Princeton is known by some as the "Oxford of America". With the university being founded in 1746 initially to educate ministers, its residential colleges and eating clubs and its stunning architecture and distinguished history, the comparison is apt. Princeton is the fourth oldest university in the US and has been ranked the top university in the country for 16 out of the last 18 years by the 'US World and News Report' (similar to the Times Educational Supplement). The University also boasts the largest endowment per student in the US, and a host of historically notable alumni, including three of the eight current Supreme Court Justices. At undergraduate level there is also a strong distinction made between the humanities (A.B.) and science (B.S.E.) students, though students on each pathway have good flexibility in selecting their own curriculum. Princeton is one of the most competitive universities in the world in terms of admissions rate. And rightly so. Do you have what it takes?
Princeton is not short of applicants. Class of 2022 (the latest admitted class) has an acceptance rate of just 5.5% - Princeton's most competitive class in history. A significant proportion of this class has been admitted through Early Action with over 40% of applicants being admitted through this route and a high proportion of admitted applicants achieving a near-perfect SAT score. With so many candidates getting the near-full score on the standardised testing, you need to differentiate yourself. Princeton is seeking out future leaders in every field. If you can become the candidate who demonstrates a successful record of outstanding past achievement, then you are a serious contender. Being a good all-rounder doesn't really cut it - that's what most of the application pool is. Instead, you need to prove that you are internationally competitive leader in a specific field. That's what will make you stand out.
2) Sit the SAT/ACT exams
Princeton requires everyone to have completed the SAT Reasoning exam (or the ACT as an alternative). The score for the SAT to aim for is 750+ and the score for the ACT to aim for is 33+. Given the competitiveness of admissions, you should not stop there; strive for as close to a perfect score as you can. Princeton also requires each candidate to complete the SAT Subject Tests. Here, you pick 3 subjects out of a list of 20 or so and then sit 3 separate papers. Some applicants would only complete 2 SAT Subject Tests because technically Princeton doesn't require you to do 3. This will be a big mistake. If you look at the body of admitted students, virtually every single one has at least 3 SAT Subject Tests. If you start preparation two years before applying you give yourself a much better chance. A good free online tool is Khan Academy where anyone can practice the SAT for free.
3) Create a CommonApp profile
Majority of applications to Princeton are submitted via a portal known as the CommonApp. You can find it here. The portal requires you to provide detailed background information such as your name, age, and school details. You will also need to produce a number of admission essays. The questions to these essays are released on 1st of August of the year when you submit your application. It is recommended to start drafting them in August so that you are ahead of everybody else and have more time to sort out other parts of your application.
4) Submit the App by 1st November
Princeton has 2 application deadlines: Early Action (1st November) and Regular Decision (1st January). Hard data shows that applicants have an advantage applying in the Early Action round. For example, in the Regular round, Princeton admitted 5.5%, while it took over 14% from the Early round. We therefore recommend that you apply by 1st November to ensure that your application gets the best possible chance of being picked by the admissions officers. That said remember that submitting a complete application during the Regular Round is much better than submitting a rushed application during the early round! If you are submitting an Arts Portfolio to support your application then you have until 6th November to submit the supplement.
5) Continue to provide updates
Once you have submitted your application, it is imperative that you continue to provide the Admissions' Office with regular substantial updates regarding your progression as a candidate. Given the sheer number of people applying to Princeton University, the decision to admit a particular candidate is not always straightforward. Therefore, it is important to demonstrate that you are a candidate who continues to push themselves all the way up until the last day of the decision-making process. This way, you show that you are not someone who will just rest on their laurels. If they are down to two candidates for a place, they are more likely to award the offer to someone who provides updates (assuming everything else is the same). Examples of updates could include news regarding your charitable work or updates on any extra academic work that you have been pursuing.
How to apply to Princeton University?
1) Start very early. If you are leaving the preparation to a mere one year in advance, you are doing it wrong. Most admitted candidates will spend a minimum of two years working on their overall profile and the application. It is not uncommon for successful admitted candidates to start 3 or even 4 years in advance which means starting when you are just 14.
2) Register and complete the SAT Reasoning (or the ACT) and SAT Subject Tests. If you are applying from a country where English is not an official language, you may also have to sit TOEFL - the English language exam. Both SAT exams are not straightforward and take time to master. A perfect score helps but won't get you in on its own. Remember that if you are doing the SAT, you should always include the optional written component. Similarly, while Princeton only asks for 2 SAT Subject Tests, many admitted candidates will have completed 3 or even more.
3) Register and complete the CommonApp. This is a centralised portal through which you can apply to all of your US university choices, including Princeton. CommonApp requires you to complete a number of essays and it is best to start early. Essay questions are released each year on the 1st of August. The deadline for Early Action is 1st November.
4) Once you have applied, be sure to continue communicating with the Admissions' Office and to provide them with regular updates.
Robby, a former student at Princeton says: "Princeton is a lot of work. You never have a spare minute to rest and that's what I love about it. The experience has transformed my life and I can highly recommend applying here"
If you want Allen & Jain to increase your chances at Princeton admissions, then fill the form below to get in touch with us. Our clients applying to the Ivy League+ universities have enjoyed a success rate of 82% last year. Get in touch to see how we can help you.