Princeton University is implementing a new academic calendar beginning in the 2020-21 academic year. This shift will affect nearly everyone in the campus community in some way, and now is the time to begin planning for the changes that calendar reform will set in motion. 

To help that process, this site pulls together the information and resources we have to date that can help inform your thinking and decisions. Please check back frequently, as this site will add new information on a regular basis as it becomes available.

Please do send us additional questions and comments.

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.

The new calendar has the fall term ending in December, before winter break. Students will no longer go home for the winter holidays and return for reading period and final exams in January. A majority of faculty members agreed that benefits of completing the semester before winter break would include better student learning and retention of course material, and improvements to students’ mental health. More than 80% of students surveyed said taking finals in January made them feel stressed over winter break. Providing students with a true holiday break will help them return to campus recharged for the spring.

Multiple breaks over the fall term also interrupted the flow of teaching and momentum in courses, and imposed greater financial costs on students who traveled to and from campus when classes weren’t in session.

The existing calendar was out of sync with many activities outside of Princeton, including the start of summer jobs and internships, study abroad opportunities, or courses taken at institutions other than Princeton. 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 offer optional, non-credit-bearing activities over a two-week, exploratory window that could encompass: academic content and skills, student research, teaching by graduate students, travel, service, experiential learning, mini Princeternships, and more.

Key dates and deadlines

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 application deadlines for undergraduate study abroad change?

The Office of International Programs is piloting an earlier internal application deadline for study abroad up 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.

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.  

Payroll schedule changes

How will faculty 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.

The new academic calendar will include the months of September through May (9 months), and the summer months will include June, July and August.  Faculty salaries will be paid in 9 equal, monthly installments, from September through May, with no installments over the summer months.

However, each eligible faculty member will now be given the option to receive their academic year salary prorated over 12 months, instead of the 9 installments described above.  Under this option, academic year salaries will be paid in 12 equal, monthly installments.

This new payment schedule option is intended to offer faculty the following benefits:

  • The ability to spread the academic year salary over 12 months, allowing those eligible to receive pay throughout the year rather than having a gap in the summer months.
  • The ability to have benefits payments, most commonly for health benefits, withheld throughout the summer months.  Those that are currently not paid in the summer months have these summer payments withheld from their September pay.  The 12-month pay option solves this since a paycheck will be received every month.
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.

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.

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 Working Group, chaired by Chris Burkmar, executive director for planning and administration in the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life, 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.