I’ve loved following politics since I was a kid — as early as middle school, I would come home in the afternoons from school and turn the TV to political commentary while I did my homework. Accordingly, I’m sure it came as a surprise to no one who knows me when I decided to pick Politics as my major at Princeton, even though it wasn’t what I thought I would pick when I first stepped on campus. However, declaring Politics is one of the best choices I’ve made at Princeton, and I can’t imagine my university experience without it.
Students who come to Princeton interested in politics and political science tend to choose between two departments: Politics and the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA), although some of my classmates who care most deeply about those subjects choose to concentrate in totally unrelated areas. While SPIA is an interdisciplinary program that spans politics as well as history, sociology, and economics, Politics is more precisely focused on political science and theory. Students generally choose Politics over SPIA or vice-versa because of personal subject matter preference, rather than any (likely non-existent) employability or graduate school-related concerns.
There are also a number of ways to get involved with activities concerning politics, political science or government outside of the classroom. Whig-Clio is Princeton’s umbrella extracurricular political group. Organized within it are the Princeton Debate Panel, Princeton Mock Trial, Princeton Model Congress and more. Even if you don’t want to directly be involved in these sorts of extracurricular activities, Whig-Clio regularly hosts guest speaker events and even Presidential debate watch parties that are open to the whole student body. Outside of this organizing structure are the Princeton College Democrats and the Princeton College Republicans, which are rather directly tied to American political parties and offer community to politically like-minded undergrads.
If you’re a writer, Princeton has a ton of outlets for you to share your beliefs. Perhaps two of the most prominent are The Princeton Progressive (known to students as “The Prog”), which terms itself “Princeton’s only left publication,” and The Princeton Tory, characterized on its website as “the leading Princeton publication of conservative thought.” Other publications like the Princeton Legal Journal, the Nassau Weekly and even The Daily Princetonian aren’t overtly political in nature but provide fora for students to express their opinions.
Many students either email me or ask me on my tours about what it’s like to study politics in college, since it’s a subject not usually taught in high schools. I can’t speak to what it’s like everywhere — but at Princeton, it’s been an exceedingly fulfilling experience.