It will come as no surprise that 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. In addition to the Common Application, Universal College Application or Coalition Application essay, Princeton also requires supplemental writing responses. These additional essays help the admissions committee to understand your particular strengths and potential contributions to the Princeton community comprehensively. Princeton prides itself on the diversity of talents, achievements, perspectives, and interests of its student body. At the same time, 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.
The best way to begin is by doing your research. Spend time looking over the Princeton website, get to know what current undergraduates are saying about the school, familiarize yourself with the various majors, and imagine yourself there. If possible, visit the campus (virtually), 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!
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Located in a 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.
Remember to allow your writing to express your voice as you address the following Princeton supplemental questions; consider how your responses reveal your intellectual curiosity, passion for learning, and engagement with the world.
Princeton University supplemental application prompts
Princeton University short essay questions
Briefly elaborate on an activity, organization, work experience, or hobby that has been particularly meaningful to you. (Please respond in about 150 words)
It’s very common for students to talk about their experiences in general terms, but you will stand out by telling real stories that will reveal (at least very briefly) not only what you did but what you learned as a result. For example, while earning leadership badges with the Girl Scouts, you could write about how you took on a leadership role by organizing a community tree-planting initiative or mental health awareness program. Explain why that role was meaningful to you. Or you may have needed to take on additional responsibility at a job that required a lot of creativity. If you have played guitar or have been writing poetry for several years, how have these hobbies shaped you? What do these experiences reveal about your character and values?
Please respond to each question in an essay of 250 words or fewer.
1. At Princeton, we value diverse perspectives and the ability to have respectful dialogue about difficult issues. Share a time when you had a conversation with a person or a group of people about a difficult topic. What insight did you gain, and how would you incorporate that knowledge into your thinking in the future?
Here, you might want to emphasize two things: how this conversation influenced your thinking (e.g., your long-held beliefs were challenged and opened your eyes to a new perspective); and secondly, how the conversation remained respectful (e.g., you were tempted to raise your voice or walk out but did not). What will you do to ensure that you can continue having hard but respectful exchanges in the future? Finally, be sure to say something about why these hard conversations are nonetheless important– Princeton clearly wants its students to be having them!
Read: 7 Simple Steps to Writing an Excellent Diversity Essay
2. Princeton has a longstanding commitment to service and civic engagement. Tell us how your story intersects (or will intersect) with these ideals.
Think about your involvement thus far in service and civic engagement. What have you done to help others; to serve your country; to volunteer your time? Then, research what Princeton students do to stay civically engaged. Given your background, how would you contribute to those things already in place at Princeton? How might you add to or improve what already exists?
More About You
Please respond to each question in 50 words or fewer. There are no right or wrong answers. Be yourself!
Note: In this section, make sure to include both the “what” and the “why”– for example, “What brings me joy is X because of Y.” Your task is both to describe and to explain, to show logical and articulate thinking.
– What is a new skill you would like to learn in college?
– What brings you joy?
– What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment?
Final thoughts on applying to Princeton
Each of these essay prompts ask you to share something personal about yourself, discuss how an experience impacted you, and explain how you make sense of your world. They ask you to articulate your values and provide insight into your thinking process. They want you to 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.
Princeton has a highly competitive and impressive applicant pool. It received tens of thousands of undergraduate applications for the class of 2026. Only 1,500 were offered admission. Add to that average SAT scores above 1500, and average ACT scores around 33, and you get a 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 valuable information about yourself and differentiate yourself from your peers. In your essays, you can demonstrate that you belong at Princeton!
If you’re applying to Princeton University, you already know you’re up against tight competition. Don’t be overwhelmed. Get the guidance of an experienced admissions specialist who will help you stand out from the highly competitive applicant pool so you can apply with confidence, and get accepted! Click here to get started!
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***
Marie Todd has been involved in college admissions for over twenty years. Marie has both counseled applicants to top colleges and evaluated 5000+ applications for the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts; College of Engineering; School of Kinesiology; School of Nursing; and Taubman College of Architecture. Want Marie to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch.