ODOC Launches “Entryways into the Liberal Arts: The First-Year Academic Experience”

July 10, 2020

Dear Class of 2024,

Once again, welcome to Princeton. I’m particularly happy to welcome you into our community of scholars here on campus. From the ongoing ravages of a global pandemic to the wave of protests against police violence and systemic racism, we find ourselves in an historic moment that requires thoughtful analysis of the world’s most complex issues. My colleagues and I are glad you’ll be joining us; we need your thoughts, your ideas, and your experiences to bolster this crucial work.

As you begin Princeton’s liberal arts curriculum, you will explore content and methods from across the humanities, arts, natural sciences, engineering, and social sciences. Your studies will challenge you to consider new ways of thinking, new ways of questioning, and new ways of acting. As President Eisgruber ’83 suggests, your education will be a “vital foundation for both individual flourishing and the well-being of our society.”

How will you begin to be a scholar “in the service of humanity”? And how will you navigate your first semester here in the midst of a rapidly changing world and a pandemic-altered version of campus life?

This year, we’ve created a special first-year experience designed specifically to help you navigate your new scholarly journey during this highly unusual and challenging semester. As a first-year student, we invite you to engage in the Princeton “Entryways” program, a singular opportunity to get to know Princeton’s academic culture and curricular offerings and to connect them with your own goals.

“Entryways into the Liberal Arts: The First-Year Academic Experience” offers special, immersive seminar courses especially for first-year students; a first-year class-wide weekly speaker series with distinguished faculty from across the University; and tailored mentoring experiences with peer leaders in your residential college community. These programs will engage you and your classmates in ongoing discussion about how Princeton’s academic community can help students discover their passions, thrive in their courses, achieve their goals, and most of all, connect their studies to our society’s most pressing concerns.

“Entryways” has three main components:

First, the Small Seminar Experience. We encourage you to enroll in a small seminar (typically 6 – 15 students) to begin forming close relationships with your classmates and a faculty member. These small seminars will take several forms.

One is the Writing Seminar, Princeton’s foundational course in critical inquiry and analytical writing for first-year students. Approximately half of you will be assigned to take your Writing Seminar in the fall term and will have the opportunity to select among its course offerings. The rest of you will take a Writing Seminar in the spring.

Even if you’re assigned to your Writing Seminar in the fall, we encourage you to enroll in an additional course from our selected small seminar experiences. These include:

  • The Freshman Seminar Program. You may apply to take one of 40 seminars in which students learn firsthand how scholars do their work—the methodologies, assumptions, practices, and goals that make scholarship effective. These seminars extend across the humanities and arts, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering, the four divisions into which knowledge at Princeton is organized.
  • The Humanities Sequence. Alternatively, you might also choose to participate in the Humanities Sequence, a rich, two-course-credit experience that probes the questions that have animated human inquiry for centuries.
  • A Creative Writing Seminar. Finally, you might choose a special Creative Writing Seminar designed just for first-year students who are interested in exploring their own poetry- or fiction-writing.

Of course, you may choose to enroll in more than one of these small seminar experiences if your schedule allows. You will have the chance to discuss these choices with your Faculty Academic Adviser and your residential college Director of Studies.

The second component of the “Entryways” program is the First-Year Community Colloquium. First-year students will attend a class-wide, weekly colloquium as part of their fall semester experience. These talks will feature faculty from across the University, including the heads of the residential colleges, speaking on the theme of “The Liberal Arts and Our Moment.” The Colloquium will illustrate the variety of intellectual paths through the University and connect your liberal arts studies to pressing global issues.

The third component of the “Entryways” program is College 101 Conversations, in which first-year students will participate in a weekly small-group meeting led by their residential college “zee group” (short for “advising group”) Peer Academic Advisors. These meetings will help you form community, learn strategies for navigating your academic trajectory, and connect you with important academic and pre-professional resources.

“College 101 Conversations” offer a place for you to reflect on the weekly community colloquium, on your small seminar experience, and on your educational journey more broadly. “ClassPath,” the academic advising mini-course in which you will participate in this summer, will offer supplementary materials and help to frame these “College 101” discussions. 

The “Entryways” program will provide a framework to help you join Princeton’s community and prompt you to think about how your education will shape your life. You’ll have many opportunities to discuss your course choices with your faculty academic adviser and the Director of Studies in your residential colleges.

We’ll send more information about the program soon. For now, please know that my staff and I look forward to welcoming you to Princeton. We’re happy to answer your questions about how academic life will unfold in the coming year.

Again, welcome to Princeton.

Warm best,

Jill Dolan

Dean of the College