The A.B. program at Princeton is intended to stretch students' minds and challenge their imaginations--to teach them to think and reason and document and prove, to cast a critical eye on conventional wisdom, to make sense of evidence, to read a text with care and critical insight, to conceptualize and solve problems, and to express themselves clearly and convincingly on paper and in discussion. Working within the general curricular framework, each undergraduate pursuing the A.B. degree is encouraged to develop an academic program in response to personal aspirations and interests. Each student's program of study encompasses a combination of courses that satisfy general education and departmental requirements, and junior independent work and a senior thesis.
With the exception of students who receive one or two terms of advanced standing, all A.B. students must successfully complete a minimum of 31 courses and two years of departmental independent work in eight terms of study. An extra term or year of study is granted by the Faculty Committee on Examinations and Standing to a student making normal progress toward the degree only under extraordinary circumstances. However, a student who has been required to withdraw for academic reasons will, in most cases, be required to repeat the unsatisfactory term in order to meet the basic graduation requirement of eight successfully completed terms of study.
Successful completion of a prescribed number of courses is necessary for advancement to each subsequent year. These requirements, as well as minimum course loads in a semester, are delineated in the section "Minimum Progress Required for Advancement".
Generally, the program of study during a student’s freshman and sophomore years is extensive in the sense that it typically includes course offerings from a range of academic departments, consistent with the exploration of academic interests and the preparation needed to enter an academic department at the start of junior year. During this time, it is expected that each student will also make significant progress toward the completion of the University's general education requirements in writing, foreign language, and distribution areas.
The program of study in junior and senior years is generally more intensive in its focus, reflecting the requirements of the departmental concentration the student has chosen. Undergraduates declare their departmental concentration prior to the start of junior year and complete a program of study that combines a set of courses with junior and senior independent work. Independent work gives students the opportunity to work closely with faculty members on library, laboratory, and field-based research, and in sustained writing projects. The independent work requirement, culminating in the senior thesis, is the keystone of the Princeton academic experience. In senior year, students take a departmental examination that is focused on some aspect of their field of concentration or on the senior thesis.
Each academic department has established a program of study leading to the awarding of the A.B. degree. These programs are described in detail in the departments' entries in this book. Specific questions concerning departmental programs and requirements should be addressed to the appropriate departmental representative.