Timothy Peck 5 min read 11th Grade, 12th Grade, School Spotlight

What is Princeton University Known For?

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What is Princeton University known for? The answer is a great deal. To start, Princeton is one of the oldest colleges in the country (it was founded in 1746) and it’s consistently ranked as one of the top universities in the U.S. and world. It has had three U.S. Presidents attend (James Madison, Woodrow Wilson, and John F. Kennedy) and two graduate from it—Kennedy transferred to Harvard.  

 

If you’re planning to apply to Princeton, here are some unique aspects of the university that you should know about.

 

Overview of Princeton University 

 

Location: Princeton, New Jersey

Undergrad Enrollment: 5,400

Acceptance Rate: 6%

Middle 50% SAT: 1450-1600

Middle 50% ACT: 32-36

 

Princeton’s admissions process is more academically focused than that of its peer colleges Yale, Harvard, and Stanford (they even ask for a graded paper as part of the application). While students still need strong extracurricular profiles, admitted students often outperform their rejected peers in classes and standardized tests.

 

Admissions officers view prestigious academic programs very positively, such as the Governor’s School and experience in academic research. In fact, research can provide a great topic for a supplemental essay. 

 

Princeton also places a relatively stronger weight on STEM achievements, though the prioritization is not as strong as that of MIT.

 

Unique Aspects of Princeton University 

 

Princeton has established itself as one of the best known and most respected universities in the world over its two-and-a-half century history. Princeton’s exceptional academics and Ivy League status are how many people know the university, but Princeton is known for more than just that.  

 

Academics

 

What is Princeton known for academically? Perhaps the defining aspects of an undergraduate education at the university are its junior paper and senior thesis. The junior paper—also known as the junior project, or simply as the “JP”—serves as a precursor to the senior thesis. The “JP” allows students to familiarize themselves with the independent research and skills necessary to complete their senior thesis and receive individual attention from their faculty advisor. 

 

Almost every senior at Princeton writes a senior thesis—some engineering students pursue a project—which allows them to explore their academic interests and grow skills such as creativity, research, discipline, and independent thought. Senior research project topics know almost no bound and provide an opportunity for students to work one-on-one with faculty. Since nearly every senior has to write a thesis, it builds kinship among the class.  

 

One of Princeton’s most well-known schools is the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, which is commonly considered among the best places to study international relations and public affairs in the country, if not the world. Formerly known as the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, named after Woodrow Wilson—the 13th president of Princeton University, governor of New Jersey, and 28th president of the United States—the school was renamed in 2020 when the Princeton Board of Trustees determined Wilson’s racist thinking and policies made him an inappropriate namesake for a school. 

 

Princeton also has had prominent humanities faculty such as the late Toni Morrison and Joyce Carol Oates (a current faculty member).

 

Helping Princeton solidify its position among the country’s elite academic institutions is the large number of students who have gone on to become Rhodes Scholars, one of the most prestigious and selective scholarships in the world. Princeton has sent 215 students to earn postgraduate degrees from the University of Oxford, trailing only Harvard (369) and Yale (252)—the next closest school to Princeton is Stanford with 102 Rhodes Scholars.  

 

Extracurriculars

 

A common answer to the question of “what is Princeton known for?” is its eating clubs. Unique to Princeton, eating clubs date back to the late 1800s and are a popular dining and social option for juniors and seniors at the university. There are currently 11 eating clubs—the number has fluctuated throughout the years—each with its own character and personality. There are two types of eating clubs at Princeton: open and selective, or, as known on campus, sign-in and bicker (a two- or three-day process used to determine acceptance).  

 

Sports also play a considerable role in campus life at Princeton. The university’s football team participated in the first-ever college football game against in-state rival Rutgers in 1869. Princeton has won 28 national championships (only 15 are recognized by the NCAA), although, unfortunately for Tiger fans, the last championship came in 1922. Despite its lack of recent success, Princeton participates in some of the oldest rivalries in football—Princeton vs. Yale dates back to 1873, Princeton vs. UPenn goes back to 1876, and Princeton vs. Harvard has been played since 1877.

 

Traditions

 

One of Princeton’s most notable traditions is also football-related. Unlike many other college traditions, the Bonfire occurs only sporadically—it’s built on Cannon Green and only held when Princeton’s football team beats both Harvard and Yale in the same season; consequently, not every student gets to participate. The most recent Bonfire was held in 2018, and the last Bonfire prior to that was in 2013. 

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Dorms

 

Princeton students are guaranteed housing for all four years of college and 96% of students live on campus in one of the university’s six residential colleges:

 

  • Butler
  • Forbes
  • Mathey
  • Rockefeller
  • Whitman
  • First College

 

The residential colleges have their own unique identities, host a variety of events, and even compete against one another in intramural sports. 

 

Financial Aid

 

Princeton University has one of the most generous financial aid programs in the country. Admissions are need-blind—the school does not consider an applicant’s financial situation when making admissions decisions—and 100% need is met. Princeton is also a no-loan college; it replaces student loans with grant aid that does not require repayment. 

 

Princeton is one of the few universities in the country that applies the same financial aid policy to both domestic and international students. 

 

Campus 

 

Princeton’s campus consistently ranks among the most beautiful college campuses in the country. Classic Gothic architecture, shady trees, and exquisitely manicured lawns create a quintessential collegiate atmosphere while more modern buildings (designed by renowned architects) like Lewis Library and Spellman Hall nod to the present. 

 

Location

 

Princeton provides students with an idyllic suburban setting that caters to a world-class college with a global student body—there’s a multitude of dining options, coffee shops, and parks in town. Princeton University is located just a short distance between Philadelphia and New York City, making it easy for students who want to visit, but not live, in a major metropolis. 

 

What Are Your Chances of Acceptance at Princeton?

 

Princeton is one of the most selective colleges in the country. Like other super-selective Ivy League schools, it uses the Academic Index—a student’s overall academic performance represented in a single number—to filter out candidates and expedite the decision-making process. This means that students with weak academic profiles may not even get the rest of their application seen by admissions officials. 


CollegeVine’s free admissions calculator can help you understand your odds of acceptance into a particular school and show you what steps to take to improve your profile (and your chance of acceptance). Using your grades, test scores, and qualitative factors such as extracurriculars and honors, CollegeVine will give you a clearer idea of your chances to get admitted to your dream school.

 

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Timothy Peck
Blogger at CollegeVine
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.