Choosing Courses at Princeton: A Peer Academic Adviser Perspective

Tags: AB academics advising BSE courses curriculum major opportunities requirements workload

On behalf of the Peer Academic Advisers (PAAs), congratulations on your acceptance to Princeton, Class of 2020! Over the next few months, you will have many exciting decisions to make – one of these is selecting courses for your first semester. With the wide variety of options available, planning your schedule may seem challenging, but the process is actually a lot of fun, and your PAAs are here to help!

Peer Academic Advisers (PAAs) are A.B. or B.S.E. juniors and seniors with a variety of academic experiences and concentrations, affiliated with a residential college and assigned to a Residential College Adviser group. You’ll see us throughout the year at late night study breaks and meals in the college, at advising fairs, workshops and information sessions.We offer advice on a range of academic issues, including balancing course load and extracurricular activities, getting academic support at McGraw and the Writing Center, and choosing your courses.

While each person will have a slightly different approach to building a schedule, there are some helpful guidelines to keep in mind. Aim for a balance in your four classes to satisfy distribution requirements and potential major prerequisites along with a class or two that simply sparks your interest. Princeton offers hundreds of courses, and you may discover a new passion! In addition, it is also worth taking a look at the unique academic opportunities you have as a freshman, such as Freshman Seminars, the Integrated Science Curriculum, and the Humanities Sequence.

If you are like me, you will probably be interested in more classes than you can take. To narrow your list down to your final four, check Principedia, talk with the members of your advising community – your PAAs, RCAs, and academic advisors – for their opinions, reach out to professors, and shop classes during the first two weeks of the semester. Finally, don’t worry… you still have seven more semesters!

Here is how this plan worked for me with my freshman fall schedule: I took MAT 175, which satisfied my Quantitative Reasoning (QR) distribution requirement and was a prerequisite for departmental classes in Economics. I also took POL 306, a course on democratic theory that related to my interest in political theory and counted toward one of my certificates, Political Economy. I finally took HUM 216-217, the Humanities Sequence that I mentioned as being one of the great opportunities Princeton offers to freshmen. You can see I took four classes and had a balance of “practical” classes that satisfied distribution and concentration requirements with space left over to explore my intellectual passions.

You will have plenty of resources when you get to Princeton to help you make this decision, and feel free to reach out to us at any time! We are so excited to have you on campus and look forward to helping you have a great start to Princeton! 

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Author Profile

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Allison Berger '18
Peer Academic Adviser, Forbes College

Welcome to Princeton, Class of 2020! My name is Allison, and I’m a sophomore concentrating in the Economics department with certificates in Political Economy and European Cultural Studies. In addition to being a Peer Academic Adviser, I’m also President of The American Whig-Cliosophic Society (Princeton’s debate and political union), a member of the Daily Princetonian’s Editorial Board, and Executive Editor for the Princeton Tory. I’m happy to answer any and all questions you have - feel free to email me at alberger@princeton.edu!

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