The Ultimate Guide to Applying to Princeton

Princeton University, located in Princeton, NJ, is one of the world’s preeminent research universities, with an undergraduate acceptance rate of roughly 5.6% for the Class of 2024. The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs is particularly renowned.

 

If you’re hoping to get into Princeton, here’s everything you need to know to improve your chances of acceptance.

 

Average Stats of Accepted Princeton Students

 

Students accepted to the Princeton Class of 2024 had an average GPA of 3.91. If you are wondering what your GPA is and how it compares to the GPAs of accepted Princeton students, but don’t know how to calculate it, you can find it using our free GPA calculator!

 

On the SAT, the middle 50% of SAT scores on the math section fell between 740-800, and 710-800 on the reading and writing section. On the ACT, the middle 50% of ACT scores fell between 32-36 composite. Princeton does not report the high school class ranks of its accepted students.

 

Unfortunately, at a school as selective as Princeton, even perfect test scores do not guarantee you will be accepted. On the bright side, if your scores are in the above ranges, you will likely at least pass the initial round of screening, which means your essays, recs, and activities list should be read.

 

If your scores are below these ranges, however, your application may immediately be disqualified unless you are a recruited athlete, legacy applicant, or underrepresented minority. While this may seem unfair, Princeton receives over 30,000 applications per year, and the Academic Index is a way of quickly filtering out applicants who aren’t academically comparable to the average Princeton student.

 

Finally, like many schools this year, Princeton has adopted a temporary test-optional policy due to the coronavirus pandemic. If you would like to know whether you should still try to take the SAT or ACT, we encourage you to read our article on test-optional policies. While a strong test score can only help your application, you and your family’s health are most important.

 

Princeton Application Process

 

Application Overview

 

Princeton accepts both the Common Application and the Coalition Application. Due to coronavirus, Princeton is not allowing early applications this year, so all prospective students have a submission deadline of January 1st, 2021, and will hear back on April 1st, 2021. Traditionally, however, Princeton offers Restrictive Early Action and Regular Decision. 

 

The cost of submitting your application to Princeton is $75, but if you are worried that this fee will be a financial hardship, you can request a fee waiver on the Common or Coalition app.

 

Application Components

 

  • The Common App or Coalition App
  • Princeton supplemental essays
  • A graded written paper
  • High school transcript
  • School report
  • School counselor letter
  • Two teacher recommendations
  • Optional interview

 

Princeton Supplements

 

Princeton has six supplemental prompts: three essays, and three short-answer questions. The prompts are listed below:

 

Essays

 

  • Briefly elaborate on an activity, organization, work experience, or hobby that has been particularly meaningful to you. (about 150 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? (about 250 words)
  • Princeton has a longstanding commitment to service and civic engagement. Tell us how your story intersects (or will intersect) with these ideals. (about 250 words)

 

Short-answer questions

 

  • What is a new skill you would like to learn in college? (50 words)
  • What brings you joy? (50 words)
  • What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment? (50 words)

 

If you would like help responding to these prompts, we encourage you to check out our guide to the Princeton supplements. After you finish your responses, you can also get free essay feedback from other students using our Peer Essay Review tool!

 

Graded Written Paper

 

The Princeton graded paper requirement is somewhat unusual, but fortunately it shouldn’t require any additional effort on your part, as Princeton just wants you to submit a 1-2 page essay, with your teacher’s comments, that you wrote for an academic course, preferably English or history. Note that this should be an academic paper, not a piece of creative writing. You can submit this paper through either application portal, or email it to Princeton. 

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Recommendation Letters and School Report

 

Princeton requires three rec letters total, one from your guidance counselor and two from teachers. As you think about which teachers you would like to ask for rec letters, keep in mind that Princeton requests that you ask teachers who taught you in upper-level courses such as AP, IB, or honors, depending on your school’s academic program. Princeton does not request rec letters from teachers in particular subjects, but they do encourage you to ask teachers who taught you in a core subject like English, history, science, math, or foreign language.

 

Your guidance counselor, in addition to writing you a rec letter, will also submit a school report. This report contains information about your high school such as demographics, graduation requirements, and course offerings, that will help Princeton contextualize your academic achievements.

 

Interview

 

Depending on where you live, Princeton may offer you an alumni interview. Whether or not you are offered an interview depends on how many interviewers are available, so if you are not contacted don’t worry—it’s not any sort of commentary on the quality of your application.

 

If you are offered an interview, you should absolutely take advantage of this opportunity to elaborate on and add to your application. Interviews are not only a chance for Princeton to learn about you, but also for you to connect with a Princeton alum and ask any questions you have about the school.

 

When Will You Hear Back?

 

As mentioned above, Princeton is only accepting Regular Decision applications this year, so all applicants will be notified on April 1st, 2021. Keep in mind that there are three possible outcomes: you can be accepted or denied outright, but you can also be waitlisted.

 

While it is possible to be accepted off the waitlist, it is incredibly uncommon. For the Class of 2024, 902 applicants were offered a spot on the waitlist, and only one was eventually accepted. So, if you are waitlisted, you should put down a deposit at another school, as your chances of getting off the waitlist are unfortunately very low.

 

Princeton Financial Aid

 

For the 2020 academic year, the cost of attending Princeton was $69,950. However, the average grant for a student admitted to the Class of 2023 was $56,500. Even better, Princeton has a no-loan policy and commits to meeting 100% of a student’s demonstrated need. Princeton is also need-blind when evaluating all applications, regardless of whether the applicant is a US citizen or an international student.

 

The table below shows the average aid package awarded to members of the Class of 2023 in different income brackets.

 

Family Income Percent of Applicants who Qualify for Aid Average Grants What This Covers
0-$65,000 100% $71,340 Full tuition, college fee, room and board
$65,000-$85,000 100% $65,620 Full tuition, college fee, 75% of room and board
$85,000-$100,000 100% $62,800 Full tuition, college fee, 58% of room and board
$100,000-$120,000 100% $58,780 Full tuition, college fee, 35% of room and board
$120,000-$140,000 100% $56,400 Full tuition, college fee, 21% of room and board
$140,000-$160,000 100% $52,210 Full tuition
$160,000-$180,000 100% $47,470 91% of tuition
$180,000-$200,000 93% $41,900 81% of tuition
$200,000-$250,000 82% $35,185 68% of tuition
$250,000+ 34% $25,430 49% of tuition

 

Princeton notes that most of the families in the highest income bracket that qualify for aid have two or more children in college. Additionally, regardless of which income bracket you family is in, keep in mind that you are not guaranteed to receive the amount listed in the table. Princeton will assess how much they feel your family can afford to pay, and that may lead to you receiving an aid package that is smaller or larger than those listed above.

 

If you have general questions about Princeton financial aid, we encourage you to check out our article on what it really costs to attend Princeton.

 

How to Apply for Financial Aid

 

To apply for financial aid at Princeton, you must submit four forms:

 

  1. The Princeton Financial Aid Application
  2. Parents’ 2019 federal income tax return and W-2 statements
  3. Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  4. Noncustodial Parent Form or Waiver Request Form

 

Note that only US citizens should submit the FAFSA. Additionally, if your family does not file taxes in the US, you must submit a Non-Filer Statement that reports your parent or parents’ income.

 

All four forms must be submitted by February 1st. If you have questions about any of these documents or how to submit them, more information can be found on Princeton’s financial aid website.

 

What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?

 

While Princeton is one of the most selective schools in the country, some students’ chance of acceptance is much higher than 5%. If you would like to know what your chance of being accepted at Princeton is, based on your own academic and extracurricular accomplishments, we encourage you to check out our chancing engine, which will also give you some ways of improving your odds.

 

If you would like to know more about Princeton generally, you can find information on student body demographics, popular majors, and more on our school profile page for Princeton University. We hope you find our resources helpful as you work on your application to Princeton, and best of luck on April 1st!

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Short Bio
Adrian is a current senior at Dartmouth College, originally from Seattle, WA. At Dartmouth, she studies philosophy and neuroscience, and has been involved with research in the philosophy department, sexual assault prevention on campus, and mentorship programs for first year students. She spent her junior fall studying abroad at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

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