The Essay Guide Series: Princeton University

Princeton University is one of the most prestigious institutions in the world and has consistently ranked among the top schools in the US. They are most popular for their undergraduate program and with their extremely selective nature, it is hard to get accepted. The essays play a huge role in changing their mind about an application, so how do you get about them? Read on to find out more about the process.


Activities: Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences that was particularly meaningful to you. (Response required in about 150 words)


For this question, you need to pay close attention to what they’re asking for. They’re not asking you for the most prized achievement to date but rather the one that was the most impactful for you. You may have been a math whiz and scored the topmost credentials in an Olympiad exam which helped you get an internship in a global company. But was it the most impactful experience you have had to date? Maybe you want to talk about how doing community service taught you about the issues pertaining to your local community and how it shaped your perception of your community.


Since it’s only 150 words, you really need to be careful of what you say and you need to pick a story that reiterates your emotions for it. There’s no point in talking about something that you have already mentioned in your common app essay unless there’s a powerful story that you haven’t mentioned yet. Keep it short, to the point and simple but make sure it tells them something about you.


Your Voice: Please respond to each question in an essay of about 250 words.


1. At Princeton, we value diverse perspectives and the ability to have respectful dialogue about difficult issues. Share a time when you had a conversation with a person or a group of people about a difficult topic. What insight did you gain, and how would you incorporate that knowledge into your thinking in the future?


The point of this essay is that the admission officers want to see that you have the ability to communicate with people from different backgrounds without being polarised or biased about an issue. We all have different perspectives on issues these days and at a university like Princeton, you are more than likely to meet people with varying degrees of perspectives and you may or may not agree with them all the time. But how do you handle such a situation and how do you present yourself? That’s what they want to see. They want to understand your thought process and get an insight into how such experiences change the way you think about certain issues.


You can talk about any polarizing issue or event that you have experienced and why it is so important to you. Talk about how coming across a varying perspective maybe made you unsure of your own stance on the topic or strengthened your views on it. You need to show them you have the ability to gauge a situation and respond to it in a manner that indicates consideration rather than harsh decisions. How has this impacted and what is your understanding of the issue at the moment? Highlight them.


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


The university has valued community engagement and upliftment for decades on end and this is what they are specifically looking for in prospective students as well. Instead of spreading the essay out in too many events or experiences, focus on one that particularly interests you or impacts you. It has to be different from what you wrote in the ‘Activities’ prompt to show a different perspective and avoid repetition of information.


Now we’re not saying this has to be community service per se because not everybody has the liberty or opportunity to do so. It can be anything that you consider service such as working in a restaurant or a part-time job at a small office, taking care of siblings, etc. Whatever shows the philanthropic side of you, that’s the one you have to go with and write about.


More About You: Please respond to each question in 50 words or fewer.

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

  2. What brings you joy?

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

These questions don’t need to be answered in a specific manner. It’s just an insight into who you are so we suggest you have some fun with it! Take anything you want to learn in the near future and you’re passionate about and mention it. The answer is short, maybe two sentences so keep it concise. Want to learn how to code, design, whatever it is, be honest! This won’t make or break your chances of getting in so might as well take you chances.


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