Web Exclusives: On the Campus...
May 15, 2002:
By Liriel Higa 02
The prospective checks us out
Is Princeton really the best place?
Now that my thesis is in, graduation is starting to loom every closer.
The flurries of snow the day in early April are a distant memory
in this current sweltering 90-degree weather. The mass invasion
of 06 prospectives wandering about campus with their parents
and maps in tow reinforce that it is almost time to leave. I recently
hosted one of the 06 beneficiaries of Dean Hargadon's infamous
"YES!" letters of acceptance. Julia attends my former
high school, but I know her primarily because we attended the same
rhythmic gymnastics club. She is such an overachiever that she makes
me feel like one of those alums who confess that they would never
have been accepted if they had to apply against the current crop
of students. After placing 11th in the nation for rhythmic gymnastics
when she was 15, Julia retired, running the Los Angeles marathon
the following year to stay in shape. No academic slacker, she was
also a Westinghouse semifinalist.
Julia was choosing between Stanford, Columbia, and Brown, the latter
of which had accepted her into its eight-year program that guaranteed
her a spot in its medical school. With such stiff competition, it
was with some nervousness that I picked her up at the corner of
Nassau and Witherspoon Streets. Julia had seen A Beautiful Mind,
so I proudly pointed out Blair Arch, which is featured prominently
in the movie and which also happened to be my freshman year entryway.
Then she informed me that she hadn't liked the movie because of
its factual inaccuracies. I rattled off historical information about
Cannon Green, how Nassau Hall had hosted the Continental Congress,
and that Ralph Nader 55 once lived in my dorm, Edwards Hall.
She seemed mildly impressed.
Fortunately, as it was a Wednesday night, I had an excuse not to
take Julia to the Street. Last year when I hosted a prospective
on a Thursday night, I was totally derelict in my hosting duties,
falling asleep around midnight having taken a 6 a.m. train
to New York earlier that day with nary a visit to the eating
clubs. She still ended up coming, but I think that was despite me.
The next morning, I brought Julia to the chemistry building to speak
with a professor and to get a personal tour of the department. "Do
you know where Frick is?," Julia asked, knowing full well my
Spartan science background. "I think so. Whenever I walk to
Wallace, the social science building, I see people in a lab doing
"Um yeah, probably."
Having breakfasted at Frist, I took Julia to Terrace for lunch.
I had recruited my computer science engineering friend, Evren Odcikin
02, to speak with her about science opportunities. Evren is
a borderline engineer he's going into arts administration
next year, and spends more time at Theatre Intime than the computer
science building. Nonetheless, he did an admirable job of extolling
the virtues of Princeton's science departments.
After lunch, I brought Julia to more familiar stomping ground
185 Nassau, where the creative writing, theater, and dance programs
are housed. While admiring photographs from Jo Sittenfeld's senior
thesis, we passed Joyce Carol Oates, who I had had for creative
writing last semester. "Hi, Professor Oates." Julia's
eyes grew wide. Later, at a talk by Seamus Heaney, the 1995 Noble
Laureate for Literature, she spotted another Nobel laureate, Toni
Morrison. "When people ask what I did at Princeton, I can say
I saw Toni Morrison," she enthused.
Satisfied that Julia had seen her fair share of academic superstars,
I peppered her with more mundane facts: printing and laundry are
free; New York is just an hour and a quarter away; the Wa never
closes; the current construction on campus is worse than usual;
yes, they offer swing dance classes.
When I dropped Julia off with her parents, I hadn't entirely sold
her on Princeton, but she seemed enthusiastic. Ever the gracious
host, I refrained from the parting final cheap shot that Stanford
looks like a big Taco Bell, Columbia is in Harlem, and c'mon, Brown
has no core requirements. I'll find out if my recruitment efforts
were successful by May 1.
You can reach Liriel at lshiga@Princeton.EDU
Afterword: Julia did choose Princeton.