Choosing a Concentration

April 1, 2020
Roberto Hasbun

Coming to Princeton I was scared to choose a concentration. Taking a look at the academic offerings can be overwhelming, as Princeton offers 37 different concentrations (our word for “major”) and 55 certificate programs, all under two degree programs, Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) or the Bachelor of Science in Engineering (B.S.E.). 

What makes Princeton unique is its flexibility in allowing you to take courses in a variety of academic fields. In fact, you do not have to declare your major until the spring semester of sophomore year, if you are an A.B. student, which gives students plenty of time to decide. I initially thought about becoming a math concentrator but discovered I really liked the history classes offered at Princeton so I decided to switch. I know this decision is never easy, so I compiled a guide to help you in your process of selecting a concentration:

1) Reflect on your high school experience

One great way to start discovering what you like is looking back at your four years of high school. What classes and extracurriculars did you enjoy? I have several friends who always knew they wanted to study engineering because they liked math and other quantitative subjects. At the same time, you should know what you don’t like. I didn’t enjoy taking chemistry in high school and I was not a fan of reading fiction. 

2) Consider your career goals

What do you want to do after graduation? Do you want to become a lawyer, doctor or a historian? The options are endless! Having your career goals in mind is important when selecting your classes. For instance, if you want to attend medical school, you have to fulfill the pre-med requirements. Do note that your concentration does not need to be related to your future job. For example, I have a friend who studied engineering and now works for a non-profit. 

3) Take classes in different fields 

From urban studies to molecular biology, Princeton offers classes in almost all the subjects you can think of. You have to be open to taking classes outside your comfort zone because you never know if you are going to discover a new interest. For example, I took “History of The World” to fulfill the history distribution requirement and liked it so much that I decided to join the department. 

4) Reconsider your interests

Did you know that more than half of students change their concentration at least once during their four years at Princeton? So odds are that you might not stick with your intended field of study and that is ok. You just have to be open to learning from new experiences and understand that your interests might change as you become older. Discover what you like and what you don’t like, and enjoy the process. Once you join your respective department, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that this is what you really want to study.