WWS Blog

The (A)BCD’s of Quantitative Classes at WWS

Apr 14, 2014
Published by:
Emily King, MPA '15

One of the first decisions you’ll be faced with at Princeton—after you decide which drawer will be the silverware drawer, select the color of your new comforter from Ikea and pick which intramural sports to sign up for—is which track of quantitative classes to take.

 As Dan’s earlier post mentioned, quantitative classes come in three flavors at the Woo. B-track classes are designed for students who haven’t taken a math class in awhile and D-track classes are intended for students who are strong in calculus and may even have a linear algebra textbook from their undergraduate days lying around. C-track classes are aimed at those of us who fall between those two categories, as they require only a fluency in basic calculus. (Or the ability to regain a fluency in basic calculus after shaking the cobwebs off your calculus book during Math Camp.)

 For me, C-track was a perfect fit. The last “official” math course I took was AP Calculus in high school, but my quantitative side kept busy with plenty of chemistry and physics classes in college. After college, I worked for a health policy think tank where I spent a good chunk of time playing in Excel. 

 I came to the Woodrow Wilson School to strengthen my economic and statistical skill set. I wrote papers on the health professions workforce without a deep knowledge of how labor markets function, and analyzed the results of regressions without really knowing what was going on “under the hood.”

 For me, C-track statistics classes provided the perfect level of challenge. All WWS students learn Stata, but C-trackers take econometrics a step further by learning what goes on inside the black box of regression.

 C-track microeconomics uses calculus to help us more thoroughly understand the concepts taught in class. We don’t spend much time lost in theoretical proofs, but rather use tools like optimization to solve utility maximization problems.

 In C-track macroeconomics, we regularly discuss current journal articles that use real-world data to support—and sometimes challenge—the concepts in our textbook. (Although I’ve heard that my B-track friends do this too.) I’ve learned tools in C-track statistics that allow me to understand this research in a way that I couldn’t before grad school.

 If you’re still trying to decide between B-, C-, and D-track classes, the Woodrow Wilson School offers a special “shopping” schedule for the first week of classes to help you decide. For most people, the decision becomes clear pretty quickly.

 But, as for the decision between the green or blue comforter, or sand volleyball or ultimate Frisbee - you’re on your own!

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