How to Get into Princeton: Admissions Stats + Tips

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What’s Covered:

 

A rich history, extreme selectivity, and Ivy League status make Princeton University a dream school for many college-bound students. Bolstering Princeton’s popularity are its beautiful campus featuring classic gothic architecture and the ample opportunities it provides students to explore interests outside of the classroom, from its renowned eating clubs to athletics. 

 

If you’re interested in attending this top school, here’s everything you need to know about improving your chances of acceptance.

 

How Hard Is It to Get Into Princeton University?

 

How difficult is Princeton to get into? Very. The university’s class of 2025 had a record-low 3.98% acceptance rate—extending admission to just 1,498 students out of the 37,601 applications it received. All applications were through the regular decision process, as early action applications were suspended for this admissions cycle.

 

Admissions were even more challenging for the class of 2025, as the total number of admitted students was roughly 20% lower than average due to more than 200 students who deferred their enrollment in the class of 2024. 

 

Princeton is one of the hardest schools to get into in the nation, but your chances are dependent on the strength of your profile. Our free chancing engine can help you better understand your odds of acceptance at Princeton University—using metrics like grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities, it predicts your chances of acceptance and provides tips to improve your profile.  

 

Average Academic Profile of Accepted Princeton University Students

 

GPA

 

The average high school GPA of Princeton’s class of 2025 is 3.92. More than half of those students (59.48%) had a 4.0 GPA. 

 

SAT/ACT

 

The middle 50% SAT score for Princeton’s class of 2025 is 1460-1560—86.15% had an SAT score between 1400 and 1600. The middle 50% composite ACT score for Princeton’s class of 2025 is 32-35—92.94% of admitted students scored higher than 30. 

 

Class Rank

 

Class rank is an important consideration of Princeton admissions, however, the university doesn’t report the class rank of accepted students. It’s a safe assumption that the students making up Princeton’s class of 2025 graduated near the top of their classes—59.48% of accepted students graduated with a 4.0 GPA, while 32.05% graduated with a GPA between 3.75 and 3.99. 

 

What is Princeton University Looking for?

 

Princeton admissions put a high priority on academic excellence—even when compared to other highly ranked, highly selective schools like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford. Superb standardized test scores and amazing grades are expected of a Princeton applicant, but aren’t enough to wow admissions officials, since most applicants are academically qualified. 

 

What does help a Princeton applicant stand out is participation in prestigious academic programs such as Governor’s School. Experience with academic research and STEM achievements are also ways for an applicant to distance themselves from the competition—and they make great supplemental essay topics as well.  

 

How Princeton University Evaluates Applications

 

According to their 2020-2021 Common Data Set, Princeton considers the following factors “very important”:

 

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

 

These factors are “considered”:

 

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

 

And these are “not considered”:

 

  • State residence
  • Religious affiliation
  • Level of interest

 

How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into Princeton University 


1. Achieve at least a 3.92 GPA while taking the most challenging classes available

 

Princeton values academic excellence, and GPA is an important metric for determining it—the average GPA for the class of 2025 is 3.92 and 59.48% of students in the class of 2025 graduated high school with a 4.0. 

 

Many selective schools, like Princeton, that receive huge numbers of applications use a tool called Academic Index—essentially the distillation of a student’s academic performance into a single number—to cull candidates who are academically unqualified. Outstanding grades, impressive test scores, and challenging coursework won’t guarantee admissions, but are a good step toward ensuring an admissions official takes a good look at your application. 

 

If your GPA is below the average of accepted Princeton students, it can result in your application getting filtered out early in the decision-making process. Students early in their high school career have time to improve their GPA, but juniors and seniors will need high test scores to increase their Academic Index.    

 

2. Aim for a 1560 SAT and 35 ACT  

 

The middle 50% SAT/ACT scores for Princeton’s class of 2025 are 1460-1560 and 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. 

 

Princeton suspended its standardized testing requirement in 2020-21 and will once again pause it in 2021-22 due to the disruption caused by COVID-19. If possible, CollegeVine recommends that students take a standardized test if they can do so safely—students who submit test scores are accepted at higher rates than those who don’t. 

 

Princeton allows applicants to use the score choice feature of the SAT and will only accept an applicant’s highest composite ACT score. CollegeVine suggests students with a score at or above the 25th percentile of admitted applicants (1460 SAT/32 ACT at Princeton) submit their score. Students can get recommendations on whether or not they should apply test-optional using our free chancing engine. 

 

To improve your SAT/ACT score, Academic Index, and odds of acceptance, check out these free CollegeVine resources:

 

 

Discover your chances at hundreds of schools

Our free chancing engine takes into account your history, background, test scores, and extracurricular activities to show you your real chances of admission—and how to improve them.

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

 

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

 

  • Tier 1 activities are rare and demonstrate exceptional achievement or leadership at a national level. These include being selected as a McDonald’s All-American basketball player, winning a prestigious award like the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest, or starting a nationally-recognized organization.

 

  • 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 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 most common activities seen by admissions officers. Although not impressive to college admissions officers, they allow students to show who they are outside of the classroom. 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. 

 

To get into a top 20 school, an applicant should aim to have at least one or two Tier 1 to Tier 2 activities. As for the belief that extracurriculars should demonstrate being well-rounded, it’s a myth. One or two well-developed interests, or a highly developed interest (known as a “spike”), is more compelling and memorable than an applicant with a bunch of unrelated interests. 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.

 

4. Write engaging essays

 

Along with clearing academic thresholds and filling out your profile with compelling extracurricular activities, essays are the best way to distinguish yourself from other applicants. Princeton requires all applicants to submit three essays and three short responses, and applicants 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.

 

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. For more Princeton-specific essay advice, check out our article, “How to Write the Princeton University Essays 2021-2022.”

 

5. Apply Early Action 

 

Princeton canceled its single-choice early action process for the class of 2025, therefore every applicant into the was admitted through regular decision, but it’s back for the class of 2026. Princeton does not report its early acceptance rate, but in general, students who apply early have higher acceptance rates than those students who apply regular decision. 

 

Single-choice early action is non-binding—meaning you’re 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. 

 

6. Recommendation Letters 

 

Princeton considers recommendations “very important” and requires three of them—one from a school counselor or academic advisor and two from your teachers. Teachers providing recommendations should teach high-level courses—such as AP, IB Higher/Standard Level, or A-levels—in core academic areas like English, foreign language, humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, or math. 

 

Teachers are busy and don’t get paid to write recommendation letters, so make the process as painless as possible for them by following the nine rules for requesting letters of recommendation from teachers:

 

  1. Plan ahead
  2. Ask nicely 
  3. Ask what type of letter you might get
  4. Be professional 
  5. Include relevant details 
  6. Follow up 
  7. Make it easy 
  8. Send a reminder 
  9. Say thank you 

 

How to Apply to Princeton University 

Deadlines

 

Application Timeline

Deadline

Early Action

November 1

Regular Decision

January 1

 

Application Requirements

 

Princeton University accepts both the Common Application and the Coalition Application—both applications also require the applicant to submit Princeton’s Supplement. Other requirements include:

 

  • Transcript 
  • School report 
  • Counselor recommendation 
  • Teacher Recommendations (2) 
  • Mid-year school report 

 

Other optional materials include: 

 

  • SAT/ACT 
  • SAT Subject Tests 
  • Art supplement 

Learn more about Princeton University 

 

Interested in learning more about Princeton? Check out these other informative articles: 

 

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Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.

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