Princeton Eating Clubs are part of a tradition that dates back more than 100 years. In the early years, the University did not provide students with dining facilities, so the students created their own clubs to provide comfortable “houses” for dining and social life. Since then, the eating clubs have been unique to Princeton and a popular dining and social option for students in their junior and senior years.
As times have changed, so have the clubs. Originally, the clubs were all-male, and membership was governed by a selective admission process called “bicker.” When Princeton made the official decision to accept women in 1969, the eating clubs began to accept women as well. All of the clubs are now co-educational and reflect the diversity of the Princeton student body.
There are currently 11 eating clubs, each with a distinctive character. Most of them are located on Prospect Avenue, except for Terrace Club, which is located around the corner on Washington Road. The clubs are architecturally impressive and unique. Many have undergone recent renovations to provide better facilities for dining, studying, relaxing, and social life. There has been a growing emphasis on educational programs (such as guest lectures), community service, and sustainability, as well.
The eating clubs are independent, private institutions that do not have any formal ties to the University. They are managed by graduate boards, undergraduate officers, and club managers. The clubs work together at both the graduate and undergraduate level to support each other, and they also cooperate with the University on issues such as shared meal plans, student safety, and cost containment.
During the 1970s some of the clubs changed from a “selective” admission process (called “bicker”) to an “open” (or non-selective) admission process. There are currently six selective clubs (Cannon, Cap and Gown, Cottage, Ivy, Tiger Inn, and Tower) and five open clubs (Charter, Cloister Inn, Colonial, Quadrangle, and Terrace).
Students are eligible to join a club in the spring of sophomore year, and that is when most students join. The admission process begins at the end of the fall semester. All of the clubs, both selective clubs and open clubs, organize events for sophomores to visit the clubs to learn more and meet members. Students join as social members for the balance of their sophomore year, with some limited meals, but full membership begins in the fall of junior year. Some of the clubs continue to take new members who are juniors and seniors as well. Currently, 70% of upperclass students (juniors and seniors) are members of a club.
The clubs have approximately 150 – 200 undergraduate members and maintain strong ties with their alumni members. Alumni frequently return to campus during the fall for a game, or in the spring for reunions, and will often use their club as a “home” to have a meal, catch up with friends, and have the opportunity to meet current undergraduate members. Membership in a club is lifelong, and many Princeton students say their closest friendships were formed with their club-mates.
Each club has a profile on this website where you can learn more.
Learn about the club system in this video, from the Eating Club Task Force
There is a substantial entry on Wikipedia about the Princeton Eating Clubs. Please keep in mind that this information may not be completely accurate.