Tips for Answering Princeton University Supplemental Essay Prompts

Check out the rest of our school-specific Common App supplemental essay tips!

Show your engagement with the world.

Princeton University is among the top schools in the nation and is recognized globally for academic excellence. This Ivy League school is renowned as a major research university as well as an outstanding liberal arts college. Princeton requires supplemental essays in addition to the Common Application or the Universal College Application essay. These additional essays help the admissions committee to get a more comprehensive understanding of your particular strengths and how you might contribute to the Princeton community. Princeton prides itself on the diversity of talents, achievements, perspectives, and interests of its student body. It is looking for a freshman class that shares the following qualities: “integrity, a deep interest in learning and a devotion to both academic and non-academic pursuits.” Think about how you can contribute to Princeton as well as how Princeton can support your aspirations.

Princeton offers a nonbinding, single-choice early action program, listed on the Common Application as restrictive early action. Under this program, you may not apply to any other early program at a private college or university however; you may apply to any non-binding early program at a public institution. This is a good option if Princeton is your first choice. The early action deadline is Nov. 1. Students admitted early may defer their admission decision to May 1st, which is the deadline to accept Princeton’s offer for regular decision. The deadline to submit regular decision applications is January 1st.

Begin by doing your research. Adhere to deadlines and word-limits. Spend time looking over the Princeton website, get to know what current undergraduates are saying about the school, familiarize yourself with the various majors, imagine yourself there, if possible visit the campus, allow yourself to get excited about this opportunity, and make every effort to gain a sense of why Princeton is the ideal academic environment for you!

Located suburban setting, Princeton is primarily a residential campus with a strong liberal arts focus. Its residential college structure, freshman seminars, and preceptorial system support the tight-knit student community. These are hallmarks of an education at Princeton and demonstrate the university’s commitment to student centered learning within the context of a diverse student body, faculty, and staff.

As you address the following Princeton supplemental questions, consider how your responses reveal your intellectual curiosity, passion for learning, and engagement with the world.

Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences that was particularly meaningful to you. (About 150 words)

Use this opportunity to discuss an interesting aspect of an extracurricular activity or work experience that imparts something significant about your character. For example, if you were involved with the Boy Scouts, many students talk about leadership in general terms instead; focus on a particular event in Boy Scouts where you took on a leadership role and why that was meaningful to you. Or perhaps there was a specific incident in your job that required you to take on additional responsibility, showcase what that reveals about your values. Consider what makes this activity or work experience distinctive and what it demonstrates about your character.

Please tell us how you have spent the last two summers (or vacations between school years), including any jobs you have held. (About 150 words)

This prompt asks you to share what you do when you are not in school. This may include just about anything you do outside of school. Don’t panic if your summer experiences were not exotic. The key here is to express your interests and perspectives about how you spent that time. What did you learn? This response provides insight about your life experience and background.

Your favorite book and its author

Your favorite movie

Your favorite website

Two adjectives your friends would use to describe you

Your favorite recording

Your favorite keepsake or memento

Your favorite source of inspiration

Your favorite word

Your favorite line from a movie or book and its title

As you consider how to answer the questions above, remember that Princeton is looking for independent thinkers with creative minds who are engaged with the world around them. Make sure to consider what your answers might indicate to the admissions committee. These responses provide clues about the kind of person you are and the kind of prospective Princeton student you might be. They also reflect the way you think and what you find interesting, fun, and motivating. Be truthful but also try not to mention anything that might be considered offensive.

In addition to the Common Application essay and Princeton-specific short answer responses, a themed essay of 250 to 650 words is also required. Be aware that you should not reiterate any portion of the essay you used for the Common Application.

Using one of the themes below as a starting point, write about a person, event, or experience that helped you define one of your values or in some way changed how you approach the world. Please do not repeat, in full or in part, the essay you wrote for the Common Application.

Tell us about a person who has influenced you in a significant way.

Discuss a person who has made a difference in your way of thinking that subsequently influenced your actions and/or behavior. This is someone who has inspired you, convinced you, and/or challenged you in some way. As you choose a person who has influenced you, also consider what you value about that person and what that might reflect about the sort of person you are. This response tells the admissions committee the kind of person you aspire to be and what characteristics you hold dear. It is okay to compare yourself directly with this person. Just be sure to avoid being boastful- focus on how they inspired you to define your values and the way you approach the world.

“One of the great challenges of our time is that the disparities we face today have more complex causes and point less straightforwardly to solutions.” Omar Wasow, Assistant Professor, Politics; Founder, This quote is taken from Professor Wasow’s January 2014 speech at the Martin Luther King Day celebration at Princeton University.

This prompt lends itself to a discussion of civil liberties and civil rights. Your response can tie to local or global issues. Begin by considering a broad range of inequalities, but focus on something specific and significant to you. Consider the current state of inequalities– racial, sexual, political, economic, gender. Consider old approaches and new solutions. Think about the complexity of solutions in day-to-day interactions/business as well as the bigger picture (actively promoting equality). This response illustrates to how you think through complex issues and how you interpret varied sources of information. How do you make sense of the world around you? How does this impact your personal values? What sort of solutions do you have in mind to address the disparities? What issues or aspects of these topics will you explore further at Princeton?

“Princeton in the Nation’s Service” was the title of a speech given by Woodrow Wilson on the 150th anniversary of the University. It became the unofficial Princeton motto and was expanded for the University’s 250th anniversary to “Princeton in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations.” Woodrow Wilson, Princeton Class of 1879, served on the faculty and was Princeton’s president from 1902–1910.

A response to this prompt will likely address leadership, service to your community, and/or service on an international level. What will a Princeton education allow you to do as a leader in your field? How do your previous leadership roles create a foundation for the sorts of leadership roles you will pursue at Princeton? What does service to others mean to you? This is a great place to discuss your involvement with community service projects. You can tie your response to local and international concerns. Focus on how the experience influenced your values or approach to the world. What are your visions for the future and how does Princeton support those plans?

“Culture is what presents us with the kinds of valuable things that can fill a life. And insofar as we can recognize the value in those things and make them part of our lives, our lives are meaningful.” Gideon Rosen, Stuart Professor of Philosophy, chair of the Council of the Humanities and director of the Program in Humanistic Studies, Princeton University.

This prompt illustrates the sort of things you find valuable– traditions, family, religion, etc. This is about how you appreciate/perpetuated/embrace culture in day-to-day routines as well as lager patterns of thoughts and behaviors. It is also about where you come from and what impact that has on you. This is a good place to discuss your family’s history and culture. How do you see yourself within a specific world context? Discuss your culture and what is meaningful to you. Remember to relate this back to how culture defines your values and the way you approach the world. Also discuss how a Princeton education fits into the picture.

Using a favorite quotation from an essay or book you have read in the last three years as a starting point, tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values or changed how you approach the world. Please write the quotation, title and author at the beginning of your essay.

This prompt sets the stage to discuss just about any topic! As you select your favorite quotation, consider what it reveals about your values and how you look at the world. This response hones in on the process of critical thinking and evaluation. It allows you to discuss your identity and perspectives and asks you to articulate how you approach the world around you. It tells the admissions committee more about who you are and what is important to you. Remember to discuss how your values and world perspective make Princeton a place where you will flourish.

Each of these essay prompts ask you to share something personal about yourself, discuss how the experience impacted you, and how you make sense of your world. They ask you to articulate your values and provide insight into your thinking process. They also reveal how you evaluate information and make decisions. Select the themed essay topic that strikes a cord with you. Make sure to convey your enthusiasm for that subject and for Princeton.

It is no surprise that Princeton has a highly competitive and impressive applicant pool. It received 26,641 undergraduate applications for the class of 2018. Only 1,983, or 7.4%, were offered admission and 96% ranked in the top 10% of their high school class. Add to that, average SAT scores of 745 in critical reading, 755 in math, 750 in writing and an average ACT score of 33 and you get an better sense of the level of competition. However, keep in mind that Princeton is committed to a holistic approach to the admissions process. This means they use your essay responses to round out the picture of you as a prospective student. The supplemental essays are your chance to share critical information about yourself. There is no magic formula to gain admission to this prestigious Ivy League school. As you survey the numbers, it is clear that you must use your essays as an opportunity to differentiate yourself from your peers and to demonstrate that you belong at Princeton!

Download 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid to learn how to eliminate the most common flaws in your application essays.

Marie Todd By Accepted’s college admissions specialist. Marie has worked in college admissions for over twenty years. She has both counseled applicants and evaluated applications. Most recently she evaluated 5000+ applications for the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts; College of Engineering; School of Kinesiology. She is available to assist you (or your child) with your applications.

Related Resources:

• School-Specific Common App Supplemental Essay Tips
• Common App Supplemental Essay Tips
• From Example to Exemplary, a free special report.

The GMAT, the GRE, and the Guy Who Knows them Well

Click here to listen to our conversation with Arthur Ahn!If you have the GMAT or GRE in your future, then you’ve most certainly heard of Kaplan Test Prep. Trying to figure out which test to take? Getting ready for test day? This podcast episode is for you!

Listen to the full recording of our podcast interview with Arthur Ahn, Senior Manager, Product Development at Kaplan Test Prep for the GRE and the GMAT for some great insight into test prep, test taking and what matters to admissions committees.

00:01:00 – Linda answers the oft-asked question: “I got accepted to School X. Should I attend?”

00:05:03 – The test prep biz: Instructing students, but not as the enemy.

00:06:23 – What Kaplan offers future GMAT and GRE test-takers.

00:08:28 – GMAT vs GRE: Differences in prepping & test taking.

00:16:04 – Why a low GRE score is the biggest application killer (by far).

00:22:31 – Is it the total GRE Score, or section scores, that make it or break it.

00:28:32 – Arthur’s top 3 GRE prep tips.

00:30:34 – How to make the big GMAT vs GRE decision.

00:34:20 – Too early to assess: Do applicants with lower scores have a better chance of admissions with one test over the other?

00:39:12 – Why most b-schools don’t really care yet about GMAT IR section scores.

00:47:25 – Last minute advice for exam takers.

Listen to the full conversation to learn more!*Theme music is courtesy of

Related Links:

• Kaplan Survey: Two Years After its Launch, a Majority of Business Schools Still Not Sold on the Importance of the GMAT’s® Integrated Reasoning Section; Most Deem it Unimportant, but Students Ignore it at their Own Risk
• What’s the Biggest Graduate School Admissions Application Killer? A Low GRE® Score, According to Kaplan’s 2014 Survey of Admissions Officers
GRE® Test Takers Are Successful in MBA Programs
Kaplan GRE Prep on Twitter
• Kaplan GMAT Prep on Twitter

Related Shows:

• Bruce DelMonico on The Yale School of Management
• Chris Ryan of Manhattan GMAT on What MBA Applicants Need to Know
• Kisses of Death for your Grad School Application

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Learn how to use sample essays to create an exemplary essay of your own! Click here to download our free report!

MBA Interview Must-Know #1: Your Interview Goal

Click here to download a copy of Ace Your MBA Interviews!

Show how your background & needs fit with the school’s strengths & opportunities.

“MBA Interview Must-Know #1: Your Interview Goal” is excerpted from the special report, How to Ace Your MBA Interviews. To download the entire free special report, click here

Your Interview Goal. It’s three-fold:

Show fit. In the words of the Wharton Adcom Blog, “The interviewer is assessing your fit for the Wharton MBA program.” Think of your professional and educational background and needs and the school’s methodology, strengths, and career opportunities. Realize, however, that the interview is not just about you as a professional: it is also about you as an individual and human being.

Inform the school about recent accomplishments and achievements. Did you retake the GMAT? Earn an A in calculus? Get a promotion? Take on a leadership role in a new project? Try to inform your interviewer of any new attainments. Doing so will strengthen your profile overall and portray you as a growing, dynamic individual.

Demonstrate your communications and interpersonal skills. The latter is important for all, but critical if English is your second language and/or your transcript and test scores lead one to question your communications skills.

MBA Interview Tip #1: Enter the interview with SID:

Show you are a match with the program.
Inform the interviewer of recent accomplishments.
Demonstrate your interpersonal skills.

Tips to help you ace those MBA interviews! Helping You Write Your Best

Related Resources:

Leadership in Admissions
• Preparing for Behavioral and General Interview Questions, a short video
• MBA Admissions According to an Expert

What Are My Chances? Indian Architect with Designs on a Real Estate Career

This blog post is part of a series of MBA profile evaluations called “What are My Chances?”  by Michelle Stockman. Michelle, who started consulting for Accepted in 2007 and worked previously in the Columbia Business School admissions office, will provide selected applicants with school recommendation as well as an assessment of their strengths and weaknesses.

If you would like Michelle to evaluate your profile at no charge and as part of this series, please provide the information requested at

PROFILE #7: Lakshya, the Indian architect with designs on a real estate (or energy) career

Click here for to check out the rest of the profiles in the What Are My Chances series!

Think of your app as you would a building you’re designing. Build it for its intended use, and users.

Note: This profile request arrived with very little information. In my evaluation, I’m going to mention “ideal” details that would make him stand out.

-BACKGROUND: 24-year-old Indian male who graduated in 2013 from Dehradun Institute of Technology in India. Six months full-time training at renowned architecture firm. Two years of work experience as a chief designer and team leader for various projects.

Lakshya, you’re on the younger side of the MBA applicant pool. I’m not sure how you could have 24 months of full-time work experience having graduated in 2013. Perhaps you wrapped your class schedule around your job or you’re counting months to matriculation? You need to clarify this.

My advice? Wait.

Unless you have some significant leadership or design accomplishments–you need another year or two of work experience to accrue noteworthy leadership stories for your application. This would also give you time to research and network your target schools.

What leadership stories might stand out? First, be careful about how you word your experience. You must come across as talented, yet humble. A “renowned” architecture firm won’t mean much to an ad comm member. They are going to be impressed by YOUR extraordinary accomplishments in an ordinary job.

So give some context. Seeking an MBA with an architecture background is distinctive. You’re going to be one of the few, if admitted, in a global MBA program. You must be exceptional.

Are you a wunderkind in India’s “green design” field?  Did you introduce a socially conscious kind of design to a building project at your company that saves resources or energy in a country where conservation is a necessity? What was your impact on the job? Or have you come up with an ingenious method using cheap materials at hand to help the disadvantaged build cheap, sturdy shelters as a humanitarian project? Have you shared your experience at architecture conferences around the country?

If not, start now.

-GOALS: Work in the real estate and energy sector.

You obviously know the guts of building. I assume now you want to understand the business side of decision-making–that impacts your design. You must communicate three things with your goals.

1. Make them ambitious: Show the admissions committee that it’s not just about making money, but responsibly developing an overcrowded nation. Inspire them with your ideas for India’s future development.

2. Focus: Real estate and energy are two vast markets. Choose one. Then choose a specific part you want to be involved with. Make it relate to your past.

3. Experience: You must show the admissions committee that you do have some experience working on business deals. This piqued your interest and now you need an MBA to fill in the gaps in your knowledge to achieve your goals.

-GMAT: 720

No breakdown was given, but this is a decent score. You don’t necessarily need to retake the test, especially if you can match yourself well to a program.

-GPA: 3.5

Your GPA comes a bit out of left field because you graduated from an Indian university. Do not feel that you need to translate your percentage score to the 4.0 scale. US and UK MBA programs understand the Indian system well enough to understand your GPA.

Overall it’s a solid GPA.

-EXTRACURRICULAR: Arranging cancer check up camps in my city and giving presentations on cancer awareness.

This is great. I want to know more. Did you come up with this idea? Why? How did you identify the need? How involved were you? For how long? What kind of difference has it made in your community?

Perhaps, you came up with this idea after you or someone close to you was stricken by cancer. You decided to create an awareness campaign that you funded through donations and fundraisers. You are involved in the administration of this program on a weekly basis. You used technology as much as possible to advertise and streamline administration of the program. For example, you convinced a mobile phone service provider to run free text msg. based ads to remind people to get their cancer screenings.

Thanks to this program, “x” number of people have been evaluated, and “x” number of cases were caught in preliminary stages. You’ve shared your plan with, perhaps, a regional hospital system, and they intend to copy the program in several villages.

If you haven’t, begin to think on this scale!


Stretch matches: Berkeley, Stanford, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Wharton, UCLA

On-par matches: University of Texas – Austin, UNC, USC, Ross, Amity University — RICS School of Built Environment

Safety matches: Warwick, Rice – Jones, Aberdeen Business School, University of Calgary (Haskayne School of Business)

Overall, I write this with the caveat that ALL THESE SCHOOLS ARE STRETCH MATCHES unless you start networking now to get to know alumni, students and the admissions committee. You also need to tailor your application specifically to your target schools. Think of your application as you would any building you are designing. Build it for its intended use, and users.

MBA admissions tips for Indian applicants! Download Free. s
Michelle Stockman is a professional journalist, former Columbia Business School admissions insider, and experienced MBA admissions consultant.


Related Resources:

What are My Chances?: Rahul, the Indian Male IT Guy 
Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One 

Leadership in Admissions 

What Should You Wear to Your Med School Interview?

Click here to download your complete copy of The Ultimate Guide to Medical School Interview Success!

What should I wear?

“What Should You Wear?” is excerpted from the special report, The Ultimate Guide to Medical School Interview Success. To download the entire free special report, click here.

Now you know what to say. But what should you wear?

For the men, suits are most common. You want to dress neatly and professionally. Applicants should have their hair groomed and it is best to wear business style walking shoes.

Women, on the other hand, do not need to wear a suit but often do choose to. Some color is fine but make sure it’s in good taste – not overdone. Applicants should not wear a lot of make-up or jewelry and they should definitely wear shoes that are comfortable.

The key is to wear something you feel comfortable in and even more importantly, something you feel confident wearing. Be professional. Remember you have been selected based on your credentials on paper. The interview is your chance to present yourself personally. You want to look and act like a physician, someone that will be treating future patients.

Click here to download your complete copy of The Ultimate Guide to Medical School Interview Success! Helping You Write Your Best

Related Resources:

• Interviewing with Impact: How to Make an Impression in Your Med School Interviews
• Common Myths about Medical School Interviews
• Introducing the MMI (Multiple Mini Interview)