7 Princeton Application Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Princeton campus with students walking in front

7 Princeton Application Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs

When it comes to attending an Ivy League school, there is no doubt that Princeton University is among the most attractive for students. After all, Princeton is without a doubt one of the most prestigious, historical, and competitive schools in the entire world. In 2021, it’s ranked as the No. 11 best university on the planet.

From that alone, chances are good that you have a good answer to the question, “How hard is it to get into Princeton?”

If you’re interested in putting a number to it, the acceptance rate for high school applicants last year was just 5.8 percent. That puts Princeton in the same area as schools like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and more.

For that reason, any student interested in attending Princeton is going to want to make sure that they are able to craft the very best college application possible. For many people, that means avoiding mistakes that a lot of high school students sadly end up making on their applications.

But what are those mistakes, and how can any high school student avoid making them? Here at AdmissionSight, we wanted to take the time to break them all down so that high schoolers can be aware of them and learn from them. As you will see, for the most part, these mistakes can be easily avoided by planning ahead, taking the necessary time and really putting in the necessary time and energy to do your best!

So, without further delay, let’s start getting started on the seven mistakes that every student who is applying to Princeton should avoid.

Major application mistakes to avoid

Without a doubt, no student is the same. While it can sometimes seem quite difficult to allow yourself to stick out and rise above the pack when applying to school, it truly is possible if a college application is done the right way. So, for all of these application mistakes to avoid, remember that you should be applying these lessons to you specifically. That is the best way to be sure that they are going to have the strongest and most positive impact.

Mistake 1. Forgetting to leave out important personal details

As you probably already know, one of the biggest challenges that students face when they are applying to top schools such as Princeton is finding a way to positively stick out. Well, one of the easiest ways to make sure that you do not succeed in sticking out in the way that you want to is to forget to include important personal details about your journey as a student and as a young adult.

The student who comes from a family of first-generation immigrants who never attended university are going to be looked at differently compared to students who come from families where everyone has attended college for generations.

A person writing on their notebook

Moreover, the student who has to work 20 hours a week after school to help their families makes ends meet are going to be looked at in a different light compared to students who have never had to worry about helping to support their families an simply spend all their time out of the classroom playing sports or getting involved in school clubs.

In many instances, students who come from less privileged circumstances are going to be a major consideration. That is especially true as schools like Princeton continue to make hard pushes to improve their ethnic and cultural diversity within their student body and staff. Remember, context goes beyond socio-economic circumstances as well.

Perhaps you come from an underrepresented minority in another way, perhaps the specific circumstances of your life growing up will show the admissions officers that you could bring a unique and important point of view to the campus. It’s important to really think about these factors and find ways to prove who you are and why you are so special.

What to do instead

As previously mentioned, make a point to really meditate on what makes you, you. Even if you do not come from the previously mentioned circumstances, there are no doubt factors and experiences within your life that make you special and unique both as an applicant and as a person. Thinking about them before you begin your application is crucial to making sure it’s the best that it can be.

Mistake 2. Being narcissistic and self-inflated

Well, we just spend a couple hundred words talking about how important it is to make it clear how and why you stand out from the rest of the pack when you are starting your application to Princeton. After all, that is one of the best ways to get over how difficult it is to get into Princeton.

With that being said, it is also crucial that students remember that they are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to their college application. This may seem a little confusing, so let us explain. When you are crafting your essays and application, make sure to keep tabs of how often you are referring to yourself. And also remember that it is really important to give credit and mention teachers, parents, bosses, counselors and mentors who have helped you along the way.

Student's struggle in class

You also want to make it clear that when you get to the college of your choice – whether that school is Princeton or some other great school – that you will make it a priority to be an involved and active member of the community who wants to use your skills and expertise to give back.

What to do instead

It’s important to make it clear that you recognize your role in your community now and forever. Especially when it comes to getting into Princeton, which is very proud of its alumni community and takes its role very seriously. You do not want to come out as a selfish young adult who is only looking out for number one.

Mistake 3. Not going into all of your extracurricular activities

As you know, the two most important things when it comes to a student’s ability to get into a top school is almost always their grades and standardized test scores. After all, these are the indicators that admissions officers use to decide whether a student will be able to deal with the rigors and demands of a university’s curriculum.

However, just because these are the most important baseline considerations does not mean that they are the only things that matter. That is especially true because when you are applying to schools like Princeton, you can basically assume that all students are going to have roughly similar grades and test scores. So, if you have a 4.13 GPA and a 34 ACT score and are being compared to a student with a 4.15 GPA and 35 ACT score, how does the school make a decision when it comes to who they will let in?

That is where all the other factors come in, and one of the most important factors at this point is the way that a student spent their time out of the classroom. These are – of course – otherwise known as extracurriculars. No going into how you spend your time, how your pursue your passions, became a leader and grew as a person out of the classroom is a major mistake.

What to do instead

What you should be doing is making sure that you are able to tell a story about yourself through your extracurriculars. After all, if you did it the right way, your extracurriculars will be a list of things that you are deeply passionate about. Whether it’s being part of a sport at school, an academic club, an art group, a community service group, or anything in between, make sure that you break down how you spend your time and why it matters.

Mistake 4. Not talking about your ambition and goals

Another major mistake that a lot of great students sadly make is assuming that the schools that they are applying to – especially if they are top schools like Princeton – only want to know about what a student’s goals are as it relates to school. Just to be clear, the only goal that a student talks about in a college application should be getting into that school!

A worried woman while looking at her laptop

A lot of students make the mistake of not thinking about – or at least writing about – what they want at university and beyond. Sure, every student doesn’t have to want to be a world leader or innovator of business or science, but not mentioning any personal and professional goals that you see yourself wanting to achieve further down the line is a major mistake.

What to do instead

Throughout your years in high school, and all over your college applications, you should be thinking about what you want out of your college education. After all, though it may not seem like it when you are in the depths of applying to schools, university and a college is still just another means to an end.

The ultimate goal in every person’s life should be to one day have a positive impact on the world at large! Remember, these aspirations do not have to be incredibly lofty to earn the attention of top schools, but they do have to be genuine and true to you as a person and as a student.

Mistake 5. Not being familiar with the school that you are applying to

This applies to Princeton and every other college or university that you are planning on applying to. One major mistake that a lot of students make is simply not having a very good idea about what the schools that they are applying to are like. This is unfortunately most true for Ivy League schools, as students often simply think about the prestige of attending the school without really considering whether or not the school is a good fit for them as a student and as a person.

Writing a college application to a school like Princeton without displaying any knowledge or personal connection to the school is going to end up making it seem like you simply want to attend the school because of the prestige that comes with attending Princeton.

Let’s be honest, it’s perfectly acceptable and downright common for students to want to attend Ivy League school because that comes with a lofty badge of honor and accomplishment. But that should not be the only reason why a student wants to attend.

What to do instead

A really important piece of demonstrated interest in your personal essay should be about why the school is a good fit for you and how you know that. Whether it’s from attending the school for a summer high school program, visiting the school to get a feel for the campus, or simply reading about the history and offerings of the school, some kind of displayed personal interest and knowledge is always going to look great in the eyes of college admissions officers.

Mistake 6. Repurposing your essay from another school

Look, we get it. Applying to school after school can get really tiring. That is especially true if you are applying to somewhere between five and 12 schools, which is the typical range for students. Because of the demands of applying to a ton of schools paired with the demands of keeping up with your school work and your out-of-class activities, you may be inclined to try to repurpose your essays and use them for multiple schools that you are applying to.

A man sitting by the window thinking

However, this can yield some pretty harmful results. You can end up scoring some pretty low marks when it comes to your ability to demonstrate your interest in a school if the reader at the admissions office gets the sense that the essay has been repurposed.

Sure, it’s going to take more time to craft unique essays for every single school – especially if you are applying to a lot of schools – but that is no excuse. You’ve already made it this far, and if you’re applying to Princeton it means that you are truly an exceptional student. Don’t let all that hard work leading up to this moment be wasted so that you can simply save a couple hours crafting a fantastic, and unique essay.

What to do instead

Well, this should be pretty obvious. Simply take the time and expel the energy necessary to write an essay for every single school that you go to. After all, just because you are writing unique essays for every school does not mean that you can’t use similar elements and messaging in several of them.

Just make sure that you are applying that messaging to the specificities of the school that you are writing about at the moment. This will not only look good in the eyes of admissions officers, but will almost always yield a much better final product. IN the end, that should really be the final goal!

Mistake 7. Don’t proofread for spelling, grammar and punctuation

Well, this should probably be a pretty obvious one, but you are going to want to make sure that after you have crafted what you think is a fantastic essay to send to Princeton or any other school that you are applying to, you should absolutely step away from it for a day or two and return to it so that you can adequately look it over for any spelling, grammar and punctuation issues.

A laptop and a document marked with a red pen

The last thing that you want is for an otherwise wonderful representation of yourself as a student and person, as well as a wonderful representation of why you want to attend a school like Princeton, to go to waste because you weren’t able to identify a couple spelling and grammar issues.

What to do instead

In fact, if you are able to do so, it is always a good idea to speak with an English teacher at your school, or at least a parent or friend, and ask them to look over your essay for you. After all, a set of fresh eyes can be the best thing when you are looking to edit. Whether it is you looking over it or someone else, simply make sure that it’s been proofread and checked for mistakes before you send it in.

Get more Princeton admission advice

Well, there you have it! Here at AdmissionSight, we make it our number one goal to make sure that every student who is interested in getting into schools like Princeton, Harvard or Stanford has the best chances possible. That’s why 75 percent of the students that we work with get into either an Ivy League or otherwise top-10 school in the country. If you are interested in what else we have to offer our students, contact us for a free consultation today!




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