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Your Complete Guide to the Residential College Dining Halls


There is endless food on Princeton's campus: late meal, Nassau Street, study breaks and free food from events. However, you're likely to eat most of your meals in the residential college dining halls. Check out my guide to dining on campus.  

Forbes (my residential college–go Forbesians!)

  • Environment: Forbes’s dining hall is quiet for breakfast and lunch, great for studying or doing homework. Since Forbes is the furthest residential college from most classes and activities (a bit of an exaggeration – my longest walk is only 15 minutes), the dining hall is never that crowded during the day when students are out and about. On a nice day, you get plenty of sunshine in the dining hall, and when it’s warm out, you can eat outside with a view of the golf course in Forbes’ “backyard.”   
  • Best Known For: “Sunday Brunch” (with a huge chocolate fountain!), special dinners for Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras, Thanksgiving and other holidays). It's the only dining hall that offers omelets during lunch, and you can order a quesadilla anytime at the grill
  • Best Food: Paella, tortellini, potato bar (all kinds of potato), avocado bar (all types of avocado pairings), waffle cones with fresh fruit & whipped cream at Forbes Flexitarian Night
  • So Underrated: Saturday’s brunch (with breakfast quesadillas & açaí bowls)

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Chocolate fountain at Forbes

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Potato bar at Forbes

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Valentine's Day desserts at Forbes

Roma (Rockefeller (Rocky)/Mathey)

  • Environment: A common place to meet friends for lunch or dinner because of its close proximity to Firestone Library and several academic buildings. The dining hall is so big that even when a lot of people are there, it still doesn’t feel overwhelming. There are two connected seating areas in this dining hall, one on Rocky’s side and the other in Mathey. If your parents ever visit, take them to this dining hall and they’ll surely be impressed with the Harry Potter/castle-like structure.
  • Best Known For: Only dining hall with fried chicken sandwiches offered daily, grilled cheese trio, and two cheese options for omelets – cheddar & mozzarella (most just have cheddar)   
  • Best Food: Creative quesadillas (apple, brie & arugula is my fave!), chicken nugget bar, shell mac & cheese
  • So Underrated: RoMa’s house chicken soup

WuCox (Wilson/Butler)

  • Environment: The name “WuCox” comes from the seating areas in Wu Hall (Butler) and Wilcox Hall (Wilson), which are connected by one dining hall like RoMa. WuCox has the most booths out of all our dining halls. Many student groups meet here because there are booths available for even large groups. WuCox is in a prime location close to the biology and math departments, as well as Frist, our student center. 
  • Best Known For: “Beans, Greens & Grains” station offered for lunch and dinner (a pasta and ramen bar: choose your sauce, pasta – ramen or penne, and add chicken and veggies), breakfast 
  • Best Food: WuCox breakfast muffins, corn bread, perogies, southern fried chicken
  • So Underrated: pesto ravioli 

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Pasta from WuCox Dining Hall

Whitman 

  • Environment: Much like RoMa, this dining hall is quite a sight with its beautiful architecture. Whitman is made up of mostly long tables and a few booths in the back. The dining hall also has one of the best private dining rooms for teams, clubs or language tables. Lunch gets very popular on certain days (such as chicken pot pie day), and dinner always draws a crowd. You can never go wrong with Whitman because there’s so many options to choose from. 
  • Best Known For: Amazing salad bar, specialty bars (ramen, mac & cheese, burritos), Whitman lunch 
  • Best Food: Naan bread, orzo pasta salad, pizza & garlic knots, sautéed veggies
  • So Underrated: Spinach artichoke hummus

 

Students can go to any residential college dining hall – not just their own. They can also eat at the Center for Jewish Life (CJL), which houses our kosher dining hall on campus. I typically eat breakfast at Forbes, lunch at Whitman and dinner at RoMa or WuCox. If you’re considering Princeton as your new home, hopefully this guide gave you a sneak peek into what eating in the dining halls is like.





 


Forbes College: Worth the Walk


When it’s warm and sunny, my friends and I love to go the backyard behind Forbes College and toss around a frisbee. On weekends, we bring our brunch onto the patio, sit on the red lawn chairs and look out onto the golf course and the gothic spires of the Graduate College beyond, where at noon the chimes of its clock tower can be heard across campus. From our window, my roommate and I wake up to this wonderful view and a still sleepy sun.

In the evenings after dinner, we pass by the game room and are often tempted to go inside for an hour or more. Over games of pool, we watched James Holzhauer’s record-breaking run on “Jeopardy” here. On midweek afternoons, I cheer on my soccer team in the Champions League, and I am often joined by a member of the staff, many of whom are always willing to have a conversation, whether over a game of soccer or when swiping in for a meal.

Forbes is a small residential college, and it feels even homier because of its unique setup. As a repurposed hotel, it is the only residential college where you can walk from one end to the other in your pajamas without ever stepping outside. There are also so many cozy nooks and crannies: a TV lounge in the annex basement with murals on the walls; the sci-fi library adjacent to the sunken lounge; and the Forbes Café, always open late and offering a place to study, relax and get ramen for 25 cents a package.

No matter how early or late, Forbes always seems to be bright and warmly lit, and its “Forbesians” are always around. I love the community here, with a shared bond over our campus-renowned weekend brunches and the distances we have to walk – Forbes is as close as you can get to the Wawa, a local convenience store, the Graduate College, or art installations by Maya Lin and Ai Weiwei, but as the joke goes, a bit far from anywhere else.

Nevertheless, I’ve loved every second of living in my residential college and being a part of this community: Forbes really is worth the walk. And maybe I’ll see you around next year: I’ll be sticking around as a residential college adviser! I’d be happy to grab some chocolate covered strawberries at Sunday Brunch and talk over a game of pool.   


Forging Your Own Path


Some of you reading this may attend high schools where many seniors go off to attend Princeton and other similar colleges every single year. Others might not know anyone from their school who’s ever attended Princeton before. I’m very proud of the fact that I’m the first student from my high school ever to be admitted to Princeton and I think it’s given me a unique perspective on campus life.

I won’t lie — deciding to come to Princeton was a touch nerve-wracking because I had no idea what to expect and didn’t have any past graduates from my school that I could ask. Unlike many of my high school friends, who were all attending local colleges together, I didn’t have anyone to ‘twin’ shirts with on College Decision Day or to discuss first-year orientation with. Looking back, however, I wouldn’t have done it any other way — coming to college without the friend groups from high school allowed me to grow more as an individual from the moment I stepped on campus.

My worries about not having built-in support here were unfounded too. The first-year experience at Princeton is loaded with opportunities to meet and ask questions of upperclass students and professional University staff, who oftentimes are absolutely overjoyed to meet you! Every first-year is assigned a Residential College Advisor (RCA) and a Peer Academic Advisor (PAA), two junior or senior students in your residential college who can offer student-to-student advice on everything from course selection to social troubles. Each student also gets a faculty advisor in their area of study and has access to their college’s director of studies for a second opinion.

There are also several resources on campus meant specifically for students who come to Princeton from underrepresented or otherwise unique backgrounds. One that comes to mind is the Scholars Institute Fellows Program (SIFP), whose website notes that SIFP “offers mentorship, academic enrichment, and a welcoming scholarly community to students hailing from backgrounds historically underrepresented at Princeton.” Another is the First-Generation Low Income Council (FLiC), which also offers similar resources.

What I’ve found is that there’s no “right way” to come to Princeton. For maybe my first week of classes, I was afraid I wouldn’t have a network of juniors and seniors to turn to for mentorship.  Pretty soon, though, I had carved out my own place on campus. The diversity at Princeton has given me the experiences to meet hundreds if not thousands of other students with whom I share much more crucial interests and values. There’s nothing to fear in blazing your own trail!


A New Year, A New Season


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!


What is 'Room Draw'?


One unique feature of student life at Princeton is that nearly all students at the University live on campus for four years. Unlike many other schools, there’s not an ‘apartment scene’ here, and the residential aspect of campus means that the tight-knit, community feeling among undergraduates lasts for four years and beyond. 

Students are randomly assigned a dorm and roommates their first year, and in future years are allowed to pick their roommates and their rooms through a somewhat complex process known to students as ‘room draw.’ Each April, the University housing office publishes a list of room draw times, which are weighted by class year and randomized within them. In other words (although this is slightly oversimplified), the rising seniors go before the rising juniors, but within graduating classes it’s impossible to predict before the times come out how your time will compare to that of a classmate. Rising sophomores go through a similar process, but draw in a pool of only students in their residential college. 

Room draw  is a fun time on campus: students who know they’ll be drawing into a room together for the following school year go around campus and visit the current residents of rooms into which they’d like to draw, scoping out the terrain and asking questions about the benefits and drawbacks of that particular location. Using floor plans of the dorms provided by the University, students compile a list of their favorite rooms and cross their fingers that it’ll be available on their draw day. 

The range of dorm rooms at Princeton is pretty broad: there are rooms ranging from singles to an 11-man suite (known affectionately as “the Zoo”). Accordingly, there’s a room size, layout and location that works for pretty much everyone. A quick Google search of ‘Princeton dorm room’ reveals some of the many über-cool floor plans available to undergraduates. You feel a mix of stress and exhilaration as you watch the list of available rooms whittle further down until it’s your turn to draw. 

Friends of mine at other universities across the country always ask me if I mind living in the dorms for four years, as I watch them all move into apartments off-campus. Each time, I answer a resounding no: the rooms available to Princeton students are usually a lot cooler than the typical ‘first year dorm,’ and I can visit any of my friends at school by foot in less than ten minutes!

Whether your time is at the top of the senior list, or at the bottom of your class, there’s a room waiting on campus for you to call home. 


MTV My Cribs - Dorm Edition


Welcome to the Princeton edition of “MTV Cribs.” On this episode, we will be highlighting some of the different types of dorms we have here at Princeton. We have a total of six residential colleges, and these pictures show just a few examples of the many types of rooms that are available. We have buildings dating back to the late 1800s and others that were built within the past few decades. We have singles, doubles, quads, apartment-style housing and suites that house ten people. Needless to say, no two rooms are the same, but hopefully these rooms will give you an idea of the types of dorms you can expect at Princeton.

1) Apartment: These apartments consist of four singles, a common room, a kitchen and a bathroom. These rooms are designed for upper-class students who are independent and not on a meal plan.

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Spelman Common Room
   
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Spelman Common Room Table

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Spelman Bedroom
 
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Spelman Bathroom

 

2) Three Room Double: This is an example of a three room double. There are two bedrooms and a common room. Note, this type of style is rare and is typically reserved for RCAs, Residential College Advisors, who help with advising first-year and second-year students about life as a college student. 

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RCA common room
 
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RCA Bedroom

3) Double: This is an example of a double, which is shared by two people. In addition to the shared bedroom, the roommates also share a private bathroom.

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Double Bathroom in Forbes
 
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Double 1
 
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Double 2

4)  Double: Here are a few other examples of doubles.  

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Double Bedroom 1
 
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Double Bedroom 2
 
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Double Bedroom 3

5) Single: Here are a few examples of singles. 

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Single Bedroom 1
  
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Single Bedroom 2
 
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Single Bedroom 3

6) Double: In this type of double there are two individual bedrooms and two separate bathrooms, where one has a shower and the other has a toilet, along with a little entryway. 

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Entryway to room
 
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Bedroom in Scully

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Bathroom with toilet
 
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Bathroom with shower

 

6) Quad: This is an example of a quad. Quads will typically have two shared bedrooms and a larger common room. 

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Bedroom in quad
 
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Common Room
 
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Bedroom in quad 2


Peer Academic Advising


When you first get to Princeton you are inundated with acronyms. Don’t forget to listen to your RCA and PAA’s advice. Did you go to the SHARE panel? What about the ODUS discussion? Did you ask OIT for help with wireless connection? Do you have a JRC?

There are so many names and positions that it’s hard to keep them straight. That’s why I wanted to focus on one of these acronyms so that hopefully you as a reader can gain a better appreciate for what it is other than a few letters smashed together in a phonetically appeasing way.

PAA – Peer Academic Adviser.

A PAA works closely with an RCA (residential college adviser) to mentor a group of first-year or sophomore students. PAAs are typically juniors and seniors who have volunteered their time to offer advice and guidance to younger students. While PAAs often focus mostly on the academic side of things (hence the name), that doesn’t mean they are limited to the academic realm.

I serve as a PAA for a group of first year students in Mathey College, one of our six residential colleges. Since my primary role is to provide academic guidance for my "zees" (what we call our group of students, since they are our advisees), I often find myself at meals with them discussing classes for the following semester or what major to consider. As a first-year, I took advantage of this resource and constantly went to my PAA for advice, so now it is my chance to give back to the community that helped me so much. In addition to academic advising, I also work closely with my RCA to host fun study breaks for my zees. This year, we’ve held a Halloween makeup design workshop, a summer application and resume workshop and many fun weekly study breaks featuring some kind of exciting food (Qudoba and sushi are always a hit). We also have a family dinner every Sunday evening in the Mathey dining hall where all of our zees are invited to get a meal together and catch up with one another.

My role as a PAA also extends outside of my zee group. Any time there is a first or second year student interested in ecology and evolutionary biology, my director of studies forwards their information to me. Over coffee or meals, I get to meet other students who are interested in my major and offer them advice regarding curriculum and opportunities within the department.

The PAA system is spectacular and is one of the special aspects of the Princeton experience many visitors do not always learn about. Therefore, I hope this provides an idea of what PAAs do and how great of a resource they are for first- and second-year students.