It was well past 11 p.m. July 15. Dozens of members of the Class of 2012 were logged in to, the social networking site, where they had been posting on a discussion board for hours: “I can’t wait to find out,” “I’m so anxious…”

Finally, a breakthrough: “GOT IT!!!” Then another: “IT’S HERE!!!” So it was that the Class of 2012 celebrated the most anticipated e-mail of the summer: notice of their housing and roommate assignments. 

Unlike upperclassmen, who can choose their roommates, freshmen are placed into rooms by residential college administrators. The process is a tricky one, particularly considering its importance to students.

“[Meeting roommates] is one of the most exciting things about going to college,” said Angela Wu ’12. “The e-mails came and … much Facebook stalking ensued,” she laughed, explaining how students immediately started searching for their roommates’ names on the networking site. Some suites of roommates started their own discussion groups to talk about everything from what they want to study to who would bring the TV. 

“Getting along with people you don’t know is part of a Princeton education,” explained Rockefeller College administrator Karen Sisti. “So we want everybody to be well-matched.” 

That matching process takes a full week, said Mathey College administrator Pat Byrne. Over the summer, each residential college receives a roster of its new students from the registrar. College staff then read over housing questionnaires in which students express a variety of living preferences: what time they wake up, what temperature they find comfortable, what kind of music they enjoy. They also can indicate a preferred number of roommates, and they may request special types of housing, including single-sex hallways and substance-free dorms — the top priorities in matching roommates, Sisti said.

Administrators say they make sure not to pair up messy people with clean freaks or quiet studiers with those who prefer a lot of background noise. 

As for personality types and interests, Sisti said that the colleges like to mix people up a little. “We want them to be able to learn from each other,” she said, explaining that pairing engineers with humanities majors or athletes with musicians creates opportunities for intellectual exchange in the dorm room. 

Hannah Wilson ’11, for instance, is a theater enthusiast who was paired with a field hockey player. “We do have certain interests in common,” she said, “but we have totally different groups of friends. That, to me, is the perfect situation.”

Roommate changes do happen occasionally, Byrne said, but those occasions are rare. 

Michelle Ward ’10 is living with the same person for the third year in a row. “I think the University did a great job in matching up roommates,” she said. “It’s not always perfect for some people, but it worked out well for me.”

By Chip McCorkle ’09

Every year a group of incoming freshmen face a daunting transition to academic life. They may be the first generation in their family to attend college. Their high school may have offered few or no advanced-placement courses, or their educational experience may have been different in other ways from many of their Princeton peers. 

Some ask themselves: Do I really belong at Princeton? They eventually discover that they do. But one little-known University program seeks to equip these students with this knowledge before their freshman year even begins. 

The Freshman Scholars Institute (FSI) gives 60 to 70 incoming freshmen the chance to take two courses over seven summer weeks. Taught by Princeton professors, each course has lectures and precepts and counts for full credit.  

Associate Dean of the College Frank Ordiway ’81 *90, who heads the program, and his staff pore over admission files looking for students to invite to FSI in April; about half accept. Tuition is free, and room and board costs can be waived if a student is on financial aid.

A similar program for science and engineering students started in 1996; a humanities and social sciences component was added in 1999 to become today’s FSI.

“I needed all the help I could get,” said Jasmine Ellis ’10, who attended FSI in 2007 and was a residential 
assistant for the program this year. “In high school I didn’t have to try that hard. FSI showed me that Princeton’s really different. Everyone’s on your level, so you have to try a little harder.”