The final and most crucial stage of the courtship ritual known as “Princeton admissions” is also the shortest: Princeton Preview, two weekends in April when accepted students (or “pre-frosh”) test out the life they’d live as full-striped Tigers.
More than 630 students attended the first of this year’s Preview weekends, held April 15–17.
For some, the visit was an instant success.
“I visited other colleges and I liked them, but they didn’t really click,” said pre-frosh Alina Jennings. At Princeton, she said, “I just stepped on campus and it felt like a place where I would spend four years.” Jennings said she planned to send in her commitment form as soon as she returned home.
Others required more convincing.
“I thought it was gonna be a bunch of squares here,” said pre-frosh Green Choi as he sat in Frist Campus Center cutting a V-neck into his free Class of 2014 T-shirt. Choi said a diversity panel helped clear up his misconceptions.
“Princeton has a reputation for just being extremely elitist and whatnot, but it’s actually really friendly,” he said.
The pre-frosh schedule was crammed with performing-arts showcases, panel discussions, club open houses, and classroom visits. Native American students held a powwow outside Dillon Gym; ROTC performed a pugil-stick training exercise on Whitman lawn.
First impressions of the University often failed to survive the weekend.
“When I first drove in I saw all these people with windswept hair, and weird shorts, and boat shoes and everything, and I was like — ‘Whoa, I’m not in Utah anymore,’” said Abby Stevens, (possible) Class of ’14. “I was afraid of the stigma of pretentiousness and ridiculousness, and eating clubs.”
But by her last night on campus, Stevens said she had decided that Princetonians were “not the crazy pretentious people I thought.”
And the eating clubs, previously a great, ominous-sounding unknown? “Basically, it’s just like a social group where you eat. I don’t know, they sound kind of fun,” she said.
When Ricardo Mayo ’13 started thinking about college, his prospects were slim — and not because he wasn’t doing well in school. Before he became a U.S. citizen in his senior year of high school, Mayo, the valedictorian of his high school class, was undocumented.
His tenuous immigration status left him with a “floating-in-space feeling” in applying to college, he said. “There are so many students stuck in this gap.”
Mayo is a member of the Princeton DREAM team, which was created at a February dinner at the home of Patricia Fernandez-Kelly, senior lecturer in sociology.
Jinju Pottenger ’10 said the dinner brought together students who are passionate about the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, proposed legislation in Congress that would offer a path to citizenship for eligible undocumented youth who complete a college degree or two years of military service.
The students organized DREAM Act Awareness Week, a series of events held on campus the week of April 12. On the first night, Dan-el Padilla Peralta ’06, whose experiences as an undocumented student at Princeton were first described in The Wall Street Journal, spoke to a crowd in Campus Club about his story.
“It required me to live a kind of double life,” said Padilla Peralta, now a first-year Ph.D. candidate at Stanford. “On most days, I was a very normal college student, but there were clearly things that I could not do — things like obtain a driver’s license, or travel and study abroad, since I couldn’t leave the country.”
Princeton does not consider immigration status in admissions, nor does it track the number of undocumented students enrolled, said University spokeswoman Emily Aronson. She said immigration status may become relevant during the financial-aid process because undocumented students don’t qualify for federal work-study programs.
Students at another Dream Week event spoke of a sense of powerlessness in applying for college financial aid.“You go to the guidance counselor and you learn you really don’t have any options,” said Sebastian Ramirez GS. “Basically, the dream dies there,” added Leticia Garcia-Romo ’13, who helped organize the event. “And we want to keep that dream going.”