1,300 freshmen arrive as Princeton’s largest class ever
At the freshman step sing, a rousing locomotive cheer.
At the freshman step sing, a rousing locomotive cheer.
Frank Wojciechowski
Members of the Class of 2013 on their way to Opening Exercises in the University Chapel.
Members of the Class of 2013 on their way to Opening Exercises in the University Chapel.
Frank Wojciechowski

Opening Exercises took on a more lively tone as the largest freshman class in Princeton’s history gathered Sept. 13 in the University Chapel to mark the beginning of the new academic year.

President Tilghman took inspiration from talk-show host David Letterman as she delivered her top 10 wishes for members of the Class of 2013. Tilghman urged the freshmen to engage with students from different cultures, and to study what fascinates them.

Before the ceremony, staff members of Tiger Magazine gave out cards and instructions for a game of “Opening Exercises Bingo.” In a parody of the ­traditional game, the cards had grids marked with traditional elements of Opening Exercises speeches.

When Tilghman reached the third item on her top 10 list — “follow the example of Michelle Obama [’85]” — a large group of students burst into shouts of “Bingo!” The freshmen also offered loud cheers each time their residential college was mentioned during the service.  

As if to acknowledge the rambunctious atmosphere, Tilghman concluded her list by telling the class: “As long as what you do does not pose harm to yourself or others, I give you free license to have as much fun and to be as adventurous as you like.”

Students seemed to enjoy the events. “It was great to see that everyone had so much college pride,” said Bohao Liu ’13, “and I thought bingo was hilarious.”  

The size of the new class, 1,300 students, is part of an 11 percent expansion of the undergraduate student body over an eight-year period. The next three entering classes will be of similar size, bringing the undergraduate number to 5,200. Like last year’s class, the Class of 2013 has a nearly even balance of men and women, with 655 male and 645 female students.

Reflecting the economy, a record 60 percent of the freshman class is receiving financial aid. The class includes the largest number of minority students in Princeton’s history, though their percentage of the class as a whole is slightly lower than last year: 230 freshmen are Asian-American, 95 are African-American, 89 are Hispanic, six are Native American, and 67 are multi­racial. International students are 10.5 percent of the class, and 12.8 percent are children of alumni.

Two-thirds of the class took part in one of the University’s pre-orientation programs, with a record 746 freshmen going on Outdoor Action’s trips into the wilderness.

Don Butterworth ’13 of Pearl River, N.Y., was one of 129 freshmen to parti­cipate in Community Action, which provides incoming freshmen with an opportunity to engage in community service in nearby urban areas. Butterworth’s group worked with underprivileged youth in Trenton, while other groups helped to build affordable housing, took part in an urban gardening project, and volunteered at a shelter for runaways.

“Not only was the week a great bonding experience, it also provided a look outside of the ‘Princeton bubble,’ ” Butterworth said. “Knowing the challenges faced in Trenton — just a few miles away — has definitely made me want to get involved in community service and volunteer programs here at Princeton.”

At the conclusion of Opening Exercises, freshmen took part in the sixth annual Pre-rade, marching through FitzRandolph Gate to symbolize their entrance into the Princeton community. Upperclassmen cheered them on in front of Nassau Hall, with fanfare provided by the University Band. “The Pre-rade was really our first chance to see the spirit of Princeton,” said Albert Choi ’13. “It was amazing to see such enthusiasm.”

Later that evening, in what senior associate dean of the college Claire Fowler referred to as the beginning of their “intellectual life at Princeton,” class members assembled at McCarter Theatre for a lecture by Provost Christopher Eisgruber ’83 on the process of selecting Supreme Court ­justices.

Eisgruber noted that during the recent confirmation hearings for Justice Sonia Sotomayor ’76, her background had been scrutinized back to her college days. In the weeks preceding her confirmation, political commentators scoured not only Sotomayor’s senior thesis but also her ­letters to The Daily Princetonian for clues as to what kind of justice she might be.