Bonus Material: PrepMaven’s Supplemental Essay Spreadsheet
Many top-tier universities and colleges in the U.S. now require applicants to submit at least one additional essay.
Princeton University is one of these colleges. It actually requires students to respond to 6 short supplemental prompts.
What are the prompts for Princeton’s supplemental essays? And how should you respond to each?
We’ve got the answers to these questions in this post. We also give readers access to a great resource: the most selective 50 U.S. colleges and their supplemental essays for 2022-2023, in one easy-to-read spreadsheet. Grab it below.
Here’s what we cover:
- The 6 Princeton Supplemental Essay Prompts
- How to Respond
- Prompt #1
- Prompt #2
- Prompt #3
- Prompt #4
- Prompt #5
- Prompt #6
- Bonus: PrepMaven’s Supplemental Essay Spreadsheet
Princeton University requires applicants to submit responses to 6 supplemental essay prompts. We recognize that this sounds daunting, but keep in mind that the word length of these essays is relatively short.
Here’s the breakdown:
- 1 150-word response
- 2 250-word responses
- 3 50-word responses
Princeton also requires applicants to submit one graded academic paper as part of their application. (We will not be addressing this in this post.)
Prompt #1: Extracurricular Activity and Work Experience
Briefly elaborate on an activity, organization, work experience, or hobby that has been particularly meaningful to you. (Please respond in about 150 words)
Prompts #2 and #3: Your Voice
Please respond to each question in an essay of about 250 words.
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?*
Princeton has a longstanding commitment to service and civic engagement. Tell us how your story intersects (or will intersect) with these ideals.*
Prompts #4, #5, and #6: More About You
Please respond to each question in 50 words or fewer. There are no right or wrong answers. Be yourself!
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?
In this section, we’ll provide our advice for responding to each of these supplemental essay prompts.
Essay Prompt #1: Extracurricular Activity and Work Experience
Briefly elaborate on an activity, organization, work experience, or hobby that has been particularly meaningful to you. (Please respond in about 150 words)
Because they only have 150 words to respond to prompt #1, students should feel comfortable taking this prompt fairly literally.
They should discuss the following in their response:
- Relevant details of this activity, organization, work experience, or hobby, including their role (past/present), responsibilities, and/or general relationship to it
- A brief discussion of why this was/is meaningful
Keep in mind that admissions officers will be most interested in learning about why this is “particularly meaningful to you,” as this will give them the most information about who you are as an individual.
For that reason, we encourage students to select an activity, hobby, organization, or work experience likely to:
- generate a lot of thoughts
- reflect at least one of their personal values or beliefs and/or
- showcase something that matters to them
If you’re having trouble brainstorming why this has proved meaningful to you, think about this activity, organization, work experience, or hobby in relationship to:
- what you believe in
- what makes you you
- what you’re passionate about and/or
- your professional aspirations
When writing this response, aim for declarative, concise sentences. Creativity is never off the table here, either! You might wish to include brief anecdotes, but be mindful of the fact that you only have 150 words and want to leave ample room for the discussion of why this is meaningful to you.
Here’s an abbreviated example of how you might respond to this prompt:
I never thought I had the courage to be someone else convincingly. Yet when I auditioned–by chance–for my school’s production of “Spring Awakening,” I had an awakening of my own: theatre is the medium for telling other people’s stories, and I wanted to tell those stories. Since that first show, I have participated in multiple productions with my drama team and am currently president of the core group…
Essay Prompt #2: 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)
Students can once again feel comfortable approaching this prompt fairly literally. Princeton offers a lot of information here about what it’s looking for in applicants. In a nutshell, they want to bring students to their campus who aren’t afraid to have tough conversations with others, especially those with differing perspectives.
What’s more, admissions officers are looking for applicants who can demonstrate a certain level of self-awareness about what it means to have “respectful dialogue.” They want a response here that demonstrates your capacity to reflect on a difficult conversation and use what you’ve learned in the future.
This is very much in line with Princeton’s mission to encourage pluralism and respectful conversations, as Princeton President Eisgruber emphasized in his speech on the “art of disagreement” in 2017.
Here are our thoughts on how to proceed with this prompt, given these considerations.
First, you don’t have to choose a conversation that went well. Maybe, for example, you had a discussion with friends about politics that went sideways–either due to your own input, another’s, or a combination of the two. The importance will lie in your ability to pinpoint valuable insights from this experience and be honest about what happened.
“Difficult” is also a relative term. Choose a conversation that felt personally difficult to you, for whatever reason. You’ll also want to highlight why this was difficult for you in your response, although you don’t need to spend a lot of time doing so.
If you’re having trouble coming up with something, call up a friend and discuss a difficult topic! Observe what happens. Take notes. Pay attention to insights.
In your response, you’ll want to spend less time discussing the conversation and more time discussing how you responded, what insights you acquired, and how you’ll use these lessons in the future. 250 words may sound like a lot, but they go by fairly quickly.
In fact, your essay should be dense with what we call “I” statements: sentences that convey your specific opinions, beliefs, emotions, and observations. Here are some example “I” statements similar to what you might want to have in this prompt’s response:
- I learned from this experience just how quickly people are apt to leap to hasty conclusions, but not for reasons that seem obvious.
- I am still learning what it means to listen, especially when listening to someone’s thoughts that differ from mine.
- I now strive to incorporate my awareness of fear–and how much it can influence our thinking–in all of my interpersonal interactions.
As always, be concise and use declarative sentences in your response. The ideas are what matter here, so give them room to shine.
Essay Prompt #3: Your Voice
Princeton has a longstanding commitment to service and civic engagement. Tell us how your story intersects (or will intersect) with these ideals. (250 words)
Princeton’s motto is all about serving humanity: “In the Nation’s Service and the Service of Humanity.”
This prompt means that college admissions officers are looking for applicants who can reflect similar commitments to public service and civic engagement. Even if you don’t have a long history of volunteering, now is the time to discuss your ability to engage with these ideals, now and in the future (‘will intersect”).
The prompt also includes the phrase “your story.” We see this phrase often in supplemental essay prompts. It’s often used as a catchphrase for your specific set of life experiences that make you you. So keep this in mind as you brainstorm material for your response.
Ask the following questions as you brainstorm:
- What acts of service have I completed recently?
- What does service mean to me?
- How have I been involved in my various communities as a citizen?
- How do I want to be involved in my community in the future from a service standpoint?
- What is service going to mean to me in the future? Does it have anything to do with my professional aspirations?
- What does it mean to me to have a civic duty?
Keep in mind that “service” doesn’t just mean community service. It can involve anything that has to do with helping others on any scale. You don’t have to have started a non-profit organization to answer this question sufficiently!
Remember that the most important part of your response will be active reflection. Give ample room, for example, to “I” statements like the following:
- I wish to be a teacher because of education’s capacity to cultivate values.
- My experience teaching Spanish to local inmates has taught me how significant language is on any scale.
- While I have had limited opportunities to engage in community service in high school, I look forward to grounding all of my scholarly pursuits in civic engagement, especially when it comes to fundamental human rights.
Students who wish to discuss a specific experience with service may wish to start with an anecdote, as in the following example.
That Thanksgiving, I assumed I would be taking part in the usual lineup of holiday festivities: baking all day, watching football, and socializing with relatives. But when my father suggested we volunteer at the local soup kitchen, things took a different turn.
Regardless, this essay should give readers a clear understanding of how an applicant has engaged with service (or will be engaged with service).Keep in mind that this essay prompt is under the heading of “Your Voice,” so make sure you are writing from a place of honesty, even if you have yet to develop a relationship to civic engagement or public service.
Essay Prompt #4: More About You
What is a new skill you would like to learn in college? (50 words)
Prompts #2 and #3 are ones that encourage deep reflection on specific values. With the next three prompts, Princeton is urging applicants to simply flaunt their authentic selves. Hence the injunction to “be yourself” here.
Keep this in mind as you approach each of the three final prompts.
You also don’t have much room at all–a 50-word limit will go by very quickly. Aim to be direct, concise, and as specific as you can with all three of these prompts.
With Prompt #4, we recommend thinking about your current skillset first, then identifying what you feel is missing or what you really wish you had. “Skill” is a broad term, so build a list that includes the following:
- Academic or research skills
- Interpersonal or social skills
- Professional skills
- Artistic skills
- Leadership skills
- Any other proficiency or talent that you might have
You don’t have to discuss a large-scale skill, like “diplomacy” (although you sure can). Nor do you have to discuss an academic skill, as academics are only part of the college experience (although you sure can).
Choose a skill that showcases a specific side of who you are, and then think about why you wish to acquire this skill in college. You will likely only have room to discuss the “what” and the “why,” given the 50-word limit.
Here is an example:
I have always relished independent research, but I recognize the value of working with others on scholarly projects. I thus look forward to learning how to truly collaborate with my peers inside and outside of the classroom and to value diverse, contributing voices.
Essay Prompt #5: More About You
What brings you joy? (50 words)
It is easy for students to overthink this question. Yet we recommend approaching this question quite literally.
What makes you happy, every time? Build a list of things that make you smile or flood you with that feeling of exhilaration.
This list should include things that feel both “big” and “large.” It can span anything–activities, experiences, sights, sounds, a specific person–as long as it is authentic.
Here’s an example list:
- Watching my favorite sports team win a championship
- Making someone else happy
- Cooking a difficult recipe
- Random dance parties
- Setting goals
- Spending time with my grandmother
- Jane Austen
Ultimately, choose the item that showcases a distinct and new part of who you are in relation to your responses to the other essay prompts. It’s also important to think about why this item brings you joy, as you will have room to mention this reasoning (but not much more than that).
Here is an example:
Every time I open my “Slow Fires” Cookbook–a compilation of exquisite Michelin-star recipes–my pulse quickens. Each recipe I create, which often requires an entire challenging day of chopping, stirring, and monitoring, brings me joy for what it teaches me about the power of flavor and perseverance in the kitchen.
Essay Prompt #6: More About You
What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment? (50 words)
Once again, try not to overthink this question.
We recommend starting by identifying some of your favorite songs. Do any of these feel particularly meaningful to you at this given moment? If so, why?
It can also be helpful to think about common themes in your life at this moment in time and match them to specific songs. Choose a theme that represents a side of you you have not necessarily discussed at length in your application.
Here’s a sample list of such “themes:”
- Personal challenge
Once you’ve chosen a song, identify the “why” behind it and any other relevant context. You will likely only have room to identify the song, its “why,” and very brief context.
Here’s an example:
“Where is the Love” by the Black-Eyed Peas reflects my desire to let compassion guide all of my decisions and actions and commitment to a career in public service. It also never fails to make me dance.
Download Our Supplemental Essay Spreadsheet
Princeton’s supplemental essays may not be the only ones on your list. If you’re applying to several top-tier colleges, we’ve got a great resource for you.
We’ve compiled the supplemental essay prompts for the most selective 50 U.S. colleges and universities in one FREE easy-to-access spreadsheet!
Here’s what you’ll get:
- The supplemental essay prompt(s) for the most selective 50 U.S. colleges / universities
- Word limits for each prompt
- Application deadlines for each (early and regular)
Kate is a graduate of Princeton University. Over the last decade, Kate has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay.
collegecollege admissionscollege essay
When answering this essay question, use specific details. Mention courses and professors of interest. Students should elaborate on campus organizations or programs that fit certain goals, and specific aspects of the campus community that make it a good social and academic fit.How important are essays to Princeton? ›
Princeton's supplemental essays give the admissions office a more personal and comprehensive portrait of each applicant. They also provide students with an opportunity to stand out as a unique and promising candidate among other candidates who will have similarly high GPAs and test scores.How your story intersects or will intersect with these ideals? ›
When the prompt says "tell us how your story intersects (or will intersect with) these ideals," it means that you should think of real things you've done or real values you hold that motivate your civic engagement. This is a key part of the story you'll have to share in your response.How many supplemental essays does Princeton require? ›
Princeton University requires all applicants to submit three essays, three short responses, and a graded academic paper from high school.What should you not do in a supplemental essay? ›
- Not Conducting Enough School-Specific Research.
- Don't Forget to Write About You.
- Repeating Your Personal Statement or Activities List.
- Not Answering What the Question Has Asked For—And Wasting Words in the Process.
- Not Leaving Enough Time to Work on Them.
- Being generic or superficial. ...
- Not answering the question. ...
- Repeating yourself. ...
- Not answering optional questions. ...
- Not knowing the school you are applying to. ...
- Forgetting to talk about yourself.
Princeton Admission Statistics
Princeton University is one of the hardest schools to get into and has one of the lowest acceptance rates of any college in the world. Some might argue it's the hardest Ivy to get into, even though its current acceptance rate is not quite as low as Columbia or Harvard.
We look for students with intellectual curiosity, who have pursued and achieved academic excellence. We also look for students with strong personal and extracurricular accomplishments. As you prepare your application, help us to appreciate your talents, academic accomplishments and personal achievements.What are the disadvantages of Princeton? ›
The school can be very challenging, with many students feeling the pressure to maintain high grades while also engaging in extracurricular activities and community service. This can lead to stress and burnout for some students.What is a good sentence for intersect? ›
A dry stream bed intersects the trail in several places. Line A intersects with line B. The two roads intersect at the edge of town.
Crossroads: Two roads (consider as straight lines) meeting at a common point make crossroads. Scissors: The two arms of the scissors form intersecting lines.Does Princeton graded paper matter? ›
The Admission Office is more interested in the quality of the writing than the grade it received and encourages you to submit a graded written paper that shows your best efforts, regardless of the grade.What is the difference between Princeton AB and BSE? ›
1 Replies. Princeton likes to be special sometimes in their terminology. The AB degree is analogous to a BA (Bachelor of the Arts) degree at other schools, while the BSE degree is analogous to a BE (Bachelor of Engineering) degree. Also, we call our majors “concentrations” and minors “certificates”.Does Princeton meet 100% of demonstrated need? ›
If offered admission, Princeton will meet 100% of your demonstrated financial need with grant aid. In fact, Princeton is often less expensive than your state college or university.What 3 things should never be included in a college essay? ›
- Never rehash your academic and extracurricular accomplishments.
- Never write about a "topic"
- Never start with a preamble.
- Never end with a “happily ever after” conclusion.
- Never pontificate.
- Never retreat into your thoughts.
Yes, but do it carefully! Reusing essays can save you time and energy. If you reuse material, make sure to do it strategically, and make sure what you're reusing fits the prompt. Students should not force an essay in there that doesn't really fit just because they already have it written.Do colleges really look at supplemental essays? ›
Colleges think a lot about what to ask in their supplemental essay prompts, and they really want you to take time and care in these answers. Pay close attention to the prompts, and really think about how best to answer. This goes even for the tiniest of school-specific essays.What words are inappropriate to use in an essay? ›
- 1) Contractions. ...
- 2) Idioms. ...
- 3-5) “So on,” “etc,” “and so forth“ ...
- 6) Clichés. ...
- 7-11) “Thing,” “stuff,” “good,” “bad,” “big“ ...
- 12) Slang, jargon, teen speak. ...
- 13) Rhetorical questions. ...
- 14-17) “In terms of,” “needless to say,” “in conclusion,” “it goes without saying“
“You” has no place in an essay since the essay is the writer's thoughts and not the reader's thoughts. When the writer uses “you,” the writer is telling the reader what the reader thinks, which is not appropriate, especially when the reader is usually the writer's professor.Can a bad essay hurt your application? ›
If a student's essay isn't great OR good, the admission officer will probably just skim past the essay and move right on to your transcript and your test scores to evaluate your candidacy for admission.
Brown is ranked by the Princeton Review as the 10th happiest campus in the country and the happiest school in the Ivy League, and has a general reputation for being the “Happy Ivy.” But why does Brown have this reputation?What is the hardest class at Princeton? ›
Many students (and successful Math majors) find MAT 215 to be the most challenging course of their time at Princeton. Finding this course challenging does not mean that you are incapable of being a math major/you are not smart enough, etc.What is the hardest Ivy academically? ›
The most challenging Ivy League school to get into is Harvard, established in 1636 and based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. According to Harvard Admissions, only 2,008 out of 43,330 candidates were accepted to the college.
Princeton awarded only 3 degrees in 2020 for Linguistics, making it the least-popular major of any discipline. Here's what we found for the bottom 10: Linguistics (3) Slavic Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics, General (4)What are the top 3 most popular majors at Princeton University? ›
The most popular majors at Princeton University include: Social Sciences; Engineering; Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services; Public Administration and Social Service Professions; Biological and Biomedical Sciences; Physical Sciences; History; Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics; ...What major is popular at Princeton? ›
- Computer Science. 158 Graduates.
- 126 Graduates.
- Public Policy Analysis. 108 Graduates.
- 73 Graduates.
- Political Science and Government. 70 Graduates.
- 69 Graduates.
- Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. 56 Graduates.
- Mechanical Engineering. 52 Graduates.
Ranking/Reputation wise, they seem to vary. Princeton is 1st for undergraduate rankings. Stanford and Harvard are usually 1st= for world university rankings. And Yale seems to be falling in their rankings in general.What is the lowest GPA admitted to Princeton? ›
You should also have a 3.9 GPA or higher. If your GPA is lower than this, you need to compensate with a higher SAT/ACT score.Why is Princeton so prestigious? ›
The high Princeton University rankings reflect the school's prestige. Princeton employs 29 Nobel Prize winners, has a student-to-faculty ratio of 5:1, and has produced two US presidents and three active US Supreme Court justices. It is no wonder that the Princeton University rankings are so high.What do colleges want to see in supplemental essays? ›
In addition to the Personal Statement, many colleges require applicants to submit supplemental essays. These supplemental essays ask students to respond to a wide variety of topics: their most meaningful activity, their interest in a particular college or major, an important community they belong to, etc.
Make sure everything you mention, including organizations, ties into your goals and interests. Also know about the college and what its admissions officers might be looking for in their applicants. For example, Tulane wants to know you are community and community service minded. Recycle your essays the smart way.How do you respond to an essay form? ›
The structure of a response paper is standard for academic writing: there should be an introduction in which you present your source text and your response, body paragraphs in which you support and explain your response, and a conclusion that wraps up your paper and leaves your reader with something to think about.Can a bad essay ruin your college application? ›
If a student's essay isn't great OR good, the admission officer will probably just skim past the essay and move right on to your transcript and your test scores to evaluate your candidacy for admission. Bad essays don't get read.Do admissions officers actually read essays? ›
Yes, admissions officers do actually read essays, but they might have already screened candidates first in a preliminary round. Every admissions office has a different process and it's impossible to sum up the exact step-by-step process for each admission office in one blog post.Do college admissions officers read your whole essay? ›
Yes, every college essay is read if the college has asked for it (and often even if they did not ask for it). The number of readers depends on the college's review process. It will be anywhere from one reader to four readers.Should I mention professors in supplemental essays? ›
If that is important to you, write about how you value getting to know your professors and having more discussion-based classes in your why school supplemental essay. Be sure to name particular professors whose classes interest and excite you.Are supplemental essays more important than personal statement? ›
Often, these essays are more important than the Personal Essay. Colleges ask these questions for a reason — and it's usually to make sure they learn more about you and the HUMAN you are (not a test-taking, grade-making, EC doing machine) and how you will bring that human (you) to THEIR specific campus.How much do colleges care about supplementals? ›
Colleges think a lot about what to ask in their supplemental essay prompts, and they really want you to take time and care in these answers. Pay close attention to the prompts, and really think about how best to answer. This goes even for the tiniest of school-specific essays.How long should it take to write a college supplemental essay? ›
Early on in the writing process, an essay may take you two or three weeks to write. By the end, you will be able to write several essays within a week. The one type of prompt that you may need to spend a little more time on, though, are the “why this school” prompts.How much time should you spend on a supplemental essay? ›
When it comes to how much time students should put into writing supplemental essays, the general consensus is divided. Some experts say it will take two weeks to write a supplemental essay, while others agree that it will take 20 to 30 hours. Timelines will vary based on the activities of students.
The end of a supplement is your last chance to make your point. You may not have a lot of space but set aside at least a short sentence to bring everything together. If you have more than 250 words to work with, commit at least two sentences to the conclusion.How do you start a strong response essay? ›
- Identify the author and title of the work and include in parentheses the publisher and publication date. ...
- Write an informative summary of the material.
- Condense the content of the work by highlighting its main points and key supporting points.
Answer the question according to general rules of academic writing. Use indentations; begin each paragraph with a topic sentence; support the topic sentence(s) with reasons and/or examples; use transition words to show logical organization; write a conclusion. Use correct punctuation throughout.