How to Write the Princeton Supplemental Essays 2020-2021: The Top Guide

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Princeton is an Ivy League university with an acceptance rate of 6.5%. That means if you’re planning to apply to Princeton, you’ll be facing some stiff competition.

You’ll need to demonstrate to the admissions committee that you’re intelligent, an avid learner, a leader and teammate, and an individual with integrity and good character.

You have several opportunities to do so on Princeton’s application. But one of the best chances for you to help admissions officers get to know you is the Princeton Supplement.

In this article, we’ll guide you through completing the Princeton Supplement successfully and boosting your chances of being in that elite 6.5%!

What is the Princeton Supplement?

Princeton accepts the Common Application, the Coalition Application, and the Universal College Application. Whichever you decide on, you’ll be able to view and complete the Supplement once you’ve added Princeton to your list.

The supplement contains a 150-word essay on extracurricular activities, two different 250-word short answer questions depending on your field of study, a section with two 250-word essays titled “Your Voice,” and a section titled “More About You,” in which you give very short answers.

Below, we’ll get into the specifics of each portion of the supplement, along with some helpful tips!

Princeton Supplemental Essay 1: Short Answer Question

Princeton requires you to complete one short answer questions:

Briefly elaborate on an activity, organization, work experience, or hobby that has been particularly meaningful to you. (Response required in about 150 words.)

This question is straightforward and fairly standard for college applications.

For best results, you just need to answer them honestly and in your own voice. And of course, you’ll want to proofread carefully.

  • Don’t fall into the trap of trying to choose your most impressive extracurricular activity or work experience to discuss.
  • Instead, choose the activity or job that was truly meaningful to you. It should be something you feel passionate about.
  • Then, explain why this particular activity or experience was so meaningful to you. You can also talk about what you learned from the experience. You do only have 150 words, so be specific and concise.

Don’t worry if you feel you haven’t done anything important or impressive with your summers. Even a summer spent babysitting or practicing your guitar can yield interesting lessons and information about you.

Princeton Supplemental Essay 2: Your Voice

This section includes two questions with a limit of 250 words. The first question asks you to share dialogue that you’ve had with someone on a challenging topic:

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?

This is a great way for Princeton to learn more about your ability to share and consider differing perspectives. Are you open to new ideas? Are you inclusive? Do you seek different points of view on a topic to gain a well-rounded and informed position?

During a presidential election year, especially, family, friends, and coworkers can become defensive when discussing their firm views on a topic. Think about some of the conversations you have had recently or in the past about a challenging topic. This might include:

  • Women’s rights
  • Climate change
  • Immigration
  • Racism
  • Vaccination

Why was this a difficult issue to discuss with someone else or in a group? Were you sharing a differing opinion? Were you challenging the other person, or were they challenging you? Why do you have differing opinions on this issue?

Next, consider how you were able to have positive dialogue around this issue. What did you learn from the other person’s perspective? What might you take with you from that conversation in the future?

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There is a reason these are hot button issues. The purpose of this question is not where you lie on the issue, but how you are able to have civil and productive dialogue with someone who has a differing opinion.

The second question focuses on service:

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

In this essay, Princeton wants to know how you are, or will be, a contributing member to your society. The idea here is to illustrate how you value and enhance community. 

Make a list of the ways that you already contribute, or plan to contribute, to your larger community. Do you volunteer regularly at a shelter or through your religious organization? Was there an organization you belonged to in high school that completed service projects for the community? Have you initiated a fundraiser for a cause that’s important to you?

If not yet, what do you plan to do as an active member of your community?

And, the question is worded to say, “tell us how your story intersects with these ideals.” Make the connection with your personal story to the service you’ve done. Why did you choose that service or engagement in relation to your story?

Princeton Supplemental Essay 3: More About You

This section is the perfect opportunity to showcase your personality. These “few details” give admissions officers information that goes beyond your GPA, class rank, SAT scores, accomplishments, etc.

The three short questions, answered in 50 words or less, include:

What is a new skill you would like to learn in college?

What brings you joy? 

What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment?

Since the point of this section is for admissions officers to get to know you, resist the urge to choose “impressive” answers.

For instance, your favorite keepsake or memento doesn’t need to be the trophy from that time you won the state Spelling Bee.

And don’t say your favorite book is A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking—unless, of course, it really is.

Simply answer the questions, occasionally providing brief commentary if you feel it’s needed. Again, give specific, honest answers.

If you see a chance to be witty or creative in a response, go for it. But these questions probably won’t make or break your application. Instead, they’re an opportunity to give admissions officers a more complete picture of who you are.

Honest answers that truly reveal your personality will make you memorable and help you stand out!

Princeton Supplemental Essay 4: For A.B. Degree Applicants or Those Who are Undecided

Last, but not least, the Princeton Supplement includes an essay of “about 250 words.” 

On the university’s website, it states that this essay should not repeat “in full or in part” the essay you wrote for the Common Application, Coalition Application, or Universal College Application.

In fact, it’s best to write the essay on an entirely different topic that can’t be found elsewhere on your application.

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 question is two parts: what academic area you want to pursue, and why you want to pursue it at Princeton. It’s important to note that admissions counselors don’t want you to write what you think they want to hear. They want to hear an honest, personal answer from you.

If you are interested in multiple areas of study, pick one that you feel most excited to write about for this essay. Or, if you have a unique take on a combination of different academic areas, be sure to explain why that helps you reach your academic goals.

What makes that program special at Princeton? Do your research. Is there a particular professor or class you’re excited to take? Are there research or internship opportunities that piqued your interest? What specifically makes you want to graduate from this program at Princeton?

Finally, be sure to share your educational and career goals. How does this program through Princeton meet your goals for the future? What will you do when you graduate?

Princeton Supplemental Engineering Essay

If you’ve marked a Bachelor of Science in Engineering as one of your possible degrees of study on the Princeton application, you’ve got one more essay to write. (If not, you’re done with the Supplement!)

Here’s the Engineering essay topic:

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.)

Note that this essay has three parts, and you must clearly address all of them.

  • Start with an anecdote or brief description of how you became interested in engineering.
  • If you have a particular experience or moment that jumpstarted your interest, now’s the perfect time to mention it!
  • Next, you’ll need to explain any “experiences in or exposure to engineering” that you’ve had.
  • Don’t just list a resume here. Instead, take the time to explain how these experiences have shaped and defined your interest in engineering.
  • Finally, you get a chance to discuss why you’re interested in Princeton in particular.
  • For this question, you’ll need to do your research.
  • Don’t speak about Princeton in general terms. Instead, mention specific programs, professors, research opportunities, courses, etc.

Here, you can show admissions officers that you would be an asset to Princeton Engineering and would take advantage of the unique resources offered at Princeton. If possible, discuss opportunities related to your specific interests in engineering, rather than general or common engineering opportunities.

Conclusion: How to Write the Princeton Supplemental Essays

As you complete the supplement, remember that the goal is to help admissions officers get to know you.

Don’t try too hard to impress. Focus on being honest, writing in your unique voice, and helping admissions officers learn about your personality, values, and goals.

Following these tips will get your application one step closer to the “accepted” pile!

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