How to Get Into Princeton: 3 Admissions Tips from Admissions Experts

Princeton is one of the world’s most prestigious and selective universities, admitting less than 8% of applicants each year. To be one of them, you must ensure that your application stands out from the tens of thousands of others that the admissions committee must review.


This article will go over how to get into Princeton, starting with how difficult it is. Then we’ll discuss the test scores, essays, and supplemental materials you’ll need to make your application stand out.

What is the admissions process like at Princeton?

Princeton is a highly selective university. Princeton’s admissions rate was only 5.8 percent as of September 2020, making it one of the most selective schools in the world.

Just as many other colleges and universities, Princeton’s admissions rate is exceptionally selective, mainly as more students apply.

If you’d like to be one of the lucky students accepted into the next Princeton University first-year class, make sure your application demonstrates why you would be an excellent addition to the school.

What Qualities Does Princeton Seek in Its Students?

How can your application stand out if Princeton is so competitive? In a nutshell, you must concentrate on what makes you unique.

Princeton’s undergraduate admissions website provides several tips for getting into Princeton. Let’s look at what they are:

#1: Academically, push yourself.

Princeton suggests that students take courses in the following areas:

  • 4 years of English (including continued practice in writing)
  • 4 years of mathematics (including calculus for students interested in engineering)
  • 4 years of one foreign language
  • At least 2 years of laboratory science (including physics and chemistry for students interested in engineering)
  • At 2 two years of history

However, simply checking those boxes will not make you stand out. You must demonstrate that you have academically challenged yourself by enrolling in advanced coursework such as AP or IB classes and performing well in them. You must demonstrate your ability to meet Princeton’s rigorous academic requirements.

#2: Invest Time in Your Essays

Princeton requires applicants to write at least two essays and two short answer questions (three essays if you have expressed an interest in Engineering). The admissions blog suggests that you take your time writing your essays. Here’s a comprehensive guide to the Princeton supplement because the essays are critical.

But what’s the most important takeaway? Use your essays to demonstrate your writing abilities. You should polish your work and write in your voice.

#3: Concentrate on what makes you unique.

Finally, Princeton expects its students to be exceptional both in and out of the classroom. The majority of students who apply to Princeton have an outstanding academic record.

You must demonstrate to the admissions committee what distinguishes you from the thousands of other applicants. In a later section, we’ll go over these hints in greater detail.

Is it possible to apply to Princeton early?

Princeton has a single early action option. Because the single-choice early action program is a non-binding process, if you are admitted, you have until May 1 to notify Princeton of your decision to attend. Apply for single-choice early action, also known as restrictive early action, on November 1. You will not be able to apply to any other private college or university’s earlier programs.

However, you can still apply to other schools early. The following are the exceptions to the single-choice procedure:

  • You may apply to any public institution or service academy as early as possible, as long as the decision is non-binding.
  • You can apply to any international institution as soon as possible, as long as the decision is non-binding.
  • You can apply to any college or university with a non-binding rolling admissions process early.

You should apply to Princeton early action if it is your top choice, as you will save money on other applications if you are accepted.

However, applying early does not provide a significant statistical advantage over applying at the regular decision deadline, so if Princeton isn’t for you, you can wait a few more months to submit your application.

 

Princeton Application Requirements and Deadlines

The following are the key dates and requirements for applying to Princeton.:

For Early-Action Students, the deadline is November 1st.

  • Application and Princeton Supplement
  • Graded Written Paper
  • School Report, Guidance Counselor Letter, and Transcript
  • Teacher Evaluation Form 1
  • Teacher Evaluation Form 2

Regular Decision Students must submit their applications by January 1st.

  • Application and Princeton Supplement
  • Graded Written Paper
  • School Report, Guidance Counselor Letter, and Transcript
  • Teacher Evaluation Form 1
  • Teacher Evaluation Form 2

Princeton accepts both the Common Application and the Coalition Application. You must also submit the Princeton Supplement regardless of which of these you use.

What is the minimum GPA required for admission to Princeton?

To get into Princeton, you’ll need a high GPA. Princeton admitted students have a 3.9 unweighted GPA on average. In 2018, Princeton accepted less than 11% of students with GPAs less than 3.8.

If your grades aren’t stellar, you’ll need to focus on other aspects of your application, such as essays and extracurricular activities.

What are the minimum test scores required for admission to Princeton?

Unsurprisingly, Princeton’s admitted students have high test scores as well. Let’s look at the SAT and ACT scores you’ll need to be competitive for admission to Princeton.

But, before we begin, there is one critical caveat for students applying to Princeton in 2020-2021. Princeton has made testing optional for this application cycle only due to the coronavirus pandemic.

What SAT Scores Do I Need for Princeton?

The vast majority of admitted Princeton students have SAT scores above 1500. Princeton’s admitted applicants have an average SAT composite score of 1515.

While Princeton does not have a hard SAT cut-off, the data speaks for itself: Princeton accepted less than 5% of applicants with SAT scores below 1400. When you reduce the score by 100 points, the numbers become starker: Princeton accepted only about 1% of students with grades of 1300 or lower.

Excellent test scores are required to be a competitive applicant at Princeton. Don’t worry if you haven’t reached 1500 yet. Invest in quality test preparation materials, create a study plan, and stick to it.

What ACT Scores Do I Need for Princeton?

Princeton’s admitted applicants have high ACT scores on average. Princeton accepted less than 1% of students with ACT scores less than 24. To be in the middle of admitted applicants, you’ll need at least a 33 to have the best chance of admission.

Essays for the Princeton Application

Princeton values a well-rounded student, and your essays are one of the best places to demonstrate your uniqueness. Princeton requires all applicants to submit 3 essays and three short answers.

One of these essays will respond to a Common Application or Coalition Application prompt.

Essay #1: Work Experience and Extracurricular Activities

Explain briefly an activity, organization, work experience, or hobby that has been especially meaningful to you. (Please respond in approximately 150 words.) This prompt may appear simple to answer, but keep in mind that your ultimate goal is to elaborate why this activity is meaningful to you.

So, in response to this question, you must choose one thing and then concentrate on why you care about it. What is the best strategy for acing this essay? Be truthful.

Assume you were the Vice President of your honors society, volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, and worked at a youth camp during the summers. Take some time to choose the activity that meant the most to you, not the one you believe admissions counselors are most interested in. So, if that means working at a summer camp, go for it! Your enthusiasm will shine through in your essay, which is exactly what admissions officers want to see.

Oh, and watch your word count: while you have 200 words in the reply box, the prompt asks explicitly for around 150. We strongly advise you to edit your response until it’s as close to 150 words as possible.

Essay #2: Your Voice

We value extensive perspectives and the ability to engage in respectful dialogue about difficult issues at Princeton. Tell us about a time when you had a complex conversation with someone or a group of people. What new insights did you gain, and how would you apply that knowledge in the future?

Admissions officers want to know how you handle disagreements and if you’re willing to learn from them.

To respond to this prompt, 1) tell a story about a time when you disagreed with someone on an important issue, and 2) explain what you learned from that exchange and how it shaped you as a person.

Do not brag about how you were correct and got everyone to agree with you. This does not demonstrate your open-mindedness or willingness to learn from others, both of which are essential qualities for Princeton admissions counselors to look for. Princeton seeks students who will be positive members of the Princeton community.

Essay #3: Civic Engagement

Princeton has a long history of service and civic engagement. Tell us about your story and how it intersects (or will intersect) with these ideals. To answer this, you must understand what “civic engagement” entails. The American Democracy Project and the New York Times define civic engagement as “working to make a change in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to do so.”

So it means This prompt wants to know how you have (or plan to) make a difference in your community.

You have 2 options for responding to this prompt. The first strategy is to tell a story about your current service and explain how you intend to apply what you’ve learned to the Princeton community.

Assume you work as a volunteer at an animal shelter. You can tell a story about how you found a perfect forever home for a scared dog after working with him for a while. That experience taught you that every person and animal has worth and deserves to be treated with respect. That is why you are majoring in political science in the hopes of working for a community-oriented political organization one day.

So what if you don’t have a lot of experience with community service? Then you can respond to this question by anticipating the service you intend to perform as a Princeton student.

For example, if you’re a business major, you can discuss how you’d like to join the Small-Business Consulting group to assist local businesses become vital members of their community. This approach aims to demonstrate to admissions counselors that you have a plan for furthering the school’s civic engagement mission.

Short Questions

You must also answer three short answer questions on the Princeton Supplement. You only have 50 words to respond to each of these, so keep your responses brief and specific.

The first question is as follows:

What new skills do you want to learn in college?

Princeton asks this question to determine what you want to learn while in school.

The best answers to this question will be attainable and one-of-a-kind.

So, while saying you want to learn how to become President of the United States isn’t the best answer, stating you are curious to study if other planets support life by learning with Dr. Joshua Winn as well as other professors in the Department of Astrophysical Sciences is!

Let us now go to the second question:

What makes you happy?

There are many questions on college applications where you should tie your answer back to your degree, a program on campus, or even an on-campus group.

 This is one of those questions where the best answers will be genuine and honest. This question is used by admissions counselors to understand better who you are and what you value.

So, take a moment to consider what brings you joy in your life. Do you have big family dinners every Saturday? Or maybe it’s catching a perfect wave on a hot summer day? There is no such thing as a wrong answer here — joy is a good thing!

In any case, the best answers to this question will paint a picture for the reader and make them feel your joy as they read your words. Please explain why you enjoy this activity, how it makes you think, and why it is essential.

This brings us to the final short answer question:

What song is currently playing on the soundtrack of your life?

You want to give counselors more information about your personality than just the song title in this response. To answer this question, you must do two things: choose a song and choose your music carefully. The important thing to recall is to avoid highly controversial pieces. Remember, you’re trying to make a good impression, so don’t choose something overly vulgar or deliberately provocative. Similarly, it would help if you chose a song that will allow you to tell a brief but compelling story about your life.

It’s worthwhile to take the time to consider your song selection!

Once you’ve chosen your song, you should explain why it’s a good soundtrack for your life right now. Why is it speaking to you?

The best discussions will give readers a sense of who you are while remaining optimistic or hopeful. You don’t want to select a song that says it encapsulates your sadness because your life is currently miserable. While it’s perfectly fine to be sad, try to turn it into something more positive.

For example, you might choose “Better Days” by the Goo Goo Dolls because, while COVID has made things difficult for you and your family, you know good things are on the way…like majoring in social work so you can help struggling families in the future.

3 Princeton Admissions Tips

It’s not easy to get into Princeton. But it’s far from impossible! Follow these expert tips for getting into Princeton if you want to improve your chances of admission.

#1: Improve Your Academic Record

If you want to be accepted to Princeton, you must have outstanding academic credentials. Your grades and test scores must be near-perfect. Don’t expect to breeze into Princeton if you haven’t put in some serious effort in both areas – you’ll most likely be denied.
And you won’t be able to make up for years of poor grades by putting in extra effort in the first semester of your senior year – you’ll need to demonstrate a track record of academic achievement and rigor.

Begin working toward a 4.0 as soon as possible. Make a plan to take the most challenging courses your high school offers. Make sure you study when it comes time to take your standardized tests. Make a strategy and stick to it.

#2: Spend a Significant Amount of Time on Your Essays

Your Princeton essays are critical. Don’t cut corners or rush through them! Each one should require hours of thought, writing, and revision. Please write what you think the admissions committee wants to hear, not what you think they want to hear.

Write down what is true for you. Remember that the admissions committee will read tens of thousands of essays. Those trite or cliche will blend in with the background noise.

The essays that stand out will be the ones that are truthful, sincere, and unique. Use the articles to demonstrate your true personality. To put it another way, let them describe your spike.

#3: Locate Your Spike

What exactly is a spike, you ask?

In a nutshell, a spike is something that distinguishes you. Something that none (or only a few) of the other applicants have. When applying to colleges, it’s tempting to appear well-rounded and interested in everything. Please don’t do it.

Your application will not stand out if you are mediocre in band, track, and student council. It will stand out if you travel to Japan to perform with a world-class ensemble or compete in the Olympic shot put trials.

When you concentrate on one task, you will perform better than dividing your time and attention. It will also look better on your resume.

What Comes Next?

Even if you’re only interested in Princeton, learning more about getting into other selective schools, such as Harvard, can help you improve your application.


Are you looking for advice on applying to other selective schools?

Check out our comprehensive guides to the University of California system and the Georgetown application.


Should you apply to college early decision or regular decision?

This article will learn about the benefits and drawbacks of making an early decision.

Do you want to get into Princeton or your top college of choice?

We can assist you.