princeton supplemental essay

Princeton Supplemental Essay 2022-2023

There are seven Princeton University supplemental essays that all applicants must write. While this may feel daunting, take comfort—each Princeton supplemental essay is on the shorter side. However, the Ivy League application process may feel exhausting. That’s why it’s important to start early. Then, you can dedicate sufficient time to every part of your application. This includes the seven essays that we’ll go over in this Princeton essay guide. 

The first four essays are slightly longer, with word limits ranging from 150-250 words. However, the last three Princeton supplemental essays are very short—they’re capped at only 50 words. You can view the Princeton supplemental essays on Princeton’s admissions site.

Princeton Essays: Quick Facts

  • Princeton acceptance rate: 4% – U.S. News ranks Princeton as a most selective school. 
  • Princeton supplemental essay requirements:
    • 1 major-specific essay (~250 words) 
    • 1 work experience or extracurricular activities essay (~150 words) 
    • 2 half-page essays (~250 words) 
    • 3 short response essays (~50 words) 
  • Princeton application deadlines: 
    • Single-choice Early Action: November 1st
    • Regular Decision: January 1st 
  • Princeton application note: In addition to your Princeton supplemental essays and the Common App essay, you will also need to send in a graded written paper as a part of your Princeton supplemental materials. Students can complete the Princeton application via the Common App or QuestBridge
  • #1 Princeton essay tip: Princeton admissions wants to further get to know you through your essays. Use your writing style and essay responses to show what you would bring to Princeton as a student and community member. 

What are the Princeton essay prompts?

In addition to completing the personal essay on the Common App or Questbridge application, applicants will also complete seven Princeton supplemental essays. 

The Princeton essay prompts have low word counts and cover a large span of topics. Through this breadth, the Princeton essays aim to let you show Princeton admissions who you are and why you would excel on campus. Let’s dive into the specifics of the Princeton essay prompts. 

Princeton Supplemental Essays

PromptWord CountRequirement
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?250 wordsRequired for A.B. applicants or those who are undecided
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.250 wordsRequired for B.S.E. applicants
Briefly elaborate on an activity, organization work experience, or hobby that has been particularly meaningful to you. 150 wordsRequired
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 wordsRequired
Princeton has a longstanding commitment to service and civic engagement. Tell us how your story intersects (or will intersect) with these ideals.250 wordsRequired
What is a new skill you would like to learn in college?50 wordsRequired
What brings you joy? 50 wordsRequired
What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment?50 wordsRequired

We’ll walk through each of the prompts above in this Princeton essay guide. But first, you may want to learn about the application process from someone who’s experienced it firsthand. Read this application story from one admitted student. 

Remember that with such low acceptance rates, Ivy League schools are always a reach. However, when applying to Ivies, all you can do is try to create the best Ivy application possible. This includes writing stellar essays that we’re going to outline in this Princeton essay guide. 

Princeton Essay: Extracurricular Activities Essay

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

Extracurricular activities essay

The first essay we’ll discuss is the extracurricular activities essay. Your extracurricular activities essay will highlight one activity that means the most to you. 

Princeton supplemental essays are a great way to add meaningful information to your personal application narrative. What do we mean by that? Well, a successful Princeton supplemental essay will not just repeat information that is already in your Princeton application. This extracurricular activities essay asks students to do more than just replicate their activities list. 

Princeton application essays let you show who you are as a person beyond your test scores, grades, and activities. Sometimes, when students are asked to reflect on a particularly meaningful extracurricular activity, they simply reiterate information from another part of their application. However, this Princeton supplemental essay does not just ask what activity you’ve been most involved in. Instead, it aims to help the admissions committee understand what lessons you’ve learned from taking part in a meaningful activity. You should also discuss how this activity has helped you grow in other areas of your life.

What NOT to do…

Here’s an example of how not to approach the second of your Princeton University supplemental essays. Say you’re on the softball team, and this year you were elected team captain. This would certainly be a meaningful extracurricular activity! However, if you focus the essay on how you spent your season perfecting your pitching skills, you won’t be taking advantage of the opportunities this Princeton supplemental essay offers. 

To respond effectively to the Princeton supplemental essays, you could talk about how being the softball team captain helped you to develop leadership skills. This might include effective communication or support for team members who lacked confidence. These skills are transferable to many areas outside of softball. They also represent your own personal growth.  

Emphasize universal lessons learned

Whatever your extracurricular activity, focus this Princeton supplemental essay less on skills that are specific to that particular activity—such as writing a Model UN policy statement, mastering a challenging piano piece, or repairing a motor. Instead, emphasize lessons and character development that will help you in a variety of circumstances in college and beyond. 

Since this Princeton supplemental essay is just 150 words, you should stick to writing about one extracurricular activity. Leave explanations of the activity’s mission and the role you played in the organization to the activities list. Then, you can spend most of your words elaborating on the lessons learned.

Princeton Essay Reflection Questions:

  • Does your essay identify one extracurricular activity that is particularly important to you?
  • Do you show your reader how this activity helped you grow in a way that can be applied to other contexts?
  • Does your essay reflect on how you may continue to grow in the future?

Princeton Supplemental Essay: A.B. Degree Applicants & Undecided Majors

princeton supplemental essay

This Princeton supplemental essay prompt asks you to reflect on your academic interests and how Princeton will help you develop and excel in those interests. We’re going to focus on what that means if you are applying as an A.B. degree applicant or undecided. But before we jump right into this Princeton supplemental essay prompt, let’s clarify what exactly is an A.B. degree. 

What is an A.B. degree?

An A.B. degree is a Bachelor of Arts degree. An A.B. degree focuses on the liberal arts and humanities. Many disciplines fall within this degree. In fact, unless you are going into the sciences or engineering, you’ll likely have a Bachelor of Arts. Majors such as architecture, economics, literature, foreign language, and history fall within this degree. However, there are many more. 

There are 37 concentrations for applicants to specialize in within the Bachelor of Arts degree at Princeton. You can check out the full list of majors and disciplines offered at Princeton within the A.B. degree here

There are many advantages to a liberal arts education. While Princeton is a top-ranked university, you may be interested in other schools that offer excellent liberal arts programs. Check out our list of the best liberal arts colleges for more inspiration. There, we break down the difference between a college and a university. We also highlight some of our favorite college picks. 

Princeton supplemental essay prompt for A.B. degree applicants and undecided majors

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? (250 words)

Your essay must address two points

Not only do you need to explain how and why you are interested in your chosen academic area, but you also need to highlight the role Princeton will play in your future. In your essay, you should show how Princeton will foster your academic passions and help you build your career. 

First up, you will need to select at least one academic area of interest. If you already know your intended major, you have a great topic for the first of your Princeton supplemental essays. However, if you aren’t sure what you want to study, keep in mind that this Princeton supplemental essay does not ask you to commit to a major. Instead, you can simply talk about one or more academic subjects that interest you. 

If you need help, try thinking about what subjects in school you have most enjoyed. Additionally, think about if there are any particular subtopics that you have found especially exciting. You can also look at the list of majors Princeton offers and explore department pages to see if any area stands out to you. 

Connecting your interests

If you have multiple areas of interest—especially in seemingly unrelated fields, like History and Computer Science, or Sociology and Physics—you can absolutely talk about them both in your Princeton University supplemental essays. Pointing out unexpected ways that your interests intersect can even help you stand out in your Princeton application essays. Just remember that with a word limit of 250, there isn’t much room to go into depth about more than one or two academic fields. 

Getting specific

Once you have selected an area of study for your Princeton supplemental essays, you’ll come up with a short list of examples from your life that demonstrates your genuine connection to the subject. You don’t need to include all of these experiences in your Princeton essays. However, justifying your academic interests with club participation, independent research, and/or personal experiences will show the admissions committee that you have thought carefully about your future and the role Princeton can play. 

Not sure what counts as a “genuine connection” to your academic area of interest? Here’s a hint—salaries, your parents’ wishes, and the perceived prestige of certain majors and careers may play a role in your decision-making. However, they likely won’t count as genuine personal reasons for wanting to study a particular topic. 

Connect to Princeton

Finally, remember that this is a Princeton supplemental essay—so your answer needs to show a connection to Princeton! Look through departmental websites, chat with current students if possible, and research extracurricular opportunities that connect to your chosen field. Make sure to mention at least one Princeton resource related to each subject you discuss in your Princeton supplemental essay.

Princeton Essay Reflection Questions:

  • Does your essay identify at least one of your academic areas of interest?
  • Do you demonstrate a meaningful, genuine connection to the academic field you discuss? 
  • Does your essay illustrate how Princeton can help you explore your academic interests? 

Princeton Supplemental Essay: For B.S.E. Degree Applicants

princeton supplemental essay

So, if you don’t fall into the category of an A.B. degree applicant or an undecided major applicant, don’t get too excited. You didn’t exactly luck out of an essay. All applicants will either respond to the previous Princeton supplemental essay prompt or this one depending on their major. 

So, the next prompt we’re going to outline in this Princeton essay guide is for B.S.E degree applicants. Now that we know what an A.B. degree is, let’s discuss the B.S.E degree. 

What is a B.S.E degree?

A B.S.E. degree is a Bachelor of Science and Engineering. If you’re the captain of your robotics team or spend your free time doing your own science experiments, then it’s likely that this degree has caught your attention. Basically, if you plan to pursue a STEM major, then this is the prompt for you. Some majors that fall within the Bachelor of Science and Engineering degree are chemical and biological engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and computer science. 

Overall, there are 37 concentrations available to B.S.E. degree majors at Princeton. Check out the full list here

Princeton supplemental essay prompt for B.S.E. 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. (250 words)

This prompt is not exactly the same as our prompt for A.B. degree and undecided applicants. However, the basic guidelines are actually quite similar. When responding to this prompt, give some background on your involvement in STEM programs. Remember that you don’t want to just repeat your activities list. Instead, delve into the meaning and significance behind those STEM-specific experiences. How did they impact you? What made you decide to study engineering as a major?

Choosing your topic

First, brainstorm your experiences within the sciences. Then, try to choose the most important moment to mention in this essay. You don’t have many words to answer both parts of this question. So, focus on one experience that led you to decide to study engineering. Choose to write on a topic that was genuinely impactful. Your passion for this academic area should be evident in your essay. 

Now that you’ve chosen the “why” of engineering, you need to answer “why Princeton?” Was there a certain program, internship, or certification within the B.S.E. degree that only Princeton offers? Get specific when answering these questions. Search for programs within the B.S.E. degree if you don’t already have programs in mind. The biggest mistake a student can make in this Princeton supplemental essay is giving a generic answer that could work for any school. So, make sure your reasoning is specific to Princeton. 

Show your passion

Successful Princeton supplemental essays will show Princeton admissions why they’re so passionate about studying engineering at Princeton. Use your unique voice and writing style when responding to this Princeton supplemental essay. You can be creative and passionate while also answering the prompt completely. 

Princeton Essay Reflection Questions:

  • Does your essay identify your specific interests within the sciences?
  • Do you highlight your passion for your topic?
  • Does your essay showcase how Princeton will foster your STEM-related interests? 

Princeton Supplemental Essays: Your Voice

princeton supplemental essay

Getting started

Before you begin writing your Princeton essays, try these writing exercises. These exercises will help you narrow down your topics and themes for the Princeton essays. They’ll also help you to get inspired and in touch with your writing style and voice. That way, you can write strong Princeton essays where you sound genuinely passionate and excited about your topic. Remember, the best Princeton essays will highlight what makes you unique. 

Princeton admissions urges applicants to write essays that show what they’ve done both academically and non-academically. This helps the admissions team get a better idea of who you are as not only a student, but also a person. As a part of some helpful tips from Princeton admissions, the site states that Princeton essays are your chance to “convey ideas in your own voice.” But, what exactly does that mean?

Write in your own voice

Writing in your own voice means that the words you’re expressing are essentially an extension of you as a person. The reader should be able to feel your personality through your style, tone, and word use. This may seem like a hefty task, but there are things you can do to find your own voice in writing if you haven’t already. 

All of the Princeton supplemental essays should be written in your own voice and style. If you write your Princeton essays in your own voice and tell a compelling story, then you will be able to convey exactly why you should be admitted. 

CollegeAdvisor’s Tips for finding your Writing Voice: 

Free-write

Set a timer for fifteen minutes and allow yourself to write on the topic at hand freely. Don’t think about spelling, grammar, word choice, etc. Just write what comes naturally. Read it over after you’ve hit your time. You’ll probably be able to pick out the most important themes and expand on them in a more “formal” way for each Princeton essay. 

Write as you

This may sound odd, or maybe extremely obvious as we are talking about your voice. Still, this is one of the biggest mistakes students can make in their Princeton essays. Don’t write what you think admissions wants to read. You shouldn’t need a dictionary to read your own Princeton essays. Basically, don’t try to be the world’s best writer: just be you.

Show your personality

Hopefully, if you are writing words without trying to be anyone else, then your personality will come across. However, often in essay writing, students try to sound too formal. This can dilute your voice and personality. Yes, you should use proper grammar and a clean structure. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t be creative and show your personality through your writing style. Additionally, your personality will come naturally when writing about a topic you are passionate about. So, be sure to choose topics for your Princeton supplemental essays that genuinely excite you. 

Know when you’re done

This can be difficult, but you don’t want to obsessively rewrite and edit your Princeton essays. Give yourself ample time to write your essays, but don’t over-edit. You want your writing to be sharp and mechanically impeccable, but you don’t want to lose your voice. With each edit, it’s easy to get stuck in thinking more about what admissions wants to read and lose who you actually are, which is the whole point of these essays. Your final essays should convey your personality; don’t lose your voice as you revise your drafts. 

Voice can be tricky

Understanding voice when it comes to writing can be difficult. The words should seem like yours, but they also shouldn’t be overly conversational for the Princeton essays. To best understand how to use your voice when writing the Princeton supplemental essays, check out some successful Princeton essay examples. Use these Princeton essay examples to observe how each student used their individual voice but also thoughtfully and comprehensively answered the Princeton essay prompts. 

Finally, the Princeton essay examples can serve as inspiration, but don’t try to copy their voices. A successful Princeton supplemental essay shouldn’t be able to pass as anyone else’s. 

Princeton Essay Prompts– Your Voice #1

Now, let’s look at the next two Princeton essay prompts and get into the specifics of how to answer them completely while also showing your voice. 

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)

Like many universities, Princeton aims to bring together students who are curious, willing to hear other perspectives, and able to reevaluate their own positions. The Princeton University supplemental essays help the admissions team to see if students fit these qualifications. This Princeton supplemental essay offers you the chance to demonstrate how you responded to different perspectives in the past. In doing so, it lets you show Princeton how you will engage with your classmates in the future.

Selecting a topic

There are two strong strategies for approaching this third Princeton supplemental essay. First, you could write about a time when you had a difficult conversation that helped you to change your thinking on a challenging topic. This approach likely requires considerable vulnerability and humility. However, it can be very powerful if done effectively. Second, you could write about a time when you challenged another person or group’s belief or practice. While this approach runs the risk of sounding preachy, it can also be very effective if you highlight your personal stake in the issue and show the reader why you felt it was important to speak up.

Whatever approach you select, make sure the tone and topic of your Princeton application essays are appropriate for the goals of this prompt. Debating where to grab lunch with your friends is not exactly a weighty issue! It should also go without saying that your Princeton supplemental essay should not conclude with you advocating on behalf of racism, sexism, or any other form of prejudice.

Telling your story

Beyond your choice of topic, the most critical component of this Princeton supplemental essay is how you illustrate that this experience helped you gain new insights. These insights could be a change in your own perspective. They also could be a better understanding of how others view a complicated topic. Additionally, you could discuss how the situation helped you understand your own perspective—especially if you learned something about your values and priorities. 

Remember that this Princeton supplemental essay also asks you to think about how you will use your insights going forward. Though your response will look different depending on your situation, think about how you will behave or think differently in future difficult circumstances. This could be a continuation of the behavior you exhibited in your initial example, or your new insights could push you towards a new pattern of behavior. Whatever you choose, remember to be genuine, vulnerable, and honest.

Reflection Questions for your Princeton Essay:

  • Have you chosen a situation appropriate to the tone of the Princeton supplemental essay prompt?
  • Does your essay demonstrate vulnerability and reflection as you recount your difficult conversation and its aftermath?
  • Does your draft illustrate new insights that influenced your perspective, informed future actions, or changed your relationship with another person/group?
  • Does your essay look forward to how you may approach future conversations differently?

Princeton Essays– Your Voice #2

Like other Princeton University supplemental essays, the prompt below gives you a few options. First, you can discuss how you have been committed to service and civic engagement throughout high school. Alternatively, you can talk about the ways you will use Princeton’s resources to engage in these pursuits. The best approach to this Princeton supplemental essay will combine these options. In doing so, it will talk about your past, present, and future of civic engagement and service. 

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

Articulate your reasons for involvement

As you think about service and civic engagement, be sure to articulate your reasons for engaging with these goals. First, try to highlight any long-term, formal volunteer work. However, if you don’t have an experience like this, you can also talk about more informal projects. Say the bulk of your service work is mostly one-off experiences, like helping a neighbor weed her garden or tutoring a few junior high students in math. These are absolutely examples of service and civic engagement, and they can be a great fit for the Princeton supplemental essays. However, unless you clarify your underlying reasons for doing these activities, you run the risk of sounding disorganized. 

Instead, you could frame your Princeton supplemental essay around your commitment to community. You might state that as part of that goal, you try to make yourself available to jump in wherever you see a need. Supplying these examples with a broader organizing narrative helps you to sound more intentional and thoughtful in your behaviors.

Structuring your essay

Begin this Princeton supplemental essay question by establishing your history as a civically engaged person in high school. Then, connect those experiences to ones you will have at Princeton. No matter your intended career field, there are plenty of ways to use this Princeton supplemental essay to establish your interests in service and/or civic engagement. For some majors—looking at you, political science—this Princeton supplemental essay prompt makes it easy. Connections between your academic field of study and opportunities for civic engagement may not be as clear in some other majors, but this offers you the chance to be creative. 

Of course, when writing your Princeton supplemental essays, you do not necessarily need to connect your academic interests to the ways you intend to engage in service. Perhaps you are planning to study physics but also have a long-held interest in advocating for victims of sexual assault. Using your Princeton essay to tie together seemingly disparate interests can help Princeton understand your complexity and depth. Unexpected responses in your Princeton supplemental essays can even be stronger than those with obvious connections between major and civic engagement. 

Focus on your growth

Finally, remember that this Princeton supplemental essay prompt asks you to illustrate your involvement in service and civic engagement in the context of your own story. Your Princeton supplemental essays should ultimately be about you and your growth. So, don’t just write an essay about a particular service project. Your essay should focus on how this project aligns with your personal values, how engaging in this pursuit has helped you to grow as a person, and how you hope to make a difference in this cause using Princeton’s resources.

Princeton Essay Reflection Questions:

  • Does your Princeton supplemental essay identify at least one area in which you are civically engaged or involved in service work?
  • Does your draft highlight your values and motivations for getting involved in your cause?
  • Have you highlighted specific Princeton resources that can help you pursue service and/or civic engagement in college? 

How do I write my Princeton supplemental essay?

In this Princeton essay guide, we’ve seen how to respond to the Princeton essay prompts specific to your major. Shortly, we’ll dive into how to write the remaining Princeton essays. However, when it comes to writing each Princeton supplemental essay, there are two important guidelines to follow. 

#1- Make sure your essays remain specific to Princeton

While it may seem obvious, writing a generic Princeton essay is the biggest mistake an applicant can make. Princeton only accepted 1,500 students to the class of 2026, and that was their effort to expand the undergraduate enrollment. Just think of all the students who apply to this Ivy League university. If you want a chance at admission, then you need to write exceptional, and specific, Princeton essays. 

#2- Highlight your unique voice

When writing each Princeton essay, make sure you write in your own unique voice and style. Princeton admissions won’t engage with a basic story about how you volunteered at a nursing home one summer. But, if you show us a snapshot of your volunteer experience that shows us how it was meaningful to you and gave you transferable skills, then that’s a different essay completely. Don’t be afraid to write creatively with your own personality. After all, your essay needs to stand out. Just make sure that you answer the Princeton essay prompts completely while doing so. 

When applying to a competitive school like Princeton, it’s important to understand how your application will be evaluated. Check out this article on how admissions officers rate Ivy League applications. Still, remember that you shouldn’t write an essay that reads as something you think admissions wants to see. 

Princeton Essays: More About You

The final prompts that we’re going to dive into in this Princeton essay guide may seem like the easiest, as they have a 50-word maximum. This is a common tactic among highly selective colleges. When approaching these Princeton supplemental essay questions, remember that writing very short—yet compelling—responses is far more challenging than writing interesting longer essays. When figuring out how to get into Princeton and overcome the Princeton acceptance rate, every part of your application matters. Within these essays, the same concept applies. You should choose every word of these shorter Princeton essays carefully.

Princeton Essay #1

What is a new skill you would like to learn in college? (50 words)

When writing your Princeton supplemental essays, remember to be creative. Try to go beyond the easiest and most immediate answer you can think of! Of course, you will learn to research, read, and manage your time in college. However, what are some more unique skills that you’d like to learn? 

Your answer to this Princeton supplemental essay prompt can be academic in nature (“I’d like to learn how to read Medieval French and how to conduct formal archival research”) or non-academic (“I hope to master my grandmother’s spaghetti sauce recipe using only the utensils I keep in my dorm room”). Either way, this Princeton supplemental essay is all about a specific, concise answer.

Highlight your values

Your chosen skill for this Princeton supplemental essay should also reflect your core values. Perhaps if you go the Medieval French language and history route, developing that skill could help you achieve your goals of honoring the past and bringing little-understood experiences to light. If you want to master your grandma’s spaghetti sauce, that effort could align with your values of prioritizing family, expressing your creativity, and being thrifty with the things you already have. 

When thinking about this Princeton supplemental essay prompt, please note that you do not need to try and impress those who will read your Princeton essays. In fact, they would much rather hear about a skill that you genuinely would love to develop rather than a skill that you think would impress them. After all, genuine responses to your Princeton supplemental essays help your reader to understand you better.

Be detailed

Bearing the word count in mind, you do not need to explain every detail of your response to this Princeton supplemental essay prompt. You should include enough detail so that your reviewers know what you are talking about. However, you can leave things a little ambiguous if it suits your purposes. It can often be effective to use plenty of figurative language to describe your chosen skill, how it interests you, and why you want to learn it in college. To go back to the spaghetti sauce example—you might describe to the Princeton supplemental essay readers what the sauce smells like, what different components taste like, and what the emotional experience of eating it with your grandmother feels like. 

Princeton Essay Reflection Questions:

  • Have you selected a new skill that you want to develop in college—not a skill you already have?
  • Does your essay invite the reader in with sensory details to illustrate why this skill is interesting to you?
  • Is your chosen skill something that you genuinely want to pursue, or have you selected something based on what you think your reader will find impressive?
  • Does your essay fit within the very small word limit?

Princeton Essay #2

What brings you joy? (50 words)

Like other Princeton supplemental essay questions, the very short word limit challenges you to say something interesting and genuine with significant constraints. Additionally, this Princeton supplemental essay asks you to respond to a rather profound question. So, it is critical that you find an answer that resonates with your readers and avoids clichés.

Let’s start with those clichés: responding with an obvious answer like “my family” or “nature” without any specific details virtually guarantees that your Princeton supplemental essays will be the opposite of memorable. Princeton University supplemental essays like this—where many people would respond similarly—don’t tell your reader anything unique about you. Instead, cliché responses imply that you rushed through your Princeton essays and wrote down the first thing you thought of. Even worse, it could suggest that you assumed this Princeton supplemental essay prompt was not important.

Keep it specific

A far better approach for the sixth of the Princeton supplemental essays would be to focus on small and unique details. Instead of “my family,” you could write about the secret look you share with your sister when something funny happens or the specific meow your cat uses when he wants you to pick him up. Rather than sweeping statements about nature, Princeton University supplemental essays like these should discuss the feelings you have when you wake up early to see the sunrise. Whatever your approach, drill down to specific and sensory details that can paint a picture for your reader. 

At its core, this Princeton supplemental essay question asks how you see the world and interact with it emotionally. So, there are very few things that are wrong to talk about here. As with all Princeton University supplemental essays, no matter what you choose to discuss, highlight as many details as possible. Then, trace your emotional experience of joy for the reader. These strategies will help you use your own voice and provide insight into who you are. The clearer and more specific your source of joy, the stronger your Princeton essays will be. 

Princeton Essay Reflection Questions:

  • Does your draft have a clear answer to the Princeton supplemental essay prompt?
  • Do you have sensory details supporting your answer?
  • Does your draft highlight your emotional experiences?
  • Does your essay comply with the word limit?

Princeton Essay #3

What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment? (50 words)

This Princeton supplemental essay prompt is fun—a less existential version of some of the other Princeton supplemental essays. As with the other subjective Princeton University supplemental essays, there are no right or wrong answers. Still, you should stick to just one song. The rest of your 50 words in this Princeton supplemental essay should explain why that song is the soundtrack of your life.

You might use this Princeton supplemental essay to highlight something interesting going on in your life now. This could include an important relationship, an exciting milestone, or a particular emotional experience. For example, maybe after your summer job working for a local daycare center, the soundtrack of your life has become the theme to a popular children’s TV show. Maybe you have a favorite song that helps you de-stress before big exams. Whatever you choose for this Princeton supplemental essay, your readers want you to use this Princeton supplemental essay prompt to show the personal significance you attach to a particular song. So, make sure you share some context.

Strategies to avoid

Less effective strategies for this Princeton supplemental essay include listing very popular songs for the sole reason that they’re popular, responding with a non-specific reason (i.e. “it makes me want to dance”) with little explanation, or simply not providing any context to your response at all. Always remember that these Princeton University supplemental essays should show the admissions committee something new about you.

Princeton Essay Reflection Questions:

  • Did you identify one song to discuss in your Princeton supplemental essay draft?
  • Have you provided context or an explanation for why this song is the soundtrack of your life?
  • Does your answer to this essay tell your Princeton essays reviewer something new about you?

More Princeton Requirements

In addition to your Princeton supplemental essays, you will also need to submit the other Princeton requirements so that your Princeton application is complete. Applicants will need to submit their completed Common Application, Princeton supplement (Princeton essays), graded written paper, and their application fee by the application deadline. 

Princeton requirements include: 

  • Transcript. An official high school transcript needs to be sent by your school.
  • School Report. This is to be completed by your school counselor via the Common Application. 
  • Counselor Recommendation. In addition to the School Report, your counselor will also need to submit a recommendation. You can “invite” them to do so on the Common App.
  • Two Teacher Recommendations. Teacher recommendations should also be submitted via the Common App. You should ask for recommendations from teachers who have taught you in higher-level courses and in core academic subjects. 
  • Midyear School Report. This needs to be submitted by a school official when your midyear grades are available. Be sure to ask them to do so. 

Test-optional admissions

Princeton is test-optional for the 2022-23 application cycle. This means that applicants won’t be penalized in the evaluation process if they choose not to submit standardized test scores. However, if English is not your native language and you haven’t been attending a school for at least three years where the instruction is in English, then you will need to complete and submit the TOEFL, IELTS Academic, or PTE Academic.

There are also optional Princeton supplemental materials that you may want to complete in order to enhance your application. After all, given the low Princeton acceptance rate, you’ll need more than a good SAT score or an average GPA to get in. Use the opportunity to shine in another area that hasn’t yet been highlighted in your application if applicable. 

For applicants who excel in the arts or opt for an interview

Students who’ve excelled in the arts may want to complete the arts supplement. Applicants are also offered optional alumni interviews. Once your entire application has been submitted, Princeton admissions will invite you to an alumni interview unless you’ve opted out of one. If you choose not to interview, you will not be at a disadvantage in the admissions process. 

Check out the complete list of Princeton requirements in order to submit and request everything needed for your application by the deadlines (EA or RD). Be sure to read the application tips before you apply as well. 

Tips for Choosing a Graded Written Paper

princeton supplemental essay
Good Grade on Test ca. 2001

As a part of the Princeton supplement, students are required to submit a graded written paper. Princeton admissions wants to see how students express themselves when writing in an academic setting. Keep in mind that this graded written paper should enhance your application by showing how you could contribute to the Princeton community. It should also highlight how you would excel in an academically rigorous and demanding environment such as Princeton. 

Things to consider when choosing your graded written paper:

  • You can submit essays, research essays, papers, exam essays, etc. The essay should not be a creative writing essay—don’t submit your favorite haiku. 
  • The paper should be from the last three years of high school. It should be a paper for an academic core course such as English, History, or Social Studies. 
  • The paper needs to have the teacher’s grade and comments if applicable. Supply a grading rubric if there was one as well. 
  • Your essay should be one to two pages in length. 

Students are able to submit their graded written paper via the Common App or you can upload it to your Princeton applicant portal. You may also mail it to the admissions office. 

Choose a paper that shows your growth

It may be hard to narrow down your options when thinking about all of your graded essays over the past three years. If one stands out to you, and you think it demonstrates your writing ability in an academic setting, then great. However, don’t feel limited to submitting your highest-scoring essay. You do not need to submit an A paper. Instead, you could submit a lower-scoring paper that shows a moment of growth or understanding. 

Your Princeton supplemental essays should have a clear voice and personality. However, the aim of the graded paper among the Princeton requirements is to show your writing capacity within an academic setting. Sure, this paper will provide admissions with more insight as to who you are. However, it should highlight your academic accomplishments above all else. 

Princeton Supplemental Essays & the Admissions Process

Remember that Princeton is one of the most competitive schools in the nation. In fact, it’s currently ranked #1 on U.S. News’ Best National Colleges list. While it may seem stressful to complete so many Princeton supplemental essays, try to think of the Princeton essays as another opportunity to impress Princeton admissions and overcome the low Princeton acceptance rate. 

In short, the Princeton University supplemental essays that we’ve outlined in this Princeton essay guide aim to offer your reader insight into who you are, how you think, and how you can enrich the campus community. Princeton wants you to be thoughtful, honest, and creative in your responses. 

Details and language

Remember that what makes your Princeton supplemental essays unique and memorable is not the experience you write about itself. Instead, the impact lies in the details you share and the language you use to express yourself. The more detailed your essays, the more your Princeton supplemental essays will reflect you as a unique individual rather than one of the thousands of applicants. Princeton essays are most effective when they help your reader feel a personal connection to you and an investment in your future success. 

Focus on Princeton

While many of these tips can apply at any school, you are writing Princeton supplemental essays. Remember to anchor your experiences, hopes, and goals in each Princeton supplemental essay response to the resources available on campus. The more specific you are in your Princeton application essays, the better. You might mention individual professors or classes, hint at research questions that fascinate you, or explain how particular clubs and organizations can help you grow as a scholar and as a person. This will serve you better in your Princeton essays than just listing resources for which Princeton is famous. You want to use your Princeton supplemental essay prompts to demonstrate to the admissions team that you’ve explored the website beyond the first page.

Don’t brainstorm topics for the Princeton supplemental essays based on what you think the reviewers will want to hear. It sounds cheesy, but choose to write your Princeton essays on topics that genuinely matter to you.

5 Tips on How to Write the Princeton Supplemental Essays

princeton supplemental essay

Every student will tell a different story with their Princeton supplemental essays. Remember that you aren’t simply answering the Princeton essay prompts. Rather, you’re using the Princeton essays in order to enhance your application narrative. Since the Princeton acceptance rate is so low, you need to do all you can to stand out. 

So, what are the most important things to keep in mind in order to make each Princeton supplemental essay a success?

Five tips on how to write your best Princeton supplemental essays: 

#1- Be specific

We’ve mentioned this before, but it’s of utmost importance. Your Princeton essays need to be specific to not only you as an individual, but also specific to Princeton. Refer to specific programs, extracurriculars, or courses that are only offered at Princeton. Share meaningful experiences in your Princeton essays that highlight your unique connection to the school. 

#2- Have a voice

Be sure that your writing voice comes across in each Princeton supplemental essay. Don’t write your Princeton essays thinking only about what admissions wants to see. These essays should show your unique personality. 

#3- Choose topics carefully

The topics that you choose to write about will make or break your essays. That doesn’t mean that the topic itself matters—it’s how you write about it. You need to choose topics that you are genuinely passionate about. That’s the only way that your authentic voice and personality will shine through in each Princeton supplemental essay. 

#4- Fully answer the Princeton essay prompts

Don’t get carried away artfully and creatively painting a beautiful scene with words and then forget to answer half of the prompt. Make sure that your writing has style, but also answers each prompt thoughtfully, carefully, and completely. 

#5- Start early

The best way to write successful Princeton supplemental essays is by giving yourself ample time to brainstorm, draft, and revise. These essays are likely a stressful part of the application process. Rushing them will amplify that stress. Do yourself a favor and start the process early in order to write your best Princeton essays. 

Princeton Essay Guide and Additional Resources from CollegeAdvisor

The best way to write successful Princeton supplemental essays is by using the resources available to you. Learn all about what it takes to write successful college essays with the ample resources available from CollegeAdvisor. 

You may want to start your Princeton journey by learning just how to get into Princeton. Our guide will provide applicants with important highlights on how to tackle the application process despite the low Princeton acceptance rate. When thinking about how to get into Princeton, it can seem overwhelming. Take advantage of everything that is available to you, starting with the How to Get Into Princeton guide. 

Princeton essay resources

For more Princeton essay guidance, you may want to start by reviewing the previous essay guide for Princeton. Reading the past guide will surely get you into the Princeton essay writing mode. If you are confident in understanding what admissions looks for, then you will be able to write freely and surely within that scope. Additionally, you can read these essay tips from admissions experts. While they aren’t specific to Princeton, they can guide you when completing all of your college essays. 

Princeton Webinars

Finally, after learning all about how to get into Princeton and reading the Princeton essay guides, watch a Princeton University panel webinar. This webinar will provide you with important information from Princeton alumni on just what it takes to apply to and attend Princeton.

Princeton Supplemental Essay – Final Thoughts

You are more than a collection of statistics, and the Princeton University supplemental essays are meant to help the admissions committee understand what unique skills and characteristics you can offer the Princeton community. While there are many Princeton supplemental essays to write, thoughtful execution of these Princeton essays can help your application stand out. 

Use our guide

Use this Princeton essay guide to help you approach your Princeton supplemental essays carefully and intentionally. Also, be sure to have one or two people read over them before you submit your Princeton supplemental essay prompts. Whether from your college advisor, your school counselor, a teacher, or a trusted friend or family member, external feedback on your Princeton University supplemental essays will help you to ensure that you are putting your best foot forward. Still, when applying feedback, be sure to maintain your unique voice and style. Best of luck!


princeton supplemental essay

This article was written by Sarah Kaminski. Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.