When and How Do I Choose My Courses?

Tags: academics advising courses placement requirements

Worried about fall course selection? Don’t worry, you have time before you need to decide! Freshmen enroll in courses on September 13th (Tu) and classes begin on September 14th (Wed). We will provide you with plenty of information and advice to help you make informed decisions before then. Meanwhile, have fun browsing through Princeton’s online catalogue of Course Offerings to get a better sense of the incredible range of courses and fields of academic pursuit available to you during your four years of undergraduate study. Jot down the courses you’re most interested in and keep a running list. During your eight semesters of undergraduate education there will be courses you need to take to satisfy various requirements, but ultimately you will get the most out of your time at Princeton if you are enrolled in courses where you are excited about the material and feel passionate about mastering the skills necessary to succeed in your studies.

Choosing Fall Semester Courses – AB program

Between July 21 and August 15th you should fill out an AB program form through our matriculation online system and list your areas of academic interest for the fall term. Be sure to complete this form before August 15th! Your answers to these questions are meant to help begin a conversation with your advisers and to get you thinking about a program of study. A few important things to keep in mind:

Students often plan to take a program similar to the one they had in high school – math, language, English, science – whether they’re interested in all those subjects or not. Why limit yourself that way? We recommend your taking a course in an area that is new to you and that you did not have the opportunity to study before. We also suggest that you consider taking a freshman seminar.

All freshmen must take a Writing Seminar in either the fall or spring term (sorry, you can’t choose which semester). And many freshmen will need to fulfill the foreign language requirement. If you need to start a foreign language at the introductory level, do so right away. If you don’t start the language now you’ll still be taking required language courses in your junior year. If you will be starting a language from the intermediate level (105, 107/108), do that right away as well, before you forget much of what you learned in high school.

Don’t worry too much now about the distribution requirements, and don’t use them as the primary basis for planning your first semester of study.

Balance your workload. Different courses require different kinds of work. Math courses have homework and quizzes, history courses require reading and papers, art courses emphasize the study of visual images. Some courses have weekly assignments, others require a big paper at the end. Mix things up.

Think about possible majors. You won’t choose your major until the end of sophomore year, but don’t wait until then to start thinking about it! If you do think you know your likely major, don’t try to take all the courses at once. Take the prerequisites and perhaps some additional courses, but keep your mind open and explore other areas, too, while you have the chance. Many students intent on majoring in one field take a course in another and discover an entirely new interest. Events in the residential colleges will introduce you to the wealth of programs and resources available through Princeton’s many academic departments and programs. If you’re considering a career in the health professions, visit the Health Professions Advising website for information on academic requirements.

Choosing Fall Semester Courses – BSE program

Between July 21 and August 15th you should fill out a BSE program form through our matriculation online system. Be sure to complete this form before August 15th! Engineering students have more constrained choices for the fall term. The usual fall schedule of a first-year B.S.E. student includes physics, chemistry, and math. Most B.S.E. students take PHY 103 unless they place out of the physics requirement. Some of you will have to take a freshman writing seminar in the fall; others will have a choice for the fourth course, and will likely take an elective in the humanities or social sciences. Don’t take a course with problem sets and quizzes, because you’re going to be doing quite enough of those anyway. A course with reading, writing, and non-quantitative ideas is preferable.


You will meet your faculty adviser, academic dean, director of studies, and peer advisers in your college during Orientation Week. They will all be available to assist you in the process of selecting your courses for the fall term. We then devote several days to the academic advising process at the end of orientation and just before the fall term begins. You will have meetings with your faculty adviser and peer academic advisers to help you refine your course selection and schedule before classes begin. Then we show you how to enroll in courses via TigerHub (Princeton’s Online Course Registration Application).

Changing Courses

After Orientation Week, you still can make changes in your schedule. Sometimes you might find that a course isn’t as interesting as you had hoped or is too hard or easy for you. If appropriate, you can change courses in the first two weeks of class after consulting with an adviser.

We look forward to helping you make your first course selections at Princeton!

Author Profile

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Patrick Caddeau
Dean, Forbes College

As Dean of Forbes College I help students take advantage of the wealth of academic resources and intellectual pursuits available at Princeton. My door in the College Office is always open and I enjoy meeting with students to discuss such things as course selection, academic planning, fellowship applications, study abroad, and deciding on a major. Students also come to meet with me when they need to discuss deadline extensions and general academic concerns. I work with our director of studies to recruit, train, and support the faculty advisers and peer advisers in Forbes. I completed my Ph.D. in Japanese literature at Yale University. Before coming to Princeton I taught at Amherst College and Columbia University. When my schedule allows, I also enjoy teaching courses on Japanese literature and culture in the East Asian Studies department here at Princeton. See my website for more information on academic advising, my courses, and research.

You're likely to see me around campus on my bike, running with my golden retriever CC, or with my family, cheering on the Tigers at many home games.

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