Summer Course Information

Information for B.S.E. Students

Note: this information has been composed with specific relevance to students in the B.S.E. degree program. A.B. students should consult their residential college deans or directors of studies.

After matriculation at Princeton, B.S.E. students may count up to four pre-approved courses taken at other schools toward their course requirements (fewer if you elect to take a year of advanced standing or foreign study). Such courses can be used to remove a course deficiency or can be "banked" to offset future deficiencies. They can also be used for general B.S.E. requirements (except computing), prerequisites in certain departments, or for fulfillment of humanities and social science distribution areas.

General Criteria

A summer course taken elsewhere must:

  • be offered at scheduled times in a real physical classroom by a live human instructor with sentient fellow students at an accredited four-year institution;
  • meet for a minimum of four weeks and 30 hours, preferably more (note: three-week courses are NOT acceptable, no matter how many hours they have);
  • be a course that a department at Princeton could offer; and
  • be completed with a grade of C or better.

A laboratory course (e.g., general physics) should have 30 hours of lab, as well. Courses with fewer lab hours will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, but classes with substantially fewer lab hours will not be approved. Please note that at many schools you have to enroll separately for the lab; it may not be built into a single integrated lecture/lab course like it is here at Princeton.

Online courses, hybrid (semi-online) courses, and independent study courses are not approved for Princeton course credit. Princeton does not award course credit for internships or research experiences, even if another institution offers to issue a transcript for such programs.

In the case of a course proposed to substitute for a required prerequisite or a course in a Princeton department, the content should be substantially similar. You may take no more than two courses in any one summer. You may not, under any circumstances, use outside courses to substitute for a term of study at Princeton.

After the course is over, you must have an official transcript sent to Princeton in order to receive credit. An official transcript must be sent to your residential college office before you can count a course toward your Princeton degree. It is your responsibility to request the transcript and to confirm that it has been received. The receipt of a transcript is currently the only way for Princeton to know that you have completed the course with an acceptable grade. Please note that registrar's offices at other schools are often very slow about mailing transcripts, so take care of this matter as soon as the course is completed.

This is important to know: outside courses are never approved retroactively. There is a reason it is called pre-approval. Do not expect to get credit for an outside course, summer or otherwise, if you have not received pre-approval before taking the course.

Preapproval Process

Here are the steps of the pre-approval process, which must be followed in order:

(1) Compile detailed information on the course you intend to take, either from the other university's website or catalog or by contacting the department there and asking to be sent a syllabus. The information MUST be more than a few sentences and must provide an indication of the topical coverage of the course, the number and duration of meetings, the textbooks used, and the methods of assessment. A full syllabus is best, even if it is for the version of the course taught last summer or during the academic year. The more information you can provide, the easier the preapproval process will be.

Make sure that the summer course does not begin before your last exam in the spring. Princeton's exams cannot be rescheduled to accommodate summer courses that conflict with your final exams. Many schools will not permit you to enter a summer course late. It's best to avoid conflicts altogether.

NOTE: Please print out the information and take it in person with the approval form to the relevant department. Please do not send an e-mail to faculty and deans asking them to look at websites or attachments of syllabi. Doing so only makes the pre-approval process extremely cumbersome in the long run.

(2) Obtain an Approval for a Course Taken at Another Institution form from your residential college office. You may also download a copy (Approval for a Course Taken at Another Institution) from the Office of the Dean of the College website. Please note that the form has numbered steps on it, 1-5. Please follow them in order. Step 1 is to complete the information at the top of the form. Please check your math when computing the total numbers of hours! Submitting a form showing fewer than 30 hours of class guarantees that it will not be approved. There are also a lot of regulations on the reverse side. Please read them.

(3a) Take the form and the supporting description to the departmental representative of the department AT PRINCETON where the course is taught. For example, differential equations is taught at Princeton as MAE 305, so you must take the materials and form to MAE, even if the course is taught by the math department at the school where you plan to take it. If you are taking the course to match a specific Princeton course (e.g., MAT 202, MAE 305, CHM 303, etc.), then the equivalency must be noted in the space on the form labeled "Analogous Course at Princeton."

(3b) Note that if you plan to use this course as a departmental or program prerequisite or requirement, then you must also obtain approval of your own departmental rep or program director. For example, if you are taking differential equations as the equivalent of MAE 305 to fulfill a departmental requirement in CBE, CEE, or ORFE, then you need to get the signature of the departmental rep in your department in the space indicated. If you are just taking it as a general SEAS requirement or as an elective, then you can skip this step.

(4) Take the form to the SEAS Undergraduate Affairs Office and obtain the approval of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs, who will also make sure that the course meets the minimum number of class/lab hours and weeks and that the course meets all Princeton criteria. Please make sure that you have approval from the relevant department at Princeton before seeing the SEAS associate dean.

(5) Return the form to your residential college office (freshmen, sophomores, and juniors). Note that if the course is going to be taken abroad, it also needs the endorsement of the Office of the International Programs at 36 University Place.

(6) Take the course, receive a grade of C or better (note: a C- is not acceptable).

(7) Have the transcript sent to your residential college office immediately upon completion of the course. Transcripts for courses taken abroad must be sent to the Office of International Programs for credit approval.

Special Rules for Math Courses

The Math Department has developed special procedures for the approval of Math courses which they have defined here. Basically, these procedures are a more explicit version of what is outlined above, so save yourself a hassle and just follow the procedures closely. Remember, differential equations is approved by MAE as MAE 305, not by Math.

Other Special Policies

The University writing requirement and the B.S.E. computer science requirement (COS 126) cannot be satisfied by courses taken elsewhere. They must be taken at Princeton.

Language courses have special rules:

(1) A course or set of courses proposed to substitute for a course in a foreign language must meet at least 60 hours.

(2) One course credit can be granted for a beginning language course (i.e., 101-102) provided the course/s are (a) preapproved by the department and (b) the department determines at the conclusion of the preapproved summer study that the student has progressed beyond the 102 level. In other words, if you are doing a beginning language course over the summer, then you have to go far enough to convince the relevant language department here (on the basis of whatever assessment it uses) that you can place into the next course beyond the 102 level.

(3) Credit for 100-level language courses above the 102 level may be granted if (a) preapproved by the department and (b) the department determines that the student has proceeded beyond the expected language level for that course. In other words, if you take the equivalent of Russian 105 elsewhere, you need to demonstrate that you can place into Russian 107 upon your return. Credit will be given for the final course in an introductory sequence only if the student passes the department placement test that demonstrates satisfaction of the A.B. foreign language requirement. Remember, all language courses must have 60 contact hours and meet for a minimum of 4 weeks.

This doesn't apply to our own language programs (e.g., Princeton-in-Beijing/Munich/St. Petersburg, etc.) that are offered through Princeton language departments and teach courses that are credited as Princeton courses, and you don't need separate approval for them in any event.

Courses taken at non-U.S. institutions must also be approved by the Office of International Programs. In general, outside of language programs, very few overseas institutions offer acceptable summer courses, so please consult with Dean Bogucki before starting on the preapproval process. After you take the course, the transcript must be sent to the Office of International Programs for credit approval.

Financial Aid

If you are on financial aid and are unable to meet your expected summer earnings contribution because of summer study, then you should see a financial aid counselor at 220 West College to discuss whether your savings shortfall can be replaced. Student loans could be available to qualified students to meet tuition costs of approved courses.


Normally, summer courses must be approved by Dean's Date of the spring term in May. If your circumstances at the end of the spring term suddenly require you to take a summer course (e.g., you find yourself with fewer than the required number of courses to advance to the following year or you fail a required course), then it is possible to obtain late preapproval BEFORE THE SUMMER COURSE BEGINS by faxing the relevant documentation to the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at 856-504-0060 (fax only, do not call this number) or scanning and sending as a PDF (not JPG or other graphics format) attachment.

Updated by Peter Bogucki 11/14/17.