It’s always a mixed bag of emotions when it comes to course selection. Personally, I find the period between when the next semester’s courses are released and before the course selection date to be especially fun—I can play around with the different ideal schedules (potentially having no-class Fridays and no night classes), look ahead to the rest of the courses that I’ll be taking during my time here, and discover new classes. Whether people end up choosing to take classes to fulfill requirements, classes that interest them, or classes that could teach them important skills, an important aspect in choosing courses for the upcoming semester is course planning. TigerApps is a group of student developers that builds apps to improve the campus life experience for Princeton students. One of the TigerApps created is ReCal, which is the most popular way to aid in course planning and ensure a smooth process for course selection. Recently, TigerJunction ReCal+, an application for course planning inspired by ReCal and designed to be an “improved” version, has made its rounds among students. As course selection season is upon us, I wanted to take the opportunity to show how I plan my courses for the next semester and provide an in-depth comparison between ReCal and TigerJunction ReCal+ to inform how other students plan their courses for the upcoming semesters.
Unfortunately, many of us will experience burnout sometime during our four years here at Princeton. For those of you who may not have heard this term before, the definition is in its name: burnout involves losing that spark of motivation that previously might have kept you pushing forward through your workload. Keep in mind that burnout is distinct from things like anxiety or depression that may also be impacting your academic performance in a similar way. If you think you are struggling with these instead, you can contact Princeton’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) to seek longer-term professional help. They also offer urgent consultations for more immediate situations. Burnout specifically deals much more with the ebbs and flows that can happen as stress builds over the course of a semester. Thankfully, there are many ways to combat and minimize the negative effects of burnout. If you have a few overdue assignments, slept through a few lectures, or just generally feel you are not quite as on top of things as you may have been when the semester began, here are some of my tips for getting out of an academic slump.
Even before stepping foot on campus, I had already heard of the challenges that came with the Writing Seminar, the first-year writing requirement. Students are able to rank by preference several Writing Seminars covering different topics, which have included topics such as WRI 116: Sustainable Futures and WRI 159: Gray Matter. In each of these Writing Seminars, students develop their writing skills through a research focus, writing three research papers throughout the semester. As Writing Seminars are such a widely discussed topic for first-years and there is an abundance of advice from juniors and seniors floating around, I wanted to write a more detailed article specifically about what I did to learn how to write.
When doing research as an undergraduate, sometimes the work you are doing and topics you study may be very familiar to you, other times you may be totally unfamiliar with what is going on. Maybe you even have some previous experience but the topic of the project is way above anything you’ve done before—you might be working with a physics professor on something really advanced like quantum field theory or condensed matter, which you have never taken a class on and are expected to now work on and understand what’s going on during your project. This can happen a lot in any field, not just STEM, where your professor may have spent years studying something that you are expected to contribute to after having taken maybe a few classes in it, if that. Some professors may work more often with graduate students, so they may assume that you know “basic” things about your field that you as an undergrad have just encountered for the first time: you could be working with an Art History professor who focuses on Late Antiquity, and they start throwing around terms and common symbols that you aren’t able to easily recognize.
Regardless of the circumstances, this situation comes up a lot in undergraduate research. The fortunate thing is that tons of professors are willing to work with students who have no prior experience in the subject, but you still have to wrestle with “catching up” as you try to somewhat understand anything that you’re actually doing. Here are some tips to try to get acclimated with difficult, unfamiliar topics that may be well above your current depth as an undergraduate.
Course selection is coming up! Picking classes that you are really excited about can be one of the best academic moments of the semester. Doing as much research on a course as possible can help to ensure I will enjoy a professor’s teaching style, which in my opinion is just as important as being interested in the subject matter. As those of us who have dabbled in the social sciences know, survey data can be a great method for evaluation, which is why when it comes to picking courses, I tend to weigh student ratings pretty heavily.
This strategy for course selection, however, is far from perfect. Now that I am more than halfway through my time at Princeton, I am all too familiar with hoping to read the reviews for a course only to discover that there aren’t any. The first time I had this experience was in the fall of my first year when I was trying to pick a writing seminar.
That’s right, first-years! For those of you who are taking your writing seminar this spring, you will soon discover (if you haven’t already) that there is no way to see the feedback provided on these courses by previous students. On top of the lack of access to course evaluations, there is no add/drop period for writing seminar; once you get your assignment, you will have to stick with it. So where should you start when trying to decide how to rank your top choices?
My first summer research experience convinced me to declare my major as Astrophysics and solidified my plan to pursue research as a career after graduation. In 10 weeks, our Astrophysics department taught me how to start and complete a research project culminating in a presentation and paper write-up, with no prior research experience required! It was a particularly good experience to get to focus on research full-time without having to juggle courses, extracurriculars, and more, and it made me feel prepared and hungry to do even more research in the future.
Last year, I wrote an article on The Creation of TigerResearch, a platform created by three Princeton undergraduates (Vivek Kolli ‘24, Eric Ahn ‘24, and Alex Zhang ‘24) to help students to easily discover Princeton professors and learn more about their research focuses. Through my interview with Vivek, I was able to see how students at Princeton take their entrepreneurial ideas and bring them to life, creating new solutions that help other students become more engaged with research on campus.
TigerResearch homepage welcome message
This year, as I continue to explore my own research interests, I find myself returning to TigerResearch. I’m interested in learning more about my professors’ research backgrounds, particularly in what their latest and current work is on and how it relates to the discussions and material we cover in class. So, I wanted to take this opportunity to delve deeper into TigerResearch.
College is daunting. It’s normal for incoming first-years to feel uncertain about many things, especially course selection. I remember looking through every course on the course offerings page to determine the classes I would be taking in the fall, and feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available. I came into Princeton as a prospective COS (Computer Science) BSE student, so my class choices were inevitably influenced by my BSE degree requirements. BSE degree requirements include four semesters of math, two semesters of physics, one semester of chemistry, and every first-year is required to take one semester of writing seminar. Read on to learn about my experiences in the EGR sequence, starting with EGR 151.
As I was reading through old PCUR posts, I came across PCUR Alumni Taylor Griffith’s 2017 post on Productivity Apps and managing your work. With the continuous development of new organization and productivity apps, it can be challenging to find what works best for you. Though some are fierce Google Calendar or sticky note users, I wanted to share three (free!) apps I’ve found to be incredibly useful.