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Get Admitted to your Dream University – Princeton

Princeton University is a private institution that was founded in 1746. It has a total undergraduate enrolment of 4,773 (fall 2020), its setting is suburban, and the campus size is 600 acres. Princeton, among the oldest colleges in the U.S., is in the quiet town of Princeton, New Jersey.

The most popular majors at Princeton University include Social Sciences, Engineering, Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Public Administration and Social Service Professions, Physical Sciences, History, Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics, English Language and Literature and Philosophy and Religious Studies.

Princeton Motto

“In the nation’s service and the service of humanity”. The value of service is central to the mission of Princeton as a liberal arts university. Princeton believes in infusing the passions and pursuits of its students, faculty, staff and alumni in serving its community.

The University has reinforced its commitment to helping students and alumni use their education to not only benefit themselves but also society more broadly. Princeton pushes students, faculty and alumni to think about how their research, education and lives will benefit the nation, the world and humanity, and gives them the support and resources to make it happen. 

Important Factors in Admission Decision

Princeton considers the following “very important” factors in admission decisions:

  • Course rigor
  • Class rank
  • Standardized test scores
  • Application essay
  • Recommendation letters
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Talent/ability
  • Character/personal qualities

The following additional factors are “considered”:

  • Interview
  • First-generation student
  • Alumni/ae relation
  • Geographic residence
  • Racial/ethnic status
  • Volunteer work
  • Work experience

How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into Princeton University

1. Achieve a high GPA while taking the most challenging classes available

Princeton considers academic excellence very important while making admission decisions. It is important for students to not only possess outstanding grades but for those grades to come in challenging courses. Many students accepted to Princeton usually take 8 to 12 advanced courses in high school. Advanced Placement or AP exams are conducted by the College Board (same global body that conducts SAT) every year in a wide variety of college-level subjects ranging from Calculus and Computer Science to Art History and English Composition. The main aim of AP exams is to test your ability and acumen to measure up to the rigors of undergraduate curriculum in US and other global universities. Typically, international students appear for AP exams at the beginning of their grade 12. Students interested in Engineering usually appear for Calculus, Physics, Computer Science or Chemistry. Students interested in Business Studies usually appear for Calculus, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics and Statistics. Students interested in Medicine usually appear for Biology, Psychology, Chemistry and Environmental Science.

Another reason why Princeton applicants need great grades is that selective schools use a tool called the ‘Academic Index’ to filter out their enormous number of applicants. At its most basic, the Academic Index is a distillation of a student’s academic performance (grades and test scores) into a single number. Highly selective universities use this (or a similar) metric to filter out students that don’t meet their academic standards.

2. Aim for a 1560 SAT and 35+ ACT

The middle 50% SAT scores for Princeton’s class of 2025 are 1460-1570 or an ACT score of 32-35. While any score in the middle 50% is good, the closer you are to the top of the middle 50%, the more competitive of a candidate you are.

3. Explore your favourite subjects via Research Papers

One common factor that we have noted in the resumes of students admitted to the Ivy Leagues and other top colleges is the prevalence of research work while still in high school. In this article we explain how and why exposure to research helps students and the key steps in planning and writing high quality research papers.

There are three main reasons, as to why research papers help students stand out. A high-quality research paper shows that you have the energy and the initiative to go beyond what is taught in the class and apply it to real life problems. It shows that your interest in the subject extends beyond the questions provided at the end of the chapter. Secondly, you learn the discipline of not rushing intuitively to the likely answer, instead using a deliberate process in which you are guided by the data. Lastly, in working with a skilled professor or mentor you learn how to organize your thoughts better, ask the right questions and try to answer those questions in the best way possible subject to the constraints. A good work product provides an insight into your mind, thought process and way of working.

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4. Cultivate at least one or two Tier 1-2 extracurriculars (find your “niche”)

Extracurricular activities are an excellent way for Princeton applicants to set themselves apart; however, not all extracurriculars are created equal. The 4 tiers of extracurricular activities are useful for understanding the value colleges place on undertakings.

  • Tier 1 activities are rare and demonstrate exceptional achievement or leadership at a national or international level. Some examples are, 1) Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, a national prize awarded to top 20 pre-collegiate musicians, 2) Regeneron Science Talent Award, one of the most prestigious opportunities for high school students to present original scientific research in the USA, 3) World Robot Olympiad, a global competition where youngsters (13 to 19 years age) from different countries participate, 4) International Mathematical Olympiad, a math competition for pre- university students, 5) International Science Olympiads in various areas of the formal sciences, natural sciences and social sciences.
  • Tier 2 extracurriculars show high levels of achievement and leadership but aren’t quite as rare as activities found in Tier 1 (they’re more of state-level achievements). These include making an all-state selection in athletics, serving as student body president, or being selected for a prestigious state-wide summer program like governor’s school.
  • Tier 3 extracurricular activities are great for showing an applicant’s interest outside of the classroom but don’t have the cachet of higher-tiered extracurricularsThese activities are smaller leadership roles and achievements that often appear on applications. These include being captain of a sports team or holding a lesser officer position in a club.
  • Tier 4 extracurriculars are the least impressive and most common activities seen by admissions officers. These activities include playing a sport or instrument, participating in a club but not holding a leadership position, and volunteering.

A strong extracurricular profile can make a candidate more competitive at a selective school like Princeton, where most applicants have outstanding academics and test scores. Princeton considers talent and ability “very important” when making admissions decisions and a strong resume of extracurricular activities is a great way to demonstrate you have what it takes.

Princeton wants to admit students who will be highly successful in their fields, demonstrating great achievements in a particular domain is evidence that you’ll go on to become a graduate Princeton will be proud of.

5. Commitment to society and giving back

Princeton-sponsored service programs offer positive ways for students, faculty and staff to engage with the larger community.

Among many initiatives supported by the University community are opportunities to serve as firefighters, donate bikes, food and clothing for charities, promote sustainability and environmental stewardship and host educational and commemorative events, such as for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

6. Write engaging essays

Essays are the best way to distinguish yourself from other applicants. Princeton requires all applicants to submit three essays and three short responses. Students applying for a Bachelor of Arts, or a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree are also required to submit an essay about why they’ve chosen the major. Princeton also requires the submission of a graded academic paper. This graded academic paper should be submitted in English and can come from O- or A-level coursework, so long as this student-written essay meets all the other requirements listed. The graded written paper and teacher comments must be written in English.

Research the University and the faculty of the department you are planning to join. Explain in your essay how your values tie with the expectations of the university and how you expect to utilize the knowledge to make the world a better place.

Also research the extra-curricular activities and the clubs in that university and how you will spend your time outside the classroom.

There are many different types of extra – curricular activities and clubs available for students to enjoy themselves and learn something new.

  1. Advertise This: Advertise This is Princeton’s first and only marketing club. Its mission is to increase awareness of jobs available to students in marketing and to provide students with the skills needed to thrive in any industry. This is both a career opportunity organization and a media club. Students learn from both professionals in the industry and from their peers.
  2. Fuzzy Dice: Fuzzy Dice, also known as Princeton’s (Self-Proclaimed) Most Attractive Improv Group, was the first improv group on campus to offer both long-form and short-form improv. While Fuzzy Dice emphasizes hard work and quality improv, having fun is equally important to its members. Fuzzy Dice has performed at campuses and theatres all across the U.S. There are also several improv shows on campus per semester.
  3. Stripe Magazine: Stripe Magazine is Princeton’s first online and on-campus fashion magazine.  Students can apply to be writers, photographers, editors, models, and stylists for the magazine. The goal of Stripe Magazine is to lend a medium for students to voice their unique opinions about fashion.
  4. Institute for Chocolate Studies: This organization is Princeton’s first student-run bean-to-bar chocolate factory. Students have the opportunity to learn about the chocolate-making process and make their own chocolate to take home

There are different extracurricular activities and clubs present in the campus. There is something for everyone. And best of all everyone is invited. Students could take up different activities or join a sorority. Joining a sport or activity helps students meet other like-minded people who share common interests with them. It is a good way to make friends.

No matter what college you’re applying to, it’s important to write in your voice and demonstrate why you belong at that school. Princeton considers character/personal qualities “very important”, and the essay is an ideal place to spotlight your best character traits and qualities and how the university will benefit from having you on campus.

7. Apply Early Action

Princeton’s Single-choice early action is non-binding which means that the applicant is not required to attend if admitted—however, it is limiting. Applicants who apply for single-choice early action at Princeton are restricted from applying to an early program at any other private college or university.

  • REA might be a good option for a student if all of the following apply:
  1. They have identified Princeton as their first choice.
  2. They have taken a challenging academic schedule through grade 11 and have done well.
  3. They have sufficient time before the November 1, REA deadline to write compelling essays.
  • If you are applying to Princeton under Restrictive Early Action, you may not apply to any other private institution under an Early Decision, Early Action, or Restrictive Early Action plan, or to a binding early program at a public university.
  • You are welcome to apply early to any public university, military academy, or university outside of the United States under a non-binding program.
  • Additionally, you are able to apply to other universities under their Regular Decision or Early Decision II programs.
  • If your application is deferred in the early action round, you may apply to a binding early decision program at another college (i.e. Early Decision II).
  • You may apply for scholarships or special academic programs with an early deadline at another institution, public or private, if the timing is proven to be a necessary aspect for consideration, and the outcome is non-binding.

8. Recommendation Letters

Princeton considers recommendations “very important” and requires two of them—

  • Teachers – Required 2
  • High School Counsellor Required
  • Other Evaluations – Optional 2

You should approach your high school teachers several months in advance. Requesting a letter of recommendation from a teacher is a big ask—they’re busy and don’t get paid to write recommendations. Make it easy for your recommenders by giving them plenty of time, providing them with as much relevant information as possible.

The primary criterion for admission to Princeton is academic excellence. Princeton wants students who are committed, dedicated, passionate, have potential to succeed and those students with a genuine interest in expanding their intellectual horizon. Following the guidelines above will help you present your best self to Princeton University and maximize your admission chances.

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About the Author: 

Shubhi Joshi is an Editor at Scholarly. She has a B.A. in English and a M.A. from St Xavier’s College, Mumbai in Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology. She has an interest in history and current affairs. An avid blogger, Shubhi loves to write about higher education and self-improvement.

Scholarly helps ambitious international students locate the right universities and courses to pursue their education. We provide college credit courses and research papers to students that want to learn more and differentiate themselves. We help students develop and present their best version to their dream university. Our recommendations are based on the student’s field of interest, academic performance, financial resources and career plans. We provide test preparation classes from the best teachers to help improve scores and thus the prospects for admission. We also assist students with their visa and loan applications to reduce the anxiety associated with international education.

For additional questions about international education, choice of majors, university selection or admission strategies please visit the Questions section of our website.

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