As course selection begins, you might find yourself searching endlessly through the Course Offerings webpage, trying to craft the perfect schedule for next semester. You’re probably weighing a number of different factors— the professor, the class topic, the reading list, the different requirements it fulfills— and trying to balance these in the best way possible.There is another possibility here, which you can’t find in the course offerings: reading courses. Not advertised on department websites or listed with course offerings, reading courses are some of Princeton’s hidden academic gems. The University defines a reading course as a specially designed course not normally offered as part of the curriculum that is arranged between a student and a faculty member. These courses count for academic credit, and focus on a topic of the student’s choosing. If you’ve ever dreamed about designing your own course, this is your opportunity.
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?
With course selection coming around the corner, the sheer number of opportunities can be overwhelming. Choosing courses can be doubly challenging for rising sophomores who are finishing up their prerequisite courses and trying to figure out what they even want to major in. I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce a new and exciting opportunity for students interested in research—the Sophomore Research Seminars.
If you’re anything like me, course selection is a perfect storm of stress and chaos. It’s at the crack of dawn for some reason, TigerHub feels like it was designed on Microsoft Word, and you are making decisions that have a direct impact on your future. And sometimes it all goes wrong. Seeing that big red X on a course you really wanted to join may be disheartening, but it is not the end of the world! I am here to offer some advice for surviving the magical solution to all your course selection woes: add-drop period.
With spring course selection coming up very soon, it can be intimidating to try and pick your classes from the massive selection advertised on the Course Offerings website. Maybe you have a few ideas about the type of classes you’d like to take, but creating a balanced schedule while also making sure you’re on track to fulfill your requirements can be a big undertaking. I also want to encourage you to keep one more element in mind when it comes to picking classes: potential research opportunities. The final paper you write in your favorite class next semester is not only your next great writing sample, but could be the beginning of your next big research project. Better yet, forming a relationship with your favorite professors is a great way to open doors to research opportunities. But if you’re looking to try something slightly out of your comfort zone, where should you start when looking at new courses? Here are a few of my tips.
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.
As I near the end of my first two years at Princeton, I thought that it would be useful to reflect on my time here so far, and how I prepared (or often did not prepare) myself to take advantage of research and internship opportunities. As I mentioned in my last post, one of the most useful parts of my internship search this year was talking with the preceptor of one of my classes, as I had the chance to learn from the experience of an older student. Here, I thought I might try and put my own advice into practice by flipping it around: while I cannot claim to have anywhere near the same experience of our graduate counterparts, I thought that my experience might still be useful to current and future first-year students. These are some of the pieces of advice from my time here.
Are you struggling to focus on your assignments because you can’t stop scrolling through TikTok? Do not stress! Although TikTok can be addictive, your For Your Page (FYP) may actually have an unintended positive academic side-effect. For those who aren’t familiar with TikTok, your FYP is your personalized feed of videos. Everyone has a different FYP according to their interests. I would like to suggest that your FYP can actually help you find spring courses that you are passionate about. Oftentimes, students aren’t sure which classes they should take because they don’t realize that non-academic interests can actually transfer into academic practice. So, I would like to help create this connection for you: think about what type of videos you see on your FYP (and if you don’t have TikTok then on social media in general) and I will suggest some courses that I think you would love.
Is your FYP full of the latest celebrity drama or “tea”? I think conducting research through certain psychology courses may satisfy your need for gossip. Through psychology, you can explore more deeply why the drama between your favorite celebrities happens and what they might be thinking and feeling. Furthermore, if you are a first year, then I suggest looking into WRI 153: The Meaning of Celebrity. In this course, you can conduct research on your favorite celebrities and also explore how they impact social values.
If your FYP is full of politics, then you might consider taking an academic approach to this interest through taking a politics course. Two courses in which you can pursue political research are POL 316: Civil Liberties and POL 240: International Relations. In POL 316 you can explore the value of civil liberties through researching key topics such as abortion and discrimination and in POL 240 you can learn how the politics of international cooperation work. Furthermore, if you want to conduct a statistical analysis of the contemporary political events you learn about online, then I suggest taking POL 345: Introduction to Quantitative Social Science. In this course you analyze data using R and conduct a ton of applicable political research. For example, I am currently enrolled in POL 345 and we’ve been analyzing polling data leading up to the election to predict who the next President will be.
If you often see make-up tutorials, dancing, or singing on your FYP, then think about how you might be able to engage with these arts beyond your phone screen. I suggest that you browse through the Lewis Center for the Arts course offerings. This spring they will have courses in photography, painting, sculpture, dancing, and more!
Is your FYP full of Among Us or League of Legends streams? Princeton has an abundance of courses that will allow you to pursue research in technology or gaming. One course that I particularly recommend for first year students is WRI 185: Gamification. I took this writing seminar and absolutely loved it because through this course you can explore what makes up the essential elements of a game and also research games that you enjoy playing. Some other courses that gamers may like are COS 126: Computer Science: An Interdisciplinary Approach, through which you can begin to explore how coders actually program games, and MAT 378: Theory of Games, through which you can learn how to use mathematical concepts to solve games.
If your FYP is full of Draco Malfoy, Cinderella, or Star Wars scenes, then you should check out English courses such as ENG 385: Children’s Literature. Although this course won’t be offered this spring, I suggest looking out for it in the future because in this course you can analyze the novels you read as a child, including Harry Potter! I also think that a Creative Writing class would be a great fit for you. More specifically, you can take CWR 204: Creative Writing (Fiction) to learn how to actually write your own fantasy. Lastly, if you are interested in studying French FRE 207: Studies in French Language and Style centers around analyzing French fantasies. I am currently enrolled in FRE 207 and it’s one of the most interesting courses that I’ve taken at Princeton.
Do you love watching videos of adorable puppies and newborns? Developmental psychology would be an awesome course for you to take. In PSY 254: Developmental Psychology, you can discover what is actually happening within the brains of the cute little babies you see on TikTok. I also recommend looking out for PSY338: From Animal Learning to Changing People’s Minds in the future (as it is not offered this spring). In this course, you can learn more about the way the puppy on your For You Page thinks and makes decisions. One other course that I recommend for those who are interested in animals and would like to explore the relationship between animals and humans more deeply and in a religious context is REL 214: Religion, Ethics, and Animals. These courses will help you see the cute videos you view on TikTok through a new perspective and are definitely worth looking into.
Your TikTok FYP can tell you a lot about who you are and what you love. After spending countless hours on TikTok myself, I realized what I really enjoy watching and learning about. I now take courses in fields that are related to my FYP and feel so passionate about the topics that I’m able to research. I hope that you too can try linking your personal interests with your academic plans by taking courses this Spring that you truly feel are “For You”.
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.
Choosing a topic for independent work can be a challenging task. It can be difficult to narrow down the seemingly infinite research topics to one that you find compelling (see my post here with tips on how to do that), and on top of that, you have to juggle your research with coursework that may be unrelated. It isn’t always easy to switch gears between, say, literary criticism and your STL. That said, your coursework need not be totally separate from your independent work, and need not even parallel your independent work at the exact time you are conducting it. With courses for the spring semester just released, I want to suggest ways that you can structure your selections to complement (and even supplement!) your own research. This way, next semester, your own independent work may not actually be so “independent” after all.Continue reading Coursework and Independent Work: Using One to Guide the Other