princeton university supplemental examples

How to Write the Princeton Supplemental Essays - Examples

Picture of a man in a collared-shirt writing on a sheet of paper. This is symbolic of how he is learning how to write the Princeton supplemental essaus

Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 9/28/23

College application building means you’ll need to write many supplemental essays. If you’re wondering how to write the Princeton essays, read on! 

Princeton University

Applying to Princeton is a monumental, thrilling, and intimidating task. As one of the Ivy League schools , Princeton strives to accept the best of the best. But it takes more than just good grades and excellent test scores to attend Princeton. 

Part of the application process includes writing Princeton supplemental essays. Keep in mind that these are required and not optional essays .   

This article will outline the essay prompts and pass along several writing tips so you’re fully prepared to answer Princeton supplements and impress Princeton’s admissions team.

Purpose of the Princeton Essays

When applying to universities, the admissions team only knows what you give them. Princeton judges your application based on your: 

  • High school transcripts
  • Test scores
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Personal statement
  • Supplemental essays

It’s hard to determine who you are based on grades, so these essays provide insight into the character that admissions committees value. The essays allow you to “speak” directly to the admissions committee and show why you deserve to attend Princeton. 

Every university wants to feel special, know that you chose to apply for a specific reason, and know that your application was intentional, not a fluke. You don’t get the opportunity to talk to the admissions team right off the bat, so you use the essays to show why you deserve to attend Princeton. 

Each prompt allows you to express yourself and explain the following: 

  • How Princeton fits in with your interests
  • Your educational expectations 
  • Your dreams and career goals 
  • How an education from Princeton will help you achieve these goals 
  • How you’ll contribute to the community

Princeton also wants to know your expectations, dreams, how it can help you achieve those dreams, and what kind of mark you’ll leave on it. 

Avoid writing your essays to cater to what you think the admissions committee wants to read. Admissions officers want to see your true self , so devote a healthy amount of time to these essays to give yourself the best chance of acceptance. Use this opportunity to show your true personality.

Princeton Essay Prompts & How to Answer Each of Them 

For the most part, each student answers similar questions about themselves. Princeton’s supplemental essay prompts range from 50 to 250 words , and the prompts aim to uncover more about you. Let’s explore each Princeton essay prompt in a little more depth. 

Essay Prompts

The first Princeton essay prompt you’ll answer depends on what track you plan to take . If you’re undecided or want to pursue liberal arts, you’ll respond to the first prompt, while engineering hopefuls will respond to the second: 

A.B. Degree and Undecided Applicants

1. “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.)” 

B.S.E. Degree Applicants

2. “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 about 250 words.)” 

If you plan to answer the first prompt, it’s okay if you’re unsure what major to pick. It’s a difficult decision to make, and Princeton understands that. 

To make it easier for you, Princeton wants to know what topics interest you and how Princeton fits into those interests. They want to know why you chose Princeton by understanding what aspects of the school appeal to you. 

It can be tricky knowing how to start your essay . First, conduct some college research to determine Princeton’s programs to ensure the university is a good fit for you. This is your opportunity to: 

  • Share your interest areas 
  • Explain how you’ve cultivated your interest so far 
  • Relate your interests to Princeton’s offerings 

If you’ve been interested in engineering, the second prompt will be fairly easy to answer. These supplemental essays are your chance to discuss your dreams and share any anecdotes that nurtured your interest in engineering. Use this opportunity to talk about your goals and how Princeton fits in with those plans.

Student typing essay on laptop

Additional Questions 

Princeton asks you to respond to the following prompts: 

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?  (500 words or fewer.)
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? (250 words or fewer.)

So, how do you write the second Princeton essay?

For the first prompt, share your life experiences that have shaped your perspectives and beliefs. Explain how these experiences will contribute to meaningful conversations with classmates in various campus settings. Consider what lessons you've learned and how your classmates can benefit from your unique background.

For the second prompt, discuss your personal connection to Princeton's commitment to service and civic engagement. Describe how your own experiences align with the university's values and ideals in this regard.

Princeton Short Answer Questions and How to Write Them

In addition to your essays, there are three short questions you must answer: 

  • “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?”

Each Princeton short answer question response must be 50 words or less, and the essay topics allow more room for creativity. Don’t be afraid to have a little fun answering these! Here are some tips on how to write concise answers that showcase your personality: 

  • Think about what you’d love to learn in college (Maybe you want to learn an instrument or a language?) 
  • There’s, of course, no correct answer to what brings you joy. Do you love spending time with friends and family? Do you collect rocks? Or maybe you love immersing yourself in a new book?
  • Have fun with the music prompt; think about what your theme song would be to give you more ideas!

Remember, you should be honest with these answers. Writing what you think the admissions committee wants to hear can come across as insincere. If you’re a fan of fantasy books, there’s no need to say you’re “a fanatic for classic literature.” Try to be yourself and remember these tips when writing your college essay . 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When you write your Princeton Supplemental Essays, it's important to steer clear of common errors. This section highlights these mistakes to help you sidestep them effectively.

​​Lack of Authenticity

One of the most common mistakes applicants make is failing to be authentic in their essays. This can happen when you choose the wrong essay topic . 

It's essential to resist the temptation to write what you think the admissions committee wants to hear. Instead, be genuine and allow your true personality, values, and experiences to shine through in your essays.

Generic Responses

Another pitfall to avoid is submitting generic or clichéd responses that could apply to any college. Your Princeton essays should demonstrate a deep understanding of the university and how it uniquely aligns with your academic and personal goals. Be specific in highlighting what Princeton offers that resonates with you.

Not Answering the Prompt

Ensure that you directly address the prompt in each essay. Each question serves a specific purpose, and your responses should align with those purposes. Avoid straying off-topic or writing about unrelated experiences.

Ignoring Word Limits

Respect the word limits provided for each essay. Going significantly over or under the word limit can reflect poor attention to detail and the inability to follow instructions. Adhere to these limits carefully.

Lack of Proofreading

Failing to proofread your essays can be detrimental to your application. Typos, grammatical errors, and poor sentence structure can detract from the overall quality of your essays. Take the time to proofread meticulously, and consider having someone else review your work for errors and clarity.

Too Much Focus on Academic Achievements

While it's important to discuss your academic interests and achievements, avoid turning your essay into a laundry list of accomplishments. Instead, delve into your motivations, passions, and the impact of your academic pursuits on your personal growth and goals.

Being Overly Formal

You don't need to employ overly formal language or rely on a thesaurus to impress the admissions committee. Write in your natural voice, and avoid trying to sound like someone you're not. Authenticity and clarity should be your primary goals.

Writing in Vague or General Terms

In your essays, be specific and concrete in your descriptions. Use examples, anecdotes, and personal experiences to illustrate your points. Avoid vague or general statements that lack depth and specificity.

Neglecting to Reflect

The Princeton essays often require reflection and introspection. Don't merely recount events or achievements; explain how they have shaped your values, perspectives, and future aspirations. The admissions committee is interested in understanding your personal growth.

Not Seeking Feedback

Seeking feedback from teachers, counselors, or peers is invaluable. They can provide insights and suggestions to improve your essays, helping you refine your ideas and make your writing stronger.

Overloading with Information

Avoid overwhelming the reader with too much information. Instead, focus on a few key experiences or ideas and explore them thoroughly. This allows for a more in-depth and meaningful discussion.

Being Negative

Maintain a positive and constructive tone throughout your essays. Avoid dwelling on negative experiences or criticizing others. Emphasize your resilience and ability to learn and grow from challenges.

Writing Last-Minute

Starting your essays well in advance is crucial. Rushed essays are more likely to contain errors, lack depth, and fail to reflect your best work. Give yourself ample time for multiple drafts and revisions.

Neglecting Princeton-Specific Research

Show that you've done your homework about Princeton by referencing specific programs, professors, or opportunities that align with your interests. Tailor your essays to demonstrate a genuine connection between your goals and what Princeton has to offer.

Disregarding the Personal Essay

The personal essay provides insight into your character and values. Don't underestimate its importance in the overall application. Use this essay to share meaningful experiences, passions, or values that define you.

Remember that the purpose of the Princeton essays is to help the admissions committee understand who you are as an individual and how you would contribute to the Princeton community. Be thoughtful, genuine, and reflective in your writing to make a lasting impression.

6 Simple Tips for Writing the Princeton Essays

Now that you know what the Princeton essay prompts are, you’re ready to learn tips about how to write the Princeton University supplemental essays . 

princeton university supplemental examples

Tip #1: Determine Your Track

Whether pursuing a liberal arts degree or interested in engineering, you should determine what career path you want to take. Ensure you answer the correct prompt for the first supplemental essay. 

Tip #2: Conduct Research

Ensure that Princeton offers the degree you wish to pursue. You wouldn’t want to write an essay about a major that Princeton doesn’t offer. You should also research the extracurriculars offered to see if there are clubs or offerings that interest you. You could use that as an opportunity to contribute to the school’s culture.

Tip #3: Choose Your Words Wisely

Keep in mind that your responses should range from 50 to 250 words. This word count is barely two paragraphs, so you want to make sure you concisely answer the prompt. Avoid overly sophisticated sentence structures and language. Also, remember to end your essay in a strong and memorable way, leaving a lasting impression on the reader.

Tip #4: Be Yourself

Remember that some of these prompts are supposed to be fun, so let your personality shine through! The admissions team wants to get to know you. A little honesty and creativity can help you stand out. Be honest to stand out from the other applicants. 

Tip #5: Proofread

Be sure to proofread your essays to ensure there aren’t any grammatical or spelling mistakes. Remember that this is your way of proving you deserve to attend Princeton. You don’t want to discredit your argument by making mistakes. They can distract admissions committees from your message! 

Tip #6: Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask friends, family members, or even teachers to read through prompts to ensure that your answers are concise and easy to understand. If you want to truly elevate your writing, an admissions consultant can evaluate your essays the way admissions committee members would. 

Another set of eyes can also help find errors that you might have missed. 

6 Princeton Supplemental Essay Examples From Admitted Students With Feedback

If you’re feeling stumped and unsure what your essay should look like, check out these Princeton supplemental essay examples that worked . Try to draw inspiration from these essay examples . However, remember to make your essays your own. Infuse them with your unique personality while sticking to the prompt. And remember, practice makes perfect! 

“Briefly elaborate on an activity, organization, work experience, or hobby that has been particularly meaningful to you.”

“For the past five years, I have participated in a service group called CTeen (Chabad Teen Network). It is comprised of about twenty-five Jewish teenagers from surrounding high schools. Every Sunday morning we have breakfast and class with our rabbi. We discuss current events and world dilemmas from a Jewish point of view. These discussions have deepened my understanding of Judaism and brought me closer to other members of CTeen. Through CTeen I have met many of my closest friends. My chapter annually travels to Brooklyn for a shabbaton in Crown Heights with 200 other CTeen chapters from around the world. Every year during this time I am imbued with the dedication of my community to our faith, and I experience a heightened connection to both Judaism and my friends. As president of my CTeen chapter and member of the International CTeen Leadership Board, I continue to be impacted by the authentic ideas and dedicated people I meet.”

Princeton Essay Example #1 Feedback

This student wrote about the service group they’re involved with to show their connection to a community. 

The student talks about the group and how they serve their community, perfectly embodying Princeton’s ideals. It’s also a unique experience that sets them apart from other candidates. Consider the time you’ve served your community and how it shaped you. 

The student’s response also shows their leadership skills and capacity to reflect on how being a part of the service group continues to shape them. The last sentences show the student’s openness to growth. 

“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? (Please respond in about 250 words)”

“Last summer, I participated in molecular biology research at Boston University. Surrounded by 39 other high school seniors, I perceived with new clarity how an inquisitive, curious mind must interact in an unapologetic manner. Entering lectures about the basics of molecular biology, most of us initially thought we knew a great deal about biology. I quickly realized my naivete, and once I accepted my own ignorance, I settled into a passive absorption mode. The looks on all our faces told the same story. Well, all of ours except Kelsey’s.
Brilliant and inquisitive, Kelsey exhibited no fear raising her hand and boldly asking questions. Even during the portions of the lectures when we were simply reviewing concepts of biology, she never ceased to question the current topic. The first few times she asked questions, I thought she had little background knowledge so she just needed clarification. Yet as the first week progressed, I realized that not only did she have the background information required for this course but also the grit and determination needed for success in research. The levels of her questions stumped our lecturer at times, and he responded, “I’ll have to get back to you on that one.”
Often, I just wanted to yell, “PUT YOUR HAND DOWN!!!” as my tolerance for her constant inquiry began to erode while sitting through her questions and their subsequent answers. Due to her deep and thought-provoking questions, she became the class pariah; not necessarily because she was annoying but because of her resolute and indefatigable inquisitiveness. She was insatiable in her pursuit of knowledge, like a ribosome clinging to the endoplasmic reticulum.
Yet as the course progressed, I finally began to notice the value of Kelsey’s questions. She asked questions of importance, questions researchers must ask themselves every day. Her inquiries were thoughts no one else my age seemed to have. The depth and breadth of her ideas fascinated me, especially given that she was only sixteen. Kelsey’s questions made me realize the importance of questioning preconceived notions. Subsequently, I became aware of my own willingness to challenge concepts that were accepted and taught as seemingly concrete, and I recognized the danger of blindly absorbing information without disputing it. Seeing the scholarly nature of Kelsey’s intellectual curiosity, I began to emulate her queries during the final few weeks of the program. Not only did I get more out of the lectures, but I also gained the experience necessary to question ideas and facts and search for answers, a vital skill in every academic realm.
As a student with an interest in the sciences, I ask questions that may not have an obvious answer. As someone who strives for knowledge, I am willing to do research if what I am asking has no answer, but I do not simply possess an affinity toward knowledge. I wish to create it. Most young people cite coaches, teachers, or other adults as influential; however, for me, a peer-modeled approach to learning also has merit.”

Princeton Supplemental Example #2 Feedback 

This student aptly discusses how an interaction changed their perspective on asking questions in a class. Although the student’s initial reaction to the student does not paint the writer in a positive light, their ability to reflect and understand the value of curiosity shows their ability to question their preconceived notions. 

This response shows the writer’s capacity to learn and grow when presented with new information and realizations. They now take the initiative to ask tough questions: a valuable quality in the next generation of academics and leaders. 

“Tell us about a person who has influenced you in a significant way. (250-650 words)”

“Last summer I participated in molecular biology research at Boston University. Surrounded by 39 other high school seniors, I perceived with new clarity how an inquisitive, curious mind must interact in an unapologetic manner. Entering lectures about the basics of molecular biology, most of us initially thought we knew a great deal about biology. I quickly realized my naivete, and once I accepted my own ignorance, I settled into a passive absorption mode. The looks on all our faces told the same story. Well, all of ours except Kelsey’s.
Brilliant and inquisitive, Kelsey exhibited no fear raising her hand and boldly asking questions. Even during the portions of the lectures when we were simply reviewing concepts of biology, she never ceased to question the current topic. The first few times she asked questions, I thought she had little background knowledge so she just needed clarification. Yet as the first week progressed, I realized that not only did she have the background information required for this course but also the grit and determination needed for success in research. The levels of her questions stumped our lecturer at times and he responded, “I’ll have to get back to you on that one.”
Often I just wanted to yell, “PUT YOUR HAND DOWN!!!”, as my tolerance for her constant inquiry began to erode while sitting through her questions and their subsequent answers. Due to her deep and thought-provoking questions, she became the class pariah; not necessarily because she was annoying but because of her resolute and indefatigable inquisitiveness. She was insatiable in her pursuit of knowledge, like a ribosome clinging to the endoplasmic reticulum.
Yet as the course progressed, I finally began to notice the value of Kelsey’s questions. She asked questions of importance, questions researchers must ask themselves every day. Her inquiries were thoughts no one else my age seemed to have. The depth and breadth of her ideas fascinated me, especially given that she was only sixteen.
Kelsey’s questions made me realize the importance of questioning preconceived notions. Subsequently, I became aware of my own willingness to challenge concepts that were accepted and taught as seemingly concrete, and I recognized the danger of blindly absorbing information without disputing it. Seeing the scholarly nature of Kelsey’s intellectual curiosity, I began to emulate her queries during the final few weeks of the program. Not only did I get more out of the lectures, but I also gained the experience necessary to question ideas and facts and search for answers, a vital skill in every academic realm.

Princeton Supplemental Essay Example #3 Feedback

This essay effectively engages Princeton's prompt by sharing a compelling story of Kelsey's influence. Beginning with a captivating narrative from a research program, it shows how Kelsey's curiosity, initially perceived as an annoyance, transformed the author's perspective. 

Concrete examples and the author's self-awareness add depth. It consistently ties Kelsey's impact to the prompt's theme of significant influence within the word limit, making it a strong response. 

Students working on college essay

Example #4 

“Princeton has a longstanding commitment to service and civic engagement. Tell us how your story intersects (or will intersect) with these ideals. (250-300 words)”

“I sat down, playing a few test notes on the old upright piano. The guests started filing in, and their warm smiles and kind eyes made me feel right at home. For this concert, I was performing the Mendelssohn piano concerto solo with the Debakey Orchestra at Amazing Place, a care center for patients with dementia. Though we volunteered at many hospitals, this performance was especially meaningful to me. 
We took our bow and began our performance, my fingers flying across the black keys in G minor and dancing gracefully in E-flat major. As I concluded the final notes of the piece, I was moved by not only the audience’s applause but, more importantly, by their personalized reactions. As most of the audience were patients who suffered from mild to moderate dementia, I was extremely touched to hear from them that my music had brought them joy and sparked past memories even through their daily struggles.
One resident, a retired piano teacher, told me that my performance reminded her of why she loved music, more specifically, teaching the art. It warmed my heart to know that I had a memorable, positive impact on her life. Partly due to this experience, I am inspired to continue bringing my music to my community at and around Princeton - whether it be to senior citizens at Atrium of Princeton, patients at Princeton Hospital, or my fellow classmates in Richardson Auditorium - just like I have with the Debakey Orchestra and Houston Orchestra on Call. Music is a powerful and therapeutic experience for many, and I am excited to combine my interests in both the art form and medicine during my time at Princeton.”

Princeton Supplemental Essay Example #4 Feedback 

The essay is successful in conveying the student’s powerful and moving experience performing for patients with dementia. The use of descriptive language and sensory details helps to create a vivid picture of the scene, and the author's personal reflections on the experience are heartfelt and inspiring.

To improve this essay, the author could’ve provided more context on their background and how it relates to their interest in combining music and medicine. 

This could help the reader better understand the author's motivations and goals, and how their experiences have led them to pursue this path. However, the essay is well-written and engaging overall.

“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. (250-650 words)”

“People love to ask why. Why do you wear a turban? Why do you have long hair? Why are you playing a guitar with only 3 strings and watching TV at 3 A.M.—where did you get that cat? Why won’t you go back to your country, you terrorist? My answer is…uncomfortable. Many truths of the world are uncomfortable. A couple of examples are that an equal number of pets are euthanized as are adopted each year and that cats roam the streets at night because they are actually looking for owners with better food. One of those statements is a horrible truth, and the other is a thought I had in the shower. Either way, the point still stands. 
Uncomfortable truths are just that, uncomfortable. The answer to ‘Why won’t you go back to your country, you terrorist?’ is the most uncomfortable answer I can give, barring the current status of aboriginal street cats. Sikhs like myself have borne the brunt of the backlash through our forced subjection to hate crimes, bullying, and job discrimination. In [Date], a misguided gunman took the lives of six Sikhs who were praying peacefully in their house of worship in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Their families, through their tears, asked the nation, like I continue to ask myself, “Why?”
The uncomfortable truth is that as a society, we have not found a solution to the growing trend of extremism and hate crimes—we failed at the whole “freedom of religion” clause in the Bill of Rights. The media tells us that these crimes are carried out by individuals who are ignorant and motivated by hate. I would personally call them losers, but that would solve none of the underlying system problems that have grown from anti-immigration rhetoric. When my cousin joined the US Army, he was told that he’d have to cut his beard and hair. Every time I tell that part of the story, I can’t help but guffaw at how ridiculous it sounds. My then eleven-year-old angst came to a climactic fruition hearing those words—it was a call to action.
I helped to gather signatures for a petition to Robert Gates, then Secretary of Defense, pleading with him to allow Sikhs to serve without having to cut our hair. We garnered over 15,000 signatories, receiving generous media attention. We called and convinced our local congressional offices to support this issue. I created a Facebook page to help spread awareness and helped to organize fundraisers to help fight this ban on our articles of faith. Our message is simple. Through service, we can push back against both hate and intolerance. But, if the largest employer in the U.S. does not allow us to serve with our articles of faith, then we will continue to be victimized as outsiders, contrary to the founding principles of our nation.
I’m proud to say my cousin deployed to Afghanistan as the first Sikh to be granted a religious waiver in nearly a generation. He saved countless lives as a doctor on the front lines of war and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his efforts. But, (there’s always a but) Sikhs today still face a presumptive ban. Despite being in perfect—for the army’s sake—physical condition, I cannot join the US Army because of my hair.
So now the uncomfortable story that was the uncomfortable answer to an uncomfortable question comes to an uncomfortable ending. And, like all great, uncomfortable answers, I never really answered the main question. I don’t have the answers to why people do the hateful things they do. But by wearing my turban proudly every morning, by answering questions when they come up, by being willing to talk about everything that is wrong, I become a personification of what is right. My solution to the systemic problem starts with me.”

Princeton Supplemental Essay Example #5 Feedback

This essay effectively delves into the author's personal experience as a Sikh facing discrimination and hate crimes. It artfully uses storytelling to emphasize the importance of religious freedom and tolerance in society. While compelling and well-written, it could benefit from a more explicit connection to the prompt, which asks for something meaningful in the author's background, identity, interest, or talent. 

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

"Imagine" by John Lennon encapsulates the current soundtrack of my life. It’s a timeless song - its message of unity and hope resonates deeply in today's world. As I navigate through challenges and changes, this song inspires me to envision a better future and work towards it with optimism and empathy. 

Princeton Supplemental Essay Example #6 Feedback

This response effectively conveys the choice of "Imagine" by John Lennon as the soundtrack of the author's life. It provides a clear explanation of why the song resonates with them, emphasizing its timeless message of unity and hope. The connection between the song and the author's life is well-articulated, making for a concise and meaningful response.

FAQs: Princeton Secondary Essays

Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Princeton secondary essays. 

1. How Many Supplemental Essays Does Princeton Require?

Princeton University requires four supplemental essays from first-year applicants. Undergraduate applicants also have to answer three short questions and the Common App essay. 

2. How Important Are the Supplemental Essays for Princeton?

Because Princeton uses a holistic approach to the admissions process, your essays carry a lot of weight in your admissions decision. The Princeton secondaries provide you the opportunity to showcase your individuality, personality, and interests beyond your test scores, grades, and academic achievements. 

3. How Long Should Princeton Essays Be?

Each Princeton essay prompt defines the number of words your essay should be. When it comes to admissions essays, you should try your best to stick to the brief. If your essay is ten words over or under, this is typically fine, but we highly recommend keeping it as close to the word count as possible. 

4. What Is the Deadline for the Princeton Supplemental Essay?

For Single-Choice Early Action applicants, the deadline to submit the Princeton Supplemental Essay, along with the Coalition Application or Common Application, is November 1st. 

Regular Decision applicants have until January 1st to submit their Princeton Supplemental Essay and application. Please ensure you meet these deadlines and check the official Princeton University admissions website for any updates or changes.

Final Thoughts 

Essays can be stress-inducing, especially when they determine your acceptance into your dream school. You want to show you have goals and dreams that Princeton can help you achieve. It can be difficult to know where to start, but you’ll have a foolproof plan for tackling these essays if you follow these guidelines. 

As long as you stay true to yourself and set yourself apart from other candidates, you should have no problem writing amazing Princeton supplemental essays. Good luck and happy writing!

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Princeton Supplemental Essays 2023-24

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If you’re wondering how to get into Princeton, the Princeton supplemental essays play a major role in the admissions process. In this Princeton essay guide, we’ll go over each of the Princeton supplemental essay prompts and other Princeton requirements. We’ll also discuss where to find Princeton essay examples. However, before we dive into the Princeton essays, let’s learn a bit more about Princeton and go over some important admissions facts.

Princeton University is located in Princeton, New Jersey and is home to just over 5,000 undergrads. Currently the top-ranked university in the country, Princeton combines all of the best aspects of a well-rounded liberal arts college and a high powered research institution. It is one of the eight Ivy League schools and, as such, has an equally competitive application process . Below, we’ve provided some quick facts about the Princeton supplemental essays, including the Princeton acceptance rate, deadlines, and requirements. So, keep reading our Princeton essay guide for more details and tips!

Princeton Supplemental Essays: Quick Facts

Princeton essay guide facts.

  • Princeton acceptance rate: 4%— U.S. News ranks Princeton as a highly competitive school.
  • Common Application
  • Coalition Application
  • QuestBridge Application
  • Early Action (Restrictive): November 1st 
  • Regular Decision : January 1st 
  • Transfer Application : March 1st 
  • 1 full-page (~500 word) essay
  • 2 half-page (~250 word) essays
  • 3 short answer (~50 words) essays
  • Princeton application note: In addition to submitting their Princeton supplemental essays, students are required to submit a personal statement essay and a graded written paper .
  • #1 Princeton Essay Tip: Some of the Princeton supplemental essay prompts are complex and multifaceted. Taking the time to fully understand the prompt will help you connect and fully flesh out your ideas, ensuring you write the best Princeton supplemental essays possible.

Please note that essay requirements are subject to change each admissions cycle, and portions of this article may have been written before the final publication of the most recent guidelines. For the most up-to-date information on essay requirements, check the university’s admissions website.

How many supplemental essays do you need for Princeton?

princeton supplemental essays

Princeton admissions requires students to submit six Princeton supplemental essays. While that may seem like a lot, the Princeton supplemental essays are actually more manageable than you think. In this Princeton essay guide, we’ll walk you through each of the Princeton essay prompts. 

The Princeton essays vary in length, with the longest at 500 words and the shortest only 50. Additionally, the Princeton essay prompts cover a variety of topics, including your major interest, personal impact, and civic engagement. This Princeton essay guide will provide all six Princeton supplemental essay prompts. We’ll also discuss strategies for each Princeton essay.

In addition to the Princeton supplemental essays, you’ll submit your personal statement and a graded written paper. We’ll review each of these requirements later in this guide.

What are the Princeton essay prompts?

The Princeton essay prompts are also referred to as First-Year Essay Questions . The six Princeton supplemental essays fall into three categories:

  • Degree-specific 
  • More about you

In the next section, we’ll review the prompts for each of the Princeton supplemental essays. We’ll also go over each of the Princeton supplemental essay prompts in detail and give you tips for writing your own Princeton essays.

Degree-specific

Depending on your chosen degree, you will respond to one of the below degree-specific prompts.

A.B. Degree Applicants/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.), 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.).

All applicants must answer the following Princeton supplemental essay prompts about personal impact and civic engagement.

Supplemental Essay Prompts

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.), 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.), more about you.

These are the short answer Princeton essay prompts. All applicants are required to answer the following prompts.

Short Answer Prompts

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.

Now, let’s unpack how to approach each Princeton essay. First, we’ll take a closer look at the degree-specific Princeton supplemental essay.

Princeton Supplemental Essays – For A.B. Degree/Undecided Applicants

princeton supplemental essays

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)

Students who apply to Princeton under either an A.B. Degree or Undecided program will respond to the above prompt. 

But before we dig into the rest of our Princeton essay guide, let’s discuss the difference between an A.B. and B.S.E. degree! 

A.B. Degree Program

Princeton offers two types of degrees: A.B. and B.S.E. On your Princeton application, you’ll indicate which type of degree you’d like to pursue. The majority of Princeton students complete an A.B. degree in their chosen discipline. A.B. stands for Bachelor of Arts, so it’s similar to a B.A. you might receive at another university.

Princeton offers 30+ areas of study, including fields in the humanities, social sciences, languages, and natural sciences. On your application, you’ll also indicate your primary academic area of interest.

When responding to this Princeton supplemental essay prompt, you’ll want to include Princeton-specific details. For example, let’s say you want to write your Princeton supplemental essay about economics . You might start by discussing what about economics most interests you. Then, you can mention specific courses you’re excited to take or certain faculty you’re excited to learn from. Or, perhaps you’re interested in research and want to highlight one of the economics department’s many research centers , like the Princeton Program in Public Finance.

Princeton Supplemental Essays 2023-24 – For B.S.E Applicants

princeton supplemental essays

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)

What is a b.s.e. degree .

Students interested in pursuing a degree in engineering will earn a slightly different degree. B.S.E. stands for Bachelor of Science in Engineering. Specific areas of study include:

  • Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
  • Operations Research and Financial Engineering

While the requirements are slightly different, A.B. and B.S.E. degrees are quite similar—and so are their Princeton essay prompts! In this Princeton supplemental essay, you might mention specific opportunities within your chosen concentration, like these mechanical and aerospace engineering research areas . You can even discuss engineering-focused student organizations you want to join, like Princeton Racing Electric or Engineers Without Borders .

One slight difference between the A.B. and B.S.E. prompts is that this one asks you to include past experiences related to engineering. So, if you conducted an engineering-related research project for your school’s science fair or spent a summer at an engineering camp, highlight those experiences here.

Next, we’ll discuss the Your Voice Princeton supplemental essays. First, we’ll look at the personal impact Princeton essay. Then, we’ll dive into the civic engagement Princeton essay.

Princeton Essay: Personal Impact

princeton supplemental essays

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)

This is the longest and also the most complex of the Princeton supplemental essays. The simplest way to answer a multi-question prompt like this is to think of it as three connecting parts.

First, think about your life experiences. What aspects of your life have had the biggest impact on you? Is it something to do with your personal identity? Perhaps your socioeconomic status or religious background? Or maybe it has to do with your role in your family or the community you grew up in?

Then, consider how this life experience has shaped you. What lessons have you learned? Moreover, how did these circumstances or environments help you grow mentally, emotionally, or spiritually? What values do you hold thanks to these life experiences?

Finally, consider how you’d bring these lessons or personal qualities to Princeton’s campus. How will they impact your discussions in class and the way you interact with your peers?

Princeton Essay Prompt: Civic Engagement Essay

princeton supplemental essays

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 Princeton supplemental essay prompt is fairly straightforward. You’ll want to touch on experiences where you’ve given your time for the betterment of others. This includes experiences like volunteer work, voting, or community service. Essentially, you’ll want to show how you’ve taken action to help address issues that affect the greater public and community.

Like in your other Princeton supplemental essays, you’ll want to tell a story, not just list your accomplishments. Let’s say you volunteered at a local community garden. How did you get involved? Why is the work you did important to you? Finally, how does the work you did benefit the community (socially, environmentally, etc.)?

The Your Voice Princeton supplemental essays are two of the most important essays of your Princeton application because they touch on your character. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to write these, then save some extra brainpower for the short response essays! 

Princeton Short Response Essays

princeton supplemental essays

Lastly, we have the shortest Princeton essays of our Princeton essay guide. Although we’ve noted each of the short response questions as their own Princeton essay, remember they’re not full-length essays. Your responses to each of the short answer Princeton essay prompts must be 50 words or fewer, so they’ll only be a few sentences long.

In addition to being the shortest of the Princeton supplemental essays, the short response Princeton essays are also the most fun! These questions are all about being yourself and capturing who you are outside of your academic interests.

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

In this Princeton supplemental essay, you’ll want to be sure you’re discussing a new skill, not something you already do. You could mention you want to learn how to play ultimate frisbee or learn the science of beekeeping (things you can get involved in through Princeton student organizations ).

What brings you joy?

This Princeton supplemental essay can be about anything. Whether it be cooking new recipes, listening to music, reading a good book, or spending time with your family. Maybe it’s even visiting a historical battlefield or doing parkour! Here’s a tip for writing this Princeton supplemental essay: if you smile while writing about it, you’ve likely landed on the right topic.

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

For music lovers, this could either be the easiest or hardest Princeton essay question to answer. Just like the other short answer Princeton supplemental essays, there are no wrong answers. Choose a song you connect to and let the admissions team know why it resonates with you.

Now that we’ve gone over the prompts for the Princeton supplemental essays, let’s talk about actually writing them. Up next, we’ll go over some tips for writing a Princeton supplemental essay.

How do I write my Princeton Supplemental Essay?

In the next section of our Princeton essay guide, we’ll discuss how to write a Princeton supplemental essay. Let’s dig in. 

Writing Princeton supplemental essays is just like writing other college essays. Compelling Princeton supplemental essays require students to be thoughtful and honest, crafting a story with a critical eye and their own personal flair.

Before you start drafting your Princeton supplemental essays, try to have a brainstorming session for all of the Princeton essay prompts. By laying out all of your ideas, you can imagine the narrative the admissions team will glean from reading all of your essays together rather than focusing on each individual Princeton essay. Each of your Princeton supplemental essays should capture something unique about you rather than repeat information found elsewhere in your application.

Remember, the first draft of your Princeton supplemental essays isn’t going to be perfect—nor should it be! Use your first draft to get your ideas out, then think about how you can organize them. Especially in your longer Princeton supplemental essays, you’ll want to start with a hook, build to a point, and by the end answer the question of “why this matters.”

More Princeton Requirements

princeton supplemental essays

If you’re making a plan for how to get into Princeton, be sure you’ve covered all of the Princeton requirements. Besides competing your Princeton essays, there are a few other things to include on your Princeton checklist :

  • Your completed application (this includes your personal statement essay, the Princeton supplemental essays, a graded written paper, and your application fee or waiver)
  • Official transcript and school report (sent by your school counselor or other school official)
  • 2 teacher recommendations (an additional counselor recommendation is requested, but not required)
  • Midyear school report

Students also have the option to submit standardized test scores, include an arts supplement, and complete an interview as part of the application process. Keep reading our Princeton essay guide to learn more about some of the optional and required elements of a Princeton application.

Standardized Test Scores

Submitting SAT and ACT scores is optional for all applicants. Princeton has extended their test-optional policy for the 2023, 2024, and 2025 fall admissions cycles. If you are a strong test taker, submitting high SAT or ACT scores for consideration can help your application stand out. However, your application and chances of admission will not be negatively impacted if you choose not to submit them. If you’re not sure whether to include your test scores or are still deciding whether to take the SAT/ACT, read our article on Standardized Tests in a Test-Optional Environment .

Completing an alumni interview is optional for all applicants. Students can choose to opt in or out of the interview when they submit their Princeton supplemental essays. Not every student is guaranteed to receive an interview, and they will be conducted in person or virtually depending on availability. Additionlly, as interviews are optional, your application will not be at a disadvantage if you choose to opt out or if you do not have the opportunity to conduct an interview.

Arts Supplement

Including an arts supplement is optional for all applicants. Students who have devoted significant time and excelled in certain artistic areas can submit an arts supplement. Areas of interest include:

  • Architecture
  • Creative Writing
  • Theater/Music Theater
  • Visual Arts

If you choose to include an arts supplement, you will indicate your intention to submit along with your Princeton supplemental essays. You can then submit your materials, along with a résumé if needed, to your Princeton Applicant Status Portal.

Graded Written Paper

Submitting a graded written paper is required for all applicants. Princeton admissions will use this piece of writing to understand your ability to express your thoughts and ideas in an academic setting. This contributes to their holistic assessment of your application. The graded written paper also helps the admissions team determine if you will thrive in Princeton’s challenging courses and what kind of contributions you’ll make in the classroom.

If you’re still not sure what makes a good written paper, don’t worry! The next section of our Princeton essay guide has Princeton’s guidelines as well as tips for choosing the right written paper.

Tips for Choosing a Graded Written Paper

princeton supplemental essays

As one of the Princeton requirements, deciding which graded written paper to submit is an important choice. Princeton admissions provides the following guidelines for submitting a graded written paper. 

Papers appropriate for submission should:

  • Be expository writing (paper, essay, research paper, essay exam), not creative writing
  • Be something you wrote for an academic course during your last three years of high school (preferably for an English, social studies, or history course)
  • Be graded (you’ll want to include the grade you received as well as the grading rubric and any teacher comments if provided)

Your graded paper does not have to be exceptionally long; 1-2 pages is sufficient. When considering which of your written papers to select, remember it also does not have to be an A+ paper. If you believe your paper shows a moment of growth or understanding, it can have a lower grade. Admissions is more interested in the quality of your writing and how you express your ideas than the grade it received. 

Does Princeton care about essays?

princeton supplemental essays

Yes, as one of the best colleges in the country, Princeton cares about your essays. In this section of our Princeton essay guide, we’ll take a closer look at the role your Princeton essays play in the Princeton admissions process. 

The Princeton supplemental essays allow the admissions team to see your achievements in context. They want to understand how you’ve taken advantage of the opportunities available to you and how you’ve grown despite any obstacles you’ve faced.

Along with your graded written paper, each Princeton essay allows you to demonstrate your writing abilities (a skill you’ll need to succeed in many of your college courses). Beyond that, they let you share a more complete picture of who you are and what you care about. Your Princeton essays allow you to craft your personal narrative and will help add depth and resonance to your application.

If your grades and graded written paper show your commitment to learning, your Princeton supplemental essays show your commitment to your family, your community, and your personal interests and development. And, unlike your grades or test scores or list of extracurricular achievements, your Princeton essays let you tell your story in your own voice. 

Now, we’ve almost reached the end of our Princeton essay guide. Keep reading for a few more tips and resources to help you write your Princeton supplemental essays!

5 Tips on How to Write the Princeton Supplemental Essays

We’ve covered a lot of details in our Princeton essay guide. Specifically, we’ve gone over the Princeton acceptance rate, application deadlines and requirements, and the Princeton supplemental essay prompts. 

Before we close out our Princeton essay guide, we want to leave you with five tips to help you tackle the Princeton supplemental essays:

1. Start brainstorming early

A successful Princeton supplemental essay starts with a compelling topic. Not sure what to write about? Check out our guide on 8 common college essay topics .

2. Details, details, details

Specificity gives your writing texture and will help your Princeton supplemental essays stand out from the crowd. If you’re worried your experiences aren’t unique, specific and personal details will add depth and authenticity.

3. Use your own voice

Don’t worry about writing an essay you think admissions wants to read. Your Princeton supplemental essays are your opportunity to let admissions learn who you are, not who you think they want you to be.

4. Address all aspects of the prompt

The Princeton supplemental essay prompts are intentionally designed for the admissions process. So, make sure your responses answer the question at hand.

5. Don’t forget to proofread!

Editing for spelling, grammar, and punctuation will make your Princeton supplemental essays polished and easy to read. That means admissions can focus on your story. 

For more tips on writing the Princeton supplemental essays, check out our guide on how to write better essays . If you’re looking for writing inspiration and a student’s take on the application process, check out a Princeton graduate’s Princeton Application Story . In it, she details how she approached the Princeton essays as well as handling being deferred EA before finally being accepted.

More Princeton Resources from CollegeAdvisor

Still looking for more guidance on how to get into Princeton? CollegeAdvisor has countless resources to help you conquer the Princeton application. Check our Princeton Essay Guide from 2022-2023 and our Princeton Essay Guide from 2020-2021 to get more ideas about how to write your essays. We also have Princeton essay examples and Ivy League Essay Examples to help you learn what a strong Princeton essay looks like. These include extracurricular activities essays as well as Princeton essays. 

You can also look to resources like our guide to writing an extracurricular activities essay for more Princeton essay examples. While the current Princeton supplemental essay prompts don’t include an extracurricular activities essay, you’ll encounter similar prompts throughout the admissions process. If you feel confident about approaching the Princeton supplemental essays but want more guidance on writing your personal statement, see these 10 Exceptional Common App Essay Examples .

For more information on what it’s like to overcome the Princeton acceptance rate and attend Princeton University, watch our Princeton Panel and read our how to get into Princeton guide here . 

Finally, if you want personalized support in the admissions process, click here to schedule a free meeting with our team and learn how one-on-one advising can help your applications stand out. 

We hope you’ve learned a lot reading our Princeton essay guide and feel ready to take on the Princeton supplemental essays—good luck!

princeton supplemental essays

This essay guide was written by Stefanie Tedards. Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.

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How To Answer Princeton's 2023/24 Supplemental Essays: Tips & Insights

How To Answer Princeton's 2023/24 Supplemental Essays: Tips & Insights

What's New in 2023/24

What Are Princeton's Essay Prompts?

Your Voice Questions

More About You Questions

Academic Interests Questions

Dive into Princeton's 2023/24 supplemental essay prompts, understand the nuances behind each question, and get expert insights on crafting standout responses. Our guide offers a comprehensive breakdown, from understanding Princeton's ethos to tailoring your narrative for maximum impact.

Princeton’s 2023/24 Supplemental Essay Updates: What's Changed?

Securing a coveted spot at Princeton University, with its estimated acceptance rate hovering around 5.82% or potentially even lower, is a monumental achievement. In such an intensely competitive arena, your supplemental essays become a vital instrument in highlighting your distinct narrative and compatibility with Princeton's ethos.

Each year, elite institutions like Princeton meticulously adjust their application process to ensure they obtain a holistic perspective of their prospective students. For the 2023/24 admissions cycle, Princeton has introduced several significant alterations to its supplemental essay questions.

New Prompts Address Your Academic Interests

Previously, there wasn't a dedicated prompt focusing on academic interests. The current cycle, however, has introduced distinct prompts for A.B. Degree Applicants and B.S.E Degree Applicants . These questions invite students to delve into their academic passions and articulate how Princeton's esteemed programs resonate with their academic goals, all within a 250-word framework.

An Updated “Your Voice” Prompt

In the prior cycle, applicants were prompted to probe challenging conversations and the insights they yielded. The updated prompt emphasizes Princeton's cherished values of community and respectful dialogue . Applicants are now encouraged to introspect on their life experiences and how the lessons they've learned from their experiences will shape their contributions to campus life, all encapsulated within a 500-word limit.

The Essay on Service Ideals and the “More About You” Sections Remain Mostly Unchanged

The essay on Princeton's service ideals remains but is now distinct, with a 250-word boundary.

The "More About You" section remains steadfast, retaining its trio of short-answer questions that probe into personal aspirations and reflections, each capped at 50 words.

These modifications underscore Princeton's evolving admissions strategy, emphasizing a deeper comprehension of applicants' academic leanings and the diverse experiences they'll infuse into the university's vibrant community.

Blog Banner

What Are Princeton’s Supplemental Essay Prompts for 2023/24?

For the 2023/24 application cycle, Princeton University has meticulously crafted specific supplemental essay prompts to delve deeper into the profiles of its applicants alongside the Common App or Coalition App questions. These prompts aim to uncover your academic inclinations, personal narratives, and how you envision your journey at Princeton.

“Your Voice” Questions

Princeton cherishes its diverse community and the countless voices that enrich campus conversations.

  • Lived Experiences: 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.)
  • Service Ideals: 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.)

“More About You” Questions

These succinct questions provide a snapshot of your personality, aspirations, and current reflections.

  • Skill Acquisition: What is a new skill you would like to learn in college? (50 words)
  • Joy: What brings you joy? (50 words)
  • Life's Soundtrack: What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment? (50 words)

Additional Prompts

Tailored to understand your academic aspirations and how they align with Princeton's offerings.

  • For A.B. Degree Applicants or 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.)
  • 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.)

With an acceptance rate estimated at around 5.82% , Princeton's application process is undeniably competitive. These prompts offer applicants a unique opportunity to showcase their academic passions, personal growth, and the distinct perspectives they'll bring to the Princeton community.

Looking for inspiration? Dive into these Princeton essay examples to see what successful applications look like!

How to Answer Princeton’s “Your Voice” Questions?

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.

Princeton values a diverse student body, not just in terms of demographics but also in experiences and perspectives. The university believes that each student's unique journey enriches classroom discussions, group projects, and the overall campus environment. This prompt seeks to understand the depth of your experiences and how they've shaped you as an individual .

Diving Deep into Personal Experiences

Begin by selecting one or two pivotal moments or experiences in your life. These could be:

  • Challenges you've overcome and the resilience they've instilled in you.
  • Unique opportunities you've had and the insights they've provided.
  • Personal or family stories that have significantly influenced your worldview.

Reflect on these experiences in terms of events, the emotions they evoked, and the lessons they imparted.

Influence on Conversations and Interactions

Reflect on how your experiences will shape various facets of your Princeton journey:

  • Classroom Discussions : Your unique perspective, derived from your experiences, can add depth and a fresh viewpoint to academic debates.
  • Casual Chats : In dining halls or dorm lounges, your stories might inspire, enlighten, or offer a different perspective to peers.
  • Group Activities : The skills and insights you've acquired can be beneficial in collaborative endeavors.

Additionally, delve into the key lessons your experiences have taught you. Whether it's values like empathy, resilience, or specific skills, consider how these lessons will benefit you and enrich your interactions with peers.

Envisioning Your Contributions to Princeton

Reflect on how your experiences will guide your contributions to the Princeton community. This could be in terms of:

  • Clubs or organizations you plan to join or initiate.
  • Community service or outreach programs you aim to be a part of.
  • Research or academic projects that your experiences have inspired.

By detailing these, you showcase a proactive approach to making a positive impact at Princeton.

Personal Growth and Shaping

Conclude by addressing the final part of the prompt: how your lived experience has shaped you. Reflect holistically on your journey, considering the amalgamation of experiences, lessons, and insights and how they've molded your character, aspirations, and worldview.

Princeton's first prompt is an invitation to share your personal journey and its significance. It's an opportunity to highlight how your unique experiences have shaped you and how they'll influence your contributions to the Princeton community. Approach this essay with introspection, authenticity, and a clear vision of your future at Princeton.

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.

Princeton's dedication to service and civic engagement is deeply rooted in its ethos. The university believes in nurturing individuals who excel academically and contribute positively to society . This commitment is reflected in various campus programs, initiatives, and student-led organizations that aim to make a tangible difference in the community and beyond.

Mapping Personal Experiences to Princeton's Ideals

Begin by reflecting on your personal experiences where you've engaged in service or civic activities. Consider:

  • Pivotal moments or experiences that shaped your values and dedication.
  • Direct and indirect ways you've helped others or contributed to organizations with a service mission.
  • Influences, whether individuals or events, that steered you towards these ideals.
  • Challenges faced, lessons learned, and the impact of your service activities.

Connect these experiences to similar initiatives or groups at Princeton, showcasing how you can continue and expand upon these endeavors at the university.

Intersecting with Princeton's Ideals

After narrating your personal journey, draw explicit parallels between your experiences and Princeton's commitment to service:

  • Match your past experiences with clubs or groups at Princeton that share a similar mission or serve a similar population.
  • Reflect on how your values and lessons from personal experiences align with Princeton's ideals.

Identifying Opportunities at Princeton

Research specific clubs, organizations, or programs at Princeton that align with your service experiences. You demonstrate a proactive approach and genuine interest in contributing to Princeton's service-oriented community by pinpointing where your skills and passions could be applied . Envision how your past experiences will influence future contributions to the university's community and its mission. Conclude with a forward-looking statement on what you hope to accomplish at Princeton.

Crafting a Unique Narrative

Every applicant will be addressing the same prompt. To make your response stand out:

  • Delve into personal stories or experiences that have shaped your commitment to service.
  • Reflect on challenges faced, lessons learned, and the impact of your service activities.
  • Consider how your unique perspective can bring a fresh approach to service and civic engagement at Princeton.

Princeton's second prompt is an opportunity to showcase your dedication to service and how it aligns with the university's core values . Remember, every applicant will be addressing the same prompt. To make your response stand out, intertwine your personal journey with Princeton's ideals, creatively interpret the prompt's underlying themes, and provide a clear vision of your future contributions. Approach this essay with introspection, authenticity, and a clear vision of your future at Princeton.

How to Answer Princeton’s “More About You” Questions?

What is a new skill you would like to learn in college, - 50 words or fewer.

At its core, this prompt seeks to understand your aspirations beyond the traditional academic curriculum. Princeton values holistic growth, and this question is an invitation to share a personal or professional skill you're eager to acquire during your college years.

1. Reflecting on Personal and Professional Growth

Consider skills that align with the following:

  • Personal passions or hobbies you've always wanted to explore.
  • Professional aspirations that require a specific skill set.
  • Interdisciplinary interests that bridge your major with another field.

2. Connecting the Skill to Princeton's Resources

While the prompt doesn't explicitly ask for it, it's a good idea to tie your desired skill to resources available at Princeton subtly. Whether it's a specific club, workshop, or course, showcasing your awareness of Princeton's offerings can be a plus.

3. Crafting a Unique Response

Given the brevity of the answer, it's crucial to be concise yet impactful. Avoid generic answers. Instead:

  • Share a brief backstory if there's a compelling reason behind your choice.
  • Highlight how acquiring this skill aligns with your broader goals or values.

The first "More About You" prompt is a window into your aspirations outside the standard academic trajectory. Approach it with a mix of personal authenticity and a nod to how Princeton can facilitate this learning journey .

What brings you joy?

This prompt seeks to uncover a more personal side of you. It's an invitation to share what genuinely makes you happy, offering a glimpse into your personality, values, and passions.

Reflecting on Genuine Happiness

Consider moments or activities that:

  • Evoke a sense of contentment or excitement.
  • Align with your personal values or passions.
  • Have consistently been a source of happiness over the years.

Going Beyond the Surface

While it might be tempting to provide a straightforward answer, try to delve a bit deeper:

  • If reading brings you joy, is it a specific genre or the act of immersing yourself in another world?
  • If it's spending time with family, is there a particular tradition or shared activity that stands out?

Relating to the Princeton Experience

Though not explicitly required, subtly connecting your source of joy to potential experiences at Princeton can be impactful. For instance, if nature brings you joy, you might look forward to peaceful moments at the Princeton University Art Museum's outdoor spaces.

The second "More About You" prompt offers a chance to showcase your individuality and what truly resonates with your heart. Approach it sincerely, and don't hesitate to share simple joys that hold profound meaning .

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

This prompt is an opportunity to convey your current emotional, mental, or situational state through the medium of music. It's a chance to share a snapshot of your life, encapsulated in a song, providing insight into your feelings, aspirations, or experiences.

Reflecting on Your Current Phase

Before selecting a song, introspect on your current life phase:

  • Are you in a period of transition, growth, or self-discovery?
  • Are there challenges you're facing or milestones you've recently achieved?
  • What emotions dominate your daily life?

Choosing the Song

When selecting a song:

  • Ensure it genuinely resonates with your current state.
  • Consider lyrics, melody, and the overall mood of the song.
  • It doesn't have to be a popular or well-known track; it just needs to be authentic to you.

Explaining Your Choice

While the song title might be self-explanatory to you, provide context:

  • Share why the song resonates with your current life phase.
  • Discuss specific lyrics or musical elements that align with your feelings or experiences.
  • Relate it to recent events, aspirations, or personal growth.

The third "More About You" prompt uniquely expresses your current state of mind and life phase through music. Choose a song that genuinely mirrors your feelings or experiences, and offer context to make your choice relatable and insightful.

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How to Answer Princeton’s Academic Interests Questions?

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.

Given that this prompt is for A.B. Degree Applicants or those undecided, it's crucial to convey an open-minded and exploratory approach to learning. Princeton's liberal arts curriculum is designed for students to discover and hone their interests over time.

Identifying Your Academic Interests

While you might be undecided or open to various disciplines:

  • Highlight subjects or topics that have intrigued you in the past.
  • Discuss experiences or projects that have given you a taste of these interests.
  • Mention if there are interdisciplinary areas that you're curious about.

Researching Princeton's Offerings

Before addressing how Princeton's programs align with your interests:

  • Dive deep into Princeton's course catalog , faculty research, and departmental offerings related to your interests.
  • Identify specific courses, professors, or research opportunities that align with your academic goals.

Drawing Connections

Now, bridge your personal interests with Princeton's offerings:

  • Discuss how specific programs or courses at Princeton can further your academic exploration.
  • Mention any unique Princeton initiatives, research opportunities, or academic resources that particularly resonate with your goals.

Envisioning Your Academic Journey at Princeton

Reflect on how Princeton's environment will enhance your academic growth:

  • How will the blend of research and liberal arts at Princeton shape your academic trajectory?
  • Are there interdisciplinary opportunities at Princeton that you're eager to explore?

This prompt is an opportunity to showcase your current academic curiosities and your eagerness to explore and grow within Princeton's diverse academic environment . Emphasize your open-mindedness, curiosity, and the potential for discovery at Princeton.

For B.S.E Degree applicants only

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.

Begin by articulating your intrinsic motivation or the initial spark that drew you to engineering. Was it a childhood fascination, a particular project, or an influential figure in your life?

Your Engineering Journey So Far

Detail your experiences and exposure in the realm of engineering:

  • Highlight specific projects, internships, or research endeavors you've undertaken.
  • Discuss challenges faced, innovative solutions devised, or key learnings from these experiences.
  • Mention any relevant coursework, competitions, or extracurricular activities that further solidified your interest.

Why Princeton's Engineering Program?

Dive deep into what makes Princeton's B.S.E program stand out for you:

  • Are there specific courses, labs, or faculty members aligned with your interests?
  • Does Princeton offer unique interdisciplinary opportunities, research facilities, or collaborations that resonate with your engineering aspirations?

Synergy Between Your Interests and Princeton's Offerings

Draw connections between your past experiences and future endeavors at Princeton:

  • How will your previous engineering exposure benefit from and contribute to Princeton's B.S.E program?
  • Are there specific areas within engineering that you're keen to explore further at Princeton?

Envisioning Your Engineering Future at Princeton

Reflect on your potential trajectory:

  • How do you see yourself growing and evolving as an engineer at Princeton?
  • Are there specific communities, clubs, or initiatives at Princeton that you're eager to join or lead?

This prompt allows B.S.E Degree Applicants to showcase their dedication to engineering and how Princeton's program aligns with their aspirations . By revealing a strong area of engineering passion and curiosity and intertwining past experiences with future goals at Princeton, applicants can craft a compelling narrative that underscores their fit for the program.

General Guidelines for Answering Princeton's Supplemental Essay Questions

  • Research and Specificity : Princeton's prompts often delve into your connection with the university's ethos, programs, and community. Ensure you mention specific courses, professors, research opportunities, or student organizations that align with your interests. Demonstrating detailed knowledge indicates genuine enthusiasm and thorough research.
  • Show Self-awareness : Princeton appreciates students who possess introspective qualities. When discussing academic interests, personal experiences, or future aspirations, always circle back to personal growth, lessons learned, or insights gained.
  • Diversity of Thought : Princeton, renowned for its diverse student body, values varied perspectives and experiences. Emphasize the unique viewpoints, experiences, or backgrounds you bring to the table, showcasing how they'll enrich the Princeton community.
  • Be Authentic : Authenticity is key. While it's tempting to craft responses you believe the admissions committee wishes to see, genuine narratives resonate more profoundly. Discuss genuine passions, challenges, and aspirations.
  • Quality Over Quantity : Given the word constraints, prioritize depth. Instead of briefly touching upon multiple points, delve deeply into a few, providing insight and clarity.
  • Narrative Storytelling : Engage your reader through vivid storytelling. A well-narrated experience or reflection can be more impactful and memorable than a mere listing of facts.
  • Proofread and Revise : Ensure your essays are polished. Beyond grammar and syntax, ensure your narrative is coherent, concise, and effectively communicates your message. Seek feedback from trusted individuals for fresh perspectives.
  • Connect to the Bigger Picture : Relate your responses to your potential contributions to the Princeton community and how Princeton's offerings align with your goals. This showcases your forward-thinking and eagerness to be an integral part of Princeton's legacy.
  • Embrace the Challenge : Remember, these essays are an opportunity to provide a more comprehensive view of who you are beyond grades and test scores. Embrace the challenge, and use this platform to convey why you and Princeton are a perfect match.

Princeton's supplemental essays offer a window to showcase your individuality, aspirations, and alignment with the university's values. By intertwining personal narratives with Princeton's offerings and ethos, you can craft compelling responses that underscore your fit and potential contributions to the Princeton community.

For further insights, consider exploring these Princeton essay examples to discern what makes an application stand out!

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Final Thoughts

Embarking on the journey to Princeton is not just about academic prowess but crafting a narrative that resonates deeply with Princeton's ethos and the admissions committee. Your supplemental essays are a window into your character, aspirations, and the unique contributions you'll bring to the Princeton community.

Every Princeton aspirant has a distinct story to tell. This is your invaluable chance to share yours. Approach your essays with authenticity, introspection, and a genuine passion for the narrative you're weaving.

If you're unsure whether your essay truly captures your essence or stands out amidst the myriad of applications, our essay review service is here to guide you. Our seasoned experts will provide a meticulous review and very personalized feedback, ensuring your essay resonates with Princeton's admissions officers. For added inspiration, delve into our ebook , which showcases essays from students who've secured spots at top-tier institutions. And for those targeting Princeton, our compilation of successful Princeton essay examples will provide crucial insights.

For those just beginning their college application journey, consider scheduling a free consultation with our seasoned college counselors. We're dedicated to assisting you in creating an application that maximizes your chances of joining the ranks of Princeton's esteemed alumni. Your dream of becoming a Princeton Tiger is within reach, and we're here to support you at every juncture.

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What Makes Crimson Different

Key Resources & Further Reading

  • Everything you need to know about US Application Supplemental Essays
  • Acing your College Application Essay: 5 Expert Tips to Make it Stand Out from the Rest
  • How to Tackle Every Type of Supplemental Essay
  • 2023-24 Common App Essay Prompts
  • What are the Most Unusual US College Supplemental Essay Prompts?

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Princeton Supplemental Essays 2023-24 – Prompts and Advice

August 24, 2023

Princeton supplemental essays

Although Princeton has withheld admissions statistics for the Class of 2027, citing concerns with student anxiety levels, their last reported acceptance rate was 4.4% for the class of 2021-22. However, even if the acceptance rate has gone up (or down) a percentage or two since, it doesn’t change much—when applying to an Ivy like Princeton, even applicants with perfect GPAs and test scores need to find a way to stand out from a pack of equally credentialed teens. Fortunately, the Princeton supplemental essays provide just such an opportunity. These compositions present the chance for wannabe Tigers to showcase superior writing ability. This is an opportunity to craft responses that are authentic, honest, compelling, and potentially needle-moving to the admissions office.

(Want to learn more about How to Get Into Princeton? Visit our blog entitled:  How to Get Into Princeton: Admissions Data and Strategies  for all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.)

Below are Princeton’s essay prompts for the 2023-24 admissions cycle with accompanying advice about how to tackle each one:

Princeton Supplemental Essays – Your Voice

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?   (500 words or fewer)

Essentially, Princeton is trying to uncover how your personal experiences will impact what kind of academic and social community member you might be. As such, this prompt wants you to discuss: 1) a specific aspect of your lived experience 2) what you learned and how you might engage with others as a result of that lived experience. “Lived experience” is broad and could include:

  • Your role in your family.
  • Your role in your social group.
  • A challenge you’ve faced.
  • A formative experience or realization.
  • Important aspects of your upbringing.
  • Cultural, religious, community influence.

Princeton Supplemental Essays (Continued)

Once you’ve chosen a particular direction, think about what you’ve learned from the experience and what you think others could learn from you. This is a chance to show that you are an open-minded, curious, and humble young person who is willing to learn and grow from their experiences. For example, perhaps growing up on military bases with a parent who was frequently deployed taught you about the importance of putting yourself out there to find a supportive community.

Perhaps you also learned that you have to be intentional about creating said community, which can be a difficult proposition in an increasingly technological and social-media-centric world. It’s also taught you not to take the relationships in your life for granted. As a result, you hope to model the importance of in-person connections and friendships—and the importance of putting a significant amount of effort into those friendships—even when it may feel easier to connect virtually.

This year, Princeton has doubled the length of this essay, giving you ample space to explore a particular aspect of your identity. You’ll just want to ensure that whatever topic you choose is completely unique from your Common App personal statement.

Princeton Supplemental Essays – Service and Civic Engagement

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?   (250 words or fewer)

Remember, the admissions committee has already seen the  President’s Volunteer Service Award  and the number of hours you volunteered at multiple nonprofit organizations. This shouldn’t be a recap of already-presented information. Rather, applicants should strive to share issues close to their hearts. We encourage you to share specific details about a time (or two) when you were civically engaged or volunteered on a community service project. Why was this experience important to you? Why and how did it cement the values of service and civic engagement? For example, perhaps you started making blankets for a local hospital during COVID, which evolved into a thriving extracurricular club that now has fifteen other members. Whatever you decide, you’ll want to demonstrate a deep-rooted and genuine connection to service. Moreover, consider including a Princeton-specific resource or two that will allow you to continue pursuing meaningful engagement.

Princeton Supplemental Essays – 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?

You can be straightforward, offbeat, or highly creative on this one—all with equal effectiveness. The straightforward answer would be something directly related to Princeton’s programmatic or extracurricular offerings. Discussing particular character traits, work habits, or social goals you hope to pursue—like networking or meditating—are fair game as well. If you really hope that college is when you finally take the time to pursue a new hobby, go ahead and share those aims in this space. It could be anything: crossword puzzles, stand-up comedy, yoga, genealogy, journaling, cooking, sewing, etc.

2) What brings you joy? 

What brings you great pleasure and happiness? Universal experiences of joy like family, a beautiful sunset, a place, a hobby, a tradition, or your cat or dog curled on your lap are perfectly acceptable answers here. However, you could also talk about dreams for the future, more bittersweet moments, abstract thoughts, moments of glorious introversion, or a time that you  unexpectedly  felt joy.

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

As Plato wrote, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” Music can express emotions that are beyond words. What stirs up deep feelings of connection within your soul? Be honest. It doesn’t have to be Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. Rather, it might be a piece by Lady Gaga, Kendrick Lamar, or Lana Del Ray. Don’t be afraid to share what music you genuinely connect with even if it isn’t “high-brow.” In addition, be sure to include a brief “why.”

Princeton Supplemental Essays – Degree-Specific

Depending on whether you are applying to an A.B. or B.S.E. program, you’ll need to answer an additional essay question:

A.B. (or Undecided) Essay

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.)

B.S.E. Essay

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.)

For both essays, you’ll want to discuss your personal experiences in relation to your academic interests as well as why Princeton will the optimal place to pursue them. Let’s break this down:

  • Which academic/engineering areas are you most drawn to, and why? What experiences have you had? How have you engaged with your interest areas up to this point? This should be fairly brief—a paragraph at most.
  • Why will Princeton be the best fit for you? Stay focused on academic programs/offerings here, which could include academic departments , professors ,  research opportunities , internship programs ,  courses , degree structure/curriculum , etc. Be sure to discuss how you plan to take advantage of your chosen resources.

Princeton Supplemental Essays – Graded Paper

In addition to the essays noted above, you’ll also need to submit a graded paper as part of your application . Princeton recommends that your paper be between 1-2 pages in length, so don’t go crazy and send them your 25-page English paper. Ideally, the paper will be as recent as possible—junior year is preferable. Moreover, your English and/or history teacher will be an excellent resource who can help you decide which of your papers best represents your writing ability and will be the most advantageous to include. Keep in mind that you’ll also need to submit the paper’s grade as well as your teacher’s comments, so it should go without saying that you’ll want to send Princeton a paper that you’ve excelled on.

How important are the Princeton supplemental essays?

Princeton rates the essays as being a “very important” factor in their evaluation process. The essays are listed alongside GPA, the rigor of high school coursework, class rank, extracurricular activities, recommendations, talent/ability, and character/personal qualities.

Want personalized essay assistance with you Princeton supplement essays?

Lastly, if you are interested in working with one of College Transitions’ experienced and knowledgeable essay coaches as you craft your Princeton supplemental essays, we encourage you to  get a quote  today.

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5 Princeton Supplemental Essays That Worked

Princeton University Essay Examples

Are you applying to Princeton University in 2023? Or perhaps you're a parent curious about what it takes.

If so, writing great application essays is the most effective way you can stand out.

In this article, I've gathered 5 of the best Princeton essays that worked so that you can get inspired and improve your own essays.

What is Princeton University's Acceptance Rate?

As a world-renowned college, Princeton has highly competitive admissions. Located in Princeton, New Jersey, the Ivy League school received 37,601 applications this past year and only 1,647 of those students were accepted.

That gives Princeton an overall admit rate of 4.4%, or in other words only 1 in every 18 students get accepted.

Princeton University Acceptance Scattergram

While admissions into Princeton is difficult, this only means that your application essays have more of an impact.

To have your best shot of getting admitted, it's important you write stand-out essays in response to Princeton's writing supplement.

What are the Princeton Supplemental Prompts for 2023?

This year, Princeton requires applicants to write three short essays and answer three short answer questions. Princeton also requires that you submit a graded academic paper as a part of your application.

The questions on this page are being asked by Princeton University:

Extracurricular Activity and Work Experience

  • Briefly elaborate on an activity, organization, work experience, or hobby that has been particularly meaningful to you. (Please respond in about 150 words) (1-200 words)

Please respond to each question in an essay of about 250 words.

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? (50-350 words)

  • Princeton has a longstanding commitment to service and civic engagement. Tell us how your story intersects (or will intersect) with these ideals. (50-350 words)

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? (1-50 words)

What brings you joy? (1-50 words)

What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment? (1-50 words)

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.

Do you wish to submit a graded written paper at this time?

Upload the graded written paper here. (0-2000 words)

Additional Information (Optional)

Please attach a document if you wish to provide details of circumstances or qualifications not reflected in the application. (0-2000 words)

5 Princeton University EssaysThatWorked

Here are 5 of the best Princeton essays that worked, inclunding responses to Princeton's writing supplement.

I've also included some Common App essays written by admitted Princeton students.

Princeton University Essay Example #1

Princeton university essay example #2, princeton university essay example #3, princeton university essay example #4, princeton university essay example #5.

Prompt: Briefly elaborate on an activity, organization, work experience, or hobby that has been particularly meaningful to you. (Please respond in about 150 words) (200 words max)

Why This Essay Works:

This essay provides good specifics that elaborate on their extracurricular activity. It is specific where possible, which helps provide context and make more compelling.

What They Might Improve:

This essay touches on the impact of this activity (connection to their religion and friendship), but it could go deeper. The takeaways in this supplement are somewhat surface-level, which is fine to start, but ideally would be expanded upon and more in-depth.

Prompt: Please tell us how you have spent the last two summers (or vacations between school years), including any jobs you have held. (200 words max)

By admitting when things are difficult, you aren't making yourself seem less capable. Instead, showing what is challenging is what admissions wants to see. Challenges are what cause growth and development, so they are important to address.

In several areas of this essay, the author could be more specific to be more engaging. Rather than saying "the research happening in the labs" they could specify what types of research they witnessed. Rather than saying "these experiences were pivotal to my passion for the sciences," they could specify how these experiences gave them a new appreciation and for what areas of science in particular.

Prompt: Tell us about a person who has influenced you in a significant way. (250-650 words)

Last summer I participated in molecular biology research at Boston University. Surrounded by 39 other high school seniors, I perceived with new clarity how an inquisitive, curious mind must interact in an unapologetic manner. Entering lectures about the basics of molecular biology, most of us initially thought we knew a great deal about biology. I quickly realized my naivete, and once I accepted my own ignorance, I settled into a passive absorption mode. The looks on all our faces told the same story. Well, all of ours except Kelsey’s.

Brilliant and inquisitive, Kelsey exhibited no fear raising her hand and boldly asking questions. Even during the portions of the lectures when we were simply reviewing concepts of biology, she never ceased to question the current topic. The first few times she asked questions, I thought she had little background knowledge so she just needed clarification. Yet as the first week progressed, I realized that not only did she have the background information required for this course but also the grit and determination needed for success in research. The levels of her questions stumped our lecturer at times and he responded, “I’ll have to get back to you on that one.”

Often I just wanted to yell, “PUT YOUR HAND DOWN!!!”, as my tolerance for her constant inquiry began to erode while sitting through her questions and their subsequent answers. Due to her deep and thought-provoking questions, she became the class pariah; not necessarily because she was annoying but because of her resolute and indefatigable inquisitiveness. She was insatiable in her pursuit of knowledge, like a ribosome clinging to the endoplasmic reticulum.

Yet as the course progressed, I finally began to notice the value of Kelsey’s questions. She asked questions of importance, questions researchers must ask themselves every day. Her inquiries were thoughts no one else my age seemed to have. The depth and breadth of her ideas fascinated me, especially given that she was only sixteen.

Kelsey’s questions made me realize the importance of questioning preconceived notions.

Subsequently, I became aware of my own willingness to challenge concepts that were accepted and taught as seemingly concrete, and I recognized the danger of blindly absorbing information without disputing it. Seeing the scholarly nature of Kelsey’s intellectual curiosity, I began to emulate her queries during the final few weeks of the program. Not only did I get more out of the lectures, but I also gained the experience necessary to question ideas and facts and search for answers, a vital skill in every academic realm.

As a student with an interest in the sciences, I ask questions that may not have an obvious answer. As someone who strives for knowledge, I am willing to do research if what I am asking has no answer, but I do not simply possess an affinity toward knowledge. I wish to create it. Most young people cite coaches, teachers, or other adults as influential; however, for me, a peer-modeled approach to learning also has merit.

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Common App Prompt #5: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. (250-650 words)

It's important to create a "voice" in your personal statement, so that admissions officers can imagine your character and personality. Try to write as you would speak, but refined and polished. In this essay, natural-sounding phrases like "...let me admit, I was awful..." humanizes the author and makes the reader feel like they're being spoken to.

This essay is a perfect example of how effective essays don't need to have a super unusual story to be compelling. What makes this essay's story compelling is not necessarily the topic itself (meeting distant relatives), but instead how the student reflects and makes interesting connections to broader ideas. Even seemingly mundane experiences can make for meaningful personal statements topics.

This conclusion works well by connecting to the main story of the essay. However, certain phrases like "As a global citizen" and "I am hoping to forge relationships" are potentially too generic. Instead, try taking your main idea (in this case forming connections with others) and broaden it or connect to more universal ideas.

Common App Prompt #1: 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. (250-650 words)

Having a unifying idea is key to successful personal statements. Find your deepest idea or realization and focus your essay around that.

Find a way to showcase your achievements while connecting to broader, more universal ideas.

Connecting your ending to your beginning is a powerful way to bring your essay full circle. A great conclusion expands on your ideas introduced earlier, while leaving some room for more to be said.

These 5 Princeton essays that worked showcase great examples of responses to the Princeton writing supplement.

What did you think of these Princeton essays?

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Princeton Admitted Essay

People love to ask why. Why do you wear a turban? Why do you have long hair? Why are you playing a guitar with only 3 strings and watching TV at 3 A.M.—where did you get that cat? Why won’t you go back to your country, you terrorist? My answer is... uncomfortable. Many truths of the world are uncomfortable...

princeton university supplemental examples

MIT Admitted Essay

Her baking is not confined to an amalgamation of sugar, butter, and flour. It's an outstretched hand, an open invitation, a makeshift bridge thrown across the divides of age and culture. Thanks to Buni, the reason I bake has evolved. What started as stress relief is now a lifeline to my heritage, a language that allows me to communicate with my family in ways my tongue cannot. By rolling dough for saratele and crushing walnuts for cornulete, my baking speaks more fluently to my Romanian heritage than my broken Romanian ever could....

princeton university supplemental examples

UPenn Admitted Essay

A cow gave birth and I watched. Staring from the window of our stopped car, I experienced two beginnings that day: the small bovine life and my future. Both emerged when I was only 10 years old and cruising along the twisting roads of rural Maryland...

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Why This Princeton Supplement Essay Works

Working on your Princeton Supplements and thinking about this prompt? This article will talk strategy regarding brainstorming, writing, and fine-tuning a college essay centered around a quote. Read on to learn how you can effectively answer this prompt, and to see how CollegeVine coached another student through their essay.

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Prompt: Choose a quote that is important to you and discuss it.

Feeling like there’s not much to go off of? Well, you’d be right. This kind of prompt is essentially asking you to write about anything you want. That being said, it attempts to elicit and examine specific qualities that might not be present in a prompt literally asking students to write anything. Below, we’ll delve into some of the aptitudes this prompt works to assess.

Core Components:

Reading : extracting meaning from the quote..

No, not just the ability to understand words, letters, and symbols (you’re applying to Princeton after all)—we’re talking about real inference. Reading a quote means more than just parsing it. This prompt is asking you to start with a pithy, dense, seed of an idea, before growing it into an elegant and textured elaboration on itself. You’ll need to demonstrate that you can start with a basic piece of information and relate it (accurately) to the world at large. Quotes—forms of knowledge in general—reach out reflexively to the world around them. Your ability to articulate these interrelations, to think critically about a quote, will impact your ability to write a successful supplement.

Voice: balancing personal, professional, and analytic writing.

While you want to remain professional, this is an opportunity to demonstrate your own personal voice and creativity. Essays about quotes can take many forms, including more creative avenues such as dialogue-based writing. It’s important that you sound authentic and interesting. Remember, this isn’t a term paper. So, while you’ll want to analyze the quote at a high level (especially as you prepare to write) it’s important that you maintain a voice that is true to who you are. The prompt wants to know about your values, history, and ambitions, all through a quote. Making sure that your voice aligns with your meaning will be crucial here.

Originality: avoiding cliché in the essay and redundancy as an applicant.

Being original when writing about a quote might seem difficult at first, after all, you’re literally writing about what someone else said. Still, originality is of the upmost importance for prompts like these. It can be split up into two sections: the quote, and your reflection. Ideally, both of these are original but there are still good essays that use an aphorism and get away with it. As you search for a quote, make sure you don’t use anything entirely hackneyed like, “good things come to those who wait.” Not only does it show a lack of effort, but adcoms will likely be reading plenty of essays that use essentially the same idiom. Striking a balance between original and relevant can also be tricky. While you probably shouldn’t use a quote from the Gettysburg Address, you also shouldn’t dig into a 1968 newspaper to find an op-ed columnist’s reflections on the state of American scientific research. Walking the line between substantial and original will lead to a much better essay.

The Essay in question: 

The following quotes are taken from a real student essay responding to this prompt. Our team have reviewed and edited this essay in cooperation with its author to come to the final version quoted here. The original version, along with our edits, will be available for download at the end of this post.

How does the final product relate to and demonstrate…

Originality:.

In this essay, the student focuses on the role of creativity in science by using a quote that helps to illustrate their point without just saying it outright. In fact, it implies just the opposite.

“Radio has no future. Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible. X-rays will prove to be a hoax.”

I first came across this quote in Physics of the Impossible , a book by Michio Kaku: theoretical physicist, science educator, and one of my all-time favorite authors.

This essay is practically perfect in terms of its originality. The quote is far from cliché but still comes from a reputable and interesting source. Given that the quote is a foil to, rather than an affirmation of, the point that the student wants to make, we can be even more sure that it represents a unique premise for the essay. While adcoms might read several essays about the role of creativity in science, it’s probable that this quote will remain a unique choice. A less unique and impactful choice for this topic would be Einstein’s hackneyed quote on imagination: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”

Of course, originality is about more than the quote itself. Drawing convincing parallels between scientists and authors in order to make their point, the applicant is able to further differentiate their essay from the crowd. By leveraging their unique knowledge, using a quote balanced between obscurity and relevance, and finding a personal and unlikely angle, the author of this piece crafts an interesting and original piece that is sure to avoid the chronic redundancy that can hurt an application. Here is an example of a passage in which to author draws on a unique perspective — implicating a fiction writer in their discussion of science — to further their analysis.

How could a great mind like Kelvin – the father of absolute zero and the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable – predict with such certainty the failure of technologies that would succeed within his own lifetime?

Conversely, we have Jules Verne, a contemporary of the esteemed Lord Kelvin. Verne’s works of fiction, ranging from his famous Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea to his recently discovered Paris in the Twentieth Century , presented readers in the 1800s with incredible technologies – advanced submarines, helicopter-like flying machines, and space launchers that could reach the moon – that just so happen to exist today.

While this essay includes historical and critical analysis, it also does a good job of bringing in the applicant’s voice. Written in the first person, the essay focuses on discussing the quote in the context of the applicant’s life and values. By weaving in their own experiences and ideas with those present in the quote, the author is able to maintain an authentic and personal tone. This is accentuated by the genuine and casual humor in the essay. While jokes—if forced—can actually be detrimental to an essay, this is an example of jokes well-used. At the end of the piece, we’re left with an image of the author as curious, creative, data-driven, and full of wonder at the sheer possibilities of the world. Even though very little biographical information enters the essay, the author’s attention to voice makes it feel like we’ve really gotten to know them. Here are a couple instances in which the author maintains an authentic tone through humor and other devices.

In this section, the author creates a humorous atmosphere around a subject that might otherwise seem technical and cold.

From our vantage point in the 21st century, quotations like these are quite humorous. Which famous historical figure could possibly have been so shortsighted? That person, it turns out, was none other than Lord Kelvin, the eminent nineteenth-century physicist who was instrumental in formulating the laws of thermodynamics.

Here, the applicant leverages the power of the personal by discussing their subjective relationship with the quote rather than assessing it in a detached and objective way.

My passion for science – and beyond that, my love of dreaming about future technologies, from superconducting roadways to space elevators – was sparked the first time I cracked open Physics of the Impossible . As I read Lord Kelvin’s flawed assertion and Jules Verne’s astonishing forecasts, I learned something about science, scientists, and myself.

Finally, the applicant sums up their essay with this pithy, well-timed joke about why they want to attend Princeton.

Oh, and it also doesn’t hurt that Princeton has free laundry. Not even Verne could have predicted that!

Still, even with plenty of examples, voice can be tricky. One way to hone your supplement to be sure of your voice is to take a break from your writing for about a day. When you get back to it, pretend you’re editing for someone else. Try to write down a verbal portrait of the person who wrote the essay. Do they resemble you? Do they resemble what you want to communicate?

This essay is a great example of what we mean when we say that you need to demonstrate an ability to read into your quote. Beginning with the quote, the author goes on to do several important things. Firstly, they address the contemporary perception of the quote as shortsighted and ignorant. Next, they address the historical origin of the quote, relating it to Lord Kelvin and giving us context as to who that was and why the quote seems so ironic. Having established a solid contextual base, the author goes on to “read” the quote onto the state of contemporary science and onto his/her own aspirations. Reading the quote onto science, the author manages to make sound and lucid claims regarding the role of imagination in science. The applicant then goes on to explain how this quote and their subsequent reading of it represents the crux of their own scientific aspirations. Through their understanding of how the quote applies to situations beyond its immediate context, the author demonstrates the critical thinking skills that are crucial to a successful undergraduate career.

In this early section, the author explicitly contrasts the two perspectives in the essay, demonstrating an understanding of the implicit irony, as well as the socio-historical norms that surround these figures.

Kelvin, the most respected scientist of his day, failed to envision the technological revolution that would take root in just a few years; yet Verne, a lay writer, uncannily presaged a world a century away in his writings.

Later in the essay — after establishing their original perspective and accurately reading the irony of the situation — the author reads the quote onto the state of contemporary science. This is the analytical crux of the essay and is written with power and concision.

Science is not all details and numbers on a spreadsheet. These are undoubtedly important, the skeleton of research and invention; discoveries would be impossible without painstaking observation and experimentation. Yet science is also imagination. Wonder. Vision. These are the vital organs that fill out the skeleton, that make progress possible. Without imagination, the details and data could never coalesce into a clear picture.

What else does this piece do well?

Beyond the three core aptitudes that we discussed above, what makes this essay so special? One important component of this piece is its texture. A supplemental essay like this one gains texture through an effective balance of sources, analysis, and personal writing. The author never lingers too long on any one thought or example and focuses a lot on the connective tissue between their ideas. The specificity of their examples is paramount to their role in giving this essay texture.

Mentioning Princeton is also a nice touch in this piece. By bringing Princeton into focus after constructing a convincing and immersive essay, the reader is immediately prompted to imagine the applicant in the context of a science program at Princeton. That being said, talking too much about a specific school or program can detract from the essay’s ability to give the adcoms a sense of who you really are.

Related to voice, this essay is also a good example of clean and clear writing. By using a variety of sentence lengths, the author creates rhythm in the piece—helping the audience to flow along in their reading. The author also varies their use of stylistic devices, making sure to limit their reliance on adjectives, imagery, etc., so as to maintain their force when they are used.

Want more insight?  

Seeing the process of an essay’s growth and perfection can be useful in writing your own essay. The original version of this essay, along with our edits and higher-level notes, can be found in a download here.

Want help with your college essays to improve your admissions chances? Sign up for your free CollegeVine account and get access to our essay guides and courses. You can also get your essay peer-reviewed and improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.

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princeton university supplemental examples

princeton university supplemental examples

Princeton-specific Questions

In addition to the Coalition Application ,  Common Application  or the QuestBridge Application , Princeton University requires you to answer Princeton-specific questions. Below you will find the questions for the 2023-24 application cycle. Depending on which degree you wish to pursue at Princeton (A.B., B.S.E. or undecided), you will answer one of the two academic prompts, then there are three additional sections meant to help us get to know you even better.

First-Year Essay Questions

Please note: Princeton also requires you to submit a graded written paper as part of your application.

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.)

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.)

Your Voice  

  • 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.)
  • 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.)

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?

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  20. Why This Princeton Supplement Essay Works

    A supplemental essay like this one gains texture through an effective balance of sources, analysis, and personal writing. The author never lingers too long on any one thought or example and focuses a lot on the connective tissue between their ideas. The specificity of their examples is paramount to their role in giving this essay texture.

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  23. Princeton-specific Questions

    In addition to the Coalition Application , Common Application or the QuestBridge Application, Princeton University requires you to answer Princeton-specific questions. Below you will find the questions for the 2023-24 application cycle. Depending on which degree you wish to pursue at Princeton (A.B., B.S.E. or undecided), you will answer one of ...

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