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BSE or AB? Please help me!

coolness_rookiecoolness_rookie Registered User Posts: 517 Member
edited September 2007 in Princeton University
I am a member of Princeton's Class of 2011, and I was wondering if you guys could help me decide my degree program.

So, I was originally admitted to Princeton as a BSE student. When I was applying, I was pretty certain that I wanted to do engineering in college, because I am a math/science person.

However, when we had to send in our tentative course selection form in June, I was not so sure anymore. The main reason was that Princeton's engineering program, compared to MIT or Stanford or other schools of such caliber, is not as strong. Therefore, I thought that graduating from Princeton's undergrad BSE program, I might be disadvantaged when applying to jobs or grad schools. (Is this a very irrelavant/non-sensical concern?)

Therefore, I ended up choosing Princeton's AB program, with physics as my tentative major. I thought that physics is still very math/science-y, and since Princeton's physics program is well-recognized as one of the best in the nation, I'd be receiving top-notch education. Also, I felt that the AB program might provide me with a bit more flexibility upon graduation.

Considering that I am a science/math person, will go to a grad school for sure, and will be taking the Integrated Science program at Princeton, do you guys think I should take BSE or AB?

Thanks for your help.
Post edited by coolness_rookie on

Replies to: BSE or AB? Please help me!

  • mzhang23mzhang23 Registered User Posts: 458 Member
    You will have time to decide when you get there.

    They give you a hard time if you want to leave the engineering school, but students have done it.
  • ivynutivynut Registered User Posts: 198 Junior Member
    "I thought that graduating from Princeton's undergrad BSE program, I might be disadvantaged when applying to jobs or grad schools."

    Graduating from any princeton program does not seem like it will pretty much EVER put you at a DISadvantage.

    However, I am currently in the same situation as you, a math/sciencey person that wants a little more flexibility than the engineering curriculum offers. I really want to study some foreign language, econ, politics, philosophy and stuff, which never will all fit in an engineering schedule. Now that I have all these options, I think I am getting cold feet on the BSE.
  • albert87albert87 Registered User Posts: 342 Member
    I have this problem too. Being a BSE student seems to restrict where you can study abroad. I'm hoping to take sophomore level engineering courses as a freshman so that I'll have more flexibility in choosing my study abroad options later. Can someone tell me if it is possible to take MAE221Thermodynamics as a freshman? I have A-level credits in physics, chemistry and math.
  • coolness_rookiecoolness_rookie Registered User Posts: 517 Member
    Thanks for your inputs.

    I just called the Assistant Dean and talked to her. She said that it was no problem for me to switch from the BSE to AB program (thankfully). I think I will do the AB program because of the flexibility.

    Also, is any of you familiar with the integrated science program? I am interested in taking this program as well.
  • Voovi16Voovi16 Registered User Posts: 101 Junior Member
    Hey, Class of 2009 engineer here...first off, I would say that if you want flexibility after college, a BSE degree will open a whole lot more doors than an AB degree. Engineers are trained to be a lot more versatile and have a completely different skill set that makes them more qualified to do actual hands-on work---as compared to an AB science degree (physics, chemistry, etc.), which is highly theoretical and mostly aimed at people going for their PhDs to end up in academia and research. The physics program is really not comparable to any engineering program, they're really different--physics will have you learning incredibly complex proofs. Honestly, you probably won't even be using numbers anymore by the time you get to sophomore year. Also, as a junior chemical engineer, I too was worried about not being able to fit in all the stuff that I love--history, literature, philosophy, sociology, etc. Let me tell you, I have been able to take everything that I have wanted and so much more. This upcoming semester, I am taking ONE engineering class, and 4 of my others are electives (Intro to Soc, ENV seminar, an art class, and a chemistry class). Engineering really does not dominate your schedule--it's very easy to get that impression from freshman year, however, because you're stuck doing all the boring pre-reqs like intro physics, math and chem. For your other 3 years however, you will probably only be taking 1 or 2 engineering classes per semester--they space out the requirements so you're never taking more than half engineering classes. I can't tell you enough that BSE and AB science really aren't related as much as you think they are--especially at a place like Princeton, because the physics and math AB professors are so advanced that you're going to be doing highly theoretical and highly complex stuff that you normally wouldn't find at another college.
  • albert87albert87 Registered User Posts: 342 Member
    "This upcoming semester, I am taking ONE engineering class, and 4 of my others are electives (Intro to Soc, ENV seminar, an art class, and a chemistry class)."

    How are you able to do that? Did you have a lot of AP credits? Did you take sophomore level engineering classes as a freshman?

    thank you
  • Voovi16Voovi16 Registered User Posts: 101 Junior Member
    I had AP credits that placed me out of MAT 103 and 104, PHY 103 and 104, and intro chem, so I took orgo freshman year and started with multivariable calculus. This past year, I finished all the math requirements (up to diff eq), which most sophomores do. So, as a junior, all I really have left is my departmentals, which is one CHE course this semester and 2 next semester. You also have courses to fulfill your breadth and depth within your major, but there are many, many options for that, so those are really fun electives too. Feel free to message me if you have any more questions about engineering--I know I've doubted my choice many times so I can tell you why I'm still sticking with it : )

    I would also suggest going to your individual engineering department's website and finding the major's undergrad handbook, where they have suggested/typical course schedules for all 4 years--you'll see that requirements really do ease up and allow for a lot of freedom as you leave freshman year.
  • Cibbir H.Cibbir H. Registered User Posts: 239 Junior Member
    I'd choose follow the engineering curriculum for at least the first semester. If you don't like it, you can always switch, but either way it is better than a degree in English or the humanities. The reality is that a BSE is respected, and Princeton is respected (more so than Stanford at the very least.)
  • iv4meiv4me Registered User Posts: 236 Junior Member
    I disagree completely with the idea that the Princeton BSE degree is less respected than an MIT or Stanford degree. The engineering program is excellent and I've never heard a student complain about lacking resources. More importantly, the placement of Princeton engineering students (while more go into finance and consulting than their counterparts) are placed into top graduate engineering school. You can find Princeton's placement statistics if you're interested, but I guarantee you, it ain't no Harvard or Yale SEAS (which is a very good thing =D).
  • ec1234ec1234 Registered User Posts: 1,201 Senior Member
    if you do all the freshman requirements (math, chem, physics, cos) you can switch to any department after the freshman year (basically) you will also have done many of the AB science/math prereqs
  • PimpDaddy1PimpDaddy1 Registered User Posts: 323 Member
    Please don't base your decision on what you think will make you look better for grad schools. Princeton's Engineering program is a bit underrated but has excellent grad school placement. I have a ton of friends that were BSEs and tons went on to incredible graduate schools (a lot being Stanford, I don't know why but Stanford/Pton seem to have a really good relationship).

    Switch to the AB for course flexibility or because you want to do physics, not because of some unfounded notion that being a BSE will put you at a disadvantage because the short answer is it won't.
  • albert87albert87 Registered User Posts: 342 Member
    as if any degree from Princeton would put you at a disadvantage
  • LionsOnAPlaneLionsOnAPlane Registered User Posts: 148 Junior Member
    I'm having a similar problem with doing an AB in Econ or a BSE in Financial Engineering...who would have thought choosing courses would be so difficult?
  • Jeef690Jeef690 Registered User Posts: 72 Junior Member
    Has anyone applied to AB and wanted to switch to BSE? Is this possible?
  • bruno123bruno123 Registered User Posts: 1,390 Senior Member
    Contrary to what you say, I think the Princeton BSE is actually an excellent degree that will not put you at a disadvantage when applying to graduate school.

    In fact, quite the contrary, if you want to pursue a more theoretical-oriented field in graduate school, the Princeton BSE will probably be a plus since Princeton's undergraduate engineering curriculum focuses much more on advanced math and engineering science than other more industry-oriented programs in other universities.
This discussion has been closed.