First Year

Your first year is a wonderful time to explore Princeton and all of the rich academic and co-curricular opportunities that it has to offer. Your Path to Princeton is a good first resource before you arrive, but you should peruse the Undergraduate Announcement, the Freshman Academic Guide, information about sending and using AP/IB/A level scores, and, for BSE candidates, the School of Engineering advising site to further familiarize yourself with Princeton academics. You will meet your faculty adviser to select courses before each semester (for the first time in September, and then again in December for spring course selection), but you're always welcome to talk with your college Director of Studies, your Peer Academic Advisers (PAAs), and your Residential College Adviser (RCA).

Your First Course Selection
Having looked at Princeton’s Course Offerings, you’ll probably have a few ideas about what you’d like to take, but you will have many advisers to help you navigate your way through the options. Before you make your course selection with your faculty adviser, you will also have multiple opportunities to gather information to help you make your choice, including panels and open houses for departments and programs, a meeting with college deans and directors of studies (plus a more specific one with Dean Bogucki for BSE students), a meeting with your faculty advisers and peer academic advisers/BSE interactors, and an advising fair with upperclassmen representing a wide range of majors and certificate programs. The AB peer advisers have also provided their own helpful Peer Advice on Course Selection. If you are interested in the Health Professions, you can also attend an information session with the Health Professions Advising Office, and should get to know them early in your freshman year. Note: Although many students enter Princeton with a good sense of the degree track they would like to follow, it is not unusual for students to rethink their interests. Fortunately, it is possible to switch between the AB and BSE tracks, usually even though the first year. If you are uncertain about which path is right for you, please contact your director of studies or Dean Bogucki in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and they will help you think it through.

AB

Please keep in mind several basic goals when you select your courses.
 
1. Exploration. At Princeton, we value the ideals of a broad liberal arts education and intellectual discovery. Freshman year in particular is a time for open exploration. Some of you are entering Princeton with a good sense of what you think you’d like to study and some of you are more undecided, but all of you will discover new areas of interest and ability once you begin to delve into the Princeton curriculum and try out new subjects. Princeton’s broad distribution requirements will help to point you in new directions, and another good way to explore is simply to peruse Princeton’s Course Offerings and see what courses capture your interest. You might be surprised!
 
2. Balance. Besides striving for some balance of subject areas, think about the different formats and workloads of your classes. Some classes are taught as small seminars and some are large lecture courses. Some classes require many papers, others emphasize tests and exams, and others include labs. Some of these approaches may suit your abilities and learning style particularly well, but too much of any one will likely become monotonous and won’t challenge you in varied ways. At the start of your Princeton career, it is also wise to seek a balanced schedule of paper deadlines and exam dates. Unless you're a great time manager, you don't want all of your end-of-semester work to come due on Dean's Date!
 
3. Thinking about Your Major. You don’t choose your concentration until April of your sophomore year so you have plenty of time to explore the variety of areas that interest you before settling on a particular path. For some departments – notably the science and language departments – it may be necessary to begin fulfilling pre-requisites in the fall of your freshman year, but the prerequisites for many majors consist of only a few courses. For more information on majors that may interest you, you can consult your advisers, the Undergraduate Announcement, and the Major Choices page. You may also find it helpful to attend the panels and advising fairs on different fields during orientation. 
 
In addition to these general philosophical points, there are also some more specific requirements that will help guide your course selection:
 
1. Writing Seminar. in July the Writing Program will inform you whether you will take the writing seminar in the fall or the spring. Information on enrolling in your writing seminar is available on the Writing Program’s website. 
 
2. Foreign Language. If you have not placed out of the language requirement, you should begin completing this requirement right away. If you have placed into a higher level of the introductory sequence, you will perform best if you continue in the language while it's still fresh. If you will be beginning a language at the 101 level, you should get your journey through the language underway, and 101 language courses are only taught in the fall. 
 
3. Four-Course Load. In fall semester, AB freshmen take four courses, which is the normal course load for all AB students at Princeton. Princeton courses are more demanding than your high school courses. Four are plenty to keep you busy, and you will also want to use your first two semesters at Princeton to get adjusted to college life, make friends, and explore activities outside of class. If you find that you can handle four courses well, then you can always take five in subsequent semesters. 
 
4. No Two Classes in One Department. In keeping with our philosophy of a broad liberal arts education and intellectual exploration, first-semester freshmen may not take more than one class in a single department. Indeed, this is usually not advisable at any point in your first two years here. Once you have declared your major, you will have plenty of occasion to take multiple classes in your department. The first two years are a time to explore.
 
BSE

For BSE candidates, many courses during the first year will be devoted to fulfilling BSE requirements in chemistry, physics, math, and computing, but in the BSE program as well, Princeton prizes the ideals of a liberal education, and you will have space for electives in the humanities and social sciences. In addition, like AB students, you are required to take a writing seminar. The writing program will contact you in mid-July to tell you whether you have been assigned to the fall or spring semester. Information on enrolling in your writing seminar is available on the Writing Program’s website.

When it comes to the particulars of choosing courses and meeting BSE requirements, Dean Bogucki and your engineering advisers are your best guides. Information on freshman advising is also available on the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences advising site.

Course Changes

After you select courses with your adviser at the beginning of the semester, you will have two weeks to add or drop courses without a fee. It is generally a good idea to check out a few additional courses in the first week or two before finalizing your schedule. It is advisable not to take too long to settle on your schedule, however. Princeton’s semesters are fast-paced and you don’t want to fall behind in the coursework for the classes you decide to take.

You have the opportunity to drop a course until the end of the ninth week of the semester, but it is not possible to add a course after the second week of the semester. You can also opt to take a course as "pass/D/fail," an option that was designed to allow you to take intellectual risks. Before you make any changes to your schedule, you should consult with your faculty adviser. In cases where you would be incurring a course deficiency by dropping a class, you must consult first with your director of studies. They will help you make sure that dropping the course is the wisest plan, and if it is, they will help you plan how to get back on pace to complete your degree. 
 
Navigating Your First Year
 
Once you begin to settle in at Princeton, we hope you'll begin to take advantage of other opportunities to supplement the learning that you're doing in the classroom. We've given you a month-by-month guide below to help you make sense of your Princeton experience.

Early October

Apply to go on a Breakout Trip! These experiences, which happen during fall recess and spring break, are designed to heighten participants’ awareness of critical social issues, enhance their individual growth, and prepare them engage with social issues throughout their lives. Each week-long trip integrates service, reflection and education about social issues and the multifaceted nature of these issues. Trips are offered throughout the year in local and national destinations.

Late October

Prepare for midterms! Your midterm exam schedule will vary depending on your courseload and the kinds of courses you're taking (writing-intensive vs. problem-set focused), but it's likely that your workload may feel heavier during this time. Seek support from McGraw, from your Peer Academic Advisers, from your RCAs, and from your fellow students in study groups. You can do this!

Early November

Reflect on your progress so far this term. What have you learned? What do you hope to do? Are there any adjustments you'd like to make to your study habits? Would you like to get some academic support to make the most of the rest of the term? Talk with your academic adviser and/or director of studies about your plans for the weeks ahead.

Late November

Begin to discuss summer study abroad options with OIP advisers. Summer programs are a great way to learn something new over the summer, and while many students seek out internship placements, you may wish to consider one of these opportunities, too!

Early December

Start applying for Princeternships for the January reading period. Explore careers in settings where you'll meet alumni!

Be on the lookout for the ReFRESH retreat application. This is a great opportunity to step back and reflect on your first semester at Princeton, make new friends, and think about what you want the rest of your experience to look like.

Meet with your academic adviser to discuss fall courses. Talk about your interests in a few possible concentrations, plans for the summer, and new involvement on and off campus.

Mid December

Apply for Princeton International Internship Programs.

Early February

Explore for Princeternships for March (Spring Break).

Mid- February

Attend the HireTigers Meetup for Internships. Meet with employers and alumni for recruiting and networking. Even if you don't get an internship for the summer, these first conversations help you to become comfortable speaking with potential employers. 

Late February

Apply for Princeton summer study abroad programs. Begin to discuss fall study abroad options with OIP advisers.

Early March

Apply to be a Community Action leader.

Apply to go on a Breakout Trip! These experiences, which happen during fall recess and spring break, are designed to heighten participants’ awareness of critical social issues, enhance their individual growth, and prepare them engage with social issues throughout their lives. Each week-long trip integrates service, reflection and education about social issues and the multifaceted nature of these issues. Trips are offered throughout the year in local and national destinations.

Late April

Meet with your faculty adviser to discuss courses for the fall; make sure to talk about your interests across the curriculum, summer plans, and co-curricular involvement. B.S.E. students will declare a concentration.