How to Select Courses

The registrar for spring courses came out not too long ago. It’s time to start thinking about course selection!

Each semester, Princeton offers over 1,000 courses, taught in over 100 departments and programs, over a range of 8 distributions by professors who have served as Presidents, been awarded Nobel Prizes, made groundbreaking discoveries in their fields, and received Pulitzer Prizes. At Princeton, each course is not just a series of lessons; courses are opportunities–opportunities to travel, to get to know professors, to learn methods for independent work, to explore your interests.

With so much available each semester, how does one pick just 4 or 5 courses to take?

Here is a guide to Princeton’s (many) resources for selecting courses. Included are reviews of different online applications for course searching and scheduling and a few general tips of advice.

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Guide to the Rare Books and Special Collections

On Friday morning, I encountered a manuscript no historian had studied before. I was on the C Floor of Firestone in the Rare Books and Special Collections Reading Room, finding it hard to believe my luck. I had asked Gabriel Swift, the Reference Librarian for Special Collections, if he knew of any interesting primary sources connected to my Junior Paper topic, an 1805 Lenape religious revival led by a woman named Beate. In response, he connected me with this new acquisition, a handwritten journal from 1774. Just this year, he explained, the University had purchased it at auction in Paris. And because it was from a private collection, the source was previously unknown to academics.

“‘Journal of the Expedition down the River Ohio Under the Command of his Excellency John Earl of Dunmore Lieutenant and Governor General of his Majesty’s Colony and Dominion of Virginia 1774.”

This is just one example of the magic of Princeton’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC).

According to the RBSC website, “its holdings span five millennia and five continents, and include around 300,000 rare or significant printed works.”

With just a few simple steps, you can see one of the first “Wanted” posters for John Wilkes Booth, Beethoven’s music manuscripts, or Woodrow Wilson’s love letters. It is one of the most fabulous and underutilized research resources on campus – especially for historians. As undergraduates, we have nearly complete access to the collections. Continue reading Guide to the Rare Books and Special Collections

Dealing with Stress

At Princeton I often find myself overwhelmed by my workload, behind on assignments and readings, and struggling to prepare for exams. When work piles up, it is necessary to work as efficiently as possible to meet deadlines, but it can be really challenging to work productively when you are feeling overworked. Princeton’s heavy workloads are often a source of stress–here are a few strategies that help me when I am struggling:

Conducting good research requires many skills which we learn throughout our Princeton careers. Self care is one of the most important skills, but it is easy to overlook with so many other academic demands.

Go outside and exercise:

If you can’t concentrate on your work or feel low energy, taking a half hour break from working to go for a walk or a jog can help clear your head while also jump-starting your blood flow. Being outside gets me back in contact with the rest of the world and helps me escape coursework induced myopia. I like to go to Mountain Lakes nature preserve, which has a small network of hiking trails and a few picturesque ponds. The ponds are great for a (very) cold swim, and the forest has beautiful foliage in the fall.

I first visited Mountain Lakes preserve my freshman fall, while doing a field project in EEB 321 Ecology: Species interactions, biodiversity, and society. Now it is my go-to place to get off  campus, go for a run or a swim, and check out beautiful fall foliage.

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How to Pick a Second WWS JP Topic when Your First One Doesn’t Work Out

Woodrow Wilson building
Woodrow Wilson building

If you read my previous post, you’ll remember that I recently went through the process of picking my JP topic. If you’re reading this post, you’ll see that I’m going through this process for a second time after realizing my first topic wasn’t going to work out–my professor told me my topic was too general and not empirical enough. Hearing this was a shock, because I had spent so much time developing my first topic that my enthusiasm and excitement made me blind to the paper’s flaws. However, hearing this negative feedback made me realize I had to take a step back and look at my paper with fresh eyes. Continue reading How to Pick a Second WWS JP Topic when Your First One Doesn’t Work Out

How to Get Ready to Study for Midterms

Identifying a suitable study location is one important aspect of getting ready for midterms week.

It’s hard to believe, but Fall 2018 midterms are coming up. Perhaps your professors have begun to talk about past exams or paper topics. Or maybe you’re just looking at some ominous exam dates on the syllabus, poised like a roadblock between you and the glorious week of Fall Break. Friends, I’m here to tell you that it’s going to be alright. Whether these are your first fall midterms or your last (!), this post will share some surefire strategies that you can use to get yourself ready for the first major round of testing of the academic year. While I will share some specific study strategies, I’ll mainly focus on steps you can take to get yourself ready to study. That way, when the studying actually begins, you’ll have greater peace of mind knowing that you have an overall plan for the week. Continue reading How to Get Ready to Study for Midterms

Your New Favorite (Free) Online Resource

Have you ever wanted to learn how to use Photoshop? How to write code in multiple programming languages? How to use Excel? InDesign? Adobe Illustrator?

My new favorite online resource.

This semester, as part of my Urban Studies Certificate, I’m taking ARC 205, an interdisciplinary architectural design studio. Like most studio classes, we meet for six hours a week to develop our drawing, design, and analysis skills. Each week our instructors present us with a new drawing assignment designed to improve our architectural analysis skills. Pretty much everything we’re learning in this class is totally new to me. I’ve never really drawn – aside from doodles on my notes – and most of our assignments are far outside of my comfort zone. There hasn’t yet been a week when I’ve felt confident about my work, but in the past week, I’ve discovered a resource that might change that.

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Developing Open Spaces on Campus: Spatial Analysis of Princeton Land Use

Last year, Princeton announced a plan to expand the University by 2026, adding another residential college and building new athletic facilities on the south side of Lake Carnegie. In what ways will this latest expansion transform our campus, and how does that change fit with the university’s historic land use? These are the questions that my twin brother, GEO senior Benjy Getraer, set out to answer last year in a class project for GEO 90 “Analyzing Ecological Integrity: An Assessment of Princeton’s Natural Areas.”

Research often involves a spatial dimension–you want to find out not only what is happening but also where. This is an important component in many disciplines: political scientists want to know how voting results breakdown by precinct or change over time; linguists may want to understand how dialects vary regionally; climate scientists want to know how much different parts of the globe are warming

To address these types of large-scale research objectives or answer smaller questions such as Benjy’s, you can use Geographic Information System (GIS) software to display, edit, and analyze geospatial data. Spatial analysis provides a unique way to study data and add diversity to figures and data visualization. In this post I will introduce basic concepts of geospatial data and one application of GIS analysis by walking through Benjy’s project, mapping land use change on Princeton’s campus.

Benjy Getraer ’19 analyzed historical imagery of Princeton’s campus to track land use change over the past 75+ years. The first step was to align the original overhead photography by geo-referencing the raster images.

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How to Write a Precept Response

Having a pen in hand (and using it with some frequency) will set you up for active reading.

The precept response is a veritable Princeton institution, right there alongside Reunions, long nights in the library, and overly-friendly sidewalk squirrels. Somehow, I didn’t encounter this special form of assignment—where, as the name suggests, you “respond” to that week’s readings—until my sophomore year, but now I feel as though these responses set the rhythm of my academic week. On Mondays I’m responding to readings for a seminar on mythology. Wednesdays, for a history of science course. And Fridays, for a junior colloquium in Religion. Yes, friends, I cannot escape the precept response, and if you’ve read this far, I suspect you cannot either. As a celebration of our shared weekly assignment,  I’d like to offer some tidbits of accumulated wisdom for completing the precept response. Continue reading How to Write a Precept Response

How to Pick a JP Topic in a Research Seminar You Know Nothing About

Robertson Hall, home of the Woodrow Wilson School

As a concentrator in the Woodrow Wilson School, I have finally reached the much-discussed junior year, a year full of research seminars, task forces, and not one, but two JPs. Before the semester started, I was given a list of 8 to 10 research seminars and asked to rank my preferences. I’m interested in researching race and discrimination, but the limited selection meant that none of my options exactly matched up to this. Now I’m in a seminar about Maternal and Child Health in the U.S., and I have to face the nerve-wracking question: how do I pick a JP topic in a subject I’m totally unfamiliar with? For me, the first step started with a simple attitude change.

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Flexibility of Research: What to Do When You Feel like You’ve Hit a Dead End

Research can be a truly thrilling experience–interesting data, new findings, surprising collections. However, research can also be incredibly frustrating, namely when you feel like your work isn’t going anywhere.

If you’ve ever been really excited about a topic, done a load of research, and still found that you aren’t making forward progress, this post is for you. I’m talking about hitting tough obstacles in your research–walls you can’t seem to get over–reaching what seems like a dead end.

I’ve been there before (oh more times than I would like to admit), and what I’ve found is that normally, this frustrating lack of a solution is not an indicator that your research is ‘wrong’ or isn’t worthwhile. In fact, it might actually mean that there is another question buried in your topic that needs to be addressed primarily. Continue reading Flexibility of Research: What to Do When You Feel like You’ve Hit a Dead End