Our curriculum encourages students to explore many disciplines and to develop a deep understanding in one area of concentration.
Students apply to Princeton University, not to individual departments, programs or schools. Once enrolled, students may pursue either the Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) or the Bachelor of Science in Engineering (B.S.E.) degree. Within these degree programs, students can choose from among 37 concentrations (computer science offers both A.B. and B.S.E.) and 53 interdepartmental certificate programs. The A.B. includes concentrations in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the School of Architecture.
During their first two years at Princeton, students in the A.B. program are encouraged to explore the curriculum. They are required to complete one or two courses in each of seven general areas: epistemology and cognition, ethical thought and moral values, historical analysis, literature and the arts, quantitative reasoning, laboratory science and technology, and social analysis. All A.B. students must demonstrate proficiency in English composition through a one-semester writing seminar. They also must become proficient in a foreign language. Princeton offers courses in more than 18 foreign languages. In the spring of their sophomore year, students choose a major to pursue in their junior and senior years.
The B.S.E. is granted by the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Approximately 25 percent of each class is enrolled in the B.S.E. program. At the end of their first year, engineers choose to concentrate in one of the six engineering departments.
In their first two years, students in the engineering program fulfill requirements in mathematics, physics, chemistry and computer science, as well as taking a freshman writing seminar. Engineering at Princeton is taught within the context of a liberal arts approach to education. Engineering students are required to complete at least seven Princeton courses in the humanities and social sciences. Because engineering disciplines evolve and change, much of the teaching of engineering and applied science at Princeton is directed toward mastering fundamental principles: the why and not just the how to.
Whether they are in the A.B. program or the B.S.E. program, during their junior and senior years all students conduct independent research in their home department, culminating in the senior thesis, working one-on-one with a faculty mentor. Some students conduct their research in the library or the lab. Others travel to do field research or undertake a creative project such as a novel or a series of paintings.
The freshman seminars and the precept system are two defining components of a Princeton education. Limited to 15 students and led by some of our most distinguished professors, approximately 70 freshman seminars are offered yearly, each hosted in one of our six residential colleges.
Most lecture courses at Princeton include a precept, a small discussion group that meets weekly to further explore the topics from a course’s lectures and readings. In precepts, students are encouraged to voice their views and challenge each other to look at issues and ideas from new perspectives.
The student to faculty ratio at Princeton is 5:1. From freshman seminars to senior theses, faculty are deeply engaged in undergraduate teaching, and they are readily available to students outside the classroom for individual conferences and informal conversations.