During your time at Princeton, Wilson College will be central to your academic advising. You're likely to have all kinds of questions, and we're always happy to help. Academic advising comes in various forms, including many online resources -- but remember that there is no substitute for face-to-face discussions with an adviser or a more experienced peer. There are a lot of people around campus who are eager to talk to you and share their experience and expertise. Below you will find brief descriptions of some of the most prominent academic advisers, but remember that if you're uncertain about where to start, or how to get your question answered, any of the people listed below will be able to guide you toward the right person.
There are also web resources available for browsing or for quick answers to simple questions. The Undergraduate Announcement is available on-line, and be sure to check out the other materials linked on the Useful Advising Links page.
Let's begin with some suggestions for first-year students:
1. Think about discovery. You may be tempted to take courses in subjects you’ve already studied in high school, and that’s fine. But you should also begin to explore other areas of study—particularly a subject you didn’t or perhaps couldn’t study in high school.
2. Keep an eye on requirements, especially writing and language. All first-year students will take a Writing Seminar in either the fall or spring term (sorry, you can’t choose which semester). And many of you will need to fulfill the foreign language requirement; don’t put this off! If you need to start a foreign language at the 101 level, do so right away: 101 language courses are offered only in the fall, so if you don’t start the language now you’ll still be taking required language courses in your junior year. If you will be starting a language from the 105 or 107/108 level, do that right away as well, before you forget much of what you learned in high school. (Be sure to check Your Path to Princeton for information about language placement exams.)
Don’t worry too much right now about the distribution requirements, and don’t use them as the primary basis for planning your first semester of study. Most Princeton students have broad interests that enable them to complete the distribution requirements without pain.
3. Balance your workload. Different courses demand different kinds of work. Math courses have homework and quizzes, history courses require reading and papers, art courses emphasize the study of visual images. Some courses have weekly assignments, others require a big paper at the end. Some courses have heavily weighted final exams, while others do not require final exams. Mix things up.
4. Think about possible majors. As you choose your courses, think especially about areas in which you might eventually wish to major. You won’t choose your major until the end of sophomore year, but don’t wait until then to start thinking about it! If you do think you know your likely major, don’t try to take all the courses at once. Take the prerequisites and perhaps some additional courses, but keep your mind open and explore other areas, too, while you have the chance. Many students intent on majoring in one field take a course in another and discover an entirely new interest. Take advantage of departmental open houses as well as events in the residential colleges designed to introduce you to the wealth of programs and resources available through Princeton’s many academic departments and programs.
Your faculty adviser is your primary source of academic guidance, and he or she approves your course selection and course changes. As an experienced teacher and scholar, your faculty adviser can guide you through the Princeton curriculum and help you take advantage of your academic opportunities. You will be required to meet with your adviser throughout the year at key advising periods to make your initial course selection or discuss changes to your schedule, but you should take the time to meet with him or her at other moments to share how you’re doing, benefit from his or her wisdom, or just chat informally! Your adviser will be happy to see you!
Faculty advisers in both the AB and the BSE program are chosen with a mind to match each freshman with an adviser who has expertise in one of his or her general areas of interest. Should students have very specific questions about a department or program--or should they become interested in a different area of the curriculum--there are always other sources of information and advice. Advising is not one-stop shopping! In fact, one of the most useful skills you can develop here is the ability to seek out the specific advice and support that you need. Of course, your academic adviser can help here too: Although AB advisers cannot be expected to know the answer to every specific question freshmen and sophomores may have, they will always be able to guide you toward the correct answer.
Residential College Peer Academic Advisers, BSE Interactors, and Graduate Student Advisers
Residential College Peer Academic Advisers (PAAs) and BSE interactors are outstanding juniors and seniors who work with first- and second-year students. They complement faculty advisers' advice by providing an informed student perspective on selecting classes and successfully navigating academics at Princeton. PAAs (who include both AB and BSE students) are associated with a residence group, where they join the RCA and a graduate student adviser as resources for the students in that suite or on that floor.
Graduate Student Advisers are Resident Graduate Students--which means that they live in Wilson College and are involved with a variety of programs and activities. As members of the advising team, they function in the same way as PAAs: they provide a rich source of information, as well as a different perspective on many academic choices.
Your Dean and Director of Studies
Your Dean and Director of Studies oversee the advising program at Wilson. They are excellent sources of advice on all matters, and they can also approve your course forms when your faculty adviser is not available. In addition, they are responsible for approving summer courses, authorizing Dean’s Date extensions, changes of concentration, and changes of degree between AB and BSE--as well as tracking your academic progress. Normally, Dr. Axcelson works most closely with first-year students and Dean Caswell-Klein works most closely with seniors, but they work together as an advising team and both follow your progress through all four years. So, if you can’t reach one, you should feel free to speak to the other. Dean Peter Bogucki oversees the BSE faculty advisers and is an excellent source of advice on all matters relating to the BSE program. Dean Bogucki initiates any degree changes between AB and BSE (though you can always consult with other advisers before seeing him) and he signs summer course approvals for BSE students after they have received departmental approval for the course.
Departmental Representatives (or “dep reps”) are the faculty members who oversee undergraduate study in their departments. If you have any questions about departmental courses, course placement, or major requirements, they will be happy to help you. You do NOT have to wait until you enter a department to take advantage of this resource. Once you choose your major, the dep rep of your department will become your principal adviser.
If you are thinking about taking a particular course, the best source of information about it is probably the instructor. So don’t hesitate to contact your professor to ask a question about course content, requirements, or enrollment. Professors are always pleased to hear of a student’s interest in their class!