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 chemistry-like things."


"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.