Why I Chose Princeton University
This article was written for and published on Niche.com.
I’ve always had a five year plan. This was exemplified when a thirteen year old me told my parents that I was going to go to Princeton. This was a complete one eighty from my childhood dreams of running to New York to become a professional ballerina — a dream that sparked many arguments of me “not needing college.” I imagine that my Ivy League revelation brought a joyous relief to Mom and Dad.
A few things led me to this conclusion — specifically library trips, notebooks, and the Google search bar. Even as a child, I loved everything about school and learning. At the age when it was ‘cool’ to act disinterested, I was doing extra credit for fun. I was the girl who went to the library every weekend and tore through novels at an alarming rate. Like many children, I kept a diary, but at an age I can’t remember, the lines of adolescent narrative turned into disorienting lines of prose that mimicked the post-modern authors I loved (and still love) so dearly. When it finally hit me that college was essentially more of what I loved, — more libraries, more reading, more writing — I opened up my laptop and Googled “best college for writing.” Some website listed Princeton as number one with a reasoning of just a few sentences (not Niche level stuff at all). That settled it. Mom, Dad, I’m going to Princeton.
Over the course of the next five years, I enacted my plan. My high school experience was essentially all nighters and every AP class possible. I started my college essays the moment I knew what the prompts were. Further research about Princeton heightened the stakes. I read about the small, intimate class sizes, the amazing faculty that had spent part of their teaching career there (i.e. Albert Einstein, Toni Morrison), and the extremely supportive alumni that I wanted to join the likes of. I fell in love with the school before I even stepped foot on campus. I wanted to learn where Michelle Obama had learned, to write where F. Scott Fitzgerald had written, and this desire fueled my work ethic throughout high school.
The summer before my junior year, I finally visited the campus for the first time for an official tour. I remember it vividly. I practically bounced across campus as my parents beamed behind me. Online tours are always available as well! Being in the environment completely won me over. The architecture is beautiful and campus has this surreal aura about it that is almost impossible to describe. Everything I wanted was affirmed and dangled in front of me that summer, and I could see myself walking across campus headed to class.
About a year and a half later, it was early decision time. I’d applied knowing it was my top choice, and in complete and total honesty, I didn’t apply to nearly enough safety schools. I wore my one Princeton sweatshirt to bed the entire week before decision day and prayed fervently every night. I’ll never forget that afternoon, sitting in my dad’s big, plushy office chair as my mom looked over my shoulder. She said one more prayer before I opened it and I was crying before anything even loaded. When I saw the first word — congratulations — I screamed, running up and down the stairs twice, filled with adrenaline, drained of my anxieties. I still think about this day a lot, particularly now.
As I write this, I’m just at the top of those stairs, still wearing Princeton gear. I’m in the first semester of my junior year. Doing school from home has caused me to reflect on the two years I had on campus, cut a bit short by COVID-19. My freshman year began with ceremonial, Princeton specific events, like the parade through the Fitz-Randolph Gates as alumni cheer at your sides and the marching band plays. Or the welcome event for the freshman class in the ethereal chapel. I remember laughing with the guy beside me at the amount of heads nodding off, likely from a late night at ‘the street’. And speaking of ‘the street’, oh, what memories Prospect Ave holds as home to Princeton’s eating clubs, the product of the university’s reluctance to allow Greek life in the past, resulting in a street of mini mansions that act as co-ed frat/sororities with rich histories and varying levels of cuisine. I had just joined an eating club before flying home — Charter, established in 1901. It’s a beautiful building with a two-story terrace in the backyard and a wonderful community inside.
Even in the midst of my most stressful year yet, I’m grateful for the depth and nuance of the education I’m getting. I’m pursuing an A.B. in English with certificates in African American Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Creative Writing. My classes are all thoroughly interesting and the professors are excited to teach their respective topics and eager to shape students into the kind of bold thinkers that can change the world. I’m currently at the point in the Princeton experience where one begins independent research, and I’m amazed at both the intellectual growth I’ve experienced in the past two years and the way my research mimics questions at the center of my own life. As I embark on this new academic journey and revel in everything Princeton has to offer (even virtually), I’m simply trying to soak it all up.
The Princeton experience is truly an amazing thing. As a member of this community, I’ve enjoyed a newfound confidence in my own abilities to be a contributing member, to engage with the resources available to me, to even question Princeton’s legacy in many ways. But above all else, I’m happy to be a Princetonian. I’ll always cherish nights on ‘the street’, walking through Blair Arch or Prospect Garden, or going to a talk at McCosh Hall. And to think that it all started with a thirteen year old who loved the power of words, realized that she wanted to go college, and put something in a Google search bar. Little did she know, she was helping herself find a second home.