Princeton Eating Clubs are part of a tradition that dates back to 1879. In the early years, the University did not provide students with dining facilities, so students created their own clubs to provide comfortable houses for dining and social life. Eating clubs are unique to Princeton and the most popular dining and social option for students in their junior and senior years.
As times have changed, so have the clubs. When Princeton made the 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 full 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. All the clubs offer robust wireless Internet connections to the University’s network.
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 professional 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. All of the clubs, both selective and open, 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 each 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 your eating club lasts for life, and many Princeton students say their closest friendships, during and after college, were formed with their clubmates.