Am I Good Enough for Princeton?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Princeton University's academic building

Am I Good Enough for Princeton?

For high school students who are determined to get into some of the best schools in the country, the entire process can lead to a fair amount of natural doubt. After all, the acceptance rates for schools like Harvard and Princeton are historically low and just getting lower.

So, if you are asking yourself the question, “Am I good enough for Princeton?”, then you have come to the right place! Here at AdmissionSight, we work with all different kinds of high school students in order to help them achieve their dreams of getting into Ivy League schools, top 10 schools, big public universities, or small liberal arts schools. No matter what a high school student’s dream school is, surely the questions of whether or not they are good enough to get in will one day cross their mind.

Big academic building of Princeton University

That is especially true if the dream school is in Princeton. After all, Princeton has been considered one of the most prestigious and competitive schools in the United States for hundreds of years.

In fact, Princeton first opened its doors before the United States was even a country! It was first founded in 1746 as the College of New Jersey and then changed its name to Princeton University in 1896.

Since then, it has been home to some of the most inspiring and impactful men and women of their generations. From former president John F. Kennedy to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, scientist Alan Turing, writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, former first Lady Michelle Obama, model Brooke Shields, and actor James Stewart.

When it comes to the acceptance rate for high school students interested in getting into Princeton, the current acceptance rate is amongst the lowest in the country.

Last year – for high school students applying to the 2021-22 freshman class, 37,601 high school students applied to Princeton University. Just 1,494 were accepted, for a staggeringly low 3.98 percent acceptance rate.

It marked the lowest acceptance rate in the history of the prestigious school. In fact, the last time the school’s acceptance rate was over 10 percent was back in 2009! The way things are trending right now, it seems far more likely that Princeton’s acceptance rate will get closer to two percent rather than back up to 10 percent anytime soon.

None of this information is meant to discourage any high school student from reading this. However, it is crucial that anyone who is even slightly interested in applying and actually getting into Princeton needs to know what they are up against.

When it comes to your chances of getting into Princeton, you are not simply going up against the other incredibly intelligent and accomplished students in your school. You’re not even just going up against the top students in your city or state. In fact, you are going to end up being compared to the top students from all over the world.

If you want to be part of the minuscule percentage that actually gets in, knowing the facts and preparing accordingly is of the utmost importance.

Princeton’s admission requirements

Right on Princeton’s official website, the university makes it abundantly clear that the primary goal of the admissions process is to find students “who will thrive in Princeton’s rigorous academic environment.”

A male student looking at his laptop and pondering

While there is no required list of courses that high school students have to take – as Princeton acknowledges that many different high schools have a different curriculum and offer different classes – they do expect students to complete the following types of courses before starting at Princeton, whenever possible.

  • Four years of English (including continued practice in writing)
  • Four years of mathematics (including calculus for students interested in engineering)
  • Four years of one foreign language
  • At least two years of laboratory science (including physics and chemistry for students interested in engineering)
  • At least two years of history

Beyond that, most candidates have had some study in the visual or performing arts.

Princeton also encourages students to take advanced courses, such as honors classes, AP courses and IB courses “whenever you can.” What this means is that the school not only wants to see that students are taking the aforementioned course list throughout their high school years, but also that students are taking every opportunity to make their curriculum as challenging as possible.

In fact, when possible, students would also be wise to pursue taking courses at their local community college or even courses at the closest four-year college or university. The reason why taking advanced courses in high school is so useful to students who are determined to get into schools like Princeton is because it shows the admissions officers at the school two things.

Firstly, it proves that a student was dedicated to pursuing knowledge and challenging his or herself throughout high school. Secondly, it shows that the student will be able to deal with the challenges and pressures of a Princeton curriculum.

Now that you are familiar with the admissions requirements – or rather, admissions recommendations – from Princeton, take a look at the application requirements that high school students will have to meet in order to send in a completed and considerable application.

  • A completed Coalition Application or Common Application
  • Princeton’s supplement to the application that can be found either on the Coalition Application’s website or the Common Application’s website
  • The Application fee or a fee waiver
  • A graded written paper from high school, with the school preferring the paper be written for either an English or history course
  • An official transcript
  • School report (SR)
  • Counselor recommendation
  • Two teacher recommendations, preferably from teachers who taught the students in honors, AP or IB courses, with each teacher covering different subjects
  • Mid-year school report
  • SAT or ACT
  • SAT subject tests (optional)
  • TOEFL, IELTS or PTE academic scores for students who do not speak English as their native language

Beyond these aspects of the Princeton application, the school also encourages but does not require students to submit art supplements, such as writing, dance, music, theater, visual art, and more to give students the chance to show off their artistic and creative endeavors and passions.

Also, students are allowed – but not required – to take part in an optional alumni interview process, in which students meet with Princeton alumni and discuss their goals for applying, getting into, and attending Princeton.

Important note

One important thing to note here is that SAT and ACT test requirements have been put on hold for the past two years due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. What that means is that students have been allowed to apply to Princeton – and many other top schools for that matter – without submitting either an SAT or ACT score.

The reason why this optionality was introduced was because of the hardship that many students came across when trying to schedule their tests. Due to the social-distancing and shutdowns related to COVID-19, many students were unable to take the test.

With that being said, students should not count on this optional aspect of the SAT or ACT to last for long. It is expected that schools will once again require students to take either of the tests in order to apply in the near future. Beyond that, students who are able to take either the SAT or the ACT should absolutely do so.

After all, you already know how difficult it is for students to earn admission to a school like Princeton. Using every opportunity that you can to get ahead and separate yourself from the path is a crucial move. So, taking the ACT or SAT and getting a great score should be considered a top priority regardless of the optionality.

What we know about Princeton’s “ideal” student

Here at AdmissionSight, we make it a top priority to know what schools such as Princeton are looking for. The reason why is because our trained admissions consultants can then use that information to better guide the students that they are working within the right direction to creating the very best application profile.

To be clear, this does not mean that we encourage the students that we work with to enroll in courses and take part in extracurriculars that they would otherwise not be interested in if they were not trying to apply to Ivy League or other top schools.

A female student seated by herself writing her college admission essay

Instead, we use the information that we are able to gather through our experience and connections to these universities to help students make the most out of their interests and academic, and professional, goals, to make it clear that they are dedicated and impressive individuals. No matter what students’ academic strengths and interests are, they can undoubtedly make themselves into the ideal Princeton candidate.

So, what is Princeton’s “ideal” student? Essentially, Princeton is looking for students who thrive in and outside of the classroom. The average GPA or 3.9 for students who get into the school is proof of the first component. The second component is a lot less objective. That does not mean, however, that it is any less important.

Students should strive to become leaders and impactful members of communities inside and outside of their school in high school. That means getting involved in 3-5 extracurriculars and earning roles of leadership. It also means getting involved in their greater community through community service or being a part of youth groups.

The ideal student should also already be well on their way to knowing what kind of subjects they are most interested and passionate about. Surely, Princeton is not only looking for students who know exactly what they want to major in and what kind of career they want to pursue.

That would be an unrealistic thing for high school students to fulfill. However, students should have a general idea of what interests them most and what kind of work they could feasibly see themselves doing as they finish up their high school years and prepare for their undergraduate studies.

Princeton also absolutely looks for students with unique points of view, accomplishments, or experiences. In fact, one of the top goals that students should set out with when they begin their application is trying to find ways to prove to the schools that they are applying to that they are, in fact, quite unique.

Surely, not every student has an incredible story that is worthy of a Disney film or best-selling novel, but if you believe that you truly deserve to attend one of the top schools in the entire world, then it is your job to prove why. Make it clear that you want more, you always strive for better, you always look for the newest opportunity and you are always able to push yourself just a bit harder in order to succeed.

This may seem like a tough thing to accomplish, and there is no doubt that it is. That is actually one of the many reasons why students with such lofty college goals end up working with college admissions consultants just like AdmissionSight.

With the holistic approach to college admissions being quite convoluted, and the application process itself being so stressful, it can be really helpful for students to have a confident and experienced person on their team to help lead them through it every step of the way!

How to improve your chances of getting into Princeton

Of course, getting a fantastic GPA and earning top grades in either the SAT or ACT should be considered the very first step of improving your chances of getting into Princeton. But it is going to take a lot more than just that to get the job done.

In fact, getting at least the average 3.9 GPA, and at least the average SAT score of at least a 1460 and average ACT score of at least 33 should be considered more prerequisites than a key to the door at Princeton.

After all, those scores are the average for a reason. Earning grades and scores that are much better than that should not really be considered a golden ticket, either. Often, it is the other parts of the application, the parts that some students spend a little less time on, that can end up really making the biggest difference.

What are those aspects, you ask? Well, just keep reading!

Craft excellent personal statements and essays

The personal statements and essays that students have to fill out to apply to many top schools should be handled with extreme care. This is truly the only chance students get to frame their own narrative when applying to schools.

Coming up with an engrossing, well-written, and unique set of statements and essays can make a major difference. This does not mean that you have to make something that makes you out to be some kind of mythical hero. In fact, some of the best essays we’ve ever seen written look at fairly mundane aspects of life, but in a truly unique way.

A woman holding a notebook and pen

Students should take this chance to prove who they are beyond the transcripts and scores, what kind of person they are on top of what kind of student they are.

Get wonderful letters of recommendation

Another crucial opportunity to take advantage of comes with the requirement of letters of recommendation. Students interested in getting into schools like Princeton should be forming close and personal relationships with their high school counselors and faculty from as early as freshman year! That way, the student can be sure that they will get glowing letters of recommendation.

Students should be asking their teachers that they want to write their letters as early as the end of their junior year. They should also make an effort to meet with the teachers who will be writing the letters so that they can discuss the message that the student may want the letter to convey. Of course, it is up to the teacher what he or she wants to write, but the student can definitely help by letting them know about the overall approach they are taking to the application.

Prove that you want to become a part of the Princeton community

Schools like Princeton are incredibly proud of their history and their community. And why shouldn’t they be? Students can use that pride to their advantage by using aspects of their application to prove that they are truly dedicated to becoming an active and positive member of that community once they are accepted to the school.

Group of students hanging out and sitting at the campus grounds.

Either by using time out of the classroom to get involved in their school or city community, or simply by writing about how much community participation means to them in their application. This will certainly help a student’s application jump right off the page when it finally gets in the hands of admissions officers at Princeton.

Will you get into Princeton University?

The truth is that this is really hard to predict. It is a student’s job to do everything that they can to make themselves as attractive as possible in the eyes of their dream school. Here at AdmissionSIght, we have quite the stellar record of helping students do this. It’s why 75 percent of the students we have worked with have been accepted to either an Ivy League or top 10 school.

If you are interested in what we can do for you and your application journey, contact us today!


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