Nic Chae ’21’s daily routine might not sound out of the ordinary: He wakes up in his Whitman College dorm room, brushes his teeth, gets dressed, does schoolwork in Frist, eats in the dining hall, attends classes, works out in Dillon Gym, and plays clarinet at orchestra rehearsal. But more than 900,000 people have chosen to get an inside look at Chae’s life by watching his most popular YouTube video, “A Day In My Life at Princeton University.”
A fashionably bespectacled economics major from Dallas, Chae is Princeton’s best-known YouTube “influencer,” someone known on social media for knowledge about a particular topic. In Chae’s case, that topic is Princeton, though his videos also deal with other subjects of interest to people his age. Chae began posting vlogs — short online videos — just before his freshman year at Princeton; since then he has produced more than 250 videos and amassed more than 50,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel.
Among Chae’s most popular videos are a tour of his dorm room and a tour of the Princeton campus, but he also produces vlogs about fashion, photography, film, and travel. His recent video called “College Essentials: Winter Edition 2019” offers recommendations for men’s winter clothing, priced from $50 to $200. He purchased some items; others were sent by companies hoping he’d promote them. He said each month he makes about $500 from ad revenue and $800 to $2,000 from sponsorships with companies including Squarespace and American Express.
“Being a YouTuber is essentially being an entrepreneur,” Chae said. “You have to negotiate your own brand deals, you have to think about your audience, you have to market your videos and market yourself as a personal brand. I’m very fortunate and grateful to be pursuing a Princeton degree, and I want to maximize the opportunity.”
Chae’s University-based videos show both positives and negatives, with topics like burnout and things he dislikes about Princeton. In a video titled “I Failed My Princeton Final — Here’s What I Learned,” Chae tells his audience, “Yes, I am a Princeton student, but I’m also a human being — I make mistakes, I fail ... and I learn from all of that ... .”
Balancing his YouTube career with academics is the hardest part of being a vlogger, he said. Chae estimated that he spends about half his free time making videos each week and the other half doing schoolwork. He’ll usually block out a few hours on Sunday afternoons to set up his equipment and film his videos, and then edit them during the week.
Most of his viewers are between 12 and 24 years old, he said. He’s received messages from fans thanking him for introducing them to Princeton.
He’s had recognition on campus as well — including from the University administration, which last year asked him to freelance. Chae produced the official Class of 2022 welcome video and the Class of 2023 admission video, which was posted on Princeton’s social-media accounts in March.