In the next few weeks, sophomores enrolled in the A.B. program will be declaring their majors within one of the 35 academic departments offered by the University. In light of this rapidly approaching deadline, the Board recommends the following improvements to the declaration of majors and certificate programs: 1) the University should update its certificates webpage to include a more comprehensive and inclusive list of all programs offered, as it is currently missing some programs, 2) individual departments should create and advertise open houses and information sessions for their respective certificate programs, and 3) the Office of the Dean of the College should update its website for choosing majors to make it more comprehensive and user-friendly than is its current format.
According to the University’s description of certificate programs on the Admissions website, certificates “enable students to supplement their work in departmental concentration with focused study in another, often interdisciplinary, field.” Given the significance of these programs to the undergraduate curriculum, the Board urges ODOC to update its website for certificate programs. The first area for improvement for the current website is that the list of programs presented is not representative of the full list of certificates that the University offers. For instance, the politics and economics departments offer a certificate in political economy that is not listed on the central website; the section for the Program in Language and Culture does not specify its respective subsidiary certificates as well. The Political Economy Program is only open to students concentrating in either politics or economics, so it is practical that ODOC chose not to include such a program on its comprehensive list. However, the Board recommends the creation of two separate lists, one for certificates open to all Princeton students and one for students within each specific department. This benefits not just current students deciding their courses of study, but also prospective students who are interested in seeing the full range of opportunities Princeton offers. Furthermore, the current website often provides links to respective departments, as opposed to links to the direct webpages of the certificate programs and their specific prerequisites. It is a simple fix to instead link students directly to the certificate website, and this reform would make researching certificate programs a more centralized, user-friendly experience.
The second problem that should be addressed falls under the responsibility of the respective departments to which the certificate programs belong. The Board encourages the departments to host and extensively advertise open houses and information sessions relevant to their certificates. Calendars for these forums should be consolidated on the homepages of the certificate programs and updated regularly. Information of this kind is crucial because many certificates offered by the University are introduced to students within small academic circles based upon similar courses they have taken. Open houses and similar information sessions provide students outside of these circles with the opportunity to learn about these programs. Not only would this help students discover new opportunities, but the programs would be stronger if they enrolled students from diverse academic backgrounds. The Board therefore urges departments to advertise these promotional activities to a greater extent than previously done. This can be done through college-specific listservs and notifications from deans of the colleges. Some certificates such as the Values and Public Life Program have placed placards and posters in dining halls. Thus the Board encourages certificates and residential colleges to better communicate this information through emails and other advertising platforms.
Finally, there is much room for improvement on ODOC’s current website dedicated to helping students choose a major. The Board appreciates the effort that ODOC has demonstrated to make the webpage a useful tool in the undergraduate process of major declaration. Aspects of the current web page such as links to department websites and guides to department-specific independent research are user-friendly and advantageous resources. Included on the website is a link for students to access the perspectives of students in various departments, with the student liaisons’ names and emails listed. While such information is helpful, this list, like the list of certificate programs, does not include all the departments within the University. Furthermore, while it is advantageous for students deciding upon a major to hear the perspectives of individuals currently enrolled at the University, it would be equally advantageous to hear those perspectives of graduates of these same departments, in order to allow students to envision what their post-collegiate experiences might be like after acquiring said majors. This webpage has the potential to be a very helpful resource in the declaration of majors, and these recommendations provide meaningful steps toward achieving this goal.
While the implementation of these suggestions might not make a great impact on the decision-making process of current sophomores, given the relative proximity of the declaration period, future generations of University students would certainly benefit from them.
The Editorial Board is an independent body and decides its opinions separately from the regular staff and editors of The Daily Princetonian. The Board answers only to its Chair, the Opinion Editor and the Editor-in-Chief.