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?
One of the most exciting parts of the academic experience at Princeton is undoubtedly getting to take advanced (3-400 level) elective classes in your concentration. While all classes at Princeton are valuable, elective classes can provide a unique opportunity to have a more personalized learning experience – the classes are often much smaller, with some classes having as few as 5 students – while getting to learn about somewhat more niche disciplines that professors are both specialized in and are more passionate about. However, sometimes the embarrassment of riches can be a problem. The sheer number of truly incredible and interesting advanced courses that are offered at Princeton can make it difficult to choose which courses to take, especially when your course slots are taken up by concentration and certificate requirements as well as either the AB or BSE general requirements. I went through such an exercise myself, and in this post, I hope to offer some insight on how to choose courses based on my experiences at Princeton.
It’s that time of year again: everyone is spending endless amounts of time browsing and discussing the available spring courses with their friends, advisers, and mentors. The buildup is for good reason: it’s important to put together a balanced, enjoyable course schedule (for tips on how to go about doing that, check out this post).
I’ve personally had my eye on NEU 350, the neuroscience major requirement known for teaching data analysis techniques and lab procedures. Thus far in my Princeton career, I’ve learned a lot about theoretical methods within the discipline, but I’ve yet to actually apply those methods myself and work with real data. I wanted to take the class to learn these skills and broaden my understanding of what actual work within the neurosciences looks like.
However, I noticed under the “Prerequisites and Restrictions” header of the course on the registrar website that sophomores need permission from the Instructor to take the course. I found this odd considering that many sophomores are enrolled in NEU 314, a class that is typically taken by neuro majors the semester before NEU 350. The need for instructor permission felt intimidating to say the least, and in this post, I’ll share a few steps I took to learn more about NEU 350 and whether or not I should take it this spring.
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.
The registrar will soon be releasing fall course offerings. Even as spring semester continues full speed ahead, many juniors are beginning to think about the coming year. Especially for A.B. seniors, who take only six classes, the questions of which to take, how many to take, and how to balance them with a thesis and post-graduation plans, all loom. Remembering how I, as a second semester junior, relied on advice from outgoing seniors, I decided to compile some of my own reflections on approaching coursework in senior year.
Three-three or four-two? For most A.B. students, senior year is the only time we take six courses, rather than eight or nine, to make more time for independent research. We may divide these courses in two ways: three each semester; or four in the first, two in the second. This decision may come down to a number of factors, including: your ability to plan ahead and pace your work, your spring extracurricular conflicts, and your research requirements (for some, scheduling lab work is an important consideration). Personally, I am so grateful for my decision to take four and then two. Especially since I have two theses — one for the Spanish and Portuguese concentration, and a thesis play for the theater certificate — I appreciate the lighter course load.
Final requirements? As you select final courses, narrowing down the choices can seem impossible. Before you make any decisions, first consult your departmental, certificate, and distribution requirements. Many departments have advising tools and calendars to help keep you on track. If you have any prerequisites left, check if these courses are only offered one semester. Senior fall, for instance, was my last opportunity to take ANT 300, a requirement for the Ethnography certificate. Having this in my schedule helped me limit my other choices.
This past Saturday, I ventured to Whitman Dining hall for a delicious Saturday Brunch (featuring my favorite breakfast burritos)…but, more importantly, I went to the McGraw Center’s Spring 2016 Hackademics workshop. Hacakademics is a relatively recent initiative that helps Princeton students crowdsource in-depth analyses of the courses offered here. Each participant in the “hackathon” contributes by choosing a course that hasn’t already been documented during previous Hackademics, and analyzing it in-depth to help students who plan to take the course in the future.
The workshop started with Nic Voge, the associate director of McGraw’s Learning Program, giving us an overview of how the hackathon would work. He talked about the need for great course analyses and introduced us to Principedia, the online database of all the course analyses done at past Hackademics. Previously, I thought that the only organized resources we had for choosing classes were the mandatory course evaluations on TigerHub. While those course evaluations are helpful, they frequently present readers with conflicting pieces of undetailed information; I could really see the motivation behind Principedia. Plus, all Hackademics participants got to take lots of cool swag — and they raffled off two coffee machines!