Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Dom Olivera ’19

Bristow, Virginia • Woodrow Wilson School View Profile

Freedom to Explore

One of my favorite statistics about Princeton is one which states that 70 percent of students change their major from the time they declare a potential concentration on the application, to the degree they obtain when they graduate. Part of this is due to the simple fact that very few 18-year-olds know what they want to do with the rest of their lives, but a larger part of this phenomenon is that Princeton allows you the freedom to explore your interests and passions and perhaps find new ones.

Princeton’s curriculum, specifically for those pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree, is designed to support and encourage a sense of exploration. Having two years to declare a concentration gives you a chance to take courses that you are interested in or that you may not have had exposure to before. In addition, the way that distribution requirements are organized, requires that you take courses in different areas rather than specific courses, and allows students to take the courses they find interesting instead of being required to fulfill general education requirements. These distribution requirements can even open the door to discovering a new passion or help students as they decide on their concentration.

During my first year while I was pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree, I took a class to fulfill my Historical Analysis requirement called “Europe in the World: Monarchies, Nations, and Empires From 1776 to the Present Day.” I had a fantastic professor and a wonderful preceptor for the class, and it started me on a track toward concentrating in the Woodrow Wilson School as I realized that I enjoyed that history class far more than my math or science courses. I took a few more classes in the humanities the following semester and ended up transferring out of the School of Engineering at the end of my fall semester sophomore year. If I had gone to another school, I may not have even had the opportunity to take that history course, and I would have been stuck in a department that I felt wasn’t a good fit for me. However, because of Princeton’s encouragement to explore, I was able to switch into a department that was a better match for my academic interests.

An undergraduate education is supposed to be about exploration. Your college years are a time to find out who you are, what you enjoy, and which path you want to take in life, and I am beyond grateful to attend a university which wholeheartedly embraces this spirit of exploration.