Special Features of the Undergraduate Program

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

Study Abroad Program

The Study Abroad Program enables qualified students to spend either one term or a full academic year abroad for Princeton credit. The program is open to spring-term sophomores, juniors in either or both terms, and first-semester seniors. No student may study abroad in their final semester of enrollment. To qualify for term-time study abroad, an applicant must meet the minimum grade requirement established by the Faculty Committee on Examinations and Standing, normally a grade point average of 3.00 for the fall and spring terms of the academic year prior to studying abroad, and must present evidence of competence in the target language when applying to most programs in non-English-speaking countries. Approval to study abroad is also contingent on being in good academic standing at the University. Students on financial aid at Princeton will continue to receive aid commensurate to their need while participating in the Study Abroad Program.

Students should discuss their plans for study abroad with the staff of the Office of International Programs and, when appropriate (i.e., pre-declaration), with their Assistant Dean for Studies, no later than the beginning of the term prior to the proposed period of study overseas (but it is recommended to do so much earlier for the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge due to their early application deadlines). The Study Abroad Program approves requests for study abroad on behalf of the Faculty Committee on Examinations and Standing. Normally, the deadlines for submitting proposals to study abroad are the last Friday in April for the following fall term or academic year and mid-October for the following spring term (except for Oxford and Cambridge, for which deadlines are earlier).

Applicants must submit in Princeton University’s Global Programs System (GPS): a program application, a list of proposed courses (the "Course Approval Form") signed by the appropriate academic approvers, and, if an upper-level student, a plan for completing independent work while abroad. As part of the application process, the director of undergraduate studies in a student's major must approve the program of study and arrangements for completing independent work.

The regular rules for degree progress apply to students while they are participating in term-time study abroad. All students studying abroad must enroll in the equivalent of four Princeton credits each term, and in any event, if extenuating circumstances arise while abroad, never drop below three credits. Credit for term-time study abroad depends on the completion of approved courses with the equivalent of a grade of D or better (or, in those cases in which the host system may not feature a grade of D, whatever passing grade is above the D grade, which is normally in the C range). Grades for courses completed at other universities abroad must be certified by an official transcript from the host school or similar report. Independent work, if required, must also be conducted while studying abroad according to a student’s departmental requirements and must be submitted by the assigned deadline.

Students returning from a semester or year of study abroad may provisionally enroll in Princeton courses for the subsequent semester, pending confirmation of the study abroad grades. However, if late-reported grades from a study abroad term indicate that normal degree progress requirements have not been met, the student may be required to withdraw, cancelling the provisional enrollment.   

Study abroad for Princeton credit is also possible during the summer, either through Princeton-sponsored programs or programs offered by other institutions. All courses taken through other institutions must be preapproved for credit. Students on a leave of absence may also earn limited credits through another institution. A student taking a preapproved non-Princeton course for transfer credit, either during the summer or while on leave, must earn at least a C to receive credit for the course. For courses transferred from another institution located abroad during the summer or while on leave, the general criteria for transfer credit apply, and can be found on the ODOC website.

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 director of undergraduate studies 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. Undergraduates enrolled in graduate courses are held to all academic standing and examination policies that apply to undergraduates. Graduate courses do not satisfy undergraduate distribution area requirements.

Summer Internship Milestone Credit

With the support of their department, students who have declared a major may apply to receive academic credit for certain summer internship experiences, which would be recorded on their transcript. The Milestone conveys academic credit but not course credit, and therefore does not replace any departmental or graduation requirements. Qualifying summer internships must be least six weeks in length, and the experience must be directly related to the student’s major (certificate programs are ineligible). Normally, the Milestone is only available to enrolled students who have successfully completed the spring term prior to the relevant summer period.  Students do not receive credit for internships undertaken during the academic year. 

Students who wish to earn the IMC for an approved summer internship must submit verification that the internship was completed, along with any additional work required by their department, prior to the start of the fall term. For international students who are also approved for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) work authorization, failure to submit the required IMC documentation by this deadline may constitute a violation of status. International students who are in violation of their status will not be permitted to continue their studies past the University’s drop/add deadline, and will be required to take a leave of absence. International students should consult the Davis International Center for more information about CPT regulations and their status.

Auditing a Course

A student may be permitted to audit a single course in any term, provided that the course permits the audit grading option and the student receives permission from the course instructor. Prior to enrolling in a course on an audit basis, a student should confirm the instructor's 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. A course enrollment sheet, signed by the student's dean or assistant dean, must be submitted to the Registrar's office prior to the drop deadline in the ninth week of the term in order to select the audit grading option.

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.

Princeton Summer Programs

All first-year, sophomore, and junior students in good standing are eligible to apply for Princeton-sponsored summer programs (credit-bearing and co-curricular) for a maximum of three summers. Graduating seniors are ineligible for Princeton summer funding after graduation. 

Summer Eligibility for Students on Leave

Students on leave for spring through fall terms are not eligible to participate in Princeton-sponsored summer programs or to receive Princeton funding for the summer they are on leave.

A student who is on leave in the spring term and eligible to return for the fall term may petition for early reinstatement to participate in a Princeton-sponsored summer program or receive summer funding.  Note that this is possible only if they have NOT participated in a Princeton-sponsored program or received Princeton funding during the summer preceding their leave. Students who have conditions on their reinstatement in the fall may not be eligible for early reinstatement, and hence not eligible for Princeton-sponsored summer programs or funding.

Students on leave who believe they are eligible to participate in Princeton-sponsored summer programs and funding should contact their residential college dean to confirm their eligibility before they submit their application. Program administrators and funding sources on campus should only consider a student currently on leave for participation in a summer activity if they have received email confirmation from a student’s residential college dean that the student is eligible.

Full-time Commitment Summer Activities

Students are responsible for knowing which of the Princeton-sponsored activities they are participating in are full-time programs (i.e., more than 35 hours per week), meaning that the student is not allowed to accept Princeton funding for additional activities during the same time period. Accepting funds for two overlapping activities when one or both of them is a full-time commitment can result in disciplinary action. Contact your program administrator to confirm the specific requirements for that program or opportunity.

Requirement to Disclose Total Award to Funding Departments

Students may, upon approval from both funding sources, combine a course and/or internship and/or Princeton-supported research during the same period of time. However, students should not accept funding from multiple sources for the same expenses (i.e., airfare, room and board). If students receive multiple awards, they must disclose the total amount of funding to all of their funding sources so that the budget can be adjusted if appropriate. Students who would like assistance with this process can reach out to [email protected]. Neglecting to disclose all funding to all funding sources, or accepting funding for which the total amount exceeds the requested amount without documentation of additional need, could result in disciplinary action.

Princeton Summer Course Policies

Some departments and programs offer summer courses for Princeton students, normally by application only. The length of summer programs varies by course and location. Students should consult the sponsoring department or program directly for details about particular offerings. The following policies concern courses offered by Princeton during the summer period.

Grading and Withdrawal Policy

If a summer course permits students to elect the P/D/F option, students must do so by the established course deadline, which is normally three-quarters of the way through the summer course.  After the deadline to elect the P/D/F grading option, students are held responsible for completing all courses in which they are enrolled and are assigned final grades in those courses unless they are given permission to withdraw, normally due to a sudden health or personal emergency. 

If a student is given permission to withdraw after the deadline to elect the P/D/F option, the course will appear on the student’s transcript with a “W.” A student who must withdraw from one Princeton summer course after the deadline to elect the P/D/F option will normally be withdrawn from all Princeton summer courses in which the student is enrolled. Students may not withdraw from any courses after the last day of class. 

Undergraduate students are not permitted to audit Princeton courses during the summer.

Summer Course Credit Maximum

An undergraduate student may earn no more than two units of Princeton course credit in any given summer, regardless of whether the credit is granted by a Princeton-sponsored program or conferred as transfer credit from other U.S. or overseas schools.

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

Students may, with prior approval, take courses at other accredited four-year colleges and universities in the United States 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.  Students may not take courses for transfer credit during winter break.

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 assistant dean for 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.  Applications for course approvals are available online.

A student may not earn more than two units of transfer credit during a term of leave, and may not enroll in such courses while simultaneously taking term-time courses at Princeton.  A student may earn both transfer credit and Princeton course credit during the summer period, but may not earn more than a combined two units of credit during any given summer.

Students may, subject to these same provisions, enroll in courses in overseas countries for Princeton credit. Students taking courses in other countries must obtain the prior approval of their director of undergraduate studies and the senior associate dean for international programs 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. Normally, eligibility for this program is limited to seniors. 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 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 director of undergraduate studies 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 Major

A student may begin to major in a department in sophomore year in order to begin their independent work prior to the junior year. Early majors who are qualified to do so engage in independent work during the second term of sophomore year in addition to the usual four courses. Participation in early majors 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 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 director of undergraduate studies and the residential college dean or assistant dean.

Independent Major

Students with academic interests that cannot adequately be served by existing departmental majors and interdepartmental programs may apply to the Independent Major Program. An independent major 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 important, 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 minor or certificate program. For this reason, proposals to major in a certificate or minor 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 majors 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 major in one particular area does not ensure the same outcome for other applicants in subsequent years. Independent majors must still fulfill the writing, language, and distribution requirements.

Proposals for an independent major should be developed in consultation with the student’s residential college dean and 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 major, and usually in their 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 course load, prospective applicants must demonstrate that they cannot reasonably pursue their creative commitments without a modification of their course load 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 course load to accommodate their additional work and studies, they must complete all requirements for their departmental major, 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 years 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.