Unpacking the Princeton Supplemental Essays 2021-2022

Padya Paramita

Unpacking the Princeton Supplemental Essays 2021-2022

Having held that coveted number one spot in the US News Ranking of Best National Universities for the last few years, it should come as no surprise that you need to bring your A-game to get into Princeton University. Obviously, your grades, scores, and extracurricular activities matter a great deal, but don’t underestimate the power of well-written answers to the prompts offered by the Princeton supplemental essays 2021-2022

Take the time to perfect your answers to the Princeton supplemental essays 2021-2022 so that admissions officers are not only impressed by the quality of your writing but also believe that you’re a strong fit for an institution as selective as Princeton. To help guide you through the Princeton supplemental essays 2021-2022, I have outlined each of the prompts, ways to strategize your answers to them, and additional tips for your responses. 

Prompts for the Princeton Supplemental Essays 2021-2022

While none of the questions explicitly ask why you want to attend Princeton (because let’s face it, almost everybody wants to attend Princeton), they do help the school gauge your areas of interest, your academic and extracurricular strengths, and the ways through which you’d contribute to the campus community. Let’s take a closer look at each of the Princeton prompts and ways you could approach them.

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.)

It might be difficult to pick only one of your activities for the Princeton supplemental essays 2021-2022, or the right extracurricular might jump out to you immediately. In either case, it’s okay if this activity is not the one that looks most impressive to others. When analyzing your supplemental essays, Princeton wants to know “what you care about, what commitments you have made and what you’ve done to act on those commitments.” What’s key here is that you choose the activity which has had the most influence on you, and allowed you to have an impact on others in return. Choose an activity that has helped your growth, developed your career interest, or is the one activity you look forward to the most every week. 

The key words in this prompt are “particularly meaningful.” Remember to address what makes this activity more meaningful to you than the others. Has it helped you hone your leadership skills? Has it catalyzed your motivation to work with others? Is this what you want to do for the rest of your life? 150 words is extremely short, so don’t spend all of your words summarizing the activity. Throw in a short anecdote, or focus on describing ways that this activity stands out over the rest and why it holds that special spot in your life.

For A.B. Degree Applicants or Those Who are Undecided:

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 is the closest the university gets to a “why Princeton” essay. Admissions officers don’t just want to know why you’re applying to Princeton generally; they expect you to go into specific detail about Princeton’s academic offerings. You can talk about multiple interests across the humanities, arts, natural sciences, and social sciences.

Notice that this type of essay should mainly cover academics. Princeton’s clubs and student organizations may make it an alluring place for you, but the question explicitly asks about your choice of study. Look through the college website and think about what you can write that won’t be common in other students’ essays. Is there an English professor whose writing resonates with you? Would a particular psychology or sociology class perfectly fit in with your 10-year plan? Remember that admissions officers are trying to figure out how you’d make the most of your experience on the Princeton campus. So, write elaborately about how you would take advantage of the curriculum and give them a sense of the ways in which you’d make a valuable addition in the classroom.

For B.S.E Degree 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. (Please respond in about 250 words.)

This essay is required if you’ve indicated Bachelor of Science in Engineering as a possible degree on your application, and with good reason. Princeton wants to know whether you are genuinely interested in the field of engineering, and specifically in the Princeton School of Engineering’s offerings. This is a much more standard supplemental essay prompt than the one before. Most engineering programs will require a similar essay, so don’t write a response that could be substituted for an application to any other school. Your answer must be as specific as possible to Princeton’s engineering offerings. 

Don’t go overboard with all the reasons you’re interested in studying engineering. Focus on one or two of your most impactful activities and experiences, such as working in an engineering lab over the summer or building a robot at school. Again, you must be specific! Shallow motivations won’t win over Princeton’s admissions officers. If you want to excel with this question, you need to research concrete examples of what appeals to you. For example, you could talk about how working with the Princeton Engineering Education for Kids student organization combines your love for engineering and working with children. 

Admissions officers are looking for students who are passionate about their major, involved community leaders, and truly interested in Princeton. This essay is a great chance to show that you check all of the boxes.

Your Voice

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

Prompt 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?

Princeton wants to know how students will engage in classroom discussions and conversations during meals and or in hallways. The difficult topic you address isn’t limited to academics—it could be about sports, books, music, movies, television, or politics (although I would tread the latter department carefully). You could have been on the more generally agreed upon side of a common debate, or you may have held a controversial view. The important part isn’t what happened, so focus instead on the latter parts of the question. Dedicate most of your essay to discussing what insight you gained from the conversation, how you’ve acted since, and how you would bring this knowledge to Princeton.

Be careful while answering this prompt, especially if your viewpoint on the topic can be seen as controversial. With a topic like this, it’s easy to get carried away with your writing, especially if you have a lot of feelings on the matter. You only have 250 words at hand, so remember that your goal here is to talk about why this anecdote stands out to you and how it has shaped you. Allow admissions officers to learn more about you, and make sure you haven’t written anything that can offend or harm any individual or group of people. 

Prompt 2

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

 

This prompt is geared towards understanding students' involvement in community engagement and service. If you're passionate about community work and have dedicated yourself to improving your community, this is the place to expand on it. Write about any initiatives or work you have done to positively impact your community, or if you have demonstrated your passion for service and have been recognized for it. For example, if you received a Girl Scout Gold Award, this is the place to include it.

Remember that Princeton is one of the most selective universities in the world. Simply writing about a service trip abroad, or single community service participation won't do. When you write about this topic, think about what you're genuinely passionate about when it comes to community involvement, and how you have conveyed sustained commitment towards it.

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?

       

      These questions might throw you off a little. After all, how can you figure out what Princeton is even looking for? Don’t panic. You definitely don’t have to come up with responses that you believe are super deep and intellectual. Don’t mention that your favorite song is a jazz or classical piece if you think these sound impressive even though you don't actually like them. As cheesy as it sounds, the question states that you should be yourself. Admissions officers want to get to know you. 

      You don’t have to force yourself to be extra witty, but if you can come up with fun or clever answers to questions that allow for it, such as, “what brings you joy,” that’s great! But let it come to you naturally. Admissions officers have had years of experience reading answers to questions like these. They know if you’re trying to guess what you think they want to hear. At the same time, think about what other applicants would say. Avoid super common answers so that you can stand out as memorable. Your answers should be unique to you and your tastes.

      Additional Tips for Writing the Princeton Supplemental Essays 2021-2022

      • Be authentic. Every step in your application should be genuine, including in your answers to the Princeton supplemental essays 2021-2022. Don’t write about topics or issues that you believe a Princeton admissions officer might want to see. In fact, those answers might just end up being too cliché and not work against you instead. Admissions officers will appreciate it much more if they can feel organic passion and commitment for the things that you’ve described.
      • Don’t repeat your personal statement or your activities list. The goal of the Princeton supplemental essays 2021-2022 is to provide further information on who you are and what you’re all about. There’s no point in repeating what you’ve said on the rest of your application because admissions officers want each component to add something new. Princeton has even specified on the longer essay prompt that you must not repeat your personal statement. If you can’t follow these instructions, your application is basically on its way to the reject pile. You don’t want to lose before your essays have even been read!

      The Princeton supplemental essays 2021-2022 might throw you off because unless you’re applying to the School of Engineering, you don’t get a chance to elaborate on why you believe Princeton is the right school for you. However, there are ways you can convey to admissions officers that you’re a great fit for the school by bringing out characteristics that the school values and highlighting them in your essays. Don’t underestimate the difference powerful supplements can make. Good luck! 

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