Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Peyton Lawrenz ’19

Santa Fe, New Mexico • Politics View Profile

Course Selection: Choice and Exploration

How a liberal arts education has helped me explore the unfamiliar
While the end of the semester means the onset of final projects, papers and exams, the end of the term also means course selection! Course selection is one of the most exciting seasons of the year because it is an opportunity to choose to explore the unfamiliar, to embark on new challenges and to indulge in curiosity. 
Princeton is unique in its ability to offer the resources and quality of a research institution, while maintaining intimate class sizes, strong faculty-student-relationships and the values of expansive intellectual exploration embedded in the liberal arts model. This valued approach means that students are encouraged and required to take courses across disciplines. Each discipline offers a unique mode of thinking, each providing unique analytical tools that shape the way that you approach and seek to answer questions. 
At Princeton, there is only one obligatory course: the first year Writing Seminar. Additionally, students are required to fulfill distribution requirements and departmental requirements. Although there are “required courses” beyond the writing seminar, for every other requirement, students are given complete latitude in course selection. While the Bachelor of Arts (AB) and the Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSE) programs have slightly different requirements, both share the structure and philosophy of the liberal arts model. Through the system of distribution requirements, all students are required to take a certain number of courses that fit into each distributional area, ranging from Epistemology and Cognition to Historical Analysis to Science and Technology.  However, since Princeton offers thousands of courses each semester and most courses fit into different distributional areas, the system is flexible and most students are able to fulfill their requirements naturally over the course of their eight semesters at Princeton. 
Each semester, course selection is an opportunity to take Princeton up on the offer to explore questions that I want to understand, to seek out challenges in disciplines that intimidate me and to question the approaches as well as the questions that I have been taught before. 
As a Politics major, this past semester, I looked to diversify my knowledge and answer new questions about the intersections between politics and art, history and culture. As I look forward to next semester, I am interested in delving into questions and challenges that I saw come up again and again in my courses this semester.