I recently celebrated one of the most exciting days for a Princeton student this past April: Declaration Day! This day is when rising juniors “declare” their concentration (Princeton’s version of majors!). Everyone wears their traditional class year sweaters and gathers on Cannon Green to take pictures in front of their department banners. As you can tell from the featured photo, I declared… Anthropology! I’m super excited about my decision, but it certainly isn’t one I came to super easily. Let me tell you about my journey:
Going into my freshman year, I originally thought that I was going to concentrate in Sociology. Truth be told, I wasn’t even really sure what sociology really was, but after perusing the department’s website, it seemed to align with a lot of the fields I was interested in exploring: education, media, non-profit work, etc.
Long story short, I didn’t love it. Sociology just didn’t seem like the right fit for me, perhaps because it wasn’t as people-centric as I’d hoped for. The faculty were really helpful and the courses were interesting, though, so I could definitely see myself taking more classes in the department just for fun.
Following this, I was unsure of what to explore next until a friend of mine suggested that I take a psychology class with her. She was definitely going to be a PSY concentrator, and it was always a field that I was interested in learning more about. So I agreed! I started taking classes like PSY254: Developmental Psychology, PSY309: Psychology of Language, and PSY251: Quantitative Methods. It was the last of these three, a statistics class that was a prerequisite for declaring the concentration, that made me realize why psychology wasn’t a good fit for me either. The field required working with programming languages like R and lots of data visualization and analysis. I’m personally not a huge fan of math or statistics, so I found doing this quantitative work wasn’t as interesting or rewarding for me as qualitative work I experienced in other classes. Having explored two majors now with no luck, I didn’t know where my studies were going to take me.
Enter: Anthropology. As with sociology, I hadn’t really heard of what anthropology was before coming to Princeton. But I had taken two ANT courses during my freshman and sophomore years: ANT311: Food, Culture, and Society and ANT201: Introduction to Anthropology. The former, I absolutely loved! It was taught by Professor Hanna Garth and involved a lot of hands-on activities, such as the one day when we had class outside and did a series of taste testing! Unlike psychology, anthropology also afforded me the opportunity to do a lot more personal, people-centric work. For projects, I got to interview students on campus and family members, as well as conduct human observations for research. All of this felt much more fulfilling and made me excited to learn.
As Declaration Day approached, I was still weighing the pros and cons of each of these three concentrations. Something that I did to help me to make my ultimate decision (which I suggest every student do!) was attend the various open houses for each major. During the spring semester, this is something that every academic department does to help students (not just sophomores!) learn more about each concentration. After going to the ANT, PSY, and SOC open houses, I knew what I wanted to do. Call it a gut feeling or a good vibe, but I really felt like the ANT open house solidified for me that this was the concentration for me. So, on April 14, 2023, I declared Anthropology and haven’t looked back since!
All this to say, you by no means have to come into Princeton knowing exactly what you want to study. In fact, college is the perfect time for students to do the exact opposite: explore! Test out multiple different concentrations and certificates, take classes that genuinely interest you, and find what you’re truly passionate about. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up majoring in something you’d never even heard of!