trodden and visibly filthy ground (or whatever available space is left) after similarly wrongful persons have taken up most of the dust-ridden, grime-covered floor too casting out the clothing of their co-collegiettes! Don’t despair. Should you fail to retrieve your freshly cleaned things in time there are the brilliant, compassionate few who will not only dry said newly washed things, but also deposit them in…wait for it… a clean container! These people I love uncontrollably. They hark back to the goodness of humanity. To my great dismay, not everyone is so exemplary of mankind’s bright side. Nine out of ten times, if you neglect to retrieve your belongings in a timely manner (within 5-10 minutes, 0-5 if it’s on a weekend because that’s when everyone wants to refresh theirs and their mother’s entire wardrobe), you will return to find them in tragic disarray. And just imagine the many places you would not want your just-cleaned things to be and the many people you would not want fondling them.

  7. Never Lock Thyself out of Thy Room:
    New collegiette, this is a serious one. Not to imply that the aforementioned five should be taken lightly, but of all the things I tell you, you have to remember No. 6. Obviously, shivering in the wide, open hallway in a barely-there towel is already a fairly compelling disincentive to lose or misplace one’s key, which is why it stuns me that the University plans to institute a new lockout policy, which includes a fee schedule, which will presumably cost unlucky collegiettes exorbitantly. (Never mind the upset not having your key charmingly hung about your neck à la Zoey 101 initially caused you. I am no way, shape or form advising you to follow the spectacular life-track of little Spears, but I don’t recall an episode in which she ever lost or misplaced her key. I do, however, distinctly remember an adorable, pastel pink key sparsely spotted with hot pink polka dots! I wonder if Princeton would mind were I to creatively fashion my next key into a Zoey evocative necklace…)Not only did I have not a one come to my rescue, save Housing and Real Estate Services or Public Safety, having had a Single (i.e. room sans mate), but I never actually locked my door whenever I had to leave my room for considerable periods of time—hours, days…weeks. However, I am not at all suggesting you follow my example! Then again, should one receive a Single and subsequently, arrive at said sans-lockout strategy independently, I wouldn’t necessarily say “Nay.” On the other paw, (Go Tigers, Go.) should you mimic my behavior as a result of having read this generous guide, I must state I take (little to) no responsibility. A return to my egoism: Why I thought no one would enter my room to rob me of most valuable possessions I haven’t a clue, but it’s best if you, new collegiette, yes, lock your room whenever you must leave your dorm, but also attach your own key to a discreet and quickly identifiable key holder (Vera Bradley creates them, in excess I believe) and then never let it go. Also, ATTACH YOUR PROX AND KEY TO THE SAME KEY HOLDER AND CARRY THAT HOLDER WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES. Seriously. Collegiette to collegiette, awaiting Public Safety is a colossal...
  8. Never Miss A Study Break:Except if it is actually a study delay. That is to say, you have hardly begun studying, in which case about face, return to Firestone/Lewis/Hovel and resume the tiresome/proud/unbearable work of demonstrating what 2016 is capable of. For your information, a Study Break is essentially a feast. Without the inexhaustible food supply. And without the archetypal bonfire. Basically, everyone you have never met deluges a common room of Wilson, Rocky, Mathey, Butler, Forbes or Whitman, converses in carefully chosen clusters which form irregular line segments until tantalizing (insufficiently satisfying) treats ranging from egg rolls (of Nassau Street’s Tiger Noodles) to bubble tea (Fruity Yogurt, also of Nassau) arrive only to disappear in a matter of minutes. Not only are study breaks ideal post-dinner snack fests, they have the effect of reminding you that despite your most vivid visualizations of that paper’s perfect completion and submission, it cannot and will not write itself or that you totally deserve to occupy a weekday night absorbing carbohydrates like a sponge. A blithely content sponge that will wonder how she could have possibly gained 6.4 pounds in less than a month…

Not only are the Remaining Three Tips Self-Explanatory (as were the previous 7 ones), I really only planned on having seven tips, but that’s such an awkward number to put in a title—2 more than 5, 3 less than 10—so bon appétit:

  1. Don’t Friend too much of Princeton 2016:
  2. Never Forget to Look Neck-Snappingly Chic, Especially at Lawn Parties:
  3. Never Forget to Relish the Fact that You are at Princeton:

Until next time new collegiettes, have no fear and Bonne Chance!
P.S. Though the snarky nature of my guide may have led you to believe otherwise, I am open to providing sincere advice should the need arise, so if anyone in the class 2016 has any pressing concerns about freshman year, feel free to comment or send an email to [email protected]
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