Tori Rinker ’16 of Charlotte, North Carolina, and Kate Wadman ’16 of Tucson, Arizona, say they were an unlikely pair when they first met as freshman roommates in September 2012. In a journal entry at the time, Kate wrote: “I don’t think Tori and I will be friends.”
How wrong she was. Ten years later, the two remain roommates in New York City, where they weathered the COVID pandemic together. They say they’re as close as sisters.
As Princeton’s latest crop of freshmen get to know their own new roommates, Tori and Kate talked about how it all began — and how they’ve built a friendship that’s endured.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
How did Princeton match you up?
Kate: We got really lucky, obviously, but I have no idea what their algorithm is. I know I had said that I wanted to live in a quad because I had stayed in one during Princeton Preview, so, Tori, I don’t know if you said that as well? Maybe that’s how it happened.
Tori: There’s that form that you fill out and you talk about your preferences, and I think you answer a couple quirky questions, and Princeton does its magic.
What were your first impressions?Kate: When I met Tori, I also met her parents. Her dad went to Princeton, and they were so pumped about Princeton. Her family actually took my dad and I on a tour of a bunch of historical sites on campus, which I thought was so cool. So that was probably my very first impression — wow, this girl really loves Princeton.
I did not think that we were going to be friends. I thought, our interests are different, and what we’re looking to get out of Princeton is different, and she’s nice, but probably not someone I’m going to stay really close to throughout college. So I’ll own that I was not the best judge of initial compatibility.
Tori: When I think back to our first semester at Princeton, I think just about how much of a transition that semester was, for everybody. And I think it takes a while to figure Princeton out and just meet people and figure out what your interests are. Even me, someone who had been exposed to Princeton before through my dad, it even took me a full semester to really feel like it was home.
Kate: I think one of the big differences is that the friends that you have in college are not going to be carbon copies of the friends you had in high school or growing up. College in general forces you to get out of your comfort zone and be more open to different types of experiences, different types of people, and I think that was what I learned through that semester. (Coming back for spring semester) I looked at the people I was closest with, and I was like, oh, these people are amazing, but they’re different than what I expected.
I think I’m much happier than if I had just tried to recreate my previous social life and scene at Princeton.
How has your friendship evolved?
Kate: There really should be a word for it. I think “best friend and roommate” is a mouthful, but it really is kind of a unique relationship. It feels to me like that’s what our relationship is like, a sister that’s also your best friend.
Kate: I go still to Thanksgiving at her family’s house. It’s lovely.
When you graduated in 2016, did you move in together right away?
Tori: Tragically, no. (laughs) Kate had already gotten a job in New York. When I was looking for a job my senior year, I was actually looking anywhere else but New York. I thought it was loud, dirty, it’s gross, it’s going to be Princeton part two, and silly me thought I wouldn’t want that, or I didn’t need that. But I fortunately got a job that brought me here. Kate and I were reunited in that 101st Street apartment in 2018.
What advice would you give to freshmen getting to know their roommates right now?
Kate: There’s a tendency to gravitate toward things that you are already familiar with. I don’t know if Tori and I would be friends if we hadn’t been roommates, right? She’s A, much cooler than me, and B, we didn’t have a ton of similar interests, we weren’t in the same activities, we wouldn’t have met through classes or clubs. And there’s this amazing person that, if you would have asked me on paper, is this going to be your best friend? Potentially, no. And yet, we’re very different, but that makes us really compatible.
So the advice that I would give is take the opportunity at Princeton to really get out of your comfort zone. Meet people that are different from the people you know, do activities that are different than what you’ve done before, because that’s where that growth comes from. And I think that’s where some of the strongest and best relationships and experiences will come from, as well.
Tori: I think that’s absolutely right. Freshman year is really that time where you are able to introduce yourself to anybody, so just meet a lot of people. That first semester being a transition period, be patient and just be open to the ride.
I’d also say, I’m in a way a little jealous of all of the people who get to go and have that experience of Princeton. It’s a really special place, and I’m excited for all our little Tigers entering the Princeton family. And welcome.