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College Info , College Essays


Got your heart set on Princeton—the #1 ranked university in the US ? Then you'll need to learn how to write amazing Princeton essays for your Princeton Supplement, a key part of your application for admission.

In this detailed guide, we go over the different types of essays you'll be required to write for your Princeton application and provide you with some expert tips on how to write your most effective and unique essay possible.

Feature Image: James Loesch /Flickr

What Are the Princeton Essays?

The Princeton application requires five essays and three short answers from all applicants. One of these essays must answer a prompt provided by the Common Application , Coalition Application , or QuestBridge Application (depending on which system you choose to submit your Princeton application through).

The other four essay prompts , as well as the three short answer prompts, are part of the Princeton Supplement . The Princeton Supplement also requires an Engineering Essay from applicants who have indicated on their applications an interest in pursuing a BS in Engineering (B.S.E.). Students applying to the Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) degree program and those who are undecided must submit a supplemental essay as well.

Below, we'll look at each prompt in the Princeton Supplement. So let's get started!


While the Princeton supplement is submitted electronically, you might find that brainstorming the old fashioned way (with pen and paper!) helps you get your ideas organized.

The Bachelor of Arts/Undecided and the Bachelor of Science and Engineering Essays

Your first long essay is 250 words long and is assigned based on what you plan to major in. You will only need to answer one of these prompts .

The first prompt is for Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) degree and undecided applicants to respond to. If you are applying for the A.B. degree program or if you put undecided on your application, you must respond to this essay prompt in the first section of the supplement.

The second prompt is for Bachelor of Science and Engineering (B.S.E.) applicants to respond to. All applicants who indicate they'd like to pursue a bachelor of science in engineering degree must respond to this prompt. Next, we'll break down what each prompt is asking you to do and how to respond to it.

The good news is that both prompts are versions of the "Why This College?" essay, which is a pretty common essay to encounter on college applications. If you want more info on how to answer this type of question more generally, be sure to check out this article .

The A.B. Degree and Undecided Applicants Prompt

For A.B. Degree Applicants or Those Who are Undecided:

As a research institution that also prides itself on its liberal arts curriculum, Princeton allows students to explore areas across the humanities and the arts, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. What academic areas most pique your curiosity, and how do the programs offered at Princeton suit your particular interests? (Please respond in 250 words or fewer.)

This question is asking you to make a case for why you'll be an excellent fit as a liberal arts student at Princeton . You can make your case in your response to this prompt by showing that you understand the value of the liberal arts education that Princeton offers, and that you've thought about how Princeton's programs fit your academic and future goals.

In addition to asking you to show how Princeton is a good fit for you, this prompt is really asking you to highlight why you are a good fit for Princeton. Everyone knows that Princeton is highly competitive, so your response to this prompt is your chance to show that you'll bring valuable intellectual interests and perspectives to the Princeton community as well.

What Makes A Good Answer?

#1: Show how you're unique. Are you excited to geek out about the connections between critical human geography and twenty-first century Arabic literature? To explore the relationships between psychology and social media? If you've got a weird, quirky, or unique set of academic interests, this is the place to go into detail about them. A good answer to this question will nail down one or more specific academic areas that you get genuinely pumped about and why you're interested in them. This is your chance to show the thought processes behind your choice to pursue an A.B. degree at Princeton...or why you put "undecided" on your application.

#2: Connect to Princeton's program offerings. You could name specific professors you hope to work with who share your interests, courses you'd be thrilled to take, or special program offerings you hope to participate in (like study abroad or research opportunities). In order to make your response to this part of the question genuine, you'll have to do your research on the programs you're interested in and really know your stuff. This will show admissions counselors that you're interested in going to Princeton because it's a good fit for you, not because it's ranked #1 on college lists.

#3: Be honest . Your response should make it clear that you've spent a lot of time thinking about your academic interests. Make sure you're telling the truth: don't pick an academic area just because you think it's impressive. To show your sincerity, make sure you're being specific about why you're interested in the area you're writing about. This will help your passion come across on the page.

What Should You Avoid?

#1: Avoid generalities. You don't want to respond to this question with general fields of study or disciplines. For instance, saying that "history" or "art" piques your curiosity won't be specific enough. Instead of "history," you could say, "I'm curious about how war monuments and memorials in the U.S. impact the communities they 're located in." Above all, you want to describe specific issues, questions, or perspectives in your areas of academic interest that you hope to explore when you become a student at Princeton.

#2: Don't focus on past achievements. This question isn't the place to talk about your academic achievements and awards from high school. Here's why: Princeton admissions isn't necessarily looking to learn about why you're good at the subjects you're interested in. They want to understand why you're curious about those areas and why you want to study them at Princeton.

3 Tips For Answering This Prompt

#1: Start with your interests. Start by brainstorming which academic interests you want to talk about. You might have to think for a little while! If you know you want to major in African American Studies, take some time to write out the historical, political, and economic issues and questions that get you excited about majoring in this field. Let the specific aspects of the fields of study you're considering be the foundation for your answer.

#2: Do your research. Once you've brainstormed the specific aspects of your major or possible majors that you're most curious about, head over to Princeton's website to search for more information. If it's African American Studies, comb through every sentence on that major's website. Look into the interests of professors in this department, courses they teach, and events hosted by the department. You can even talk about your interest in working with specific professors or taking specific courses in your response.

#3: Be specific. The more specific you can be about your academic interests, the more likely your answer is to appeal to Princeton admissions. You don’t have to have your entire degree plan mapped out, but you do need to show that you're already thinking carefully about how you'll forge your path forward as an independent thinker and intellectual citizen once you start at Princeton.

The B.S.E. Degree Applicant Prompt

For B.S.E Degree Applicants:

Please describe why you are interested in studying engineering at Princeton. Include any of your experiences in, or exposure to engineering, and how you think the programs offered at the University suit your particular interests. (Please respond in 250 words or fewer.)

This prompt is specific for applicants who want to major in engineering at Princeton. Essentially, this prompt is asking you to highlight the factors in your background and experiences that have influenced you to pursue engineering.

More specifically , this prompt wants you to explain why Princeton engineering is the program for you.

#1: Showcase your background. A good answer to this question will explain why you're interested in engineering. For instance, maybe you grew up in a city that experiences earthquakes, so you want to study civil engineering to make buildings safer. Or maybe your parents and grandparents are engineers and you're passionate about carrying on the family legacy. Whatever your story, telling some of it will provide important context for your interest in engineering.

#2: Connect your interest to Princeton. Admissions counselors want to know why Princeton engineering is the only program for you. For example, say you want to focus on engineering for health professions. During your research, you read that Princeton students are developing new personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. This essay is a perfect place for you to explain that you want to join this research project! Making connections to real people, courses, and proj ects wi ll show that you're excited about the unique opportunities provided by Princeto n engineering .

#3: Share your research interests. In addition to stating a specific subfield of engineering that you're interested in (if possible), a good response to this prompt will describe your interest in key issues or questions pertaining to the subfield of engineering you want to stud y. For example, if you hope to become a chemical engineer who works with cruelty-free cosmetics, describe that research interest here. While it's important to be flexible, and it's okay if you don't have your whole future with engineering planned out, being able to describe some of your vision for your future in Princeton Engineering is a crucial part of a good response.

#1: Avoid discussing awards and achievements. Avoid talking about awards, competitions, or other academic achievements if possible. Princeton admissions can find out those details from other parts of your application. Instead, showcase the passion behind your interest in engineering. Instead of describing achievements, describe moments of inspiration in your story that have led you to pursue engineering at Princeton.

#2: Don't skip the context. You don't want to describe your specific interests in engineering without connecting them to what Princeton has to offer. Make sure you describe specific courses, professors, or research projects. Do your research and make sure your interests coincide with the possibilities Princeton provides.

Tip #1: Start with the research. It will be tough to write a meaningful response to this prompt if you haven't done some serious research about the B.S.E. program at Princeton. Get really acquainted with the B.S.E. program's website. Gather the info you need to incorporate information about professors you want to work with, research projects you'd like to work on, and courses you're eager to take.

Tip #2: Focus on your experiences. Incorporating your background with engineering is important to a good response here, but you need to be strategic about what details you include. Describe the moment your interest in engineering began, the most exciting experience you've had with engineering, or what gets you pumped about studying engineering at Princeton. Revealing where your interest in engineering comes from can help prove that the B.S.E. program is a good fit for you.

Tip #3: Be specific. State the subfield of engineering that you're interested in and/or what engineering issues pique your curiosity. Princeton wants to know that you already have a vision for how you'll be an active engineering student!


The Your Voice Supplement

The "Your Voice" supplement section consists of two required, approximately 250 word essays. The prompts for these essays (below) are asking you to give Princeton admissions a sense of how your past and ongoing experiences shape the kind of student you will be at Princeton.

In other words, the "Your Voice" supplement is asking you to show evidence that you live out values that fit with Princeton's values. So, to answer these two required questions, start thinking about points in your ongoing story that reflect your commitment to having hard conversations and serving others. We'll get into the specifics of how to write about your story in response to each prompt next.

Prompt #1: The Difficult Conversation Prompt

Princeton values community and encourages students, faculty, staff and leadership to engage in respectful conversations that can expand their perspectives and challenge their ideas and beliefs. As a prospective member of this community, reflect on how your lived experiences will impact the conversations you will have in the classroom, the dining hall or other campus spaces. What lessons have you learned in life thus far? What will your classmates learn from you? In short, how has your lived experience shaped you? (500 words or fewer)

The first of the required "Your Voice" supplements is asking you to show that you're capable of engaging in civil discourse with others on campus —even when the topic of conversation is tough to talk about or goes against your own beliefs and values. For this essay, you’ll need to pick an experience or two from your life that has helped shape the way you interact with all sorts of people, even those you disagree with on things.

Describing these experiences and the lessons you’ve learned from them will help show that you’re prepared to respect and listen to others on campus who don’t have the exact same perspectives on things as you. A good response to this prompt will also show that you can push through uncomfortable situations and learn new things from others, and that you can help others around you do the same. 

#1: Share a real experience. Thinking of a challenging experience that seems meaningful enough to include in an application essay might feel...well, challenging. Nevertheless, you want your story to be as truthful as possible .

Princeton Admissions knows that you probably didn't change the world from one difficult conversation or situation. What they want to know is that you're willing to have tough conversations and listen to others with different viewpoints than your own. So, pick a memory of an experience that challenged you, taught you a lesson, or helped you grow. More specifically, make sure it’s an experience that has helped prepare you for the different perspectives and challenges you’ll encounter from others on campus. Try and recall as many details about what happened as you can, and draft a description of the situation that’s as true to real events as possible. 

#2: Be thoughtful. Did you learn something new during the experience(s) or lesson(s) you're writing about? Explain what you learned from it in your response! For instance, perhaps you learned that being a nonjudgmental listener can help others feel more comfortable with listening to what you have to say. Whatever you learned, make sure you describe it in your response. This will show Princeton Admissions that you're open to learning and growing.

#3: Show you're forward thinking. How will the knowledge you gained from this experience (or experiences, if you choose to write about more than one) shape your behavior as a Princeton student? Think about what college is like: you'll encounter students, faculty, and staff from all over the world. This means you'll be in constant contact with different values, cultures, and ways of thinking about the world. Princeton wants to know that you're prepared to participate in this environment in positive ways!

#1: Don't disparage anyone. Even if the conversation or experience you're describing was incredibly frustrating, don't insult the other people who were involved. Instead, show empathy toward the people you interacted with. Princeton Admissions wants to know that you're a person who can extend empathy to many different kinds of people to be a good student and citizen.

#2: Don't brag. Don't brag about what you accomplished. Instead, focus on what you learned from the conversation --even if you think that the other people involved were totally wrong and you were totally right. Admissions counselors want to know that you learned from your experience.

2 Tips For Answering This Prompt

Tip #1: Pick an experience or lesson that impacted you. You should definitely write about an experience that was meaningful to you, rather than one that you think is impressive or controversial. This is your chance to show how you’ve made the most of your unique experiences—you’re giving Princeton an idea of who you are, what you’re capable of, and how this all came to be. Take time to reflect on tough situations you’ve encountered and lessons you’ve learned before drafting your response. 

Tip #2: Connect the topic to college life. While you obviously need to describe the topic of your experience, how you handled it, and what you learned from it, a crucial part of your response is how it prepared you to be an engaged, ethical member of the Princeton community. Be sure to focus part of your response on explaining how what you learned will guide your life as a Princeton student. Whichever experiences or lessons you choose, you’ll need to explain how you can use what you’ve learned to have respectful and insightful conversations with people across Princeton’s campus. 


This is a chance to tell your story and show how committed you are to being a good citizen.

Prompt #2: The Service and Your Story Prompt

Princeton has a longstanding commitment to understanding our responsibility to society through service and civic engagement. How does your own story intersect with these ideals? (250 words or fewer)

This supplement prompt is asking you to show your commitment to serving others and/or being an engaged citizen —and you'll need to describe a specific experience or idea that demonstrates this commitment.

When the prompt asks "how does your own story intersect with these ideals," it means that you should think of real things you've done or real values you hold that motivate your civic engagement. This is a key part of the story you'll have to share in your response.

#1: Tell a story. Basically, the prompt is assuming that who you are and what you value will motivate how you serve others and participate as an engaged citizen. To answer this prompt effectively, then, think about telling the story behind your decision to serve or fulfill your civic responsibilities in a specific way.

#2: Connect it to your local life. The decisions we make about our community involvement are often personal. For instance, maybe someone in your family recovered from cancer as a child, so your story with service involves gathering donations for a pediatric cancer care center in the region where you live. Think about the personal connections that you've made, then include them in your response.

#3: Consider the future. Maybe you don't have much experience with service or civic engagement yet, but you have a big vision for how you'll serve and engage in the Princeton community. This prompt is a chance to describe the details of that vision. Alternatively, if you have existing experience with service and civic engagement and want to continue serving in similar ways at Princeton, share your ideas about how you'll accomplish that. Service and civic engagement are lifelong commitments—describing your ideas about how you'll serve in the future will show that you're prepared for that commitment.

#1: Don't be condescending. While it's likely that the people you've served in the past learned things from you, don't focus your response on describing how wonderful you are . Instead, focus on how your service and civic engagement experiences have refined your values and helped you become a better human, which is what Princeton admissions wants to hear about.

#2: Avoid delusions of grandeur. If you decide to include a description of how you hope to serve once you get to Princeton, don't get too carried away. For example, you probably aren't going to get every single Princeton student registered to vote...but you can probably make some progress. Be realistic about your ideas for how you'll serve in the future. Princeton admissions just wants you to show dedication to service and civic engagement. They don't expect you to solve all of the world's problems.

Tip #1: Tell a story. It's important to coach your answer in the form of a story. Describe who you served, what the service looked like, and why you decided to serve in this way. If possible, connect it to your background, your identity, or your values. Turning your service experience into a story for Princeton admissions will make it more memorable.

Tip #2: Describe the impact. Princeton Admissions doesn't just want to know the story of your past experience with service—they also want to know how the experience continues to impact you today. Describe what you learned from the experience, how it changed you, and how it shapes your current actions and values.

Tip #3: Connect it to your future. Connect your story about your service to your vision for your life as a student at Princeton. This will let admissions know that you'll also be an exceptional student outside of the classroom in the Princeton community.


The "More About You" Short Answer Supplements

The "More About You" short answer section of the Princeton Supplement is your last chance to show who you are: the real person behind all of the stats, scores, and successes that the rest of your application showcases. In fact, the instructions for this required portion of the supplement are clear: "There are no right or wrong answers. Be yourself!"

This means that, in 50 words or fewer, you'll need to give admissions counselors a clearer picture of the "you" behind the application. All three of the "More About You" short answer questions are required, and each one gives you a chance to provide a little more context for your desire to be a student at Princeton.

#1: The New Skill Prompt

What is a new skill you would like to learn in college? (50 words)

To answer this question, all you need to do is describe a skill that you want to learn in college! There are a couple of different ways that you could interpret this prompt. Just remember: answer honestly.

For starters, you could think of the prompt as asking about a skill that you want to learn from your actual college courses . If this is the path you choose, you could write about how you want to learn to produce a podcast, to lead a Socratic Seminar, or to write a winning elevator pitch. Connecting the skill you want to learn to your areas of academic interests is a solid strategy.

Alternatively, you could think more generally about any skill you want to learn during your time in college ! For example, maybe you struggle with public speaking, and you want to learn to share your ideas more clearly in your classes and your extracurriculars. Writing about skills that are more oriented towards exploring your identity, background, or interests outside of academics is perfectly fine here too.

Whatever skill you decide to write about, it's important to briefly explain why you want to learn that skill. For instance, if you were writing about learning to bake like your grandmother, you might explain that this skill has been passed down in your family for generations, and you'd like to pass it down as well. If you want to learn how to produce a podcast, maybe you'd explain that you were searching for an interesting podcast on Marxist economics, but couldn't find one that had good production quality, so you want to learn how to produce one yourself.

#2: The Joy Prompt

What brings you joy? (50 words)

The same principles go for this prompt: write your response about something that genuinely brings you joy. It could be an activity, a person or relationship, or an experience you've had. To answer this question, simply describe the thing that brings you joy.

A good answer to this question will identify one specific thing that brings you joy, then describe it with gusto. For example, if the thing that brings you joy is building model planes with your little brother, briefly tell the story of why that experience brings you joy. Maybe you like the challenge of focusing on small details, or perhaps your joy comes from building something with your hands.

Briefly giving these specific details will show how the thing that brings you joy reflects your values and identity --both of which will give more clues as to the kind of person you'll be as a student at Princeton.

#3: The Soundtrack of Your Life Prompt

What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment? (50 words)

This short answer is fun! Keep your song selection relatively clean, of course, but otherwise, just think of a song that you're literally listening to on repeat right now , or pick a song that symbolizes your current experience. Then explain why!

For example, maybe you'll write about "Inner Child" by BTS because getting ready to leave home for college in the midst of so much has made you reflect on your younger years. Or, if you've literally listened to "my future" by Billie Eilish one thousand times since its release, briefly write about why you can't stop hitting repeat.

Don't overthink this prompt: the music we love reveals things about our personality and how we cope with the realities of our lives. Just be real, and you'll show Princeton admissions another facet of your genuine personality and how you process the world.


How to Write a Great Princeton Essay: 4 Key Tips

To wrap up, here are some final tips to keep in mind as you write your Princeton essays and any other essays for college applications.

#1: Be Specific

A vague essay is certain to squelch your chances of getting into Princeton, so make sure you're being as specific as possible in your writing.

For example, if you're writing about somebody who inspired you, touch on the little quirks or traits they have to help the admissions committee more easily visualize this person, such as their subtle mannerisms, the way they handled stress, or their perseverance in a difficult situation.

Remember that you're writing about something real, whether that's a person, event, object, or experience. Your aim should be to make the subject of your essay feel as real to your readers as it did and does for you.

Other ways to ensure that you're being specific enough in your essay are to use common literary devices such as anecdotes, dialogue (an actual conversation you had with someone), imagery, and onomatopoeia. These not only add color to your writing but also paint the subject of your essay in a more effective, relatable way.

Lastly, I recommend getting somebody else to read over your essay (which I talk about more in tip 4); this person can let you know if your writing isn't specific enough and if too much is left to be implied.

#2: Be Honest and Use Your Voice

The whole point of writing an essay for a college application is to show the admissions committee who you are. In short, what makes you you ? This is why it's so critical to use an authentic voice in your Princeton essays.

For example, if you love making people laugh (and think humor is one of your defining traits), then it might be a good idea to include a joke or two in your personal essay.

However, don't exaggerate anything that happened to you or any feelings you might have —the admissions committee will more than likely be able to see through it. Remember that you want your voice and feelings to come across strongly but also (and more importantly) authentically.

Don't claim in your engineering essay that you've liked engineering since you were 3 years old if you only recently developed an interest in it. Lying about or exaggerating anything in your essay will simply make you seem insincere and, yes, even immature. So avoid it!

#3: Write Well and Avoid Clichés

You'll need to be a decent writer if you're hoping to get into Princeton—one of the most selective universities in the US ! On the technical side, this means that your Princeton essays should have no grammatical, spelling, or punctuation errors.

If you're unsure about a certain grammar rule, such as how to use a semicolon correctly, feel free to consult our SAT grammar guide for a quick refresher.

Writing well also means varying up your sentence lengths and styles (in other words, don't start every sentence with "I," even though you're likely talking about yourself).

On the more stylistic side, your essays should really grab your audience's attention—and keep it throughout. Therefore, you'll need to come up with a unique way to hook your readers from the beginning. For example, you could start with a piece of dialogue that someone said to you once (I'd avoid famous quotations, though, since these can come across really clichéd).

Alternatively, you could start with a memory, opening a description with a strong emotion you had, a sound you heard (using onomatopoeia would be a good idea here), or powerful, sensory images of the setting.

As a final tip, make a conscious effort to avoid clichés. These include quotations that have been quoted to death and phrases or idioms that are often overused. Using clichés indicates laziness to the reader and a lack of authenticity in your voice and storytelling.

For example, instead of writing, "I woke up at the crack of dawn," you could write something like "I woke up as soon as the sun began to peek over the horizon" (if you're the poetic type) or even just "I woke up at dawn" (if you're more like Hemingway).

Here is a lengthy but useful list of clichés to avoid in your writing .

Remember that you're ultimately telling a story with your essays, so don't be afraid to get creative and use a variety of literary techniques!

#4: Proofread, Proofread, Proofread!

The final step before you submit each of your Princeton essays is to edit and proofread it.

Editing isn't a one-step process. After you finish your rough draft, put your essay away and take it out again a few days or even weeks later to get a fresh perspective on what sounds good and what comes across awkward, unclear, or irrelevant. Do this step numerous times. At this time, you should also be checking for any typos, grammar errors, etc.

Once you've done a few editing sessions on your own, give your essay to someone you trust, such as a teacher, counselor, or parent, and have that person look it over and offer any feedback or corrections. Getting another set of eyes to look at your essay can help you catch smaller mistakes you might've failed to notice; it also gives a clearer sense as to what kind of impression your essay will likely leave on the Princeton admissions committee.


What's Next?

If you're applying to Princeton through the Common Application, you'll need to write an essay that answers one of the Common App prompts . Our in-depth guide goes over all the current prompts and gives you expert tips on how to answer them.

You can also check out our guide on how to choose a Common App prompt if you're struggling with deciding on the best one for your college application.

Not sure what your chances are of actually getting into Princeton? Calculate them with our own college acceptance calculator , and read up on how to submit a versatile college application .

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Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.

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How to write the princeton university essays, updated for 2023-2024.

Princeton values community and encourages students, faculty, staff and leadership to engage in respectful conversations that can expand their perspectives and challenge their ideas and beliefs. As a prospective member of this community, reflect on how your lived experiences will impact the conversations you will have in the classroom, the dining hall or other campus spaces. What lessons have you learned in life thus far? What will your classmates learn from you? In short, how has your lived experience shaped you? (Please respond in 500 words or fewer.)


The new Princeton application essay is a complex assignment that will require you to dig deep. At a length of 500 words, this essay is almost a new personal statement in and of itself, which admissions officers will use to understand where you come from, how you view your identity, and what you will bring to campus. Keep in mind that Princeton is looking to build a diverse community, full of people who come from varied backgrounds and offer different ideas. Your task is not just to communicate what important experiences and lessons you have accumulated over the years. You also need to convey that you have the capability to articulate the ways in which your experiences influence your beliefs about the world and the ideas that you will discuss with faculty and peers once in college. In essence, admissions officers are looking to see you do some heavy-lifting with introspection and self-awareness!

To get at what Princeton is looking for, it may help to mentally reframe their prompt slightly. Instead of asking yourself, “What lessons have I learned in life so far?”, ask yourself: “What lessons have I learned from identifying with a particular geographic location, religion, race and ethnicity, cultural heritage, class, gender, sexual orientation, or other specific and niche community?” Then, ask yourself questions such as: “How has being a part of this group been formative to my belief system and identity? What ideas about and within this group have I been exposed to, and which ideas do I feel committed to? Have I disagreed or felt tension within this group? Has my thinking about this group and my membership within it evolved over time? If so, how, when, and why?”

If you’ve experienced a particular conflict related to diversity and identity–for example, a struggle to reconcile religion with a love of science, or holding convictions about reproductive rights while living in a conservative community–you might use these events to frame your narrative. If you feel that you don’t have a unique, compelling story to write about that relates to traditional identity markers, instead consider what other communities and events have shaped the way you think. A complicated family situation that involves strong personalities, a debate club where you’ve had deep discussions of ethical issues, or any other settings where you’ve learned to challenge your own or others’ ideas can be just as good of a starting point for this essay as other identity markers that you might associate with a typical “diversity” essay.

Thinking of answers to the above reflective questions, and affiliated anecdotes or stories that show your growth in action, will help you get a start on this challenging essay. Don’t forget to address the component of the prompt that asks about the viewpoints you’ll share in the classroom and with your future peers at Princeton–for instance, what kinds of ideas you’d bring to a seminar in religious studies, politics, history, sociology, or any other discipline. Because of the length of this essay and the complexity of the prompt, assume that admissions readers are looking for a response that discusses both intellectual ideas AND demonstrates the quality of your character–traits such as courage, compassion, open-mindedness, diplomacy, intellectual maturity, and others.

In my Independent Study, I research how the western imagination creates caricatures of Asians and Asian Americans in the context of science fiction and other speculative media. At the same time, I feel the implications of stereotyping in my daily life. I am a multi-ethnic, third-generation Asian American, raised in a predominantly white, upper-class, conservative suburb. I’m one of two Asian Americans in my class of one hundred and twenty-four people. Since middle school, I’ve fielded questions about tiger mothers and Carnegie Hall, offhand jokes about pre-med and being good at math, and hurtful remarks, from comments about being “whitewashed” to racist catcalling. I’ve felt like an outsider in my own community, and in western society at large.

But in seventh grade, I discovered Latin (and in the summer after, Ancient Greek). The experience of studying classics has transformed the way that I come to the world and allow myself to be defined within it. Initially, I fell in love with Latin because I could apply pattern and logic to language and creative expression. I was also fascinated by the stories, myths, and authors I’d found, and how understanding classical allusions made literature and pop culture become even more vibrant and alive. Classics is exciting because it’s a discipline that I’ve chosen not for its practicality but for the sake of learning for the joy of it. It’s an opportunity for challenging, self-directed work, and engaging directly with a text in the original is far more rewarding than reading the dry, stilted prose of an English translation. I’ve also met some brilliant teachers and peers through learning Latin and Ancient Greek, whom I would not have known otherwise.

In an even broader sense, I’ve come to realize that my interest in classics is not just purely academic, it’s also deeply personal. My study of classics is at least, in some part a reaction to the stereotyping I’ve faced, a way to reject expectations of who I am and what I should be. For me, studying classics is an ironic rebellion. It allows me to claim an intellectual connection to western culture while discarding the identity that the west has constructed for me. In antiquity, there’s so much of what poet and translator Anne Carson terms “otherness.” What I’d be excited to continue talking about with professors and classmates is the value of finding, debating, and analyzing what constitutes otherness, historical and contemporary alike.

To me, classics is more than dead languages, regimented grammar, and fascinating myths. Through my study of ancient languages, I’ve been able to move between my disparate worlds and find meaning, connection, and belonging. In college, I hope to keep exploring the classical texts of ancient Greece and Rome. I also can’t wait to hear from classmates about the personal experiences that inspired them to delve into a field as impractical and “useless” as classics, and to discuss the relevance we see from classical literature, history, politics, and philosophy in our world today.

Princeton has a longstanding commitment to understanding our responsibility to society through service and civic engagement. How does your own story intersect with these ideals? (Please respond in 250 words or fewer.)

Princeton’s core informal motto is “Princeton in the nation’s service and the service of humanity”, and like many colleges, the university’s goal is to educate the next generations of leaders who will use their knowledge and careers to serve others and improve the world. As such, Princeton’s service essay is not just asking you about how you engaged in community service during the past three years of high school. Rather, this essay is looking for thoughtful reflection about your perspective on service (as formed through your life experiences) and where you see service fitting into your vocational goals and your life in college and beyond.

In this essay, you should avoid cliches like describing a desire to “give back” to others and instead discuss how you have employed your unique talents and ideas to better your community. This essay should also not just be about doing, but about learning, thinking, and questioning as well. If your service even fits into a larger narrative about your academic passions and how you intend to use those in the service of humanity, that could be a great basis for this essay! As an example, an essay about doing basic tasks at a food pantry and becoming aware of an issue of food insecurity in your community is not particularly nuanced or remarkable. A much stronger topic and response could be about an advocacy project a student conducted at his school to improve nutrition and food options at the cafeteria for students with special dietary needs. A topic like this might not only showcase a student’s critical thinking, compassion, and skills as an activist, but also could tie into a career goal of becoming a superintendent who fights for educational equity in his local school district.

Overall, keep in mind that a cookie-cutter essay about gratitude and simple volunteer positions will not be a large plus to your application. More importantly, you must reflect upon how your activities, ideas, and aspirations align with Princeton’s central mission and motto.

After each shift at the local free clinic where I volunteered for two years, a physician would lead a discussion with the interns about how the night went, what we’d learned, and a topic of interest.

One night, our head physician distributed copies of Dr. Sayantani DasGupta’s essay “Narrative Humility” as a preface to a short talk on international medical NGOs. In reaction to medical cultural competency training that implicitly aims for “cultural mastery of the marginalized,” DasGupta offers the concept of narrative humility—an acknowledgement that patients’ stories are not objects to be mastered, but “dynamic entities we can engage with, [while] remaining open to their ambiguity and contradiction.” She wrote that the listener must self-evaluate and self-critique her expectations and identifications with the narrative and its speaker.

I clicked with DasGupta’s essay. The traits she highlighted have grounded me when it comes to service and all contexts: listening to others receptively, embracing unfamiliarity and ambiguity, and observing one’s own thoughts and reactions. Her essay helped me see connections between not only service and medicine, but my own role in the world as someone who wants to use writing as a form of service.

As a writer, I want to challenge the view of people and environments as props or foreign “others.” I’m interested in learning, hands-on, how to cultivate stories, connect with the stories of others, and serve global causes. I hope to refigure traditional, reductive portrayals, and create pieces that embrace complexities, both systemic and personal.

More About You:

Please respond to each question in 50 words or fewer. There are no right or wrong answers. Be yourself!

1. What is a new skill you would like to learn in college?

2. What brings you joy?

3. What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment?

When answering Princeton’s short questions, you can show off light-hearted sides of yourself–your friends, family, hobbies, quirks–which can either reinforce aspects of your application narrative (e.g. intellectual passions) or reveal new parts of your multifaceted life. It’s important to give authentic and, as always, specific answers to these. However, there are two crucial points to bear in mind. The first is to maximize the word count. You have 50 words, so this gives you a few sentences to express yourself fully and show your personality, creativity, and sense of humor. An answer that is just one word or a few words long is a missed opportunity! Secondly, before you lock in your concepts for these three responses, ask yourself: Am I giving an answer that many other applicants might give? Additionally, am I expressing myself in a way that distinguishes me from other applicants? For instance, talking about the joy you get from hanging out with your family or friends may feel true to you, but it will not necessarily help give your admissions reader unique insight into yourself. Be specific, use an authentic and conversational voice, and think carefully about the final impressions you want to make on your reader!

Sample: What is a new skill you would like to learn in college?

I’d love to learn ceramics. It seems like the grown-up version of getting to play in the mud, and I would hope to make some functional mugs, bowls, and plates. The Princeton Ceramics Studio seems like a wonderful place I’d frequent where I could try out both hand-building and throwing pottery on the wheel.

Sample: What brings you joy?

I’m pretty much renowned (or I should be) for my after-school snacks. I make “lazy macaroni and cheese” where I take leftover plain pasta, put tons of grated cheese and black pepper on it, and microwave it until the pasta is stuck together into cheese-coated globs. I am equally creative with the toaster and will toast up all kinds of things, like takeout saag paneer on a tortilla.

Sample: What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment?

Right now my friend and I are spending a decent amount of time practicing a jazz piano duet called “Memory” for a school talent show. Another friend from a summer program taught it to me, so it’s a song I associate with friendship. But the song itself evokes ephemerality, so it’s a little bittersweet and reminds me to cherish every moment with my friends in our senior year together.

For A.B. Degree Applicants or Those Who Are Undecided:

As a research institution that also prides itself on its liberal arts curriculum, Princeton allows students to explore areas across the humanities and the arts, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. What academic areas most pique your curiosity, and how do the programs offered at Princeton suit your particular interests? (Please respond in 250 words or fewer.)

The main quality that Princeton looks for in this essay and across their writing supplement—and indeed across your entire application—is intellectual vitality. Admissions officers are seeking evidence that you’re passionate about ideas and that you are ready to not only study hard, but also create original knowledge and make dynamic contributions to the classroom as an undergraduate. A simple answer that includes basic information about why you like your intended major and cursory references to Princeton’s programs will not stand out among thousands of essays. Your response for Princeton’s “why this school” essay must demonstrate a depth and maturity of thinking, and it should be as specific and personal as it can possibly be.

As an example of how this looks in practice, admissions officers may unfortunately overlook the application of a prospective English major who writes about how she “has always loved to read” and names a few literature courses at Princeton that interest her. Instead, they may be more drawn to the application of a student who has read far beyond the required curriculum in high school classes, is especially intrigued by climate fiction, and enthuses about her desire to compare and contrast themes of environmental politics and nature in the literature of different countries. If this particular student then went on to talk about Princeton’s Comparative Literature program, Environmental Studies minor, and other resources for aspiring environmental humanists at Princeton, this would constitute a strong, unique response. When you write your Princeton “why this school” essay, try to think outside of the box. Showcase your curiosity, how you want to evolve your existing knowledge, and what you really love within your field of interest. If possible, reflect upon how your multiple intellectual passions interact with each other, and describe how that intersection will make your course of study unique and will make you a better thinker and student overall.

Admissions officers want to make sure you are familiar with what makes Princeton different from other Ivy League and top-tier schools. Traits that are key to this university are the emphasis on rigor and challenge, the focus on liberal arts as opposed to pre-professional interests such as business, and the expectation that all students engage in graduate-level writing and research, usually through junior papers and the famous senior theses. For your intended academic areas, you should also be familiar with what makes Princeton’s particular department different from other departments at other prestigious institutions, and describe why Princeton’s resources are a great fit for your interests and goals. Perhaps as a multidisciplinary artist, you can’t wait to contribute to Atelier courses at the Lewis Center for the Arts, or because you want to read beyond the Western canon of literature, you’re excited about the unique intensive East Asian Humanities Sequence offered by the Department of East Asian Studies. Find what Princeton offers that truly excites you, and connect those offerings into your own projected path of study and professional goals.

When it comes to talking about how much I love poetry, I am usually an emotional mess. All poetry is important to me. From listening to my Paradise Lost audiobook on the bus, to navigating the derangement of Catullus 64 with my one Latin IV Honors classmate, to reading the lines penned by the middle schoolers I tutor that sizzle with genius, I love poetry in all forms, from all times. How can I explain what it means to me? Not to be dramatic, but interacting with poetry makes me feel connected to the spirit of humanity that transcends time, space, and death.

Yes, there are academic topics I love other than poetry (ancient civilizations, science fiction, conservation, Asian American history, esoteric religious movements). But when I envision studying at Princeton, I see intensive, rigorous writing being a constant of every semester. I’d try to max out on workshops with the Lewis Center for the Arts and opt for a creative senior thesis, taking advantage of the English major’s Creative Writing track. I’d hope to work with Professors Meredith Martin and Joshua Kotin, and contribute to research for the Princeton Prosody Archive. I’d edit for the Nassau Literary Review and dabble in slam poetry with Ellipsis. I’m excited by the potential of a deep immersion in the world of verse, translation, and literary history in the next four years, while, through general distribution requirements and cross-listed courses for the English major, still bringing balance into my path of study.

For B.S.E Degree Applicants:

Please describe why you are interested in studying engineering at Princeton. Include any of your experiences in or exposure to engineering, and how you think the programs offered at the University suit your particular interests. (Please respond in 250 words or fewer.)

The same advice as above applies: describe your academic interests in a mature and nuanced way, and highlight specific combinations of unique resources offered by Princeton that will support your continued journey exploring your passions. This prompt also explicitly asks for you to discuss your experiences with engineering. Admissions officers are looking for students who have a deep excitement for their passions in STEM and who have taken extra initiative to learn about engineering through the resources that are available to them. Thus, you should describe the specific ideas, problems, and questions you’ve had while studying engineering in the classroom or through your extracurriculars, and discuss how these experiences have inspired you and led you to want to pursue engineering in college. If you’ve been fortunate to be involved in a research project, independent study, or internship, highlight what you’ve gained from these experiences and how you hope to build on them. If you haven’t had access to these opportunities, still take time to describe how you’ve invested yourself into preparing yourself for the rigors of studying engineering in college–do you watch (or better yet create) lots of YouTube videos on aerospace engineering and the aviation industry? Have you signed up for free courses online on materials science? Have you tried DIY projects at home or taught yourself skills like coding? Demonstrate your knowledge and include the ideas that you’re drawn to in your supplemental essay, and go beyond boilerplate responses about LEGOS, Minecraft, or robotics.

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Princeton University 2023-24 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Regular Decision Deadline: Jan 1

You Have: 

Princeton University 2023-24 Application Essay Questions Explanation

The Requirements: 2 essays of 250 words, 1 essay of 500 words, 3 short responses

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Community ,  Why , Oddball

This is Princeton, the Number One university in the nation. Maybe you’ve heard of it? JK, we can smell the sweat on your palms from here. So first, take a breath. The Princeton supplement is extremely straightforward (perhaps too straightforward?) and your greatest challenge will be to refrain from overthinking it. Don’t intimidate yourself with visions of what you think admissions officers want to see on an application. Self-aggrandizing or downright false stories aren’t going to win anyone over. It’s the unique, specific details that only you can share that will set you apart and seal you in an admissions officer’s memory. Take this as your mantra: be yourself! 

For A.B Degree Applicants or Those Who are Undecided:

As a research institution that also prides itself on its liberal arts curriculum, princeton allows students to explore areas across the humanities and the arts, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. what academic areas most pique your curiosity, and how do the programs offered at princeton suit your particular interests (please respond in about 250 words or fewer.) .

To ace this question, you’ll need to articulate for admissions why a well-rounded liberal arts education is important to you. Do you think Princeton’s liberal arts curriculum will allow you to build upon your communication and problem solving skills, preparing you for a career in civil service? Maybe you think it will help you be more marketable once you enter the working world, preparing you to work in a variety of fields (which is especially helpful if you’re undecided). What classes are you dying to take? Which academic programs call to you and why? Demonstrate your interest in Princeton’s academic offerings (and liberal arts curriculum, for brownie points) and admissions is bound to be impressed!

For B.S.E Degree Applicants:

Please describe why you are interested in studying engineering at princeton. include any of your experiences in or exposure to engineering, and how you think the programs offered at the university suit your particular interests. (please respond in 250 words or fewer.).

You can get an engineering degree at thousands of schools across the country, so why are you so keen to study engineering at Princeton specifically? Remember that this isn’t set in stone, so don’t stress over your vision; just show that you’ve done your research. Maybe your sister regaled you with stories about her experience studying engineering at Princeton, and you knew you wanted the same experience for yourself. Maybe there is an alum who is doing what you aspire to do, and you want to follow in their footsteps! Does Princeton have a specific program that many other schools do not offer? Whatever it is that draws you to Princeton’s engineering program, make sure that, after reading your essay, admissions has a clear understanding of your interest and goals.

1. Princeton values community and encourages students, faculty, staff and leadership to engage in respectful conversations that can expand their perspectives and challenge their ideas and beliefs. As a prospective member of this community, reflect on how your lived experiences will impact the conversations you will have in the classroom, the dining hall or other campus spaces. What lessons have you learned in life thus far? What will your classmates learn from you? In short, how has your lived experience shaped you?  (Please respond in 500 words or fewer.)

Engaging others in meaningful conversations about important issues can be incredibly intimidating and challenging, and the Princeton admissions department knows this. That is, in part, why they are curious to learn how your lived experiences will impact the way you engage with others on campus. What has shaped you as a person and how has that made your perspective unique? What lessons have you learned and applied? What can you share with others? Is there anything you can teach your classmates or peers about your hometown, culture, religion, identity, race, or ethnicity that they might not already know? Admissions wants to know how your lived experiences will affect the conversations you have and the ways in which you contribute to the Princeton community. Tell admissions a story that demonstrates your investment in listening, learning, and connecting.

2. Princeton has a longstanding commitment to understanding our responsibility to society through service and civic engagement. How does your own story intersect with these ideals? (Please respond in 250 words or fewer.)

Princeton wants to welcome motivated, socially aware students to campus next fall, so tell admissions about a time when you gave back to your community in a meaningful way. (Hint: your “community” can be as small as your neighborhood and as large as the entire world or even universe!) Maybe you’ve volunteered at your church’s food pantry every other weekend since you were in middle school or canvassed for political candidates that you believe will generate positive change for generations to come. Whatever your example(s) may be, don’t be afraid to touch on what those experiences meant to you (after all, you do have 250 words to work with!). And bonus points if you can connect your past service to the work you hope to do in the future. 

More About You

Please respond to each question in 50 words or fewer. there are no right or wrong answers. be yourself, 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.

Do not, we repeat, do not overthink your responses to these questions. Admissions even goes so far as to say that there are no right or wrong answers. So, go with your gut. Maybe, in college, you’re hoping to learn how to speed read, or play frisbee, or even ride a bike! Perhaps you want to tell admissions about the look on your sister’s face everytime you agree to play dress-up with her (what brings you joy?). As for the song, we’d recommend keeping it clean, but other than that, let your freak flag fly. Are you currently listening to “Midnight Sky” by Miley Cyrus on repeat? Or maybe “Ooh La La” by The Faces really resonates with you as you’re growing up and learning life’s tough lessons. Whatever it may be, be true to yourself and you’ll ace these short answers.

About Kat Stubing

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October 12, 2022

Tips for Answering the Princeton University Supplemental Essay Prompts [2022 – 2023]

Princeton University Supplemental Essay Tips

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?

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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!

Related Resources:

  • 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your College Application Essays , a free guide
  • How to Project Professionalism, Positivity, and Confidence in Your Statement of Purpose
  • Different Dimensions of Diversity , a podcast episode

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Princeton University Essay Examples

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Princeton Essay Examples – Introduction 

Are you wondering how to write the Princeton supplemental essays? Then this Princeton essay guide is just what you need! In fact, we’ll look at six Princeton essay examples and provide a detailed breakdown of why these were Princeton essays that worked. 

But before we dive into our Princeton supplemental essays examples, let’s learn more about Princeton University. 

Princeton University 

First, Princeton University is an elite private institution located in Princeton, New Jersey. Princeton is one of the Ivy League schools, founded in 1746. According to U.S. News , Princeton University is ranked #1 in National Universities. 

Princeton is a highly competitive university with an acceptance rate of around 4% . The university also routinely makes the list of Best Colleges for many of their majors. Want to know how to get into Princeton? It’ll take much more than just a good test score . The key to gaining admission to Princeton is to make your Princeton supplemental essays shine . 

Princeton essay guide

In this Princeton essay guide, we’ll explore that essential aspect of the Princeton application: the Princeton essay. We’ll highlight several Princeton supplemental essays examples and provide analysis on why these are Princeton essays that worked.

After reading through the Princeton supplemental essays examples, you’ll know exactly how to write Princeton supplemental essays! With strong essays, you have a better chance of beating that low Princeton acceptance rate.

How many essays does Princeton have? 

princeton essay examples

Wondering how to get into Princeton? One of eight Ivy League schools , Princeton attracts top-tier applicants who have near-perfect GPA s and test scores . If you want to stand out from the crowd, you’ll need to focus on crafting strong essays. 

We’ll give you more information on how to write Princeton supplemental essays later in this guide. Right now, let’s look at the Princeton requirements for essays. 

Princeton supplemental essay requirements

In addition to the Common App essay , Princeton requests four supplemental essays, one graded written paper, and three short answer questions as part of the Princeton admissions requirements. 

The purpose of the Princeton supplemental essays is to add another piece of the puzzle to your application by showcasing how your interests, passions, and goals match the college you hope to attend.  

You’ll be able to review some Princeton essay examples from Princeton essays that worked later in this Princeton essay guide. 

Princeton Essay Prompts

The current princeton essay prompts for the 2022-2023 princeton admissions cycle are listed below: , prompts are subject to change.

These are the most recent Princeton essay prompts. However, these Princeton essay prompts might change for next year’s Princeton admissions season. Before you start writing your own essays, verify which Princeton essay prompts Princeton admissions requires for your Princeton application. 

Aside from the Princeton essays above, you must submit a graded written paper as part of your Princeton application. Princeton admissions officers use the graded written paper to assess an applicant’s “written expression in an academic setting.” We’ll discuss this aspect of the Princeton requirements in-depth later in this article. 

You might notice that some of the Princeton essay examples below may not reflect the current Princeton essay prompts. That’s okay! The Princeton essay examples we’ve highlighted can still be valuable tools to help you write your own college essays. So, read on!

How often do Princeton essays change? 

princeton essay examples

If you’re starting your research on how to get into Princeton early, you might be curious whether the Princeton essay prompts will change by the time you’re ready to submit your Princeton application. 

Many colleges changed their admission requirements because of the pandemic, like the new test-optional policy. So, how often do the Princeton essays change? It depends. A Princeton supplemental essay that was required two years ago might no longer be required. 

The Princeton requirements are usually published online in mid-summer for the upcoming admissions season. Before you start writing your Princeton essay, be sure to verify which prompts are listed as part of the Princeton requirements. 

Princeton Essay Examples – Short Essay #1 

Now that we know more about Princeton’s essay requirements, let’s look at some Princeton supplemental essays examples. The first prompt for the Princeton essay examples asks you to describe how you have spent the last two summer breaks from school. 

With only 150 words for your response, you’ll want to get straight to the point. Even if your summers were jam-packed with activities, it’s best to select one thing to talk about (for each summer break) so that you can provide a rich description full of specific details. 

The Princeton essay examples you’re about to see are not a reflection of the current essay prompts. However, they are examples of Princeton essays that worked and should be viewed as a guide on how to write a successful essay. 

Keep this in mind as we review two Princeton essay examples for this prompt and explain the reasons why these are Princeton essays that worked. 

Princeton Essay Examples #1

During the summer after my Sophomore year, my father was laid off from work and money was tight for my family, so I was limited in what I could do. I dedicated myself to teaching my four-year old sister, and we developed a very strong bond. I taught her to read, sounding out letters and guiding her small hand in writing them. I held the handlebars as she pedalled her first two-wheeler, picking her up every time she fell.

During the summer after my Junior year, I was accepted into the Summer Science Program in Biochemistry at a major university. At SSP, I was immersed into hours of intense lectures and lab sessions, but with some of the most passionate people I’ve ever met. I emerged with a stronger sense of the successes and failures involved in research and my unique place in the vast science research field.

Why this essay worked

This is an example of Princeton essays that worked for several reasons. First, the author anchors their response to the prompt by providing a detailed account of the activities they participated in each summer. 

In the first part of the response, the author gives insight into why they may not have as many extracurricular activities on their application – “my father was laid off from work…so I was limited in what I could do.” This part of the Princeton essay examples is exactly how you want to address any gaps in your resume or educational activities. 

Another reason why this example is one of the Princeton essays that worked is that the author uses a description of the science program they attended to explain their academic interests . Doing so shows the admissions officer that they are committed to this field as a result of their experiences. 

Let’s look at another version of the Princeton essay examples for this prompt. 

Princeton Essay Examples #2

Last summer, I served as the leader for a Summer Reading program at my neighborhood library. Whether it is talking in different voices or victory celebrations after finishing a book, whenever I am with children, I find myself being pulled into their childhood world—a world of simplicity, of undying curiosity, and of pure innocence. It is a world in which if everything is not perfect, it definitely can be. 

This summer, I learned more about the ever-changing world beyond Oregon through a program at Princeton University. The Institute was the first time I was asked to think critically, challenge my perspective, and coexist with others who brought a variety of experiences that I would not have encountered in my sheltered upbringing as a child of Vietnamese immigrants. I became more conscious of my biases through role-play simulations and debates on social issues facing the 21st Century.

The second sample in our Princeton essay examples is another fantastic instance of Princeton essays that worked well. In this response, the author describes the activity they participated in as well as how they were a leader in this role. You’ll want to do the same if you have also been in a leadership position like the author of this second essay from our Princeton essay examples. 

Another reason this is an example of Princeton essays that worked is because the author mentions what they did and connected this experience to what they learned. This shows self-growth and interpersonal development, which are two key characteristics of a successful college student. 

As we mentioned above, these two Princeton essay examples are not related to the current Princeton essay prompts. However, these Princeton essay examples are still useful and can help you as you write your own college essays , as they demonstrate clear and well-written responses in a unique voice. 

In the next few sections, we’ll examine Princeton essay examples that are relevant to the current Princeton essay prompts. 

Princeton Essay Examples – Short Essay #2

There are also two Princeton essay examples for the second essay prompt. This prompt asks you to elaborate on an extracurricular activity or work experience that was meaningful to you. 

Like the Princeton supplemental essays examples above, this essay has a maximum of 150 words. 

To write a successful essay, like the Princeton essays that worked below, you’ll want to choose an activity or experience that holds significance to you.

You’ll want to name the activity, describe what the activity is, and elaborate on what you do in that activity. Bonus points if you can also add why it is meaningful to you and/or what you learned because of this experience. 

We’ll review two extracurricular activities essay examples below and explain why they are Princeton essays that worked. 

Serving as a Student Government leader at my college has taught me the power of student voice and collaborative leadership. During my Junior year, I began attending Senate Meetings and was elected as a Senator a few months later. I began proposing solutions to problems my college faces, from lack of STEM programming to low voter turnout rates to poor multicultural outreach programs.

I created student committees to tackle these problems, the most recent being a committee working to bring a series of local STEM professionals for our artist-in-residence series. I was appointed as a student voice to faculty committees, such as the Diversity and Equity Committee.

I use this position to bring student concerns I hear from SG directly to the college board to catalyze changes in our college, such as the introduction of STEM cohort groups or providing resources for students of color.

In the first of the extracurricular activities essay examples, you’ll see that the author mentioned the extracurricular activity they participated in as well as their role within this activity. 

This is an important step that most applicants forget to include within their responses. You don’t want to assume that your reader knows what your position was within your activity, even if it’s listed earlier in your application. By including the name of the activity as well as your role in it, it helps your reader understand the nature of your involvement. 

Another strong aspect of this extracurricular activities essay examples is how the author describes their approach to identifying issues and proposing solutions. The author takes time to explain what they did in their position to make a change. This shows how they are a critical thinker and problem-solver. It also shows how they are good at advocating for others, which are essential skills to have in college . 

You can learn a lot from the first response in our extracurricular activities essay examples. Most notably, this is one of the Princeton essay examples that shows rather than tells. 

Let’s look at another version of the extracurricular activities essay examples. 

After watching my grandfather suffer from heart ailments, it was particularly meaningful to have the opportunity to conduct echocardiography research with a pediatric cardiologist. During my summer internship at a major Health and Science University, I designed and built heart models to mimic hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) disease and investigate strain comparisons in a 2D and 3D model. 

Continuously designing and analyzing my own experiments has not only taught me the value of diligence, patience, and replication in the laboratory setting, but it has also instilled in me a profound respect for the biological intricacies that make life possible.

The critical-thinking and problem-solving skills I have honed through research will enable me to tackle difficult, and sometimes unknown, problems with sound reasoning and confidence as I serve the underrepresented to help eliminate health disparities.

Like the other samples in our Princeton essay examples collection, this response works for a number of reasons. First, the author explains why this was a meaningful activity to them. This provides the reader with the connection between the author’s personal experience and the extracurricular activity they chose to highlight. 

Again, the author describes what they did in this activity as well as what they learned. What takes this response to the next level is that the author describes how they will use what they learned. They explain how this experience will help them to reach their future goals. 

The Princeton supplemental essays examples above are perfect samples of how to respond to the extracurricular activities prompt. 

In the next sections, we’ll look at Princeton supplemental essays examples for the long response prompt. Although, Princeton admissions no longer uses this prompt, the Princeton supplemental essays examples are still helpful guides . They can show you how to write an effective essay with a higher word count. 

Princeton Supplemental Essay Examples – Long Response

We have two Princeton essay examples for the final prompt. As we mentioned above, some of the Princeton essay examples in this Princeton essay guide are from old prompts. This includes the Princeton essay examples below. 

When you read the next two Princeton essay examples, you’ll notice that they are long responses at 650 words each. Again, these Princeton essay examples are from old prompts, and you no longer need to write a 650-word essay in addition to your Common App personal statement . 

Even though these Princeton essay examples do not reflect the newest prompts, you can use them to guide you as your work on your own Princeton essays. 

The prompt for the Princeton essay examples below asks the applicant to choose from a list of themes as a starting point and write about a person, event, or experience that defined their values or changed the way they approached the world. 

We’ll provide the theme that the authors of these Princeton essay examples chose before we discuss why these are Princeton essays that worked. 

“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 and chair, Department of Philosophy, Princeton University. (650 words)

“You’re too white.”

I stopped in my tracks in the middle of the mall parking lot, trying to comprehend the judgement that had been cast on me by my Arab girlfriends. Too white, my friend had said. I always knew that I didn’t fit perfectly into the mold of a Middle Eastern girl, but this was the first time I had been called too much of something.

I was raised by an Arab father and an Irish-American mother. Because my father was the ultimate authority in the household, his cultural values overruled my mother’s. I grew up learning how to prepare spreads of mansaf and dancing to Jordanian dabke songs on the Arabic channel.

I twirled in my Palestinian dress in front of the mirror and painted my eyes with kohl. I was submissive and complacent, seen but not heard. I learned how to be a good hostess and to act bubbly with my friends and guests. I learned the value of family and respect for elders. In short, I was the perfect Arab girl.

When I was sixteen, however, my mom, siblings, and I left my father and moved to a different state. My mom ran our household based on her cultural values, presenting an exhilarating amount of freedom. Instead of passing by American Eagle, I was allowed to buy a pair of distressed jeans. I ordered the number two at Burger King and danced to Katy Perry’s “Swish Swish” at non-Arab parties. I talked back to my mom and stormed out of the house angrily.

I never felt the “whiteness,” as some would call it, creeping up on me. I never woke up and just decided “I’m more white than Arab.” I simply took on the values that my mom’s family and my new friends expected me to have.

However, I felt that at any given time, I was either Arab or white, never both. With my Arab friends, I was the Middle Eastern fashionista princess. With my non-Arab friends, I was the rebellious American teenager. Of course, neither of these stereotypes represented my true personality; I was trying to mold myself into the cookie cutters others had created for me, so it hurt to be called too much of one thing. My cultural identity was dependent on the people I was with.

After adjusting to my new life of freedom, I reevaluated how I defined my cultural identity. Why am I limiting myself in who I can be? I thought. Why am I allowing culture to define my identity? Why do I feel the need to force myself into certain stereotypes in my family’s cultures? Faced with these questions, I realized that rather than fitting myself into my cultures, I should make the cultures fit me. I appreciate my heritage and many of the values I was raised on, but I am more than my cultural background. My experiences shape the lens through which I view and assimilate my Arab and American cultures.

My anthropology teacher once said, “Culture is a social construction. It’s what we make it.” My culture is not a force that defines me; rather, it is a conglomeration of my heritage and values that influences and guides me. Looking in the mirror, I don’t see just an Arab-American teenage girl. I see a person grown from years of stories, sorrows, and joys. I see the values that my mother and father have taught me. I see the people that have touched me.

I see the lessons I’ve learned from my mistakes. You’re too white. I can scoff at this remark now, knowing it is nothing but a cultural tag society places on me. As I continue down this lifelong path of identity formation, I will remember to keep my heart open to the lessons I can learn from experiences to shape me into the person I want to see in the mirror.

This is the first of our Princeton supplemental essays examples that starts with a direct quote. This can be an effective way to pull your reader in. 

What makes this response truly unique is how personal it is. The author shows who they were, who they are, and who they hope to be as a result of their culture. They paint a picture of what it’s like to grow up within two distinct cultures. 

Additionally, the author addresses the values they had before and after they moved to a different state. By describing the shift in their values, they are addressing the part of the prompt that asks how they incorporate values into their lives to make them meaningful. Overall, this is a very strong essay!

Now let’s look at a different version of the Princeton supplemental essays examples. Please note that names of specific programs have been removed to preserve the writer’s anonymity.

“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. (500-650 word limit)   

My seven-year-old cousin’s thirst for knowledge, as she meticulously traced letters of the alphabet into the sandy floor of her schoolroom in Vietnam, makes me wonder what would happen if her potential met optimal resources. My aunt has to tie strips of fabric onto public buses to know which ones to take home from the market because poverty prevented her from learning how to read.

These vivid memories after my family trip to Vietnam fuel my passion to return to my country to stimulate social change through empowering people to voice their needs in front of an audience of national legislators and international agencies. This will provide my cousin with the chance to put pen to paper and finally tell her stories. The hope that my aunt will be able to read the public buses’ destinations herself reassures me that the injustices in my country will be addressed with the presence of officials advocating for change.

During an intensive seven-week program at Princeton University, I examined the economic, technological, social, and environmental needs facing the globe in the 21st Century. Through state-of-the art innovative methodologies, such as role-play simulations, case studies, and presentations, I debated on topics ranging from the cycle of recidivism that fosters the prison industrial complex to the removal of people of color from 17th and 18th Century  paintings in current academia.

These enriching dialogues at three in the morning allowed me to recognize that not only does my voice matter, but the voices of other underrepresented communities do as well. I learned that my leadership abilities are no longer confined by my skin color, gender, or social and economic standing.

More importantly, this program launched my continual pursuit of the core values—Excellence, Integrity, Compassion, and Community—to empower those voices that are underrepresented in my own communities: locally and internationally. I plan to employ these values and my Princeton education to impact the societal and environmental influences on health and well-being as a public health expert.

My interests in medicine, the human body, and social activism were magnified in this program because I began to recognize that my presence in Vietnam as a future public health expert will serve as a catalyst for change, inspiring my people to become assertive in their quest for aid in a way that giving a check never could.

With a world-class education from Princeton, I will explore my passion for service through conducting lectures on making access to healthcare a reality in developing nations at the annual Princeton-Fung Global Forum. I look forward to meeting with students and professors to learn and collaborate with the goal of collective global health leadership to become a more just and equitable society. 

Returning to my birth country sparked my desire to bring justice and health care to those who are marginalized. My program at Princeton helped me realize that through activism and public health outreach, I can place a spotlight on the unheard voices in the developing world.

I often ask myself, is civic engagement the only catalyst for change or does one have to be in a position of power to create a more just and equal world? I am still wrestling with these questions as I strive to discover the right balance between making a contribution and raising awareness while maximizing the ultimate benefit to the recipients. Truly, I know that community service is for my cousin, aunt, and all the nations I seek to serve.

Like the Princeton supplemental essays examples above, this response works because it’s personal. In fact, the essay pulls you in with vivid descriptions of life in Vietnam. Then, the author connects that to the need for change and how they hope to achieve this change. 

Another thing that works about this sample of the Princeton supplemental essays examples is that the author bridges each example in the essay to the prompt’s theme of service . They are able to explain their interests, passions, and future goals and how each of these are related to service. 

The author also explicitly states how attending Princeton will help them reach their goals, which we haven’t seen yet in any of the Princeton supplemental essays examples above. This can be an effective tool to use in your own essays. You want to stand out from other applicants and show that you want to attend Princeton, which is what this essay does well. 

Now that we’ve explored all our Princeton supplemental essays examples, let’s discuss how to write the Princeton supplemental essays. 

How do you write the Princeton supplemental essays? 

5 tips on how to write the princeton supplemental essays, 1. start early.

As we saw in the Princeton supplemental essays examples above, writing a strong essay takes time. You’ll want to begin your Princeton essay well in advance of the application deadline. 

2. Brainstorm topics for your Princeton supplemental essays

Before you start writing, you’ll want to brainstorm potential topics for your Princeton supplemental essays. Read through the prompts and think about how you can use your essay topics to highlight different aspects of your identity, interests, or passions. 

3. Focus on one experience

It might be tempting to write about everything that has happened to you since you started high school, but less is always more. Focus on one experience per essay and use your word count to provide rich details about that experience. 

4. Be specific

Each of the Princeton supplemental essays examples did a great job of bringing specific details into their responses. As you are writing your own essays, incorporate specific points to help your essay stand out. 

5. Edit your essays

Although it might be tempting to do so, don’t skip this important step! Sometimes it takes two to four rounds of edits before your essays are ready to submit. Ask a friend, teacher, or advisor for feedback, and edit your essays appropriately . 

Princeton Admissions Requirements: The Graded Written Paper

princeton essay examples

As we mentioned above, the graded written paper is on the list of Princeton requirements for admission. So, you must submit a graded written paper as part of your Princeton application. 

There are certain guidelines to consider as you select which graded written paper to submit along with your Princeton supplemental essay. 

Your graded written paper must meet the following criteria: 

  • Your paper should have been written for an academic course, preferably English, social studies, or history, during the last three years of high school (including senior year).
  • You may choose a paper, essay, research paper, or essay exam to send. However, it must be an example of expository writing only, not creative writing. 
  • One to two pages in length. 
  • Must include the course instructor’s grade and/or comments. If a grading rubric was used, please include this as well. 

How to submit your graded written paper for Princeton

You can submit your graded written paper to the Princeton admissions office by choosing one of the following options: 

  • Upload the paper alongside your Princeton application materials on the Common App or QuestBridge application. 
  • Mail, email, or upload the graded written paper to your student portal. 

Princeton admissions officers will review the graded written paper. They will use it to determine whether an applicant demonstrates the ability to perform well in Princeton’s rigorous academic environment. 

Keep in mind that Princeton admissions is more interested in the quality of the writing, rather than the grade you received. We encourage you to submit a paper that demonstrates your best writing abilities, regardless of the grade. 

Additional Princeton Resources 

Need additional Princeton resources? Check out CollegeAdvisor’s How to Get into Princeton guide . In it, you’ll find more information on the Princeton supplemental essay, Princeton requirements, Princeton admissions, and more. 

How to Get Into Princeton Guide

If you loved our Princeton essay examples and Princeton essays that worked, you can read more college essay examples here . 

College Essay Examples: 10 Best Examples of College Essays and Why They Worked

Moreover, you can also watch our webinar to get an overview of common supplemental essay prompts . 

Supplemental Essay Prompts Overview

Finally, to learn more about how to get into Princeton, watch our Princeton University panel . 

Princeton University Panel

Princeton Essay Examples – Final Thoughts 

Lastly, we hope our Princeton essay examples guide helped inspire you to begin writing your own Princeton essay. Even though the Princeton supplemental essays examples we included in this article might not reflect the current prompts, they are a good to reference as you write your college essays. 

While you research how to write Princeton supplemental essays, you’ll want to pay particular attention to the Princeton essays that worked in this Princeton essay guide. 

So, if you want personalized support as you strategize on how to get into Princeton, we can help. Register with CollegeAdvisor today to receive one-on-one guidance through the college application process.

princeton essay examples

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Princeton University’s 2023-24 Essay Prompts

Lived experience essay.

Princeton values community and encourages students, faculty, staff and leadership to engage in respectful conversations that can expand their perspectives and challenge their ideas and beliefs. As a prospective member of this community, reflect on how your lived experiences will impact the conversations you will have in the classroom, the dining hall or other campus spaces. What lessons have you learned in life thus far? What will your classmates learn from you? In short, how has your lived experience shaped you?

Community Service Short Response

Princeton has a longstanding commitment to service and civic engagement. How does your own story intersect with these ideals?

Graded Paper

Princeton requires you to submit a graded written paper as part of your application. You may submit this material now or any time before the application deadline. If you choose not to upload the required paper at this time, you may mail, e-mail, or upload your paper through the applicant portal. Detailed instructions for our graded paper requirement can be found here.

Bachelor of Arts Short Response

As a research institution that also prides itself on its liberal arts curriculum, Princeton allows students to explore areas across the humanities and the arts, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. What academic areas most pique your curiosity, and how do the programs offered at Princeton suit your particular interests?

Bachelor of Science in Engineering Short Response

Please describe why you are interested in studying engineering at Princeton. Include any of your experiences in, or exposure to engineering, and how you think the programs offered at the University suit your particular interests.

Select-A-Prompt Short Response

More About You Prompts

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?

Common App Personal Essay

The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don‘t feel obligated to do so.

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you‘ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

What will first-time readers think of your college essay?


Five Tips For Submitting Graded Papers to Princeton University

princeton university essay length

  • College Insights
  • College Search Tips

Last week, Princeton University announced that all prospective students must submit a graded writing sample, preferably in English or History, as part of their application for admission.  

While not the first school to ask for graded papers, Princeton University is the first to require them across a very large applicant pool— over 35,000 applied for just over 1,900 seats in the Class of 2022 —for every applicant. These are required in addition to standardized tests. the Coalition Application ,  Common Application  or the Universal College Application and supplemental essays. The graded paper is required in place of the Writing section on the ACT or the SAT.  

This requirement favors students who come from schools where teachers have more time to comment on written work.    I’m quite confident that the better endowed private and parochial schools have the right student/faculty ratio to help students to produce well-organized, well-written and throughly reviewed papers in these subjects. But when I consider that, with the exception of my Honors History course junior year, my public high school had no English or History class with fewer than 30 students. I have my doubts when it comes to public schools where that ratio is greater than 30 to 1.

Princeton University hires part-time readers to help review applications for admission, and no doubt the university will develop a process to evaluate graded work. It will probably be easy for applicants, or their school counselor, to attach the paper to their application as a PDF. My concerns test more with the students—who will need to consider which paper to submit.  

It is  unknown as to how much the written paper will count towards admissions. If it were up to me, it would count more heavily when the paper related to a prospective major that the student selected on the application, if the paper was  poorly written (even if it raised thought-provoking ideas), or if the quality of the writing was inconsistent with the quality of the essays in the rest of the application package.  

Suppose that you make a competitive application to Princeton this fall. What should you do to prepare to address this requirement during the summer?

  • The paper should come from a challenging class. While Princeton’s admissions office has not disclosed what they expect to see in the way of a graded paper, the same office has expected applicants to take the most challenging courses possible, at least in the subjects that interest them the most. An admissions officer who reads essays wants to know not only how well you write, but also how well you think and organize your thoughts.  
  • Consider not only the paper, but also the teacher. Applicants will not only need to submit well-organized and well written work; they will also need to have it thoroughly and thoughtfully reviewed. This may mean asking a teacher to re-read something that s/he has already graded, and giving them enough time to comment appropriately. Ideally, you will have built relationships with teachers that you would trust to look out for you, but also not mislead an admissions officer.
  • If neither English nor History is a favorite or best subject, choose a paper in a subject that is. If your best writing is in a Biology class, and your academic intentions in college lean towards the natural sciences, a well-organized and well-written science paper should enhance your chances for admission, provided that the paper is easy for a non-scientist to read and understand. A good high school science teacher should be able to review the paper not only for the ideas, but also for the structure and writing quality of the report. There is a fair chance that an admissions officer will have forgotten more high school science than s/he remembers, so keep in mind that a non-scientist might be your audience.  
  • Be careful on controversial topics or political positions. While you have seen that people are less shy to express their views online or in a public square, there are facts that have been well documented by scholars of multiple viewpoints. Your paper has to acknowledge the written work of others who share your viewpoint, and substantiate it, not make statements that are either slanderous or falsehoods.  
  • If the ideas behind your paper are supported through original music, art or creative writing, such as poetry, then apply using the Coalition Application or the Universal College Application. Both of these online sites allow students to build an arts-related portfolio as a complement to the rest of their application. The Common Application has encouraged students to use ZeeMee, a Web page builder outside of their site, to make a similar portfolio, but it will be easier for an admissions officer to review the portfolio along with the rest of your application in the other sites.  

Princeton University will be providing more information on the graded paper requirement between now and the date that the admissions office will begin to receive and review applications. But the time to seek and discuss this requirement with the right teachers is now.

Need help in preparing college applications and essays? Contact me at [email protected] , or call me at 609-406-0062.  

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The English class that I’m taking right now and last year’s, both had creative writing and research oriented papers. Which would you suggest I submit? The latest I’ve done is a creative writing paper that was eight pages and was based off of the idea of the story “A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty. I was going to submit that one, but I’m worried that they want a research based paper…

From Princeton’s page at:

There is a five-page and 1000 word limit on the paper but no specifics as to content, other that the university prefers that it was assigned in an English or History class. The admissions office also wants to see the grade as well as the teacher’s comments.

Best of luck in your application to Princeton!


It says “a paper or essay, approximately five pages or 1000 words”. My essay is 1100 words and 4.5 pages (double spaced). Is this fine?

I would suggest that you follow Princeton’s instructions.

Doesnt it say one or two pages is sufficient? Where did you get the 5 page limit information?

That was posted back in November. Even so, follow Princeton’s instructions.

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princeton university essay length

The Senior Thesis

From the outset of their time at Princeton, students are encouraged and challenged to develop their scholarly interests and to evolve as independent thinkers.

The culmination of this process is the senior thesis, which provides a unique opportunity for students to pursue original research and scholarship in a field of their choosing. At Princeton, every senior writes a thesis or, in the case of some engineering departments, undertakes a substantial independent project.

Integral to the senior thesis process is the opportunity to work one-on-one with a faculty member who guides the development of the project. Thesis writers and advisers agree that the most valuable outcome of the senior thesis is the chance for students to enhance skills that are the foundation of future success, including creativity, intellectual engagement, mental discipline and the ability to meet new challenges.

Many students develop projects from ideas sparked in the classes they’ve taken; others fashion their topics on the basis of long-standing personal passions. Most thesis writers encounter the intellectual twists and turns of any good research project, where the questions emerge as they proceed, often taking them in unexpected directions.

Planning for the senior thesis starts in earnest in the junior year, when students complete a significant research project known as the junior paper. Students who plan ahead can make good use of the University's considerable resources, such as receiving University funds to do research in the United States or abroad. Other students use summer internships as a launching pad for their thesis. For some science and engineering projects, students stay on campus the summer before their senior year to get a head start on lab work.

Writing a thesis encourages the self-confidence and high ambitions that come from mastering a difficult challenge. It fosters the development of specific skills and habits of mind that augur well for future success. No wonder generations of graduates look back on the senior thesis as the most valuable academic component of their Princeton experience.

Navigating Colombia’s Magdalena River, One Story At A Time

For his senior thesis, Jordan Salama, a Spanish and Portuguese major, produced a nonfiction book of travel writing about the people and places along Colombia’s main river, the Magdalena.

Student doing thesis research

Embracing the Classics to Inform Policymaking for Public Education

For her senior thesis, Emma Treadwayconsiders how the basic tenets of Stoicism — a school of philosophy that dates from 300 BCE — can teach students to engage empathetically with the world and address inequities in the classroom.

Student holding a book

Creating A Faster, Cheaper and Greener Chemical Reaction

One way to make drugs more affordable is to make them cheaper to produce. For her senior thesis research, Cassidy Humphreys, a chemistry major with a passion for medicine, took on the challenge of taking a century-old formula at the core of many modern medications — and improving it.

Students working in a science lab

The Humanity of Improvisational Dance

Esin Yunusoglu investigated how humans move together and exist in a space — both on the dance floor and in real life — for the choreography she created as her senior thesis in dance, advised by Professor of Dance Susan Marshall.

Students dancing

From the Blog

The infamous senior thesis, revisiting wwii: my senior thesis, independent work in its full glory, advisers, independent work and beyond.

What are your chances of acceptance?

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princeton university essay length

How Long Should Your College Essay Be? What Is the Ideal Length?

What’s covered: , personal statement length vs. supplemental essay length, are college essay word limits hard, what if a college essay word count isn’t given, what if you need to submit a graded paper, where to get your essays edited.

Students often spend hours agonizing over the best topics for their college essays. While it’s natural to wonder whether your personal statement is original or compelling enough, there’s one aspect of the process that shouldn’t cause you undue stress—how many words should a college essay be? Fortunately, with a little research, you can uncover the ideal college essay length for all your applications.

Unlike high school assignments, which typically have a strict page requirement, most colleges provide a word limit or word range for their application essays. This practice helps ensure that essays are the same length regardless of font or formatting. A good guideline is that students should strive to get as close as possible to the upper limit of the word range without exceeding it. Keep reading to learn more about best practices for college essay length.

How many words should a college essay be? Personal statements are generally 500-650 words. For example, the Common Application , which can be used to apply to more than 800 colleges, requires an essay ranging from 250-650 words . Similarly, the Coalition Application , which has 150 member schools, features an essay with a recommended length of 500-650 words.

650 words is the most common limit for your personal statement, but some schools may ask students to write more or less. For example, ApplyTexas , a platform used to apply to Texas public universities and other select colleges, requests essays with requirements that vary by school. For example, students applying to UT Austin will need to submit an essay of 500-700 words, along with three short-answer questions of 250-300 words each.

On the other hand, the University of California (UC) application includes a Personal Insight section with eight prompts . Students are asked to respond to any four of these prompts, with each response topping out at 350 words.

Additionally, some schools request a few supplemental essays, which are typically shorter than a personal statement. These questions are designed to gain more information about a student’s interests and abilities, and may include topics like your reasons for wanting to attend their school, your desired major, or your favorite activity.

Most schools require 1-3 supplemental essays, though some may require more or none at all (see our list of top colleges without supplemental essays ). These essays tend to be around 250 words, but some may be just as long as your main essay. For example, Cornell requires applicants to write a second supplemental essay (of 650 words max) that is specific to the program they’re applying to. The exception to this is the Cornell College of Engineering, for which applicants are required to compose two supplemental essays of 250 words max each.

For best results, keep your essays within the word range provided. While you don’t have to hit the count exactly, you should aim to stay within a 10% difference of the upper limit—without including fluff or filler. For example, if the school requests 500 words, try to ensure that your essay is between 450 and 500 words.

For the Common App, try to stay within 550-650 words, even though the given range is 250-650. Any submission shorter than 500 words will make it look as though you simply didn’t care enough to give your best effort. An essay shorter than 500 words won’t be long enough to truly share who you are and what matters to you.

Exceeding the word count isn’t an option—the application portal cuts off anything over the maximum number of allowed words. This is something you want to be particularly careful of if you’re drafting your essay in a Word or Google document and pasting it into the application.

Although most schools provide applicants with a specific word count, some offer more general guidelines. For example, a college may ask for a particular number of pages or paragraphs.

If you aren’t given a word count, try to adhere to the best practices and conventions of writing. Avoid writing especially short or overly long paragraphs—250 words per paragraph is generally a safe upper limit. If you’re asked to write a certain number of pages, single- or double-spaced, stick to a standard font and font size (like 12-point Times New Roman).

In the event that the college doesn’t offer any guidelines at all, aim for an essay length of around 500 words.

While essays are the most commonly requested writing sample, some colleges ask for additional pieces of content. For example, Princeton University requires students to submit a previously graded paper for evaluation .

Princeton offers guidelines that cover length, but if another school requests an old paper and doesn’t offer length requirements, a paper ranging from 3-5 pages should yield the best results. The goal is to select a paper long enough to showcase your writing skills and unique voice, but short enough that the admissions officer doesn’t get bored reading it.

Is your essay effective while staying within the required word count? It’s hard to evaluate your own writing, especially after rereading it numerous times. CollegeVine’s free Peer Essay Review provides an opportunity to have your essay reviewed by a fellow student, for free. Similarly, you can help other students by reviewing their essays—this is a great way to refine your own writing skills.

Expert advice is also available. CollegeVine’s advisors are prepared to help you perfect your personal statement and submit a successful application to your top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

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princeton university essay length

Length of essay

<p>I chose essay topic number one (choose a person who has had a significant influence on your life), but my response is too short. I have said all that I wanted to say in around 400 words (around 375). The prompt specified around 500 words, so my question is: Is it better to add ~100 words of fluff, or to keep it as is, significantly shorter than the targeted length? </p>

<p>Any opinions? thanks!</p>

<p>Should you add fluff? No.</p>

<p>Have someone take a look at your essay, though. There’s a chance they could point out an area or two that you could further develop.</p>

<p>Agreed with ccuser18. Definitely do not add fluff, concise writing is (usually) the best writing.</p>

<p>thanks for the advice, everyone! I expanded a few areas, and I think that will bring me closer to the target length.</p>

<p>it’s always better to be under the limit than over. from what i’ve heard, college writing and college essay should be as concise as possible.</p>

<p>In addition to everything that has been said so far, I can almost guarantee that somebody out there will have a concise 500 word essay that MAY provide more depth into their character because of the extra information contained in those 100 words. Do you want to chance them getting in over you because they were able to show more about them in through their essay?</p>

<p>I agree with you, patriotically, but there is never any need to add “fluff.” If you truly have something to say or expand upon, then by all means go ahead.</p>

<p>All THAT said, what about a general upper bound for ‘approximately 500?’</p>

<p>I’m at 522 right now…</p>

<p>I don’t consider myself the expert on college essays, but I always try to not go over the recommended amount. The way I see it, it is recommended for a reason.</p>


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University pilot this spring will normalize more than one final exam per day

Empty classroom with rows of seats attached to the floor facing a small stage and screen

McCosh 50 can hold many students for large final exams.

Candace do / the daily princetonian.

The University is launching a pilot which will “allow” students to take more than one final exam per day this semester, according to an email sent to undergraduates on Friday, Feb. 16 from Dean of the College Jill Dolan. 

Typically, students aren’t expected to sit for more than one final per day, but the recent amendment will cap exams per day at two. Dolan cited “concerns from students whose exams were scheduled late during exam week in the fall” and the lack of a “break in the spring” prior to summer activities as one of the reasons for the change. The move will normalize students being scheduled for two exams on the same day.

In an email to The Daily Princetonian, Dolan wrote that the pilot this semester “will actually affect very few students,” adding that only “about three percent of the current undergraduate student body would have two assigned exams in one day (168 out of 5590) this spring.” Previously, when students were assigned two exams in one day, the registrar would proactively contact these students, but Dolan noted that they frequently said they were “fine with two exams per day and prefer to leave their schedule as-is.” 

Dolan also responded to questions about increased stress for undergraduate students as a result of the policy. In her email to the ‘Prince,’ she wrote that Princeton remains “the only Ivy League school that doesn’t require students to take more than one exam per day.” She also wrote that “Princeton has a rigorous curriculum and an assessment period that requires us to be flexible to meet often conflicting needs.” 

Sophie Williams ’27, a first-year enrolled in CLA 212 last semester, explained to the ‘Prince’ that her longer final exam schedule was not ideal for her in the fall.

“I had my Classics final on the last possible day, at the last possible time. I had turned in all my other work over a week before this, and so it was tough that I couldn’t go home until three days before Christmas,” she stated. “Obviously it was out of my control, but it would have been nice to have a shorter exam schedule.”

With the fall semester final exam period stretching to Dec. 23 in some years, some students have raised concern over difficulties returning home for breaks. The length of the finals period has been contentious and was central to this winter's  USG elections . During the USG vice presidential debate in December, suggestions for revising the final exam period included establishing a shorter exam period and starting the fall semester earlier in the year to allow for an earlier winter break.

While the length of the exam period will remain the same this spring, Dolan wrote that it would allow administrators to “study how to move to a shorter exam period in the fall.” Dolan also wrote that the University would consider student feedback following the pilot process to guide additional steps. 

This policy of working with individual students to adjust exam schedules as needed will continue this spring.

“As always,” Dolan’s announcement stated, “if an assigned exam schedule would cause undue hardship for a particular student, the Registrar’s office and our residential college deans will help shift the student’s schedule.”

The updated exam policy states that requests to reschedule in-person exams will be accommodated “under very few circumstances,” including “religious obligations,” “personal emergencies,” and “more than two examinations scheduled on the same day.”


Dolan explained that the pilot “is one component of a longer-term initiative to decompress the final assessment period and to give students more control over planning their end-of-term work.” The University recently updated the Dean’s Date policy to allow faculty to grant short-term extensions in emergency circumstances without the approval of a dean. 

In addition to this change, Dolan explained, allowing students to potentially take two exams per day is necessary “to introduce more flexibility and efficiency within the final assessment period.”

Dolan also spoke to the way final exams at Princeton have changed in recent years. On top of a shift this year towards more exams scheduled to be administered during the afternoon rather than the evening, take-home exams have become more commonplace.

“It’s true that, especially post-pandemic, faculty are giving fewer seated examinations,” Dolan wrote. “The changes to the process on which we’re continuing to work include inviting faculty to think differently about ‘take home’ exams and their timing; about end-of-semester assessment in general, to open up more options than ‘final exams’ to assess student work; and alleviating the pile-up of work that some students experience on Dean’s Date by moving towards a staggered final assessment schedule.”

Caitlyn Tablada is a contributing News writer for the ‘Prince.’

Nandini Krishnan is a senior News writer and for the ‘Prince.’

Please send corrections to corrections[at]

‘Unparalleled wit and unyielding reliability’: Remembering James Li ’27

A smiling teenager in a gray sweatshirt looks at the camera through tinted glasses lenses, with a red track and trees in the background

James Li ’27, a devoted student of languages and philosophy, passed away on Feb. 16. Loved ones remember him for his witty intellect and caring spirit.

Play the Friday crossword, ‘Flavor of the Month’

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Taste test this timely puzzle by Staff Constructor Jasin Cekinmez.

Zero suicides is not just a dream. We can make it reality.

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Content Warning: The following article includes mention of suicide. 

Content Warning: The following article includes mention of suicide. 

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princeton university essay length

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  1. How to Write the Princeton Supplemental Essay

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  1. Graded Written Paper

    One to two pages in length is sufficient. The paper should include the course instructor's grade, and comments if your instructor provided any.

  2. How to Write the Princeton University Essays 2023-2024

    What brings you joy? What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment? Graded Paper: Princeton requires you to submit a graded written paper as part of your application. You may submit this material now or any time before the application deadline.

  3. The Complete Guide to the Princeton Supplement

    Tip 0: find a cozy coffee shop to start writing your essay in. How to Write a Great Princeton Essay: 4 Key Tips. To wrap up, here are some final tips to keep in mind as you write your Princeton essays and any other essays for college applications. #1: Be Specific

  4. Princeton Graded Paper: How to Approach It

    1. Be mindful of length. Although the suggested Princeton graded paper length is 1-2 pages, some students may feel that they don't have a strong enough paper in that range. If that's the case, you can submit a longer paper. For best results, avoid submitting any sample longer than 3-5 pages. 2.

  5. How to Get Into Princeton: Essays and Strategies That Worked

    Princeton scholarships and tuition. Princeton's 2023-2024 cost of attendance (i.e., tuition, room, board, and fees) is $83,140. Princeton has need-blind admissions and covers 100 percent of demonstrated need without loans. Among recent Princeton grads, 83 percent graduated with zero student debt.

  6. 10 Stellar Princeton University Essay Examples

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  7. How To Write the Princeton University Essays

    For the 2023-2024 application cycle, Princeton University requires all applicants to answer the following six prompts in order to apply. Students must first write about their academic interests in 250 words or fewer, and how they intend to explore them at Princeton specifically. ... At a length of 500 words, this essay is almost a new personal ...

  8. Princeton University 2023-24 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

    Princeton University 2023-24 Application Essay Questions Explanation. The Requirements: 2 essays of 250 words, 1 essay of 500 words, 3 short responses. Supplemental Essay Type (s): Community , Why, Oddball. This is Princeton, the Number One university in the nation. Maybe you've heard of it?

  9. Tips for Answering the Princeton University Supplemental Essay Prompts

    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.

  10. General Exam and Dissertation

    Specifically ruled out are titles like "Philosophical Essays" or "Three Philo­sophical Essays." Length. Although a good dissertation might be significantly shorter or longer, the department recom­mends a target length of 30,000-50,000 words. ... Princeton University Princeton, NJ 08544-1006. Phone: (609) 258-4289 Fax: (609) 258-1502. Footer menu.

  11. Princeton Essay Examples

    Princeton is one of the Ivy League schools, founded in 1746. According to U.S. News, Princeton University is ranked #1 in National Universities. Princeton is a highly competitive university with an acceptance rate of around 4%. The university also routinely makes the list of Best Colleges for many of their majors.

  12. Princeton University's 2023-24 Essay Prompts

    Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don't feel obligated to do so. Option 1.

  13. How to Write the Princeton Supplemental Essay

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    Last week, Princeton University announced that all prospective students must submit a graded writing sample, preferably in English or History, as part of their application for admission. While not the first school to ask for graded papers, Princeton University is the first to require them across a very large applicant pool—over 35,000 applied for just over 1,900 seats in the Class of 2022 ...

  15. The Senior Thesis

    At Princeton, every senior writes a thesis or, in the case of some engineering departments, undertakes a substantial independent project. Integral to the senior thesis process is the opportunity to work one-on-one with a faculty member who guides the development of the project. Thesis writers and advisers agree that the most valuable outcome of ...

  16. How Long Should Your College Essay Be? What Is the Ideal Length?

    Similarly, the Coalition Application, which has 150 member schools, features an essay with a recommended length of 500-650 words. 650 words is the most common limit for your personal statement, but some schools may ask students to write more or less.

  17. Length of essay

    finnah December 23, 2010, 1:06pm 1 <p>I chose essay topic number one (choose a person who has had a significant influence on your life), but my response is too short. I have said all that I wanted to say in around 400 words (around 375).

  18. 2.3 The Undergraduate Honor System

    2.3.1 Jurisdiction over Undergraduates for Violations of Academic Rules and Regulations Jurisdiction over violations of academic rules and regulations rests with two distinct committees at Princeton. All written examinations, tests, and quizzes that take place in class are conducted under the honor system. All violations of the honor system are ...

  19. Princeton essay length : r/ApplyingToCollege

    Princeton essay length People applying to Princeton, how long are your "Your Voice" essays? The reason I'm asking is because it says to "respond to each question in an essay of about 250 words," but if you look below the text box, it says "Min:50 / Max:350." 7 9 comments Add a Comment Shadow-1238 • Prefrosh • 2 yr. ago

  20. University pilot this spring will normalize more than one final exam

    With the fall semester final exam period stretching to Dec. 23 in some years, some students have raised concern over difficulties returning home for breaks. The length of the finals period has been contentious and was central to this winter's USG elections.During the USG vice presidential debate in December, suggestions for revising the final exam period included establishing a shorter exam ...

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  22. Statement of Academic Purpose

    Requirements The statement should not exceed 1,000 words and must be written in English. The Graduate School does not have specific formatting requirements. The statement should include: Plans: Highlight current academic and future career plans as they relate to the Princeton degree program to which you are applying