Certificates provide you with outstanding opportunities to pursue structured studies in interdisciplinary fields, languages and cultures, or the arts. Unlike majors, they are not mandatory components of your degree, and the requirements vary widely.
Is Getting a Certificate Right for You?
Certificates are exciting components of a Princeton education, but you should pursue one only if you feel it will enrich your academic experience and teach you valuable skills, not because you feel that you must. About 55% of Princeton students do choose to get one or more certificates, but that leaves 45% who decide not to pursue one.
Certainly, there are many compelling reasons to pursue a certificate:
- You are interested in the subject matter and want to develop specific skills
- The requirements will structure a deep and comprehensive engagement with the subject
- You will have the support of a program’s resources and a community of faculty mentors and peers to help you explore your interest.
On the other hand, some might feel that meeting the list of requirements for a certificate will obligate you to commit time that you would prefer to devote to other classes or extracurriculars. Or you might not want to be constrained to choose a thesis topic that will be relevant to your certificate or write a separate paper, as some certificates require. It is always possible to develop and demonstrate expertise in a subject by taking a number of classes in it without fulfilling all the requirements for the certificate.
When To Apply
Some programs ask that you apply for the certificate soon after you have declared your concentration (e.g., Finance and Global Health and Health Policy) and, in addition to coursework, you may be required to write the junior paper for your concentration on a topic relevant to the certificate. Admission to other certificate programs can sometimes take place later in your junior or senior years. For specifics consult the Undergraduate Announcement, program websites, and program directors.