a PAW web exclusive column
by Kate Swearengen '04 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
An incoming freshman gets a close look at some fellow
It was early June
hot, humid. The kindly parents of a Princeton sophomore had invited
a group of us to experience the "greater Princeton community"
at a party at their house in a peaceful suburb in Missouri. There,
past and present Princeton students were introduced and immediately
set upon by eager parents, leaving the future freshmen to get acquainted.
Stanton was in Guatemala
for a month with the Franciscans, but his parents came to the party
anyway. Their mission was, as they put it, to "scope out the
other freshmen" and "report their findings" to their
son upon his return. It was too bad, they implied, that Stanton
was not here with his future classmates, indulging in the selfish,
hedonistic activities that we were enjoying at the local swimming
pools and movie theaters. No, Stanton was more socially conscious,
less self-absorbed; at the very moment that I was sucking the milk-chocolate
coating off a strawberry, Stanton was fending off giant tarantulas
and learning how to wash his clothes in a river.
"That should come
in handy," I said. "In 10 years or so, when the FTC investigates
your son for unsavory business practices and he 's forced to flee
But it was too noisy
at the party, and they didn't hear me.
said a short, portly alumnus who had managed to corner three of
us. "Princeton received thousands of applications just like
yours. Good grades, high test scores, extracurriculars. In the end,
it all came down to luck." He turned to Ellen, a tennis
player who had written on her application that she was planning
to major in engineering.
"That was very
clever of you," he said. "If there's any niche, any guarantee
of acceptance, it's to say that you're a woman who's interested
Ellen looked a little
hurt. She really did want to study engineering.
"Of course, you're
probably planning to go for an AB," the alumnus said, as he
speared a cheese cube with a toothpick.
I was later accosted
by a woman in a blue pantsuit.
"I hope you've
met my son," she said as she rushed up to me.
I looked around helplessly.
"The tall, handsome
boy, over there." she said. "Eric."
I turned to see Eric,
who was busy peeling the top off a carton of frozen custard with
"That's quite a
skill," I said. "Can he open bottles that way, too? Because
he'd be a hot commodity at parties."
But she couldn't hear
me over the noise, and only smiled
Jane was from New Zealand,
and she had Americans figured out. Having ascertained that the parents
enjoyed talking about the accomplishments of their children, and
that her fellow classmates enjoyed talking about themselves, she
had settled into the role of the good listener. As a result, she
was quite popular.
"I'm doing the
Outdoor Action program. How about you?" she asked me.
I hate the outdoors."
then?" Stanton's father asked through a mouthful of crackers.
Wishing to project an
aura of social consciousness and general altruism, I grunted ambiguously.
"My son Stanton
is in Guatemala right now, you know," Stanton's father began.
"I'm sure that's
a beautiful country," said Jane, adeptly reclaiming the conversation.
"I love the outdoors. Like when it's sheep shearing time in
New Zealand lots of fun."
I was swept up in a
mental image of a herd of sheep grazing in front of Nassau Hall.
Sheep overrunning the eating clubs. Sheep eating Stanton's father.
I was pulled away by a pressure on my elbow.
"I don't think
I've met you yet. What are you planning to study?" someone