No “Old Nassau” at karaoke night

Welcome to your new life outside the cushy confines of Princeton’s campus. Post-graduation is an exciting and scary time — like Prom and Halloween mushed into one sexy, frightening life event.

But there’s no need to tremble, young graduates. The Princeton Alumni Weekly has asked me, a real-life Princeton alum, to dispense some advice on how you can transition from coddled Ivy Leaguer into a Normal, Functional Human Being.

Look, I might not be an expert on the lives of 22-year-olds. I do not “get” Snapchat. I cannot name a TikTok star. I do not know what “post-Malone” means. (Is it a Cheers thing?)

But I do consider myself a Princeton alum who has successfully moved beyond my Old Nassau days. My wallet is no longer filled with multicolored passes to Ivy; now it is filled with adult stuff, like loose Rolaids and a loyalty card for a smoothie shop that closed eight years ago.

And so, I’ve scrounged together 10 tips that will help you achieve escape velocity from Princeton and launch you into successful Adult Orbit.

If you follow all of my advice, you will find yourself thriving in the real world. And if you have questions about any of these tips, please: Do not contact me on Snapchat. I deleted it from my phone after about four minutes. I do not understand it.

Photo: Chandler Holbrook

Jason O. Gilbert ’09
Comedy writer and producer
The Daily Show With Trevor Noa
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Illustrations by Peter Arkle

1  Drop all the Princeton stuff  from your small talk  For starters, it is no longer acceptable to ask someone what eating club they were in. In the real world, an “eating club” sounds like a weird cannibal thing. If you’re looking for an easy conversation starter, ask about a non-controversial topic like Palestine.

2  Do not attempt to play beer pong  at any drinking establishment  Setting up a drinking game is frowned  upon at most bars and restaurants — even  if you offer the maître d’ a chance to take  on the winner. Your favorite drinking  game should only be played in two places:  at your own home or at the home of a  co-worker you dislike.

3  Learn to cook  Unless you work for one of those tech companies that try to mask the drudgery of labor with an on-site cafeteria, your days of casually ordering up a Philly cheesesteak whenever you want are over. Cooking is a skill you’ll use forever, or at least until that inevitable day in the future when we’re all subsisting on Amazon Nutrient Slurry™.

4  No one wants to see your toes  This one is for the fellas. Guys: I know you love your flip-flops. You wore them to class, late meal, winter formals, whatever. But past a certain age (22), it is no longer acceptable to show your toes in public unless you are  (1) at the beach or (2) have found work as an actor in a Tinactin commercial.

5  Keep reading  Sure, you’ve graduated and are no longer cramming 700 pages of The History of Visigoth Stonemasonry  in one night in a desperate attempt not to fail Art and Architecture of the Sixth-Century Pyrenees.  But find some books, magazines, and websites to enjoy. Reading! It’s not just something your professors assigned to punish you during  a hangover.

6  Broaden your repertoire  If your work colleagues have a karaoke night, do not excitedly grab the microphone and sing an a capella rendition of “Old Nassau”: You will be passed up for that promotion.

7 Invest in glassware  When you move into your first apartment, you will have a strong temptation to buy a 500-pack of red Solo cups and no actual glasses. Do not do that. Literally every beverage on the planet tastes better when it is not coming out of a plastic cup. I know you are thinking, “But washing glasses takes so much time!” My friend, you have no children, no thesis to write, and no exams to study for: You can carve  out three seconds to  wash a water glass.

8  Go back, but not too often  It is fine to visit your younger friends  and ex-lovers who remain Princeton undergraduates every once in a while. It  is not fine to be there so often that the  whole campus is wondering if you ever turned in your thesis.

9 Don’t be “that guy”  Certain young alumni have a tendency to shoehorn Princeton into every conversation. “So what kind of music do you listen to?” “Well, I got really into Imagine Dragons when I was at Princeton.” Don’t be that guy. (That goes for both bringing up Princeton and being into Imagine Dragons.)

10  Listen to alumni, but don’t  let them control your life  The career network of Princeton alumni is incredible, and you shouldn’t hesitate to reach out for career advice to a (ahem) more mature alum who has your dream job. But don’t try to emulate anyone; be yourself.  We know some things, but not everything. (But trust me about the flip-flops.)