Gary Clement

Gary Clement

Most undergraduates pick up some impressive skills in their four years at Princeton: how to solve differential equations; how to write and reason; how to work in a lab, rehearse for dance shows, perform nonprofit work, and still have time to call Mom and Dad. But some seniors say there still are a few important things they wish they had learned at the University.

“I wish Princeton had taught me how to unawkwardly ask someone on a date,” Omar Carrillo ’12 said. “I think Princeton students are particularly awkward at asking people on dates.”

Carrillo also noted that he had yet to learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying about the future — as well as how to make small talk at dinner parties. “I often don’t know when or how to excuse myself from talking to someone at those things,” he explained. 

Though still unsure of his plans after graduation, Carrillo said he is unlikely to enter a profession that requires frequent attendance at dinner parties. He hopes to work in urban planning, with a focus on affordable housing.

For Camille Framroze ’12, an important lesson she found missing from her Princeton education was how to live on her own and fend for herself.

“I’ve really enjoyed being spoiled ... but sometimes I feel like I should be shoved out of the nest,” she said, noting that Princeton students are “very guided” on subjects such as job searches and filling out tax forms. A big part of college, she added, should be about learning how to live independently as an adult.

Emily Rutherford ’12 said she wished that the University taught its students social drinking in the style similar to the pub culture found at Oxford and Cambridge.

“I’ve been to some great parties in Princeton, don’t get me wrong,” she said in an email, “but I’ve never had a good (and intellectual) conversation over a simple pint.” At Princeton, she said, the attitude is that “drinking is when we turn our brains off, which is just not true of Anglo or European intellectual and/or student culture.”

Too much conversation and social drinking might prove counterproductive to Joseph Barnett ’12’s missing Princeton lesson: how not to procrastinate. “I feel like every amount of stress and every kind of problem at Princeton is built around this procrastination mentality where everyone is always doing something at the last minute,” he said. 

Barnett had to ask for several extensions for papers due on Dean’s Date, but he sent his senior thesis for binding five days before the April 16 deadline. His motivation: seeing his classmates work on their theses, most of which were due two weeks before Barnett’s. 

Victoria Tobolsky ’12 said she would have appreciated finding out earlier just how much learning there is to be done outside the classroom. 

“There’s always a lecture you want to go to, or a free event — I don’t remember a lot of the lab reports and papers I turned down these opportunities for, but I do remember I missed them,” she said.

But Tobolsky said she may not have done these things even if the University had told her to. “I probably wouldn’t have listened,” she said. “You have to make your own mistakes and experience things for yourself.”