This is part of a series of posts providing advice you can use when completing The Common Application for 2011. You can find the entire series, including tips for the Common App’s required essays and advice on completing the activities section at https://blog.accepted.com/acceptedcom_blog/tag/2011-common-application-tips.
To me, Princeton has one of the more interesting applications. Like Harvard, they eliminated early action/early decision, instead requesting materials in mid-December with a final January 1st deadline. The Princeton supplement really allows students to become a person in front of the reader. The section entitled “A Few Details” has been there for years, and applicants can truly address the categories in just a few words. Complete sentences and lots of explanation aren’t necessary or even encouraged. Resist the urge to be someone you are not in this section. As a Princeton applicant, you are no doubt intelligent, passionate, and accomplished. Be that same intelligent, passionate, accomplished teenager in this section. Your answers to these details need not all be highbrow, super-intellectual, SAT-word answers.
In its longer writing sample, Princeton offers four choices for candidates to write one essay of about 500 words.
1. Tell us about a person who has influenced you in a significant way.
- This question overlaps with the Common Application essay, and it is obviously crucial that your answer to this question not overlap with your previous essay. If your primary Common Application essay addresses this question, select a different topic for the supplemental essay. With this topic, it is easy to tell the reader a lot about the person who has influenced you, yet miss the opportunity to explain how that person’s influence has impacted you. A strong essay does both.
2. Using the statement below 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.
“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.
3. Using the following quotation from “The Moral Obligations of Living in a Democratic Society” 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.
“Empathy is not simply a matter of trying to imagine what others are going through, but having the will to muster enough courage to do something about it. In a way, empathy is predicated upon hope.”
Cornel West, Class of 1943 University Professor in the Center for African American Studies, Princeton University
4.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 at the beginning of your essay.
- The final three topics all address one point “tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values or changed how you approach the world.” Each of these questions is asking you, the applicant, to tell a story. Pick an experience, large or small, that impacted you, and share it with the admissions committee. Once you have told your story, ensure that you address its impact on you. Your options in this question allow you to address this in any number of ways, from the most macro, global event, to a smaller, more personal moment.
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