How to Take a Summer Course
Note: this information has been composed with specific relevance to students in the B.S.E. degree program. A.B. students should consult their residential college deans or directors of studies.
After matriculation at Princeton, B.S.E. students may count up to four pre-approved courses taken at other schools toward their course requirements (fewer if you elect to take a year of advanced standing or foreign study). Such courses can be used to remove a course deficiency or can be "banked" to offset future deficiencies. They can also be used for general BSE requirements (except computing), prerequisites in certain departments, or for fulfillment of humanities and social science distribution areas. In some cases, they may be permitted to substitute for a departmental requirement.
A summer course taken elsewhere must
A laboratory course (e.g. general physics) should have 30 hours of lab as well. Courses with fewer lab hours will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, but classes with substantially fewer lab hours will not be approved. Please note that at many schools you have to enroll separately for the lab; it may not be built into a single integrated lecture/lab course like it is at Princeton. "Lab" means actually doing experiments in a room called a "laboratory", not just talking about experiments that someone might have done somewhere sometime.
In the case of a course proposed to substitute for a required prerequisite or a course in a Princeton department, the content should be substantially similar. You may take no more than two courses in any one summer. You may not, under any circumstances, use outside courses to substitute for a term of study at Princeton.
A frank comment from Dean Bogucki: If you are taking a course (e.g. in math or science) that will serve as a prerequisite for further work at Princeton, it doesn't make any sense to take some bargain-basement summer course at some rinky-dink school where you're the smartest student in the class by dozens or even hundreds of SAT points and the coverage of the material is so superficial that you can learn it in your sleep. It's not just a matter of a course credit or fulfilling a requirement in name only. You actually need to learn the material in a way that will be useful in your future engineering studies. So find the strongest course you can. Dean Bogucki feels that flagship state universities often have promising summer courses because they are often taken by their own students and taught by their own faculty. They are also better values than many private institutions if you can qualify for in-state tuition.
After the course is over, you must have an official transcript sent to Princeton in order to receive credit. An official transcript must be sent to your residential college office before you can count a course toward your Princeton degree. It is your responsibility to request the transcript and to confirm that it has been sent. Since we are centuries or even millennia away from telepathic communication, the receipt of a transcript is currently the only way for Princeton to know that you have completed the course with an acceptable grade. Please note that registrar's offices at other schools are often very slow about mailing transcripts, so take care of this matter as soon as the course is completed.
This is important to know: outside courses are never approved retroactively. There is a reason it is called pre-approval. Do not expect to get credit for an outside course, summer or otherwise, if you have not received preapproval before taking the course. Your official transcript will be your souvenir that you took the course, but it will not count toward the 36 required for the B.S.E. degree.
Here are the steps of the preapproval process, which must be followed in order:
(1) Compile detailed information on the course you intend to take, either from the other university's website or catalog or by contacting the department there and asking to be sent a syllabus. The information MUST be more than a few sentences and must provide an indication of the topical coverage of the course, the number and duration of meetings, the textbooks used, and the methods of assessment. A full syllabus is best, even if it is for the version of the course taught last summer or during the academic year. The more information you can provide, the easier the preapproval process will be.
NOTE: Please print out the information and take it in person with the approval form to the relevant department. Please do not send e-mail to faculty and deans asking them to look at websites or attachments of syllabi. Doing so only makes the pre-approval process extremely cumbersome in the long run.
(2) Obtain an Approval for a Course Taken at Another Institution form from your residential college office. You may also download a copy from the Office of the Dean of the College website. Please note that the form has numbered steps on it, 1-5. Please follow them in order. Step 1 is to complete the information at the top of the form. Please check your math when computing the total numbers of hours! Submitting a form showing fewer than 30 hours of class guarantees that it will not be approved. There are also a lot of regulations on the reverse side. Please read them.
(3) Take the form and the supporting description to the departmental representative of the department AT PRINCETON where the course is taught. For example, differential equations is taught at Princeton as MAE 305, so you must take the materials and form to MAE, even if the course is taught by the math department at the school where you plan to take it. If you are taking the course to match a specific Princeton course (e.g. MAT 202, MAE 305, CHM 303, etc.), the equivalency must be noted in the space on the form labeled "Analogous Course at Princeton".
(3a) Note that if you plan to use this course as as departmental or program prerequisite or requirement, you must also obtain approval of your own departmental rep or program director. For example, if you are taking differential equations as the equivalent of MAE 305 to fulfill a departmental requirement in CBE, CEE, or ORFE, then you need to get the signature of the departmental rep in your department in the space indicated. If you are just taking it as a general SEAS requirement or as an elective, you can skip this step.
(4) Take the form to the SEAS Undergraduate Affairs Office and obtain the approval of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs, who will also make sure that the course meets the minimum number of class/lab hours and weeks and that the course meets all Princeton criteria and is not at a sketchy school (Dean Bogucki is already familiar with many substandard institutions, and if he hasn't heard of it before, he will check it out.) Please make sure that you have approval from the relevant department at Princeton before seeing the SEAS associate dean; if you don't, he will be cross and send you away to get it.
(5) Return the form to your residential college office (freshmen, sophomores, and juniors). Note that if the course is going to be taken abroad, it also needs the endorsement of Dean Kanach in the Office of the International Programs at 36 University Place.
(6) Take the course, receive a grade of C or better (note: a C- is not acceptable).
(7) Have the transcript sent to your residential college office immediately upon completion of the course. Transcripts for courses taken abroad must be sent to the Office of International Programs for credit approval.
The Math Department has developed special procedures for the approval of Math courses which they have defined on the following web page: http://www.math.princeton.edu/undergraduate/forms-procedures/summer-math-courses. Basically, these procedures are a more explicit version of what is outlined above, so save yourself a hassle and just follow the procedures closely. Remember, differential equations is approved by MAE as MAE 305, not by Math.
OTHER Special POLICIES
The University writing requirement and the B.S.E. computer science requirement (CS 126) cannot be satisfied by courses taken elsewhere. They must be taken at Princeton.
Language courses have special rules:
(1) A course or set of courses proposed to substitute for a course in a foreign language must meet at least 60 hours.
(2) Starting with the summer of 2013, one course credit can be granted for a beginning language course (i.e. 101-102) provided the course/s are (a) preapproved by the department and (b) the department determines at the conclusion of the preapproved summer study that the student has progressed beyond the 102 level. In other words, if you are doing a beginning language course over the summer, you have to go far enough to convince the relevant language department here, on the basis of whatever assessment it uses, that you can place into the next course beyond the 102 level.
(3) Credit for 100-level language courses above the 102 level may be granted if (a) preapproved by the department and (b) the department determines that the student has proceeded beyond the expected language level for that course. In other words, if you take the equivalent of Russian 105 somewhere else, you need to demonstrate that you can place into Russian 107 upon your return. Credit will be given for the final course in an introductory sequence only if the student passes the department placement test that demonstrates satisfaction of the AB foreign language requirement. Remember, all language courses must have 60 contact hours and meet for a minimum of 4 weeks.
This doesn't apply to our own language programs (e.g. Princeton-in-Beijing/Munich/St.Petersburg, etc.) that are offered through Princeton language departments and teach language courses that are credited as Princeton courses, and you don't need separate approval for them in any event.
Courses taken at non-U.S. institutions must also be approved by Dean Nancy Kanach in the Office of International Programs. In general, outside of language programs, very few overseas institutions offer acceptable summer courses, so please consult with Dean Bogucki before starting on the preapproval process. Please be warned that Dean Bogucki regards most non-language summer courses offered by overseas institutions as highly dubious, no matter how prestigious the institution (based on personal experience.) After you take the course, the transcript must be sent to the Office of International Programs for credit approval.
If you are on financial aid and are unable to meet your expected summer earnings contribution because of summer study, you should see a financial aid counselor, 220 West College, to have your savings shortfall replaced. Student loans are available to meet tuition costs of approved courses.
Normally, summer courses must be approved by Dean's Date of the spring term in May. If your circumstances at the end of the spring term suddenly require you to take a summer course (e.g. you find yourself with fewer than the required number of courses to advance to the following year or you fail a required course), then it is possible to obtain late preapproval BEFORE THE SUMMER COURSE BEGINS by faxing the relevant documentation to the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at 856-504-0060 (fax only, do not call this number) or scanning and sending as a PDF (not JPG or other graphics format) attachment.
Updated by Peter Bogucki 12-2-14.