The Process of Choosing Classes

June 3, 2021
Kevin Yeung

Towards the end of every semester, students must answer the age-old question: what classes do I want to take next semester? While course selection seems like an impossible task when you haven’t even finished the current semester’s courses yet, this is a delicate art that all Princeton students come to master. So, I’d like to present you with a guide on how to select your courses.

Choose Classes Based on Your Concentration

This is a great way to get started on filling up your four- or five-course semester. Every concentration has its own set of course requirements tailored to students declaring that area of study. In fact, most departments even provide a sample curriculum or a general path to graduation to help students decide how to split up course loads. Granted, not every first-year student is certain of their concentration upon arriving on campus, but you should take the first two semesters as an opportunity to explore concentrations you might have not considered. Remember that Princeton allows a lot of leeway when it comes to choosing a concentration, so don’t feel like you’re wasting your time if you end up taking a class that’s not the best fit for you. Instead, you are one step closer to discovering your field of interest!

Choose Classes that Sound Exciting to You

I cannot stress this enough! While many of your classes will be taken for your concentration, do not miss out on the unique courses offered here! From “Princeton University Steel Band” to “Yaass Queen: Gay Men, Straight Women, and the Literature, Art, and Film of Hagdom,” there is always some course that attracts the attention of each student. Don’t worry if the class seems out of your comfort zone or intellectually demanding -- first of all, most courses at Princeton are, but more importantly, if you are motivated by your fascination, you will naturally excel in the course. Also, since not every course boasts a catchy title, I encourage you to read all the course descriptions as well to give each course a chance. 

Be Aware of Your Distribution Requirements

Students pursuing a Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) must fulfill general education requirements in addition to taking classes for their concentration. This includes one semester of a writing seminar, demonstrated proficiency in one foreign language, and an assortment of distribution requirements that will broaden a student’s level of knowledge. Overall, these courses may take up a significant amount of space in your schedule, so be sure to spread them out over your four years.

For most students intending on pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Engineering (B.S.E), you will have to take certain math, science and computing courses to prepare you for advanced engineering courses. Your adviser will recommend that you tackle introductory courses first so that you can fulfill most of the prerequisites early on in your Princeton career. And, you will still have room for humanities and social science electives!

Use Online Resources

Princeton’s registrar website has a lot of information and it may feel overwhelming to figure out how to create a balanced schedule for the semester. I recommend that you take advantage of these online resources carefully crafted by Princeton alumni who have faced the same challenges:

  • Princeton Courses: This website allows you to explore course information, ratings and evaluations of courses and professors across different semesters. You can even look up courses by concentration and distribution requirement.
  • Principedia: Once you have found some classes you might be interested in, you could head over to Principedia to read course analyses written by students who have taken these courses before to get a better idea of what to expect.
  • ReCal: This course-selection tool helps you visualize your course schedule in a weekly calendar format. It is incredibly useful to ensure that none of your courses conflict with each other and that you have allocated sufficient time to eat lunch between classes.
  • TigerPath: Finally, this is a tool for planning out your four-year course schedules. Especially if you are ambitiously pursuing multiple certificates or simply want to be well-organized, TigerPath can keep track of all courses you plan to take to ensure that you fulfill all of your concentration requirements.

That’s all I have! If you have any other questions about course selection, please feel free to reach out to me.