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How to Respond to the 2023-2024 Princeton Supplemental Essay Prompts

By Ginny Howey

Ginny Howey is a former content writer at Scholarships360. Ginny graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May 2022 with a degree in Media and Journalism (Advertising/PR focus) and minors in Entrepreneurship and Spanish. Ginny’s professional experience includes two summers as a writer intern at global creative consultancy BCG BrightHouse. More recently, Ginny worked as a content marketing intern for Durham-based software engineering bootcamp Momentum, where she gained SEO skills. She has also written freelance articles on emerging tech for A.I. startup Resultid.

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and Cece Gilmore

Cece Gilmore is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cece earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Arizona State University. While at ASU, she was the education editor as well as a published staff reporter at Downtown Devil. Cece was also the co-host of her own radio show on Blaze Radio ASU.

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Reviewed by Bill Jack

Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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Edited by Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Updated: August 29th, 2023
How to Respond to the 2023-2024 Princeton Supplemental Essay Prompts

When applying to an Ivy League institution such as Princeton University, the stakes can feel especially high. You will likely feel pressured to stand out among so many qualified applicants applying to a school with a 4% acceptance rate. Fortunately, Princeton includes a variety of questions in their supplemental essays. This series of prompts is advantageous because it allows you to share multiple perspectives. Your answers should give admissions a better picture of who you are and the dynamic things you bring to the table. 

Let’s walk through how best to approach each essay. 

Breaking down each of the Princeton supplemental essays

The first prompt will differ depending on what kind of degree you are trying to pursue. Both iterations address your academic interests, what influenced those curiosities, and how you can further explore them at Princeton. Keep in mind A.B. degree is the same as a Bachelor’s of Art, just in Latin. B.S.E. is a Bachelor’s of Science in Engineering. 

Related: How to write an essay about yourself

Prompt #1 (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 about 250 words)

This prompt is pretty straightforward. Think about what subjects you have been most drawn to throughout your schooling. Next, trace back where you formed that interest or how you have engaged it. Did your nightly routine of reading bedtime stories ignite your love for creative writing? Are you pursuing Asian studies after your experiences traveling? 

Once you have nailed down what intellectually excites you and a short anecdote of its origins, connect it to Princeton. Be as specific as possible in citing how Princeton’s academics will support your goals. For instance, look into course catalogs and find a class that sounds right up your alley. Make sure your Princeton example aligns with the intellectual passion you’ve woven throughout your response.

Questions to consider: 

  • When were you first fascinated by your chosen subject?
  • Does Princeton offer a niche major or minor most other schools lack?
  • Is there a study abroad program or other special learning opportunity that intrigues you? 

Prompt #1 (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 about 250 words) 

This prompt is like the first, but with a specific concentration on engineering. Do not be afraid to unleash your curiosity for the subject or brag on relevant work you’ve done. You could go for a more abstract response and describe what it is about designing and building that excites you. You might reference your knack for fixing household objects growing up. Or, you may describe engineering projects you have completed that inspired this career goal. For example, your participation in a robotics club in high school could have been instrumental in forming your enthusiasm. 

To help you outline how Princeton can further your interests, dig into its website. Is there a spotlight on students’ research that models what you’d like to explore? Is there a part of the school’s strategic plan that excites you? This track is especially competitive and focused. Aim to show admissions your zeal for engineering and back it up with examples. 

Questions to consider: 

  • Do you have your sights set on a particular field within engineering? 
  • Have you received any accolades for engineering-related projects or classes? 
  • Is there an undergraduate student organization within the engineering school that you hope to join?

“Your voice” prompts  

Prompt #1

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? (250 words)

This question instructs you to share a particular situation, what you learned from it, and how you are applying those insights going forward. Keep in mind that “diverse perspectives” can reference those with differing political views, socioeconomic statuses, sexual orientations, ethnic backgrounds, and more. 

Think about a time when you’ve had to navigate tricky subjects with someone that identifies differently than you do. Did you hear about a friend’s struggles with bullying and vow to never be a bystander? Did you have to talk to your religious parents about your questions about faith?  Princeton wants to know how you can work through conflict and come out with a more accepting, informed worldview.

Questions to consider: 

  • Have you learned about prejudice after discussing social issues with those who belong to a marginalized group? 
  • Did you overcome biased thoughts about someone and leave the conversation with greater empathy?
  • What difficult conversations have you had to initiate vs. being confronted with them by others? 

Prompt #2 

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

This question wants to know how you have made a mark in your community. Have you volunteered consistently for a particular charity? Did you write a research paper on a social problem that has made you want to get involved? Do you plan to run for student government? Use this space to discuss a cause you are passionate about, whether advocating for animal rights or fostering financial literacy. If you have not had much experience giving back in this space, be sure to reference how you will do so once at Princeton. Be careful not to discuss the same examples in this prompt as prompt #1. 

Questions to consider: 

  • Has any community service you’ve done felt particularly special? 
  • What problems do you wish you could solve in the world?
  • What Princeton clubs or student activities interest you in the civic engagement space? 

“More about you” prompts

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?
2. What brings you joy?
3. What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment?

Trust the admissions team’s encouragement to be yourself! Do not overthink these answers and be authentic in what first comes to mind to best portray your personality. 

Have you wanted to play a new instrument or learn a new language? Do you have a “happy place” that brings you joy? Or a hobby like crochet? Has your mood been optimistic like “Walking on Sunshine,” or is there a new hit you can’t stop playing? Let these flow easily from you and have fun!

With the response limit, there is a bit of room to offer more context or explanation. Don’t feel pressured to use all 50 words, though—a simple answer is expected!

Graded written paper 

In addition to the supplemental essays, Princeton requires applicants to submit a graded written paper for consideration as a part of their application. Essentially, you will need to submit a paper that you have completed for an academic course, preferably an English or history course, during the last three years of high school. 

When selecting a graded paper, keep the following in mind: 

  • Do not send a creative writing assignment, rather submit a research paper or essay exam
  • The paper should be 1-2 pages in length
  • The paper should include the grade as well as any comments your teacher may have provided

How to submit the graded written paper

  • Option 1: Upload the graded written paper within your application materials in the Common Application or QuestBridge Application
  • Option 2: Mail, email or upload the graded written paper to your Princeton applicant portal

For any questions regarding the graded written paper, visit Princeton’s website or reach out to a Princeton admissions officer. 

Final thoughts on writing the Princeton supplemental essays

Now you have broken apart each prompt and jotted down examples to reference in your answers. Before writing, be sure you are taking advantage of the variety of questions to showcase different aspects of yourself. Try not to be repetitive with anecdotes you share across prompts. 

You are likely to have too much to say once you start writing with these 250 word limits.  We suggest you get all your thoughts down and trim responses later. With proper planning, you can surely find success with the Princeton supplemental essays. We wish you the best of luck!

Also see: All you need to know about Princeton eating clubs

Next steps for students

As you are writing your Princeton supplemental essays, be sure to check out our guides on how many schools to apply to. Make sure you prepare well and also read about how to find safety, reach, and match schools

With so many colleges and universities going test-optional, you might be wondering, whether or not to send your SAT/ACT scores. Learn about what is best for you to maximize your chances for acceptance. Speaking of acceptances, once you start hearing back, we can help you create a college comparison spreadsheet to make your college choice. Finally, apply and earn all the scholarships you qualify for with our free scholarship search tool. Good luck! 

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