Princeton Essay Supplements 2021-22 and How to Answer Them

Princeton has a great art collection & museum

Behold the Princeton Essay Supplements 2021-22, a new look after many years of stogy prompts.

Princeton is looking for students who combine high academic achievement with diversity, awareness, and cultural smarts. If that’s you, go for it.

Under each prompt, I’ve tried to simplify and focus in ways that I hope will make tackling these more manageable.

The Prompts!

For A.B. (ie B.A.) Degree Applicants or Those Who are Undecided:

As a research institution that also prides itself on its liberal arts curriculum, Princeton allows students to explore areas across the humanities and the arts, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. What academic areas most pique your curiosity, and how do the programs offered at Princeton suit your particular interests? (Please respond in about 250 words.)

>Very straightforward question. Your answer does not commit you to any area of study. They just want to get a sense of your academic interests, passions, and what you might do at Princeton in pursuit of them. Spell out an interest or two and be as specific as possible. If you’re interested in “science,” can you narrow it down to chemistry or physics? If you’re not sure (and it’s fine not to be sure), it’s OK to say you’re not sure, but do point out an interest (even if you’re not committed to it) and try to convey something of the spark that drives you to study it.Search the website and course catalogue to find specific programs, majors and/or courses that would satisfy these interests and, if appropriate, research opportunities with professors that match your interests or professors who share your interests. Be as specific as possible. Make sure this is NOT an essay that could be sent to another university. 

For B.S.E Degree Applicants:

Please describe why you are interested in studying engineering at Princeton. Include any of your experiences in, or exposure to engineering, and how you think the programs offered at the University suit your particular interests. (Please respond in about 250 words–though the max is 350.)

>> Because the engineering degree is more focused, they want to know where your interest came from. Pinpoint a moment or an experience that was a turning point. In the course catalog, look for concentrations or courses that correspondence to your interest.

In addition to the essay above, we ask all applicants a few additional questions:

Extracurricular Activity and Work Experience

Briefly elaborate on an activity, organization, work experience, or hobby that has been particularly meaningful to you. (Please respond in about 150 words–though the max is 200.)

>> Describe the experience AND why it matters to you! Again, be specific and personal. Use a conversational voice. Do not list awards as they will be on your Activities list or your Honors list. 

Your Voice

Please respond to each question in an essay of about 250 words (though 350 max).

  1. 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?

  2. Princeton has a longstanding commitment to service and civic engagement. Tell us how your story intersects (or will intersect) with these ideas.

#1 seems like a good prompt to get at a wide variety of student experiences. A conversation about “a difficult topic” can be anything – personal, political, religious – and should be one where your own thinking or feeling expanded. Did someone challenge you once on a position you took? Did the challenge require you to rethink your attitude? Conversely, were you in a leadership position and had to conduct a difficult conversation when a conflict arose? What did you learn about others and/or about yourself? 

#2 is probably the vaguest prompt in this new batch, so don’t be surprised if you find it puzzling. To begin, let’s look at Princeton’s mission: “Princeton University advances learning through scholarship, research, and teaching of unsurpassed quality, with an emphasis on undergraduate and doctoral education that is distinctive among the world’s great universities, and with a pervasive commitment to serve the nation and the world. ”  

 I understand it’s impossible to know, when you’re a senior in high school, how you might “serve the nation and the world.” Princeton knows that too…. Think about anything you’ve done in school or out of school that speaks to your interest in making the world a better place, even if it’s a small project. And/or think about people (those you know or public figures) who have an impact on the world and have been an influence in your thinking or your ambitions. 

Please respond to each question in 50 words or fewer. There are no right or wrong answers. Be yourself!

  1. What is a new skill you would like to learn in college?

Be specific and use some of these 50 words to convey a sense of who are you along with the skill. A skill could be anything from coding to learning Chinese, directing a play or translating a Arabic poem into English. What motivates you? What might you do with the skill?

      2.  What brings you joy? 

There is no right answer. An intellectual or creative endeavor can be a good direction. You need not limit yourself to one item. You might have a broad field (ie music/art) and within that a specific piece of music or work of art. You might focus on an activity, a person, a place, or a concept. Be specific. Fifty words isn’t a lot but it’s enough to convey something unique to you. 

         3.  What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment?

Go for it. The 50 words allow you to do more than name the title of the song. Is there a way you might find a song that has something to do with your ambition, your energy, your zest for whatever you’re doing? You probably know this already: I’d avoid super-sad songs about your love life. 🙂 

Why Work with an Essay Coach?

As you grapple with your college admissions essays, please use resources throughout my website. For help with the Common App essay, please see “The College Admissions Essay Prompts Are Your Friends.”  and learn more about why I love these particular prompts here. 

To find out more about how I can help with the Princeton essay supplements 2021-22 and other application essays, Please click here. To learn more about my values as a college admissions essay coach, please click here.

If you’re interested, I can help with college selection.