An empty Princeton dorm room

Entering the second half of my Princeton career is a scary prospect. It seems like just yesterday I was jumping on the couch with my family, screaming at the top of our lungs just seconds after spotting the ‘Congratulations!’ at the top of my Princeton admission decision. 

Being an upperclassman at Princeton is different in a couple key ways from the first and second year experiences. Perhaps most obvious is the change in the dining scene. First-year and sophomores eat all of their meals in the residential college dining halls, while juniors and seniors can get their meals in a number of different ways. Students can opt to continue on a partial or full dining hall plan, join a co-op (a small group of students who rotate cooking often-themed meals), or become fully independent (cooking meals on your own).

However, the most common dining option (and the one I’ve chosen) is joining one of the 11 eating clubs. Joining the eating clubs can sometimes be a source of anxiety for students as they struggle to pick the right one and coordinate choices with their friends. However, students are welcome to eat at clubs other than their own through the Meal Exchange program, and maintain strong friendships outside of their own clubs (I know many of my best friends aren’t in my eating club!) 

Another key change in upperclass life is its residential aspect. Students live in their assigned residential college their first two years at Princeton. Before junior year, however, students have the choice to move out of their colleges and into upperclass housing, which is not affiliated with any of the residential colleges. While most of these buildings share the same Gothic architecture as the underclass dorms, it was definitely jarring for me to see people from colleges other than my home Mathey in the hallways of my new building. Moving off campus is also an option for juniors and seniors, however majority of the student remains on campus since housing is guaranteed all four years.

One final big change going into junior year is the new research focus in coursework. Most of Princeton’s 37 undergraduate concentrations (or majors) require students to begin independent research in their chosen field of study. This begins with the junior paper, a ‘mini-thesis’ which is often a 20-30 page exploration of an original topic within your major. Don’t worry if this sounds intimidating (I’d think you’re crazy if you weren’t a little bit scared) – students within many departments are automatically enrolled in research methods classes that are invaluable in guiding individual projects. 

The end of my college career is perhaps a little closer than I’d like. However, I’m excited for the challenges that lie ahead and am optimistic that the second half of college will be even more fulfilling than the first!

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