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Becoming a CS Major

This  website contains much of the information to consider when deciding whether to become a CS major.  Browse through the pages listed on the right for answers to your questions about various requirements in the CS department at Princeton.   

To actually begin the process of becoming a CS major, whether newly declaring your major or transferring to CS from a different discipline, you need to make an appointment to see your class advisor.  He or she will want to get to know you and will need to sign off on your degree program.  (CS class advisors are authorized to sign for the department representative on the official form to let you into the major.)  Take two copies of the Course Enrollment Worksheet to this meeting as well as a copy of your course history printout. (Go to SCORE>Student Center>My Academics>View My Course History).  See class advisor listing.

People Who Can Help

There are a number of members of the department who are available to you as you consider your options.  Whether you are already concentrating in computer science or just thinking about it, the CS advisor for your class is the best person to discuss requirements and plans of study.  He or she knows the rules applying to your class and, if you are a concentrator, is familiar with your record.

The two official representatives of the department to the Office of the Dean of the College are the department representatives (dep reps): Brian Kernighan (room 311, bwk@cs.princeton.edu) and Andrea LaPaugh (room 304, aslp@cs.princeton.edu). 

Brian Kernighan is the departmental representative for pre-majors, non-majors and study abroad.  If you are a freshman or someone else who isn't yet officially a CS major, but you need information about the CS program you should either see Brian Kernighan or the appropriate CS class advisor. 

Andrea LaPaugh is the guardian of the department rules and the department representative for majors, which includes oversight of honors and awards, and students leaving the major.  If you are already a CS major, and have an issue that you do not think your class advisor can or should handle, you should see her -- the only exception is study abroad (see Brian Kernighan).  If your class advisor is unavailable for an extended period, you may also see her with questions or to sign add/drop forms.

Current CS majors are an excellent source of information on life in the department and the “inside story” on courses. The getting involved page lists several groups of people you can talk to, like PWICS (Princeton Women In Computer Science), the CS Undergrad Council and the ACM Student Group. These groups also set up fun get-togethers from time to time.

Last but not least, Colleen Kenny-McGinley (room 210, ckenny@princeton.edu) is the Undergraduate Coordinator. She is a great person to answer many questions you might have on the logistics of how the department works.  She also has copies of forms and information relevant to undergrads.

Frequently Asked Questions: 

Do I need to make an appointment to see a departmental representative to become a major?

Answer:No. Make an appointment to see your class advisor.

How early do I need to begin taking COS courses if I might want to be a CS major?


We expect CS majors to enter their junior year having taken the three prerequisite COS courses: 126, 217, and 226, beginning in the freshman year. It is possible to major in CS without taking any COS courses freshman year, but it does involve an extra heavy load sophomore spring. Majoring in CS having had only COS 126 by the end of sophomore year is extremely difficult and allowed only in certain circumstances. Please see the Prerequisites page for details. Because of the difficulty of completing a late-start CS major, if you have even the slightest interest in CS as a major, we urge you to take COS 126 and at least 1 of (if not both of) COS 226 and 217 by the end of your sophomore year. In fact, we think it would be great if every student in the university took COS 126 by the end of the fall of their sophomore year so you all know what CS has to offer and how much more of it you would like to take (whether or not you want to become a CS major). If you have discovered you have a strong interest in computer science late in your Princeton career, we recommend that you consider the Applications in Computing Certificate. This way, you can load up on as much CS as you can reasonably fit in to your schedule, but you are not constrained by the specifics of the CS major requirements.

I like computers, but I'd rather major in something like History or Mechanical Engineering


Perhaps you should join the Certificate Program in Applications of Computing, which requires four CS courses beyond COS 126, plus a senior thesis (in your home department) or independent work that incorporates computing in some way. See the director of the program, JP Singh (room 406).

Where can I get late-breaking information about the Computer Science Department?


The department has an email list for CS majors and often sends announcements and reminders by email. Also, every CS senior has a mailbox on the 2nd floor of the Computer Science Building directly across from the "Tea Room". There are bulletin boards on the first and second floors for announcements for undergrads. The home page of the department website contains general department news and events.

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