Once you have entered an academic department, the bulk of your advising is handled by a departmental adviser. In smaller departments, that individual is often the departmental representative. Larger departments often designate separate advisers or coordinators for juniors versus seniors.
Independent work provides you the opportunity to work closely with faculty and to pursue intellectual interests beyond the limits of formal courses, a set syllabus and assigned readings.
Since independent work is not included in the count of courses needed to graduate, you should factor in the demands of independently directed research and writing as you schedule your coursework for your junior and senior years. Seniors must take a minimum of six courses during their final academic year. For some students, this means taking three courses in both fall and spring. Other students prefer to complete four courses in the senior fall, leaving additional time in the spring to take two courses while completing a thesis.
You should consult your departmental guide to independent work as well as remain in close contact with your departmental representative and thesis adviser in order to stay on top of important dates and deadlines. Your departmental advisers can also help you identify internships, scholarships and other opportunities particular to your course of study.
It is important to review your degree progress report to confirm that you can fulfill both departmental and general graduation requirements in time to graduate with your class. Your residential college dean and director of studies are available to provide guidance and support regarding graduation requirements not specific to your major. Consult the School of Engineering and Applied Science website for additional information regarding departmental advising for B.S.E. students.
Making the Most of Your Independent Work Advising Relationship
The path to success is unique for each discipline and for each student, but you should keep the following best practices in mind as you approach the independent work of your junior and senior years:
- Involve your adviser in the research and drafting process of your work so that you can take full advantage of the support and resources available at Princeton and within your department.
- Establish a schedule with your adviser for submitting drafts of your work and evaluating your progress: agree on specific dates, meeting times and deadlines.
- Take responsibility for communicating with your adviser concerning your progress. This demonstrates a mature approach to the independent work you produce, which will ultimately bear your name.
- Follow up on suggestions from your adviser in terms of books or articles you should read, revisions and possible avenues of exploration.
- Communicate your concerns if you feel overwhelmed or stuck in your research or writing. Your adviser is familiar with the academic support services available to assist you in the process of successfully completing your independent work, but your adviser can only connect you with these resources if you share your concerns.
- Contact your departmental representative or residential college dean if you are experiencing challenges with your independent work or in working with your adviser.