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Princeton University

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What are the most popular student activities/groups?

Football games are probably the most highly attended athletic events on campus, and that isn't always saying much (except for the massive enthusiasm when we were working hard to beat Harvard and Yale to get our bonfire last year)...Ivy League football is a totally different environment than at a bigger state school. That said, basketball and lacrosse games can sometimes draw a crowd, but for other spirts mostly friends of players will just come and watch. Half of the students who "go" to football games often don't even go to the game, especially if it's not a big name opponent, but instead go just for the fun of tailgating. Tailgates take place in a field across the parking lot from the stadium, and frats, sports teams, and clubs will set up grills for hot dogs and burgers with kegs and mixed drinks. Students usually come early for these, and stay well into (if not through) the start of the actual game. The a cappella and the dance groups are both really popular with students. The singing groups will have "arch sings" a few times a month where they stand under one of the university's many arches and each group puts on a fifteen minute set. These are a lot of fun to go to because you can come and go whenever you feel like it, and of course they're free. The arch sings are always popular with friends, fans, and passersby who hear the music. The dance groups, especially the two bigger ones, BodyHype and Disiac, are also very well-attended student performances, and tickets often sell out. The audience is always filled with lively fans and friends yelling out for their favorite hot dancer. Dorm life for freshman and sophomores centers around the residential colleges. There are four, and students are randomly placed in one at the beginning of freshman year. Living with only other underclassman, the residential college is one easy way you meet friends and neighbors freshman year, especially when everyone is enthusiastic about meeting as many new faces as possible. Greek life at Princeton is a little different. The university no longer recognizes fraternities and sororities, however there remain about 10 fraternities and 3 sororities on campus. These groups hold rush in the fall, about a month after freshman arrive, but do not have houses and are unable to work with or through the university in any way. Nevertheless, there is still a portion of the student body who is affiliated, larger especially among students who frequent parties and eating club life. Sophomore year, the concept of "affiliation" (whether with a Greek society, sport, or prominent club) becomes important to some students seeking to join the more selective eating clubs. In a small town like Princeton, the party scene is very different and unique. There are only a few bars in the area, which are very strict about carding. So some juniors and seniors enjoy pub nights out in the town, but it doesn't compete at all with the social scene on campus and on "The Street" which is dominant even among students over 21. The biggest party nights are Thursday and Saturday. There are parties Friday night as well, but it is much more common to stay in on Friday and these parties are more low key. In addition, there is usually something going on Tuesday and Wednesday nights for those interested in going out. Parties usually start around 10. These will be frat parties (which are held in the common rooms of large suites), group gatherings at one of the BYOB restaurants in town (the most popular is a Chinese place called Ivy Garden), other room parties, or small pregames in the dorm with friends. At around 12, students will head out to "The Street," a road adjacent to campus that houses the ten eating clubs, mansions that serve as both junior and senior dining and social clubs. Some of the more selective clubs might be "on pass" that you have to get from an older member. The clubs will often have themed nights (country night and two articles of clothing are both popular every year), serve beer, and have bands or DJs. Despite the possible stereotype that Princeton students are all serious and bookish and therefore can't have wild parties, many people seem to party as hard as they work here, probably to work off all the stress that builds up during the week. Membership to the clubs begins in the winter of sophomore year, and this time can be very stressful for those trying to decide what club to join or worrying about getting into the selective club of their choice. There are alternatives for those who do not get into an eating club (called "getting hosed") including going independent, joining a co-op, or continuing to eat in the dining hall, but the traditional option of joining a club remains the most popular. For those who don't drink, there is still plenty to do on the weekend. I know non-drinkers who still enjoy going to parties and out to the clubs sober and having fun dancing there with their friends. If the Street scene isn't your thing, there are movie theaters close by, performances and concerts, and many alcohol free events on Thursday and Saturday night (parties in the residential colleges, game nights, free film screenings, live music). In addition, New York City is only an hour train ride away, which costs about 25 dollars round trip (though there are free transit weeks a few times per year). Taking the train from Princeton is incredibly easy, as there is a "dinky" on campus that shuttles students to the larger train station 10 minutes away. New York is a popular escape on the weekends, is great for meeting up with friends from other places, or just provides exciting alternatives to Princeton--great shopping, shows, and museums. The school sponsors many fun trips to the city, including reduced price shows, so it is definitely worth spending time in the city while at Princeton. Dating at Princeton seems to be one extreme or another. There is not too much casual dating. Random (or serial) hookups abound, but students sometimes complain about the inability to get past this stage (though this seems to be a complaint on almost every college campus). However, there are also many people in serious long-term relationships at Princeton, but not much in-between. I met my boyfriend through my roommate during freshman year and we've been dating over a year now, and this type of relationship is not uncommon among my friends and peers.

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No discussion of Princeton social life is complete without touching on the eating clubs. Brief overview: the eating clubs are based out of 10 mansions on Prospect Avenue and Washington Road, directly adjacent to campus. Not technically part of the University, they maintain close ties and work to promote a sense of community and responsibility. Juniors and seniors that are members take their meals at the clubs and at night, they're often open to members and other Princeton students when they're "on tap" (ie, serving beer). There are a lot of myths about the clubs and the traditions that surround them. Suffice it to say that most of the social events on campus are connected to the clubs with theme nights, bands, non-alcoholic events, and annual festivities all taking place at them on a regular basis. While a typical Princeton student will spend most weekends at "the Street" (as the eating clubs are collectively known), there are almost always other events happening on campus: a cappella concerts under Gothic arches, dance performances, groups of friends heading to dinner on Nassau Street, trips to New York and Philadelphia (both short train rides away, easily accessible from campus), and lecture series and symposia. There's never a shortage of things to do. Princeton students drink anywhere from 0 to 7 nights a week. Some students who don't drink still come out to the Street but most of the people that are out are drinking. Thursday and Saturday nights are the main nights when most students go out. Wednesday and Friday nights have a strong following depending on which clubs you like to frequent. Sunday nights are usually the only day that it might be trickier to find a place to get a drink, but it certainly isn't impossible. In the end, it's about finding a balance between having fun and meeting your obligations. Very few people are capable of going out 6 nights a week and still doing well in their classes -- I know a few people can do it but they're the rare exceptions. Most people are content to go out 1 to 3 nights per week, and at that, most students prefer moderation to blacking out.

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Many of the dance groups are really popular among the students, both in terms of a desire to join as well as a high show attendance. Some of the more popular dance groups are xpressions, body hype, disiac, and naacho. I was involved with a variety of groups in college, however, my favorite two activities were Princeton South Asian Theatrics (PSAT) and Best Buddies. PSAT is a small theater group, which writes, directs, and acts in its own productions that deal with south asian immigrant issues. It was very laid back and a lot of fun. Best Buddies is a volunteer group that matches up college students with community members who have intellectual disabilities. Everyone in the group met about once per month for a group activity, such as baking cookies, going to see a movie, or bowling. In addition, each pair contacted each other at least once a week through phone calls, emails, and personal meetings. It was really fun and a great way to meet members of the community who were not affiliated with the university. Princeton also has an amazing assortment of lectures and speakers throughout the school year. However, they are not always well advertised so it is hard to learn about all of the events well in advance. In addition, people who were a part of sports teams often ran into conflicts since most lectures take place at around 4:30, which is also when most teams practice. However, if you keep you eye out for posters and join email lists advertising various events, it is not hard to take advantage of these opportunities. I met most of my closest friends through extracurricular activities. During my freshman year, I did meet a lot of people through my residential college, however, I did not end up staying close with many of the people in my dorm throughout college. The friends I made in college are definitely some of the best friends I've made throughout my entire life and I foresee us staying very close in the future.

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No one dates. That is a problem. If people are "dating," it's usually because they met out at a party and hooked up multiple times. And now all of a sudden they are "dating." Rarely do people go out to dinner or to a movie as a twosome. If I'm awake at 2am on a Tuesday I'm probably at Ivy Club, one of the eating clubs, getting ready to come home pretty soon. People party pretty often if you do party. I'd say the kids who don't party never do. And the people who do probaby go out around 2 nights a week. Frats and sororities are lame - they don't have houses and they try to act like they are a bigger deal than they are. If you are not in one, it does not inhibit your social life. A lot of freshmen think this when they come to campus. Last weekend I went to the movies with friends on Friday and then took an introductory swing dancing class at night. That was fun. Then on Saturday I went to the mens lacrosse game, studied most of the afternoon, then went out to The Street to party. Sunday I went to church then had brunch with friends and went to the library to study. I worked my campus job in the afternoon and went to a student council meeting at night. If you don't want to drink on a Saturday night, there are always "Alcohol Initiative" events like free movies or theme parties or something. A lot of people just hang out in rooms relaxing or go into NYC for the night. You can also still go out to the parties at The Street without drinking. I have friends who do that.

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People party a lot, but that's college. The eating clubs are where it all goes down and they are possibly the most fun organizations in the world. Frats and sororities exist but they're extremely low key. Sports teams have as much social importance as your average frat. Most socially aware girls do a sorority, but compared to your average southern sorority, Princeton sororities are like the girl scouts. They're just a way for fun girls to hang out with other fun girls. If you want to get hammered every night of the week you'll be in good company, but if you never want to alcohol to touch your lips then you'll be fine too. No one goes off campus for much except to New York and Philly which is pretty common. Those trips could include anything from club hopping to visiting the Met to seeing a Yankees game. There are too many traditions to go into, but in short, it's a fun time here.

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Singing groups are huge... there are over 15 different groups or something like that. Because of the eating clubs, frats are not as important here. Plus the University refuses to recognize them so they are "underground" and have no houses. But many do exist. The important thing to note about both frats and sororities at Princeton is that it's not like other schools where you need to join one of you want to have a social outlet/nightlife. You can still party and never join a frat. I would say most people have a love "interest", but most people don't actually date. People usually party 2-3 nights per week. We get a lot of guest speakers... leaders in politics, art, industry and research from all over the world.

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The social life is pretty cool--the eating clubs are a great way to hang out with friends, but they can be a bit exclusive. Also, the way the underclassmen housing is set up is important in determining the friends students make. I, for example, made most of my friends in my undergraduate housing and then moved to an eating club with them my sophomore year. People party a lot on campus, definitely in tune with the common adage: "work hard party hard." One really nice thing is that if you don't want to go to "the street" one weekend, New York is only an hour or so away. So that definitely gives students alternatives for a fun weekend.

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The eating clubs are fantastic. I know they are often seen as problematic but in reality they provide a great, safe social meeting place. Clubs are on tap any given day of the week. I met my closest friends through who lived near me and in my sorority. The eating clubs through lawnparties nad houseparties every fall and spring, respectively. lots of great opportunities to dress up for formal events. Off campus, I eat out with my boyfriend. I often go into the city for museums, classes, dates, or just to get off campus.

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There are too many to mention here. One of my favorites, though, are the a-capella groups that you will find performing under one of the many arches at Princeton. There is something special about walking home at night in the winter and being able to stop and listen to the wonderful singing going on around campus. If that's not your thing, however, there are dance groups, theater shows, all kinds of sports (at all levels) and the nightlife is also amongst the best I have ever experienced.

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They say there are no frats or sororities on campus. Not true. Correction: there are no frats or soroity sanctioned houses. SAE, KAO, DKE, PKE, Zetes, Chi Phi, Kappa,....the list goes on. The social structure that the University chooses to adknowledge is the Street, or eating clubs. But frats and sororities feed into eating clubs. Curious.

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