The classics department is an oasis at Princeton. The professors are among the best in their field—Princeton is generally considered to have the best program in the U.S. —but they are also exceptionally accessible and welcoming, even by Princeton standards. The level of intellectual seriousness, too, is very high; it's fairly common, for instance, to find juniors and even sophomores taking graduate seminars, with the department's full encouragement no less. At the same time, most classics majors seem to be less "careerist" than some other elements at Princeton. Since (might as well admit it up front) there are no practical reasons to study classics, we're all here because we want to be here, not because we think we'll get rich studying Greek lyric poetry. Thus, there's very little jockeying for position within the department or grandstanding in precept (in fact, given our class sizes, there aren't really many precepts either). The department also tries to honor requests for specific kinds of courses to be offered the following term (which can be really helpful for independent work as well—e.g., a seminar on Demosthenes to complement research on Greek oratory), and the various faculty are usually more than happy to supervise one-on-one reading courses, in which you pick the subject of study and design your own syllabus.
Most classics majors choose to take several courses in both Latin and Ancient Greek, something the department strongly recommends, but this is not strictly required. However, classics majors do need to pass a sight translation exam in either Latin or Greek or both, which can be attempted once a semester beginning in the fall of junior year.
(Note: as stated in the Undergraduate Announcement, the prerequisite for the classics major is usually either LAT (Latin) 108 or CLG (Ancient Greek) 108. The department, however, can often be flexible about this depending on your situation; for instance, a hard-working student who has taken 101-102 or 103 in either language is unlikely to be discouraged from majoring. The classics department as a whole strongly encourages and welcomes students potentially interested in majoring.)
Each student is required to produce two junior papers and a senior thesis. Juniors attend a weekly not-for-credit colloquium in the fall, the purpose of which is to introduce them to the various subspecialties of classics. Each week a different professor introduces the class to his or her own area of study, and in the course of the fall each junior chooses an adviser and produces a 10-15 page analytical paper on a passage of classical literature, work of art, or archaeological artifact. The spring of junior year is spent writing a 20-25 page research paper on a topic of the student's choosing (there is no colloquium). All of senior year is spent on the thesis: a preliminary abstract is due in October, followed by a proposal in November, a proposal defense before a small panel of faculty in December, and a preliminary chapter in January. Although the hurdles in the process may sound intimidating, they are meant only to ensure that you don't fall behind on your work.
Most classics majors would probably say that their independent-work experience was vastly superior to that of a lot of their friends in other departments. To begin with, the classics faculty is exceptionally willing—even by the standard of small departments—to meet frequently with their advisees and respond quickly with comments on JP or thesis chapter drafts. (Nor are you restricted to working with one professor; though you have one "official" adviser, you can ask anyone in the department for research help or advice, and they are always happy and willing to oblige.) In addition, the department itself is exceptionally flexible in its independent work policies and allows each major more or less complete freedom in his or her choice of topic and adviser—a luxury few other programs permit. There is no required junior seminar that restricts the topic(s) you can pursue, and apart from the requirement that the fall JP involve a "close reading" of a text, there are no restrictions on the topics and methodologies used in the independent work. In Classics, you really are free to pursue your interests in a way that few other departments would allow.
In an effort to promote the study of classics, classical studies has been added as a separate program of study within the department. The language requirements are less stringent, and each student designs a plan of study which may extend to areas outside of classics. (For example, a student who wishes to concentrate on the Roman Empire might also take a course on Han China in order to compare the two cultures. Another might want to study ancient politics, taking courses both in Greek and in Roman history as well as offerings from the politics department.) Classical studies majors are still required to become proficient (that is, to pass 108) either in Ancient Greek or in Latin, but language study at the 200-level or above is optional.
Due to its comparatively lenient language requirements, the classical studies program, although heavily promoted by the faculty, has been unfairly criticized at times, in light of the belief that the advanced study of both Greek and Latin is integral to the classics degree. Although rigorous philological training in Greek and Latin has traditionally been the foundation of a classical education and certainly comes with many benefits, classical studies can be just as rigorous and fulfilling an option for the student who wants more flexibility in what he or she studies. It is a good option for those who are interested in the Ancient Greek and Roman civilizations but do not wish to devote as much time to language study or to focus on written works in the original language. The classics department can accommodate students of all language levels and interests, and the faculty is open to almost any reasonable proposal for a plan of study. If you are hesitant about the language requirements of the classics program but are still interested in the ancient Mediterranean, classical studies is definitely worth serious consideration.