Princeton University was founded in 1746 in the heart of New Jersey, and, as a member of the Ivy League, it remains one of the most renowned universities in the world. Princeton draws applicants from across the globe, hoping to gain admission to this coveted university.
Are your test scores high enough to get into Princeton? What about your high school GPA? The college admissions process at Ivy League schools seems hard to understand. How does Princeton choose who to accept? What can you do to improve your chances? Raise your test scores? Do more extracurriculars? Should I apply to Princeton single-choice early action?
Below, we’ve touched on everything we know about the Princeton University admissions process. Read on to find out if you’re a competitive applicant and tips to lift your chances of going from applicant to admitted student.
You’re right about one thing: Princeton University is an extremely selective school. In 2023, the overall admissions rate at Princeton was only 4%, meaning admissions officers rejected more than 96 out of every 100 students who applied. Moreover, that overall rate includes Princeton’s single-choice early action acceptance rate, which is higher than Princeton’s regular decision rate. That means that in reality, the regular admission rate at Princeton was closer to 3%!
In addition, the college admissions process gets more competitive every year, as more domestic and international students are applying. That means you need to really stand out. These admissions statistics may sound daunting, but no need to fear. Once you know what Princeton is looking for, you can better tailor your college preparation and college application to meet their expectations.
Let’s start with your grade point average (GPA). Princeton admissions officers will calculate this based on your high school transcript, which you’ll submit with your overall application.
It is important to understand that a strong unweighted GPA, while taking as many AP, IB or honors courses as your schools offers. Weighted GPAs are not always as useful to determine how you are performing because high schools weight GPAs differently and because they can hide how far you are from a high enough GPA for Princeton. In truth, you need close to a 4.0 unweighted GPA to get into Princeton. That means nearly straight As in every class, while also taking the highest rigor classes available to you at your high school.
Princeton, like the rest of the Ivy League and most other colleges, prefers that you have either an SAT score or ACT score for admission. In the past few years, Princeton has been test-optional, but Princeton most definitely prefers applicants that have test scores. Princeton has no particular preference between the SAT and ACT, so choose the test that’s a better fit for you, thoroughly prepare for it, and plan to take it multiple times.
The SAT scores and ACT composite scores for students admitted to Princeton varies. The table below shows the 25th through 75th percentile SAT and ACT scores, with the average Princeton SAT score being 1520 and the average Princeton ACT score being 34. However, remember that unless you fall into certain privileged categories (athletes, legacies, donors, etc.), your SAT score or ACT score should be closer to the top of the listed range to help increase your chances of being admitted.
|Average Admitted Student Score Ranges
|Average Score of Admitted Student
|SAT Total Range
|ACT Composite Range
* Note that Princeton University superscores the SAT, not the ACT. That means they will mix and match section test scores from different days for the SAT, but only look at composite ACT scores from single test dates.
Those are the overall academic requirements for Princeton. But what about everything else? Students who get admitted to Princeton have a lot more than just impressive standardized test scores and high GPAs. In addition to considering your academic resume, the college admissions officers at Princeton are interested in hearing about all the other parts of your life. In addition to reporting your grades and test scores, there are a few more key aspects of the Princeton admissions process:
• Two teacher recommendations and one counselor letter
• A high school transcript
• A mid-year report
• A $70 application fee or fee waiver
• A completed Common Application
• Princeton-specific essays
First, to gain a more holistic view of who you are as a student beyond your transcripts and test scores, Princeton will ask for letters of recommendation from two of your teachers as well as your school counselor. When deciding who to ask, don’t focus only on the teachers who gave you the best grades, but the people who know you well and will write great, personal letters.
Princeton also allows for Additional Recommenders, which can be submitted through the Common Application. We highly recommend that students take advantage of this to showcase their leadership and/or character. Princeton cares a lot about who you are and how others in your community view you. These letters can certainly help you stand out.
Second, in addition to your transcript and his/her letter, your school counselor will submit a few additional documents:
• A school report, which includes your school’s demographics and its most notable features (like if there’s a limit on how many AP classes you can take)
• A mid-year report, which will update Princeton on your senior year grades that might not be officially posted when you apply.
These items will also help Princeton contextualize your application.
Then, you’ll need to submit the Common Application (or Coalition Application). When you apply to college, you’ll quickly become familiar with this online interface; it’ll be where you go to apply not only to Princeton, but to Harvard University, Dartmouth College, and Yale University, too! Much of the Common Application is standard demographic and educational information. You’ll also fill out an activities section, where you’ll detail all your extracurricular involvement. The activities section of the Common App is an important way that students can demonstrate what they have accomplished outside of the classroom during high school. For Princeton, this is one important way for students to distinguish themselves from other applicants, provided that grades and scores have already been considered.
On top of that information, the Common Application asks for a single personal essay that will be submitted to all your schools. This essay, of 650 words or less, is your chance to tell Princeton and the rest of your schools about an important moment or theme in your life. A strong Common App essay is key to a competitive application, so plan to revise it several times! The Common App essay is your change to give Princeton a glimpse of who you are beyond your grades and test scores. Can you tell a story that helps the Princeton admissions officers “see” you in real life?
Lastly, in addition to the Common App essay, Princeton and many other schools require additional, school-specific essays. These essays are one of the most critical components of your application. They allow you to illustrate why Princeton is the right fit for you and give you the space to clearly communicate how you will contribute to Princeton’s community. These essays can change from year to year, but generally they ask about your interest in the school and/or more details about what you’ve accomplished in high school. Last year, Princeton University asked various short-answer essay questions. Some of the topics were:
1. Briefly elaborate on an activity, organization, work experience, or hobby that has been particularly meaningful to you.
2. 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?
3. What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment?
Having a strong application strategy to get these essays drafted, revised, and done, as well as a coherent narrative to present in them, is essential for admission to selective schools like Princeton and other highly-selective colleges and universities.
Finally, you’ll need to pay a $70 application fee to submit your application through these online interfaces. These fees can be waived by showing financial hardship.
As you put together all these materials, keep in mind the eventual deadlines! Everything for Princeton must be submitted by:
• November 1 for Single-Choice Early Action
• January 1 for Regular Decision
Single-Choice Early Action decisions are released in mid-December, and Regular Decision applicants will hear online by April. Admitted students must decide by May 1 if they will attend.
Princeton University admits students from all over the country and from diverse backgrounds. According to Princeton’s Class of 2026 profile, the demographic breakdown of students admitted into Princeton was:
The final thing to keep in mind is that Princeton University is so selective, that even if you’re a competitive applicant there, it makes sense to apply to similar schools as well, like Harvard University, Yale University, and Cornell University. Also, remember to have some other schools in the mix that are slightly less competitive too!
Good luck! And remember, if you need advice on any of this—how to understand your GPA, when to take the SAT or ACT, what extracurricular activities to do, how to spend your summers, or what on earth to write all those essays about—please contact us to speak to one of our admissions consultants!
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