Earlier this year, a proposal submitted to the University’s Faculty Committee was approved, changing Princeton’s terminology from “certificates” to “minors” to match the vernacular of other higher institutions. Despite this change, the preservation of both existing certificate programs and the University’s plans to gradually offer more minor programs have caused a variety of reactions among students.
In the announcement, the University wrote that both terms are nearly interchangeable and concurrently exist to support the gradual transition away from Princeton-centric language into more widely known terminology.
A formal minors program, according to the ODOC, would “provide a meaningful, externally legible way” for students to enroll in interdisciplinary studies and receive universally-recognized credit, while still “preserving what certificates and concentrations already do,” according to Dean of the College Jill Dolan.
“Even if the difference in language may just be semantic, minors may offer more credibility for the focused coursework,” Cole Meyer ’24, a senior in the Department of Astrophysical Sciences told the Daily Princetonian. This is especially true for “employers who are unfamiliar with Princeton’s curriculum.”
Another student, Avery Woolbert ’25, in the Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering (ORFE) told the ‘Prince’ that “the term minor may have a more positive impact on students’ resume or in job interviews.”
During recruitment periods in the summer, Woolbert mentioned that she “had to explain that certificates were Princeton’s equivalent of a minor.” Yet, because the University recognizes both programs, there exists the added complexity of differentiating minors from certificates from one another, as well as students having to potentially register for more courses to meet the new requirements.
“Most of the current certificate programs meet the requirements to become minors and can make the shift,” the announcement noted. However, given that this does not translate for all newly approved disciplines, students are confronted by conflicting requirements. Some have fulfilled the requirements previously outlined for a certificate, but now lack the necessary courses to fulfill the minor’s requisites.
“I was originally planning on getting the Finance certificate,” Woolbert said, but since the Finance minor has more requirements, “I won’t be getting [it] now.”
Transitioning from one to the other may impede on course schedules that were planned upon matriculation, especially as “students who [now] want to have a minor were probably thinking about certificates since [their first] year,” George Chiriac ’25 told the ‘Prince.’ “It makes the most sense to just get a certificate.”
For some departments, their newly created Minors programs are more amorphous than the previously offered certificate programs.
The Minor in English outlines that there are “no specific prerequisite courses” and “no required courses for the minor,” so long as five English-registered classes are taken. Students are instead encouraged to independently plan their courses and “chart their own paths” by cross-checking with the department.
“Does it really matter how much effort you put into getting the minor? It’s really hard to navigate [this policy change] because some of the minor requirements are very vague,” Chiriac said. “When the requirements are not well defined, you have a lot of moving parts.”
As part of his independent work, Chiriac has been collaborating with other students in his COS 333: Advancing Programing Techniques course to develop a platform that will “ideally read your transcript [and] tell you which minors you already qualify [or are near to qualifying] for,” easing the organization of a student’s four years of classes.
Similarly, TigerJunction integrates two former Princeton-designed applications, ReCal and Princeton Courses, where the prerequisites of majors, minors, and certificates are to be laid out in a readable diagram.
“Things like concentrations, certificates — these are not terms that are very useful for people seeking jobs in the industry,” Chiriac said, “so I am curious whether the University will incorporate support [for this change].”
Keeren Setokusumo is a staff Features writer for the ‘Prince.’
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