Comparing Washington University in St. Louis vs Princeton

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

View of an unidentified person answering an exam.

Comparing Washington University in St. Louis vs Princeton Universities

If you are considering prestigious universities in the United States for undergraduate or graduate studies, then you might have come across the two top-tier institutions, Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) and Princeton University. Both these universities have a long-standing tradition of academic excellence, world-class faculty, and state-of-the-art facilities. In this comprehensive guide, we will compare Washington University in St. Louis vs Princeton in-depth on various parameters and help you make an informed decision on which one to choose.

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Location and Campus: How do the Universities Differ?

One of the primary factors that students consider while deciding on a university is its location. Both WUSTL and Princeton are located in idyllic settings with large, beautiful, and spacious campuses. WUSTL is situated in St. Louis, Missouri, and Princeton University is located in the town of Princeton, New Jersey.

WUSTL has a campus area of 169 acres and is located in the heart of a bustling city, offering students endless opportunities to discover new experiences. The campus is home to incredible state-of-the-art facilities, including an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a rock-climbing wall, and a student life center. On the other hand, Princeton University has a much larger campus area of 600 acres, with an architectural style inspired by Gothic and Romanesque designs. Princeton’s campus is relatively quieter, offering students a peaceful setting conducive to learning.

In addition to their campus sizes and locations, both universities have unique features that set them apart. WUSTL is known for its strong emphasis on interdisciplinary studies, with many of its programs and research centers spanning across multiple fields. This allows students to explore a wide range of subjects and gain a more holistic understanding of their chosen field of study.

Princeton University, on the other hand, is renowned for its world-class faculty and research opportunities. The university has produced numerous Nobel laureates, Fields Medalists, and Turing Award winners, making it a hub for cutting-edge research and innovation. Additionally, Princeton’s close proximity to New York City and Philadelphia provides students with easy access to a wealth of cultural and professional opportunities.

Academic Programs: A Comparison Between WUSTL and Princeton

Both universities are highly regarded for their academic rigor, research programs, and faculty expertise, offering students an excellent education and immersive learning experiences. WUSTL has seven undergraduate divisions, which include Arts & Sciences, Engineering, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, Brown School, Olin Business School, School of Medicine, and School of Law. Additionally, WUSTL offers a wide range of graduate programs covering various fields of study.

Princeton University, on the other hand, is best known for its undergraduate program, with four major academic areas of focus, namely Humanities, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Engineering. Princeton’s graduate program is smaller than WUSTL’s, but it has a reputation for producing some of the best master’s and doctoral graduates in the country.

Despite the differences in their academic programs, both universities offer students a plethora of opportunities to engage in research and experiential learning. WUSTL has a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary research, with many of its programs encouraging collaboration across different fields. Princeton, on the other hand, has a strong focus on undergraduate research, with many students having the opportunity to work closely with faculty members on research projects.

Another notable difference between the Washington University in St. Louis vs Princeton is their approach to teaching. WUSTL has a student-to-faculty ratio of 7:1, which allows for more personalized attention and mentorship from professors. Princeton, on the other hand, has a larger student body, but still maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio of 5:1. Both universities have a strong commitment to teaching excellence, with many faculty members being recognized for their outstanding contributions to their respective fields.

Student Life: What’s it Like to Study at WUSTL and Princeton?

Student life at both universities is unique in its ways, with its own culture and sense of community. At WUSTL, students are encouraged to participate in various extracurricular activities that cater to a wide range of interests, including music, arts, sports, and community service. WUSTL also has a thriving Greek life, with a substantial proportion of students being involved in various fraternities and sororities. At Princeton, students have plenty of opportunities to engage in activities such as debate, theater, music, and political groups. Princeton also has a bicker system, which is unique to this university. Bicker is a selective process of admission into the University’s private eating clubs. Each club usually has its unique personality and culture, making it a unique experience for each student.

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When choosing Washington University in St. Louis vs Princeton, it is noted that both offer excellent academic programs, with distinguished faculty members and state-of-the-art facilities. WUSTL is known for its strong programs in medicine, law, and business, while Princeton is renowned for its programs in engineering, social sciences, and humanities. Both universities also offer ample opportunities for research and internships, allowing students to gain practical experience in their fields of study.

Admission Rates and Requirements: A Detailed Analysis

When it comes to admission rates and requirements, both universities are highly selective. Acceptance rates at Princeton and WUSTL tend to fluctuate slightly from year to year, but in general, they are both highly coveted institutions with low acceptance rates. For example, in the year 2020, WUSTL had an acceptance rate of 14.7%, while Princeton’s acceptance rate was 5.5%.

The admission requirements for both universities vary slightly but primarily include a high GPA, excellent test scores, extracurricular activities, essays or personal statements, and recommendation letters. One significant difference between Washington University in St. Louis vs Princeton is that the latter requires standardized testing, while WUSTL is test-optional.

Another factor that affects admission rates is the number of applicants. Both Princeton and WUSTL receive a high volume of applications each year, making the competition even more challenging. In 2020, Princeton received over 32,000 applications, while WUSTL received over 30,000 applications.

It’s also worth noting that both universities have a holistic approach to admissions, meaning they consider a range of factors beyond just grades and test scores. They take into account the applicant’s background, experiences, and potential contributions to the university community. This approach allows for a diverse student body and ensures that students are not just academically qualified but also well-rounded individuals.

Faculty and Research Facilities: A Comparative Study

Both universities have a reputation for excellence in teaching and research, with world-class faculty, exceptional facilities, and groundbreaking research programs. WUSTL has over 2750 full-time faculty members, and Princeton has an impressive faculty-to-student ratio of 1:5, which means every five students have one faculty member.

While both universities have state-of-the-art research facilities, Princeton has a slight edge over WUSTL in terms of total research funding, with nearly $250 million in annual funding. Princeton’s research programs are mainly focused on natural sciences and engineering, while WUSTL has a more diverse range of research programs covering fields such as medicine, social sciences, humanities, and business.

Additionally, both universities have a strong commitment to interdisciplinary research, with numerous centers and institutes that bring together faculty and students from different departments and disciplines. WUSTL’s McDonnell International Scholars Academy, for example, fosters collaboration and exchange between scholars from around the world, while Princeton’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment focuses on developing sustainable energy solutions through interdisciplinary research.

Students studying in a library.

Campus Culture and Diversity: WUSTL vs Princeton

Campus culture and diversity are essential factors to consider when choosing a university. Both universities have robust diversity and inclusion programs, with students from all backgrounds and identities welcomed, supported, and celebrated. However, in terms of campus culture, WUSTL is known for being more liberal and progressive, while Princeton is more traditional and conservative.

WUSTL has a more racially and ethnically diverse student body than Princeton, with students from more than 50 countries. It also has more support, resources, and programs to enhance the student experience for underrepresented groups. Princeton also has a diverse student body, but racial and ethnic diversity is still a work in progress.

Another factor to consider when comparing campus culture and diversity at WUSTL and Princeton is the LGBTQ+ community. WUSTL has a strong LGBTQ+ community, with various student organizations, events, and resources dedicated to supporting and advocating for LGBTQ+ students. In contrast, Princeton’s LGBTQ+ community is smaller and less visible, with fewer resources and support systems in place.

Furthermore, WUSTL has a more politically active student body, with a history of student-led protests and activism. Students at WUSTL are encouraged to engage in social justice issues and make a positive impact on their community. While Princeton also has a politically engaged student body, it is not as prominent as at WUSTL.

Athletics Program: Which University Has the Better Sports Teams?

Athletics is an integral part of campus life for many students, and both universities have excellent sports teams and facilities. WUSTL is a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III and competes in various sports. They are well known for their men’s and women’s basketball, soccer, and volleyball teams. Princeton, on the other hand, is part of the NCAA Division I and has a rich athletic history, with its football, basketball, and lacrosse teams being highly competitive.

Sports equipments placed side by side.

Despite the differences in their athletic divisions, both universities prioritize the well-being of their student-athletes. WUSTL has a dedicated sports medicine team that provides comprehensive care to its athletes, including injury prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation. Princeton also has a similar program, with a team of certified athletic trainers and physicians who work closely with the athletes to ensure their health and safety. Additionally, both universities offer a wide range of intramural sports and recreational activities, allowing all students to participate in athletics and stay active.

Alumni Networks and Career Prospects: Who Comes out on Top?

Both universities have a vast network of alumni who have made significant contributions in their respective fields. WUSTL alumni include several notable figures such as Former US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and Danny Meyer, the founder of Shake Shack. Princeton has also produced some influential alumni, such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, former US Presidents James Madison and Woodrow Wilson, and theoretical physicist Richard Feynman.

In terms of career prospects, both universities have exceptional career services, with dedicated staff who help students prepare their resumes, conduct mock interviews, and connect them with potential employers. Graduates from both universities are highly sought after and have a competitive edge in the job market.

However, there are some differences in the alumni networks of the two universities. WUSTL has a strong presence in the healthcare industry, with many alumni holding leadership positions in hospitals and healthcare organizations. On the other hand, Princeton has a strong network in the finance and technology industries, with many alumni working in top positions in companies such as Goldman Sachs and Google.

Financial Aid and Scholarships: Which University Offers More Support?

Paying for higher education can be a daunting task, but both universities offer financial aid and scholarship programs to their students. WUSTL has a need-blind admission policy and meets 100% of the demonstrated financial need of admitted students. Princeton also has a need-blind admission policy and offers grants instead of loans to students in need.

In recent years, both universities have made significant efforts to boost their financial aid programs, including eliminating loans from the financial aid package and increasing the percentage of students receiving aid.

However, there are some differences in the financial aid and scholarship programs offered by the two universities. WUSTL offers a larger number of merit-based scholarships, which are awarded based on academic achievement and other criteria, such as leadership or community service. On the other hand, Princeton offers a larger number of need-based scholarships, which are awarded based on financial need.

Student Organizations and Extracurricular Activities

One of the best things about attending a university is the opportunity to explore your interests and passions outside of the classroom. Both universities have a vast array of student organizations and extracurricular activities, catering to diverse interests and hobbies. WUSTL has over 300 student organizations, including groups dedicated to community service, music, dance, politics, and advocacy. Similarly, Princeton has over 300 student organizations, including groups dedicated to service, sports, music, art, and culture.

Moreover, both universities offer a variety of extracurricular activities that allow students to engage in physical activities and sports. WUSTL has a state-of-the-art athletic complex that includes a fitness center, swimming pool, and indoor track. The university also has a variety of sports teams, including basketball, soccer, and volleyball. Similarly, Princeton has a range of sports facilities, including a gymnasium, tennis courts, and a golf course. The university also has a variety of sports teams, including football, basketball, and lacrosse.

Additionally, both universities have a strong commitment to community service and offer numerous opportunities for students to get involved in volunteer work. WUSTL has a dedicated center for community service and offers programs such as tutoring, mentoring, and volunteering at local non-profit organizations. Princeton also has a center for community service and offers programs such as community-based learning courses, service trips, and volunteer opportunities in the local community.

Rankings, Accreditations, and Awards

Rankings, accreditations, and awards are essential indicators of a university’s academic and research prowess. Both universities are highly ranked in various categories, such as student satisfaction, research output, and faculty expertise. According to the US News & World Report Rankings, Princeton is ranked #1 in national universities, while WUSTL is ranked #19. Both universities are accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and have received numerous awards and recognition for their exceptional academic and research programs.

Princeton University has been consistently ranked as one of the top universities in the world for its exceptional research output. In 2020, it was ranked #3 in the world for research output by the Nature Index, which measures the quality and quantity of research published in top-tier scientific journals. Washington University in St. Louis has also been recognized for its outstanding research programs. In 2019, it was awarded a $25 million grant from the National Science Foundation to establish a new research center focused on developing innovative technologies for sustainable energy production.

Historical Significance of Both Universities

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Both universities have a rich history and legacy, with roots dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. WUSTL was founded in 1853 and has since established itself as a leader in academic research and innovation, with numerous groundbreaking discoveries and inventions credited to its faculty and students. Princeton, founded in 1746, is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the country, with a long tradition of excellence in teaching and learning.

WUSTL has a strong commitment to community engagement and social justice, with a number of programs and initiatives aimed at addressing issues of inequality and promoting diversity and inclusion. The university has also played a significant role in shaping the cultural landscape of St. Louis, with its world-renowned art museum and performing arts center.

Princeton has a rich tradition of producing leaders in a variety of fields, including politics, business, and the arts. The university has also been at the forefront of scientific research, with notable contributions in fields such as physics, mathematics, and computer science. In recent years, Princeton has also made significant strides in promoting sustainability and reducing its carbon footprint, with a number of initiatives aimed at reducing waste and promoting renewable energy sources.

Campus Security Measures and Safety Concerns

Campus safety and security are of utmost importance for students’ and faculty’s well-being. Both universities have robust safety measures, with dedicated campus police departments, emergency response teams, and comprehensive safety training programs. WUSTL has a reputation for being one of the safest campuses in the country, with a low incidence of crime in and around campus. Similarly, Princeton has a low crime rate and imposes strict security protocols to ensure the safety of its students, faculty, and staff.

In addition to the safety measures implemented by the universities, students can also take steps to ensure their own safety. It is important to always be aware of your surroundings, especially when walking alone at night. Both universities offer resources such as campus escort services and emergency call boxes to provide additional safety measures. It is also recommended to keep your personal belongings secure and to report any suspicious activity to campus security immediately.

Technological Advancements at Washington University in St.Louis and Princeton Universities

Finally, both universities have invested heavily in technological advancements to enhance teaching, learning, and research experiences. WUSTL has a state-of-the-art high-performance computing center, leading-edge cybersecurity programs, and advanced medical imaging techniques. Princeton is equally well equipped, with advanced computing facilities, cutting-edge engineering labs, and a world-renowned astrophysics observatory.

Two students using a laptop.

In addition to these impressive technological advancements, both universities have also implemented innovative virtual and augmented reality technologies to enhance the learning experience for students. WUSTL has developed a virtual reality lab that allows students to explore complex scientific concepts in a more interactive and engaging way. Princeton has also invested in augmented reality technology, which has been used to create immersive historical tours of the campus and surrounding areas.


In conclusion, both universities have a lot to offer in terms of academic programs, student life, campus culture, and career prospects. The choice ultimately depends on your individual preferences, interests, and goals. We hope this guide has helped you gain a better understanding of the similarities and differences between Washington University in St. Louis vs Princeton, and make an informed decision that will set you on a path of academic excellence and personal growth.

It is important to note that both universities have a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion. They offer various resources and support systems for students from underrepresented backgrounds, including scholarships, mentorship programs, and cultural organizations. Additionally, both universities have a strong emphasis on community service and civic engagement, providing students with opportunities to make a positive impact on society.

Lastly, it is worth mentioning that both universities have a rich history and tradition. Washington University in St. Louis was founded in 1853 and has since become a leading research institution, while Princeton University was established in 1746 and has a long-standing reputation for academic excellence. Both universities have produced numerous notable alumni who have made significant contributions to their respective fields and society as a whole.



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