An Introduction to the Princeton Curriculum

April 20, 2016

Welcome to Princeton and to the exciting intellectual possibilities that await you. With 36 concentrations (or majors), courses offered in nearly 100 subjects, and numerous ways to compliment your studies through interdepartmental certificates, international study, and special academic programs, navigating Princeton’s academic offerings can seem a little daunting at first.  You may be asking yourself “What courses am I required to take? How do I know which classes to choose? With so many possibilities, how do I find the right one for me?”

Fortunately the Princeton curriculum is designed to help you navigate these possibilities and find your own pathway through Princeton. While there are a number of resources on this site that explain aspects of the Princeton curriculum in depth, here is a basic overview to get you started:


  • Writing Seminar: All Princeton undergraduates must take “Writing Sem” during their first year, on topics ranging from the Apocalypse to Comic Book Superheroes. 

  • Foreign Language Requirement: Students in the AB program are required to demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language.  BSE students do not have to complete the foreign language requirement, but many choose to do so.  There are a number of ways to fulfill this requirement, including studying a language at Princeton. 

  • Distribution Requirements: Distribution requirements allow you to explore topics or fields that are unfamiliar or sound interesting, and ensure that your academic studies do not become too focused too early. Far from being a burdensome requirement, distribution requirements are easily fulfilled within your overall degree program.  An introductory course to a possible major, an arts course offered through the Lewis Center for the Arts, and/or a Freshman Seminar are all great ways to satisfy distribution requirements during the first year. By opening yourself to new possibilities, you may just discover an intellectual passion that you never knew you had.



  • While Princeton’s curriculum does encourage exploration, eventually you will need to decide on a major and prepare to engage in independent research in your junior and senior years.  Pre-requisites vary by major, and it’s a good idea to explore the requirements for majors that sound interesting.

With so many opportunities it is impossible to say what courses will inspire you and where your journey might lead.  But don’t take my word for it - here’s a video of Princeton students discussing their favorite and most surprising academic experiences.