Princeton University is implementing a new academic calendar beginning in the 2020-21 academic year, as announced in spring 2018. Due to COVID-19, some dates have shifted.

For the most up-to-date information dates and deadlines, view the academic calendar on the Registrar's website.

Outline of changes

When does this go into effect?

The new calendar will take effect at the start of the 2020-21 academic year. This means Princeton’s academic year begins before Labor Day next year: Opening Exercises take place on Aug. 30, 2020 and the first day of classes is on Sept. 2. 

Fall term final exams conclude by December 22, 2020, with Wintersession running from Jan.11-24, 2021.

The academic year will wrap up earlier in the spring, with final exams concluding by May 13 and Commencement scheduled for May 25, 2021.

In light of the new calendar, students, faculty and staff should plan for summer employment and vacation schedules accordingly. The Calendar Implementation Working Group has identified childcare providers located close to campus who offer camp and childcare options through late August. Students should inform their families of new calendar dates.

Who is affected?
  • Undergraduate students
  • Graduate students and post-docs
  • Families
  • Faculty
  • Staff
  • Vendors and campus partners
Why did the University adopt calendar reform?

Princeton University sought to accomplish a number of goals through changing its academic calendar.

1. Solve longstanding problems with the current calendar.

More than 80% of students surveyed said taking finals in January made them feel stressed over winter break. By moving fall examinations to December and better spacing the midterm and Thanksgiving breaks, the new calendar will maintain the momentum of teaching across the fall semester and allow students to enjoy a true break between terms.

The old calendar imposed greater financial costs on students who traveled to campus for exams and then left again for Intersession. Undergraduates will now have flexibility in timing their return to campus in January. Some may choose to return in early January to devote time to their independent work; others may return for Wintersession; and others may elect to come back just in time for the start of spring classes on January 25, 2021.

Finally, the existing calendar was out of sync with many activities outside of Princeton, including the start of summer jobs and internships, study abroad opportunities, and courses taken at other colleges and universities. In fact, none of our peer schools has a calendar with fall term ending after winter break.

2. Create a two-week flexible “Wintersession” in January for academic and other programs.

Wintersession will be an optional two-week experience for Princeton University community members to experiment and explore through unexpected, active and intriguing non-graded learning and growth opportunities.  We seek to engage the skills and talents of our community broadly in Wintersession, such that undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and staff can participate as teachers, learners, or both.

What should I know about Wintersession?

Princeton University is hosting Wintersession, a two-week flexible period in January 2021 for workshops and special events led by undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty and staff.

Wintersession will be an optional two-week experience for Princeton University community members to experiment and explore through unexpected, active and intriguing non-graded learning and growth opportunities. We seek to use the skills and talents of our whole community: undergraduate students, graduate students, staff and faculty can participate as teachers, learners or both. In 2021, Wintersession will run from January 11 to January 24.

Like a conference, Princeton University community members can submit proposals to lead a workshop. Like a festival, there will be keynote and evening offerings that anyone in the University community can attend and that will be put on by a combination of the central Wintersession office, other campus offices and student groups. All housing and dining halls will be open so that students may be on campus whether or not they choose to participate in Wintersession programming.


Key dates and deadlines

What are the start and end dates for the 2020-2021 semesters and Wintersession?

Fall 2020: 9/2/20 - 12/22/20
Wintersession: 1/11/21 - 1/24/21
Spring 2021: 1/25/21 – 5/13/21

Check the Academic Calendar page on the Office of the Registrar site for specific dates and deadlines.

When is move-in day for first-year students and for sophomores, juniors and seniors?

August 22 is move-in day for first year students.

Dormitories officially open for sophomores, juniors and seniors on August 29.

What does the new calendar mean for undergraduate orientation?

First-year undergraduate students will move in on Saturday, August 22. After spending the weekend settling into their new residential college and learning about their community, first-year students will participate in off-campus small-group learning experiences led by Princeton students (e.g., Outdoor Action, Community Action, and Dialogue and Difference in Action). These programs will last four days this year, Monday through Thursday, after which time students will return to campus for the remainder of the Orientation program to learn more about academic and social opportunities at Princeton before classes begin on Wednesday, September 2.

What will happen with Add/Drop for Monday classes in years when classes start before Labor Day?

Academic Calendars and Deadlines through AY 2023-2024 are posted on the Office of the Registrar website.  In years when classes start before Labor Day, classes/seminars that meet solely on Monday will have met only once before the undergraduate deadline to add/drop courses without a fee.  The Registrar will grant a fee waiver for students wishing to drop a Monday-only class one week beyond the deadline, to allow time for a student to attend at least two sessions of the course.

Will the schedule for Ph.D. General Examinations change?

Yes, the schedule for Ph.D. General Examinations will shift in response to the new academic calendar because general examination periods are tied directly to the academic calendar.  Academic Calendars and Deadlines through AY 2023-2024 are posted on the Office of the Registrar website.  Click on “Full Academic Calendar” and select the desired academic term to see key dates, including the schedule for Ph.D. General Examinations.  

Will the application deadlines for undergraduate study abroad change?

The Office of International Programs is piloting an earlier internal application deadline for study abroad in AY 2019-2020.  For Spring 2020, the proposed deadline for undergraduates to apply to the Study Abroad Program at Princeton (via the Global Programs System, or GPS) will be March 23, 2020.  Please note that students will also have to complete an application directly with the university or program they are interested in attending.  Students are encouraged to meet with a study abroad adviser to learn more about the application process.

When must undergraduate students move out of their residences at the end of the academic year?

Undergraduate students must fully move out of their dorm rooms by noon on May 14, 2021.

Winter break

What changes affect undergraduate student access to dormitories over winter break?

To encourage students to take a restful break away from campus during winter break, access to undergraduate academic year dorm rooms will be removed for part of the break, from December 24 to January 2.  The winter break schedule is as follows:

December 24 -- Undergraduate students must vacate their dorm rooms by noon.  Prox access to your academic year room will be suspended as of noon on December 24 and reinstated January 8.  If you will not be enrolled for the spring term (if you’re studying abroad, taking a leave, etc.), you must fully move out of your room. 

January 2-7 -- Any undergraduate student who wants to return to their dorm room early during this period must register with the Housing Office.  Dining halls will be closed during this period.

January 8 -- All undergraduate students will have access to their dorm rooms.

January 10 -- Some dining halls re-open.

Please note that if you are a member of an athletic team required to be on campus between December 24 and January 2, the Department of Athletics will request winter break housing on your behalf.  For others with extenuating circumstances that require you to remain on campus during this period, you may apply through the Housing Office to be considered for winter break housing.


Payroll schedule changes

How will faculty be affected?

Eligible faculty will now have the option to receive their academic year salary over a 9-, 10-, or 12-month pay schedule. Faculty selecting the 9-month pay schedule will be paid monthly over the academic year (September through May). Faculty selecting the 10-month schedule will receive their academic year salary over 10 months (September through June) and faculty selecting the 12-month option will have their academic year salary paid over 12 months (June through July). Throughout these changes, it is important to note that the total amount of your salary does not change, only the timing of disbursement.

Faculty will have the opportunity to enroll in their preferred pay schedule in Spring 2020. Faculty who do not make an election will automatically default to the 10-month pay schedule.

For more information, visit the Office of the Dean of the Faculty website.

How will graduate students be affected?

Currently, the Office of the Dean of the Faculty and the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School operate on similar pay schedules. With the new academic calendar, the University will begin to operate on different payment schedules for faculty members and graduate students. Given the different needs of these two groups, having different schedules for each population will allow the University to serve each group in the best way possible.

The Office of the Dean of the Faculty and the Graduate School will issue additional memos in the weeks and months to come with additional details about schedule and payroll changes. They also will present the details of these changes at standing meetings throughout the Fall 2019 semester, where they will be happy to answer questions and hear your feedback on these changes.

Graduate students will continue to be enrolled and paid on a 10+2 schedule (10 academic semester months + 2 summer months). However, the University will shift months to align with the new calendar. Going forward, the academic year will include the 10 months of August through May, and the summer months will include June and July.

This approach was intentionally chosen for a number of reasons, including the following three:

  • Princeton will be able to start new graduate students’ enrollment in time for them to be on campus for orientations in the second half of August, before courses begin, and they will receive their first stipend check at the end of August rather than having to wait until the end of September.
  • The University will retain the first-year fellowship in Divisions 3 and 4 as a 10-month fellowship.
  • Students serving as Assistants in Instruction (AI) will continue to receive the same number of monthly payments at the higher AI rate as they do now, and departments in Divisions 3 and 4 will continue to receive the same relief to their budgets when students serve as AIs as they do now.

Implementation supports and resources

How should faculty adjust their course syllabi under the new schedule?

The Office of the Dean of the College has developed a template of course meetings for the fall term 2020 to help faculty as they plan courses under the new academic calendar.

Calendar mechanics

Why are there 13 Tuesdays and 11 Fridays in Fall terms that start after Labor Day, and what does it mean for classes that meet on those days?

Within Princeton’s twelve weeks of formal class instruction, we need twelve occurrences of each weekday (Monday-Friday), which the new calendar achieves by using the Tuesday of Thanksgiving week as a “virtual Friday” in those years when the fall term begins after Labor Day.

Why is class scheduled on Monday, December 7, 2020?

Since no classes will be scheduled on Labor Day, the 12th meeting of Monday classes will be held on Monday, December 7.

End-of-summer child care

What childcare facility options are available for preschool-aged children at the end of August 2020?

University NOW (“UNOW”) Day Nursery (infant-pre-K), located on the University’s campus, is changing its calendar to support the needs of enrolled families and calendar reform. UNOW will open on August 27, 2020, six days before classes begin on September 2, 2020. The two-week annual closure will be shifted to August 13th – August 26th so that the nursery can be open on August 27, 2020.

The following childcare facilities also provide care for preschool-aged children in late August: 

YWCA Princeton (August 17–28, 2020), 59 Paul Robeson Place, Princeton, NJ 08540

Village Learning Center (August 17–28, 2020; children ages 3-7), 15 Yard Road, Pennington, NJ 08534

Lakeview Centers (August 17–28, 2020; children ages 3-7)

Facilities may have limited availability, and some providers may limit services to those families under regular contract. The University does not guarantee space at any of these facilities and lists them only as potential options.     

What childcare facility options are available for school-aged children at the end of August 2020 and early September 2020?

Harmony School (August 17–28, 2020; children ages 5–8), 1 Merwick Road, Princeton, NJ 08540

Knowledge Beginnings (Kindercare) (August 17–28, 2020; kindergarten–age 8), 450 College Road East, Princeton, NJ 08540

Lakeview Centers (August 17–28, 2020; kindergarten–age 8)

Lawrence Day School (August 17–28, 2020; kindergarten–age 12), 510 Lawrence Square Blvd S, Lawrenceville, NJ 08648

The Learning Experience (August 17–28, 2020; kindergarten–age 8), 4447 Route 27, Princeton, NJ 08540

Montessori Country Day School (August 17–28, 2020; ages 5–8), 72 Grovers Mill Road, Plainsboro, NJ 08536

Arts Council of Princeton (August 17–September 4, 2020; ages 5–16), 102 Witherspoon Street, Princeton, NJ 08542

West Windsor Arts Council (August 17–September 4, 2020; ages 5–14 (exact ages depend upon week), 952 Alexander Road, Princeton Junction, NJ 08550

Princeton Recreation Department & US Sports Institute (August 17–September 4, 2020; ages 5–11), Community Park South, Princeton, NJ

YMCA (August 17–28, 2020), 59 Paul Robeson Place, Princeton, NJ 08540

Facilities may have limited availability, and some providers may limit services to those families under regular contract. The University does not guarantee space at any of these facilities and lists them only as potential options.     

What other childcare options are available at the end of August 2020 and early September 2020?

Bright Horizons Back-up Care Program, a University benefit, provides faculty, staff, and graduate students with 100 hours of childcare assistance through Bright Horizons at a reasonable rate. Limited services are available August 17–September 11. More information is available at

What process led to the calendar changes that were proposed and adopted?

The Ad Hoc Committee on Calendar Reform, chaired by Professor of Computer Science Aarti Gupta and staffed by Deputy Dean of the College Elizabeth Colagiuri, considered a wide array of factors in proposing a calendar that would move the fall semester earlier, finish fall-term exams before the winter break, and create a flexible activity period in January. 

Sixteen committee members, representing the student body, faculty and administrative staff, gathered feedback from a comprehensive set of campus audiences on the various options and tradeoffs, and issued a report of recommendations to University faculty and leaders in Spring 2018. The faculty approved the plan at their April 2, 2018 meeting.

A Calendar Implementation Team, co-chaired by Chris Burkmar, executive director for planning and administration in the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life, and Elizabeth Colagiuri, has been working over the past year to recommend how the University successfully navigates the many varied implications of calendar reform. They touch on nearly every unit on campus, from campus housing and dining services, to facilities and the use of campus spaces, to athletics, human resources, finance and treasury, and beyond.