“Are there real tigers roaming around the campus? If so, are they friendly?”
It’s not the question you’d expect from an incoming freshman, but the response was matter-of-fact: “Yup, they say the tiger-to-student ratio is another bragging point at Princeton.”
Few incoming students have an accurate idea of what their college experience will be like. (Think back to your freshman year — did you?) But students can get a taste of what to expect, thanks to Real Talk Princeton — a student-run website where they can submit questions and get answers from Princeton undergraduates. While students occasionally pose lighthearted questions about tigers and the like, the vast majority seek serious advice on academics, student life, the social scene, and much more.
Launched in late 2013 for admitted students deciding whether or not to commit, Real Talk Princeton now takes questions from prospective applicants and current students, providing more than 6,000 answers. Twelve anonymous contributors (some of whom have shared their identities with PAW) currently maintain the website (realtalkprinceton.tumblr.com).
“Part of Real Talk is to help people get their footing on campus,” said rika Davidoff ’17, the site administrator, who answers questions under the pseudonym Amygdala.
Admission materials provide extensive information to prospective students, Davidoff said, but some freshmen arrive on campus and ask “how do you actually take advantage of these opportunities?” The site is valued, she said, for its honest and uncensored student perspectives.
Questions touch on a variety of topics:
Would you recommend not doing a MOL 214 lab the same day as a MOL lecture?
Literally doesn’t matter at all. MOL is the most low-key lab you’ll ever take. Very little is expected of you.
Is a fan really necessary? I don’t know how [hot] it gets in NJ.
It gets really, really humid. It can feel like death even when you’re just in the high 80s …
What kind of drinks do eating clubs have? Is the alcohol any good or is it the kind that’s really only good to get drunk on?
Eating clubs just give out beer. It’s not good beer. Everyone gets drunk before heading to the Street. Pregames will usually have the liquor. Also not usually very good liquor.
Some questions deal with personal or sensitive issues, which can range from stress and mental illness to diversity in the eating clubs.
In response to a questioner’s nervousness about joining the LGBT scene, one contributor offered a personal perspective: “I came out first semester here. You really shouldn’t worry about anyone caring about your sexuality; I haven’t made a friend yet who has made me feel like Princeton wasn’t an accepting place.”
Contributor Kevin Liu ’18, known to questioners as Edamame, said the website’s anonymity encourages students to ask and answer questions without fear of judgment from others. “There’s also a much more free and open dialogue since it’s not moderated by the University,” Liu said. “That’s how we manage to keep it truly ‘real talk.’”