Upper School

Choices and Challenges

Upper School provides a rigorous academic experience in a fully supportive atmosphere.

English courses, at their core, explore nothing less than meaning, purpose and the quest to communicate, as expressed through language and writing. Electives include topics that would make challenging undergraduate seminars, including Modern Voices of Minority Experience, Shakespeare, American Expatriates and the 1920s, to name a few.

For mathematics and computer studies, courses are offered beyond the two-year sequence in calculus, affording students the opportunity to work with faculty to shape their advanced math studies.

The history department weaves the intricate tapestry of humanity and asks students to confront essential questions about what's coming next through courses in art history, economics, geography, government, history, philosophy and religion, ensuring that students explore deeply while developing a global outlook.

Language students are able to reach a level of fluency that allows them to study literature in French, Latin, Chinese or Spanish. Our Global Studies programs, including semester away programs, can greatly enhance the language experience.

Arguably the most distinctive program of its kind in the region, our extensive STEAM curriculum includes courses in science, math, technology, engineering and the arts conducted in The Wellemeyer STEAM Center's state-of-the art-makerspace. The integrated, applied learning approach mirrors the interdisciplinary realities of the complex, real-world problems that individuals and teams in universities and organizations around the globe seek to solve.

Along with these challenges come choices—in electives, extracurricular activities, even advisors—allowing each PDS student to shape a unique educational experience.

And as they prepare for life after PDS, students can rely on our exceptional college counseling team for help as they seek opportunities matching their interests, aptitudes, goals and preferences.


Upper School English is a four-year, integrated program based on the principle that reading and writing are complementary disciplines. All English courses emphasize core skills of critical thinking and creative self-expression. Students read literary works from a variety of periods, cultures, and genres, and they hone their interpretive skills through class discussion, analytical essays, dramatic performance, and other forms of response to the reading. Readings also provide models and ideas for personal essays, short fiction, poetry, drama, and other forms of creative writing. Through writing exercises in class, free-writing in a Writer’s Notebook, frequent revision, peer-editing, and one-on-one conferences with their teachers and with trained student-mentors in the PDS Writing Center, students gain practice with the writing process and strengthen their applied knowledge of grammar, usage, and style.

The goals of the four-year program in English are to help students become alert and compassionate listeners to the voices of others in the classroom and on the page; to help them become creative, independent thinkers; and to help them develop the boldness, clarity, and precision of their words, spoken and written. Through research-based projects across the four-year curriculum, we also aim to strengthen their ability to conduct research, evaluate and document sources, and synthesize their findings in creative and informative prose. In addition, we seek to cultivate in all our students the practice of reading as a source of pleasure, inspiration, and knowledge, and to that end, independent reading and summer reading are integral components of all English courses. Ninth and tenth grade students take year-long English courses shaped around the core curricula; juniors and seniors choose their courses from a rich and varied list of English electives. All of our English electives are AP-level classes in the sense that students who consistently do honors-level work in our upper level English classes are well prepared to achieve successful scores on the English Literature & Composition AP.


All students must complete at least three years of mathematics. A student's initial course selection is dependent upon his or her previous math background and performance. Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II are required courses. The department offers honors and college level courses. Required courses and electives develop strong reasoning skills and broad conceptual understanding. Computers and graphing calculators are integrated throughout the math curriculum.


The history department courses and teaching reflect the continuity and change of social, political, and religious organizations and the interrelated nature of global communities and cultures. The curriculum achieves this through the lens of the major participants, events, and beliefs that have shaped conflict and collaboration over time.

There are courses in art history, economics, geography, government, history, philosophy and religion. We require that each student take at least three classes in the department

A distinctive element of a Princeton Day School education is our commitment to exposing students to religion through an academic, global and historical lens. Therefore, as one of the three required departmental courses, all students must take a religion course. All incoming freshmen will take The Search for Self: World Religions in History. Students may also take Asian Studies or Philosophy.

All courses incorporate our desire to produce students who appreciate the past and its impact on the present. In grades 9 and 10, our emphasis is on nurturing a love for history while teaching the skills required to master the study of the subject. Students develop their ability to identify cause and effect, to organize their ideas when explaining and analyzing evidence, and to discern more important and reliable information from the less so. We encourage them to express a point of view and consider multiple perspectives while producing analytical or interpretative compositions.

In 10th grade, all students must take American History. In grades 11 and 12, we continue to teach skills but place an even greater emphasis on content. We do so by giving students the ability to study history across time, space and academic discipline. Students choose one or more issues, eras, or topics each year that especially resonate with them. They then apply the skills they have developed earlier in their high school careers, use case studies, and conduct a sophisticated level of analysis to deepen their expertise on the particular subject they have chosen to study.

Finally, every student must take at least one Junior/Senior elective. Students are welcome to take more than four courses from the department, and we encourage a variety of global and disciplinary perspectives. Admission to all AP courses requires department approval.

Classical and Modern Languages

The languages offered are French, Spanish, Latin, Classical Greek, and Chinese (Mandarin). PDS students are required to study at least two years of a modern or classical language, but are strongly encouraged to continue their language studies throughout their four years in the Upper School. In some cases students pursue studying more than one language. Faculty members and language clubs sponsor cultural events related to language study. Our Global Studies program give many students the opportunity to travel and broaden their experience of a chosen language and culture.


Students are required to take at least two years of a laboratory science, usually beginning with Biology in the 9th grade followed by an introductory chemistry course in 10th grade, but most students are strongly encouraged to complete introductory courses in biology, chemistry, and physics prior to graduation. Research and writing skills are reinforced throughout the curricula. A student may enroll in an AP science course after completing an introductory course in that discipline.


The STEAM Curriculum: An Overview

The STEAM curriculum includes the following courses in science, math, technology, engineering, and the arts:

Freshman STEAMinar
As the foundational STEAM program in the Upper School, the STEAMinar is designed to give all 9th graders a baseline of literacy in STEAM disciplines. Embedded within 9th Grade Math and Science courses, the STEAMinar explores interdisciplinary topics such as coding, computational thinking, statistical literacy and biotechnology.

Computer Science
From “Introduction to Computer Science” to “AP Computer Science Principles” and "Advanced Computing - Coding for a Purpose," our completely redesigned Computer Science curriculum will endow students with technological literacy and opportunities for advanced study in coding and programming, all within a framework that emphasizes the important role of computer science in modern society.

Robotics and Information Processing
Robotics courses give students the opportunity to participate in VEX Robotics competitions, while also situating the study of Robotics within a broader exploration of microprocessors and artificial intelligence.

The engineering component of the STEAM program engages students in authentic engineering experiences and inspires them to embrace an engineer’s habits of mind. Project-based courses including "Intro to Engineering" and "Industrial Design" encompass a broad range of engineering concepts and disciplines, and are designed to engage learners of diverse interests, backgrounds and abilities.

Research Experience (REx) Program 

REx is a 14-month application-only program designed for the most passionate science students who want to delve deeply into an independent area of scientific study. With two faculty advisors and access to other faculty and outside expertise, juniors in the program spend the school year identifying and pursuing specific research areas and seek summer internships, resulting in lab experiences at some of the leading-edge university and institute labs in the country. The program culminates in the fall of senior year with a poster presentation and evening reception.

Associated Opportunities

Additional extracurricular programs include Computer Science Club, Girls Who Code, the Vex Robotics Team and the ThinSat Team, a rocket-propelled satellite launch and space study partnership with Princeton University that harnesses their extensive resources and affiliations with multiple space agencies and other organizations.

The Arts

Visual Arts, Woodworking, & Design: We offer a rich array of studio courses in drawing, painting, sculpture, video and media arts, ceramics, and photography. These include options for students who have a general interest and for those who want to make a serious commitment, exhibiting work, entering competitions, or preparing college portfolios.

: With a selection of more than a half-dozen elective courses, students have the chance to explore concepts in depth and to create ambitious original works, all in a dedicated space that emulates a professional architectural design studio.

Theater: Widely recognized for its excellence, the theater program offers students the chance to take several courses, from the introductory to the advanced level, and to take part in one or more of its main stage productions each year, either as a performer or a member of the technical theater crew. The annual Performing Arts Festival provides another chance for all members of the school community to get involved.

: Our music program is varied and rich, and offers opportunities for student musicians of all levels of experience and expertise. Courses include Music Theory at the introductory and AP levels, Band, Orchestra, and Chorus. Numerous formal and informal concerts and gatherings throughout the year showcase student achievement. Private instruction in voice and instruments is available through arrangement with our adjunct music faculty before, during, or after school. Extracurricular options include the Madrigal Singers, Chamber Music ensembles, and student-led A Cappella groups. (please see Music Opportunities)

Dance: The dance program offers classes for students of all levels of ability. Using technical skills culled from ballet, jazz and modern dance styles, dancing with healthy body alignment and embodying the rudiments of Western dance styles is a focus for all levels. Annual performances highlighting student work as well as field trips to NYC round out an exciting year of dance.


Our 106-acre campus features extensive natural turf playing fields, eight tennis courts, two artificial turf fields and an ice rink. Two performance gymnasiums are complimented by a dedicated fencing room, a multi-purpose gym and an expansive fitness facility that is staffed by a dedicated performance coach who focuses on strength and conditioning athletes of all sports.

Princeton Day School is a member of the New Jersey Independent School Athletic Association and plays an independent schedule for all sports featuring premier independent and public schools in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. PDS regularly competes for NJISAA State Championships in the B division.

For more details on individual teams please visit our Athletics webpage.