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, Blackplanet.com 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.

Magoosh’s New eBook: Lightening the SAT Math Load

Magoosh_SAT MathFor some high school students, SAT math is the bane of their existence. You need to learn all these foreign strings of numbers and letters, and then magically recall them once you’re sitting in a hot room for hours with your entire future weighing down on your tired shoulders. Yeah – SAT math…not the funnest thing in the world.

Our friends at Magoosh SAT have released a new ebook, Magoosh’s SAT Formula eBook, loaded with all you need to know to lighten the load and ace the math section on the SATs. The book is free with interactive elements, and comes complete with all the math formulas, study strategies, time-saving tips, and practice problems you’ll need for the SAT.

Here’s an excerpt from the intro of the book:

While formulas can be really helpful on the SAT, there are very, very few that you absolutely need to have memorized to score well. That might come as a surprise, but it’s true, and it leads us to an important thought: understanding how and why a formula works is as useful as rote memorization. In fact, it’s much better. You’ll have a better sense of when to use a formula and be more accurate in executing it if you understand the math behind it. Let’s look at a concrete case to illustrate. The distance formula is a prime example. It’s ugly…

MagooshSAT_DistanceFormula

…but it actually represents a pretty simple idea. If you have any two points on a graph (on the coordinate plane), you can make a right triangle that connects those two points as the ends of the hypotenuse. That is, you draw a diagonal line between the two points, then a straight horizontal line and a straight vertical line going through each point to make the legs of the triangle.

MagooshSAT_Triangle

Then, since you’re trying to find the length of the hypotenuse, you just use the Pythagorean theorem:

MagooshSAT_PythagoreanTheorem

(Notice that a couple very basic formulas like this one do need to be memorized.) The lengths of those legs are a and b, and the length of the hypotenuse is c.

So let’s find the length of c:

MagooshSAT_LengthofC

And if you’re trying to find the length of the legs (the shorter sides), you just need to know the horizontal distance between the two points, [more math], and the vertical distance between the two points, [more math]. If you replace a and b with those values, voilà: you have the distance formula.

Check out the Book!

Accepted.com: Helping You Write Your Best

Introducing NEW Consulting CEO Rankings

FirmsconsultingCEORankingsFirmsconsulting just released new rankings that compare the performance of CEOs from six top consulting firms, McKinsey & Co., BCG, Bain & Co., Deloitte S&O, PwC Strategy& and Roland Berger. Each Sunday, the rankings will be republished based on new performance findings.

Here are some points to keep in mind:

1. How a CEO fares does not correlate to the prestige of the firm.

2. Feedback is collected directly from firm partners.

3. The real-time ranking updates allow Firmsconsulting to track weekly changes. For consulting firms, a yearly ranking would simply be outdated by the time it was published, taking into account data from a bygone era.

4. Based on a CEO’s past performance, Firmsconsulting believes one can infer from these ranking the likely future performance of a CEO.

You can view the real-time rankings and check out CEO profiles here.

Accepted.com: Helping You Write Your Best

Related Resources:

• How to Become a Management Consultant
• Consulting at Top MBA Programs
• MBA In Sight: Focus on Management Consulting

Princeton Approves Grading Policy Changes

Looking for college admissions tips?

Will Princeton’s application volume go up?

Last week Princeton faculty approved changes to their undergraduate grading policy, including the removal of “numerical targets and replacing them with grading standards developed and articulated by each department.” The committee concluded that the previous system (adopted in 2004) is a large contributor to psychological stress, making students “feel as though they are competing for a limited resource of A grades.”

New policies will emphasis “quality of feedback” rather than numerical grades. The previous faculty committee on grading will be dissolved, and a new committee – the Council on Teaching and Learning – will advance this new focus. The committee believes that these changes won’t negatively impact competitiveness of Princeton students when it comes to post-college education.

The recommendation proposes that at the beginning of each year, the Faculty Committee on Examinations and Standing will “review the grading history for each department and program, and the dean of the college would continue to report to the faculty on the grading record of the previous academic year.”

(Source: “Princeton faculty approves changes to grading policy” by Princeton Office of Communications)

My Prediction

The grading policy adopted in 2004 reflected concern among Princeton faculty about grade inflation. I predict that the new policy will exacerbate grade inflation at Princeton while reducing student “stress.” It may just also increase Princeton’s application volume and yield by removing the perception that Princeton students suffer from a more rigorous grading scale and are at a “disadvantage” when applying to graduate schools because their grades may be a tad lower.

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

Related Resources:

5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your College Application Essays
• Common Application Supplemental Essay Tips
• U.S. News 2015 Best Colleges

Why Your Resume Deserves Your Attention

Many adcom readers will begin their review of an application by going over an applicant’s resume. That’s right – your resume isn’t just some quick document that’s there for show! It’s really your unique one-page introduction to the admissions board. This is not something you want to put on the back burner!

Download your copy of The Quick Guide to Admissions Resumes!

In our newest special report, The Quick Guide to Admissions Resumes, you’ll learn important tips and tricks for crafting an admissions resume that’s interesting, clear, and highly readable. A messy resume equals a messy applicant – not the first impression you want to make!

Download your free copy of The Quick Guide to Admissions Resumes now and get started with the resume that will determine your future: acceptance to your top choice program!

Click here to download your guide!

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