Special Features of the Undergraduate Program

In addition to the more standard courses offerings described earlier, students may also participate in specially designed courses and programs that offer a variety of different formats. These include:

Reading Courses

With the support and guidance of a faculty member, a student may propose a reading course in an area not normally offered as a regular part of the curriculum if it complements the student's academic program. Such courses are set up as tutorials and count as regular courses. Students develop syllabi for such courses in consultation with the instructor, and are expected to meet weekly with the instructor--generally for two to three hours per week. Such courses are not a rubric for departmental independent work. They do not satisfy distribution requirements but may be counted as departmental courses. Students are normally limited to one per term. Students interested in applying for a Reading Course must do so through the Office of the Dean of the College.

Student-Initiated Seminars

Students may propose seminars on topics of special interest to them to the Committee on the Course of Study. In making such applications, the initiators develop reading lists and formal structures for the course and solicit the participation of a member or members of the faculty. If approved, student-initiated seminars count as regular courses within an individual's program of study. They do not satisfy distribution requirements. Inquiries should be directed to the Office of the Dean of the College.

Recent student-initiated seminars have included Computer Graphics and Rendering, The History of Welfare, Contemporary American Indians, Transition in the Caribbean, and Concept Design.

Graduate Courses

Undergraduates of high academic standing are encouraged to enroll in graduate courses that are well suited to their programs of study. A student wishing to enroll in a graduate course should obtain approval from the instructor of the course, as well as from the appropriate departmental representative and residential college dean. Undergraduates must submit written graded work for graduate courses, and all assignments must be completed by dean's date unless prior approval for an extension is granted by a residential college dean. Graduate courses do not satisfy undergraduate distribution area requirements.

Auditing a Course

A student is permitted to audit a single course in any term. Prior to enrolling in a course on an audit basis, a student should discuss with the course professor the requirements for receiving audit credit. This typically involves writing a course paper or successfully completing the final examination, but requirements vary from course to course. If the requirements are satisfied, the course will appear on the transcript with the grade of "Audit." If a student fails to meet the audit credit requirements, the course is automatically dropped from the student's academic record. Courses completed in this way may not be included in the basic departmental program of study, may not be used to satisfy University distribution requirements, and do not count toward the number of courses required for graduation, for advancement to the next year of study, or for the minimum number of courses needed in a term.

Off-Campus Study--Individual Courses at Other U.S. or Foreign Schools

Students may, with prior approval, take courses at other accredited four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. to remove course deficiencies, satisfy certain distribution area requirements, and, with special permission, satisfy departmental or program requirements. These courses may be taken either during the summer or in terms when the student is not enrolled at Princeton. Except for students participating in special programs, such as study abroad, an A.B. student may take no more than three of the 31 courses required for graduation at another school, while a B.S.E. student may take no more than four of the required 36 at another school. All such courses must be approved by a residential college dean or a director of studies prior to enrollment. Courses taken at other schools under these provisions will not under any circumstances reduce the number of terms of study needed to graduate from Princeton. A student may not take more than two such courses in a given summer and may not enroll in such courses while simultaneously taking courses at Princeton. Applications for course approvals are available in the residential college offices.

Students may, subject to these same provisions, enroll in courses in foreign countries for Princeton credit. Students taking courses in other countries must obtain the prior approval of their departmental representative and Dean Nancy Kanach in the Office of International Programs.

Off-Campus Study--Rutgers/Princeton Theological Seminary/Westminster Choir

On recommendation of the dean of the college, students may take courses during the academic year at any of these three schools for Princeton credit and free of charge if such courses are not offered at Princeton. Courses taken at these schools do not satisfy distribution area requirements, but they may be used to satisfy departmental requirements and do count toward the number of courses needed in a term, to advance to the next year of study, and to meet the overall number of courses needed to graduate. Princeton students do not receive course credit for piano, organ or vocal instruction taken through Westminster Choir College.

Off-Campus Study--Full-Time Study at Other U.S. Colleges and Universities

In exceptional circumstances, one term of academic study in the junior year or the fall term of senior year at another college or university in the United States may be counted toward the Princeton degree. Such approval is rarely granted and is restricted to those situations in which a student's program of study cannot be met by Princeton courses. Students wishing to explore this option must obtain the approval of their departmental representative and present a proposal to the Faculty Committee on Examinations and Standing prior to enrolling at another school. Under no circumstances will permission be granted retroactively.

Early Departmental Concentration

A student may begin to concentrate in a department in the sophomore year. Early concentrators who are qualified to do so engage in independent work during the second term of the sophomore year in addition to the usual four courses. Participation in early concentration does not bind students to a department, and they are free as juniors to enter any other department for which they may be qualified. A grade for the junior paper written in the sophomore year will appear on the transcript. This grade will remain on the transcript even if the student ultimately enters a different department. A student interested in this option should discuss course selection and independent work topics with the appropriate departmental representative and the residential college dean or director of studies.

Independent Concentration

Students with academic interests that cannot adequately be served by existing departmental concentrations and interdepartmental programs may apply to the Independent Concentration Program. An independent concentrator designs a rigorous and coherent program of studies with the support of at least two faculty advisers, choosing eight or more upper-level courses in the major field.  In order to ensure continuity of the student’s academic experience, at least one of the two supporting faculty advisers must be a member of the regular, permanent faculty.

Most importantly, applicants must make a compelling case for why the proposed plan of study could not reasonably be pursued within one of Princeton’s existing departments, or in combination with an established certificate program.  For this reason, proposals to major in a certificate program or to orient one’s studies around a particular senior thesis topic are rarely approved. 

In light of Princeton’s demanding independent work requirements, successful independent concentrators must demonstrate that their proposed plan of study coheres around a defined methodology and that ample courses and faculty resources exist to support the student for two years.  Successful proposals are focused, specific, and built on the promise of interdisciplinary productivity rather than replacing particular departmental requirements.  An applicant for the program must have a strong overall academic record (including a minimum 3.0 GPA) and demonstrate the high levels of motivation and self-reliance that are essential for completing two years of coursework without the structure of an academic department.  Due to the highly individualized nature of all of these factors, approval for an independent concentration in one particular area does not ensure the same outcome for other applicants in subsequent years.  Independent concentrators must still fulfill the writing, foreign language, and distribution requirements.

Proposals for an independent concentration should be developed in consultation with the student’s residential college dean and are submitted to the Deputy Dean of the College by December 15 of the applicant’s sophomore year.  Proposals will be reviewed by a subcommittee of the Faculty Committee on Course of Study and the Faculty Committee on Examinations and Standing for consideration for approval. Students will be notified of the subcommittee’s decision no later than February 1.

Field Study

The Field Study Program allows a very small number of students either to work full time or conduct full-time research in areas closely related to their academic interests. Field study substitutes for one term at Princeton. Students accepted in the program who wish to pursue a work experience are expected to hold responsible positions in a government agency or private firm or organization; they must secure the position themselves and may undertake nonpaying as well as salaried work. Individual projects differ widely; recent ones have included campaigning in local elections, conducting biological research in a private laboratory, and interning in a congressional office. The academic component of a field study proposal is as important as the job assignment. Students are expected to work closely with an academic adviser, both in preparing proposals and while engaged in the program, and will normally complete several papers or projects analyzing their experiences and demonstrating their knowledge of the relevant theoretical literature.

Field study applications are available from the Office of the Dean of the College. Proposals should be developed in consultation with the academic adviser and the academic dean responsible for the program. Admission to the program is granted by the Faculty Committee on Examinations and Standing. Applications are due by May 15 for fall-term proposals and by December 1 for spring-term proposals.

University Scholar Program

The University Scholar Program is designed for a very small group of students with outstanding and demonstrated talent in a creative field that requires a substantial commitment of time away from campus and that cannot be pursued within regular curricular or co-curricular structures. Applicants must first receive the approval of the Deputy Dean of the College, after which they may apply to the Faculty Committee on Examinations and Standing to be considered for formal admission to the program.  In order to ensure that students are making adequate degree progress, students are typically admitted to the program only after they have declared a concentration, and usually in the junior or senior year. In order to apply for the University Scholar Program, students must demonstrate the following:

1. A strong academic record at Princeton, including a minimum GPA of 3.0. 

2. Exceptional talent and accomplishment in a creative field.  University scholars are typically considered for the program only after receiving a highly selective or competitive award, such as a professional engagement in a musical or theatrical performance.

3. A plan of study or professional development that does not fit within the requirements of the normal curriculum.  In order to qualify for a reduced courseload, prospective applicants must demonstrate that they cannot reasonably pursue their creative commitments without a modification of their courseload during a particular term.

4. Strong support of the student's program by three faculty members, one of whom will serve as the student’s adviser.  The student’s adviser should normally be a member of the regular faculty and have expertise in the student’s field of accomplishment.

Students are first admitted to the University Scholar Program for a single term in order to pursue special projects while carrying a reduced course load; students may apply to renew their admission to the program on a term-to-term basis.  Although University scholars carry a reduced courseload to accommodate their additional work and studies, they must complete all requirements for their departmental concentration, and students will be exempt from some distribution requirements only in exceptional circumstances. 

A University scholar must complete a minimum of 25 Princeton courses (with a minimum of three courses in each term of the sophomore and junior year and a minimum of five courses in the senior year). A University scholar who is eligible for advanced standing may take only one term away from Princeton and must complete a minimum of 22 courses at Princeton.