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What Is Princeton Known For?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

View of Princeton University Building

Founded in 1746, Princeton University has a rich history and is widely recognized for its academic excellence as an Ivy League institution. Many students often ask, “What is Princeton known for?” To answer this, we will explore its prestige, top-notch academic programs, its extremely selective admissions and other aspects that make it a household name.

 

Fast Facts about Princeton

  • Location: Princeton, NJ
  • Total Student Population: 8478
  • Acceptance Rate: 3.98%

What Is Princeton Known For?

You cannot talk about quality and world-class college education without including Princeton in the discussion. Revered by academics worldwide, the prestigious university is known not only for its extensive curriculum but also its selective admissions, historic campus, financial aid, and many more.

Furthermore, as America’s fourth oldest university, Princeton is a leading research institution with a distinguished history of offering a first-rate liberal arts and sciences education to undergraduate students.

Here’s a list of the things that Princeton is known for:

  • Top-Notch Academics
  • Highly Selective Admissions
  • Historic Campus
  • Generous Financial Aid
  • Colorful Traditions and Extracurriculars

Top-Notch Academics

Princeton University is specifically famed for its academic excellence. For the 12th year in a row, U.S. News and World Report has ranked Princeton as the best national university in the United States.

Princeton’s academic reputation is undeniable. Known for its strict grading policies, the university once had a reputation for grade deflation, with the latest reported average undergraduate GPA being 3.49, one of the lowest in the Ivy League. Additionally, Princeton is among the few universities in the nation that requires a senior thesis for all students, or in the case of some engineering majors, an independent project.

So, what is Princeton known for Academically? Key components of the undergraduate experience are the junior paper (JP) and the senior thesis. The junior paper, also referred to as the junior project, prepares students for the senior thesis by allowing them to engage in independent research with guidance from a faculty advisor.

Group of students smiling and talking to each other.

Almost all Princeton seniors undertake a senior thesis, though some engineering students opt for a significant project instead. This capstone project enables students to delve deeply into their academic interests while developing skills in creativity, research, discipline, and independent thinking. The topics for these projects are diverse, offering students the chance to work closely with faculty. The universal requirement of the senior thesis fosters a sense of camaraderie among the graduating class.

One of the most renowned schools at Princeton is the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, widely regarded as one of the premier institutions for studying international relations and public affairs in the nation, and arguably, the world. Princeton’s Department of Mathematics is also a prestigious name in the world of Math.

Most popular majors in Princeton:

  • Social Sciences
  • Engineering
  • Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • Public Administration and Social Service Professions

Highly Selective Admissions

What is  Princeton known for in terms of the admissions process? Its highly selective admissions! To uphold a top-notch quality of education, Princeton and its college admissions team need to uphold an incredibly high standard to ensure that they take in the best of the best in the country.

For the second consecutive year, Princeton University has opted not to disclose admissions statistics for the Class of 2027. However, an analysis by The Daily Princetonian estimates that the acceptance rate for this class could be approximately 5.82% or higher.

Princeton’s admissions process places a stronger emphasis on academic performance than its peers—Yale, Harvard, and Stanford. Princeton even requires a graded paper as part of the application. While strong extracurricular profiles matter, admitted students typically excel academically, outperforming their rejected peers in coursework and standardized tests.

Admissions officers highly value participation in prestigious academic programs like the Governor’s School and experience in academic research. These can also serve as excellent topics for supplemental essays.

Historically, incoming freshmen at Princeton University have had an average high school GPA of around 3.9 out of 4.0. This indicates that these students mostly earn A’s in the most challenging courses available, such as AP, IB, or Honors classes.

As for the SAT, the 25th and 75th percentile scores can provide a clearer perspective on where your SAT scores stand compared to those typically admitted to Princeton. For instance, 25% of enrolled students scored below 1440, while 75% scored higher, indicating the lower end of the score range for admitted students.

On the other hand, the 75th percentile score of 1570 shows that 75% of new Princeton students scored at or below this number, with 25% scoring above it. This figure represents the higher end of the score spectrum.

Moreover, for students admitted to Princeton, ACT scores are just as competitive as SAT scores. Typically, Princeton students have ACT composite scores ranging from 33 to 35. A score of 33 places you at the lower end of the admitted students’ spectrum, while a 35 puts you at the upper end.

College students walking in the campus.

AdmissionSight recommendations:

  • GPA: To align your GPA with Princeton’s standards, aim for the best possible grades, especially in advanced-level courses.
  • SAT:  75th percentile (1570)
  • ACT: 75th percentile (35)

Historic Campus

What is Princeton known for? Is it known for its campus? It is! Princeton University is the fourth oldest university in the U.S. and one of the nine “colonial colleges” chartered before the American Revolution. It has a long and rich history.

The campus covers about 600 acres and features many historically significant buildings. For instance, Nassau Hall is listed by the Historic Society of Princeton as one of the city’s top historical sites. The campus architecture combines classic Gothic buildings with modern structures like the Lewis Library and Spellman Hall, designed by famous architects. This mix gives the campus a unique and beautiful look.

Besides the classic Gothic and modern buildings, Princeton’s campus features a variety of architectural styles, such as Georgian, Romanesque, and contemporary designs. You can see this diversity in buildings like the Romanesque Revival-style Chancellor Green and the Georgian-style Maclean House.

Princeton consistently ranks as one of the most beautiful college campuses in the country. It features shady trees, well-kept lawns, and a variety of architectural styles that create a traditional college atmosphere.

At Princeton, students are guaranteed housing for all four years. Most students, about 96%, live on campus in one of the university’s six residential colleges:

  • Butler
  • Forbes
  • Mathey
  • Rockefeller
  • Whitman
  • First College

These residential colleges help build a strong sense of community among students.

Princeton University offers a mix of historic charm and modern facilities, making it a great place for both learning and living.

Generous Financial Aid

What is Princeton known for in terms of financial aid? Well, Princeton University offers one of the country’s most generous financial aid programs. And they are popular for this. Admissions are need-blind, meaning the school doesn’t consider an applicant’s financial situation when making admissions decisions, and it meets 100% of demonstrated need. Additionally, Princeton is a no-loan college, replacing student loans with grant aid that doesn’t require repayment.

Princeton applies the same financial aid policy to both domestic and international students, making it one of the few universities to do so.

Prominent alumni often give generous gifts to their alma mater, contributing to Princeton’s impressive endowment, which exceeds $35 billion. Despite some losses from lower stock market returns in 2022, the endowment remains rich. The university aims to “provide steady support for the University’s current and future needs while preserving our ability to support future generations of students.”

Princeton’s endowment is so large that it surpasses the GDP of some countries, including Moldova ($13.68 billion), Honduras ($28.49 billion), and Cambodia ($26.96 billion).

Universities build their endowments through various sources, such as large one-time financial gifts (often from alumni) and funds raised through annual giving campaigns. With the right investments, these generous contributions become perpetual funding sources for the university which in turn allow them to provide impressive financial aids.

Colorful Traditions and Curriculars

What is Princeton known for in terms of curricular activities? Princeton offers over 300 student organizations, covering a wide array of interests such as academics, culture, recreation, and politics. Examples include the Princeton Debate Panel, the Princeton University Players (theater group), and cultural clubs like the African Students Association and the Chinese Students Association.

Additionally, students can participate in media through the Daily Princetonian (the student newspaper), WPRB (the student-run radio station), and various literary magazines like the Nassau Literary Review.

Furthermore, sports are a big part of campus life at Princeton. The university’s football team played in the first-ever college football game against Rutgers in 1869. Princeton has won 28 national championships, although only 15 are recognized by the NCAA, with the last championship win in 1922. Despite this, Princeton continues to compete in some of the oldest football rivalries, such as against Yale since 1873, UPenn since 1876, and Harvard since 1877.

Art students performing in the stage.

One of Princeton’s most famous traditions is the Bonfire, which is football-related. Unlike many traditions, the Bonfire only happens when Princeton’s football team beats both Harvard and Yale in the same season, so not every student experiences it. The most recent Bonfire was in 2018, and the one before that was in 2013.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is Princeton difficult to get into? 

Yes, Princeton University is very difficult to get into, with an acceptance rate typically around 4-5%. The university seeks students with outstanding academic records, including high grades and top scores on standardized tests (SAT or ACT).

However, Princeton’s admissions process is holistic—they also consider extracurricular activities, leadership roles, personal essays, and letters of recommendation. This comprehensive review ensures they select well-rounded students who excel academically and contribute to their community while showing potential for future success.

Additionally, Princeton practices need-blind admissions and meets 100% of demonstrated financial need without loans. This allows students from all financial backgrounds to apply without worrying about financial burdens.

The applicant pool is highly competitive, often filled with individuals who have significant achievements in various fields. To enhance your chances, you must present a strong, well-rounded application that showcases your unique qualities, academic excellence, and extracurricular involvement.

2. What major is Princeton known for? 

What is Princeton known for academically? Princeton University is known for its strong academic programs across a variety of disciplines, but some of its most renowned majors include:

  • Public and International Affairs: The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) is highly regarded for its rigorous curriculum and preparation for careers in public service, international relations, and policy analysis.
  • Economics: Princeton’s Economics Department is consistently ranked among the top in the world, known for its influential research and distinguished faculty.
  • Computer Science: The Department of Computer Science is recognized for its cutting-edge research and innovative approach to both theoretical and applied aspects of the field.
  • Engineering: The School of Engineering and Applied Science offers highly respected programs in various engineering disciplines, including electrical, mechanical, and chemical engineering.
  • Mathematics: Princeton’s Mathematics Department is celebrated for its excellence in both pure and applied mathematics, with many notable faculty and alumni.

Plenty of alumni from these departments include:

Public and International Affairs

  • James A. Baker III: Former U.S. Secretary of State and U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.
  • George Shultz: Former U.S. Secretary of State, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, and U.S. Secretary of Labor.
  • Jeff Bezos: Founder and former CEO of Amazon, studied at Princeton and graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and has been involved in public policy discussions.

Economics

  • Ben Bernanke: Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve.
  • Paul Krugman: Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist.
  • Alan Blinder: Economist, professor, and former Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Computer Science

  • Jeffrey Ullman: Renowned computer scientist known for his work on database theory.
  • Jennifer Rexford: Current Chair of Princeton’s Computer Science Department and expert in computer networking.
  • Andrew Yao: Turing Award-winning computer scientist known for his contributions to theoretical computer science.

Engineering

  • Eric Schmidt: Former CEO of Google, earned a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Princeton.
  • Lisa P. Jackson: Former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, earned a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering.
  • Anita Borg: Renowned computer scientist who made significant contributions to the field of digital technology and inspired women in technology.

Mathematics

  • John Nash: Nobel Prize-winning mathematician known for his work in game theory.
  • Andrew Wiles: Mathematician who proved Fermat’s Last Theorem.
  • John Milnor: Fields Medal-winning mathematician known for his work in differential topology.

3. What is so special about Princeton?

What is Princeton known for? Princeton stands out as a premier research university with a strong dedication to the liberal arts. This commitment ensures that all undergraduates receive a well-rounded education, expanding their perspectives, shaping their character, and instilling strong values.

Princeton’s curriculum is designed to encourage a sense of ethical responsibility and global citizenship. Through courses in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and the arts, you engage with complex issues and diverse viewpoints. This broad educational foundation prepares you to be a thoughtful leader and informed citizen.

Princeton also supports its liberal arts mission with numerous programs and initiatives. The University Center for Human Values promotes scholarly inquiry into ethical and moral issues. The Program in Creative Writing allows you to work closely with acclaimed writers, enhancing your expressive abilities and appreciation for the written word.

Group of students signing up for internship.

4. What skills is Princeton known for?

What is Princeton known for in the world of skill building? According to Princeton, the university prioritizes learning, creativity, innovation, and collaboration through its comprehensive liberal arts program, which encompasses the humanities, arts, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering.

5. Is Princeton an expensive Ivy League school to get into?

Princeton University is often considered expensive in terms of tuition and fees, as it is an Ivy League school. However, Princeton has one of the most generous financial aid programs in the country, which can significantly reduce the cost for many students.

The annual cost of attendance at Princeton, including tuition, room, board, and other fees, can exceed $70,000. This makes it appear costly at first glance.

Princeton’s financial aid program is need-based, meaning that the university provides aid based on the financial circumstances of the student and their family. Key aspects of Princeton’s financial aid program include:

  • Need-Blind Admissions: Princeton does not consider an applicant’s financial situation when making admissions decisions.
  • No Loans: Instead of loans, Princeton offers grants that do not need to be repaid. This policy ensures that students can graduate without debt.
  • Full Need Met: Princeton meets 100% of demonstrated financial need for all admitted students, both domestic and international.

Due to these financial aid policies, many students end up paying significantly less than the sticker price. For families earning up to $65,000 annually, the expected contribution is often zero, and for families earning up to $160,000, the average grant covers most tuition and fees.

6. What sport is Princeton known for? 

What is Princeton known for in the field of athletics? Princeton University is renowned for its strong tradition and historical significance in football. The university’s football team played in the first-ever college football game against Rutgers in 1869, marking the beginning of college football in the United States. Over the years, Princeton’s football program has won numerous national championships, particularly in the early 20th century.

In addition to football, Princeton boasts a competitive athletics program with strong performances in several other sports. The university’s men’s and women’s rowing teams frequently compete at a high level nationally and internationally. Princeton’s lacrosse teams, both men’s and women’s, are also well-regarded, having won multiple NCAA championships. These achievements contribute to Princeton’s reputation for excellence in athletics alongside its academic prowess.

What Are Your Odds of Getting Accepted to Princeton?

Getting accepted to Princeton University is highly competitive, reflecting its status as one of the most selective universities in the world. In recent years, Princeton’s acceptance rate has hovered around 4-5%. For the Class of 2026, Princeton received 37,601 applications and admitted only 1,647 students, resulting in an acceptance rate of approximately 4.4%. This high level of selectivity means that even highly qualified applicants face stiff competition.

Young woman holding her books while walking.

To improve your chances of getting accepted, it’s important to focus and excel in various aspects of your application. Admitted students generally have outstanding academic records, with average SAT scores between 1460-1570 and ACT scores between 33-35. Princeton also places significant emphasis on extracurricular activities, leadership roles, and personal essays. Strong letters of recommendation and a compelling personal story are crucial in the holistic admissions process. However, due to the intense competition, even applicants with exceptional qualifications may find it challenging to secure a spot at Princeton.

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