Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Jenesis Fonseca-Ledezma ’14

Los Angeles • English View Profile

Advice from the Class of 2014

20 Things to Do Before You Graduate from Princeton & 14 Reminders

Hello again - so sorry for the long hiatus! Here is a quick recap of what I have been up to since March: I was away competing in the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI 2014), working on my thesis, and traveling to visit graduate schools. I am happy to let you all know that Princeton placed 3rd in the nation at CUPSI (shout-out to Ellipses!), I finished my senior thesis (yay!) and formally accepted the opportunity to pursue a Ph.D. in American Studies at Harvard University (Dr. Fonseca?)!

Now that things are finally starting to wind down, the nostalgia is kicking in. I am beginning to realize that graduation is just around the corner. I have been asking myself the following questions: What can I do to make the most of my last semester here? What do I wish I could have done when I was a freshman, a sophomore or a junior? What advice do I have to offer incoming and current Princetonians?

After being here for so long, I realize that we seniors have a lot of advice to share so I asked several members of the Class of 2014 for their help in compiling a couple of lists—one with things you should do before you graduate and the other with things you should keep in mind.

Picture of Nassau Hall
Home, sweet home

We hope you find these lists helpful as you navigate your unique undergraduate experience. There are definitely items to add to both of these lists so if you want, feel free to comment with your suggestions.

20 Things to Do Before You Graduate from Princeton

  1. Eat at Hoagie Haven (at least once): What is good, bad and delicious all over? Maybe it’s the Dirty Sanchez, the Heart Stop or the Mac Daddy. Point is: you have to find out!
  2. Try ice cream from all the local ice cream shops: Bent Spoon, Thomas Sweet Ice Cream and Halo Pub are the town favorites. Which one do you like best?
  3. Check out the Princeton Record Exchange:This is one of the leading independent record stores in the country! Take advantage of their amazing collection.
  4. Visit the Grad College: Thursday night dinners at the grad college are delicious; you are allowed to use a meal swipe, so you have nothing to lose. Also, if you get a chance, climb the Cleveland Tower; it will give you an awesome view of campus.
  5. Go to the Princeton Battlefield: Princeton has an incredibly rich history. The Princeton Battlefield, for example, is where American and British troops fought in 1777. The site is now a part of the Princeton Battlefield State Park, which is adjacent to several trails that you can explore.
  6. Visit the Institute for Advanced Study: Close to the Princeton Battlefield, this place is home to the smartest of the smartest. The likes of Albert Einstein, Kurt Gödel and J. Robert Oppenheimer lived and studied here. The Institute has a small lake in the back and is surrounded by plenty of walking/hiking trails that you can take advantage of during a nice day.
  7. Run along Lake Carnegie: Enjoy nature with your friends. Lake Carnegie is used by the Princeton rowing team but is also open to everyone. It is a great spot to go ice skating, fishing and picnicking.
  8. Attend a lecture by a Nobel Laureate: So many brilliant people present their work and deliver speeches at Princeton. Take advantage of the opportunity to listen to them and ask questions.
  9. Visit the Princeton University Art Museum: This is one of the world’s leading university art museums and home to more than 90,000 works of ancient and contemporary art. As with most resources on campus, it is free, free, free.
  10. Visit the Writing Center, McGraw Center, Career Services, etc.: These resources are here to help you do your very best. Make an appointment today.
  11. Support your classmates: Attend their games, their dance shows, their poetry showcases, etc. Remember that we are each other’s home away from home. It means so much to have someone you love support your passions.
  12. Visit your friends' hometowns: Take up a friend’s offer to visit their hometown/home over breaks, weekends or holidays. It’s great to be able to get off campus and see how your friends grew up. There might be some cute baby pics in it for you, too. 
  13. STUDY ABROAD: Do it! Go over fall break, spring break, for a whole semester, or just for the summer. You will know why after you go.
  14. Go on late-night Wa runs: No way you are a Princetonian if you haven’t been to the Wawa after 1 a.m. Food open 24/7. Yes.
  15. Build a snowman: Princeton winters will come with a lot of snow so enjoy it before it turns to mush. I hear that it is really fun to slide down the hills next to the residential colleges, Whitman and Forbes.
  16. Experience Holder Howl: Ever feel like you’re so stressed out with papers that you just want to scream? Well, Holder Howl is your chance. Every Dean’s Date at 12 a.m., Princetonians gather in Holder courtyard to “howl” as loudly as possible for a whole minute. Dean's Date is the Tuesday at the end of each semester when all written work is due by 5:00 p.m. This day marks the end of reading period and the beginning of final exams.
  17. Relax at the Woody Woo Fountain: Formally known as “The Fountain of Freedom,” this fountain is a beautiful spot on campus. Whether it is daytime or nighttime, it’s a perfect place to sit, relax and people-watch.
  18. Check out Reunions: There are many opportunities to work during reunions as an underclassman and being on campus during this time will give you the chance to see what the hype is all about. Rumor has it that ours are the best-attended college reunion in the world.
  19. Get to know your professors: Professors are here for YOU! Make sure you go to their office hours. One of my favorite questions to ask is, “How did you get here? How did you know you wanted to become a professor?” You will be surprised and happy to hear their stories. Make sure to tell them about your own interests and aspirations; they will be happy to write you letters of recommendations when the time comes for you to pursue future endeavors.
  20. Introduce yourself to the president of the University: Right now that is President Christopher L. Eisgruber. If you see him around, say "Hi!"or schedule an appointment to see him during office hours. It is important for University presidents to know the students they represent. 


14 Reminders

  1. Asking for help is okay: College, in general, can be extremely difficult and stressful. Often, you might feel like you are supposed to do your best and feel your best at all times. This is simply not possible. You will have your ups and your downs. Princeton has a lot of resources that can help you work through a challenging course or a difficult time. Your mental health and safety should take precedence over your grades. Your learning will be optimal when you are well rested and taken care of. Please remember to ask for help and know that you are not alone.
  2. Balance is key: You are going to be busy because Princeton has intense academic and extracurricular expectations. Since you live where you study and work, you will be tempted to think that anything you do outside of class or extracurriculars is a “study break.” You will often believe that you should be working 24/7. This simply is not possible. You should not feel guilty when you read for pleasure, watch your favorite TV show or go to the mall. Try to maintain a sense of balance and do what makes you smile. Go to Philly or New York City with your friends once in a while. Live your life.
  3. Don't be afraid to try something new: This may be difficult at first but can turn out to be extremely rewarding if you give it a chance. It is easy to keep doing what makes us comfortable, but you might be pleasantly surprised if you decide to be a part of a performing arts group, volunteer group or a sport you never thought you would join.  
  4. Do little things each day that make you happy: Have some ice cream, watch a funny video on YouTube, listen to your favorite song or grab tea with a friend.
  5. Explore campus: You are at one of the most beautiful campuses in the world. Take some time out of the day to explore it and you might find a new study space (like the room surrounded by glass windows at the Art Museum or Frist 302, where Einstein taught). You also will find amazing sculptures scattered throughout campus. (Make sure to check out The Hedgehog and the Fox by Richard Serra. It is located between Peyton and Fine halls next to Princeton Stadium and the Lewis Library.)
  6. Go for a walk in town: Take time to explore the area surrounding campus. Take in the scenery and the sights of some of Princeton’s big homes, which are absolutely beautiful and often unlike any you have seen before.
  7. Don’t let the grading policy keep you down: You are here to learn, and while grades are important, they should not be the end goal of your time here.
  8. People change, you will, too: You may be surprised at what four years can do. You may grow apart from people you thought you would be close to forever, have a change in music taste, dye your hair or change your major. Learn to accept and value people (and yourself) as the changes happen.
  9. Take pictures: You will want to look back years from now to see what you looked like. Pictures make for beautiful memories down the road, so make sure to capture the special moments.
  10. Don’t feel pressured to join any social circle: It is normal to feel like you don’t belong. Sometimes things take some getting used to; other times, however, you will feel like you simply do not fit in. In these cases, you should not feel the need to join any eating club or group if it does not make you genuinely happy.
  11. We are family: During Princeton Preview, remember that you were in the shoes of a pre-frosh not too long ago. Sure, they have no idea what they are getting themselves into but isn’t that great? Talk to them about your experience and remember that they could be future members of our awesome Tiger family.
  12. Take part in traditions, but also start your own: Princeton is full of tradition. From Bonfires to the P-Rade, you will learn that some traditions have been around for a long time. There is also always room for new traditions with your friends, so go out there and make your mark.
  13. Do not worry so much about the junior papers or the senior thesis: By the time you get there, you will have the skills necessary to complete each of these milestones. Trust me. You can and will do it.
  14. Say "Thank you": Write to your family and friends back home, thank them and your teachers and mentors who have helped you along the way. During senior year, thank your friends, your professors and your deans for all their support. Thank everyone who believes in you, who keeps you grounded, who sits with you when you cry, who reminds you to believe in yourself.

Overall, remember that one year builds on another. Days will go by and might seem routine, but try to think of each one as an adventure. Your time at Princeton will be filled with new and exciting things and at the end of it all, you will hopefully exit the FitzRandolph Gate with joy, confidence and memories that will last a lifetime.  


The Class of 2014

The "Class of 2014" Plaque
Our plaque is up on Nassau Hall now!

A huge thanks to all of the seniors who helped me compile these lists! Go, Class of 2014!