Summer Advising Newsletter
Greetings from the Dean, Director of Studies, and Director of Student Life
As you start your Princeton studies, you are likely to have all kinds of questions. Some of these may involve immediate concerns, such as fall term courses; others may be longer range, such as which major to choose. We are here to help you. Academic Advising for freshmen and sophomores is centered in the residential colleges. Each student has a faculty adviser, and each college has a Dean, Director of Studies, and a Director of Student Life. We offer guidance on a variety of topics, ranging from courses and departments to special programs. You can talk with any one of us about concerns you may have. Our offices are in the College, where we can be found most of the time. You can make an appointment with one of us through the College Secretary, or often you can see us just by stopping by. We hope that this newsletter will answer a lot of the questions that students ask just as they arrive. Enjoy the summer – we’re looking forward to meeting with you soon.
--Patrick Caddeau, Dean
--Renita Miller, Director of Studies
--Mellisa Thompson, Director of Student Life
Princeton offers two undergraduate degrees: the A.B. comprises a variety of liberal arts majors pursued by about 80% of undergraduates and the B.S.E. includes several engineering majors taken by the other 20%. Each degree has its own requirements. Most entering students know which degree they want to pursue and you were asked to confirm you selection of either the A.B. or B.S.E. degree program online in June, but if you are still uncertain about your choice, be assured that changes are possible. If you are an A.B. candidate who might be interested in the B.S.E. program, contact one of us when you arrive on campus. In the meantime, familiarize yourself with the typical B.S.E. first-year requirements and choose fall term courses accordingly. B.S.E. students who wish to change to A.B. should contact us as well.
Choosing Fall Semester Courses – A.B.
Between now and August 15th you will have a chance to complete an A.B. program form online in which you list a tentative fall academic schedule. This form is designed to get you thinking about a program of study; your choices are not meant to commit you to a particular course of study in any way. You will sign up for courses when you meet with your academic adviser during Orientation Week. Between now and the start of the fall term, give some further thought to your program of study.
Keep a few important things in mind. First, now is the time for discovery. Some students want to take exactly the same program they had in high school – math, language, English, science – whether they’re interested in all those subjects or not. Why limit yourself that way? We recommend your taking a course in an area that is new to you and that you did not have the opportunity to study before.
On the other hand, there are requirements, especially writing and language. All freshmen will take a Freshman Writing Seminar in either the fall or spring term (sorry, you can’t choose which semester). And many freshmen will need to fulfill the foreign language requirement; don’t put this off! If you need to start a foreign language at the 101 level, do so right away: 101 language courses are offered only in the fall, and if you don’t start the language now you’ll still be taking required language courses in your junior year. If you will be starting a language from the 105 or 107/108 level, do that right away as well, before you forget much of what you learned in high school.
Don’t worry too much now about the distribution requirements, and don’t use them as the primary basis for planning your first semester of study. Most Princeton students have broad interests that enable them to complete the distribution requirements without pain.
Balance your workload. Different courses require different kinds of work. Math courses have homework and quizzes, history courses require reading and papers, art courses emphasize the study of visual images. Some courses have weekly assignments, others require a big paper at the end. Mix things up.
Think about possible majors. As you choose your courses, think especially about areas in which you might eventually wish to major. You won’t choose your major until the end of sophomore year, but don’t wait until then to start thinking about it! If you do think you know your likely major, don’t try to take all the courses at once. Take the prerequisites and perhaps some additional courses, but keep your mind open and explore other areas, too, while you have the chance. Many students intent on majoring in one field take a course in another and discover an entirely new interest. Take advantage of the “major choices” events in the residential colleges designed to introduce you to the wealth of programs and resources available through Princeton’s many academic departments and programs.
Choosing Fall Semester Courses – B.S.E.
Engineering students have more constrained choices for the fall term, due to their physics, math, and chemistry requirements. The usual fall schedule of a first-year B.S.E. student includes physics, chemistry, and math. Most B.S.E.s take PHY 103 unless they place out of the physics requirement. The math course will be determined by the placement recommended by the math department. Some of you will have to take a freshman writing seminar in the fall; others will have a choice for the fourth course, and will likely take an elective in the humanities or social sciences. Don’t take a course with problem sets and quizzes, because you’re going to be doing quite enough of those anyway. A course with reading, writing, and non-quantitative ideas is preferable.
Each student has an adviser chosen from among faculty members who are interested in undergraduate life, know the university, and are friendly and helpful. In addition, you will be assigned a Peer Academic Adviser (PAA) from the Forbes Advising Network who will be available to answer your questions and give you guidance concerning courses and making the most of your first year at Princeton. You will meet with both your faculty adviser and your PAA during Orientation Week, and again in late November to choose courses for the following term. PAAs join a number of events in Forbes during Orientation and the fall term so that you have many opportunities to work closely with them. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your advisers. They are welcome to come to the College for meals, and you should not hesitate to ask for advice. The advising system works best when students actively make use of the resources available to them.
Students often ask how advisers are assigned. We go through the academic program forms you submit and try to get an idea of your academic interests. With this information, we try to match students with advisers. This is not an exact science, nor is it meant to be. The adviser’s job is precisely that: to advise. Advisers provide general advice on constructing a program of study and are not authorities on every single course and major. They do not dictate programs of study, nor do they make choices for students between equally plausible alternatives. Advisers can make suggestions, offer opinions, and provide feedback on ideas related to your academic interests. They can warn against overly ambitious or unduly light programs of study. They can push for the fulfillment of requirements. In order to get the most from meeting with an adviser, however, students should come in with ideas, plans, and some possible course selections to discuss.
After Orientation Week, you still can make changes in your schedule. Sometimes you might find that a course isn’t as interesting as you had hoped or is too hard or easy for you. If appropriate, you can change courses in the first two weeks of class. Be sure to discuss this with your adviser first. It’s important, though, to settle into your academic schedule for the term as soon as possible; so if you want to make a change, act on it right away.
Some students find courses to be more difficult than they expected. You should discuss this with your adviser or with one of us. We hope you will find courses challenging, but we don’t want them to be overwhelming. If there seems to have been a mistake in placement, adjustments are possible, but in many cases the initial difficulty fades as students realize that everyone is finding it hard and that they really have the ability. Don’t panic, seek advice.
Many students wish to fulfill the prerequisites for medical school during their time at Princeton. There is no pre-med major, and you can go to med school just as readily with a major in the social sciences or humanities as with one in a natural or engineering science. The standard pre-med program often surprises students, for it is heavy on chemistry, not biology. Below is the “standard” pre-med program, although there are many possible variations:
· First year – general chemistry and math
· Second year – organic chemistry and biology
· Third year – physics
The Office of Health Professions Advising website provides a more detailed list of pre-med courses and schedules. They can also help you if you have any questions.
Language Placement Tests
All students who have not fulfilled the language requirement on the basis of advanced placement, and who wish to continue the study of Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean or Spanish, must take the appropriate placement test online. You may access the test, instructions, and other useful information about the online language placement test by way of the Path to Princeton website. Alternatively, if you have reported SAT II scores in these languages, placement recommendations may be made on the basis of these scores and communicated to you during course registration. Information on placement in other languages will be available during course registration at Friend Center. Please refer to the Path to Princeton website for updates and announcements.
Some policies may not seem very clear to new Princeton students and so can cause difficulty and confusion:
· In introductory language courses, you cannot receive credit towards the number of courses required for graduation for a 101 course in the fall without completing the 102 course in the spring. So, for example, if you sign up for Spanish 101, you will need to follow it directly with Spanish 102, or you’ll incur a course deficiency.
· The last day of fall semester exams for 2014-2015 is Saturday, January 24, 2015; the last day of spring exams, Saturday, May 23, 2015. Princeton takes the administration of final exams very seriously, so please do not make any vacation plans before January 24 or May 23, since it is almost impossible to reschedule exams. You’ll learn your final exam schedule about halfway through the term. Sometimes students buying plane tickets home in advance gamble that they will not have an exam late in the exam period. That’s a bad idea.
All students at Princeton receive what is called a “liberal education” (the “liberal arts” are originally those appropriate for a free person, a citizen). This means that Princeton students study a broad range of subjects rather than a narrow program. A liberal education teaches you to think critically, to communicate effectively, and to take information, analyze it, and draw conclusions from it. You’ll be prepared to do all sorts of things with these skills. To get the most out of your education, though, you have to use some initiative and resourcefulness. Get to know your professors, and get to know your fellow students. A lot of what you take away from Princeton after four years will be the experience of meeting other people who are just as intellectually curious, reflective, insightful, and bright as you are. See you soon!