Columnist Conversations: Does Princeton Preview Mislead Prospective Students?


The Editorial Board recently argued that Princeton Preview could be improved to make it a more accurate reflection of Princeton lifeDo you think Princeton Preview misleads prospective students?

Barbara Zhan: From what I remember of Princeton Preview, it was a lot of activities packed into a short timespan. It felt too frenetic and hurried to be an accurate representation of Princeton, which was perhaps a reason why eating clubs weren’t included. Preview was designed to appeal to the extracurricular and academic aspects of Princeton that are assumed to be the most integral part of students’ decisions to attend. I don’t think the club scene is considered important enough of a deciding factor for prospective students to warrant cramming eating clubs into the already-packed Preview schedule.

Charlotte Chun: I think the fundamental problem with this conversation is that it assumes the Street plays such an instrumental part of our social lives that even prefrosh can’t accurately assess the merits of Princeton (academic life, extracurricular activities, dorm life, etc.) without understanding eating clubs. To be honest, I still don’t entirely understand them, and even though I frequent the Street more often than I probably should, I see no reason why this should be a deciding factor in choosing a college, especially since most of the students are here to see what the campus is like and what sort of student body the school has, as opposed to the nitpicky details of which student groups exist and how they interact with one another. Like Barbara said, there’s just way too much going on, and I think exposing the prefrosh to the Street will not only overshadow their experience of the rest of Princeton but actually skew their understanding of just how vibrant our community is.

Spencer Shen: I didn’t go to Preview at all, but I did visit in the fall during application season, and I didn’t feel like the Street had that much of a presence when I was a prefrosh. The friend that I was staying with talked to me about it, but based on the freshmen and sophomores I met that weekend, it seemed like the eating clubs weren’t that much of a big deal for underclassmen. I think the fact is that it is possible to have a decent social life and fun weekends without going to the Street, even once you’re a student at Princeton. Besides, there’s not really a comparable counterpart to the Street at any other school, so it’s probably not something that prefrosh could use as a comparison between schools.

Charlotte: And I think Spencer makes a good point here in that eating clubs are exclusively upperclassmen-centric, and even for them, not all upperclassmen opt for eating clubs, so hyping it up as this institution that everyone’s a part of or a critical element of being a “Princetonian” seems false. Plus, prefrosh have all the time in the world to learn about the Street, and it isn’t so repulsive or attractive an element of the social scene for students to be basing their judgment on it. We all seem to agree that there were more alluring factors to Princeton’s student body than interactions on the Street, and anyone reading Love and Lust in the Bubble will probably agree.

Barbara: On the other hand, the Street is a highly distinctive characteristic of Princeton, and perhaps it would have been interesting for prefrosh to experience. It would definitely make Princeton stand out even more in their minds, compared to other prestigious Ivy League colleges with a similar academic status. Including the social scene in Princeton Preview would definitely create a lasting impression, and since Preview is specifically created to increase Princeton’s yield, perhaps the Street could be added to the agenda.

Spencer: I agree with Barbara that if anything, the Street would make Princeton even more attractive. It’s a pretty great equalizer, in that it lets people go out and party without needing to have numerous connections with the right people. Let’s be honest, there are very few prefrosh that would truly believe drinking and partying don’t happen in college, and most of them hear about the Street even if they don’t experience it during Preview.

Charlotte: I guess one thing we need to consider is that the Editorial Board mentions that alcohol would be banned for the prefrosh (and let’s be honest, that’s probably what most underclassmen associate the Street with the most, not having actually eaten at the clubs that frequently). So in essence, the Board wants prefrosh to experience the Street during the day, in which case it seems even more insignificant of a factor in determining whether or not you want to go to a school. We obviously don’t understand the system as well as we should, seeing as none of us are upperclassmen yet, but we do hear stories and prefrosh definitely don’t need to be a part of this during Preview.

Barbara: Opening eating clubs during the day could allow them to experience an eating club meal, like A Taste of Prospect did for freshmen. I personally think it should be fine to open eating clubs at night (perhaps early, like at 8 or 9 p.m.), even with the alcohol restrictions. The eating clubs wouldn’t provide kegs because they know the consequences, and if the eating clubs are open straight after dinner for dancing, there shouldn’t be time for pre-gaming. They could disallow people from coming in after say, 8:30 or something, so that people couldn’t pre-game and then come to the eating clubs late.

Spencer: All in all, I would say that keeping the Street closed during Preview is probably the best way to go about it. The prefrosh have a lot on their minds during Preview already, and I think they shouldn’t see Princeton as a school where partying is a central aspect of student life. Everyone who wants to experience the Street gets to do so during frosh week, and those who don’t can avoid it very easily. By no means should the University try to hide the existence of the Street from the prefrosh, but Preview weekends are not the time for them to be exploring the eating clubs unsupervised. Creating an ersatz version of the Street without any alcohol gives prefrosh an even more inaccurate image than simply keeping the Street closed completely.


7 thoughts on “Columnist Conversations: Does Princeton Preview Mislead Prospective Students?

  1. This is a joke, right? More than any other school, Princeton has an extremely centralized social scene, and it’s centered on the Street. No, drinking and partying aren’t top of everyone’s (or even most people’s) priority list during Preview. But most of the admits to Princeton are going to be choosing between here and other places where they can get a fantastic education– MIT, Stanford, Yale, honors programs, etc.

    In the end, it’s going to come down to fit. To any 2017ers reading this article: You can get a great education at Princeton or at many other institutions, and if you are lucky enough to be choosing between several options, the social scene is going to be incredibly important. Many have a negative impression of the eating clubs before coming in; some see the Street as elitist or a place for people just to party. This couldn’t be further from the truth. By keeping the Street closed to prefrosh we allow them to form their opinions of one of the most important aspects of campus life based on preconceived notions and hearsay.

  2. ETA: By social scene I mean more than just the party scene– I mean places where undergraduates interact, get to know each other, hang out, eat, and yes, also, party. It’s important to find a school that’s a good fit socially, somewhere where you feel you’ll be able to connect with people and ultimately just be yourself. And yes, there are plenty of social experiences to be had outside of the Street, but for the majority of Princeton students who end up joining an eating club, the Street is the hub of social activity.

  3. This conversation is absurd. A strong majority of upperclassmen are in clubs, meaning the ’17ers reading this will probably bicker/sign-in to clubs. Eating Clubs are known to form students’ strongest social connections at Princeton, and it’s reckless to allow freshmen to dismiss them.

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