Freshman Seminars for the Academic Year 2020-21

During your four years at Princeton you will discover new ideas, new fields of knowledge, and the adventure of learning. There is perhaps no better way to begin this journey than by taking a freshman seminar. Open only to first-year students, the program is designed to provide first-year students with an early opportunity to experience the excitement of working closely with an instructor and a small group of fellow students on a topic of special interest.

As you will see in our roster of seminar offerings, the variety of topics and faculty members involved in the program is truly extraordinary. Indeed, many of our students feel that their freshman seminar was one of their most enjoyable and meaningful academic experiences at Princeton, and one that enabled them to discover new intellectual passions and form enduring relationships with faculty members and fellow students.

Here are some of the key features of this program to keep in mind as you explore the rich mix of offerings for the coming year:

  • The seminars count as regular, graded courses, and most fulfill a distribution requirement, as indicated by the letters in the right-hand corner of the course description
    • Culture and Difference (CD) 
    • Epistemology and Cognition (EC)
    • Ethical Thought and Moral Values (EM)
    • Historical Analysis (HA)
    • Literature and the Arts (LA)
    • Quantitative and Computational Reasoning (QCR)
    • Science and Engineering with Laboratory (SEL)
    • Science and Engineering without Laboratory (SEN) 
    • Social Analysis (SA)
  • Unless specifically indicated in the description, freshman seminars do not assume prior knowledge or advanced placement in the subject. Emphasis is on discussion, papers, and in-class presentations rather than on quizzes and exams.
  • Freshman seminars are not to be confused with freshman writing seminars. Freshman seminars are focused on the subject matter: the readings, papers, presentations, and class discussions are all centered on the specific content of the course. Writing seminars are focused on the process of writing: the topic serves as a springboard for writing exercises and essays; reading is held to a minimum; and most of class time is devoted to writing instruction. For these reasons you should not hesitate to take a freshman seminar in the term you will be taking your writing seminar, as long as your schedule permits.

In July, all incoming first-year students will receive an invitation to apply online for any of the seminars that are being offered during the fall term. While the University has increased the number of freshman seminars, demand may exceed the number of spaces available. Seminar assignments will therefore be made through an automated system designed to accommodate and place the largest number of students in one of their top seminar choices. You may apply for freshman seminars in both terms. You will be notified about applying for spring term seminars in October.